Another Tumblr Question

I’m slowly making my way through my tumblr and pulling questions that I think are important for my blog. To see more questions like this one visit the FAQ on my tumblr.

Anonymous asked: As a person who’s made it my goal to make myself healthy, I feel like I should share this. I’m all for fat activism, but I think there needs to be a PSA about health. Being over weight is perfectly fine, but being HEALTHY is the most important. Trying to get on the right track in health will change your life. As someone who’s been overweight I can vouch for the change it makes in your life & I think it’s important to share this. It’s changed my mood and I’m a happier person. Health is key. Peace

No it’s really not. What you want to do in your life is fine but shaming people for not performing health or living in their body the way you think they should is crap. If you were actually interested in health you would be focusing on creating a society where health behaviors are accessible to all people. That happens by removing social and economic barriers to those behaviors by ending discrimination / stigma marginalized people experience. Not just fat people but all marginalized people are impacted physically and mentally by discrimination / stigma.

People that only want to focus on individuals transcending the constraints on their life to “be healthy” is not only damaging but completely ignorant of the reality that people live in. Assuming that fat people need to focus on being healthy when discussing fat politics also ignores the harm discrimination and stigma does to fat people, with true access to health behaviors becoming a reality when we are no longer marginalized. Not facing discrimination, economic hardship etc will drastically change the ability of people to engage with health behaviors.

A more productive society is a more equal society.

When I talk about health behaviors I not only mean having access to fresh foods and places to move your body but also access to stigma free medicine, including treatment and testing. You can have access to all three of those things and still face significant barriers if you don’t have the time or ability use them. Constraints such as physical ability, stress level, family dynamics, class status etc also changes someone’s ability to engage in those behaviors. Even someone who doesn’t have those constraints on their own life should not have their humanity given to them on the conditional basis that they perform health to make other people comfortable.

This was originally answered here.

WJR Interview

At some point I will actually write an essay. Promise. Until then here is the interview I did this morning on WJR 760 in Detroit.

Click here to go to my tumblr where the audio is uploaded

 

CNN Interview

Here is a link to the video from the interview today. “Defending Against Fat Prejudice.” They cut out the intro and the ending but otherwise I was really happy with everything. CNN was awesome and was promoting the segment throughout the hour I was on. They also tweeted the segment from all of their different twitter accounts.

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Haley, my friend and founder of Redefining Body Image was awesome and put up a post on RBI’s tumblr with screen shots right after I finished since she was live streaming the interview online.

tumblr_mymhe3faRe1qesi41o2_500The past 48 hours have been amazing. I am so lucky to be able to do this work and have such an incredible community to be part of.

As always, connect with me on tumblr and twitter.

 

Detroit Free Press and USA Today Article

The past 24 hours has been an overwhelming outpouring of love from so many people within the fat positive community as well as new people who have found my blog.

If you aren’t already aware, I was featured in an article at the Detroit Free Press and it was picked up by USA Today. Since then I have been contacted by CNN and will be appearing on the show at 8:30 am eastern today (December 30th). If you aren’t able to tune in I will be posting the video later, as long as they put it up online.

Wish me luck!

As always, connect with me on tumblr and twitter.

Just No Jennifer Lawrence

For those of you who own a TV and would actually spend time watching Barbara Walters’ interview people her yearly special on people she thinks are fascinating is airing soon, mind you she’s interviewing famous people. I’m pretty sure she isn’t interviewing activists, community builders and others who spend their lives helping people in need (but that’s another post entirely.) If watch her yearly special you will be able to see an interview with Jennifer Lawrence, where she talks about how Jennifer has been critical of the way the media talks about the bodies of women on red carpets and elsewhere.

If you aren’t aware Jennifer has made comments about body policing quite a bit in the past and continues to make comments that appear on their surface to be body positive. Though overall her career she has also made quite a few problematic statements that make me wary of almost anything she says.

This is what she had to say,

Because why is humiliating people funny? And I get it, and I do it too, we all do it. But I think when it comes to the media, the media needs to take responsibility for the effect that it has on our younger generation, on these girls that are watching these television shows and picking up how to talk and how to be cool. So then all of a sudden being funny is making fun of the girl that’s wearing an ugly dress or making fun of the girl that’s, you know. And the word fat. I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV. If we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect it has on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?

Most of what she said about how the media creates and participates in a culture of body policing is true. They are pivotal in the way women in the media are spoken about and continue to create new media that feeds off of promoting white cis heteronormative thin beauty ideals. The issue with her statement is the way she is blaming this kind of climate on people using the word fat and not on how they use it as a weapon.

This kind of thinking has been around for awhile, particularly within body positive spaces where discussions about “fat talk” or negative body talk are being discussed. The framing of fat as a negative word, a word that hurts people, is completely ignorant of how the word is being used and the context of the statements being made. The word fat is nothing more than a description of someone’s body type, but when someone like Jennifer Lawrence is telling the world it should be illegal there is a huge issue.

When people are calling someone who looks like Jennifer Lawrence fat we shouldn’t be telling them that they shouldn’t use that word. We should be thinking about how fat phobia and stigma is so pervasive in our society we body shame people who live in thin bodies by making them fear fat people, appearing to be a fat person or becoming fat themselves. It’s not a coincidence the people who are telling others to not use the word fat are more often than not never going to be defined as “overweight” or “obese” and revel in a thin privileged reality by being able to frame words like fat as something that should be considered illegal. Nor is it a coincidence that the people who face the real harm are fat people, not the thin people being called or taught to fear fatness.

Their bodies will never be pathologized or thought to be inherently diseased like fat people’s bodies are. They will find no problem in denying how fat positive communities have used the word fat to build spaces where fat political identities are empowering fat people daily. That’s why when I hear statements like the one Jennifer Lawrence said; I know that those words are not for me. They are only for the people who look just like her.

If we wanted to actually challenge the media to create a landscape where white cis heteronormative thin beauty ideals aren’t able to thrive, we need to deconstruct how body policing isn’t just about saying mean words but a structure that denies people with specific bodies access to it. We need to question why we fear the word fat but are completely comfortable with using medicalized terms that imply pathology like “overweight” and “obese,” in all of my years dealing with the media they fear using the word fat but will drop o-words in a second. We need to question why we are only talking about the media being critical of the bodies of women who already have access to those spaces, but not the people who are regularly denied jobs within the industry due to issues with racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, fat phobia etc. (the list continues).

Once Jennifer Lawrence starts talking about that, I may take the time to listen.

**A reader reported Jennifer decided that it would be awesome to dress up like a fat person for halloween. Not surprised at all.

For the Love of Selfies

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The photo above was taken in 2008 when I was 22 after spending 16 years in hiding. Over those 16 years my photo had been taken by family members or other people where the way I was photographed was more about how others settled their gaze upon me and I wasn’t able to control or dictate the way I was captured. Much like what Melissa from Shakesville wrote, having my photos taken before the age of 22 meant it wasn’t for myself. I lacked the ability to move beyond how others decided to view my body and instead was forced into being visible in ways I wasn’t comfortable with.

Yesterday Jezebel posted an article declaring that people who take selfies are really “crying for help,” not only pathologizing those of us who take selfies but also completely ignoring how the dynamics behind selfies are more than just taking a photo or about vanity. Like many other people on twitter wrote, selfies can also be incredibly powerful in the way they directly challenge how marginalized people and their bodies are viewed by the world, while also challenging how mainstream imagery of marginalized people rely on stereotypes.

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As a fat woman who has been told repeatedly I don’t have the ability to be attractive, beautiful and shouldn’t be visible the use of selfies not only has allowed me to reclaim a part of myself I was told I wasn’t allowed to have, but has served to be part of a larger form of political resistance against those people who gaze upon my body. My visibility politic dares them to not look at me. Being visible as a fat person happens regardless of how you perform your visibility politic. As a fat person, much like other marginalized identities, your body is hyper-visible and are often reminded through interactions with others that they disprove of the way you present yourself. In the media, visibility is only allowed if you conform yourself to specific tropes related to the identities you possess. As a fat woman I am limited to only being visible if I am participating in a weight loss show, am attempting to no longer be fat or headless and completely dehumanized. (Edited to add link to “Headless Fatties”)

Selfies change all of that, they allow me to reclaim that part of myself I was told to never allow to be visible. They allow me to remove my body from the constraints on how others think I should be looked upon and instead let me shift their gaze elsewhere. They let me look back on past photos and be reminded how blissfully happy I was when I’m having a bad day. They also allow me to see how I have evolved as a person over the years and have found my more authentic self. Viewing the selfies other people take reminds me that I am not alone. There are other amazing, gorgeous and powerful people out there who are also reclaiming their own visibility. They are sick of letting other people dictate how they should present their bodies.

Aside from that for those of us who are still not ready to be visible, it’s ok. Being visible isn’t mandatory; it’s a process that sometimes we aren’t ready for or want to be part of. Visibility politics can still be limiting and I totally understand people who don’t feel the need to be visible, I still feel that way some days. The most important thing is living how you want to, not allowing others to attempt to change or dictate how you do it.

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For further reading,

Hashtags #FeministSelfie & #FeministSelfies <- Look at all the selfies!! (#feministselfie created by @thewayoftheid & @convergecollide)

The Radical Politics of Selfies – The Feminist Griote

Selfies – Shakesville

A Study of the Self – Fat Heffalump

As always, connect with me on tumblr and twitter.

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.