There aren’t a lot of fat positive Ted Talks. It was nice to see something that isn’t focused on making yourself perfect before you live your life.
Also, thrift shops deserve love songs. Comment if you supplement your wardrobe as a mighty thrift hunter, too!
From Amazon: “For all of us who have ever struggled with weight and body image, “Nothing to Lose” offers a way to break the vicious cycle of guilt and self-doubt. Featuring the latest research, practical exercises, and personal stories from dozens of women who have decided not to accept society’s “weight problem” as their own, this groundbreaking book offers all the information, support, and encouragement you need to begin accepting your body size and feeling good about yourself, starting now.”
A few months back, there was quite a discussion on fashion blogs about the size 16 over in the UK winning a beauty pageant. She was depicted wearing a bikini and the images went completely unairbrushed – she had those same awkward bits of fat in the armpits and a little bit of a tummy because she was making a point about her body. A valid point – it’s her body, and whatever other people may think, it’s her choice to show it. Ultimately, she won the beauty contest, and it sent a powerful message about the irrelevance of size in determining beauty. Naturally, it upset a lot of people who build their careers on the perception of fat as ugly.
One of the discussions that recurred on blogs about this bikini shot was whether Chloe “had the body for it.” Now, I know this isn’t timely given the furor, but I wanted to have time to think about it because not just body image but body presentation are so heavily politicized in this particular sector of the blogosphere. It’s hard to say whether someone “has a body” for a bikini, or a tankini, or blue jeans. While I certainly have strong opinions about what looks good or bad on certain body types, it’s a complex equation, not a simple matter of “if you are a pear, you must wear x, or an apple b, and don’t you dare Mix Fruits!” The factors are myriad: sure body, complexion, and above all, personality. Especially since there are personalities that seem to warp reality and make some of the strangest things somehow… work. It isn’t a talent for mere mortals, just those touched by the fashion-fairy wand.
From looking at this photograph, I think Chloe has a fine body. I have no objection to her wearing a bikini, I simply think she needs a better fitting top; this is both an aesthetic and a health concern – good support in your early years leads to a much better relationship with your breasts later on in life, and that bikini top is not supportive.
Would I personally wear a bikini, given my body shape and size? Oh hell no. I wore a bikini when I was 4 and I was uncomfortable with it then. Left unattended, I’d totally go straight for the 1920s swimsuits – except that I’d actually swim in them, which from what I gather was not their intended purpose.
I don’t have the personality required for a bikini. It’s partly because of some ideas about modesty I have peculiar to myself that leave me fine with running around topless (not something I typically do) but that leaves me uncomfortable waving my butt around for examination. I even still spend a lot of time pulling down short skirts when I wear them.
But would I consider condemning myself, Chloe, or anyone else with “You don’t have the body for it?”
In Chloe’s case, I think she actually does have the body for it, to be honest. And yes, I think I would say that I do NOT have the body for it – my belly is too big, and although I’m more or less at peace with the rest of me, I would feel the need for restraint.
This leads me to my question: why do we see the bikini as the symbol that proves something about our attitudes towards our bodies? If it’s just to demonstrate our confidence in how we look warts and all, wouldn’t it be physically more comfortable just to hit a nude beach?
One of the things we’re facing in the void of plus-size, thin-size, or ultimately self acceptance is what I consider the superstitious void. While we in the Western world think don’t think of ourselves this way, the truth is that we are an aggregate culture just rife with superstitions. If we weren’t, Snopes.com would have no reason to exist and email would get to everyone 10 nanoseconds faster because no one would be sending those forwards telling you not to flash your brights at other drivers.
It stands to reason that we are also superstitious about fat, about being fat, about what it means to be fat, and about what the fact experience actually is. It would explain the constant dissonance and insanity – people thinking laxatives help counter binge eating (they don’t), or that getting fat is because of a weak, undisciplined character rather than for the milieu of factors involved for anyone’s body type to change, and that recent and disproved idea that fat is contagious and moves through social groups.
It’s going to take decades to remove all the misinformation and false beliefs we have accrued concerning our bodies and diets. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start now.
We’ve already got the basics:
It is possible to be fat, and still be in good shape. Yes, fat people do exercise – they just don’t exercise for three hours a day, because they are maintaining health, not conforming to an aesthetic.
And you hang out at Fat Chic, so you know that even plus sized people have it in them to look fabulous.
When you’re out in public with people saying silly things to you about your body as though it’s their business, there is no way to smack them upside the head and have that head filled with the correct information about fat people, or to get it through to them that they need to find some other way to vent their hostility. But that horrible behavior – it starts somewhere, and there’s a steady slew of media convincing people of the rightness of their opinions while sucking away the basic ability to distinguish fact from opinion.
The fashion industry is partially to blame for this reprehensible condition where size 12s and 14s are told they are “plus sized” and women who shrink to a 00 are rewarded for trying to disappear instead of taken in for medical treatment. (I hear about “natural” 0s, and maybe, but if you’re a “natural” 00, I don’t believe you, please seek help.) More than one designer has said something snoot-nosed about “giving women something to aspire to” because being rail thin and wearing clothing that wouldn’t fit a Barbie somehow outranks the goal of becoming President of the United States or at least becoming a captain of industry. Women, especially wealthy women, can bear the rest of the burden of the blame from buying from fashion designers who hold such an insulting attitude (anyone who waves a hand and refers to the “little people” is a small person indeed). By buying from designers who hold their own customers in such contempt, women were buying into the misogyny – funding these little acts of hatred for women one piece of fabric at a time.
This misogyny that even female designers are buying into to “keep up with the business” has problems all over it, and in its warped and sexualized way has some of the same marks of Puritanism all over it: a belief that women left to make their own decisions were a danger to themselves. It’s absurd.
The worst thing I have ever seen a sane, healthy, intelligent adult woman do when left unattended is buy clogs. It’s the ones that have been driven crazy because they’ve been tricked into believing the insane whisperings of the fashion world and it’s 1% population of buyers who have surgery just to fit in the clothing that worries me. Risking your life to say your size is a single digit ? Now that’s dangerous and crazy.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you – single, coupled, tripled, whatever. While I know quite a few folks out there are ever-annoyed at the Hallmarked up version of St. Valentine’s, I want to mention a few things as a consistent Valentine’s Day fan, yes, a fan even when I’m single:
It’s NOT a Hallmark marketed Holiday. That’s pretty much Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Sweetest Day. Soon to be followed by National Apology Day (come on, we need one, with all the stuff we do to each other.)
Second, marketers are trying year round to make you feel bad about yourself. Getting extra mad at them for making you feel like you suck because you’re single is just being petty. Being ticked at marketers year round isn’t petty, it’s consistent.
Third, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Valentine’s Day is one of the most flexible-in-meaning holidays there is, because most of us haven’t got an inkling who came up with it in the first place. Maybe it’s the day the exterminator finally catches that damn groundhog. Maybe it’s the day before National Chocolate Sale day. It’s definitely the day before rose potpourri making season.
It celebrates LOVE. Love is not, as heavily advertised, only a romantic or familiar proposition. Love is LOVE and even the single are getting some of, if not in ways that they immediately appreciate.
I know a lot of you are down on yourselves today, blaming your body for being single or, for those who share an eating disorder with me, hating yourself after you’ve gone slightly insane with discount chocolate and chalk hearts.Â So in case no one else says it today, or in the event maybe you’ll believe it on the thousandth repeat, depending on who you are surrounded by:
Your body is NOT an obstacle to a relationship. If you have been rejected because you are fat, then take the time to thank your body for being an excellent idiot filter.
You have every right in the world to set your standards for partners high. Anyone who tells you you “can’t do any better” is staging an elaborate con where only they themselves benefit.
Happiness is a choice you can make; if you act like you’re happy,Â your body chemistry will do its best to follow. You may still need some medical help to make that happen, and that’s OK, because now you’re participating in healing.
You can be happy with or without a romantic partner.Â The TV has lied to you a lot – women over 30 have no trouble finding husbands, are not slaves to their biological clock, and are not running out of time. There is no rush, and chances are slim to none that anyone really ends up alone.
We have patches of alone time in our lives to give us time to teach ourselves lessons. Use them. First lesson: learn how to love yourself, and love the flaws that make you who you are.
There’s a person over on AskMetafilter who has chosen the weight loss path, but on the road she’s still getting some heckling. She’s asking for some help coming up with quick comebacks. If you’re sassy, you might be able to give her some help.
*originally posted under the incorrect assumption that this was a woman.
I know some of you are dreading the holidays, because it means family, and that means a round of pinching and poking, asking when you’re going to lose some weight and get married. Most of it is insults under the guise of “but we really care about you!” Let’s face it, by this time, we all know that “really caring” is just an excuse to “lovingly” bully you. I’m a Hollaback girl, and I just want to encourage you all NOT to put up with it. You are beautiful as you are, and your mother just needs to get it through that you are NOT one of her ongoing projects – if you’re not perfect, then you’re perfectly normal. And if, one some level you think that “bullying” is good for you, some nice folks at the U of M have figured out that really, bugging overweight people about their weight doesn’t help them at all.
Remember, to be a true Hollaback girl:
1. Don’t swear.
2. Don’t make threats.
3. Don’t start out with counter-insults; wait until that’s all that’s left.
4. If someone – even granny – gets physically or verbally abusive with you, call the cops. Your family will probably blame you for “ruining Thanksgiving” but rest assured – and tell them clearly – that it was the person who decided to try to play power games with you that ruined it, all by her/himself.
Here are some general comebacks. Use them to acknowledge what was said, and then to change the subject:
- That’s your problem, not mine.
- It’s been demonstrated repeatedly that these studies about the health risks of obesity aren’t accurate or don’t have all the information; do some real reading instead of news-byte watching.
- If it’s a medical professional carrying on: “You know perfectly well that the medical field is too broad to know about everything with health, and this is NOT your specialty.”
- I like myself just fine, and you’re not going to convince me to not like myself.
- Clearly, you have some self-esteem issues you’re taking out on me. Have you thought of getting a pet?
- Your opinion is clearly important to you. It is not important to me.
If someone is taking pot-shots:
- How verbally abusive of you.Are you not feeling good about yourself?
- Enough with the pot shots.
- Your opinion is not nearly as important as you think it is.
- That was rude.
If they try the “you’ll die old and alone” line:
- Clearly that’s where you’re headed with that hateful behavior.
- Wow, your love life must suck right now if that’s what you think.
- Actually, I’m dating a lot these days. But I don’t want to introduce them to my family because you guys are an embarrassment, with that outdated attitude.
- One one occasion, I actually shouted at my mother, “I’m fat AND sexy. Deal with it!”
- Oh that’s right, you’re from the generation where you’re only worthwhile if you can get married. I’m so glad I have so much more freedom to live and love.
- (If culturally appropriate) You do know we’re off the dowry system and you won’t be getting any cows or chickens for me, right?
If they get really persistent:
- Go bully someone else now, your time is up.
- Oh, am I supposed to be today’s entertainment? That’ll be $20 an insult. You go get your checkbook, I’ll write up the contract on this napkin.
- I will press charges.
All I can say to all this – have a Happy Thanksgiving, and love yourself as you are. And no, I’ve never put Granny in jail.