Who Are the Real Women

It seems that every day I see something about “real women” Whether it’s an article calling women who aren’t models “real women,” or stores that sell clothes for fat people advertising that their clothes are for “real women”, or ads for plus-size dating sites indicating that they will help men find “real women”, or shirts and Facebook memes that say “real women have curves” or some such thing.

I don’t know about you, but what I want is a world where we accept and celebrate the diversity of bodies, not a world where my body is seen as better than someone else’s. I have no interest in trying to wield the idea of being a “real woman” as a weapon. (Nor do I ever feel like I know better than other women what gender they are, as if there should be some kind of crotch and chromosome check and then some women get to declare that others are “real woman” or not.)

So today I thought I’d create a helpful flowchart to help people figure out who is a real woman and who isn’t:

Real Woman Flowchart

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All About the Underpants

Underpants RuleHere on DancesWithFat we have some posts that are annual traditions, one of them is this post about The Underpants Rule. As always, I’ve added and changed some things to help clarify questions that I received about the UR over the last year.

I have found there are rules that, if I follow them, usually steer me in the right direction. There’s the Golden Rule (treat others as you would like to be treated) though I prefer the Platinum Rule (treat others as they would like to be treated).  But my most favorite life rule is The Underpants Rule and not just because I named it, and not just because its widespread implementation would end about 90% of the jackassery and fuckwittery that happens on the internet, and maybe 50% that happens offline.

The Underpants Rule is simple: when it comes to personal choices, everyone is the boss of their own underpants so you get to choose for you and other people get to choose from them and it’s not your job to tell other people what to do and it’s not their job to tell you what to do. To illustrate, if someone is considering saying something that starts with

  • People should
  • Everyone ought to
  • What people need to do
  • We should all
  • Nobody should
  • You shouldn’t
  • blah blah things that have to do with underpants that aren’t yours blah blah

then there is a 99.9% chance that they are about to break The Underpants Rule. There are exceptions to the rule (detailed here) including and especially with regard to Civil Rights/oppression because they are not to be voted on or conferred, they just are, therefore everybody needs to respect everybody else’s civil rights, and it’s not ok to hide behind “personal choices” as a justification for oppression.

Of course telling you that you should follow the Underpants Rule is, in fact, breaking the Underpants Rule which is pesky, so let me instead make a case for the Underpants Rule and then you can make your own choice.

For example – I chose a Health at Every Size practice because I am a fan of research, logic and math.  I think that the research clearly shows that a HAES practice give me a much better shot at health with way less downside risk than a weight loss- based health practice, knowing that health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, completely in my control, or guaranteed.

There are people who think the exact opposite of that.  I know that because they come here and tell me so as if I should care, and then they say that I should do what they do.  This blog is my little corner of the internet.  It exists only because I created it and I am thrilled to pieces that people enjoy reading it, that people get inspired by it, that it gives people information to make choices etc. I try very hard to make sure that I always follow the Underpants Rule and never tell anyone else how they have to live and yet people come here and try to tell me how to live.  That’s annoying.

For this reason, I would never go onto someone’s weight loss blog and tell them all about Health at Every Size and quote research as to why I think it’s a better choice.  Those are not my underpants.

I do not enjoy (or believe) when people tell me that I need to become smaller to be attractive.  Therefore I would never say that thin women need to become larger to be attractive.  Besides the fact that I don’t believe it, those are not my underpants. (Not to mention that the path to high self-esteem is probably not paved with hypocrisy so doing to someone else exactly what I don’t want done to me seems ill-advised.)

The war on obesity is an underpants rule breakdown on a massive scale. A group of government, public and private interests (with various profit and political motivations) has chosen a group of people who are identifiable by sight and is now trying to tell us everything from how we have to prioritize health, to the path we have to take to become healthy, to how our bodies have to look.  Who died and made them Underpants Overlord?  Nobody. (I’m still waiting for my official fat person pony.)

My metaphorical underpants and my actual underpants have something in common:  if I want somebody else in them, that person will be among the very first to know.  I have definitely not invited the executives at HBO, Kaiser Permanente, the government, or the diet industry into my underpants.

Now, I’m not telling you what to do (cause, you know, Underpants Rule) but I’m suggesting that if you don’t like it when people attempt to be the boss of your underpants, then maybe take a pass on trying to be the boss of someone else’s.  I’m fairly certain that “Do unto others exactly what you don’t want them to do to you” is the lead rule, or the brick rule, or the shit rule, or something – at any rate a LOT of steps down from platinum and gold.

Remember, you are forever the boss of your underpants, your underpants are, in fact, your own  – occupy your underpants (with a nod to reader Duckie for that phrase)! I’m going off to see if there is a Guinness World Record for number of times the word underpants is used in a blog.

Underpants. Underpants. Underpants.

Underpants.

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Say Something Sunday – Tell Us About It Edition

Say Something SundayIt’s “Say Something Sunday,” a day dedicated, at least on this blog, to personal Size Diversity activism. I did the math and if everyone who views the blog each week did one piece of Size Diversity Activism a week, it would add up to over 1.5 million body positive messages put out into the world this year.  Multiply that times the number of people who might see each of those messages and things start to increase exponentially. To be very clear, nobody is obligated to do activism so if this doesn’t appeal to you that’s totally cool, I’ll be back tomorrow with your regularly scheduled blog post!

Today’s theme is “Tell Us About It!” Let’s inspire each other – leave a comment telling us about some Size Diversity Activism that you’ve participated in. It could be something you did today, or something you did in the past. (Posting something Body Positive on your social media, leaving a fat positive comment on a fat negative article, speaking up about mistreatment at the doctors office or a store, reporting a fat shaming personal trainer to his certifying agency etc.)  Big or small, and it doesn’t matter what the outcome was, it only matters that you did it, and we want to hear about it!

If you want to do more of this kind of thing, consider joining the Rolls Not Trolls group on Facebook, it’s a group created for the specific purpose of putting body positive things in body negative spaces on the internet and supporting each other while we do that.  It’s a secret group so if you want to join just message me on facebook (I’m Ragen Chastain)

Have a great Say Something Sunday!

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Bad Responses to Bad Fat Shaming – Starring Keath Hausher and Tony Posnanski

WTF are you doingA fat woman went to a baseball game.  Unbeknownst to her she was sitting in front of certified fitness trainer Keath Hausher.  Keath couldn’t manage to keep his eye on the ball, and instead took the picture of the fat woman in front of him without her consent, and posted it to Facebook accompanied by his judgments about her size, and the food that she ate at the game, calculating the calories she had eaten, and making fun of her for using My Fitness Pal. Keep it classy there, Keath.

The woman found out about it and called him out.  Keath responded “Holy shit, I’m a complete tool, what the hell was I thinking, I apologize for my absolutely fucked up behavior.”

JUST KIDDING!  He doubled down, saying:

As usual, I’ve come under fire for being a ‘fat-shamer’ and a ‘bully’ for my views concerning obesity in our nation. I stand by every comment without reservation…It is a public health issue. I didn’t name her, or show her face. It is raising awareness to say it’s okay to not stand for that.

He’s just another brave person bullying fat people “for our health and getting bullied for it, poor baby. Well Keathie (can I call you Keathie?) you can stand for it, sit for it, or lay down for it, but fat people  have the right to exist in fat bodies without bullying, shaming, stigma or oppression and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could become less fat, and you can fuck right the hell off. (Those wanting to make some sort of “but wut about muh tax dollarz!” argument – or wishing to learn why those arguments are bullshit – can head over to this post.”)

It turns out that, happily, Keath lacks the courage of his bigoted bullying convictions. After “getting hammered” on social media, he first tried the Jamelia approach:

I stand by MY views … not the one’s I’ve been inaccurately portrayed to have.

Like Jamelia, he learned that when you do something shitty in a glaringly public way, the Shaggy song “It Wasn’t Me” should not be considered solid damage control advice. So he then came out with this gem:

“I would like to take a moment to express my apologies to the individual in the photograph I posted and those it upset. One of the things I have learned quite painfully over the last couple of days is how sometimes something that is well intentioned can be executed poorly…

“Well intentioned…Executed poorly.” Good one Keathie.  He went on:

I have absolutely learned my lesson and will be more careful going forward about how I use social media, and I don’t think it’s productive to draw further attention to what is now behind us.

Not more careful about fat-shaming – but more careful about getting caught. I still think he should have gone with “Holy shit, I’m a complete tool, what the hell was I thinking, I apologize for my absolutely fucked up behavior.” but that’s just me.

In another twist, it turns out it wasn’t the woman at the game who responded.  It was this thin dude who enjoys pretending to be fat people on the internet who have been fat-shamed.  He crafts his responses based on “Good Fatty” tropes, making up stories about how the person used to be much heavier and lost a bunch of weight and so they should be treated with respect, and purposefully misrepresents himself, sending tons of traffic to his website were he posts these “responses”.  In this case he used his friend Beverly (complete with pictures and I’m hoping with her permission) who was subsequently hounded by the media until he admitted what he had done.

The problem is that this dude also can’t keep his eye on the ball.  Keath’s behavior wasn’t inappropriate because the subject of his bullying had lost weight. His behavior was inappropriate because you shouldn’t take people’s pictures without their consent, post them on the internet, and mock them. (And that sentence will be immediately added to my “Shit I can’t believe I have to say” list.)

Let’s keep our eye on the ball y’all – the truth isn’t “You shouldn’t fat-shame people because they might be losing weight.” The truth is “You shouldn’t fat-shame people.”

Activism Opportunity:

Keath’s certification is through The Cooper Institute. If you’d like to let them know the behavior that Keath is exhibiting under the banner of their certification:

E-mail through their contact form:  http://www.cooperinstitute.org/contact
Call: 972-341-3200 or 800-635-7050
Fax: 972-341-3227

Care to share some thoughts with Keath and Tony? (All the trigger warnings, obviously…)

Keath:

E-mail him:  keath@sharkfitness.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/keath.hausher

Tony:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/tonyposnanski

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/tonyposnanski

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

The Problem With Calling People Overweight

Actual SizeI got this question from reader Lissa today:

I hear fat activists say that they prefer “fat” to terms like overweight and obese, but I don’t get it.  What’s better about fat than obese or overweight?

Well Lissa, I’m glad that you asked! As always people are allowed to identify themselves using whatever terms they prefer, and I can only speak for myself, but here’s what I’ve got.

My issue with the word “obese” is with how it’s used to pathologize a height/weight ratio.  The idea that our weight in pounds times 703 divided by our height in inches squared gives a health professional tons of information about our health and treatment options is pretty messed up, and that’s before you take into account the fact that the “obese” definition includes Dwayne Johnson (The Rock).  In addition to being an annoyingly useless abuse of mathematics,  it’s dangerous to those of us who fall under its numerical construct,, causing healthcare professionals to focus on height weight ratio instead of their actual patients, even making them believe that they can diagnose mental and physical health issues from a picture of someone they’ve never met.

Overweight, to me, is offensive because it suggests that someone’s body is wrong.  It’s body shaming. Over what weight?  Saying that someone is “overweight” is saying that:

  • There is a weight that they should be.
  • They are more than that weight.
  • It’s somehow our job to decide how much other people should weigh

And that’s  crap. People are lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and it’s not our job to tell them that who they are is somehow too much person.  People come in different sizes and unless they ask us for an assessment of their body against some measure, then it’s not our place to say that they are “over [some arbitrary] weight.”

Finally, I talk about my use of fat in great detail here, but the (relatively) short answer is that I like the term fat basically because it is descriptive of my situation – I’m short, I’m brunette, I’m fat – I’m not over [some arbitrary] weight, I’m not (as The Fat Chick says) medically under-tall. I’m just fat, and there’s nothing wrong with being fat. To me the idea that I need another word suggests that the fact that I’m fat is a bad thing – something that I should be ashamed of and need euphemisms and verbal gymnastics for (like that whole “I’m not fat, I have fat.”  Right, just like I insist “I’m not brunette, I have brown hair.”) It’s also a reclaiming word – it’s a a word that people use against me, and my use of it is one way of telling the bullies that they can’t have my lunch money – and that I won’t stand for people heaping their prejudice onto my adjective.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development (casting, finding investors etc.).  Follow the progress on Facebook!

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

FDA: Trade Your Double Chin for Nerve Damage!

The FDA has approved a new injectable that might destroy the fat cells in people’s double chins.  Of course, sometimes it doesn’t work, and if it gets injected in the wrong place it will indiscriminately destroy cells.  Also, it can involve up to 6 treatments, each with up to 50 injections – so you know that’s gonna be happy fun time.

At least this isn’t another thing that can kill us outright. but of course you know that there are going to be side effects. First of all, it was only tested in “two clinical trials which enrolled 1,022 adult participants.” The “common” side effects include swelling, bruising, pain, numbness, redness and areas of hardness in the treatment area. Holy shit, where do I sign up? BUT WAIT!  There’s more…Kybella can cause “nerve injury in the jaw that can cause an uneven smile or facial muscle weakness, and trouble swallowing”. So there’s that. Also, it costs thousands of dollars so, yay, because who doesn’t have an extra few thousand dollars just hanging out waiting to be spent on a painful procedure. (And the study subjects were only given a 12 week follow up, so they’re just assuming the treatment will stick after that.) Also “68.2% of subjects responded to Kybella based on a composite of validated physician and patient measurements” the other 31.8% would have spent thousands of dollars, had hundreds of injections, and risked serious side effects for absolutely nothing.

I don’t blame or judge the people who choose to get this procedure, underpants rule and all. But I’m fed up with a world where we can’t accept and celebrate the diversity of chins, and where some social benefits can be obtained by spending thousands of dollars to get hundreds of injections to make our chins a little smaller, risking a number of unpleasant side effects on the way.

But the most annoying information to come from this is:  “Subjects also reported improvement in the emotional impact of submental fat when asked how happy, bothered, self-conscious, embarrassed, old and overweight they felt following treatment in relation to the amount of their submental fat.” I hope the fact that losing a couple of ounces of chin fat makes people feel somehow “less overweight,” helps people to see what a meaningless construct “overweight” is.

But the larger issue is what’s happening here: they help create a world where we are convinced to feel bothered, self-conscious, and embarrassed about the shape of our [insert body part here], and where being old and/or fat are bad things, and then they create expensive treatments to “solve” these “problems” that they helped create.

As my friend CJ puts it, this amounts to taking our self-esteem, cheapening it, and selling it back at a profit.  We are allowed to buy into this system, but we are not required to buy into it. We have the option to skip the injections and just love and appreciate our chins as they are (and while we’re at it the rest of our bodies if we want) and to fight for a world where people – and especially women – don’t have to spend a huge amount of time, money, and energy – not to mention pain and dangerous side effects – just to feel good about ourselves.

I’m rocking my double chin! If you are too, feel free to leave a picture in the comments!

headshot movie
Photo by Doug Spearman

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

I’m Too Sexy For This Prom?

Alexus Miller-Wigfall was given one day of in-school suspension for wearing a prom dress that was “too revealing” based on the school dress code.  Before we get into this, let’s play a quick game of “Which girl got in trouble”

Harrisburg dress is fine3 Harrisburg dress is fine4 Harribburg prom dress
Harrisburg dress is fine5
Harrisburn dress is fine

The girl in the red dress is Alexus, the one who was suspended. The girls in the other pictures when to the same prom with no problems. To be very clear, I think all the dresses are fabulous, and I have absolutely no problem with any of the dresses (and I think it’s super cool that they do this “red carpet” with the community cheering for the kids and taking pictures, but that’s beside the point.) My point is that this seems pretty arbitrary at best.  So what is the difference?  According to Alexus, the assistant principal told her, “You have more boobs than other girls. The other girls have less to show.” (I’m sure that conversation was completely necessary and not awkward at all... careful not to step in all the sarcasm.)

The school eventually dropped the suspension – though they have refused to clarify their position or explain their decision –  but it brings to light (again) a completely messed up idea wherein fat women are told at the same time that our being fat makes it impossible to be sexy, and that our being fat makes us too sexy. Either way, we are told that we have an obligation to cover up our bodies – to hide them from a world that seems to think that we should never leave our homes, stay behind closed blinds. ordering exorbitantly expensive clothes online and paying shipping (and return shipping when we can’t guess based on a size 6 model whether or not we’ll like the way something looks on our size 26 bodies.) This is not ok. If a school is going to have a dress code, then that policy should apply to students across the board, regardless of size (and I recommend checking out this post for a great discussion of the issues with school dress codes.) Our bodies are nothing to be ashamed of, and neither are our clothing choices – there’s nothing wrong with how much skin you choose to show, or not show, any time, at whatever size you are.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Colorado Preschool Takes Candy From a Baby

Grading lunchFour year old Natalee Pearson left for school with a ham and cheese sandwich, string cheese, and a 4-pack of Oreo cookies that her mom packed her for lunch. When she came back home the Oreos hadn’t been touched and she explained to her mom that her teacher wouldn’t allow her to eat them.

The teacher had sent home a note to clarify:

Dear Parents, It is very important that all students have a nutritious lunch. This is a public school setting and all children are required to have a fruit, a vegetable, and a healthy snack from home, along with milk. If they have potatoes, the child will also need bread to go along with it. Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks, and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack. This is a very important part of our program and we need everyone’s participation.

This raises a lot of questions, but let’s start with this one:  Who the hell wrote these guidelines? I have no problem with a kid eating potatoes and bread together but it seems like an odd thing to require. They can have bread, cheese, and lunch meat on a sandwich, but they can’t have crackers, cheese, and lunchmeat (aka lunchables.) They are apparently required to drink milk regardless of preference or lactose intolerance. They can have potatoes (fried?) as long as they also have bread, but they can’t have chips. Peanut butter isn’t “considered to be a healthy snack” by whom?  Who gets to decide what is “healthy” for a child – if the teacher is vegan can he insist that kids only bring vegan food?  If a teacher thinks that paleo is the most healthy diet can she insist that kids bring paleo meals? Apparently if a teacher thinks that potatoes are only healthy when accompanied by bread they can enforce that rule on the class.

When Natalee’s mom Leeza called the school they told her that they had given her kid some “healthy alternatives” instead of her cookie.  Leeza replied “They don’t provide lunch for my daughter. I provide lunch. It’s between me and the doctor in terms of what’s healthy for her.”  The thing about “healthy choices” is that health can vary for different people (a vegan kid might find peanut butter to be a great source of protein, another kid might die if he eats it) but the operative word here is “choice” which the school took away from both the parent and the child.

I think that this is a really important thing to notice: Not only did the teacher refuse to allow a child to eat food that her parent chose for her, but they offered her food that her parent did not approve for her to eat. So not only doesn’t the school think that the kid can make the decision about what to eat from her lunchbox, they decided that the child’s legal guardian isn’t allowed to decide what to feed her child, and that it’s their right to offer the child whatever food they decide is healthy.

The school director reportedly refused to speak to Leeza, but once the media got involved the director said “the note should not have been sent out and is being investigated… the school does not have any policies regarding telling students what they can or can’t eat at lunch time.”  All evidence to the contrary.

Other parents have been chiming in online, talking about the difficulties they’ve had when the school food police thwarted their attempts to get their kids through picky eating phases, growth spurts, or *gasp* providing a variety of foods and let their kid make some food decisions.

One mom talked about packing a lot of different stuff in her kid’s lunchbox so that the kid can pick and choose what to eat based on how hungry she feels at lunchtime, but the teacher took her dessert away and told her she couldn’t have it until she ate every single thing in the lunchbox.  Another parent found out that her kid had taken to hiding in the bathroom to eat dessert after her teacher humiliated her by taking away her cookie in front of her class and lecturing her on healthy choices  – that’s definitely setting her up for a healthy relationship with food.

Upsettingly people are justifying this based on the need to “prevent obesity” which suggests that because fat people will likely continue to exist (as we always have) parents should lose their right to choose what to feed their kids.

I am tremendously grateful to teachers for the difficult work they do, and I think that they have enough to contend with, without being asked to serve as the food police. Let’s keep our eye on the ball here and focus on making sure that all kids (and all people while we’re at it) have enough food to eat, and all parents have access to the foods that they would like to feed themselves and their kids instead of trying to have the teacher supplant the parent as the person who chooses what to feed a child, if only on the off chance that the parent doesn’t think that potatoes must be accompanied by bread.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Buy the book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development (casting, finding investors etc.).  Follow the progress on Facebook!

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.