Planned Parenthood Talk

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On Tuesday, while Cecile Richards was testifying before a house oversight committee, I was at Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan’s Detroit health center talking to them about creating fat inclusive health care.

It seemed incredibly ironic that while their staff is educating themselves about creating an enviornment to serve more people they were being presented as an organization that only provides abortion and doesn’t give life saving reproductive health care.

Their staff was great. They wanted to provide better health care for people regardless of body size and wanted to create a more inclusive environment for their employees.

Note – I’m in the middle of writing my thesis this semester so I haven’t had time to update the blog as much as I would like to. Please follow my other social media to stay connected!

As always, connect with me on tumblr, facebook and twitter.

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Guest Post – Queering Fat Embodiment Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from the new book Queering Fat Embodiment. It’s an academic text so it’s expensive but available online.

As fat studies scholars have maintained, fat bodies are particularly disadvantaged in terms of cultural capital (Gerber and Quinn 2008, Lebesco 2004). In a culture that values slimness over corpulence as not only more beautiful or desirable but also more moral and good, fatness has a negative effect on one’s cultural capital and, subsequently, one’s ability to acquire other types of capital. Importantly, Bourdieu argues that one of the most significant aspects of cultural capital is its embeddedness within the body: ‘the body is the most indisputable materialisation of class tastes’ (1984: 190). While ‘one’s taste might be expressed through the relatively transitory choices made in commodity consumption – how one dresses, the style in which one’s house is decorated – [it] is represented and reproduced in a far more permanent way through embodiment’ (Lupton 1996: 95). The thin body is read as moral/ good/controlled/refined. This is because, in part, the thin body is never regarded as a ‘natural’ body. as Bourdieu asserts, ‘the legitimate use of the body is spontaneously perceived as an index of moral uprightness, so that its opposite, a ‘natural’ body, is seen as an index of laisser-aller (‘letting oneself go’), a culpable surrender to facility’ (1984: 193). The thin body, for most people, is only attainable through rigorous effort, requiring time and money. And yet, as Gerber and Quinn assert, ‘efforts at controlling body size … rarely result in the desired bodily capital’: this has the effect of ‘guaranteeing the rarity of ‘ideal weight’ and thus its value’ as a kind of cultural capital (2008: 6).

Read any number of news pieces on the ‘obesity epidemic’ and it is clear that fat people have become a scapegoat of sorts for a lot of the Western world’s worst qualities. more often than not, they are imagined as one large homogenous group that exemplify all that is ‘wrong’ with Western culture: they drive around in gas-guzzling SUVs, watch endless hours of TV on expensive plasma screens, and eat mindlessly out of fast food containers, all while remaining miraculously ignorant of basic health principles and the environmental impact of their selfish consumption practices. As a culture, we seem to be unable to disconnect the metaphor of fatness from its reality. Fat folks, just like their thin or ‘average’ sized counterparts, consume food (healthy and unhealthy), buy cars (hybrids and gas-guzzlers alike), purchase homes, and consume many other necessary (and not-so-necessary) products. On the other hand, as cultural outsiders with sometimes-limited access to the capital required to engage in normative consumption practices, many fat people are required to consume differently. Importantly, this point is especially true with regard to the consumption of fashion. Due to historically unequal access to clothing in fat sizes, the consumption of fat fashion has happened in very different ways than the consumption of what is often referred to as ‘straight-sized’ fashion.

 

Used by permission of the Publishers from ‘Fashion’s ‘Forgotten Woman’: How fat bodies queer fashion and consumption’, in Queering Fat Embodiment eds. Cat Pausé, Jackie Wykes and Samantha Murray (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), pp. 77-78. Copyright © 2014

Amazing FAT stuff going on this weekend at Allied Media Conference.

program_coverHere is where I will be on Friday and Saturday!

First I’m talking about performing survival while fat for a Movement Movement track workshop. “Detroit Dance: From the Street to the Stage”

Can an individual moving body represent or embody society? How does human performance on the street and on the stage shape us? In this session we will view work of Detroit-based dance artists; discuss bodies and politics through conversations and experience embodied movement workshops designed to empower and excite all movers, inclusive of all bodies, and experience levels. (Presenters: Maya Stovall, Piper Carter, K. Natasha Foreman, Kristi Faulkner, Seycon Nadia Chea, Chris Braz, Amanda Levitt , Quaint, Efe Bes plus Collaborating Dancers)

I’m on a panel about how to center fat activism and uplift the voices of marginalized people in the community. “Race, Fat Activism & Media”

How can fat activists centre the voices of the most marginalized in their organizing? How can we make the movement (and the media) more accessible to folks with different, multiple identities? This panel will bring together long-time fat activists to discuss their own personal experiences with organizing, unpack the historical whiteness of Fat activism in North America, explore alternative media that challenges more than just body fascism, and discuss critical strategies for making Fat activism more inclusive for everyone.

Finally, I’m co-facilitating a caucus titled “Building Inclusive Fat Communities Online”

How can we build fat-positive communities online that actively resist social hierarchies of race, class, gender, and ability? What do fat-positive communities gain when we value all of the intersecting identities of fat people? This caucus is for anyone who wants to build stronger, more inclusive fat positive online communities that are committed to challenging all forms of social hierarchy.

I wish everyone could come! It’s going to be an amazing weekend. ❤

As always, connect with me on tumblr and twitter.

Support Fat Community Projects!

This is a round up of current projects that need funding or support.

1. Abundant Bodies Track at the Allied Media Conference

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The Abundant Bodies track at the AMC this summer needs your help to support the work of fat activists with their workshops and activist organizing.

I’m part of two different sessions but there are so many amazing workshops and other activists who are coming to Detroit to talk about fat politics over the weekend. They all need financial support to not only get to the conference but also for lodging and other expenses over the weekend.

via the funding campaign,

Some of the most well-known fat activists (including Dr. Charlotte Cooper, Amanda Levitt, Virgie Tovar) will be sharing their brilliance alongside up and coming young qtpoc fatties. Some of the topics and issues folks are exploring include race & fat activism, the “dangers” of excessive selfie consumptions, exploring fat & kink, building an inclusive fat community, body autonomy vs. body positivity, reimagining desirability, fat activism for unruly people, and so much more!

From the program guide:

ln this track we will gather, share and celebrate the wisdom and abundance of our bodies. Abundant/thick/fat bodies are the target of so much hate, policing and negativity, even in our organizing communities. How do we unlearn mainstream ideas of what a body should look like and (re)-learn to celebrate the diversity, resilience, wisdom and beauty of all bodies? This track will explore these questions and create spaces to challenge the ongoing ways mainstream media shames and harms abundant bodies, to name fatphobia in our organizing and activism, and to create media and practical strategies for resistance, healing and community building. We will broaden the conversation around fat activism by centering this track on the voices of Indigenous, Black, people of color, dis/abled, super-sized, trans and queer fat folks. Through workshops, panels and skillshares we will transform mainstream ideas around abundant bodies and create resilient communities, media and art centered around abundant bodies!

Please support and share this campaign! There are a ton of awesome perks for donating too!

2. Suport a Fat Art Exhibition!

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Second Helping Exhibition and Performance Fatinee is raising funds for their event!

Second Helpings is a group visual art exhibition, a “fatinee” of multidisciplinary performance, and a queer intervention into American popular culture’s understanding of the fat body as a deviant body. Exhibiting artists fight the stigmatization of fat bodies, radically re-envision the notion of body diversity, and destabilize deeply embedded hierarchies of desire.

Second Helpings features works in many media by 20+ visual artists, and 8 solo and ensemble performances. Selected works deconstruct and reassess body politics to foster a collective understanding of fatness that empowers and heals fat-bodied people emotionally, sexually and politically.

A new theatrical work humorously addresses the correlation between body shame and cultural imperialism. A 5-piece band named after pastries snacks ritualistically onstage. A debut video work explores racialized and gendered experiences of fat-phobia. A chubby drag queen pushes back on the ways her body is treated as a dystopian object of desire. Come ravenous. Help yourself.

3. Help the Fat Nutritionist become a registered dietitian.

Michelle aka the Fat Nutritionist is raising money for an unpaid dietetic internship so she can become a registered dietitian. 

Becoming a Registered Dietitian will allow me to offer clinical nutrition counseling — as well as the Health at Every Size approach — and will also make me a powerful voice in the fight to end weight stigma. 

To become a dietitian, I must complete an unpaid dietetic internship. 

Internships are difficult to get into, require a more-than-full-time commitment, and offer no financial aid to interns. In March, I was lucky (THRILLED, ELATED, OVER THE MOON) to be accepted to a 9-month internship that starts in September 2014. 

Now I need to raise money to help me actually do it!

$7,000 is less than I need, but I’m trying to set an achievable goal. My stretch goal is about $10,300, which would cover the costs of the campaign itself, as well as my internship. The money is for tuition, transportation, professional membership/insurance fees, and 9 months of living expenses.

Any money raised over this amount (plus the cost of new perks and taxes) will be donated to an as-yet-undecided good cause.

She has already raised her original goal amount of the extra funds will help her time during the internship easier.

4. Support a fat positive movie about fat representation in the media

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The move Fattitude has been running a kickstarter campaign since the beginning of April and have already reached their funding goal. They could still use more funding to make the movie even better.

Support as many fat community projects that you can! If can’t donate with money, donate with your voice and share this post around your own social networks!

As always, connect with me on tumblr and twitter.

Speaking Hypothetically

Yesterday there was a post floating around on tumblr that was a drawing of a fat disabled woman with the signs “Fuck Diets” covering her naked flesh. What many people saw was a person rejecting diet culture and the shame that comes along with not only being fat but also being disabled. Something that was suppose to be positive was turned into a conflict due to a few trolls that wanted to decide that this fictional person was disabled due to an illness not being taken care of. I find it pointless to discuss the semantics of the whole conversation because I find the idea that people are putting a label of disease on a fat body, a disabled and fictional drawing of a body ludicrous.  It is truthfully the sign of how much fat stigma is alive in our society that even a drawing meant to be positive and show body diversity is turned into something it isn’t.

What I want to talk about is the reaction from the people who were trashing the drawing by saying that their response was a hypothetical situation the drawing could be depicting. When people say that they are speaking hypothetically what they really mean is that they are not talking about you, so you don’t have the right to find what they are saying offensive. This kind of response to a push back against negative comments is not only meant to try and negate the emotional reaction of those people who are offended, but is also a way to try and silence the ability of anyone who takes issue with the person’s harmful stance. By saying that they are talking about a hypothetical situation it also makes it so that a person who has had their own body read in a similar fashion has no space to speak out, because clearly they are not speaking about actual situations that have happened to actual people.

Attacking a drawing, that doesn’t depict a real person, gives people who are blinded by their own prejudice an ability to try and remove their own responsibility that is connected to the harm their words cause. The issue really isn’t that they are reading a drawing of a person that was meant to be positive, but that they are trying to negate the reality that their words have been said about real people, with real bodies that live in reality. Their lives and body should never be used as a hypothetical situation

When fat disabled bodies are read as a being the result of an inability to take care of ones self that is not only fat phobia but also ableism in action. When someone sees a fat disabled body and automatically assumes that the state of their body is the end result of mismanaged care that is directly related to growing up in a society where you are socialized with fat phobic thinking. We are continually taught fat people have X illness and that illness results in X state of body, then our minds fill in the blank. Without challenging social conditioning no one is able to break away from the fat stigma that is so ingrained within our society.

By not breaking away from prejudice, people create these hypothetical situations while forgetting that there are real people with real bodies who have and continue to deal with people who do not think hypothetically about the way they read their body. All of us learn to read bodies in a way that doesn’t allow for us accept difference in others but question why someone else’s body exists as it does. Instead of allowing for bodies to merely exist many react with fear and push back trying to understand through ableism and fat phobia, speaking in hypothetical’s to try and protect their own discomfort.

Reinforcing Sexual Hierarchies in Fat Positive Spaces

For a long time I have watched as the fat rights community has continued to reinforce problematic sexual and relationship hierarchies in fat positive spaces. As a community we whole-heartedly reject the notion that fat bodies are inherently unhealthy or any other stereotype attached to our fat bodies, but what we don’t address is what I feel is almost a compulsive need to prove to others that we are not those stereotypes. While doing this we ignore the reality that people do fall into the spaces we are trying to not fill by distancing ourselves from them.

This kind of distancing continues this notion of a ‘good fatty / bad fatty’ dichotomy that makes it so those of us without “successful” relationships, who may or may not want to be in a relationship, feel as though we are somehow lesser than. If we were to be truly revolutionary we would be challenging the stereotype all together. Who gets to choose where self worth or social acceptability comes from? Who gets to decide that any person, regardless of body size, must conform to what we deem to be acceptable forms of relationships or sexual acts? Who gets to decide where someone’s sexuality comes from or what kind of sex is better? If we want to be revolutionary we should be challenging all standards of living, not just showing exceptions to stereotypes.

When is comes to sex and relationships the discussion is almost always led by someone who is partnered, is about having sex with other people while being slanted toward the idea that being a good fatty means being in a relationship. Very rarely does sex talk involve personal experiences from those of us who are not intimate with other people. It very rarely involves breaking away from the normative standards of sexual experience, which deems relationships between two people to be the best kind of relationship to be in.

Because of the widely held prejudicial belief that fat people are unlovable conversations have often centered on challenging that. It isn’t abnormal to come across blogs that tell people that they will be loved, that they will have fulfilling sexual experiences that focus on multiple partners being involved. This sends the message that intimate relationships with others, sexual experiences and self worth are related. While I highly doubt anyone has meant for this to happen, the reality is that by not making space for people who are not intimate with other people we are continuing to exclude people from this movement based on pretty archaic sexual hierarchies.

Within sex positive discourse it isn’t abnormal to see discussion about how female sexuality in particular, though I would say any gender that does not conform to the traditional role of male sexuality, is seen to have their sexuality given to them. The idea behind this is that sexuality is taught to women by men, that their sexuality is not manifested from within but from other people. Even when we remove ourselves from this traditional thought about sexuality and move into being more sex positive we still recreate this same narrative when we only talk about sex between partners or make a distinction between solo sexual experiences (aka masturbation) and sex with others.

It isn’t abnormal for me to be discussing sex with other people and a distinction to be made by saying sex with a partner is better than being alone. The truth is that I have found just as many people who don’t see the difference and the reality is that it doesn’t matter. Everyone’s sexual experience is different, I enjoy my sexual experience with my box of toys, and others might enjoy their sexual experiences to be with one partner or two or three. Some people do nothing, some do a lot. Every form of variation is valid, every form is good.

Discussions that center around only one kind of relationship or sexual experience, leaves room for interpretation that those are the only kind that matter. They continue to reinforce sexual hierarchies that are damaging not only to people within the fat rights movement but also to anyone who believes they are truly sex positive. Being revolutionary means speaking for all people, not essentializing aspects of people’s sexuality, relationships or worth.

For further reading,

“Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality” Gayle S. Rubin

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.”