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It’s pretty disappointing to see fat positivity called “badass”.

The obesity crisis is a major problem, being fat negatively affects literally very system in your body, and the fat positive community has a long history of supporting disturbing sexual politics.

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It’s pretty disappointing to see someone who still thinks that you can shame fat people into getting thin…or who, more accurately, thinks that their irrational hatred of fat people is actually just “concern” for them.

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Wow – the very first comment. Impressive.

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That has no relevance to my comment, John.

Saying “these are the medical effects of obesity, and these are the reasons why Fat Acceptance is a dangerous movement” is in no way equivalent to mocking fat people in an attempt to change their behavior.

Don’t pretend they’re equivalent, that’s incredibly disingenuous.

Also: I see that you haven’t even reacted to the disturbing sexual politics that Fat Acceptance endorses. Is that because you are unfamiliar with them?

Edit: You know, originally I was cool with letting this baseless “your hatred” shit just slide on by, because I am genuinely curious about your beliefs about this stuff, but now that I think about it? No, I’m not ok with that. Accusing people of “hating” others isn’t something you should just throw around because you’re uncomfortable, dude. That’s messed up.

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Alexander Hammil said on May 23rd, 2016 at 8:16 pm

Tom: I personally find your hatred of fat people more messed up than John’s calling you on it, but that’s just me.

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Alexander: Could you please explain how you got from what I said to “I hate fat people”?

Because there just isn’t a way to get there. Criticizing the beliefs of a movement is not the same as mocking the participants in that movement.

Or did you also not know what Fat Acceptance is, and incorrectly assumed that it means “fat people should be happy” instead of “being fat is healthy, your doctors lie to you”?

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Tom, rather impressively I somehow don’t manage to give a flying fuck about someone who responds to a review of a book with whole chapters devoted to how much passive aggressive assholes hide their hatred as “concern” for fat people’s health, with the exact same tired rhetoric that was debunked a fucking decade ago.

You want to help fat people? Go lobby against corn subsidies or push for rules against using high fructose corn syrup as an additive. Go fight to have bariatric surgery covered by insurance. Go look into the fact that studies show doctors do fewer tests and catch fewer preventable conditions when their patients are overweight. But if all you’ve got is “concern”, then you’re really just interested in lecturing fat people on how they could be not fat if they really tried this time, and I don’t have the patience for dealing with that much stupid today. Sorry not sorry.

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So you’re just flat out refusing to address the pervasive sexual entitlement in the Fat Acceptance movement?

Just kidding, you’ve already ignored that twice to talk about unrelated issues.

Let’s confront this issue head on: how do you reconcile the core of denial of medical science that motivates every piece of FA rhetoric?

Or are you just endorsing a movement you know nothing about?

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Oh, gee, Tom, you’re right. For some inexplicable reason, I’m treating “You know what those fatties get up to in the bedroom” with the same degree of respect and concern as I am “If fat people aren’t sufficiently ashamed of their bodies, they might die” and “You can’t trust the actual words of fat-positive writers as set down in the book you just finished, you can only trust my scuttlebutt and hearsay”.

You know, as transparent and mendacious trolling.

Sorry, better luck with a different website!

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John, that is not what I’m referring to.

You really haven’t read the material necessary to even discuss this movement, because you keep leaping to paranoid assumptions.

What I was referring to was This is Thin Privilege, Virgie Tovar, Ragen Chastain, and other prominent players in Fat Acceptance (who, again, you really don’t seem to know about, which makes it so weird that you support their movement) rhetoric that any man who turns down sexual advances from a fat woman should be ignored.

Serious question, dude: why have you chosen to imagine all these things I haven’t said and engage with those, instead of what I say?

Because I never said “Lindy is hurting herself”, but you claimed I did, and ignored what I actually said. I never said “what those fatties get up to” (or even used a derogatory term for fat people), but you said I did.

Why? Why put your words in my mouth then ignore mine?

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I think I’ve made it perfectly clear that it’s because I think you’re a mendacious asshole who’s attempting to derail the comment thread with a list of grievances about people we’re not talking about, in order to insinuate vague yet terrible things about the person we are talking about.

But here’s my deal. Go buy a copy of the book. Read it. If you want to talk about, oh, Lindy West and ‘Shrill’ after that, instead of people she’s not saying things she didn’t say, I promise we can have an actual conversation. Until then, kindly fuck off for a bit? Kthxbai.

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John, while I really respect your writing on this site, and though I’m not familiar with West or her book, you are coming off as a complete asshole right now.

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Johnathan said on May 24th, 2016 at 7:36 am

Oh yeah, it’s *John* that’s coming off as an asshole.

(very sarcastic)

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@Johnathan: It doesn’t necessarily have to be binary. Dan is right to an extent–I’ve skipped several steps on the descent from “Excuse me, kind fellow, but I think there might have been some miscommunication on this topic” to “Kindly fuck off”, here.

And while I don’t feel too guilty about that, because I do think those steps were just skipped because anyone who reads, “This is a book about what it’s like to receive six hundred text messages a day explaining how the person on the other end would love to rape you to death if only you weren’t so ugly,” and thinks to themselves, “Yes, this is the right time and place to have a debate about the nefarious Fat Acceptance Movement and their sinister overlords,” is probably a person whose style of discourse lends itself to being told to fuck off by strangers rather a lot, there’s no question that I jumped straight to that stage of the conversation when I could have started off trying to be polite.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Part of it is that I wanted to make it clear immediately that there is a big difference between discussing this book and discussing the issues brought up in this book, and that anyone who comes here to debate rape jokes, misogyny, fat-shaming, or Twitter abuse is coming to the wrong place. Honestly, despite the fact that I generally love reading the comments on this site and I think the commenters here are great, I would have shut the comments down if I knew how because I strongly suspected that the mention of Lindy West would bring some trolls out, and I wanted to shut that down early and hard.

Part of it is that I really meant it when I said I didn’t have the patience to be nice. Tom came in and literally recapitulated an argument that was debunked, eviscerated, and exposed as a sham in the book under discussion, all without the slightest hint of self-awareness. Yes, I could be this person’s Fat Positivity 101, but I don’t have the time or energy to be everyone’s introduction to basic human decency, especially when 99 times out of 100 it turns out that they just had a thin veneer of politeness over a deep reserve of calcified opinions and hate. I’ll do my penance with some other troll on a day when I’ve got more emotional bandwidth.

And part of it is that yes, I’m overweight myself. So are a lot of people I know. And it is a parade of one goddamn well-meaning asshole after another, each one thinking that “Have you tried diet and exercise?” is a) some kind of fucking miracle cure, and b) brand-new advice we’ve never heard before. It’s a constant stream of people thinking that our distrust of doctors is some kind of anti-vaxxer bullshit, when any fat person you talk to for more than five minutes will give you a story about having to go through four or five different health care professionals before finding someone who will actually diagnose their disease instead of staring blankly at them through a litany of symptoms and saying, “Have you tried losing some weight?” in exactly the same tone that the Tier 1 tech support representative says, “Well, refragment your hard drive and if that doesn’t work call us back.” I just don’t want to hear about it here and now. I’m sure Tom can find plenty of places on the Internet willing to hear his opinions on fat people, but they’re just not welcome on this comment thread. And yeah, that kind of makes me an asshole. It’s not going to change, but I’ll own it.

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@John: What disease do you have? You brought it up as part of your argument, but the way you phrased it makes it sound like you just mean “obesity” which is ridiculous.

Also, I think the two of you are talking past each other. Tom is talking about a specific movement that is, in fact, pretty fucked up, and you’re talking about being against bullying, which is related to the movement but not at all the same thing.

A good analogy is the Men’s Rights movement. They, at their core, have identified a real problem (sexism sucks for men) but have focused on “women” as the problem rather than “sexism”. As a result the movement is revolting, when it should basically just be feminism.

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Lupus753 said on May 24th, 2016 at 3:11 pm

I tried out a random sample on Amazon, which featured a few pages from a chapter about her childhood (I think). One time, she asked why the Trunchbull from Matilda didn’t have any “fat solidarity” with the fat boy. I thought that was extremely weird since the Trunchbull was not fat or described as such.

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@John: What disease do you have? You brought it up as part of your argument, but the way you phrased it makes it sound like you just mean “obesity” which is ridiculous.

I wouldn’t be surprised if John doesn’t answer because it’s a personal question. That being said, I’ve known two people with hypothyroidism, and I’ll guess it might be something like that. When taking the relevant prescription, they have totally “normal” bodies. When not taking it, they balloon. No big changes in exercise, and if their diet changed it wasn’t the kind of thing they felt they had control over, just big changes in weight. And there might have been other effects too, but that one thing is the thing that people fixate on.

As for the fat acceptance movement, I’m not familiar with it. After 5 minutes of reading about it, yeah, some people take it to far, sure, like almost literally everything in the world. But the basic idea seems like a good idea, and either way, bring it up here seems way off-topic and tendentious.

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Christian Hansen said on May 24th, 2016 at 5:39 pm

@John Seavey

Your position is an understandable one, as I myself have found it increasingly difficult to muster the necessary energy to debate with people online. I’ve often found that internet trolls are only often interested in generating reciprocating hate to feed off of, and any honest attempts at discussion lead to evasive mocking or disinterested back-downs in search of more “fun” prey. Still, I’m a little bummed there isn’t going to be a “Fat Positivity 101” comment.

You see, I consider myself an across the board liberal- gun control, gay marriage, feminism, all that jazz. I consider myself liberal not out of any sort of allegiance or feeling like I need to play the part for my friends or family or whatever, but because I know/believe to the best of my knowledge that it’s the right position. Because of this, I typically withhold judgement on any given issue until I feel like I’m educated enough to take a confident stand, even if that position is widely accepted by other liberals.

Abortion, for example, was something I had thought and read a lot about before I felt comfortable saying “Yes I am definitively Pro-Choice.” I live in a very religious state and go to church, so I’ve been constantly inundated with the whole “What about the rights of the unborn child?” argument ad nauseum. And it wasn’t until I had heard people online discuss in depth concepts like bodily autonomy, or when I was recommended Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion” that I felt like I knew enough.

I feel like I’m in a similar position with regards to Fat Acceptance: I honestly believe a lot of harassment is consciously disguised in one way or another (“It’s just a joke man, don’t be so PC!” or “I’m just standing up for my beliefs!” or “It’s about ethics in games journalism!”), and I can understand that so-called “concern” can easily become an excuse to stand on a soapbox and moralize to overweight people how they should be ashamed of themselves. On the other hand, I believe that obesity is a modern health-epidemic, and that healthy eating and exercise should be promoted and encouraged at a young age with the risk for childhood diabetes being what it is. It feels like there is some truth to both sides and I feel like I should be better informed before taking a stand. Even the offhand references to corn subsidies and bariatric surgery put the issue in a new perspective for me.

I mean, I guess if I want to know more I could just go out and buy “Shrill” or just Google/Wiki it on my own, but I actually like to come here and read what people have to say. It’s a little like going to that one ice cream truck that always passes by your house and finding out that they’re sold out of your favorite Ninja Turtle Ice Cream Bars. Sure, there’s a tub of vanilla in the freezer, but its just not the same.

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@Cyrus: That’s fine, but then he shouldn’t use it in an argument.

So, I’m probably going to get shit for this, so let’s head some of it off by saying up front that I’m fat, because if we’re discussing the fat acceptance movement I have to talk about being fat like it makes me a persecuted minority.

I can’t and won’t speak for Tom, but my problem with the Fat Acceptance movement is that it’s taking a commendable starting point (don’t bully or harass people for being fat) and extrapolating it into directions that are quite frankly insane. Being fat is unhealthy. So are smoking, drinking, and eating trans fats, so if you’re fine with it more power to you, but the fat acceptance movement wants to pretend it’s fine and that’s wrong. The weird sexual entitlement attitude that Tom mentions is also a thing, but that’s so creepy I’m just not going to go there at all.

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@Christian Hansen

If you’d like some Fat Positivity 101, I offer you this: you can’t know, to look at someone, why they are fat. They might eat too much, or exercise too little, sure, or it might be a medical condition like the hypothyroidism that makes them balloon up regardless of what they eat or do. What looks “fat” from the outside might be the healthy arrangement for their body type. They might be eating healthy, hitting the gym daily, and still carrying spare rolls. They might be perfectly healthy, with an ideal BMI and healthy weight, but shaped curvily enough that they still get called fat. They might be a Terminator-grade mass of hard muscle under that adipose. They might be struggling with depression and self-medicating with food (that would be me). In many cases, whether someone looks fat is not actually under their conscious control. Blame someone for their choices if you will, but can you blame them for their genes? How can you know at a glance?

Yes, there are health problems associated with being fat, for which the leading treatments tend to be, “have you tried not being fat?” That’s about as helpful as “have you tried not being poor?”, “have you tried not being a minority?”, and “have you tried not being shot?”

Since this is a 101 class, I’ve even got some homework for you: the next time you go grocery shopping, bring a calculator and add up what it would cost to eat fresh, healthy, non-processed, low-fat, low-salt foods for a week (be sure, also, to factor in a value for the time spent preparing those healthy meals) instead of eating cheap, easily- and quickly-prepared meals. Compare that number to your weekly budget, then get back to me.

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@Dasz: Cyrus is more or less right here–I’m not upset, but again, this isn’t really the time or place as far as I’m concerned. Plus, many of the stories I have aren’t mine to tell, and I would be violating people’s medical privacy if I discussed their experiences in the healthcare system.

All I will say is that I’m sure there are people in the movement who are extrapolating its philosophy in directions that are quite frankly insane. I mean, nobody likes animal cruelty, but PETA…sorry, wrong movement. What I meant to say was that Bernie is clearly the most progressive candidate, but Nevada…sorry, wrong movement. :)

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Candlejack said on May 25th, 2016 at 12:06 pm

On the actual topic: Man, she sounds like the sort of person I want to support by buying her book, but I’m just not up to putting my hand in the pain box. The comment sections of articles about the harassment women face in the workplace or at conventions or wherever already make me despair for humanity.

On the off-topic discussion of how hard it can be for heavy people to find doctors who want to talk about anything but their weight: My friend’s mother-in-law is fighting lung cancer. It took a long time for her to be diagnosed, because when she first went to the doctor complaining of pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath, she was told those things are normal for obese people and she would need to lose weight if she wanted to feel better.

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Devichan said on May 25th, 2016 at 12:17 pm

The stories aren’t John’s to tell. They’re mine. John and I have been together for a decade and a half, pretty much, so he’s seen it all with me. And while he doesn’t feel comfortable telling them, I do – for perspective for those who don’t like HAES. This may be uncomfortable for some, and I apologize to them. But the people wondering about HAES deserve a different, if anecdotal, perspective.

My body seems to like being around 240. But I injured both my knees and have osteoarthritis, and as a result in 2012 went up to 309. I was having problems exercising. I was fine with how I looked, mind, but I could see problems coming down the pike.

So, I decided to do something about it. I had bariatric surgery in June 2013 and went down to 176 – ALMOST out of obesity range and into just overweight.

But the surgery came at a cost. My body can’t decide how to regulate its hormones, and the antidepressant on stopped working. I went from having mild PMS to full-blown, medically diagnosed PMDD. That means two weeks of the month I am out of commission for just about everything – I’m first too depressed, and then for a week I’m in pain with cramps to the point I can’t work. (NB: It has taken me 30 minutes to write this much, because I have to keep stopping.)

They put me on a new antidepressant. I immediately started gaining weight. I went back up over 200.

They put me on the pill against their better judgement, because I am 44. The PMDD immediately stopped, and I started to be able to exercise and work well again – I was even getting in 20 hours of OT.

Then Black Friday I was feeling some abdominal pain. I was diagnosed with a blood clot near my liver. Now I’m on warfarin, which is an anticoagulant. The pill had to stop. Guess what cycles are like when you’re not only PMDDing, but on an anticoagulant? Oh, and they had to add an antianxiety med. Two weeks ago they had to add in an anti-heart-palpitation drug to counter some of the effects of the antianxiety meds.

I have gone back up to 232. I am on five meds daily instead of one plus Advil – which I can no longer have. (And tylenol doesn’t touch my cramps, FYI.) I can’t exercise because I hurt too much and some days I can barely get out of bed. My knees hurt again because I’m back up in weight.

This is my story. It’s just one story, it’s not data. But you know how my story started? Dieting as a kid – I was put on Weight Watchers at 9. It fucked up my metabolism for life. And bariatric surgery didn’t fix it. Nor did years of gym membership and dieting beforehand.

And when I had gallstone pain when I was in my early 30s, I went to the doctor and he ignored that to try to put me on diet pills. It took me two more years to get the gallstones diagnosed.

I have been in the ER more the last year than I had been in my entire life. Post-the-surgery-that-is-supposed-to-make-it-better-because-fat-is-so-unhealthy.

This is not to derail. This is to answer the commenters above who had questions. I am HAES now. I have to be. Because “obesity epidemic” is way too simplistic.

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One thing my wife did not mention in that account was that she was directly informed that she would not be eligible for hip or knee replacements for her osteoarthritis for another ten years. I don’t know if her weight was specifically referenced in regard to that as well, but one of the things that it’s hard to get away from is the consistent and confirmed bias by doctors regarding their patients’ weight, so even if it wasn’t mentioned it was likely a factor.

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But none of that would be helped by fat acceptance. If a doctor treats a new patient whose symptoms are consistent with obesity and that patient is obese, of course that’s the first diagnosis. And there are lots of completely valid reasons to downplay a patient’s self-diagnosis because patients are traditionally not good at that at all. Your specific situation *fucking sucks*, but you haven’t made any point at all about how fat acceptance solves this problem.

This is all secondary though, to my real point, which is that I’ve never seen any decent arguments out of the fat acceptance movement apart from “don’t bully people” (which has it’s own broader and more effective movement) and I’ve seen lots of terrible and outright harmful shit from it.

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KitGath said on May 25th, 2016 at 3:07 pm

Okay, so, I’ve been a longtime lurker on this site (it’s basically the only reason why I know anything about comics, considering this back-asswards country I live in), but I just wanted to ask you a question, if I may, John-and-wife.

How bad is the whole situation regarding doctors refusing to check on other problems once they see an obese patient? I have never heard of anything like that, although to be fair, I live in a tiny European country, have no personal experience and don’t personally know any people I would classify as obese. (I’ve certainly got friends who are ‘fat’ and I myself am a bit overweight, but I wouldn’t say any of us are in any real medical danger – apart from one friend who has thyroid problems and therefore the weight gain is a symptom, not the problem.)

I really just would like some information, because this is a subject I know nothing about. Apart from continually, idealistically screaming inside: “Why can’t people just leave other people alone?”

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@Dasz: If that was what was happening, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But it’s not. Once you get beyond the anecdotal evidence and into studies on patient diagnosis and quality of care, it’s clear that doctors who treat obese patients are treating obesity as the cause of symptoms even when those symptoms aren’t consistent with a disease associated with obesity. They order fewer tests on obese patients, they’re less diligent about checking medical history, they even spend less time in the room with an obese patient than they do a thin one. Things like that are harder to argue against, and the research is pretty clear on the subject.

Further, even if you accept that obesity is the cause and that doctors aren’t simply being lazy by providing it as a first diagnosis (which I really can’t), it’s safe to say that the medical treatments for obesity range from “proven to be fucking useless but endlessly proffered with condescension and no small degree of scorn” to “experimental and unproven” to “outright quackery”. Saying that the medical establishment has failed its obese patients is only a controversial statement if you’re a lobbyist for the AMA. :)

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Well, I’m going to have to bow out of the medical discussion at this point, although I still stand by my position that the fat acceptance movement is not really helping anybody.

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Which kind of proves my earlier point: 99 times out of 100 it’s not worth having these conversations because they end in, “Welp, I have nothing further to say to defend my point, and I’m not actually interested in challenging my own preconceptions on the subject, so I’m just going to vanish into the night. PS: You’re still wrong, nyah.” It’s exactly the kind of conversation I didn’t want to have in this book review thread, and I’ve now had it twice. Maybe I should have sworn more.

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@John: Except that the medical discussion was never my main point, and I don’t think it was Tom’s, we just kind of sidetracked onto it.

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You “sidetracked” onto the entire conversation, is my point. Again, in a book review thread specifically about how terrible people are on the Internet and how they just can’t resist inserting their opinions about fat people into any remotely-related conversation and how unintentionally cruel and vicious they are, you and Tom both decided that this was the perfect time and place to offer your opinions about fat people.

I mean, I suppose it’s kind of nice that you’re proving Lindy West’s point for her, but I really do wonder why you would possibly decide to jump in on this particular topic in this particular context.

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Previous exposure to “Fat Acceptance” or “fat positive” advocates have given all of us reason to look at them with derision.
Fat isn’t beautiful. No one wants to be obese, they are burdened with it. Like clinical depression or acne or migranes, it’s shit we are forced to cope with, but is in no way attractive. We all have a range of what we find attractive, it’s personal and can’t be dictated by others, especially those that try to use guilt or shame to change that. The fat acceptance crowd loves using guilt, so far as I’ve seen.
Fat isn’t a culture or ethnicity or religion, it’s medical issue. Rational people don’t harass others for their medical issues, neither do they fetishize or praise them for it.

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FeepingCreature said on May 26th, 2016 at 8:51 pm

I just want to say here that I think this discussion has gone in a reasonable direction, where both sides are at least listening to what the other are saying, and responding to their arguments.

And this almost wouldn’t have happened. I don’t know how close John was to the ban button, but I suspect going by their first comment it was not very far.

The extreme rhetoric on both sides is poisoning the debate in the center, and every time you round a concerned person to a homophobe or a fat shamer or a mysogynist, or for that matter you round a person who just has the bad experiences of their friends in mind, or who is worried about possibly harmful beliefs, to a radfem or a sjw, the center ground becomes a little more irradiated and impassable.

(What is an extremist? Somebody who tells you that anything but total agreement with their position marks somebody as an enemy.)

Listening to other people advance opinions that feel wrong and evil is a draining and thankless task, and defending that middle ground often requires arguing against your own side, even if you feel like you’re betraying them. But if we give up on that project of reconciliation and education, whether that means teaching, or listening, or telling somebody in your own camp to be quiet, you aren’t helping – if we give up on talking to the other side, we give up any hope of ever coming to agreement or changing anybody’s mind.

(Personally, as somebody who both finds obese people disgusting, and suspects they probably largely can’t help it (due to body weight set point etc.), I usually get shit from both sides. But them’s the breaks. Here’s hoping for new and safer treatments.)

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Hey, would ya look at that! Not only have I figured out how to close comments, but Brogan has proven that there will never be an end to goddamned idiots coming in here to share their opinions on why fat people are ugly and terrible!

Jesus.