Round Word-workers

Just in case you thought there were areas of life that were safe from this shit:

http://www.ourdailyread.com/2018/01/roxane-gay-calls-out-writing-group-for-fatphobic-treatment-of-sarah-hollowell/

Speaking as a fat poet who has given many public readings and taught many college courses and non-academic workshops, I can testify that there is not a single first-day-of-class or walk-to-the-microphone when I don’t damn-near drown in my fear of being judged unworthy-because-fat, or haven’t spent the days before fretting over my outfit (hoping it can be cool enough to bypass my fatitude…). Sarah Hollowell is a different generation than I am, and she “seems” to be a bit more confident than I am, but she is open about being hurt and confused, and the MWW are clearly scrambling their asses around like crazy to make it right, but the fact remains that they absolutely confirmed the notion that fat-prejudice is the last truly  acceptable prejudice when they were silent at that meeting. Silence = complicity, folks. You all consented to prejudice. So you should be scrambling your asses around and doing serious grovelling.

And I know Roxanne Gay can be prickly, but her response here was right and righteous.

This, of course, all applies only if the whole kerfuffle is being reported accurately. There are some hints floating around that the words actually used at the meeting might not have been accurately represented, and the whole shebang is a wad of someone-said-and-then-someone-said confusion. And Gay has been known to be hot-tempered (though brilliant enough to get away with/around it).

Here’s the thing, though, the story is absolutely believable. Which says something fairly important. But if it’s not true, then apologies are owed in other directions, and soon.

 

 

Round Rage

I am not in the mood to write a blog today. I have about a zillion other things to do. I haven’t written in ages for a bunch of reasons, but the main one is that I felt like I’d had my say and was done.

I thought about writing, though, when Stephen Colbert started talking so much about his own weight on The Late Show. But I couldn’t summon the energy to repeat, and he there was something sad and plaintive about the whole thing that failed to make me mad.

That was then. Now we have 45/Thing/The-Toddler-in-Chief. And Thing is fat. Not HUGE, but still fat, and famously prone to eating a cliche fat-person-diet and not moving any more than he can manage. And all the liberals/progressives now have a sense that it’s okay to rag on a fat person because there’s a super-visible fat person out there who couldn’t even have been made up by Disney as an exemplar of everything, EVERYTHING negative anyone likes (and make no mistake, that definitely was me accusing your non-fat selves of reveling in this excuse to make fat-jokes) to think about fat people.

So here I am grumpily writing a blog. And, since I am not willing to give the subject a large chunk of my day, I’ll get right to the point. EVERY TIME YOU MAKE A FAT-JOKE ABOUT 45, YOU ARE MAKING THE SAME ACCUSATIONS AGAINST ME AND EVERY OTHER FAT PERSON YOU KNOW. And, yes, I am taking it personally. We all are. The world is full of people who are narcissistic, gleefully cruel, racist, sexist, willfully stupid, and a long list of criminalities and are righteously skinny. Paul Ryan comes to mind pretty easily. McDonalds, Diet Coke, and riding a golf cart may be unhealthy (okay, definitely are), but they do not make you an inexcusable fuckwad. Being an inexcusable fuckwad makes you an inexcusable fuckwad, and I would (on behalf of the plump/chunky/adipose/obese everywhere) would be grateful if you would stop making a connection that has no basis in reality. So once again, let me run through the Fatmatters Main Theses:

  1. Skinny DOES NOT = smart, decent, humane, healthy, or sane.
  2. Fat DOES NOT = stupid, barbaric, Scrooge-like, sick, or crazy.
  3. Human bodies are not the proper location for abuse by other humans, EVER.
  4. Being legit angry about someone’s execrable behavior does NOT negate 1, 2, or 3. Got it? No? Then fuck off, because you’re doing the same thing 45 does when he says things about immigrants or women or childrens’ health or Confederate monuments. This makes you an asshole. Wake up.

Roundly Condemned

 

“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.

Rounding the Corner

I was going to talk about this nice bit of (now months old, I gather) intelligence from Tim Gunn, who has undergone a probably-wasn’t-very-drastic conversion to pro-acceptance fashion politics:  bodyhttp://www.npr.org/2016/09/14/493965878/tim-gunn-the-fashion-industry-is-not-making-it-work-for-plus-size-women

But really, people, really, has there ever been an election that was more about the body than this one. Whether the body of a woman can withstand the savage stresses of the Presidency? (dumb and retrograde, but the question is nonetheless out there) About whether the bodies of women belong to them? (Have you paid attention at all to Mike Pence’s record? And who, precisely, do you think will end up running things if the Cheeto-from-hell is elected?) Is the body worth protection from bad cops, bad medicine, bad water, bad air, bad education, bad men?  Are the bodies of women valuable/worthy beyond their surface conformity to grossly artificial standards? Are the bodies of non-white people worthy/valuable of anything beyond poverty and degradation? Are the bodies of non-cis-hetero-non-binary humans even human? And, in the end, are the bodies and minds of white males to go on being crippled by dangerous constructs about the nature of masculinity?

Although I’ve spent years and years studying the history and literature of the Holocaust, and though I understand WWII as a complex extension of the grossly stupid, vicious (and overwhelmingly privileged-male-driven) desire of revenge on the part of the winners (I use the term loosely–no-one “won” that war) of WWI, and though I have lived in and visited Germany over the last 40 years during which it has undergone massive and remarkable change (mostly) in the direction of facing up to and growing beyond its own wounds and idiocies, I have never truly understood Germany  1919-1939 and how it came to be the genocidal/suicidal horror that it did. I can’t say that I understand it even now. Something in me cannot grasp the capacity of so many humans engaged in such profound denial of obvious facts, even though I believe heartily in the capacity of individuals to engage in radical denial. But I can say that I know what it it looks like.

My country has made me sad and angry. My country has made me grieve. My country has made me furious. Under every administration of my politically-aware life (so, since I was 14), I have had occasion to be disgusted, frustrated, or baffled. And I believed we’d hit bottom with W., I really did.

It is 1939 here in the United States. Voting for anyone other than Hillary (I don’t care how much you don’t like her. If you don’t like her, please do look deep into your soul to find the part of you that is simply willing to believe any stupid shit about her emails because she has the “wrong” body parts and recognize that the media is complicit in teaching you to ignore that ugly fact) is voting for 1939. Understand this: Flint is 1939. Refusing to let refugees in the country is 1939. White supremacy in any form is 1939. The Alt-Right is 1939. I am trying very hard not to descend to the “shouting match” level so much of this campaign has been decapitated by. I still don’t understand Germany in 1939, except that I know it was not made by monsters who were “not like us.” It was made by the consent and silence of people who were precisely like us, and who were sucked in gradually by their own sense of grievances unaddressed, their frustrations with a world they couldn’t face or comprehend, and their enthrallment to a history they imagined, but that had never actually existed.

Vote, please. Vote like it’s Munich and 1939 and you have some idea of what’s coming if you stay silent. Because you do. You do.

 

 

 

A Round of Applause

And there’s this:

http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/ad-day-forget-plus-size-jcpenney-just-bravely-stood-fat-girls-172266

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.

fat dancer.4

Round Condemnations

It’s been ages since I wrote. Lots has happened in the international conversation about fat. It’s been, at least for me, more than eclipsed by both the weirdnesses (and terrors) of the U.S. elections, the ongoing horror of Daeshe, and the hideously gargantuan mess of the refugee crisis. All of this, of course, is about bodies–women’s bodies, Muslims’ bodies, refugees’ bodies, immigrants’ bodies and whether we should care for them, let them join us at the table, tolerate them, grant them agency over themselves. I don’t remember a year in which I have been so angry, full of grief, drowned in disgust, and terrified by the outside world. By its apparent resistance to the basic notion that the body should be inviolable because the individual human body is (if you’re religious) a piece of the divine (if you’re not, then it’s a matter of the body itself constituting a kind of sacredness, as near as I can figure it). Bottom line, leave other folk’s bodies alone except to heal, protect, or honor them. Hands off. Laws off. Boundaries open. Now if I can only get someone to pay attention to what feel to me like seriously obvious behavioral patterns… I don’t get to rule the world, though. Which is probably better. I’m preachy and grouchy and would rather be left alone to write, generally speaking.

In case you wondered whether I haven’t been paying attention to the fatosphere, specifically: 1. Oprah’s acquisition of a big chunk of Weight Watchers stock stinks and I have pretty much lost respect for her. Except that it was probably a terrifically intelligent investment. And a manifestation of the extent to which she continues to suffer with her own body issues, which is sad. 2. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition featured a slightly plus-size (but still conventionally beautiful–whaddya expect, it’s a beauty-porn thing) model, Ashley Graham. Kudos to them, though she still represents a nearly impossible standard for female beauty, but heck, at least they extended the boundaries a bit. Then Cheryl Tiegs had a hissy fit about it. I mostly felt sorry for Tiegs, who has probably been quietly fighting her own demons about her body and her identity as Beautiful for decades. I’ll be impressed when they feature Tess Holliday.

Then I was driving home today and heard an NPR report (NPR LOVES anything about obesity, I swear) about a new article in The Lancet about a multi-national, multi-study analysis of BMI statistics revealing that for the first time since anyone started keeping statistics on this sort of thing, the percentage of humans who are obese exceeds that of those who are underweight. The Lancet is venerable, though they did publish the falsified evidence for the (it turns out) non-existent connection between vaccinations and autism. I suspect they’ve been extra careful since wiping that egg off their editorial faces, so I assume that the research on this thing about there being more fat people (13.5%?than underweight ones (9%). Of course, the numbers alone are massively complex, full of differences of geography, economic status, sex, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Here’s the thing. The study was based on two radically flawed, but still scientifically acceptable, terms: Firstly, BMI, which was never intended to be a medical tool (it was designed for sociological research), and which is profoundly meaningless given the infinite variety of human bodies. Secondly, the word “OBESE,” which is nearly as meaningless in terms of actual health. Most tellingly, the two terms the British researcher proudly used were not “underweight” and “overweight,” but “underweight” and “obese.” There are no words for “fat” that are not loaded with the freight of stupidity and righteousness, but the choice to use the more medically “weighty” term revealed a lot about the researcher’s biases. Besides, “fat,” “obese,” and “overweight” are all umbrella terms that include everyone from Ashley Graham (which is a joke) to a 500 lb man who is on constant pain and can barely move. Meaningless.

More to the point, it was not only bad science based on thoroughly discredited (though you wouldn’t know it by the way the majority of the medical community acts) terms, it was science with a clear, even gleeful, agenda of demonizing a pretty large chunk of the human family. BAD SCIENCE. It was also meaningless–though the researcher was suggesting that maybe governments could subsidize the availability of healthy foods for low-income folks (good idea, but not new) and tax sugars and dangerous fats (only okay if you’re going to do the first, I think.). BAD SCIENCE.

It’s kind of like the thing where mainstream neuroscience has just “discovered” that the brain has another exterior layer full of tiny veins that turn out to be crucial to many neurological and immune disorders. Osteopaths have been talking about this for ages. Mainstream medical science has also recently discovered the fascia (that stuff that forms the boundaries around all our organs muscles and keeps us from turning into bags of goo), when physical therapists who work with dancers and athletes have known about it for ages because it heals at a much slower rate than nerves and tendons and muscles. Sometimes mainstream medical science is just dumb. Fortunately, it still manages to make progress. It’s been centuries since anyone was suggesting a compote of butter and mouse dung as a cure for migraines, for instance.

Bad medical science (most bad science, I suspect) is usually a function of researchers not being able to step away from their own prejudices. You know, like the one that says all fat people are stupid, slow, and morally corrupt. Dear Lancet, fuck off.