When Fat People Show Up

Design by Kris Owen
and dudes, and gender non-binary people!  Design by Kris Owen

One of the ways that fat people are oppressed is through media erasure – as a culture we choose our singers, actors, dancers, comics, entertainers etc. based on their ability to meet a stereotype of beauty first, and then their talent.  Thinness and the current ideal of beauty become the golden tickets that allow people to express their talent.  People try to explain this away using ridiculous arguments about “promoting obesity” and “healthy role models,” arguments that fall apart under the most basic scrutiny.

Not only does this keep fat people from becoming actors, dancers, comics and entertainers, it actually makes people believe that fat people aren’t talented by default, aka Susan Boyle Complex. That’s why I’ve been so happy lately to see people who aren’t thin (I don’t know how any of them personally identify and I don’t intend to force an identity on them, this is just from my perspective) being highlighted for their talent.

There is the always amazing Gabourey Sidibe in her role on Empire which recently included *gasp* a sex scene, and her equally fabulous response to those who were so pathetic that they felt the need to hate on it:

gabourey sidibe sex scene haters
Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images / Via ew.com

Then on Dancing with the Stars openly gay singer/songwriter Who Is Fancy, sang about being boy crazy while openly flirting with the male dancers

And Jordan Smith has been absolutely killing it on The Voice

When people think of activism they often think of protests, petitions, blogging, etc. We can forget that showing up is an incredibly powerful form of activism.  Not just if you can sing or dance or act, but showing up at that pole dancing class you’ve always wanted to take, going to see that musical, eating at that restaurant, asking to be accommodated (also known as asking a business  to do what they already should have done – which is give people of every size the same experience.)

When fat people show up we can become the victims of fat shaming – that shouldn’t happen and it’s not our fault, and deciding that we would rather stay home is a completely valid choice. But every time we choose to show up – whether it’s to audition for America’s Got Talent or to watch our kid play the first lobster in the nativity play -every time we refuse to let the bullies and the bigots stop us from living our lives we remind people (though of course it shouldn’t be necessary) that fat people are just as varied in our talents, hobbies, and desires as any group of people who share a single physical characteristic and, more importantly, we help other fat people find the courage to live the lives they want to live and to make it clear to those sad little fat-shamers that they’ll have to peddle their bullshit elsewhere, because we’re not buying.

More Cool Stuff!

The Respect Our Sex Project is in the final push for their fundraiser. They are asking for donations of $5 (yup, just $5) to create access to sex education, resources, and gear for people of all sizes, physical abilities, ages, and anatomies. I think it’s a really cool project.

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

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

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

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

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

13 thoughts on “When Fat People Show Up

  1. I may have missed it, but what are you thinking about the Project Runway winner. It was so apparent that she was targeted by others because of her size. She was the last person picked for a team challenge (how stereotypical is that?!) and then was chosen as the one that several contestants thought should leave the show. Of course, everyone denied that size was a factor in any way.

      1. They’re talking about “Love Actuallly,” a charming, Christmas time comedy starring Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightly, and many more. I think it’s on Netflix right now.

        1. I know! I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it, now, but it’s been a few years.

          I watched it again last night, and did a few “waitaminute” bits, when I realized there were a whole lot more fat jokes in there than I remembered.

          Also, the whole thing about whether or not Natalie was actually fat. It shouldn’t have been “Is she fat? Would we really call her fat?” It should have been “What difference does her size make?”

          I still like a lot of it, especially the school production (the ocean-themed nativity is my favorite). But yeah, not as much as I used to.

  2. Gabourey Sidibe’s statement just made my morning — no, my day — no, maybe my whole week. It must just drive the haters CRAZY that she’s working and busy and happy, and had fun filming a love scene, and felt beautiful and sexy while she was filming. I love Gabourey! (I don’t have television so I hadn’t even heard of “Empire” before reading this, but her response delights me anyway.)

  3. I think that Jorge Garcia is a good example of this. He was one of the lead characters on one of the biggest TV shows of all times “Lost”.

    On Lost his character was a “fat stereotype” living home with Mom and who was so UN-atheletic that he could not even shoot a gun. Who the most intimacy the script would allow with his love interest was a occasional hug. Still he got a lot of air time and a lot of the show’s plot centered a round his character.

    Garcia’s next big project was as the lead character on the Sci-Fi show Alcatraz where he was a confident scientist and the show did not last long.

    Now Garcia has been part of Hawaii Five-0 from 2013-2015 playing another goofy fat male character who lives in his Mother/Grandma’s? basement. At the same time two other thin male actors from “Lost” have had serious adult parts on the show.

    1. LOL. It’s funny that you wrote that. That is exactly the next line that the character said. I think it was Emma Thompson who said it in response to her son, who played the “first lobster.”

  4. YES! I am a fat actress here in my hometown where there is a vibrant professional theater community. There are vocal fat haters in the audience, but I brave the storm by focusing on how important it is for people of all sizes see themselves on stage.

    1. I LOVE my local theater company. It’s non-guild, not-for-profit, everyone but the owners are volunteers, but it’s certainly not unprofessional.

      One of the owners is a fat man, and that man is soooo talented! Not only can he act and sing, but he can seriously dance. He’s like Gumby, in his flexibility. And so funny!

      And also very moving. Ever see the musical “Oklahoma?” This guy made me actually WEEP for Judd. Think about that a moment. That’s how good he is.

      They regularly cast fat actors and actresses in athletic, lots-of-dancing roles, that would surprise people. I was surprised the first time I saw a fat chorus girl (I forget which show it was, but it was one of those shows with “chorus girls,”) who were all described as beautiful, like Ziegfeld Follies girls, or something. Anyway, I wasn’t surprised at these women’s abilities. I was surprised they got cast, at all. Now, I’m so used to seeing them, because they are regulars, who can really hoof it! I get hot and tired just watching. LOL

      I have not yet seen them cast a really large lady as a romantic lead, but they’ve cast chubby (by that I mean bigger than Hollywood fat, but smaller than me, so maybe a size 14-16? I’m not good at judging other people’s clothing sizes) leading ladies, which goes against the grain, and I love it. Perhaps, my community is almost ready to accept a fat leading lady? We’ll see. I think the casting directors (varies by play) are not averse to it.

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