Sunday, August 5th, 2012
Cross Post- I also posted this to fiercefatties.com. I just really felt the need to rant about it to more people! I’m tired of being told to go workout, but only in what we, the bigots, pre approve and even then you’re probably not safe. If I walk down the road and get cans thrown at me in a T shirt and long pants, then why the hell not give ‘em something to really look at and sport a hot pink sports bra while I’m at it?
As Ragen Chastain writes in her new book, Fat The Owner’s Manual,
If you don’t work out, we will complain that you are sedentary. If you do work out, we will make fun of you for how you look working out. Now, go out there and exercise because it’s good for your health!
This is a point which she reiterates often, in fact, and for good reason. Fatties just can’t win. If you don’t work out, you get treated like shit for it, but if you do, someone help you, you’re an eyesore to the world. Fatties experience stigma and abuse both verbal and physical and that’s not even mentioning the non verbal stigma such as sideways glances, looks of disgust, or man handling. I’ve been circulating some photos of me at my gym, working out. I’ve posted them and had requests to post them in several places, especially the body positive spaces on reddit.com. Here’s a sample:
You know what the number one comment I get on these photos is? Something along the lines of “My God, why would you wear that?! No one wants to see that!”. Pardon me, but I’ve never actually had a complaint. This may be because I work out at a women’s only gym or that most people are too busy with their own workouts to notice what I’m wearing. People don’t avert their eyes or avoid looking at me, but even if they did, guess who’s problem that is? That’s right- not mine! I’m entitled to wear anything I damn well feel like wearing including a sports bra which, I’ll remind people, I see thin people working out in all of the time.
I’ve even gotten these comments from supposedly body positive people. That I should dress to flatter my body- I’m sorry, I thought I was dressing to workout, not compete in a fashion show. Now, I dressed specifically in this top because it would be going on my body and fat positive blog. It’s only one thing that I wear- my collection also includes several T shirts and stretchy black shirts that I enjoy wearing. This bright pink top makes me feel confident and energetic- just what you need for a work out! There are lots of reasons for me to wear something.. but none of them are to please anyone but myself. If you don’t like what I’m wearing, look somewhere else. If you have to look where I happen to be standing, get the hell over it, I don’t exist to beautify your world, I exist to enhance my own.
If you want to see the full set of photos visit my blog.
Monday, July 30th, 2012
[TW: Body Shaming]
Friday night my boyfriend and I went out to BBQ with two couples we love to go out with. One of the women complimented me on my dress when I sat down, and then told me I “look small.” My immediate reaction was a smile, but I didn’t really know what to say back, so I just said, “Thanks, I guess.”
I didn’t really know what to say because there was so much analysis happening in my brain all at once. First and foremost, I took her words as a compliment. There is no doubt in my mind that’s what they were intended to be, and she meant well. She meant I look good. And then I thought about how, in that context, small was synonymous with good; you look small meant you look good. The last thought I had before blurting out a half thank you was why is ‘you look small’ a compliment?
I want to look at the detonated definition of small. Google tells me the adjective form of small means “of a size that is less than normal or usual; little.” One of the synonyms for the adjective form listed is thin. So in that exchange, my friend was not only telling me that I look thin (good/small), but also that I look less than usual. What does this compliment mean to women? To be told you look small is, for one second, to feel thin.
Do you remember that old, awful saying propagated by Kate Moss in the 90s, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels?” What does “feeling thin” really mean? In the context of my story, it means receiving a positive compliment on my body for the first time in a long time. It means, for one second, feeling unashamed about what I was going to eat. Whether or not you are thin by society’s standards, it is how you perceive your body, and how you think others perceive your body, that fills you with shame or confidence. If you see yourself as big—big taking on the negative societal connotations here—it doesn’t matter what you weigh or what size you wear. And because big is seen as bad/unhealthy/wrong, women hurt themselves just to hear those words You look thin; you look small.
I’ve always hated that small is a compliment for women. This is a great example of a gendered compliment. A gendered compliment is when someone gives you what is meant to be a compliment about your body, appearance, or behavior due to gender. In my case, being told I look small was a compliment precisely because I present as female. By society’s beauty standards, being told you look small puts you closer to the ideal.
Truly, I have a problem with any ideal. Having an ideal, whether it is gaunt frames or pear shapes, is dangerous because it asks people to be something other than themselves. It says bodies should be one way, and if they aren’t that way, they are worthless. Many people internalize these ideals and become ashamed of their bodies. For a lot of women, being told they look small is something they long to hear simply because of body ideals.
I don’t want small to be a compliment. I don’t want big to be an insult. These words in the context of our bodies are responsible for so much shame and bigotry. When we are not talking about bodies, these words have interchangeable positive and negative connotations. In that exchange with my friend, I felt the flicker of internalized body shame: I smiled. She told me I looked small and I smiled. And I smiled because, in relation to my body, I’ve been taught that small is good; small is feminine; small is desired; small is sexy; small is a compliment. But as Google showed us earlier, small is none of those things; it’s none of those things unless I define it that way.
Monday, July 23rd, 2012
TW for ED, suicide/depression, self harm
Hi everyone, I just wanted to take a minute to introduce myself, Heather, also known as Fat Girl Posing, and tell you a little bit about myself and how I came to fat acceptance. I’ll try to keep it short. As an adult I’m opinionated and creative, something I hope comes through in my posts. I write for my own blog, Fat Girl Posing where I blog about my experiences as a local plus size model, as well as for Fierce Freethinking Fatties under the name hlkolaya and now, I’m happy to be writing here as well!
I’m fat- a deathfat in fact, and I grew up that way. In fact, I was a size 22/24 in 6th grade, only three years after my journey into fatdom. You see, before third grade I wasn’t fat at all. I was a “wiry” child as my mom likes to say, just like my son is now. I wore the smallest sizes and they were still big. So what happened? Well, hell if I know, but the doctors’ best guesses – and these are medical professionals talking about weight so take it, as always, with a few handfuls of salt- are that my body changed when my bipolar symptoms kicked in. Yep, I’m fat and kinda nuts (no, you’re not allowed to say that, only I am), you’d have to be to be in the business of fat activism I guess. So in three years I went from bean pole to, what, a watermelon or something if we’re sticking with food analogies.
So I lost all of my friends, got asked on dates as jokes, got beaten up, even had bricks thrown at my head. I went from the popular girl to the lowest of the low. At at ten, in 6th grade, I first attempted suicide. I’d try again a couple of times growing up. By age 15 I had an eating disorder where I regularly starved myself, abused diet pills, over exercised, and purged. I had also started self harming at that point. It’d take me ten years to overcome both.
How did I do it? For me it was almost overnight. I was at a friend’s house, talking about how I’d managed to get my daily caloric intake down to 350 and she handed me a book and asked me to read it. It was Lessons From The FatOSphere by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby. I read it, got pissed, stomped around for about two weeks and then a lightbulb went off in my head. It was only a month later when I started my own blog. For me it was the science of it- I’m a science based girl and I couldn’t ignore all of the evidence right in front of me no matter how much I wanted to. I threw out my scale, went into recovery for my eating disorder (then decided to actually tell someone about it and get diagnosed), and became an activist.
I’m a fierce advocate for all human rights and I value intelligence and compassion above all else (one without the other is useless). And that’s me- in a very small nutshell. I’ll probably be doing a combination of photo posts as well as text posts and anything that I find fat and awesome. Thanks for letting me get to know you all. <3
Sunday, July 22nd, 2012
[TW: Body Shaming, Mention of Dieting]
I remember the first time my fat actress fears were realized in the form of a high school musical audition: I went out for the part of Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. After the initial vocal audition, most of the girls auditioning approached me to tell me they were sure I would get the part, and then the cold reading audition seemed to solidify that possibility. When the cast list was posted, I speculated the only reason I wasn’t cast as Miss Adelaide was because I was fat. I approached the drama teacher and asked her if that was indeed why, and she said—and I’ll never forget this—“Angela, you know that girl is nowhere near as talented as you, but people in this town just won’t believe a girl your size would be a burlesque dancer.” I left her classroom in tears. I was 17.
My next brush with the limitations placed on a fat performer came from a theatre professor at my community college. I looked up to her so much because she was the most inspiring director I’d worked under and, more importantly, she believed in my ability. I could tell she was pleased when she saw my weight start to drop from 200lbs to 190, to 180, to 175. When she noticed I hadn’t budged from 175lbs for a few weeks, she casually asked “Are you going to continue with your weight loss plan?” I didn’t really know what to say besides yes. When I left her office I realized she was trying to encourage weight loss so she could cast me as her leading lady or ingénue; then I’d be believable. I felt judged by my body. People would tell me that’s just the way the acting world is. I’d say that’s just the way the world is, and came to believe that I’d never be who I wanted to be as a performer (read: person) until I was thin.
I recently started reading Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach, and in the first chapter she offers some meanings of fatness. One of such is: “To be fat means having to wait until you are thin to live.” Living can be defined here in a number of ways: finding true love, getting to the height of your career, letting go on the dance floor, feeling confident, wanted, recognized. For me living means performing. My early experiences with the body constraints of musical theatre made me sweep any performance wants—specifically singing—under the rug. I focused on writing instead.
Writing has always been a part of my life, but after I quit acting, it became my central art form. I put all of myself into writing; I even went to grad school for it. Writing felt like a safe place for my voice—something I wanted to share with the world, but disembodied. It would be much easier to get people to listen to me, I thought, if they couldn’t see what I looked like. My writing is not submitted to journals with a full body shot. The only things measured are the words on the page.
The musicality of poetry resembled so closely what I wanted to do with my voice (sing) that it was enough—for a while. Still, I would have daydreams of being on stage. Acting had passed, but singing is in my blood. Both of my parents are trained singers so I was always encouraged to find music in my body, but the real world presented me with images of paper thin and/or taut muscled female singers, whether rock n’ roll or musical theatre.
Try to name five fat female rock n’ roll singers. I can name a few: Mama Cass, Ann Wilson, and more recently, Beth Ditto. They are not the norm, however, and they get a lot of nasty remarks about their bodies. The majority of what I saw growing up—my idols, the starlets of rock n’ roll—were thin, lean, and able bodied women (not to mention white, cis, and straight). Forget singing lessons, forget years of singing with a band, forget passion and the pure love of it; just look like Debbie Harry crossed with Courtney Love crossed with Tina Turner crossed with Joan Jett. Right. Got it.
This brings me back to one of Orbach’s meanings of fatness: I spent most of my life thinking I had to achieve a thin body to be the kind of performer people want to see, and moreover, can relate to. This belief prevented me from truly living, from being who I want to be. At the end of 2010, I decided that I needed to just do it. Just start a fucking band, and get my body on that stage. But when I thought about how vulnerable my body could be while playing guitar and singing—the way I could lose control, let my body sway, jump, stomp, pounce, fall, bend, and shake—it scared me to death. I was taught fat bodies aren’t flattered by the movement of rock n’ roll. I still felt that I needed to reform my body before I would really attain success. I’ve spent the last two years on bicycles, ellipticals, ab machines, and diets.
I believe in being strong. I believe in feeling capable. The last two years of exercise and dieting have shown me that is what is important, and that being strong and capable are not everyone’s goals/they mean different things to different people. I have just recently stopped dieting, and I vow to never diet again (with some help from Fat is a Feminist Issue). Now, I am a year on with my band, The Young Dead. The 3 men that play lead guitar, bass, and drums in the Young Dead don’t give shit what I look like. They care about the music I make, my passion, and the quality of the performance. It still takes courage for me to get on that stage let it all go—especially since I’m the only fat girl in my city’s music scene—but as Helene Cixous reminds me, “Woman must put herself into the text–as into the world and into history–by her own movement.” Getting on stage and facing my fear of being publicly fat is how I place myself into the world, the text, and history. My own movement means being fat and being a performer; my own movement means living.
Friday, April 13th, 2012
After speculation that her ‘puffy’ face was a sign that she’d undergone plastic surgery, Ashley Judd responded at the Daily Beast with what has been harkened as a kickass feminist essay, a comment on how patriarchy functions and a response to the Mentality of Patriarchy. And it’s received such a positive response from feminist* sites for a good reason: it’s a good, strong argument against the negative effects of patriarchy in general and the objectification of women in particular.
Of course, not only is it good, but, coming from someone who has been in the business for over twenty years – and who therefore has the ability to take this conversation to the media in a way that most feminists probably only wish they could emulate – it has the potential to bring this ongoing conversation to the forefront of popular culture. Until the next hot topic pops up, at least.
Jumping right into her commentary on the way in which women’s bodies are objectified, Judd opens the essay with the following:
The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.
Judd goes on to argue that patriarchy “is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it,” challenging the idea that patriarchy is simply the product of men’s subjugation of women and insisting, rather, that it’s a system in which we all take part, but which “privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women.”
If you’re like me, you’re reading all of this so far and thinking, ‘Yes, yes, YES!’ This is a feminist argument, there’s no denying that. And it’s great to hear it coming from someone on ‘the inside,’ as it were.
The response to Judd’s essay has been explosive enough that she’s been able to continue her conversation on a number of shows (according to the Jezebel article, within “the past 24-hours, Judd has appeared on the NBC Nightly News, Rock Center, The Today Show and Access Hollywood Live“) and as much as I would like to say that she’s done an absolutely amazing job of following through on her argument, this is, unfortunately, where it starts to fall apart for me.
The following is an excerpt of the conversation that Judd and the hosts had on Access Hollywood Live (the second video in the Jezebel article):
Billy Bush: Let me ask you this. Every time – often times – if a woman comes in – and let’s use, [I couldn't work out her name] was in the other day, I’ll use her as an example, she lost 50 pounds, said to her ‘wow, you’ve lost 50 pounds’ – she’s been open about it – ‘you look fantastic! God, you look great.’ Is that – that’s an objectification, in – to some degree. Is that okay? ‘cause I think most women, when you tell them ‘you’ve lost weight, boy, you look wonderful,’ they feel good about it – they like that.
Ashley Judd: And I believe that is one of the ways that it’s very cunning and insidious. Because it is a compliment, yet it’s a backhanded compliment. And, you know, when I hear…or see someone who’s carrying that kind of weight, what I think is that there’s probably some disordered eating, that there are health problems, that there’s self-esteem issues, that there – that, you know, that there’s a lot more than just the number on the scale.
I understand that I might be expecting a bit much from Judd – after all, this was an off-the-cuff question and she didn’t exactly have time to think about her response before giving it – but I find that her pathologisation of fat within the framework of a discussion about the damaging effects of the media’s focus on women’s bodies is, at best, highly problematic.
There’s also more than a hint of this same concern about fat within Judd’s essay:
Four: When I have gained weight, going from my usual size two/four to a six/eight after a lazy six months of not exercising, and that weight gain shows in my face and arms, I am a “cow” and a “pig” and I “better watch out” because my husband “is looking for his second wife.” (Did you catch how this one engenders competition and fear between women? How it also suggests that my husband values me based only on my physical appearance? Classic sexism. We won’t even address how extraordinary it is that a size eight would be heckled as “fat.”)
Within this paragraph, Judd is making a salient point about how weight gain is used as a weapon against women, with the media trying to tell them that they should feel insecure about themselves and, as she says herself, creating a sense of competition between women as a result.
But she also goes to great length to justify, or explain away, her weight gain, by saying that she just didn’t exercise for six months (which is “lazy”). And, while she makes the point that heckling a woman for being “fat” at a size eight is “extraordinary,” there’s something that I find troubling about her specificity in this instance. I wonder if, in light of her comment about weight on Access Hollywood Live, she would feel the same about a woman who was a size ten, or eighteen, or thirty-two? I admit, this is conjecture on my part – and perhaps it’s even unhelpful conjecture, insofar as it is attempting to go beyond what is said and therefore risks being completely off the mark – but there is an almost nervous repudiation of fat here that, again, I find troublingly problematic.
There is a similar distancing from fat in Judd’s closing paragraph, where she asks the question, “who makes the fantastic leap from being sick, or gaining some weight over the winter, to a conclusion of plastic surgery?” Again, the justification – It happened over winter! That happens to everyone! – makes for an odd bump in an otherwise smooth argument.
I don’t think that any of this makes Judd’s overall argument less worthy of the positive recognition that it has received. This is a conversation that needs to continue – and if Judd can use her celebrity to push this in the mainstream media, then all the power to her! She is clearly more then capable of making the points that need to be made; and she’s doing it within an overtly feminist framework, using words like “patriarchy” on talk shows and filling me with happiness along the way.
I can even understand that, as someone who has lived in the lime light for so long, she would have internalised issues about her weight. It makes sense!
I just wish that, when making the point that objectification “affects each and every one of us, in multiple and nefarious ways: our self-image, how we show up in our relationships and at work, our sense of our worth, value, and potential as human being,” that she wasn’t simultaneously making comments about weight that reinforce the very same system that she’s set out to fight. Because this is not a conversation that should have any “buts” or “unlesses” attached to it.
* I’m only including this because, well, Jezebel…
Sunday, March 18th, 2012
Hello and welcome to the first of what will hopefully be many installments of This Week In Fatness.
The fatosphere can seem like a big place* and – especially if you’re a bit short on time – it’s possible that you’re not able to keep up with all the great things that are being posted by fat activists and their supporters.
That’s where This Week in Fatness comes in!
The idea of this digest is to provide you with a collection of links to materials that I believe are stand-out examples of what’s happening in online fat activism from week to week. There’ll be a particular focus on blog posts, but it’s my hope that the content – and the format – will be shaped with your feedback in mind. So, please make sure you use the email at the bottom of these posts to share your links, events, websites and ideas.
Without further ado, let’s get into this, the first installment, of…
THIS WEEK IN FATNESS…
- After visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia, The Fat Chick was inspired to write this Declaration of Body Independence
- Ragen, of Dances with Fat, breaks down some common misconceptions about the connection between obesity and bad health while suggesting that Jumping to Conclusions is Not Great Exercise.
- Fall Ferguson discusses what “health” actually means in the “Health at Every Size” paradigm over at The Association for Size Diversity and Health blog.
- Atchka would like to bring to your attention some amazing athletes, who also happen to be fat.
- The Fat Nutritionist critques a study on the evils of red meat.
- Red No. 3 highlighted a response to white fat activism from People of Color in the fat justice movement.
NOTE: I’m not on Tumblr. I don’t really get Tumblr. So this is an area where I am particularly relying on you all to let me know about relevant materials.
- The Well-Rounded Mama highlighted this survey being conducted about plus size women’s experiences with maternity care providers.
- Ragen is preparing a slideshow for iVillage called “Pictures of Health – Diet Quitters” and she wants you to get involved. She’s also calling for submissions for a “The Moment I Knew I HAD to Stop Dieting” video project (check the bottom of each post for details)
…In the News
…In the Spotlight
This week I want to highlight The Adiopositivity Project, which is an ongoing photography project that “aims to promote size acceptance, not by listing the merits of big people, or detailing examples of excellence (these things are easily seen all around us), but rather, through a visual display of fat physicality.” Check it out. [Possibly NSFW]
AAAAAAND that’s it for the first installment of This Week in Fatness. I hope you find this to be a useful and educational project and that it continues to grow from here.
Please, email us your links, suggestions and feedback!
* Pun completely unintended, but clearly appropriate.
Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
Sunday, January 29th, 2012
I was reading this article that Doc Samantha tweeted earlier. And after reading Coddington’s argument that I’m fat because I’m incapable of taking responsibility for my own actions, it finally clicked for me. I looked at that photo of yet another headless fatty and
wished that my skin was that blemish-free and I was less pale and, oh, wait… I had a moment of clarity. An epiphany, if you will!
Right here and right now, I want to declare to the world that, all potentially contributing factors aside:
I am fat and I take personal responsibility for that!
Wow. I mean, really…wow. That was a cathartic moment for me. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders – only not literally, of course, because I’m still fat. Haha!
The fact is, whether I take personal responsibility for my fatness or not has no material effect on my fatness. I suppose it could, if it then lead on to me making changes to my life that could potentially cause weight loss (although previous experience with exercise regimes and diets tends to suggest otherwise), but that’s really another matter entirely. The act of accepting personal responsibility in and of itself is really inconsequential; it doesn’t mean anything.
Coddington clearly doesn’t agree with this. According to her, if I were not to accept personal responsibility for my fatness, it would have to be because I’m “mentally incapable of choosing what’s right and wrong when it comes to putting food in [my] mouth.” Further, she goes on to sugest that, as a fat person, I’m obviously “too dumb to discern healthy food from bad food” and I must be blaming my fatness on the idea that I’ve been “brainwashed” into wanting bad food by “big institutions and the market.” Because if I were accepting personal responsibility for my fatness, obviously I wouldn’t be fat.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment. I mean, if you’re fat like me, you’re going to need the extra time, amirite!? *badum tish*
I hope you’re not getting the wrong impression about Coddington as you read this
vitriolic tirade well-reasoned argument. She cares.
Every day, in every town and city, we all see fat people waddling along, heaving themselves into planes and cars, but are we allowed to comment on this, the way we were encouraged to shame smokers into quitting (who also cost taxpayers dearly in terms of the public health bill)?
Do you see what I mean? She only has your best interest at heart, because she doesn’t want to see you being a public health nuisance by…uhm…blowing your fatty breath into other people’s faces? Knocking other people over as you waddle about the place? Infecting others with your zombie-like compliance to eating unhealthy food when you mistake them for food and try to eat them?
Coddington isn’t saying anything new here – and neither are the numerous commenters voicing support for her. I think that in and of itself is rather telling, because it gets down to the heart of what “taking responsibility” for your fatness really seems to mean: that is, they want you to accept that you’re bringing these negative comments on yourself by being fat.
You are fat, ergo, it’s your fault that Coddington and her ilk feel the need – nay, the responsibility – to all but chase you down the street screaming “FATTY FAT STUPID FATTY!!” at you as you go. Because, guys, to do anything else would simply be “patronising and silly,” which would basically be putting academics out of business. And do you want to cost people even more money!? God, what is wrong with you!?
Of course, it would be a bit problematic for you to just stop eating all that food that you’re endlessly shoving down your gob. I mean, obviously we wouldn’t want anyone to think that “the food industry [is] conspiring to make us obese,” because that would just be stupid! So what if we’re increasingly inundated with advertising that tries to tell us that the only way we can be happy is to be good little consumers – and that advertising for fast food in particular tends to push the unrealistic notion that you can all but live on a diet of [insert brand here] while prancing around on at the beach with your equally attractive and svelte friends. Never mind that fast food is generally a lot cheaper, more accessible and easier to deal with when you’re running against the clock. Because the ever-increasing proliferation of these things doesn’t mean that the food industry is trying to make us obese! Duh. It’s just trying to get as much money out of us as possible – and these are entirely different things!
Jeez, stop being so stupid, fatties.
As Coddington says, “individuals need to be held accountable and stop blaming food and its makers for their problem.” And, I’ve gotta tell you, all of this taking on of personal responsibility has sure made me work up an appetite! I think I’m going to go and grab myself some Burger King. Or maybe some McDonalds.
I could totally go some KFC…
I’ll just go wherever’s closest, because I am feeling especially lazy today.
See you later!
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
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.