I'm not sure if many of my readers are in the Boston area, but if you are and you're free this Friday, Boston-based size-positive dance troupe Big Moves will be holding an event in Jamaica Plain. The "Gargantua Picture Show" will be held on Friday, June 29 at 7pm at Farnsworth House, 90 South Street, Jamaica Plain. Instead of a dance revue, this is going to be a fundraiser for their fall musical, LARD.
As I understand it, this will be a Rocky Horror style presentation of their 2006 musical, Gargantua:Fear of a Fat Planet which recently won awards at the Montreal fringe festival. I had the pleasure to see this fat positive sci-fi extravaganza when it played in Boston last fall and am eager to see what they have in store for the musical on the "(moderately) big screen" complete with movie snacks. Big Moves members will talk about their plans for the coming year and offer up some cool Big Moves merchandise for purchase.
Admission will be free, but this is a fundraiser so do expect to make a donation to this worthy cause. If you've never enjoyed a Big Moves show, I'm sure this will be a fun introduction to what they do. Gargantua is really an awesome show and if you missed it live, this should be a good substitute. So if you are around Boston, come down and say hi. 16+ only, though. I'm told things might get a little rowdy.
Especially when folks seem so eager to check off all the squares.
Kate Harding made me aware of the troll influx over at Hoyden About Town when she posted about the anti-fat Brazilian ad campaign that juxtaposed images of popular culture with fat women with the apparent intent to disgust. Consensus seems to be that this purpose wasn't executed that well, but some folks are obviously so offended at teh fat that it works for them. To respond to those types when they rear their heads, here are some of my suggestions. I'm going to be my typical long-winded self, so I'll do this in installments. (Oh, and check out The Rotund's Top 10 responses here)
I am sure we can all agree that we are in the middle of an epidemic.
Um, no we can't all agree on that.
Like all "I'm sure we can all agree" statements, this is an attempt to frame the discussion in a way which advantages one side of the argument. Anti-fat types are usually audacious enough to try to set terms which not only advantage themselves, but effectively define their position as the only acceptable one. It depends on people's reluctance to challenge to deeply embedded assumpsion that is ultimately bad. Don't be reluctant. Don't let fat bashers offer opinions as facts that everyone can "agree upon". Don't agree.
Carrying around X lbs of fat is like wearing a backpack loaded with X lbs.
Well, then I guess extremely fat people are the strongest people on the planet then.
This is one of those assumptions about fat people where the bashers don't really think through the implications. In trying to characterize fatness as an unspeakable burden, they forget that its a "burden" that fat people handle all of the time. There are plenty of 300+ and 400+ lb people who lead active and fufilling lives supposedly carrying around maybe 300lbs on their backpack. How many thin, even in shape people could boast that? So, this statement implies that fat people are actually exceptionally strong. Clearly an implication those tossing out this line don't want to make. Indeed, there are a lot of exceptionally strong fat people, but the real truth is that being fat just isn't that simple. I did weigh about 100lbs less than I do now. I remember what it felt like. Didn't feel that different. I don't feel like I'm carrying around 100lbs with every step. It just doesn't work that way.
You just want an excuse to be fat.
I don't need an excuse. I am fat. I just want to be treated with respect and dignity.
A favorite of the folks who think fat acceptance is just about being too lazy to diet. They fret that if fat people are treated with respect and allowed to persue their health and happiness at the size they are, that no one will want to lose weight. Yeah, that's kind of the point. We're going to be fat. We don't need a note from our parents to keep being fat. What we want is respect.
I did it! So can you!
I accepted myself! So can you!
Don't expect for your self-acceptance to be regarded as valid personal anecdote, mind you. See, only one bit of "personal experience" is really welcome, and that's diet "success". Here's the thing, though. In spite of the desire of the dieters to feel that they've accomplished something through force of will and committment, they just didn't. Diets fail over 95% of time. That's not a failure of people, but of the system. The success really is just a fluke, and even then its often fleeting. You could tell the person to come back after they've kept it off for 5 years, but the truth is that its still just a fluke. They aren't specially capable. Their personal experience doesn't change the reality of dietings massive systematic failures.
You're endangering the rights of dieters!
Yeah, just like gay marriage endangers heterosexual marriage.
Okay, that one-liner will really only work on progressive forums, I admit. You get the idea, though. The notion that a few people arguing for something different is in ANY position to endanger the rights of dieters is frankly insane. No one can honestly believe it and most who spout it are just furious that anyone disagrees with the overwhelmingly dominant status quo and are manufacturing reasons to shut it down. No, you are not endangering the "rights" of dieters. They day when the "rights" of dieters is a valid concern is so incredibly far off, that it has no place in any discussion for at least the next 100 years or so. Its asserting privilege for the privileged.
Then I saw it was from "Lap Band Expert". Then I opened it. Sure enough, he was urging me to consider mangling my digestive system. In fact, he wanted me to help promote his stomach destroying procedure to my friends, too. I'm sickened at the thought of him spamming everyone on my friends list. A lot aren't fat accepting and I'm upset that some Tijuana surgeon might prey on people like this because he found them through me.
Like I said, I'm just stunned. Its not like this isn't something I've seen before. Heck, got weight loss spam right here just last week. But there is still something awful and distressing about seeing it. Especially for something as odious as WLS. I don't talk much about WLS here. Partly because I think others do it better than I could hope, too. (thanks, Sandy!) Partly because its frankly overwhelming. I mean, fat people are dying because of this. They are being disabled for the rest of their lives. Their quality of life is crippled in the name of surgical anorexia. This is scary and its upsetting. I'm worry about what is going to happen in the name of WLS.
Just look at the "Lap Band" that this guy is such an expert in. Its constantly exalted as safer because its reversable. Am I the only one who is scared by that reasoning? "Its safer because you might be able to stop what this does to you!" You know what's even safer? Not screwing around with a healthy and properly working system of your body.
The stakes are so high with WLS. I feel like that message was a punch to the gut. But at least it gave me a reason to link to some of Sandy Szwarc's great reporting on the issue.
Yes, that's right. Its the first "Fat Hate Bingo" T-Shirt, of which my girlfriend is the proud owner. You can tell its the first because it still has the stupid typos I made on FHB2. (Sorry Cristin) She actually hasn't seen it yet, but I'll see if she wants to model it for anyone interested. I have to say, having not seen CafePress product before, I'm pretty impressed. Its of pretty decent quality. I was expecting it to look a little cheap, but it really doesn't.
Amazingly enough, someone else actually ordered the shirt who is not my girlfriend. I'll actually tell you right now that if by some freak of nature I sell enough Fat Hate Bingo shirts to pay for a premium membership at CafePress, I'll so. That'll allow a wider selection of fat positive wares designed by yours truly. I'm sure it'll amuse me to no end, so just know what you'll be subjected to if you encourage me. (Also, be aware that a LOT of you will have to encourage me, so don't get your hopes up.) My self-importance may well know no bounds, so test it at your peril.
(Kate Harding asked me to write something about Fat Admirers and I was more than happy to do so. Emphasis is actually hers. You can also find this over here at Shapely Prose.)
My name is Brian and I think fat women are sexy.
They call men like me FAs: Fat Admirers. It’s the modern term for “chubby chaser”. I choose to date fat women. Not because I’m enlightened enough to “see past” their body. Not because I think everyone is beautiful. Not because I think fat women are nicer or sweeter, and certainly not “easier.” It is because I think fat women are hot.
This is a funny thing in our society. I mean, I’m a man attracted to women. Seems pretty mainstream to me, but somehow it isn’t. Sure, I’m straight but I’m “differently straight”. I’m not quite a part of the heterosexual hegemony. The physical ideal I’m supposed to adhere to just doesn’t do anything for me. The sexualized culture that caters to the traditionally straight male doesn’t cater to me. If anything, it mocks and abuses me. What turns me on is ridiculed and condemned in the harshest tones. The mere idea that someone like me could think the way I do is rarely even acknowledged and almost never tolerated. If a man like me even gets portrayed, he’s sick, a freak. In a fat hating society, it is simply unacceptable to actually aesthetically enjoy fat people.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not looking for pity here. Compared to fat people, FAs have it easy. Being open about being an FA is the easiest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. There is effectively no direct harassment I have to endure being an FA. I don’t get threatened or heckled if seen in public with a fat person. I can marry a fat woman in all 50 states. Still, it is different. Unnatural to some — and unwelcome even to most subjects of an FA’s admiration.
I was lucky growing up because most of the pressure to conform went so far over my head, I didn’t even know it was there. I was pretty debilitatingly naïve as a kid. Well, it would have been debilitating if I wasn’t too naïve to notice it. Oddly enough, I think this social flaw wound up benefiting me. I didn’t know enough to know that I wasn’t supposed to think fat girls were cute. I knew that I was different, sure. But I didn’t think this meant I had to hide it. I just thought it meant I was different. By the time I really grasped how unacceptable it was, it was too late. I didn’t respond by cowering in fear, but by challenging the standards. I taught myself about fat acceptance. About the politics behind the way fat people were treated. I was advocating for fat acceptance at 14. Instead of staying in a closet, I was outspoken and I’m profoundly grateful that I was.
Mind you, I wasn’t winning converts in high school. One of the toughest things about being an FA is the some of the harshest receptions you’ll get come from fat women. Fat hatred is so extraordinarily internalized by fat women in our culture, the idea of a guy thinking they were beautiful just couldn’t be reconciled. I mostly weathered this without falling into “Nice Guy” traps, thankfully. Still, a lot of FAs don’t. A lot of FAs keep hating themselves. They think its wrong to be attracted to fat women. They buy into the cultural hate as much as anyone. Others waste energy trying to be a “white knight” pretending they can undo years of social conditioning just by telling a woman that she’s beautiful. Or worse, they grow to think fat women owe them something for their affection. The truth, though, is that probably most FAs remain invisible, thanks to a culture that likes to keep them that way. They are afraid to open up until they are older and have grown too tired of hiding.
Being an FA isn’t something sick or demented. There are men who fetishsize fat, sure, but that’s different from being an FA. Being an FA just means that you see a fat person and you think they are sexy. Some people think it is limiting to be an FA. Really? There is a range of probably 300lbs of what I’m really turned on by and plenty past that which I find quite aesthetically appealing in its own right. “Thin Admirers” like what? A range of 30lbs, tops? The thing is, a “Thin Admirer” isn’t anything. They don’t need to self-identify. No one could pick up on their attraction by observing who they date, because they keep to social expectations. They have the privilege of their preference being undetectable, while mine is evident to anyone who knows me. I can either hide and be invisible, or everyone is going to see right where I stand. Yet, it’s the men and women challenging the status quo who have to answer for their supposedly superficial preference. We’re the ones who are accused of limiting our options, while men interested only in thin women simply fade into the background.
For most FA’s, it’s just a preference. It’s just part of what we’re looking for in a romantic relationship. There is this idea that the choices fat women have are men who date them because of their size or despite of their size. Both options would suck if you ask me. Good thing being an FA isn’t either. I want to be with a fat woman, yes, but I’m looking for someone I am completely attracted to, mind and body. I’m not martyring myself by dating someone “even though” she is fat. I’m not debasing her by dating her just because she is fat. The attraction is inclusive of the physical attraction, neither because of nor in spite of it.
I don’t really know why I think fat women are beautiful. Its not like I sat down one day and did a list of pros and cons to come to the logical answer. I have a friend who is convinced all FA’s had some experience in their childhood that produced the preference, but I really can’t think of anything. I never had fat teachers, fat babysitters, even fat relatives. There were signs of where I was going as early as 7 years old, but once I got to puberty I was pretty solidly aware. There isn’t an answer to “why?” I just am. This is just how I’m wired. I tend to think that’s probably the case for most FAs. We just are.
I could go on about the unique experience of being an FA. Our sexual development is profoundly impacted by the conflicted cultural stimuli we receive, and I think a lot of it really hurts FAs — though the internet is changing things, hopefully for the better. I may be different, and I may have faced some unique challenges, but I’m honestly quite happy and confident with who I am. I really do think I’m lucky to be differently straight. I wouldn’t trade who I am for anything.
As long as we're making up pronunciations of made words, can I suggest one?
(I doubt I'm the first to crack the joke, but this is one worth repeated anyway)
FAT HATE BINGO and FAT HATE BINGO 2 materials are both available at my self-important CafePress store. I just have a basic account, so they have to be in different styles. Why do I have a basic account? Seriously, I know you're not buying the stuff. It just amuses me that you potentially could. So, without further adieu, click on the image below for FAT HATE BINGO 2!
I've already got some fantastic ideas for Fat Hate Bingo 2, but in the mean-time I've used my minor notority with this as an excuse to finally set up a cafepress site. So, if for some insane reason you feel the need to wear "Fat Hate Bingo", you've got an option.
Visit the Red No. 3 Cafe Press store here.
I'll probably get around to doing more with this eventually, but its just Fat Hate Bingo right now. I'm thinking about making shirts for some of the individual squares from the Bingo card, too. Specifically "The law of
thermodynamics says you’re a liar" and "Fat people have it far too easy in our society" but I'll take suggestions.
Oh, and as long as I'm inflating my ego, I kinda want a tagline on the back of the shirts. Right now I just put up a hastily designed logo, but I'd like to put the URL with a slogan of some sort. My quick idea was "Bringing Fat Back" but that might be too corny. Any thoughts?
No longer do you have to be bored to tears by the same old arguments offered by anti-fat crusaders whenever you want to discuss fat acceptance. With FAT HATE BINGO you can make a game of the repetitive talking points that get trotted out in every single conversation about fat. Five clichés in a row and you've got FAT HATE BINGO!
Click on the image below and print out your FAT HATE BINGO card today! And feel free to offer your own clichés for the inevitable FAT HATE BINGO 2.
UPDATE! There was just too much for one card. Check out FAT HATE BINGO 2 for more.
Or go to my CafePress store and get a T-Shirt. (yeah, I know you aren't going to either.)
I also read the creators blog on CBS.com and they actually mentioned choosing the Hippo for one of the characters that represented a fat woman. As I hoped, their thought behind it was just that given her interview, she should have a "plus-sized animal" and were emphatic that it wasn't intended to mock her. "Its a really cute hippo," is how they put it. Likewise, the thought behind the pigs (who I gather are going to be major characters) was more to emphasize the lack of boundaries in their relationship by making them farm animals in neighboring pens.
No Fat Children Allowed at Junkfood Science
The Children's Crusade at FatFu
Another Reason Not to Have Children at Shapely Prose
Incoherent at The Rotund
THIS is why we need fat acceptance. THIS is what we are up against. Don't try whining to me about the dangers to dieter's right from the hypothetical oppression of fat acceptance. Reality is what we're up against. Not straw men.
As a fan of Aardman Animation, I was very excited to hear that there would be an American version of their BBC series "Creature Comforts" where interviews of real people on a variety of subject are reset with claymation animals. Sounds like a really simple concept, but it really works and I was intrigued by an American take on the show. The first two episodes have aired (and are being shown again tonight on CBS) and I'm pretty impressed. Part of the charm, certainly, was the British accents and perspective of the BBC series, but I think the American version is finding its voice in more ways than one.
Of particular interest is that the US version covers some of the same topics as the UK version. The show has 3 acts, each of which has a theme that all of the interview segments touches upon. Like, art or lying. The second episode featured "self image" which was also done on the UK show. I watched both the US and UK segments last night and I found the differences quite striking and not a little discouraging while still very honest.
The thing I picked up on was how much more self-negative the US interviews were compared to the UK. Don't get me wrong, there was negativity in the UK, too, but it seemed to always be paired with a "eh, but its what I am" form of acceptance. In the US, the subjects are far more reflexively negative without much even grudging acceptance to temper it. There were exceptions, but in general the US interviewees were far more apologetic about their appearance. I imagine this tells a lot about our society and the ways we are expected to cower in the face of cultural standards. The power of our cultural ideal seems much greater in American society than it is elsewhere in the world.
As you might imagine, fat was certainly a subject of more than a few interviewees self-loathing. I actually don't recall anyone bringing up weight in the UK take on self-image. One pair of subjects, a mother and daughter, were animated by the pigs I posted above. Another woman who comments on weight was depicted by a Hippo. (to be fair, a shark describes herself as sexy and thick, so there are exceptions) While I'm tempted to see this as fat bashing, I'm not sure it really is. Indeed, in the context of the program, I think it really deconstructs the self-loathing and exposes it as absurd. We know that a pig is supposed to be a pig. We know that a hippo is supposed to be a hippo. Seeing those creatures be defensive about their weight creates a disconnect which ought to prompt us to question our certainty that those attitudes are valid at other times. Maybe I'm being too generous, but I think that interpretation is more in line with what the show does with creating visually absurd characterizations of the interviews than just a cheap fat joke. Of course, I suppose it could be both.
The "fat talk" ultimately seems more real than mean. The daughter pig (actually the one nursing) is just kind of sad in how she feels about her body. The mother tries to compliment her and the daughter is absolutely dreading it and is quick to negate anything positive the mom says. The same characters appeared in a segment on the first episode on health care. There, the mother pig tells a story of a extreme doctor who insisted that after breaking her leg, she'd never walk again unless she lost weight. The mother's response to her own story is a defiant, "Well, I'll show you! I'm walking, ain't I?"
Aside from the fat stuff, the show is really worth watching, but if anyone has seen it or watches the first two episodes tonight, I'd be curious how they take the fat talk. Am I grasping at a way to interpret it more positively, or does it seem genuinely nuanced in its approach to the subject?
Saw an article about the "Dressing Room Project" from the Vermont-based Emerging Women's Projects founded by Mimi Kates. Basically, the idea is to leave body positive messages on cards on dressing rooms mirrors. Some are poetic, but I was rather drawn to the simplicity of "You Are Beautiful". Its so direct and in its way very subversive in a very positive way. I think there is a lot of power in being so direct, more than there is in celebrations of uniqueness and diversity. Don't mistake, though, I love both approaches and am I really impressed at this whole idea of dressing room mirror activism.
The project seems like a very intriguing as a grass roots response to body hatred. What are your thoughts?
Why? Because the weight-loss industry is so fucking entitled that it doesn't think blogs like this should exist. Because every person with a diet scheme thinks that fat people have an obligation to give them their rapt attention and the money from their wallet. Because "good intentions" never seem to extend to respect other people yet always seem to involve getting rich exploiting fat people.
Because a handful of little sites talking about fat acceptance is just too fucking much for the fat-hate industry to accept. We're fat, after all. Why should they listen to anything we have to say?
Well, guess what? My house. My rules. Diet talk isn't welcome. Diet spam is sure as ALL HELL not FUCKING welcome at all.
Yeah, I'm angry and "intemperate". I should be.
No, we're not talking about the weapon that drove Galactus from Earth. We're talking about fat.
Constantly in discussions online, you see fat being used as the "ultimate nullifier" to completely refute a position or a participant. Its most frequently used in political discussions, and I'm sad to say from both the right and the left. All facets of the political spectrum seem to have people who see little reason to respect a belief if it is expressed by a fat person. Well, a fat person they disagree with.
That's the thing with fat being used as an ultimate nullifier: its almost always brazenly hypocritical. Oh, sure. There are hard-core fat bigots of every stripe who despise Michael Moore just as much as they do Rush Limbaugh. But most only find time to fat bash those whose politics aren't their own. The conservative bashes a feminist for being a "fat cow" who only believes in feminism because she's too fat to get a man. The progressive belittles the conservative as an obvious sinner on account of being fat. The conservative mocks a fat political activist with crude gags about their size. The progressive insults the fat writer for being an unattractive loser.
The effect is always the same. "Why should I listen to anything you have to say when you're so fat?"
People are always going to think that being fat disqualifies you from having anything worthwhile to say. Heck, being a fat person is usually seen as disqualifying someone from having anything worthwhile to say about fat people. Fat is an easy and almost universal thing to hate. So what do we do?
We try to push back, and we start at home. When you see someone you're political aligned with mocking someone you disagree with for being fat, call them out. Some will actually admit they were being a fool, but most will probably be defensive. Just don't back off or be afraid of continuing to stand up for fat people. They'll say its just a joke. They'll say you're too sensitive. They'll say that there are more important things to talk about it. Some will even insist that the belittlement was out of sincere concern for their health. Don't take it.
"Its just a joke" is the true refuge of the scoundrel. Being a joke doesn't make it fair or right. "Concern for their health" is the last refuge of the scoundrel. They made their intentions transparent to start with and trying to cloak it in a veneer of appropriateness after the fact.
Calling you "too sensitive" is an expression of privilege. The oppressed are always "too sensitive". Whether it be gays or women or blacks, calling someone "too sensitive" is a means of preserving privilege. Don't stand for it. The claims of there being "more important things" is much the same. It means they don't care about your issues and they don't think you should either. Believing in fat acceptance isn't exclusionary from believing in fighting poverty, stopping global warming, or any other political issue that supposedly "trumps" the civil rights of fat people. If there were more important things that person wanted to discuss, they shouldn't have insulted fat people in the first place.
Fat may be used as an "ultimate nullifier", but there is no reason we should take it. Just remember that the problem isn't just when its used against those we agree with, but also when its used against those we don't.
Its hard to know what this is. In most instances of fat characters on Futurama, the creators clearly were not willing to give up the visual vocabulary of fatness, but not all. While live-action shows have to draw upon our present society for actors, its not like avoiding fat ones would be all that hard. Heck, plenty of shows imagine a PRESENT without fat people. I recall an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that featured and elderly fat doctor who was a guest star in one episode. I doubt much thought was put into these appearances, but it seems interesting all the same that no one stopped to conclude fat people won't exist in the future.
Does anyone else have any examples of fat people in the future? I know we may not get much star time, but sometimes just being there can be interesting in its own right.
Of course, Me!Me! getting death threats just gets her more press. When my death was publicly fantasized about by a fat-hate troll, it got me banned from NAAFA who wanted to placate the anti-NAAFAns. Didn't work. NAAFA's public forums shut down a couple months later. It also got me mocked by another prominent fat acceptance website who later approvingly linked to an article written the guy who wished me dead while "reaching out" to the fat hate site where the threat was posted along with far worse death threats about actually productive fat activists.
So wishing a fat-hate promoter dead gets her press coverage. Wishing a fat activist dead gets them shunned and you praised by "fat acceptance". If you want to be pissed off by Me!Me! Roth's announcement, that's a good place to start. Just don't be upset at her for this. Much as it pains me to say it, she's right in at least this narrow sense. Wishing her dead is completely unacceptable.