Language and “safe space”

Why do we like the word “fat” so much? Why is the language we use so critical? Where did “death fat” come from? What is safe space and why should you give a crap? These questions and more are approached and discussed and maybe even answered in this episode.

Links mentioned in this episode:

“Death fat” in Newsweek

On FWD: Disability is not your analogy

“Hey Ladies”, Beastie Boys

The music heard in this episode is by Brad Sucks.

5 Responses to “Language and “safe space””

  1. Susan Says:

    Thank you so much for doing these Fatcasts! I’m bad at critiquing this kind of media, so I can’t currently give you better input, except to say “More please!”

  2. Sarah Says:

    Love the podcasts; they’ve given me a lot to think about. Given the subject of this episode, though, I wanted to bring up a few issues about language and ableism:

    -Use of the word “crazy.” This is most definitely an ableist word which was used numerous times this episode and in others:

    -With all due respect, I find Leslie’s defense of the word “crippled” as she used it in a previous episode to be rather problematic. Even though mental/emotional impairments certainly exist, and present real barriers, I still feel like using the word as referring to being “emotionally crippled” is problematic, and an appropriation of the experiences of people with physical disabilities. It’s also problematic to suggest that being “crippled” (in any way) means “being unable to function in a normal way.” (Who decides what is “normal”?) Because PWD do typically function normally *for them,* and of course having a disability does not in and of itself prevent someone from doing “normal” things such as having a job, etc. A lot of non-PWD (or even many PWD who may have a different disability or internalized ableism) use “disabled” or “crippled” to mean “unable,” and that’s just not true. So I don’t think the defense of the word usage really holds up very well.

  3. Lesley Says:

    Hi Sarah!

    If I used the word “normal” when talking about a definition of “crippled”, then I apologize — that was totally fucked up and wrong. Aside from that, possibly I have known and loved too many folks with debilitating mental and emotional issues in my life, but I stand by my use of “crippling” in a non-physical context, as the word and sentiment are appropriate in my mind. It’s true that some definitions of “crippling” are historically limb-specific, but many are not. Certainly it’s a word that carries a lot of power and evokes the seriousness of the situation — that is why I used it. Ironically, I WOULDN’T use it, ever, to describe a physical disability, because me being able-bodied and given its past use as a slur that would be wholly inappropriate. I do know disabled folks who use it to describe themselves, but the word means something different in their mouths than it does in mine.

    When the “crippling” question first came up, I immediately tried to think of words I could use instead, as generally when someone tells me a word troubles them, I tend to trust their response and just drop the word (i.e. “lame” or “retarded” as disparaging slang — I don’t use them, and I frequently call people out who do). But in this instance EVERY SINGLE WORD that fit the response I was trying to describe was similar to “crippling” insofar as to make the distinction irrelevant: “debilitating,” “disabling,” “paralyzing,” “incapacitating”. I fully understand that some folks will be offended, and I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t be — I am saying that my ability to describe the response in question is limited to the language I know.

    “Crazy” I’m becoming more conscious of, over the past couple years. I say it ALL THE TIME and am slowly building an awareness that — unlike my use of “crippling” — I use it as a garbage word for lots of situations where there are many other more appropriate words that will do. I don’t know about other folks but changing my language often takes a long time, and only comes as a result of my building that awareness over time, until the day comes that I think, hmm, I could use a better word there BEFORE I say it, instead of after. But eventually it does happen (see “lame”, as mentioned above).

  4. Lisa Sargese Says:

    I love the term “Death Fat” because it sounds StarWarsian. That’s no moon. It’s a fat acceptance advocate!!! Ok, that was borderline. But still, death fat is a great reclamation. The diet and weight loss surgery docs have been lowering the standard for what counts as morbidly obese so they can justify weight loss surgery and get insurance companies to pay. Start putting Death Fat on the diagnosis sheet and we’ll see how many insurance companies rethink they’re decisions. Ha!

  5. silentbeep Says:

    FWIW, your use of the word “crazy” is something that I don’t find offensive really at all. I’ve been in and out of psychiatrists and therapists office for 15 + years now, on and off different meds, and still on meds for clinical depression. I find myself using “crazy” a lot of the time in a very non-serious way as a way to re-calim that word! I call myself crazy just as I call myself deathfat – it’s true and also meant as a way to laugh ironically about supposedly “horrid” things. But of course, to each or his or her own…

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