Archive for fattism

(Fat)al: a story of growing up fat in America
… a guest post by J.C.

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Shame. It’s a heavy word.

When people ask for my story, they assume I have been hurt because of prejudice about my sexual orientation. That’s the narrative they want. The you-came-out-as-gay-in-the-South-let-me-praise-you-for-getting-through-this-hardship story. That is not the narrative I feel obligated to write.

Yes, I was ashamed of my sexual orientation when I became conscious of it at fourteen. But that shame no longer exists. Sure, the word “faggot” still gets fired at me, but that isn’t the problem anymore. My “story” is about my anxiety as a fat man, especially a fat gay man. I’ve been ashamed of my fat ever since I can remember. “Fat” is the word that has plagued my entire existence. “Fat” is the hurricane that dilutes my humanity.

My mother provided me with my earliest memory of shame. She didn’t just tell me I was fat: she showed me. Pushed into countless fitting rooms, I was unable to find clothes my size at a young age. Still, she refused to buy me jeans that fit. For three torturous years, I wore pants that would attach by Velcro, not buttons. I wanted to be vapor. I wanted my fat to instantly vanish into thin air because I felt like a burden to her. After all, what would the other parents think of her fat first-born?

Imagine a child as young as eight telling his grandparents he wasn’t hungry because he was fat. That’s what I did. Their solution was to bribe me with one dollar for every meal I attempted to eat.

At age twelve, I was too embarrassed to change my clothes for gym in front of the other boys. Refusing to do so, I received a C in the class. It was worth it.

When I started a food diary, I convinced myself SlimFast was the salve that would weaken the poison fat on my body. I drowned my stomach with that faux chocolate to the point of nausea. It replaced my breakfast and lunch. Every. Single. Day.

I got thin. But I also got weak. And I didn’t lose enough to satisfy myself despite my family complimenting my weight loss. There was a sense of Armageddon within my fat cells. My goal was a BMI of 18: I wanted to be underweight.

When one of my friends got her driver’s license, we went to Walmart, so I could buy Lipozene for the first time. The words “lose pure body fat” coaxed my brain into submission. I took my precious miracle to self-checkout only for an automated voice to say, “Please wait for assistance.” The employee told me I was too young to buy weight loss supplements and sent me home. My friend suggested eating only five hundred calories a day, and we became each other’s food coaches.

A year later, I came out as gay to my mother for the third time. Her response was to “cure” my “queer-washed mind” with anxiety medication. I launched the pill into my stomach every morning, and, as a result, my mouth got sore and eventually bled. I could only ingest a small portion, but I savored the metallic liquid, hoping it would sustain my body for one more day despite the excruciating pain.

In college, I had a health professor who wondered how fat people had sex because “their parts don’t fit.” I felt like the other students were staring at me as if I were the only overweight person in the course, as if I was the target of her words. I felt even more ashamed and thus began a diet of SlimFast and Special K. My roommate and I would run at the gym until I felt like I would collapse. Once, when I ate a cookie, he posted unsolicited advice to my Twitter page: “Go throw up.”

I could have died from that shame.

The treatment I got because of my fat made me feel as wretched as Frankenstein’s monster and as twisted as Mr. Hyde. That’s when I realized I needed to change before I ended up eradicating myself with diet rituals. What I learned is that fat people don’t need to feel shame. I’ve ended up gaining eighty pounds back in college, but I feel healthy and positive now. I’ve learned to be patient with myself and surround myself with people who encourage me to love my body. I have the right to exist and won’t let anyone water me down. I am not a problem, nor am I a before and after dichotomy.

I am a credible, intelligible fat human.

—J.C.

Why the people at TMZ can go f*** themselves


Anthony Weiner’s wiener is all anybody can talk about these days besides the royal baby. And Weiner’s wiener raises lots of interesting questions…

Why was he willing to risk everything AGAIN just to send a picture of his junk? Is he self-destructive or just a megalomaniac? Is sexting really cheating? Why does his wife continue to stand by him? And why are so many politicians unfaithful sleezeballs?

Sadly, TMZ raised another question about Weiner—a much more offensive one.

They posted bikini shots (shown above and below) of 23-year-old Sydney Leathers, the women Weiner exchanged nude photos with, and said this:

“Sydney Leathers is now going public with the body she once privately photographed for Anthony Weiner … in a bikini photo shoot that begs the question: was she really worth it, Mr. Weiner?”

After asking this question, TMZ had the nerve to INCLUDE A POLL for viewers to vote about whether or not they thought Weiner’s sexting was worth it, clearly implying that Leathers might not be hot enough to warrant ruining his career.

This question is offensive on many levels—it’s offensive to imply that a woman’s worth can be defined by her physical appearance and that it’s acceptable to vote on such an issue.

But it’s also offensive because it implies that Leathers isn’t “worth it” because she’s not super thin.

Why else would TMZ ask this question given that everything else about Leathers fits the American definition of beauty: she has long gorgeous hair, a pretty face, and flawless skin. So they must be implying that she might not be “worth it” because she has real curves.

I don’t know what seems more awful—the notion that we should vote on a woman’s worth based on shots of her in a bikini or the implication that men aren’t attracted to curvy women.

Not only is it awful, it’s just plain ignorant.

The Heat as postmodern feminist art: how McCarthy and Bullock blow off misogynistic bullshit

…a guest post by Dr. Molly Kerby

If you can’t stand The Heat

well, it goes without saying, you should go watch the movie!

I admit that I was reluctant to see The Heat and walked into the theater with a giant chip of skepticism on my shoulder. The photo-shopped playbills of Melissa McCarthy, the seemingly anti-feminist clips I’d see on talk shows, and the juxtaposition of the fat girl versus the skinny girl all made my radical blood boil.

How can we, as a society, still support the stereotypical image of the “fat” person being portrayed as lazy, disheveled, and crude? How can we position that stereotypical image in contrast with the “skinny,” organized/poised, Yale graduate? Have we, as women, made no progress toward equality?’

I thought to myself, this is so wrong on so many levels that I will never be able to sit through the entire film without walking out of the theater in disgust. Fortunately, my admiration for the artistic talents of both Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock peaked my curiosity.

I went to see the film.

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The film began with an introduction of each of the main characters and unapologetically reeked of a cliché mismatched cop-duo movie. Melissa McCarthy plays Shannon Mullins, a foul-mouthed Irish detective in Boston from a dysfunctional family, and Sandra Bullock portrays the pathetically single, workaholic New York FBI agent, Sarah Ashburn.

I seriously felt like I was watching the introduction to Lethal Weapon 5.

The plot to bring down the infamous drug lord and save the big city is even triter than the characters themselves. All elements of the film seemed obvious and sophomoric.

Then it dawned on me that in my haste to judge this popular culture display of what I saw as sexism and fattism, I had lost the point of the film.

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So, let me start by sharing this disclaimer: I am not a third-wave or postmodern feminist. Rather, as a second-wave feminist, I believe to truly move on the next wave of a movement, there should be significant evidence of social change in the era left behind; that has not happened.

That being disclaimed (not dismissed), this film is very much a postmodern/postmodern-feminist statement.

As we delve into critical feminist theory, contradictions, interpretations, and competing analyses challenge the foothold of attempts at a generalized understanding of feminism. By this I mean that no two feminist scholars see the analytical context of anything in the same way; the same will no doubt be true for the critics of this film, most of whom will totally miss the point.

Instead of dwelling on the never-ending discrimination of women in male-identified jobs, sexism in the workplace, and obsession with bodyism (particularly females) the movie constantly, and consistently, faces it head on.

One of the most poignant scenes occurs when the albino DEA agent broke into a monologue about female law officers letting their estrogen and emotions cloud their judgment on the streets. Both Mullins and Ashburn blankly and silently stare at him until he is finished.

My instincts told me as this scene progressed that one of them was going to punch him in the face (they’d done a lot of that already in the film), but it never happened.

Before simply walking off, Mullins made a rude joke about his girlfriend being a flour sack with a hole, and the scene was over.

No debate ever ensued about women rights or equality, nor was there any dialogue about the DEA agent being sexist. It was as if both of them had heard all it and dismissed it as benign; they had work to do.

Countless examples of this ideology continue throughout the movie.

The male “cop-turned-bad” drug lord calls the albino DEA a misogynistic pig, which elicits no response from either Mullins or Ashburn. They just shake their heads in agreement and the scene moves on. Again, at the end Ashburn is passed over for a promotion, but nothing is ever said about discrimination – it just “is.”

Almost every stereotype about women in the workforce (in particular, law enforcement) is in this film, but it is shelved by the unlikely duo as if it was yesterday’s news.

In my critical perception of The Heat, the film is an example of postmodern feminist art.

One of the most compelling arguments of postmodern feminism is that gender is socially constructed through language. The idea is that what society regards as feminine is only a reflection of what is constructed as masculine, especially though our patterns of communication (both verbal and nonverbal).

Third-wave feminists have added that reclaiming derogatory language in order to change the connotation should be a central focus of revolution. An example of this ideology are the Slutwalks that began in 2011 aimed at reclaiming the word “slut” and attacking the notion that what women wear contributes to their victimization. The same is true for third-waver’s ideas of physical presentation in general; dress, weight, body modification, piercing, tattooing, etc.

In The Heat, slurs about weight, appearance, race, and gender fly from both (and all!) sides throughout the film:

—Mullins verbally attacks her boss in the beginning of the film and rants about his “small balls” for what seems to be five minutes

—The albino DEA agent refers to  Mullins as the “Campbell’s soup kid” all grown up

—Mullins tells the albino DEA agent he looks “Evil as shit,” a reference to the 1978 movie Foul Play in which another mismatched duo (Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase) solve a case involving albinos, dwarves, and the Catholic Church.

—Mullins refers to Ashburn’s Hispanic boss as “Puss in Boots,” a reference to Antonio Banderas’s charismatic character in Shrek.

The list goes on and on.

Similarly, we can hypothesize that, like language, other things, including body image—the subject of this blog—are socially constructed and most definitely treated in that same manner as language in this film.

One thing I noticed, above all the rest, is that the two women never shopped for sexy lingerie, drooled over dresses they couldn’t afford in store windows, engaged in “girl talk,” cooked, or cleaned. Neither of them made overreaching attempts to transform the other in ways that always appear in “chick” movies. Ashburn never told Mullins she needed to lose weight so she would be prettier, happier, or healthier. They did not have a “make-over” scene so that everyone could gasp at how pretty they looked when they “acted” like women. Mullins seemed to have a very active sex life, so there was never any innuendo that she could “get a man” if she wasn’t fat. To the contrary, Ashburn was the one who had the “dull” life; not because she was “ugly” but because she worked too much and was too serious and “stiff” (a trait most often given to men in movies).

Third-wave feminism posits that making autonomous choices about self-expression can be empowering acts of resistance, not simply internalized oppression. In other words, we may not be able to change the system as radical feminism suggests, but we do have the power to not conform to societal norms.

While that might seem like an oversimplification, it’s not at all.

I started my journey as a feminist with the idea that overhauling the system was the only way to make change. As I continued on through the many twisted passages, I realized that I might not be able change the system. What I did eventually grasp, however, it that I did not have to be an active part of that system.

And, that’s what this movie is about.

It acknowledges all of the elements of the misogynistic bullshit that are engrained in our language and institutions and then just blows them off.

Yes, I liked the movie.

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Dr. Molly Kerby is an assistant professor in the Department of Diversity & Community Studies at Western Kentucky University (WKU). She teaches in the gender & women’s studies graduate and undergraduate program as well as the Masters of Arts in Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities (SRSC) degree program.  She is a social justice scholar and activist. Molly has been a resident of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and member of the WKU community for almost thirty years.

Fat-shaming 101: If supposedly smart people don’t get the obesity epidemic, what hope is there for everyone else?

While I Will Not Diet was on hiatus, a University of New Mexico professor and NYU lecturer named Geoffrey Miller tweeted the following:

Dear obese PhD applicants: If you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth.

On his UNM faculty webpage, Miller also left this message for potential PhD candidates:

I am looking for bright, motivated, conscientious students with very strong GRE scores (above 700), a strong commitment to a research career in evolutionary psychology, good research experience, and solid academic training in psychology, biology, and/or anthropology. Interested students should contact me directly by email. [Ed.: NO FATTIES!!!!!]

Of course, these comments are offensive on the most basic level—they’re fattist and express a prejudice against people who are overweight.

But they also bug me because the message that “fat” people are undisciplined and lazy is just plain wrong.

It’s wrong simply because there are plenty of people—myself included—who are considered “fat” by our society but are overweight not because of a lack of discipline, but because of some other cause—be it genetics, a pregnancy, a thyroid problem, an injury, or whatever.

(As a side note, I’m sure Miller would say I’m fat, but I’m also a Ph.D., disproving his belief that you can’t be fat and disciplined enough to get a Ph.D.)

Listen, any idiot knows that lots of things cause people to gain weight, so what I don’t get is how this Doctor of Philosophy—who got his degree from no less than Stanford Universitydoesn’t know that.

The truth is that he probably does know that, demonstrating the real problem of fattism in our society—we all know intellectually that weight gain can be caused my many factors, but for some reason we, as a society, refuse to process that on a gut level.

And until we do accept that fat does not equal lazy, we will never solve the obesity problem in this country because we will never truly understand what’s causing it.

Also, Geoffrey Miller is a complete ass.

The USTA and fattism: two things that shouldn’t go together

Taylor Townsend

 

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has gone after the top-ranked women’s player on the junior circuit just because…wait for it…they think she’s fat.

Her name is Taylor Townsend, she’s sixteen, and she’s poised to be one of the next great American tennis heroes.

She’s also the number one junior women’s tennis player in the world—yes, I said in the world!—but the USTA thinks she needs to take a break to focus on her fitness. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Her coaches…told her this summer that they wouldn’t finance any tournament appearances until she makes sufficient progress in one area: slimming down and getting into better shape.”

Excuse me, what?

How can you be the number one tennis player in the world and not be fit enough to play tennis?

Sorry, but that logic just doesn’t make sense.

But the USTA does not agree, so they didn’t support Townsend’s trip to the US Open this year.

Townsend, who is 5’6″ and 170 pounds, didn’t let that stop her. When the USTA wouldn’t pay for her travel (which they normally do for players of her caliber), Townsend’s mother paid her daughter’s travel expenses and entrance fees out of her own pocket.

It ended up being a good decsion because Townsend won the doubles title, her third Grand Slam win—including winning the Australian Open in singles—this year.

So if Townsend keeps winning, why doesn’t the USTA want her to play?

Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds to me like a clear case of fattism.

As Serena Williams said, “Women athletes come in all different sizes and shapes and colours and everything.” And, of course, there’s a long history of large men being successful in the athletic arena. And that’s because muscle isn’t small. Muscle is big and thick and in your face.

Which is why the USTA has to get over their desire to try to fit all athletes—and by extension all people—into one skinny little box.

The fattists attack!

192 pounds
I’m a big fan of The Huffington Post, which you might know since I feature Arianna Huffington in my “Gallery of Gorgeous Women” to the right. But this week I was frustrated to read an article by Vicki Lovine on HuffPost that claimed we needed to stop staying away from the word “fat.”

As you may know from my “Fat is off the List” post, I firmly believe that we should not use the word because it’s almost always used in a hurtful and derogatory way, but this article argued that the politically correct desire to not call people fat is making us fatter.
I don’t buy it.
And here’s why I disagree: I don’t buy into the idea that the obesity epidemic in our country is related to people being nicer to each other. In other words, I don’t think our collective girth is growing bigger because people think twice about calling someone “fat.”
Instead, I believe that America is getting bigger for three* simple reasons:
1) Because we don’t exercise nearly as much as we used to. From my way of thinking, this is especially true of children—a major contributing factor to the shocking increase in childhood obesity—and you can read why I think that in the second of my posts on that subject.
2) Because we eat far too many processed foods and don’t cook enough at home. One of the big reasons this is more of a problem than ever before is because processed foods have become incredibly cheap to buy as well as available on almost every corner in America. In fact, in my “Processed Foods and Little Pink Houses” post, I argue that’s the reason why working class people are the segment of our society that are gaining weight faster than any other group.
3) Finally, I believe that our country’s obsession with dieting makes us actually eat more. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when we tell people that they need to look like Angelina Jolie to be beautiful, it makes it very easy for them to give up trying to be healthy and grab another box of Mac ‘n Cheese. I truly believe that as long as we hold women to standards that are unattainable for regular people, we will have an obesity problem in our country.
And that’s why I completely disagree with Vicki Lovine. She believes that if we start using the word “fat,” we can start shaming people into being healthier. Sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo to me because if there is one thing I know it’s that making people feel bad about themselves does NOT help them. In fact, the first step to being healthy is feeling good about yourself. And I stand by my belief that until we accept ourselves the way we are, we will never lose weight.
I’ll even take it a step further and argue that promoting the use of the word “fat” is, in fact, fattist.
Can you imagine if we proposed using another derogatory word to make a different group of people change their behavior? What will Lovine propose next? Using the word “retarded” more so people act smarter? I hope that the recent debate about that word proves why taking digs at those who are struggling with any issue doesn’t work.
Lovine says that we need to start calling people like me fat, but despite my strong desire to do so, I will maturely refrain from calling Lovine the “R” word.

*There is also evidence that the chemicals that are now so ubiquitous in our country are making us fatter as I mentioned in my post on that subject.

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