Fat Bodies Are Not Public Property

What a Load of CrapI was running and he was riding his bike.  We were coming up on a narrow passage between a light post and a bus stop.  I stopped and motioned for him to come through. Instead he stopped, blocking my path, and started talking. I took off one of my headphones, and this happened:

Him: Do me a favor, don’t lose too much weight.

Me:  Well I’m not interested in losing weight at all, but it’s not really any of your business.

Him (getting frustrated): It was actually a compliment.

Me (not willing to offer bonus points for mansplaining our interaction to me): No, it was an attempt to suggest that I should form my body based on your preferences.

Him:  You know what, fuck you, have a good night.

Me:  Back at you sir.

One of the side effects of this ridiculously horrific “war on obesity” is the totally bullshit message that a fat body is a sign that someone should be told that their body is wrong, and given anyone and everyone’s advice on what we should, or shouldn’t, be doing to “fix” that.

So when fat people go out in public, people often confuse us for public property presented for their judgments and comments.  If we aren’t exercising they tell us what we should be, if we are exercising, they say that we’re doing it wrong (or they just moo from their car, or throw eggs,) if we’re eating a salad they congratulate us, if we are’t eating a salad they chide us as if our food is any of their damn business.

In our culture there is also a deeply mistaken notion that all women should care about whether men find us attractive, as expressed by men telling us that we should lose weight (but not too much,) gain weight (but not too much,) smile, dress sexier, dress less sexy etc. Plenty of the hatemail I get is just some dude saying “I’d never fuck you.”  (To which my response is – You are so very right about that.)

The fact that a body is fat doesn’t make it public property, or open for public comment. If a fat person wants to hear your thoughts about their body, clothes, fitness, or food, just assume that you’ll be among the very first to know. And until you know, it would be just peachy keen if you would keep your judgments, preferences,or advice to yourself.

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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.

 

An Insult Comic and a Fat Activist Walk Into a Bar

Lisa Lampanelli and Ragen Chastain
No makeup selfie!

I am sitting in the bar of a lovely, understated hotel in Los Angeles, two minutes into a meeting with famous comic Lisa Lampanelli.  I’ve decided to break the ice by coughing for five minutes (it could have been less or more, it felt like an hour so I’m rounding down.)  I’ve gotten over a nasty cold, but I can’t stop my lungs from freaking out. I had not planned on broaching  the subject ( because “nice to meet you, I swear I’m not contagious” isn’t the smoothest of greetings) but this is happening in real time, so that cat’s out of the bag. Lisa is being incredibly kind, which will become a theme of our meeting.

When I saw the tweet from Lisa asking me to message her, my first thought was “are my trolls effing with me?” But I checked it out and it turns out it was the real Lisa Lampanelli.  She was going to be in town for a few days so we arranged to meet to discuss “Stuffed,” a play she is debuting around women’s relationships with food and body image. I’ve been hearing about this play for a while and I was super excited to meet with her – obviously this topic is really important to me, she has a big platform to talk about it, and I was glad that she was talking to fat acceptance folks.

I also wasn’t completely sure what to expect.  Lisa is famous for being an insult comic. As a feminist and total stand up comedy nerd I have tremendous admiration for her because I’m aware of how difficult it is for women to get traction in the stand up world.  And I know the history and artistry of insult comedy, how it can actually be considered a form social justice comedy because it shows stereotypes and prejudices for how ridiculous they are.  In my pre-meeting research I found a review of her by BET.com that explained:

Lisa is known for her vicious comedy, but seeing a full show versus a Comedy Central Roast, Lampanelli is not as offensive as she is portrayed by her critics. She is obviously commentating on the absurdities of race, sexuality, gender and class. The comedian creatively unravels stereotypes, pulls back the creepy layers, turns the mirror on the audience and rages, “Now do you how see how stupid these stereotypes are?

I get that, I get that there are people who don’t agree with that, and either way I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it sometimes makes me uncomfortable.  I was hoping that was where she was coming from, because if not I was worried that I was going to be in a situation where I had to say “I admire many things about you, but I can’t support what you’re doing.” I’ve been there before, and it sucks a lot. And I was equally, if not more, worried that after hearing more about my work, she would say the same thing to me.  I’ve been there before too, and it also sucks a lot.

I needn’t have worried.  We’re now over an hour into the meeting and she is warm, and kind, and hilarious, and she is asking me serious questions about Fat Acceptance and Health at Every Size and she is listening, really listening, to my answers (I talk when I’m nervous so it’s a borderline babblefest and she’s just taking it in stride.) She’s also being honest and vulnerable – sharing her personal journey with food and body image, weight loss surgery that didn’t solve those issues, and the ways that she wants to evolve her work and use her fame to change the conversation around food, weight, and health to make a serious difference in the world.  She gets it, and it’s always super cool when someone famous turns out to be awesome in real life.

Three and a half hours after we started I’m leaving the hotel, and I’m smiling. We talked about Fat Acceptance, Health at Every Size, the “reality” in reality TV, racism, ableism, dealing with body hatred, and more.  I’m super excited about the play and even more excited about the possibilities for an insult comic/playwright and a fat activist to do some very cool things together.

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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.

Pokémon Go and Fat People

Landon
Landon the Landwhale is not an official Pokemon, but I think he should be! Thanks to the always awesome Jeanette DePatie  who had him made for me.

If you are not familiar, the basic concept of Pokémon is that there are monsters everywhere, and they can be caught, trained, and then engage in battle with other Pokémon.  Its incarnations including a television show, card game, and video games.  Now, there is an augmented reality game called Pokémon Go. Basically the app allows players to use their phone’s GPS to find and capture monsters as they travel around. They can also go to designated Pokestops to get items and interact, and take their monsters to locations designated as “gyms” to train and battle other people’s Pokémon. (Correct me if I’m wrong Pokémon playing peeps!)

 

There is much talk about how the game encourages people to get out of the house and walk around (there are also concerns about accessibility and ableism related to this.) Of course we can’t have anything without dragging the whole “war on obesity” thing into it (this is why we can’t have nice things…)  which has led to countless memes about how Pokemon Go will “end obesity” or “prevent obesity.”  This is bad for a bunch of reasons.

First of all, it contributes to the stereotype that you can tell how active someone is by their size. Some fat people aren’t active, some are very active, and some are in between the extremes – just like thin people. Nobody is obligated to be “active” by any definition, and being “active” by any definition is not even close to a guarantee of having a thin body, and making wild guesses about people based on how they look is a shitty thing to do.

Using “preventing obesity” language creates a situation where you are trying to motivate some participants by telling them that they should participate so that they don’t become like other (larger bodied) participants which can be stigmatizing to larger bodied participants and make them them less likely to want to be involved. Not to mention that there’s no reason to believe that people who play the game won’t become fat.

Using “eradicating obesity” language suggests that other people playing the game should see fat players as problems that have not yet been solved, or as people who must not be playing the game “right” or “enough” since they are still fat.  This creates an environment that is less than welcoming.

Even if people do choose to play the game as a way to support their health (knowing that health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances) the research shows that activity can have health benefits for people of all sizes.  If we mislead people to believe that it’s only improving their health if it makes them thinner, and they are only playing the game for health, then people will quit when they don’t lose weight, and they’ll lose the actual health benefits they might have gained.

Finally, if you hope that people will participate in a game, it may be helpful to note that people are less likely to participate in activities if they see them as punishment for their body size, rather than as something fun to do. So why don’t we cut the fatphobic bullshit and just invite people of all sizes to have fun playing the game.

REGISTER FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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.