I just read the following article wherein JasonDocherty (NAAFA Chairman) talks about the proposed change to the name of NAAFA:

Of course, Whaliam has already posted on this subject, that post and the responses are great!

I just thought that some insight into the how the NAAFA Board is approaching this subject might be interesting.

Full disclosure, I am against taking the “Fat” out of NAAFA.

I was not surprised when Jason says there has been plenty of feedback from the fat-acceptance community.

I was not surprised when I connected the link in the article (“plenty of feedback”) took me to a wonderful post by Regan Chastain, including 23 comments all but 1 of which were against the change in name.

I was very surprised when Jason says “a large majority of [feedback] has been positive”.

I believe the first thing I have seen in favor of the name change (outside of from the NAAFA Board) is the one comment to Regan’s post.

Then Jason says:

 “Of our direct responses, 70 percent of them have been dramatically in favor of the name change,” Docherty said. “The 30 percent, their response had more to do with nostalgia or an attempt to not lose the history of the organization.”

Having worked with lawyers for so many years, I can tell you using the phrase “of our direct responses” is a way to cover your ass.  That means, only those things that the NAAFA Board has deemed to be a “direct response” (and we don’t know what that definition is) make up the 70% being “dramatically in favor” of the name change.  So if (for example) someone asks why change the name at all, that might not be counted as being against a change.

Why nostalgia is somehow not a good reason to oppose the name change, is not clear to me.  I thought the NAAFA Board was very into “branding”, and isn’t “nostalgia” a big part of branding?

Jason also disagrees with those of us that feels removing “fat” from NAAFA is abandoning its mission.  I thought the mission of NAAFA was, as its name states, “advancement of fat acceptance.”  Silly me.

Jason goes on to say:

“The reason the word ‘fat’ was kept in the structure of our communications was it was an attempt to reclaim the word so it wasn’t seen as a bad word. Unfortunately, that part of the media war has been lost. No matter how we internalize our language—and we will continue to use positively the word ‘fat’—it’s not resonating with an audience out there.”

You can’t win a war you won’t fight.  Go on the web and see how much presence the fat community has there.  As Whaliam pointed out, look at popular music videos that have fat performers as positive images.  How popular was the show Rosanne?  How popular is John Goodman?  How popular is Drop Dead Diva?  Look on Pinterest – and see how many fat images are there in photos, sculptures, dolls, paintings, not too mention plenty of fat positive quotes – all being shared by lots of people who find these images and thoughts beautiful and life enhancing.

Look at the uproar against the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO.  That’s not just fat rights activists who disagree with him; it’s also average people who have a sense of fairness, and who now include fat people among those who should be treated fairly.

Look at the NAAFA Newsletter Roundup and see how much science is being done to truly understand why people are fat.  Yes, a lot has a negative bent, but more and more you see in the interviews and conclusions that the issue of people being fat is complex and not easily changed; and most of the science agrees that the stigmatization of fat and fat people is a bad thing.

So I would really, really, really like it if NAAFA would post the “direct responses” on its website, so we can all benefit by the thinking of what these folks have to say.  Better yet, why not have an open forum on the name change rather than limit it to private e-mails?  I’d also like to know what constitutes a “direct response”.  (Using Google alerts, the NAAFA Board should be able to assess all responses; and I’m assuming they mean the responses that were sent directly to Peggy in response to NAAFA’s call for comments on the name change.  But then, you know what they say about assume.)

Jason tells us that NAAFA has studied the experience of other organizations like AARP (which did change its name) and the NAACP (which did not change its name).

AARP changed its name from “American Association of Retired People” to “AARP” because membership begins at 50 when most of the members are not yet retired.  In other words, AARP felt that the name did not correctly reflect their membership and goals.  And they kept AARP, and anyone old enough to be a member knows what it stood for.

NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) did not change their name.  I think the term “Colored People” is a lot more problematic than having “Fat” in your organization’s name.  So why didn’t NAACP change its name?  Because it is so well known.  It is a “brand”, it is an organization with a long and honorable history, and in a way the name not only reflects that history, it also reminds you of how much progress has been made (and perhaps how much further we have to go).

The article goes on to say:

 “While it’s nearly impossible to make everyone happy on such a major decision, in the end, Docherty said, it has to be driven by what’s best for the organization.”

You see, I don’t think it is about what is best for the organization.  I think it is what is best for the organization’s fundraising goals.  It should be about what’s best for your members and for all fat people, not just those on the Board, and it’s also should be about what’s best in the long term, not just what’s good for fundraising right now.  If your goal is to advance fat acceptance, there is nothing wrong with the name “NAAFA”.  If your goal is to be more palatable to people who think “fat” is a problem word, a word synonymous with all kinds of negative things (lazy, unhealthy, undisciplined) then I would suggest there is a bigger problem than the name of your organization.  And that problem is part of what fat people have to face, and it’s also the part where you are declaring defeat.

While discussing this, Whaliam suggested that perhaps the inappropriate word in NAAFA is “Association”, that perhaps it should use the term “Council” because the current organization seems to be more about its Board than about its members and the people who make up the fat community.

NAAFA has an appointed Board, not an elected Board.  You don’t get onto the Board unless the existing Board approves.  This guarantees that the Board is going to have a (at least mostly) united front on issues that go public, which can be a good thing.  However, it also can lead to a lack of diversity in thinking.  I know I love some of my best friends because they think so differently than I do.  I can rely on them to give me a point of view that I would have never thought of.

Oh well.  What will be will be, and this indirect response will make little to no difference.  However, just so you know, I did send an e-mail to Peggy directly with my thoughts on this issue.  It probably went into the nostalgic/there’s a value to a recognized brand pile.



  1. Just for the record, Terri, I agree with you. I think we should keep the proud & unapologetic use of the word ‘Fat’ as prominent & loud & frequent as possible. And NAAFA is supposed to be all about protecting & promoting the interests of fat people.

  2. I am a fat person.

    I can imagine a NAAFA without out the word Fat one day mutating into a organization that no longer represents people who Doctors would classify as severely obese.

  3. Just a note — I don’t think Facebook posts show up in Google alerts (and, there’s been quite a response on Facebook.) Personally, NAAFA and I gave up on each other years ago. 95% of the stuff they do simply doesn’t interrest me.

    • Yes there is a interest on this topic on Facebook. I linked “Dances with Fat” thread on this subject on my Facebook Page and there was a large amount of interest. I guess going to the Blog and posting was too much work for most of them.

    • That’s a good point. But it looks like NAAFA is monitoring its own facebook groups at least; I saw Peggy Howell and Brandon Macsata jumping into a thread in the NAAFA SF Bay Area group.

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