In Edmonton, an Addition Elle employee was fired after her employer saw a Facebook post of hers that included the word ‘fat.’[i] Addition Elle is a clothing store that provides clothing for plus size women. Connie Levitsky, a third-year MacEwan University student, had posted a ‘body positive message’ in support of other overweight women. She said, “Conquering the world, one well-dressed fat lady at a time.” At her manager’s request she removed the statement. But, when she arrived at work on the following Tuesday, she was told she was fired.
“It was explained to me that the company simply just does not want to be associated with the word ‘fat’ because of the negative connotation attached to it, and they prefer to use the words ‘curvy or shapely’ or other euphemisms,” Levitsky said.
Her intent, she said, was to promote a positive message. She wants to change the negative connotation behind the word ‘fat.’
“I don’t see fat as being a negative thing anymore,” Levitsky said. “I realize that when I take offence to a word that is used to hurt me, I’m essentially reinforcing this perpetuation that fat people should be and are ashamed of themselves, that there’s something wrong with being fat.”
Two things. Firstly…
In this situation we have a very clear contradiction in freedoms: either you have the right to express what you think, or a capitalist has the right to fire you for what ideas you express. The contradiction is a class one. Freedoms are ultimately contradictory, because there is no absolute freedom as many ideologies claim. When freedoms come into conflict there must be a resolution. That resolution depends on the ideological foundation of a society.
As communists, we stand for the rights of the people to be able to express political ideas. We engage in struggle over ideas that will end up shaping the future. Even, if it is one that is as nonsense as the idea that ‘fat’ is an identity. What side you take in this contradiction speaks volumes about who you are and what you believe. Do you stand for the people? Or do you stand for your class superior?
Levitsky goes on to make a terribly reactionary statement:
“So if you want to be in this retail market and this market where you are trying to provide clothing for a growing group of the population that identifies itself as fat, then you probably need to consider that this is a word that they identify themselves with and you might need to reconsider your policies around that.”
It is no secret that I am a great opponent of identity politics. Her statement here is quite telling about the manifestation of it. She explicitly expresses that ‘fat’ is an identity, and therefore valid. I’ve been critical of the ‘body positive movement’ for its increasingly reactionary character. My biggest criticism of it has been its justification for anti-science nonsense such as, “healthy at any weight.” I’ve expressed my disgust a few times at First World people trying to make being unhealthy a lifestyle, in order to justify refusing to be healthy. First World people live high off the hog on the spoils of imperialism to the point where they can choose to be unhealthy.
Her statement says it all, she is saying it is a choice. They’re choosing to be unhealthy and consume excessively, while the Third World goes hungry. Approximately 3.1 million children die from hunger each year,[ii] while the First World over consumes and wastes half of all of its food.[iii] There is no shortage of food in the First World, they are choosing to eat improperly. Almost all of this waste is consumer pickiness, the food doesn’t look as good as they would like.
Again, we see a class contradiction here. There is a definite class divide between First and Third World people. As we over consume, they are forced to under consume. We again must ask ourselves, “where do we stand in this contradiction?” Do we stand with the right of the First World individual to over consume, and waste food as a right? Or do we stand with the global people and their right to be able to have food?
As communists, the answer should be simple.