Vote for Boston's Big Moves

Boston's alternative weekly, The Phoenix, is having a poll for their upcoming BEST issue. One of the categories is Best Dance Performers and one of the options happens to be the plus-size dance troupe Big Moves. Head on over to show your support for this great organization. The poll does require that you submit an email address to include your vote, so be sure click "Skip to Finish" after you submit your vote for Big Moves.

Big Moves has one this poll before in 2006, so it'd be great to see a repeat win for the fatties. If you'd like to donate to Big Moves, you can do it online through the Boston Dance Alliance.


Fat is Contagious: The Book

Old news to some, but since its getting some attention on NPR and The Today Show, I thought it was worth linking to Kim Brittingham's essay about her mass transit stunt, "Fat is Contagious". I probably shouldn't call it a stunt, since its really more performance art if you ask me. Frustrated at the way people refuse to sit next to fat people on buses and subways, Brittingham created a fake book cover titled "Fat is Contagious: How Sitting Next to a Fat Person can make you Fat".

Its a terrific essay and something most fat people will be readily familiar with. I know I got this treatment all the time riding the Orange Line in Boston. For all the constant fussing about how us fatties are squishing people on mass transit, the reality is scarcely recognizable. First off, most of us will stand even if there is a seat we can easily fit into just because we don't want to deal with the hassle of people getting upset at our presence. I know I do, and frankly I've never seen a fat person force themselves into a seat they couldn't comfortable fit into. I'm sure its happened once or twice, but its the classic straw-man. This just doesn't happen with the frequency necessary to justify the whining. Most people are actually upset that fat people were sitting there first.

Or they are just idiots. See, I got plenty of annoyed glances when someone saw me on the Orange Line, but I also knew darn well that I fit into the seat. I knew because I repeatedly checked everytime someone acted like I was invading their personal space. No, my fat ass fit just fine with room to spare. Which is when I started to realize the actual problem. Its not my fat ass, but their broad shoulders. These jerks were too self-absorbed to realize THEY were actually jutting into my seat by refusing the cross their arms in front of them. Instead, they spread them out to their sides while reading a newspaper. Guess what? No one can fit into a subway seat doing that. I don't care how thin you are, if you spread our your arms to read a newspaper, you've spread out your arms into someone else's seat. Yet everyone one of these people felt entitled to blame me for their inability to fit into their own seat. Because I was fat, after all.

Worst time was when I boarded the train and saw a seat open on an aisle. Though the aisle seats actual press against short wall, they are a bit roomier so I pick them to give me a little more room to deal with thin seat hogs. A person was sitting in the seat next to it, but there was plenty of room for me in the open seat. Well, not according to him. He had spread himself out while it was empty and refused to adjust when I went to sit down. So, while he was actually well into my seat, he huffed and puffed at me for squashing him. Eventually he stormed off to stand further into the train rather than just try to fit into his own seat and probably wrote some angry missive on Craigslist about the indignity of it all.

Brittingham does a very good job revealing the absurdity of this hostility towards fat people on mass transit and the book cover is brilliantly subversive. She has a very good story of a confrontation she had on the bus without even pulling out the fake book and the insane way people use "health" as a smokescreen for their bitterness towards fat people. A woman was blatantly angry at her for taking up space and having to endure sitting next to her could be heard justifying this with the tired "for her health". None of her concern was remotely related to health, but that's where fat bigotry always comes back to. The ultimate justification. When all else fails, you're just concerned for their health.

Anyway, go read it. The essay's a bit of old news, but if its new to you its well worth a read.


Changing the Conversation

The most vital thing for fat acceptance to strive for is a change in the conversation about fatness. Indeed, this is far more important than advocating or supporting individual conversion to fat acceptance because a change in the conversation ultimately needs to happen first or there will always be a glass ceiling on what fat acceptance can accomplish. It been up against that ceiling for decades and sadly shows no signs of breaking through any time soon. For all the occasional press and gradual conversions, little ground has really been won in the war on us because too much time and energy has been spent trying to reassure people that we're not really trying to change the conversation too much. Its no wonder we've done so little when so much effort has been given to promising that we'll do little.

Fat acceptance needs to embrace its radical nature. Its not that our goals really are radical, mind you. Indeed, embracing the radicalism of fat acceptance should not be seen as granting the efforts by fat acceptance's critics to marginalize it. All civil rights efforts begin as radical though they have all merely demanded equality and tolerance. Fat acceptance is no different, but we need to recognize that in the face of an oppressive society, such small requests will be seen as extraordinary and cumbersome. We need to push back against this attitude in order to progress. We need to challenge cultural dogma about fatness and dieting in order to change the way we talk about fatness and fat people as a society. That change doesn't happen by sitting around and waiting. It doesn't happen by making compromises and concessions. It happens by allowing ourselves to be seen as radical when we are anything but.

Radical is all too often a dirty word. I've bought into this myself, sometimes, as I've bristled at how the word is used to demean and subjugate moderate views in defiance of a cultural mandate. But I am beginning to recognize its value. Do I think fat acceptance is radical? No. But society does. So, the only useful fat acceptance will be a "radical" fat acceptance. If society isn't threatened by fat acceptance, it would never label it as radical. We need to threaten society as it now is constructed. We need to threaten a culture of fat hatred and bigotry. We need for them to see us as radical.

Feminism didn't get anywhere by playing nice and reassuring men that women we're going to ask for too much. It took a stand and demanded equality and its a struggle that's far from over but which has made enormous strides. Civil rights for blacks was not advanced by playing by the rules of cultural oppressors. It was advanced by taking a clear and firm stand. Always, the leaders who were viewed as dangerous radicals in their time have been come to be seen as forward thinking heroes by history. To the concern trolls, this is not saying that the struggle for fat rights is exactly like the struggles seen by women and blacks in our society. No struggle is every exactly like another, but we can learn from each other all the same. I see much for fat liberation to learn from other civil rights movement and I long for those lessons to be put to use. While we mustn't allow fat hatred to define our defiance as extremist, we must allow it to be seen as radical. We must challenge fat hatred. We must make it uncomfortable. And we must recognize that this isn't just theory. People will be uncomfortable will us. Individuals. We must allow that. We cannot do what is expected of us. We cannot bow to thin privilege, to dieting privilege. We need to stand up for something else and be willing to let people be uncomfortable with us. We need to know that its them. Not us.

Only by doing this, can we begin to change the conversation about fatness. That we can take the way fat oppression is advanced and turn it around on itself.