Hey everybody, just wanted to fill you in on what’s happened over the last 48 hours with me and the Liturgists because a lot of you have asked and there’s a ton of tweets to search through to figure it out. So here it is:
We posted a podcast on Thursday about the topic “Does Fat = Bad?”. On the episode we interviewed an incredible dietician named Christy Harrison about her research and experience in her field in order to try to pull apart the story that fat is inherently bad.
Also included in the episode were segments of the dozens of stories that came in from our audience about what its like for them to experience fat stigma in their lives.
We’ve heard from a lot of people, thin, fat and in between that the episode was very helpful for them, and all of the heated conversation and controversy happening right now doesn’t actually have to do with any specific content of the episode, but about whose voices were present
There were a number of people who didn’t listen to the episode (and a few who did listen) who were tweeting me, offended that the guest on the podcast was speaking about fatness but wasn’t fat herself.
I agreed that having a fat expert on this episode in addition to Christy would have been great. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to accomplish that in time, despite having reached out to some people whose work we thought would be very valuable to this conversation.
I agreed that our episode would have been more effective at helping fat people feel seen and loved by having a fat expert on as well, but it really upset some people that I didn’t simply apologize and agree that it was wrong for us to put out a show that didn’t have that.
I believe in centering marginalized voices whenever possible in a conversation about topics that most directly affect those voices. This is something we always strive to do with the Liturgists podcast and something we will continue to do.
What I struggle with is the tension between that value and an aspect of progressive culture that holds to the ideal that this is a moral issue and that non-marginalized people have no business talking about topics of social justice without the correct representation in the room.
As well intentioned as it may be, that’s just not a belief that I can subscribe to. Again, I think it’s better to feature and amplify marginalized voices whenever possible than to try to speak about it without them. Unfortunately, this is simply not always practical or possible
Ironically, many of the people who have tweeted about this are using their own privileged voice to try to speak up for someone else outside of their lived experience. I think this is a good thing.
To think that only people most affected by a harmful story can ever say anything about that story seems impractical and counterproductive.
For example, I talk about my daughter Lucie, and try my hardest to make it a better world for her and people with different abilities. Should I not speak up on her behalf?
Do I have to have Down syndrome myself in order to be an advocate for her? I believe I would do her a great injustice if I stayed silent.
I believe what Christy Harrison has to say is valuable and don’t think it NEEDS anything or anyone else in order for it to be valuable on its own.
Is what she says made more valuable by other voices, perspectives and experiences? Yes! And this episode could have been better with more voices.
But on some level, apologizing for releasing an episode that features only Christy feels to me like invalidating Christy’s work simply and only because of her body size. And that feels wrong to me.
It is the lack of agreement on this very specific tenet of justice work that is the crux of the current disagreement. I believe every individual has a right to speak of their own experience and thoughts about any topic.
This is not about fat phobia. It’s not about me not wanting to center marginalized voices. (I do that all of the time on the podcast; it’s core value of both mine and the Liturgists).
This is about me not agreeing that a podcast can be inherently bad (regardless of its content) simply and only because of the nature of the bodies of the people talking on the episode.
The reason I don’t just PR this and say that I agree with these advocates to save myself from the mob of cancel culture is because I believe this sort of thinking that is prominent in progressive circles is a type of fundamentalism that actually hurts people more than it helps.
I believe it hurts because it makes people with platforms afraid to speak about important issues for fear of being cancelled. It hurts because it lends itself to tokenizing, fetishizing and dehumanizing people into mere objects of skin color, genitals, body size, ability...etc
I believe it hurts because it limits our conversations rather than supporting them. This sort of small thinking disconnects us rather than empowering us to hear, understand and love each other.
This is not the first time I’ve faced an angry group of people on Twitter. It probably won’t be the last. But I hope we can all use this moment to listen and to learn—to avoid fundamentalism and dehumanization on any side of the convo, and instead to lean into love as we disagree
Thank you to everyone who has commented both your critiques and your support. I’ve learned some things through this conversation and while I’m sad that people were hurt by this, I am committed to continue listening to, learning from, and loving all of you. 🙏🏽❤️
You can follow @michaelgungor.
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