User Picture

David

Dossier

Website
http://uhpinyuhn.blogspot.com/
Twitter
dlenton84
Role Models
I started off my response to this section by trying to come up with a list of specific people, but I think that a common thread came through that was probably more important to focus on: I have a great appreciation for people who put themselves out there and really encourage people to THINK.
Distinguishing Characteristics
I have green/grey eyes (they're heterochromatic!); a propensity for sarcasm that is so pervasive that even I don't always know if I'm being sarcastic or not; and a habit of jumping from topic to topic (to topic to topic to...) in ways that might only make sense in my own brain. Oh! I also have a habit of gesturing rather wildly when I speak. AND! My face basically has a mind of its own, so it's extremely expressive if I'm not paying close attention to what it's doing. ALSO! Pink hair. For now.
Fashion Style
Pants and t-shirts. What can I say? I do what I can with the limited options I have!

Posts by David:

Linking Queerness With Fatness

Credit given where it’s due, this post came about in large part because of a thought process kick-started by a Twitter conversation I had with Fatheffalump a while back. She has a blog and you should probably already be reading it.

Ragen over at Dances With Fat made a post on her blog discussing the importance of Harvey Milk and his actions as an openly gay politician in shaping her approach to spreading the word about fat acceptance. The following quote stood out to me in particular:

You deserve to be treated well right now, whether or not you are trying to conform to the cultural stereotype of beauty.  You deserve respect, and you have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Right now. In the body in which you currently reside.

The reason that this post – and this quote in particular – really stands out to me, is two-fold. Firstly, while it might seem obvious to say this, I think that our (cultural) understanding of bodies plays an extremely important role in the denigration of fat; and secondly, I think that fatness and queerness actually have a lot more in common than we might first think.

There isn’t one particular way that we think about bodies. Gender, race, age, disability and class are just a few of the many factors that shape our expectations and assumptions about how bodies will look and/or function. However, a lot of the ideas that we have about bodies revolve around notions of bodily integrity and control (particularly around whether we have these things or not). The bodies of youthful, white, middle- to upper-class, heterosexual men are often held up, whether intentionally or not, as examples of the universal, unmarked ideal of humanity – that is, they’re the standard against which all other bodies are (seemingly inevitably) compared.

Against the standard of this type of body, female bodies are considered more permeable (they bleed, they are penetrated, they give birth) and more beholden to the whims of their biology (hormones, for example); the bodies of other racial groups are less civilised/more animalistic (black men are deemed more dangerous and aggressive), inferior (Asian men are assumed to have smaller penises), or exotic (black women are more sexualised, Asian women are smaller and more docile); aged bodies are assumed to be less capable of both fulfilling their roles and providing happiness; we focus on disability rather than ability; the poor are less healthy and able to look after themselves, so on and so forth. All of these are examples of the stereotypes that immediately position anyone who is not youthful, white, middle- to upper-class, heterosexual and male as an Other.

Enter the fat. As the stereotypes go, they are unable to control themselves and eat to excess; they destroy the integrity of their bodies by stretching them outward, creating unsightly lumps, bumps and ripples of flesh. They take up space and demand attention of their own.

Enter the queer. Again, going by the stereotypes, they’re unable to control themselves and go against the natural order of things; they destroy the integrity of their bodies by opening them up to new uses, making the should-be-impermeable into the actually-quite-permeable – and, in the case of the same-sex attracted male in particular, penetrable. They claim the space of their bodies as their own, put their bodies to their own uses and demand that the normative nature of heterosexuality be brought into question.

If there’s a sense of the grotesque coming through in these descriptions, it’s not because I feel that way. Rather, it’s because I think that both fat and queer bodies are seen as dangerous and frightening by those who seek to maintain the youthful, white, middle- to upper-class, heterosexual and male body (which I’ll henceforth refer to as heteronormative bodies) as the ideal.

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My Body Has a History

Warning: The following is an account of my developing relationship with my own body. I’m not sure if the content could be considered triggering, but I’d rather be too cautious than not cautious enough!

Putting aside the fact that I’m a PhD student, I have a very analytical approach to things as a general rule. As such, it might just work out that a lot of my posts end up reflecting my ‘academic’ approach to things – albeit most likely with a large side dish of snark, because snark is just so tasty. I do want to make sure that I introduce myself on a personal level, though. After all, I’m here for a reason!

It seems fitting that on making the decision to write this post I happened across Lesley Kinzel‘s ‘Scientifically* Proven: Dancing In Your Underwear Is Good For You‘ article, discussing the ever-so-awesome Beth Ditto and her penchant for performing in her underwear. Quoth Lesley:

Regular underwear dancing is a sure route to making yourself awesome. I’m going to go out on a limb here and prescribe the same practice to all of you. Oh, I know it sounds silly and juvenile and embarassing, but trust me — it’s good for you. Like broccoli.

I have a confession to make…

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The “Tyranny of Normality”

I had grand plans for my first blog post, but then I read this article and, frankly, grand plans gave way to annoyance.

The article begins by suggesting that “when it comes to health, Australians are fat, unhappy and leading the world in self-deception,” citing a study that, according to Melbourne GP Dr Bert Boffa, shows that “sixty per cent of Australians are overweight or obese but only about 30 per cent realise they are.” The study also suggests that men are less likely to realise that they’re overweight than women; and older Australians are also less likely to realise that they’re overweight. I think that the gender gap in ‘self-deception’ is particularly interesting (and probably deserves its own post), but that’s not what I’m going to focus on here.

There are a lot of details missing from this article and I think that it’s important to acknowledge this before continuing. How were participants sourced? On what basis was someone deemed ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’? How was the ‘self-deception’ (or, conversely, self-knowledge?) of participants guaged? How many of the 13,000 participants in this international study (including people from 12 countries) were Australian and can this number really be used as the basis of claims about a country whose population is projected to be over 22,000,000 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics?

These questions aside, there are some definite problems with the way this data has been presented in this article.

Despite the fact that Dr Boffa acknowledges that “we’re one of the most long-lived nations on the planet,” and that the number of deaths typically associated with obesity-related complications and health issues are decreasing, as far as he’s concerned fat is still the problem here. Why? Because of the risks of a “tyranny of normality,” of course!

See, we’re meant to believe that in a country where the ‘obesity epidemic’ is not only the topic of a new scare-mongering media exposé every other day of the week, has been the reason for any number of changes in how we live our lives and view our bodies (willingly or otherwise), and has also been a topic of discussion in our Parliament as recently as February of 2011, being fat is not only seen as normal, but has become dangerously mainstream! The fatties have all but taken over, thrusting their bulging bellies upon the poor, disempowered minority of truly normal-sized people! Sure, a majority of people in Australia are meant to be overweight, but “people are sort of fooled by what’s normal.” In other words, just because there’s more of them that doesn’t make it okay for them to be that way!

Look, I’m not saying that there isn’t anything important to take away from this type of study. The fact that “Australians are suffering more chronic and disabling health problems” is definitely something that should be looked into – although the assumption that there is necessarily a ‘correlation is causation’ style of relationship between fat and diabetes is kind of silly, given that you don’t have to be fat to be diabetic. I do, however, see it as being highly problematic to couch these results in a conclusion that not only fails to acknowledge that thin people can – and do – also suffer from all of these very same problems, but that also tries to argue that fat has become normalised in a culture that, in reality, is actually quite vigilant and at times even downright vicious in its policing of our bodies.

This last point seems particularly important when you consider the second part of the study’s findings that are discussed in the article – “that depression is increasingly prevalent in Australia, with one fifth of respondents saying they had it.” Dr Boffa obviously assumes that people are depressed and anxious because they’re fat. Putting aside once again that there’s nothing to say that only fat people are depressed and anxious, isn’t it just as – if not more – plausible to suggest that overweight people are depressed and anxious because they’re constantly being told that they’re not normal? That, to me, seems to be where the “tyranny of normality” really comes into play!


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