The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Tag Archives: Fat activism

Well, obviously

Let’s play fatshaming bingo, shall we?

  • The immediate inference that being fat is clearly bad.
  • Using a model who is “not especially fat”, because clearly you’d never want to put an actual fatty on the cover where people might see her. Because: Gross.
  • And especially not in togs. OMG.
  • Vague, possibly spurious, scientific claims.

Don’t believe me about that first one? How’s this from North & South’s FB page?

Is sugar the new fat – and will it cause the next wave of heart disease? (No, our cover model isn’t especially fat but, like many of us, you can bet she’d like to lose a few kilos. What she probably doesn’t know is how much “hidden” sugar she’s eating.) In the new North & South –Donna Chisholm reveals some surprising new discoveries on why we gain weight.

So. North & South is clearly the new Cosmo. Vague, threatening claims about weight on the cover, and references to “breaking up”. Chuck in something about a blowjob, and the transition will be complete.

I mean, do they actually know this woman would “like to lose a few kilos”? To me, she looks strong and healthy and beautiful. But, then, what would I know, being a fatty? And OF COURSE, it’s a woman. Men aren’t fat, right? It’s only women who suffer from obesity. I’ve only skimmed the article, because I value my mental health, and smarter people than me can debunk the claims therein. Also, what I care about is how this issue is presented. But as far as I could tell, this is a stock photo. So HOW DARE someone suggest she might want to lose a few kilos?

Inside the article, there’s a few more photos. A (male) researcher, and a dude who has cut sugar out of his diet. And another stock photo of an overweight woman, back to the camera, hunched over the scales she is standing on. So: Men, capable of talking about weight. Women, just used to illustrate the story.

And this. Everyone’s favourite.

The ubiquitous headless fatty. Sigh.

Want to bet, based on the pose, she’s smiling, or pouting, or something other than looking ashamed of herself? And we couldn’t have that, could we?

Bullying or Feedback? Bite me.

Last night, I was flicking around the TV channels, while sipping my nightly bourbon and devouring the souls of babies, and came across E! News. Shutupyoudon’tknowmylifedon’tjudgeme. I watched for five minutes, this “news”, wherein gossip and fashion and scandal and a dating show pass for actual information.

They were reporting on this video, something that has reduced me to tears already twice this week.

This video has been shared far and wide. It is wonderful.

E! News showed some footage of a news panel, wherein a (thin, white) woman, said the email isn’t bullying, it’s “feedback”. And then E! asked people to tweet what they thought, under the hashtag #bullyingorfeedback. And I hate myself, so I went and looked at the hashtag.

Here’s the thing. I can’t imagine a world where someone daring to comment, regardless of whether it was in a private email, on your body is considered anything other than bullying. Where saying “you’re not fit to do your job because you’re fat” (because that’s what he was saying, despite the role model concern trolling) is considered “feedback”. Where your worth and ability and talent is prescribed not by how you do your job, but by how your body looks in a navy suit.

Feedback is “that story you reported on was bullshit”. It’s “There’s a spelling mistake in your copy.” It’s even “I don’t like that blouse you wore today”. It is not “you’re too fat to be on TV.”

And the reason I can’t imagine a world where that’s considered feedback, is that I’ve never lived in that world. We live in a world where women, regardless of their size, shape, colour or sexual identification are asked to hate their bodies. Where nothing we ever do is good enough. We’re too fat or too thin, too pimply or too pale, too tall or too brown.

Where men from passing cars feel free commenting on my tits. Where a doctor filling in for my regular doctor feels the need to pass judgement on my weight, without reading my patient notes. Where the size of my body is fair game for comment, shaming and faux-concern.

For Jennifer Livingstone to stand up against that is brave. For her to say “screw you, friend, and here’s why” is an act of courage. But of course it is. Because living in the world, as a fat person, being on TV, having a public profile, all of those things take bravery, and a thick skin.

I’m tired. I mean, I’m fat, so of course I am, because along with being fat comes being lazy, being stupid, being unhealthy and being poor. But mostly, I am tired of having to ask why I don’t deserve to be treated with basic human dignity because of how my body looks. Of having to explain that you can’t tell anything about my health, physical or emotional, because of how my body looks. Of knowing how the world feels about me, and that there is people in it who believe that I – clever, talented, kind and generous as I can be – should never be a role model because of how I appear.

Fuck ’em. That’s really all I can say. And it’s all I should have to.

How may I erase thee? Let me count the ways.

Cross posted

Bouquets and brickbats time, for the New Zealand Listener.

The cover story this week is about weight loss myths. It’s not on-line yet, but if you can buy a dead tree version, it’s worth it. The story is familiar to people who have even a passing acquaintance with the fatosphere and fat acceptance, as I do. The standard points:
– Dieting doesn’t work for the great majority of people (that would be 95% of people).
– Fat seems to be linked to poverty;
– Diabetes and heart disease don’t have a causal relationship with fat, or if there is a causal relationship, it’s a minor one, or it comes about through side effects.
– The death rate for fat people is no better and no worse than the death rate for thin people.
– Health At Every Size (HAES) is the way to go.

So far, so good. The story even ventured into some difficult territory, talking to a woman who had instigated severe diet control, and lost a huge amount of weight, going from size 22 to size 12 through dieting alone. But is she happier?

“… It’s still the same me and in some ways I am happier. There’s no doubt you have more social approval…. but there are things that I miss from when I was a larger woman. I got enormous pleasure from eating and loved to feel as though I could eat when I wanted to eat. That’s a wonderful thing and a wonderful pleasure…” She weighs herself every day and says sometimes she feels that her life is destined to be one “where I hardly eat anything”.

The story works hard against all the myths about weight and weight loss. There’s no alleged “balance” from people think that it’s just a matter of will power and diet. It’s all about debunking the myths. In the mainstream media. That’s fantastic.

But… the writer talked to four people, all of them academics: Andrew Dickson, Linda Bacon, Robyn Longhurst, and Cat Pausé. The printed article had pictures of three of them: Andrew Dickson, Linda Bacon, and Robyn Longhurst. Dr Dickson is a large man. Dr Bacon seems to be of slender to moderate size. Dr Longhurst is slim. Only one largish body in sight, and certainly not a fat body. The only person who was interviewed for the article, and who was not pictured, is a fat person, Dr Cat Pausé. Cat is fat. Not large. Not weighty. Not chunky. Fat.

So as far as the New Zealand Listener is concerned, we can talk about fat, but we can’t picture it. Erasing people who are fat, and hiding them from view, turning fat people into just words, but not whole people with bodies and faces and lives and realities, even in a sympathetic article. Erasure. So many ways to do it.

So here’s a picture of Cat. It’s her signature piece.

Dr Cat Pausé

And here’s a google image search.

Here’s her page at her place of employment.

Here’s a 20/20 segment about fat acceptance in New Zealand, featuring Cat.

And here’s Cat’s reflection on the 20/20 segment on fat acceptance in New Zealand.

Advance notice: Fat activism in NZ on 20/20

Fat studies scholar and activist Cat is appearing on 20/20 on Thursday 16 Feb, as a “big, fat part of the story” about fat activism in New Zealand.

Pop on over to Cat’s blog to read about the background to the story: Fat Activism in New Zealand on 20/20. You can also find her on Tumblr: Friend of Marilyn.

And remember to watch 20/20 on Thursday 16 February, TV2, 9.30pm.