March 25th Presentation at Oakland University

Dissenting Bodies Flyers

 

Come listen to me talk for a really long time. It will be fun I promise.

As always, connect with me on tumblr and twitter.

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Call for Photos

On March 25th I will be doing a presentation at Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Mi titled “Dissenting Bodies – Visibility, Fat Politics and Challenging Normal” during their Women’s History Month Series. Part of the presentation will center on people reclaiming their bodies by becoming visible. This will be very similar to what I wrote about in my post on selfies and how they can be used to challenge the gaze on your body by having control over how your body is visible.

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Photo example, totally going to be in this presentation..

Since the theme of the series is to discuss feminist expression, I really want to tackle visibility by challenging feminist discourse on body image and reframe the discussion around people who don’t conform to beauty ideals. This will be done to show how focusing on what beauty ideals are and not the social consequences of what it means to live in a deviant or non-normative body has built body positive spaces around people with the most privilege, while also creating a movement that is often considered depoliticized or disconnected from systemic / institutional oppression.

A lot of the discussion will be about how fat bodies are viewed in society and imagery of fat people in the media but I want to start the discussion with how the bodies of marginalized people are viewed in society differently depending on the identities they possess. This is something that has been severely lacking from feminist politics and I want to give context to understand how constraints of visibility while they can differ between people all have a common thread, which is to restrict or limit difference.

If you want to be part of this presentation, send your photo to me via email (as an attachment) to fatbodypolitics_260b@sendtodropbox.com

I’m going to collect photos until March 10th and I should have more information about the talk soon.

**Just an fyi, the sendtodropbox email sends all of the email attachments and puts them into a dropbox folder. It’s super awesome and free.

Update:

I want to emphasize that I am not just looking for fat identifying individuals but anyone who feels that they don’t conform to white thin cis heteronormative able bodied ideals. I’m also being purposely vague on how people decide what it means to be visible for them since that can be defined differently depending on who you are. Some people are incredibly uncomfortable with taking photos of themselves, which is totally valid so people have used other means of being visible.

Here is an example,

 

image

 

Or even part of your body like this photo via fatheffalump

image

 

Please submit and share. ❤

Michigan Radio Interview

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I was on Michigan Radio’s show Stateside talking about Melissa McCarthy’s Elle cover as well as the state of fat activism in Michigan. From the interview,

Four covers were shot with four different stars: Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Penelope Cruz and Melissa McCarthy.

Witherspoon wore a fitted black dress, Woodley wore a swimsuit and Cruz recently gave birth to her second baby, so hers was a close-up face shot. Curvy, full-figured McCarthy was swathed and bundled up in a big coat.

That led to criticism that McCarthy was covered up because she’s full-figured — though it should be noted that Melissa McCarthy herself said she was glad to be a part of the cover.

But it does raise the issue of society’s attitudes toward overweight or obese people.

I’m pretty happy with the interview but I do wish I had more time to talk in depth about other fat women in the media who are also taking up space in the way Melissa does. Specifically women like Queen Latifah, Amber Riley and Gabourey Sidibe, among others.

You can listen to the full interview at the link above.

As always, connect with me on tumblr and twitter.

Trolling by Dude Bros™: Fat positive backlash in the spotlight

If you weren’t already aware, this past week has been dubbed “Fat Shaming Week” by a small group of men who incorrectly assume that shaming will actually make fat women thin. Leaving aside that these dude bros have created a week to shame fat women as they are in tears over their lack of boners because fat women are fat. It sounds like a personal problem and the notion that fat people are unfuckable is unfounded (social construction anyone?). They spent the beginning of the week harassing every fat activist, news source and blogger they could find as an attempt to have their “campaign” get attention.

I was one of about five people who had been tweeted at on Monday when their “campaign” started and like everyone else ignored them until Buzzfeed thoughtlessly pick it up. While I’m happy that the few major sites who wrote something about the week framed it as being disgusting, almost all of them have centered the tweets they shared around the worst tweets that could be found in the hashtag. In the beginning of the week almost all of the tweets were directed specifically at fat women but quickly devolved into arguments about health, which shows how little fat shamers actually care about health and in reality are interested in promoting an ideal body type that they find to be physically / sexually pleasing.

A few other fat / body positive bloggers have written a response to the week and you can find them herehere and here (tw weight loss talk). I wanted to create a post that specifically outlines the kind of responses to this week I had as well as other people on twitter. While most news sources have focused on the hateful tweets by the creator and his numerous fake twitter accounts, the outpouring of people objecting to this week has been too big to ignore.

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. This week has given even more proof that bullying is not something that only happens when someone is a child but continues on throughout their lifetime and is deeply rooted in different forms of marginalization. Read my post, Bullying It’s Not Just for Kids

House of Cards

When I talk to people about my interest in fat studies and the work I do with Love Your Body Detroit, they often act as though they can never get the point I am at with my body. They believe that I have all of my shit worked out, that I never have a bad day or that I don’t still deal with the same issues that they do in relation to their own body. The reality is that I just have a good game face. I tend to tough it out in rough situations and way until later until I have the emotional space to process my thoughts. This is aside from the fact that I have created a well-structured house of cards over the years that has given me the ability to have some semblance of a safe space in my own life.

One of the first things that I did when I found fat rights was remove a majority of the media that I was surrounded by on a daily basis. I tend to listen to NPR or some other form of talk radio. I don’t own a tv, read magazines, or try to not go on any website that doesn’t have a feminist or artistic slant, sometimes it happens but the amount is far less. I have my Hulu settings set up so that I barely ever get a weight loss commercial and use that as my primary source of tv. I don’t watch reality tv, except for The Voice which is mostly because I find it fascinating to watch not only for the competition but also for the way Christina Aguilera is treated by the media. While it may seem extreme, I know what is going on in the world, but removing myself from a space where my body and the bodies of other people are demonized or not represented at all was incredibly important to me. As well as removing myself from the negative head space that goes along with most forms of media where bodies are routinely met with harsh negative criticism.

One of the most drastic things I have done over the years is limit the time I spend with certain people. Since last October when I stopped being friends with a person for the toxic way their friendship was affecting my life. I have decided that I want the people who surround me to make me feel better not worse about myself. This has also meant limiting my time with family, friends or even the places that I work at. I’m at the point in my life where working at a job that makes me feel insecure about myself is no longer worth it to me. This comes from a place of privilege for me to even make that choice, but it also means that I am living off financial aid and grants for the most part.

Even with all of these precautions it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a bad day. It doesn’t mean that I don’t ever have to reevaluate the situation I am in or process my own life. This safety net is one that I have created to make the space I take up easier to deal with but it is something that I have created over 8 years of practice. Also the space I take up online is filled with people who have a similar mindset as myself, so when I go out in the world I know I am not alone.

Explaining Away Difference

For much of my life there has always been a major thread that I have felt links the way we feel about difference. We always want to understand it, to know why it exists but also to place it in a box that we can put it as far away from ourselves as possible. When we come across someone that is different from ourselves we have this irrational need to put labels on it. Often times this leads people into a pretty harmful discussion where we don’t accept that difference but we rationalize it away as the cause of something else, even when that isn’t the case.

I don’t talk about my sexuality often on this blog, over the past 6 years I have written about my virginity and what it means to me as well as a post about being socially acceptable. What I haven’t written about is why my sexuality is the way it is. This is something I have been thinking about in different a context this past week because of some discussions that hit a little too close to home in a class I am taking. The discussion itself centered on a certain form of sexuality and developed into a discussion about the reasons why people identify that way. What came out of it was language that has been used against me in my own life.

The last date I went on ended when the guy I was out with was told about my lack of intimate partners. His response is one that I have gotten often when people are told, “But you’re so normal.” Later via text he told me that I am ‘hyper-functional’ which were probably the harshest comments that I have ever received. Over the years people have told me how sorry they are, have tried to find a root cause for why I’m ‘damaged,’ etc. Most of the comments have centered on the idea that I should be pitied, I am mentally ill or the trauma in my past has caused it. At no point has there ever been a rational thought that maybe it just happened.  That it isn’t the cause of some strange sad horrible thing but that it just is.

Some of the most harmful discussions we can have about people who are different from us are ones where we try to pathologize or imply mental illness as the root cause. We place our own beliefs and judgments on those that are different than us because they have a different set of standards for how they live their lives. We imply that they are somehow defective, unhappy or not functional without taking the time to understand that they are people.

Some simple ground rules, don’t tell me you are sorry, don’t assume I am missing out on life, don’t act like my sexuality doesn’t exist, don’t reinforce normative standards of sexuality, and don’t assume that I have something wrong with me or that there is a cause for my sexuality. Above all else, don’t try to cure me or tell me why you think I am the way I am.

The Road to Hell – Consequences of Good Intentions

On Tuesday Michelle Obama is going to appear on the Biggest Loser as part of her Let’s Move! campaign. This comes after she has spent the last 2 years as the First Lady of the United States continuing to add to the ever growing amount of fat stigma in our society. Bringing up the problematic portions of her campaign normally ends with most people saying that she still has good intentions. Most people, even when they are causing harm, have good intentions but acknowledging the portions of the campaign that cause more harm then good is not ignoring the positive aspects. The problem with the Let’s Move! campaign has far more do with the way that it is framed and the reality of where it came from.

The announcement of the Let’s Move! campaign coincided with a report from retired military leaders titled “Too Fat to Fight,” which called on schools to remove junk food from their cafeterias because once children were becoming old enough to enlist in the military 40% of them did not fit into the BMI standard set by the military. FLOTUS’s relationship with the military has been extensive during her time with the campaign. She has spoken about how fat bodies are a national security risk continuing the link between body size and lower acceptance into the military. This has continued to happen without even acknowledging that the very BMI standards that the military uses increases the risk of service members of having or developing eating disorders Some say they are three times as likely as the general population to develop an eating disorder. She has also visited Fort Jackson military base in South Carolina to promote the campaign.

While her campaign continues to work towards creating access to fresh foods and getting children moving in their bodies, she is also speaking out nationally about how she plans to stop childhood ‘obesity’ in a generation, that fat people are more likely to be bad employees or need extra sick time, and has continued this with her support of the program the Biggest Loser. The reality is that this isn’t a show that is trying to make people healthy; their primary goal is to make people thin by using some pretty horrific tactics.

She might have good intentions in creating a better society to live in but in reality her efforts will always fall short if she continues to frame it around the idea that fat bodies are inherently unhealthy while also not acknowledging that we don’t know how to make people lose weight long term. Looking past all of these issues by believing that her intentions are good doesn’t mean that the harm she causes is invalid or that they don’t matter. Harm is still harm it still changes lives.

Further Reading (Aside from all of the links above),

Paul Campos article “Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign is Helping Bullies.”