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.

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

The Right to Talk about Fat Experience

When fat people try to talk about their own experiences with body shame, fat stigma or weight based discrimination they are always challenged in a way to undermine the significance of them with people exclaiming that some of those experiences also happen to people in thin bodies. While the truth is that many of the shaming tactics used toward fat people do happen to thin people as well, the outcry from thin people to also feel as though we must validate their experience ignores the reality that they always have their experiences validated by every mainstream body positive organization or campaign that has ever existed.

The dominant discourse that surrounds the body acceptance movement as a whole is one that is directly geared toward thin bodies and the lack of voices from fat people are not noticed unless you are fat yourself. People who think that the voices of thin people are not being talked about enough in fat positive spaces are inadvertently reinforcing fat oppression. They do this by undermining the experiences of fat people because they feel as though it happens to everyone. Not only is this incorrect because the motive behind body shaming and stigma of a fat person and a thin person can be drastically different but the ways fat stigma takes part in being a fat person in society turns into actual discrimination. When dismissing fat experience by saying that thin people also have those same experience a person is completely ignoring that they still have the privilege that comes from living in a thin body.

Fat people do not have to make space for thin people when discussing their own experiences because of this privilege and due to the reality that thin people do not make space for our voices in their own discussions. When a dominant group tries to invalidate the experience of an oppressed group it is actively working to silence them. Coming from a place of privilege and expecting an oppressed group to make space for your experience is not only insulting but shows that you are not really interested in understanding the difference among experience or forms of oppression. This also happens within the feminist movement when white feminists expect black feminists to open their spaces to be ‘inclusive’ when those same white feminists do not make their spaces open for all women or experiences.

As a white fat female with some thin privilege I do not have the right to expect fat spaces for people who are larger than I am or any other group that I do not fit into to open and validate my experience. If they allow me to be part of their space I am not only grateful for it but I spend my time listening and learning not expecting them to include me. I also actively try to understand the privileges that I do have so that I can understand the difference between my own experiences and theirs. We should be celebrating difference not pushing it aside and ignoring it.

As fat people we have the right to talk about our experiences without being bullied into validating the experiences of thin people who feel like we don’t talk about the similarities among us. We need to start expecting people with thin privilege who are also advocates of body acceptance to make our voices heard and not brush them aside. We need to call people and organizations out for creating a form of acceptance that doesn’t challenge fat stigma or discrimination. We need to tell them that our experiences matter, that they are different and that difference is something that can help all people regardless of size.