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.

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,

 

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Or even part of your body like this photo via fatheffalump

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Please submit and share. ❤