Post-action reflections for fat and disabled comrades

This is for my fat comrades and my disabled comrades. 

Street protest and direct action are not the only ways to make change, but they are vital tools for raising awareness and gaining popular support. Our goal in the action of Dec. 16 was to hamper PG&E’s corporate HQ for a day, and to do it in a way that made a media spectacle, highlighting frontline communities’ needs for reliable power, and the violence of for-profit utility companies. This action was made by an unprecedented coalition of groups, including disability justice, fat liberation, environmental, climate justice, and utility justice groups. I’d say it was a wild success

Ever since I first came to understand the specific power of my fat, disabled body in direct action, I’ve been keen to spread the word to other fat and disabled folks interested in liberation movements. I love feeling the immense power of my difficult-to-move, often shockingly fat body, and fully embodying it in service of collective liberation. NOTHING LIKE IT. I’ve loved seeing this represented in a variety of movements — fat BLM activists in DC, arms locked together in protest of Trump’s inauguration; water protector Mark Tilsen talking about the particular power of his large body chained to machinery to prevent a pipeline from moving forward; fatties and wheelchair users declaring themselves the Antifa Tank Division. This recognition of our power is thrilling to me.

Fat and disabled folks are often scarce in broader movements for liberation. Certainly many of us are occupied with basic survival. And when we do participate in social justice movements, we are often isolated, and so we might not bring fat liberation, anti-ableism, or disability justice with us — it’s hard enough to deal with the stigma, the fat hatred, and the ableism. We might try to brush these off or tune them out as strategies for being in those spaces, and then we are likely to burn out. We might try to stay and fight for access and awareness of fat or disability, and then, too, we are likely to get discouraged or burn out. 

We can’t do this work alone. I mean that in two senses. 1. To be included in liberation movements, we need the support of other disabled and/or fat comrades so that together we can stay grounded in the wisdom and power that comes from living in a fat or disabled body. 2. We actually need allies, accomplices, co-conspirators, people who aren’t fat or who aren’t yet disabled, to understand that fat liberation and disability justice must be part of what we are all fighting for. 

There are so many things we need as a broader liberation movement. I want us to remember that fat and disabled people bring some specific wisdom and power. We understand disposability. We have developed specific survival skills and resilience. And each of our bodyminds offers something particular, too many to list! ALL of this is needed for us to collectively get free. 

It has been said that activists valorize street protest, specifically blockading and risking arrest, and that this is ableist. I can’t argue with that. AND I don’t want to throw out those tactics, either. Without locking ourselves to the doors of PG&E, we would not have gotten near the media attention we got. Blockading was a tactic used to slow down business and get media attention. It worked. AND there were dozens of other tactics being used in that protest that also worked. Fat and disabled people (along with others) used the power of our more-difficult-to-move bodies to blockade. Others worked on recruitment, organizing and strategy. Others made art. Disabled people wrote press releases from their beds. Many folks did access support — an integral part of building trust within and across communities. It took all of us.

What role/s do you want to try? What support do you need?

Max Airborne for Fat Rose