Obvious advice is obvious

I had this revelation about a month ago and even I quickly recognized it was so stunningly obvious that it didn't really merit much mention. And yet, I just saw it used as a reason to go on a Weight Watchers, so maybe it does bare some discussion.

It feels better to wear clothes that fit.

I've put on a little weight over the last year and its put me in an awkward position between sizes. I'm wearing the same size pants, but different cuts yield very different results. Initially I wasn't really doing anything to accommodate this which meant much of the time I was wearing pants that didn't really fit comfortably anymore. I could get them on, but they felt tight and uncomfortable all day. Which wasn't making me feel good about my body. One day, I got tired of this and culled anything from closet that didn't currently fit a way I was comfortable with. I spent a little money to get some new things. Male privilege admittedly made that a pretty easy endeavor.

Since then, I've felt much better about my body. Surprise, surprise. I haven't lost weight. I checked just to be sure. Wearing uncomfortable clothes was causing me to fixate on my body in a negatively reinforced manner. Which sucks. Not having that feels better. All stunningly obvious.

Yet it took me a while to do it. I was partly waylaid by changed sizing from some retailers I frequented. The same sizes from just a year ago still fit fine, it was just the new stuff that was troublesome. That was part of why I kept wearing them because I struggled to acknowledge that this wasn't right. There is a strong impulse, I think, as a fat person in this culture to accept indignities big and small. Even among the fat accepting, some times. I should have just returned the stuff that didn't fit and gotten pissed off that I couldn't reliably buy clothes from that store. But I refused to admit that and I let myself feel bad about my body.

Which was stupid. But maybe not uncommon. I caught the Sara Rue commercial for Weight Watchers recently and one of her reasons for needing to lose weight was not having pants she could feel comfortable. And I totally know how demoralizing that can feel. But there is a solution. Get pants that feel comfortable.

Yeah, I know this can be an investment but it can be done incrementally. And honestly, its just worth it. A comfortable pair of pants is also a much more reliable way to have clothing that fits comfortably than spending time, money, and energy trying to make your body comfortable for the pants.

Again, I know this is much easier to act on as a man. But in most cases, we're not talking about replacing a closet in one fell swoop. Just making a point to get betting fitting clothes when you buy new things. Maybe get a couple cheaper outfits that fit to tide you over. I'm not saying I love all the new stuff I got, but it fits and I feel better as a result and that's absolutely been worth it.


That's entertainment

I figure its worth making something clear about my feelings about Huge. My frustration with the show being leveraged to sell fat stigmatization (and an exceptionally class-ist form of fat stigmatization at that) doesn't mean I'm telling you not to enjoy the show. I don't watch the program, so I can't judge its quality, but my understanding is that on a purely textual level it hasn't made the sorts of easy conclusions its handlers have. Getting in bed with an onerous promoter of fat hatred is disappointing, but it doesn't mean you can't like the show still.

It'd be nice to think that we can have purely fat positive, body affirming entertainment, but we can't. And we don't. I don't, anyway. If you are trying to, believe me, all power to you. But I can't even begin to try policing for this because I'm always reminded that I'm just punishing the people who open their mouths. Because we live in a society where fat hatred has been enshrined as common sense. One entertainer may have said something, but the overwhelming majority will find nothing wrong about that. Fat hatred is systematic in our culture. Most people, even most fat people, accept most of it without every really considering it. For myself, I don't think its fair to have high standards on this issue when making my entertainment choices. Its a luxury I don't think I can enjoy.

If an entertainer DOES find something wrong with fat hatred, awesome. If they are committed to oppose that, awesome. I'm by no means discouraging seeking out the entertainment venues that do try to offer something consciously free of fat stigmatization. Do not mistake me here, we need that and we should applaud it. But when someone fails, its okay to make a personal decision to keep being a fan. Just remember, its okay to be a fan AND feel disappointed and frustrated.

It pisses me off to know end when a show I love hauls out a fat suit for an episode. But I can still like the show in spite of the miscue. I really enjoy Ben Folds' music but there is one song I will not listen to because of the way it demonizes fat people through a hostile metaphor. I still listen to the rest of his ouvre because I still like him as a performer/songwriter. I kept enjoying Al Franken as a humorist after I stopped rationalizing his fat hatred as a parody and recognized that he meant it, too. I still watch Pixar movies even if I found Wall-E very troubling. Heck, I still watch Wall-E. I rewatched it a couple months ago and felt my concerns with it stand, even as I find other elements of the movie profoundly beautiful. You can enjoy an artist and still be frustrated with elements of their work or the manner in which their work is marketed.

Again, this is not to say that its not valid to make the choice to opt-out, too. Believe me, there are a lot of things I would not be forgiving about, even though they are not as personal an issue to me as fat acceptance. On this issue, though, I personally feel that banishment isn't a viable option in all cases, or frankly even most cases. Its a valid choice, too. Just know that you can balance your appreciation and disappointment. You don't need to reject your disappointment in order to appreciate them.

Cynicism still a winning bet

I've been watching the Huge blogging from afar wanting to think it was justifying the optimism that its been inspiring among fat positive viewers. While the setting always struck me as mine-field with no up-side, the notion of fat people just being on TV is incredibly radical and of course I wanted that to be a good thing. Withoutscene over at BFB, however, spots a pretty good sign of where the show really lies with an essay contest for a fat-stigmatization program scholarship.


I mean, this just pisses me off. I may be inclined to be cynical about shows like this, but it doesn't mean I want to be. It doesn't mean I don't sit around eager to proven wrong. Which, I guess, isn't really cynicism for reals, so much as a defensive mechanism.

Just... damnit.

See, here is my worst fear about Huge. That it would talk like it was body positive for a long while before pulling the switch. Only, it would take this inversion of body positivity and insist that it is actually the true end-result of body-positivity. In that, it would cut Fat Acceptance down in the same its been done before. By taking everything we say and repeating it only changing the ending to be one which serves fat stigmatization. And people have gotten away with this BS before, no matter how implausible. Soon we'll hear self-righteously about how wanting to lose weight is the obvious end result of loving yourself at any size. Doesn't matter that it makes no sense. It'll take hold and fat acceptance will be further marginalized while the only people who get to debate fatness are those with differing opinions on how to stigmatize us.


This is not a good sign, but I hesitate to say it betrays the show that a lot of people have felt positively about up until now. The people behind the show, after all, know how it turns out already. Is this a mis-guided effort at cross-marketing or have they betrayed the show's intent? We'll have to wait to see, but some people know. And I wouldn't be the least bit shocked to see them through Fat Acceptance under the bus.

Its perverse, really. What is Fat Acceptance? Its a very loose community of individual activists using their own time, money, and resources to advocate for a better life for themselves and for others by ending fat stigmatization. We're incredibly marginalized, underfunded, and disadvantaged. Yet there seems to be no end of people who want to self-righteously lump us in with those who make billions off selling fat hatred to all corners of our society. People who hate fat, but want to pretend that they are somehow more moral about it than the Me!Me!'s of the world by pulling this "a pox on both their houses" bullshit. They grandstand to soothe their ego, but at the end of the day what they call for and what the lunatic fringe of fat stigmatization call for isn't very different. Both of them want to make it unsafe to question fat stigmatization. Both of them want to disenfranchise fat activists. I'm sick of it. Whether intended by its producers or not, this product synergy with Huge will ensure no shortage of others happy to pull this act on us.

We're going to be self-righteously told to keep in our place. Don't we know fat is wrong? Don't we know we are wrong? They'll just keep asserting again and again and again how implausible and how unthinkable it is for us to think this way. We'll be disregarded into irrelevance. Any gains we might have seen from Huge would have just set up a more thorough burying.

Well, I'm sick and tired of this. If Huge is about something different, it should repudiate this contest. If it really is just an elaborate and poisonous infomercial for weight-loss camps, then it should be straight about it. Because I'm sick and tired of people using me and my beliefs to prop up their fat hatred. If you think body positivity leads to body hatred, you're insulting us.

UPDATE: Huge Co-Creator Shannon Dooley commented about this at Fatshionista. I certainly suggest you check that out, but the jist is that she is denying that there is any commercial tie-in planned between fat-stigmatization programs and the show and takes a few swipes at program at issue. This is good news, but it doesn't mean this is all about nothing, either. Whether it indicated the creator's intent or not, the show has been leveraged to promote fat hatred and this is troubling for many reasons outside of the concern that this would be reflected in the text of the program.


Oh noes! Ur bein fattened!

Its like CNN is basing stories around the fevered conspiracy theories of undernourished, 14 year old Weight Watchers wash-outs.

Shakesville called it "the worst thing you're going to read all day" and pretty much gets it right. CNN, by way of Oprah.com, is warning us of how our loved ones are making us fat! Because emotions are like the flu. Or athlete's foot. You can catch them after they linger a month in your shower.

Wait, what?!?

The whole story is alarmingly bullshitty. It keeps asserting things in the way some utterly convinced teenager would when the pieced together unrelated trivia and think they've figured out stuff. I would have rejected this story in my high school newspaper as poorly written and even more poorly sourced. It gets published because its author is an "expert". In what you ask?

She's a psychic. Oh, I'm sorry. An "intuitive". Wikipedia says she prefers that. She's gotten a few celebrities to buy into her nonsense, so she gets an even bigger platform with which to offer her delusional rants to the world. Honestly, it makes me want to scream sometimes the way utterly unqualified people get huge audiences to pontificate about fat, a subject they have no professional or personal experience with.

Its bad enough when people presume fat people are all "self-medicating" with food because they are so depressed, no its that OTHERS are making them depressed so they are, I guess, proxy self-medicating. She sort of seems to blame FAs for fat partners by using fat/thin couplings as "proof" of her point. Just by pointing it out, of course. It doesn't actual prove anything, she just says it did. No word on what fat/fat couples are doing wrong. I guess we have other thin friends forcing their fatness into us. I am an empathic sort. That must be why I'm fat! Oh noes!

Honestly, I'm just sitting her stunned that this incoherent nonsense was published. I'm just mentioning it as a reminder of the frighteningly low bar people need to clear in order to blather on about teh fatness in major media venues. I almost want to be relieved its not another stupid article about catching teh fatness from your fat friends. This time its your thin friends psychically projecting their potential plumpness onto you. The press just loves finding new things to blame for fat people. Themselves! Other fat people! TV! Thin people! Birds! Corporations!

I don't want anything blamed for fatness. I don't want my fatness treated as a source of blame at all. I don't care if you're making excuses for me to "let me off the hook" for my fatness. This garbage stigmatizes my body and I have no tolerance for that. Stop looking for someone to hold responsible for my belly and just accept it.


Where fat shaming and sex shaming meet

My friend Jaclyn Friedman (NAME DROP!) recently wrote a great article for Feministe called "My Sluthood, Myself". Its a great article that's about her experiences reclaiming her sexuality and learning that it was okay for her to have sex outside of a relationship and while this isn't for everyone, it is for some people and its important to be supportive of these sexual choices.

You will not be surprised to learn that this outrages some people. They are terribly upset that she isn't properly ashamed of herself and she's gotten several hyperbolic reactions bemoaning how she's going to destroy the world with her sluttiness or something. Part of their condemnation surrounds how Jacyln is not willing to give up searching for love while enjoying her sexuality. People can't seem to get that you can do both at once are are launching into her for her naivete, I guess. Doesn't she know she'll never get a man that way? Doesn't she know she'll only be horribly sad? Why isn't she crying? Hasn't anyone told her to be ashamed?

The attitude actually started feeling very familiar to me. This is what fat people get, too. "Why don't you feel ashamed?" Often, we get attacked by people who just can't process that we aren't ashamed. Or worse yet, think the problem is that no one told us to be ashamed. In spite of the fact that Jaclyn clearly talks about confronting this specifically in her article, people still act incredulous and insist she must not be aware of how sad she is and they ought to tell her so she knows to cry. They think if they just shout louder, we'll learn the error of our ways. And at the least, no one else who hears the shouting will make our mistake.

They want to redefine us for their benefit. Jaclyn talks about her positive experiences, so they just keep insisting that she's really horribly sad. Its pathological, but they naturally feel entitled to do this. Indeed, they feel smug about it. Like they've obviously proven her wrong simply by saying she is actually sad and ashamed. Fat people get that, too. If trolls bother to recognize what we are saying, they just insist its all a lie. We secretly know they are right and are horribly depressed over our lives. This is an especially insidious line of attack because it preys on our self-doubt. That is their key to introduce self-loathing. Because we are putting ourselves out there and making ourselves vulnerable. This manner of trolling seeks to take advantage of that. Having feelings of vulnerability are normal, though. Being brave is tough work and Jaclyn is pretty damn brave. I know from my own experience that self-doubt is normal. Healthy, really. I think a lack of it would strike me as somewhat pathological. Confidence doesn't mean not having those nagging questions. That is something our attackers will try to exploit, though. They want to use those normal anxieties to infiltrate our psyche and expand those anxieties. Multiply those doubts. Its a supreme act of disrespect .

Another similar attack are the death threats. No, not in the form of "I'm going to kill you". But they are still saying that if you disagree with them, you will die. Having casual sex? Don't you know that will kill you!?!? Fat? Don't you know that will kill you?!?! They use these impersonal threats as a form of intimidation. Again, as much to us as anyone else listening. They invent these extreme stakes that aren't really true as a means of scaring people into going along with them.

So, I keep babbling about what I'm learning as a fat activist in seeing how people are attacking Jaclyn for her own outspokenness, but that's not actually why I wanted to post about it. Sadly, I don't just need to draw parallels between slut shaming and fat shaming. The people attacking Jaclyn have shown that the two often go hand in hand. This is all about her attackers expressing ownership over her body, and they are just as judgmental about how that body looks as how she chooses to use it. They shame her for having sex and then turn around and shame her for not being someone they want to have sex with. While the lead condemners aren't making these fat shaming remarks, its illuminating to me that they aren't shunning them either, even as they get horribly infantile. The name-calling is disgustingly petty and immature, but because people think fat people deserve to be called names, supposedly civil people rarely find much offense with off-topic fat shaming. They might tut-tut it at most, but rarely even that. They don't seem to have much of a problem with it at all.

Fat acceptance is about more than fat. Fat shaming is a tool in the toolbox for many different kinds of oppression. It may not be something lead shamers will get their hands dirty with, but they sure don't care much when others do. Mocking someone for being fat is never okay. That includes the more limited times progressives do it, too, but the predictability of this coming up in reactionary assaults on feminism, civil rights, gay rights, etc is alarming. These kinds of oppression always get interconnected. We aren't just fighting for ourselves, but we're fighting to blunt a favorite attack against women, gays, African-Americans and others who stand up for themselves. Hate is rarely confined to one thing at a time.

I know I didn't really stay on track there, so for supportive articles that stay on topic, check out Not a Dirty Word and Pandagon.

UPDATE: More people supporting Jaclyn more eloquently and directly than I did. Jessica Valenti offers a devastating take on how the aggressively personal nature of the attacks is self-serving and self-promotional by the attackers. Particular "damn right" going to:
I also think it’s incredibly important that we not forget the personal and professional downfalls of being an unabashed feminist online. When we’re called whores, attacked and mocked online – those posts follow us forever. We take the hit so others don’t have to.
Damn right. (Emphasis hers, btw) Much love to Jaclyn and all others who expose themselves to speak out. Its not easy and you have my complete respect.