Fatty Was Here and Still Is

First they ignore youWe’ve started watching a television show called “I’m Alive” about people who have survived wild animal  attacks.  It’s the kind of show where they mix interviews with re-enactments.  I became aware of something super cool – in the re-enactments they really work to use actors who look like the actual people including their weight.  So if someone in the actual situation was fat, so is the actor who plays them.  I’m seriously excited about this, since I rarely see people who look like me represented on television.  I even e-mailed Animal Planet to thank them (comments@animalplanet.ca).

While I’m excited and I celebrate the victory, it also brings the issue of fat representation into sharp relief for me. I read a quote today from Junot Diaz: “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” That is exactly what is happening to fat people right now.

Fat people rarely see ourselves represented in the media as anything other than a body without a head meant as a cautionary tale.  Fat people are as different as any group of people who share only one characteristic and yet we see almost no evidence of that in popular culture, and in many cases we see the exact opposite.

First and foremost is the War on Obesity.  I think the clearest way to see the issues with the war on obesity is to notice that a common and popular way for politicians to gain favor among voters is by promising to eradicate everyone who looks like us.  There are major problems with the way that the “cost” of fat people is calculated but the biggest problem is that the cost is calculated at all.  There is nothing ok about finding a group of people who can be identified by sight, calculating their supposed cost on society, and using those calculations to call for the eradication of everyone who shares that single physical characteristic.

Then there is the myth that showing fat people being successful at anything other than weight loss is “promoting obesity.”  This is among the most ridiculous things that I’ve ever heard.  As if someone will see me dancing and think “I wish I could dance like that.  I guess I’ll gain up to 300 pounds and then go from there.”  It’s insulting to my years of hard work and training, and it’s insulting to others’ intelligence. Like it’s the new V8 commercial:  millions of thin people, who see the same 386,170 negative messages a year about fat people, will see one of us being successful in some way, smack their foreheads and say “I coulda been fat!” The end result of this is that fat people are robbed of both representation and role models.

And so we are made monsters – blamed by shocking shoddy research for everything from workplace costs, to healthcare costs, to fuel usage; unwilling combatants in a war by which the government seeks our eradication, preyed upon by a $60 Billion industry that sells snake oil in the promise of weight loss that will cure our social stigma by working the wrong end of the problem.

I think it’s fantastic when someone outside the fat community reads my work and gets something out of it, sometimes I get e-mails from people who tell me that my blog has helped them identify their own fat bigotry and I’m always happy about that.  My focus, though, is that fat people knowing and remembering that we have the right to exist, that hating our bodies is not compulsory, that we are not required to be complicit in our own eradication, that we are the best witnesses to our experience and that we can demand to be treated with respect.

Sometimes I wish that I could put on some sort of fatty tent revival,  I’d call it Fat, Fat, Fat Fest and travel from city to city and set up a huge tent, gather all the fatties that I can and have speakers, poets, and all manner of fat performers who help fat people know they have options, to let them see people who look like them being happy and successful (with their heads attached), to see people who look like them who love and appreciate their bodies and reject our culture’s fat bigotry and claim and own their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  You know, if I start now it could be my project for next summer….

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48 thoughts on “Fatty Was Here and Still Is

  1. I would HAPPILY sign on as your first performance artist! Yorkie and I could do a duet and that would make me blissful. 😀

    Even if we didn’t start with a traveling show, a single revival to start would be FAT-TASTIC!! 😀 You have some of the most fabulous ideas, Lady. Your creativity is absolutely inspiring. Thank you!

        1. omg i would sooo love to be part of this.I would love to see you and yorkie in horned helmets.also I could be in the choir to accompany you.

  2. Bring it to Australia, I’ll be there in the front row. Actually, on second thought maybe I’ll just join the show. 🙂

  3. I think now that you’ve suggested Fat-Fest – you MUST do it! How awesome would that be! I’m sure you have enough followers that, like me, would offer you a place to stay. I think this is feasible.

  4. Fat-Fest. Sensational!! Let’s do it in the UK, seriously. I’m a Fat Motivational Speaker…hey, I’ll come and speak at your event if you like.

    Seriously tho’, it’s a fantastic idea. Let’s do it.

    1. Seconding the idea of a UK stop. We’re beginning to see the ominous first signs of a very nasty anti-fatty campaign here in the UK, through government propaganda seeking to deny obese people normal medical treatment – and always, always, fat=unhealthy, self-indulgent, FAILURES of human beings.

  5. You *know* everyone here is gonna squee and invite you to their town for Fat3 Fest. 🙂 Even if you just visit a few cities, it would be revolutionary. My suggestion, and of course I’m always willing to back it up with work and love: Start a Fat3 Fest funding campaign. Peeps who toss money into the mix are that much more invested — um, literally — in the project. ❤

  6. Dude! I would love to come do my killer Grace Slickesque singing thing on tour! I’ve also been known to act. Plus everyone will eat well if I can have access to a decent kitchen every couple of stops.

    Also, yay! for Animal Planet! I hadn’t had any great interest in watching the show, but maybe I’ll give it a try and send them a thank you note, too. We really need to give them props for this. I’ve seen several shows in this format in the true crime genre, and in most of them the only people who are fat and get played by fat people in the re-enactments are usually the ones who are then fat-shamed all over the dialogue/narration. You know, where they blame the fat for the choice to kill or the choice of victim.

    Hey, do we want to start a petition to thank AP?

      1. I’m not sure how to start one, but if someone does and y’all find out about it, would someone be so kind as to link it maybe here or on Rolls Not Trolls FB? (Or wherever?)

  7. I would love love love to participate in a FAT FAT FAT Fest! Would happily read/perform poems (mine & others) from “Fat Poets Speak” volumes I and II (coming later this year.) Pretty sure co-poets would do the same.

  8. I would attend Fat, Fat, Fat Fest…as I’m sure a lot of others would in Portland, OR. Make it happen!

  9. If you stop in the Tulsa area, I could do a story reading. 😀 Or even a chapter reading if I’ve found a publisher by then!

      1. That’s how I feel about Scotland and Germany, with some lesser side trips here and there. No date set, alas, but my GF is all over the idea of visiting our homelands–Russia, Latvia, Israel, and the Middle East for her. I’m not so close to Ireland, but I should stop there. A large piece of my heritage is Scots-Irish. As I explain it, my family was too rowdy for Scotland, so they booted us to Ireland. The Irish couldn’t handle us, either, so they booted us all the way to America. Then we spent a while shooting at the British who didn’t like us in the first place! 😀

  10. I really love your blog, and have become a huge body acceptance enthusiast since discovering it. Well, I was beforehand but I didn’t know that was what it was. Years ago I said to a personal trainer at my gym that I didn’t want to be weighed to asses my progress, I wanted to use measures of health like pulse rate or respiration rate or something. She said “rubbish – if you’re losing weight you’re getting fit; if you’re getting fit you’re losing weight.” I hated the gym after that. Then I found dancing and love it! A movement I enjoy for the sake of it, not because of a mythical weight loss goal at the end. Thank you for being such a brilliant voice in the wilderness, a beacon of clear thinking and activism, and for giving me the words to vocalise and explain something I really care about. I love it.

    And I came across this article today and thought of you, as I am sure it would rile you up in the same way it did me. I hope to see something from you tearing it to shreds! http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/wellbeing/8777736/New-diet-not-a-patch-on-sensible-eating

  11. I’m not sure if I’m remembering this correctly, so forgive me my statistical errors. Isn’t it something like 2 out of 3 adults are obese? And when I say “obese”, its that arbitrary number called the BMI I’m referring to. How can our great nation afford to extinguish that many of its people? And by the way, I WILL NOT pay extra for my health insurance premiums because I’m fat. Let me see, how much has trying not to be fat cost me? Diets beginning at age 7 (boy does weight watchers owe me for failing to make me look like Jennifer Hudson!), eating disorder treatment (inpatient) in my early 30’s (leading to a divorce), and a gastric sleeve procedure which has proven drastically disappointing (when it comes to weight loss). I think it’s safe to say I’ve used about as much of my healthcare dollars as I would like trying to make me thin. And, by the way, I’m healthy, otherwise. I won’t starve another minute, engage in any more of the 30 years of torture done to my body in the name of being not fat. I’m done. Besides that, I’m done watching people who are not fat (minority?) dictate how I “should” be. I am who I am, period.

  12. The contact link for Animal Planet didn’t work for me. Here’s part of what I would have sent to them:

    I have been on both sides of this issue. I was skinny for 40 years, due to genetics and an active lifestyle; for the past 10 years I’ve been fat due to high stress and the onset of a chronic illness that severely limits my physical activity. I don’t like to be put in a category of “fat people” because I don’t necessarily have anything in common with someone else, just because we share one physical attribute. I hate that people who care about me consider my weight to be my most important issue in life, assume I’ve made myself fat by being lazy and incompetent, and repeatedly remind me that I’m not going to be “good enough” until I am skinny again. I don’t like being misjudged. I try very hard not to judge others by their physical features, including their size.

    I am tickled that there is a show that doesn’t make fatness a moral issue. Fat people do not have the same personalities, interests, abilities, or even level of health. (Skinny can be unhealthy, too.) I hope someday our society can get away from this attitude. This show has a realistic perspective on this subject, whether they realize it or not, and I appreciate it!!

  13. I’m fat, I’m a storyteller and an artist, and I can do a bit of singing when put to it, and I’m on board. (I’m also, as of this moment, in the UK, but that may or may not change within the next month or so). If you need volunteers when this comes to be something more concrete, just say the word. TAP ME.

  14. I was recently really excited by the contestant on Next Food Network Star who had lost a lot of weight but didn’t really want to mention it at all or push it on other people. I was weary, but was super pulling for him when he said, “Fat people have been exploited enough, I don’t want to do that. I just want to teach young men how to cook.” And of course, they were maddened by him for not wanting to sell snake oil.

  15. Just found your blog and I LOVE it! I was not a fat kid or young adult but when I gave birth to my son 23 year ago I hemorrhaged severely (was given 30% chance of making it out emergency surgery to stop the bleeding) which caused my pituitary gland to die. I lost over 95% of my hormone function including thyroid, cortisol, aldosterone, human growth hormone, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone an DHEA and my hypothalamus was damaged too This, of course, also caused a 100 lb weight gain even though I am on synthetic hormone replacements.
    I have tried and tried to lose the weight but it won’t budge. I am sooo sick of being discriminated against. I am fat BECAUSE of my disease I DO NOT have this disease because I am fat.
    I guess when skinny people stop dying then I’ll worry about my weight little more. Until then we need more people like you!

  16. Another great post! Thank you, Ragen! 🙂 And Totally SPOT ON – We really do need more positive representations of fat people in the media. Every once in a while I’ll stumble upon a fat actress or fat singer who I find just fabulous and think ‘FINALLY a “role model” for people who look more like me’, and will be brokenhearted when a year or two later find out that they’ve bowed to the pressure and stigma about fat people have gone to great lengths to shrink their body size. And more often then not they fall out (or are pushed out) of the “limelight” when they gain it back. The ones who didn’t gain back right away seam to have dedicated almost every minute of their lives to “managing their weight”, becoming obsessed with it.

    It’s really disheartening. But it makes me realize that we need to go out of our way to “signal boost” blogs, stories, and examples of the positive representations of fat people and body diversity positive messages. It’s sometimes hard to dig through all the fat-phobia and fat hate to find the positive stories, but the search is worth it, IMO (if you have the sanity points left for it). Your blog (and Kath’s “FatHeffalump” blog) have inspired me to start my own blog. I’m going to do my best to find the positive to talk about, as well as addressing some of the “issues” that fat people have to deal with.

    I think it’s important to speak out for what you believe in, when one is able to, and I hope that I can bring something to the table.

  17. I also am new to this blog, and I love it! I am definitely fat – 5’7, about 285 lbs, female, 34 years old.

    I am an attorney, which means of course that I have a JD. I belong to Mensa. I have been practicing law and mediation for just two years, and have had my work praised by several highly accomplished attorneys who have been around forever and are the best in the business – they hold great hopes for me for the future. I run my own business.

    I am also an athlete – I have ran (and in one case swam) in several races to help raise money for charitable causes. I swim, lift weights, and enjoy sports and hiking outdoors. I have a wrestler’s body – a lot of muscle and a lot of fat. I am very strong, and have been envied by others trying to build muscle. I excel in physical activities requiring physical strength.

    I have travelled to several different countries, and participated in international humanitarian efforts.

    I am creative and good at coming up with new ideas. I enjoy art of all forms. I am spiritual and I enjoy meditating.

    I am into healthy eating to feel good and take good care of my body – no matter what I may weigh. Many people often assume I’m on a diet when I want healthy fare…they do not seem to understand that some people do that for the benefits of it, rather than because I think healthy eating will make me thin (it won’t, but there are tons of other health benefits).

    I am kind and am well regarded by others (save for the haters, but screw them) as generous, thoughtful, and mellow. I am conscientious and thorough in my work – not a careless slob like fat people are often assumed to be. I love animals and children and am very good for them – I am also a good example for them, and people who say fat people are a bad example are actually bad examples themselves – of extreme rudeness, judgmental behavior, and bigotry.

    Oh, and did I mention I am sexy? Yes, I get hit on a lot by both genders – and I that’s good because I like both genders. I receive lots of romantic attention, and I have fabulous sex!

    Now I have had lots of people want to be like me, and want to do many things as well as I do. But none of them has ever gone out and tried to gain weight to be fat like me, either, and no one ever gained weight because I did something well. And I am a pretty damn good example for anyone, regardless of their weight.

    1. You and Ragen and so many other fat people who exercise and DON”T LOSE weight just makes me want to go slap people who keep saying ‘if you just exercised more and ate properly, you’d be thin’.

      I have two friends trying to lose and I worry about when they plateau and get frustrated. I have another friend who did stomach surgery and as far as I can tell, she hasn’t lost much of anything, though it has easily been over a year. The only person I know who lost weight and kept it off became a fitness instructor.

      WHY do we still have these lies out there?


      Sorry for the surprise rant, I didn’t realize how much this stuff still gets to me. I’m struggling lately with feeling like I am ‘eating too much.’

      Rachel, you sound like a wonderful person, and I hope you get everything you want out of life.

  18. Once upon a time, people with mental illness were branded as witches or demon-possessed. No one realized that many had a real medical condition…a lack of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, etc. There are so many additives (along with fat, salt, sugar, processed flour), toxins, and chemicals in our environment, food, and water that are disrupting the natural states of what our bodies were meant to be. Maybe one day hundreds of years from now people will look back and say, “Can you believe what a bunch of idiot a**holes people were back then to be such haters to people with weight problems when it was often a medical condition and largely beyond their control all along? Geez. Glad we live in more civilized times.”

    1. I dunno, the most common derogatory things I’ve ever been called involve being fat or crazy–mostly crazy. And, yes, I do think differently from most people, and have been dx’d with some psych disorders and a learning disability (Asperger’s, honestly diagnosed). Took a long time to come to terms with being not all there, as my bastard ex put it, then learn to do things like properly understand the meaning behind things like subtle expressions and body language. It’s still difficult, but I’m doing much better than I was a few years ago.

      It may not be “politically correct,” but people still make fun of the crazy, the mentally disabled, and anyone who doesn’t sound or act “right.” Pisses me right the fuck off. (And it had better not keep my girlfriend out of med school. She’s Aspie, too, and brilliant, easily has an IQ of 160+. However, her tics show, especially when she’s nervous. I hope her interviewers only see her brilliance, her hunger to learn, and her need to help people.)

      1. Right there with you on the Aspergers. I’m Aspie, so are both my daughters, my mother I suspect is a very well-trained Aspie, and a niece in NZ is profoundly autistic… the sheer amount of energy required to socialise in anything like a ‘normal’ fashion is exhausting. I can manage to do ‘people’ for about an hour, then I have to slope off and recharge mental batteries. I’d think med school would be a great place for Aspies – I’d rather have a factual, calm, brilliant Aspie doctor than a touchy-feely warm-and-compassionate one any day.

  19. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”
    I used to really enjoy the show Bones because of the equal treatment of male and female characters and reasonably good representation of people of various races, although the two main characters are white. However, this show is rife with rather vehement sizism. In one episode, a very heavy woman is belittled for having body odor because of “mold in the fat creases.” In another instance, feederism is depicted as being normal for fat people. In a third instance, characters wrote various concepts on a blackboard and had to choose which item was sadder and which was more depressing. In this instance, the items were “a drowned kitten” and “a fat girl smoking.” The drowned kitten was seen by the characters as “sadder” while the fat girl smoking was “depressing.”
    In actuality, a fat girl smoking is neutral. One could argue that this was a PSA against smoking. However, the implication was that the smoker being fat made the situation “depressing” rather than “a bad habit.”
    This is pop culture. Shaming people with larger body types is perfectly normal and acceptable.

      1. I noticed the Bones pattern too. For someone who is supposed to be such an intelligent and educated person, Bones is remarkably stupid about fat.

        I’d join in a letter writing campaign. I do like the show generally.

          1. Very true. Hart Hanson is the creator and one of the executive producers. The other executive producer is Barry Josephson, another guy. Kathy Reichs who wrote the books the tv show is based on is listed as a writer and producer. All with thin privilege.

    1. The show “Two Broke Girls,” along with too many other sit coms to name, use fat people (especially jabs at overweight women) as the butt of way too many jokes. Odd, I think, seeing as how two of the show’s main characters (Kat Dennings and Jennifer Coolidge) are both probably over and beyond a size 12/14. Thumbs down to show co-creator and so-called comedian (who I don’t think is funny at all) Whitney Cummings, who could do a better job of writing jokes that are funny without being at the expense of a group of people who are so heavily (no pun intended) stereotyped already.

      On another note, I love the positivity that actress Mellissa McCarthy brings to her character on Mike and Molly. So why is it that every single movie role she has done has her being the fat, frumpy, mannish/un-feminine, out of style (clothing and hair) person who is the butt of jokes? Are these the only roles Hollywood will relegate her to? Sad.

      1. So why is it that every single movie role she has done has her being the fat, frumpy, mannish/un-feminine, out of style (clothing and hair) person who is the butt of jokes? Are these the only roles Hollywood will relegate her to?

        Hollywood thinks there’s only room for one sexy fat novelty in the world, and Rebel Wilson’s got it tied up.

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