“You have such a beautiful face; you’d be gorgeous if you lost weight.” People I barely know. Okay. You have such a beautiful fantasy. You’d be polite if you got a clue. And besides, no shit: Good cheekbones, nice hazel eyes, a charming “widow’s peak,”a decent smile; I’m fine. And the radio says that fat people are responsible for The Environment.
We eat too much. It takes more fuel to move our asses down the road. We use our cars too much, take up all the close parking spaces in the Walmart lot, and use up too much fabric for our ugly clothes. We eat doctor dollars up like salted peanuts.We eat salted peanuts up like M&Ms and M&Ms like locusts. We’re a plague. Airplanes crash beneath our weight, ships sink, tires blow, stairs creak, chairs collapse, shoes split, fabric threatens to give out, antique bedsteads splinter.
Oh, fine. Keep us off the subways, off the planes, off stages (unless you need a laugh, a villain, a failure), out of pools, restaurants, dressing rooms, your beds. Any beds with other people in them. The New York Times says doctors hate us.
Here’s the thing: I know. It’s a class issue, a medical issue, an aesthetic issue, a resource issue, a character issue, a first-world issue, an environmental issue, a gender issue, a philosophical issue, a theological issue, and a scientific issue. Soon, we’ll find out it’s a meteorlogical issue. At least we don’t commit much active crime—it takes too much energy and we can’t run very fast.
I know I’m invisible. I know I’m too visible. I know I’m terrifying. I know I’m weak. I know I’m homey-comfy-nesty. I know I look like I’d eat you in the first week we were on a desert island. I know my flesh offends you. I know you want to poke my belly and see how long it jiggles. I know you’re afraid I won’t leave enough for you or your grandchildren.
We’re the answer to all the mysteries that haunt you. All the progress that offends you. Racism is our fault. Sexism is our fault. Stupidism is our fault. Fascism is our fault. Oligarchies are our fault. Tyranny is our fault. Fanaticism is our fault. Just look at Henry VIII. He did it all.
Watch this, please:
For several reasons. The first is the obvious one. White feminists do need, have needed to pay more attention to what black women have to say about their experiences for a long time. A very long time. Reading This Bridge Called My Back and an essay or two by Audre Lorde won’t do it anymore, at least in terms of being able to claim that you have any real awareness of the complexities of being a woman with brown skin. It’s an interesting question for fat white women–on the one hand, there have been lots of white feminists who’ve been talking body-acceptance for a long time, and on the other hand, the simple fact is that Gloria Steinem got to be Gloria Steinem partially because she’s conventionally beautiful. Also largely because she’s ferocious and kicks ass, but there was always a certain weird fascination about how&why someone so beautiful could/would/should be a FEMINIST that you could tell got her certain kinds of attention from certain kinds of male-dominated media. But I confess that I sometimes think I have a tiny fraction of an idea what it’s like to be a woman who is judged immediately and negatively simply because of the surface of her skin–NOT as though I were black (I claim ZERO understanding of the complex anguishes, irritations, frustrations, furies, and difficulties of that)–but as someone whose intelligence, integrity, character, worth, and general right to exist is something many folks feel they have a right to judge based simply on my physical geography. So being, say Gabourey Sidibe, must be a whole other universe of soul-bruising pain in the ass, as witness the assinine kerfuffle over whether she has or has not lost weight (google it, it’s actually nuts) and how and why.
So back to Leslie Jones. Who is not fat, but who is not small. And who has been trolled relentlessly by all the usual cadre of tragically pathological losers who spend their time vomiting their wretchedness onto social media, and by questionable humans like Milo Yiannopoulos who make their livings spewing hate at people they don’t even know (what is his pathetic deal???? Feminism is cancer????? Really????? I don’t even begin to know how to address this sort of hyperbolic stupidity.) I didn’t see Ghostbusters because it was the sort of summer when I didn’t much get to the movies, and I gave up SNL before John Belushi died, so I don’t know much about Leslie Jones. But I do know that she’s tall enough, and not-conventionally-gorgeous enough that she had a terrible time finding a dress for the red carpet until Christian Siriano stepped in and up. And I know that any black woman who makes it into the cast of any big budget movie (especially as something other than the amusing sidekick, though even that has to be no small feat) has managed to put up with rafts of crap along her road that I couldn’t begin to calculate. And being merely smart-as-hell, and having killer cheekbones to go with your 6 feet of grandeur and goofiness is clearly not enough for the world to leave your un-cringing womanhood alone. So, for what it’s worth, this is me standing up for Leslie Jones. And acknowledging/claiming that there is a hierarchy of crap-to-deal-with in the universe of feminism, and conventionally attractive white women have X amount of unacceptable, human-rights-violating garbage and violence and barrier to deal with, but women outside that demographic have a additional layers of often paradoxical (fat women are both too female and not female enough…) shit to cope with, and women of color have pretty much infinite numbers of other stupid, violent, terrifying, frustrating shit to cope with, fight with, deal with, overcome on a moment-to-moment basis. Part of me doesn’t understand why all my black woman friends don’t just start every conversation we have by punching me first and then asking how I’ve been, just to even things up a bit. Not that I’m making a suggestion.
We’re at a weird point. As much as I believe in the First Amendment, I wonder whether the guys who wrote it could begin to envision a universe in which there would be so much violent speech with so little consequence. It’s not just the asshole trolls like Yiannopoulos and the basement-dwelling, id-spewing losers for whom he is a weirdly glam proxy, it’s members of Congress and presidential candidates whose words and actions seem to me to cross the border from protected repugnance to active treason. And there are no consequences for them. There are too many white men (and women, but I fear it’s the white guys who are carrying the ugly flags on this) out there who feel free to say in public things that do violence to us all. All. I don’t know where or when this consequence-less will run into the law. I don’t even know if it will. I don’t delude myself that the hatefulness currently making so much noise in the public discourse wasn’t there all along. I might argue that Trump & Co. have done us the weird favor of turning over a bunch of rocks that really needed to be turned over so that the pathetic darkness-dwellers would be exposed to the light. But it’s getting to be like climate change–it used to be a matter of projection and theory; it’s now unavoidable (unless you’re really working on it) reality, and it’s eating the planet. The shitchat on social media is eating our culture. The planet is dying. The planet’s conversation is also toxic. There need to be consequences for the folks who are poisoning the atmospheres. But it’s a lot easier to (relatively) to name and fine and impose consequences on Exxon (be nice if we’d get around to that…) than it is to name and fine and impose consequences on shitheads like Roger Ailes and Mitch McConnell.
How does all this fit together, you ask? Well, the thing about feminism was, when I was growing up into it, that it would free men to stop being jerks just because they had penises; free women to make choices no matter who they loved, how they looked, or what color their skin was; free children from having to be one thing or another from birth, and free bodies (including the planetary body) from casual (or intentional and entrenched) violence. I’m not as naively, blithely hope-filled as I used to be. And I seem to have missed a lot of forms of oppression going on around me. But I have figured out one thing: Pretty much everything starts with the sanctity of the body. Gabourey Sidibe’s body is her business. Leslie Jones’s body is hers. The bodies of black, brown, and red humans are as sacred as those of white people, the bodies of queer humans as sacred as those of cis-hetero humans (funny, I bet self-described “faggot” Yiannopoulos would agree at least far as it comes to his queer body . Those of fat, short, disabled, un-pretty, tall, gifted, scarred, violated, famous, solitary, pea-brained, small-hearted, gorgeous, rich, poor, Trumpish–all sacred. It really is all about the body–whether you see it from a Christian perspective or any other. When we get around to seeing the individual body as the beginning of care for both humans and the planetary body they inhabit, we’ll start giving a shit instead of talking shit and being shits.
Meanwhile, I have a word for you to learn and use: Misgynoir. And I propose a rule: Remember that every time anyone disrespects a woman of color (including those in some form of hijab), they have disrespected you, oh feminists, no matter where you started from. And you should be angry.
And there’s this:
JCPenney is in trouble as a corporation. They have been for years, and I’ve heard more than one prediction of their imminent demise. They’ve tried before to introduce fashion-forward lines, and I don’t follow this stuff closely enough to know whether those lines have kept them going, but the chain has never quite managed to kick its dowdy/cheap image in spite of all its efforts. Still, they keep trying. Aside from the fact that they have been for decades the best source of a huge moderately priced window treatments, I’d like to see them hang in just because if they don’t, there are a lot of folks who will lose jobs (and as lousy as most low-level retail jobs are, the folks who have them would suffer without them). So I am intrigued that JCP, in an era when H&M, Target, and Kohls are increasingly cutting back on their lines of plus clothes, JCP has chosen to hop on the body-accceptance train loudly and start a line designed by Ashley Nell Tipton that they’ll carry in their stores up to 4X and on line up to 5X. It’s a fascinating move on several levels, and I hope it turns out to have been a smart one. It has certainly worked for the direct-sales-cult of Lularoe so far.
This is neither a logical, nor a rational response, but it kind of makes me want to say “Fuck it!” and go find myself a ballet class to take. The hoot here is that my age is probably more of a problem than my size. Apparently, the little girl who wanted to grow up to be a ballerina isn’t dead yet. Which is kind of nice.
This is a nicely precise discussion of Thin Privilege and its relationship to sexism:
This lists specific examples thereof:
The article made me think of the extent to which the obscene and constant media/cultural conversation about women’s bodies is part of the, for lack of a better word, conspiracy to keep women so focused on their bodies that they forget to think about their brains/abilities/goals/self-respect. It’s hard to think about, because it’s not actually a conspiracy if we accept that a conspiracy is a product of conscious planning (keeping the uglier facts about, for instance, the Manhattan Project out of the news for decades was the product of conscious planning, and as much as those facts haunt me, I am deeply grateful to Susan Griffin for both publicizing and contextualizing them in the bottomlessly brilliant A Chorus of Stones). Male Privilege, Thin Privilege, White Privilege are all products of something deeper, more pervasive, and probably far more damaging than conspiracy encompasses, which is pretty scary, since conspiracies have a history of being hideously dangerous already. While some of the behaviors associated with the unholy trio of Privileges are certainly conscious and have had one group or another intentionally working to preserve them–everyone from Conde Nast to the KKK–I don’t believe that constitutes conspiracy, because the prejudices that produce the privileges are so rooted in the collective consciousness that it’s more remarkable how many humans manage to consciously work against them than that they exist in the first place.
And, should you be one of those (white, male, thin–or all three) people who like to claim noisily that you don’t believe in the existence, pervasiveness, and danger of any of them, you might think about the fact that you are white, thin, and/or male in the first place and only members of your particular club are inclined to make that claim. And that the other members of your club who accept that they are privileged and live their lives in awareness of that are all smarter than you are and A) working very hard to perpetuate that privilege, or B) trying to figure out what to do to shatter it.
And should you still want to pick a fight with me about the existence of it, you may not pull out the pudgy and African-American Supreme Court Justice who just voted to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of predominantly non-white REGISTERED Texas voters, because Clarence Thomas is an outlier (among many other less polite things) and outliers don’t count, even when they’re important and influential outliers. Thomas is still more likely to be randomly pulled over by the cops–assuming that he drives himself anywhere.
But the part of this whole issue that is relevant to this blog is that ALL of these systems of privileges–these ancient, hugely pervasive, ugly, soul-damaging systems are enacted on the basis of bodies. They all see the body of someone other as a fit site of oppression.
Or, to put it in the most trivial context possible: it is not a function of Thin Privilege that I cannot find the clothes I want in the endless shades of green that I prefer to wear. That’s a function of my slightly unusual preferences and the fact that there actually is some cabal somewhere that decides on cycles of color-dominance in the commercial world. But the fact that in, say Kohls or Target, no single piece of any of their spiffy “designer” lines of clothing appears in my size is a function of thin Privilege. The designers don’t want their names associated with my size–the stores barely want to and, in spite of increasing numbers of women in my size range, continue to make the relevant departments smaller and smaller (talking to you, Target) and blander and blander (hello, Kohls). There are more and more places for fat women to go to get the cute/edgy/affordable/high-quality clothes we want (bless you Modcloth, ASOS Curve, eShakti, and eBay), but they’re all on-line and by no means mainstream. Nor are their offerings nearly as comprehensive as what’s available to “normal” women.
That’s the least of it.
And Thin Privilege, awful and soul-wounding as it is, is the least crippling of the Unholy Trinity, and wounds the smallest proportion of the human population.
Like the others, it is s-l-o-o-o-o-w-l-y and bumpily losing its hold on humans. But loathing others and institutionalizing that loathing is a beast that is going down hard, and I am frankly inclined to wonder whether they will ever go away, or, if they did, what would replace them (the older I get, the more aware I am of The Law of Unintended Consequences being one of the more critical functions of the Universe). Which is no reason to stop working on stomping The Privileges into extinction. They deserve to die. They need to die. They have no bodies, yet they poison bodies and the lives they contain endlessly, ruthlessly, causelessly, murderously.
There are ideas no one is entitled to hold. No matter how important I believe the First Amendment is–and I do–hate speech is not covered by it, and neither should unreasoning hatred be allowed to flourish or exist under its protection. And make no mistake, White Privilege is a function of blanket hatred of non-white people, no matter what its members try to believe. Male Privilege is a function of the hatred of the feminine in all its manifestations. Thin Privilege is a function of hatred of fat people, no matter how often it is cloaked in “concern.”
So what if we are hard-wired by evolution to believe in the innate superiority of certain human types? We’re also hard-wired to be selfish, rude, and ( for the most part) violent, but the (very bumpy) progress of human civilization has been built on moving beyond those natures.
Here’s the exercise for the day: What privileges do you own?
Here’re are mine:
White. Cis-hetero. Economically advantaged (if not anywhere near the 1%). Highly educated (if not, by a long shot, the smartest person I know). Securely and mostly sanely married. US citizen (though the extent to which that is a privilege is contingent, yes?). Able-bodied. Health-insured.
Take any of them away and my life would be VERY different (unless you replaced my citizenship with another western, 1st world citizenship–not so much difference then).
Add thin and/or male and my life would also be very different.
And pretty much all of those are located in, functions of, or enacted upon my body. We haven’t even gotten into the issue of beauty.
I will pass over in silence the NYT’s reaction to the scene in question. I’m working hard these days on being less enraged by things that aren’t actually killing humans or the planet (the GOP, corporations–you know my usual list), though one could argue that the sort of reaction the Time’s Judith Warner had is a denial of the humanity of fat people, which is a kind of killing. But we’ll assume that her reaction is a result of her living in a sort of everyone-I-know-is-at-least-thin-and-intellectual sort of NYC bubble.
Anyway, here’s the nice xojane piece about the sex scene in Homeland, which I don’t watch, so have no general opinion about:
And here’s a picture of Second City with Emily Walker (her membership of which suggests that she’s extra-talented). She’s the redhead:
I will say that Warner’s response is worse, in some ways, that the reactions of the press the first time they saw a black human kiss a white human on screen. Worse, actually. The NYT would never have thought of reacting to that as “weird,” or suggesting that the white person was terrified.
So now, according to an NPR story, there’s a concern that folks who have done what the culture insisted (or in the case of the guy in their article, his real health issues insisted he do) on in order to feel lovable or worth their planet space are faced with the fact that nobody believes they’ll keep it off, has faith in them, or wants to date them–not least because major weight loss marks the body pretty seriously (stretchmarks and loose skin, the latter being something most insurers will not agree to pay for plastic surgery on, even though that skin is harvest-able for burn victims). And, apparently, having been fat is widely regarded as as much of a character flaw as being fat.
This is me being motivated. Wait for it. But don’t hold your breath.
Here’s the story: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/10/06/352817525/for-the-formerly-obese-stigma-remains-after-weight-is-lost?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=202406
It’s depressing. But the tiny bit about it being based on the research in a book on how the obesity epidemic is mucking up the romantic life of America is even more depressing. Like we need another thing to be blamed for?
The book is “reporter Sarah Varney’s new book “XL Love: How the Obesity Crisis Is Complicating America’s Love Life.“”
A. America, as in the nation, does not have a love life. A nation, journalistic metaphors aside, cannot have a love life. And if we did, it wouldn’t be the fat people who were screwing it up.
B. I know I haven’t read the book (and will very likely NOT buy it, if I do read/skim it), but the title is so much WTF all by itself that I hardly know what to say. Why is this worth an NPR story, much less the dead trees required to print it?
Why are fat people part of the news cycle at all, FLOTUS aside (I am so glad that, having shone a little light on the very real problem of urban food deserts, she’s moved on to working on caring for wounded soldiers). I AM NOT NEWS. I AM NOT A STATISTIC. I AM NOT A MORAL PROBLEM. MY FAT IS NOT A CHARACTER FLAW OR A FUNCTION OF SPINELESSNESS.
News is the enormous wildfires in Alaska this summer that we never heard anything about here in the lower 48. News is pretty much nothing covered by Fox or CNN. News of real value is mostly half-covered in US media, at best. But fat people, well, we’re all over the news one way or another. It’s not like my respect for NPR hasn’t been taking a lot of hits in the past few years (their weird insistence on “balanced” coverage has given an awful lot of air time to wingnuts no one needs to hear from, for one thing), but they have jumped whole-heartedly onto the fat-hating (usually cloaked in “concerned” or “medical news” or “human interest” approaches) bandwagon, and we will pass over in enraged silence how much of my local PBS station’s programming is one or another doctor’s infomercial for his (why are they always men?) salvific weight loss program. Hours and hours of it.
I accept that there are medical issues associated with weight–though not to the extent, and not as consistently as we are constantly told. It’s all too individual–the complex of genetics, circumstance, hormones, psychology, biochemistry–the things that make any one person fat. Another person with different genetics and a different personality might have grown up in my family and not been fat. The fact that I am, by nature (at this point), a fairly sedentary human is, just by itself, a pretty complicated issue.
But the point isn’t anything about me, except that I am not news-fodder by virtue of being fat any more than people who are short are news-fodder by virtue of being short–except that harassing short people by turning them into a near-constant subject of public conversation does not make them get shorter. So, Ms. Varney, if you have the energy and focus to research and write a book, please go do it about something that matters and that doesn’t add itself to the chorus of loathing a group of human beings have to process and cope with.