Archaeologists found this marble figure at a dig in Çatalhöyük, Turkey. According to the Ministry of Culture the statue dates to between 8000 and 5500 B.C., weighs about 2 pounds, and is around 6.7 inches long.
Of course some people took this opportunity to fat shame the statue (because some people have too much free time.) What I want to talk about today is the comments that I saw that seemed to unravel the whole fat shaming argument whilst trying to make it. They went something like this:
“I didn’t know that they had [insert fast food restaurant, name of soda, type of food] back then.”
Wow, so funny I forgot to laugh. The thing is, they didn’t. They didn’t have any of the things that they are trying to get rid of, or tax, in an effort to eradicate fat people. And guess what, there were still fat people. There always have been fat people, there always will be fat people and eradicating fat people is not a worthy, or even remotely appropriate, goal.
The good news is that the existence throughout history of art that featured fat figures means that we have opportunities to see bodies that look like ours celebrated!
By coincidence, the same day I saw this, I received a package in the mail, a present from Julianne from the completely fabulous LAUGHING GODDESS MAGICKAL APOTHECARY a “gleefully fat and body positive grotto where handcrafted bath, beauty, and magickal goodies await you!”
One soap that says I Love My Rolls:
and another fabulous goddess soap:
These join the positive representations of fat that we make sure to have all over our home.
Bodies of all sizes have been celebrated throughout history and our bodies should be no different! If you have some favorite body positive art feel free to leave it in the comments so that we can all appreciate it.
If you’re struggling with celebrating your body, consider joining us for the 2017 Body Love Obstacle Course!
This year we have two separate options – the BLOC Power Circle – an intense course that includes a series of live calls and is limited to only 10 people, and the BLOC e-Course which is self-paced and utilizes recordings. Both include the same curriculum and are coached by me, Jeanette DePatie, and amazing guest coaches.
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16 thoughts on “Old Statue, New Fat Shaming”
I remember reading a commentary many years ago, actually in a scholarly book, about the so-called Venus of Willendorf. The author stated as fact that the statue was fantasy, because Neolithic people could never have been fat on the diet that was available to them. It made me angry, because if you have never seen a fat person, you would never be able to make such an anatomically accurate statue as the Venus is,or as the charming figure you illustrate here at the beginning of your article! It’s kind of mind-blowing that that didn’t occur to the author. These depictions of very ancient fat people are certain proof that at least some of the ancient population were indeed fat!
I’ve seen that same lame argument. I’ve also seen the idiotic argument that it’s not a fat woman but that it’s only supposed to represent a pregnant woman. lol Yeah, last time I checked pregnant women’s bodies swell out from the front where the baby is growing. It doesn’t at all explain Venus of Willendorf’s belly being as wide, if not wider at the sides than it protrudes out, and it doesn’t explain it’s huge butt, thighs.
The lengths that fatphobic people will go through to deny the existence of fat people throughout history would be really funny if it wasn’t so sad. They just can’t admit that fast food didn’t invent fat people and that people come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and they have in the past and they will in the future.
Hell, if fatphobes want proof there were significant numbers of fat people in the ancient world, they need only look at their own favorite word: obesity. Its Latin form, obesus, dates to the Roman Empire, and it was being used by naturalists in the 1700’s. Why would either of them have a (n insulting) word to describe a type of body that didn’t exist?
And for those who absolutely WILL insist that there is a universal standard of beauty (that includes thin ONLY), I’d just like to point out that carving even a small statuette takes hard work and time, and doing it back in the days when they had no fancy tools, and had to work from sunup to sundown for subsistence, they probably would not take the time, or work so hard with their primitive tools to create even a very small statuette of something they found ugly and/or hateful.
They put the time and effort into it because they loved it. Either they loved the look, in general, or they loved someone particular who looked like that. One or the other, but there was certainly some love, involved.
And, yeah, 1) this is far too realistic to be a fantasy, and 2), even if it were a fantasy, why would they go to all the time and trouble to create a fantasy, if they didn’t like it, in the first place?!
I just did an image search for “Çatalhöyük statue” and got noodles of statues, most (but not all) of them fat.
Could it be that the people of Çatalhöyük in the olden days really preferred fat people?
According to some Polynesian friends I used to hang out with a lot, YEPPERS!
A Tongan friend told me that once upon a time, a Tongan king loved fat women so much, he declared them to be the most beautiful, and most of the men of his kingdom fell in line with the declaration (and the women either embraced their existing fat, or else ate more, to try to be more beautiful) and started courting fat women, too.
In other words, different cultures and different times, there HAVE been times and places where fat was considered better and more beautiful than thin or even “average.”
I don’t have citations (yes, I am lazy) but I remember hearing that fat used to be prized because it meant you a) weren’t sick and b) a woman who could probably carry a baby to term and c) well off enough to not be starving to death.
These are all important things in the days of no medicine and food scarcity.
Yeah, fat used to be considered a sign of fertility in women, and nowadays, people say that fat women can’t have babies. Not shouldn’t. Can’t. They actually say that.
Boggles my mind, really, especially in light of the fact that “fertility goddess” is the first go-to assumption any time one of these little fat woman statues is found. “Hmmmm, fat woman, huh? Must be a fertility goddess. Couldn’t possibly be, I don’t know, porn? Or any standard of beauty. Nope. Gotta be fertility goddess.”
People are weird.
The argument that fat people never existed on early neolithic (etc.) diets and that these figurines only represent a fantasy has always been an nonsensical argument to me. How would they even imagine such a thing so accurately if they had never seen it?
Personally, I see this statue as a sign that lipedema existed back in the old days. If you look at the size of her ankles (large) and the size of her feet (not large), that’s a classic sign of lipedema.
(If you are reading this and don’t know what lipedema is, I have a good informational series on it over at my blog.)
There is a theory going around that these statues were made by women, because if you look at from the top down, that is similar to how women see their own bodies.
Thanks for the link–interesting read.
While I agree that sexism has been rife in anthropology and I don’t think we can ever know the gender of the artists in question, I found this article a little sizeist, really. The author refers to the Willendorf figure as having “the impossibly voluptuous, improbably curvy, overtly sexualised female form that has all the “alien appeal” […] of Kim Kardashian.” Impossibly voluptuous? Improbably curvy? Alien? Really? (I will grant the emphasis on sexualization). I see women of similar proportions every friggin’ day.
Why the tiny heads and pointed feet? Again, who knows–but small heads break less readily and pointed feet can be used to set a figure upright in earth or sand. Most of these figures are a portable size. The selfie idea is interesting, but not utterly convincing–we don’t see our arms as ant-like when crossed on our chests, and wouldn’t it be probable that as proficient an artist as we see here would look at other women for proportion, rather than down at herself?
The author also says something about a woman reclining while carving. Heh. I’d like to give her a chunk of rock and have her try that. 🙂
I’m sounding more combative and negative than I feel–it was a thought-provoking blog and those were the thoughts it provoked, respectfully submitted.
No worries. The problem with any theory is that there will always be whatever preconceived notions the theorist has that are brought into it.
How ghoulish are you?
Like, if you find a mere sculpture of a fat person unconvincing, would you rather have…. a fat mummy? (Warning: the following link does have a close-up of a real mummy right at the top of the page, and that’s a dead person, with a skull face and withered skin, so viewer discretion is advised).
Summary: under the right environmental conditions, adipose tissue can saponificate and preserve the person it’s attached to. It’s rare, but not so rare you can’t find a “soap mummy” in a museum here or there.
(That was meant to be a general you, not you specifically)
Thanks for the link–I have a morbid fascination with adipocere.
I noticed the ankles too, in part because your blog has informed me so much better about lipedema. Thank you–it was a great resource when my (big) stepdaughter with PCOS was pregnant. 😊
“weighs about 2 pounds, and is around 6.7 inches long”
That gives her a BMI of 31.3, if anyone cares. 😉