Noodling around on the internet (while avoiding writing Letters of Recommendation–they’re too important to dash off, and too repetitive to enjoy, and need to be too individual to fit into a template, so they’re just kind of a tough thing to be enthusiastic about doing) I found this:
Which is full of nicely in-your-face-photos of fat dancers. I’m pretty sure that the teeny movement to feature fat people moving well (the chica who did the viral “fat dancer video” on youtube now has a reality show coming out) is a mostly good thing. Except for the whole voyeurism thing. And the fetishism thing. And, and, and… I am not worried about anything negative coming out of the small amount of public space (pun fully, unashamedly intended) fat-and-not-hiding-or-apologizing folks are more often occupying–even complicated and imperfect cultural representations are better than few-and-negative representations. I wonder, though, whether other under-represented, under-respected groups have the same fight-or-flight reaction to any public representation of them that I have, and that I suspect some other fat folk have. It’s a sort of “oh, God, don’t let the public start thinking of us as a group because then people might think of ME as a member of that group and, you know, be grossed out.” Ironic, is it not, that a woman who writes a noisily Fat Feminist Blog would be admitting to that sort of cringing interior dialogue. Maybe not ironic, maybe just dumb and retrograde. So sue me. The more articulate and obviously functional fat folk who can get representation in the public sphere, the better for all of us. I know it. I preach it. The farther we can get from negative stereotypes, the better. But the fact remains that whenever I am out in the world I am, half-autonomically and half-consciously, almost always trying to broadcast the message that the first thing people should register about me is anything but that I’m fat. Loud-mouthed fat-femi-advocacy aside, I’m always trying to hide behind my brain, my funky outfits, or any piece of furniture that will obscure me. That, dear readers, is my year-end confession.
I read a long and wonderfully thoughtful article about the Cosby mess yesterday. I bring this up not to weigh in on a horrendously painful subject, but to mention the loving discussion in the article of the character of Fat Albert from the cartoon and Cosby’s early recordings. He was the moral center of the group, the thoughtful one, the emotionally intelligent and intellectually deep kid in the bunch of Philly neighborhood kids Cosby created from the pieces of his own childhood. Fat Albert, the writer argues persuasively, is what represents the part of Cosby we should be hurting for, rather than Cliff Huxtable. I’m inclined to agree. Fat Albert might have been the best thing Cosby ever made. Fat Albert and Captain Kangaroo are the only two non-degrading representations of fat people I can remember from before 2000. And as fond as I am of the Captain, Fat Albert is a much more complex, layered, humane, loving, and love-worthy creation. Fat Albert matters.
Cosby himself, well that’s another matter. Artists are twisted and broken just like other folk. Celebrity, wealth, and power are not, generally speaking, things that foster our better natures. Being worshipped as “America’s Dad” is likely to go to a person’s head. I am, in this situation, inclined toward a “where there’s smoke…” approach. But if we ditched all the art that was made by bad humans, we’d be left severely impoverished. No excuses for the behaviors. Mr. Cosby should confess, and go quietly away. Fat Albert should stick around.
I don’t know precisely where the line is between good-people-who-do-bad-things and bad-people-who-do-some-good-things lies. I’m not sure I want the kind of knowledge that would lead to that kind of authority. I do know that Wagner and Nietzsche are forever tainted for me by their proto-Nazism, but I wasn’t a fan of either before I knew that, anyway, so it’s easy and almost pleasant for me to be able to tar them with that brush. And this whole issue is worth thousands of pages of discussion by folks with much more philosophically/ethically lucid and fluent intelligences than mine. But, while I am delighted to condemn Ayn Rand’s ideas along with her pseudo-art, I can’t say what I’d think if the books had achieved something beyond her own grinched consciousness. I don’t need my artists to be heroes, or even, necessarily, nice. It’s lovely when a genius is also a good human–beyond lovely, but it clearly doesn’t take a lovely human (or even very grown-up human) to write a great symphony or a poem that makes staying alive for another 15 minutes seem like a pretty good idea. Maybe Cosby’s a good human with a very dark side. Maybe he’s a very bad human with a capacity to produce important human work. I do care, but I don’t know. Whichever side of that line-I-can’t-see he’s on, if he’s guilty, then he should say so. It’s the least he can do for the women he hurt.
And, meanwhile, I would like it very much if Whoopi Goldberg would stop defending him. Her feminist cred is draining away pretty fast. Not that it hadn’t already taken a hit or two… Fat Albert might have some questions for her.
Here’s the End-of-the-Year part:
I’m still fat. I’m pretty much the same level of fat, too. This is not precisely a surprise. I have two friends who chose bariatric surgery this year. They had reasons I couldn’t have argued with, even if I’d been inclined to argue, which I wasn’t (not my body, not my business). I’m watching them closely. I still think it’s a generally lousy idea except in extreme cases and that the industry that surrounds it is profoundly corrupt. but I am also aware that my body is 60 and would like to carry my brain around for a good while longer. So I’m going to watch and see how they do. Which will probably take a couple of years, or five. Is bariatric surgery like chemo–if you make 5 years without your disease reappearing are you declared “cured?”
Bill Maher is still making fat jokes. I still want 10 minutes alone with him.
The plus-size sections of Target and Kohl’s continue to disappoint. Ditto L.L.Bean (who makes NONE of its cutest stuff in plus, but almost all of it in petite, and, dammit, I have a Maine-iac’s huge soft spot for them otherwise), Nordstrom, and most other retailers.
The Media still spend waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time talking about women’s bodies.
BMI is still being used as a medical measure in spite of having been thoroughly dismantled.
Dr. Oz is still allowed to preach his debunked crappola to the willing masses. Apparently lying is now an acceptable standard in journalism. Shoot me for taking so long to catch up. No, I am not naive, but I did used to think that the Supreme Court and major outlets of journalism were supposed to have some allegiance to Truth and Fact. Sigh.
Fear-mongering in all forms is still the dominant means of grabbing and holding our attention. I think it needs to replace “sloth” as one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Actually, I think it might be a candidate for Top 3. Catastrophe-porn is running a pretty close 2nd in the attention-grabbing race. The fact that the Kardashians might have 3rd place is pretty disturbing, too, when you think about it. Fear-mongering, catastrophe-porn, and Kardashians. There’s a family legacy to be proud of. Somehow I doubt Ken Burns is chomping at the bit to make a documentary about the Ks.
I am still not making any New Year’s Resolutions. In so far as I can tell, I do better with birthday resolutions, and I still have plenty of work to do on those, so 2015 can make do without my resolutions to move it forward.
There’s an interesting thought: that each year is somehow birthed and suckled and then killed by the birthing and dying of our New Year’s Resolutions… Anyway, I’m opting out yet again.
So, treasured readers, I have no Big Announcements and no Big Insights to offer as we say our variably fond farewells to 2014 and turn our brave faces to 2015. I hope it is possible to be resolute without making Resolutions. I hope you surprise yourself and maybe the world with your capacities for growth and joy and adventure in 2015, or that you at least make it through in one piece and with people to love.
Peace out, brothers and sisters.