Friday, December 26, 2008


It’s “Hate Your Body” season again. We’re about to be barraged with ads, commercials, and general campaigns designed to make us fear fat and feel guilty and ugly. It’s amazing how swiftly fatphobic agendas get disguised as mandates for “healthier” living. Healthy does not universally equal thin. Fat does not universally equal unhealthy. “Love Your Body” movements don’t always align with fat acceptance work (props to Lady A. for pointing this one out).

Anchored in all this fatphobia and body hatred is a lot of racism, sexism, classism, ageism, and overt anti-“disability” attitudes. This shit is part of a larger white supremacist, elite, capitalist, colonizing mission AND it can be so seductive and convincing. How can we arm ourselves against this stuff without feeling victimized? And as feminists, how can we acknowledge and admit the ways in which this fatphobic bullshit tests our sense of security, supporting (instead of reprimanding) each other through it?

I lost a shit-ton of weight last year and I was probably unhealthier then than I’ve ever been in my life. Likewise, you can work out and eat “well” on a regular basis and still be “fat.” *If you haven’t already, you should totally listen to episode #4 of FemmeCast, “Health at Every Size.” The idea of “fat” seems at once deterministic and undefined. It’s a contradiction. But it’s also a lived reality.

Some fat acceptance groups have been accused of so-called gate-keeping, for discerning who can and cannot be part of the group. Sure, a lot of people see themselves as fat but I really think we need to take stock of possible distinctions between fat-thinking and the experience of occupying a fat body in our totally sizeist society. I’m not suggesting that definitions of fat are fixed or easy to come by, I’m just saying that I’ve had to think a lot about what it means for me to be a fat acceptance ally, and to recognize the need for safer, separate spaces and community organizing.

Along similar lines, I’ve been questioning the “Love Your Body” projects that came out of feminist movements, wondering about where they overlap and diverge from fat acceptance. Love your body…YES! By all means, love the fuck out of it! But the simple act of encouraging body love will be received, enacted, and experienced differently depending on each individual. That seems like an obvious point to make but I think I’m talking specifically about the fact that it might be a lot easier to learn to love your body when your body more readily matches the dominant prototypes out there. There is a certain kind of politic to fat acceptance that seems to be overwritten in the “Love Your Body” stuff. What do you think?

Well I’m in total hibernation mode. (It took several rounds of debate last night just to decide whether my sweetbabies and I were going break tradition and stay home, all because we were feeling too cozy and tuckered to go out. We did go out but compromised on the location. It was totally worth it. I digress.) And as I hibernate, I’m bracing myself for all the post-holiday weight-loss crap I’m likely to be fed on the fucking TV. I suspect that the whole tradition of making New Year’s resolutions was created by someone working for Jenny Craig or “Dr.” Atkins or Bally’s or an ab-roller company. I feel like there’s something tragic about seeing food in terms of points, rather than something that is nourishing, sustaining, and pleasurable. But I also need to keep this judgment in check as part of my feminist perspective. This is complicated stuff and I can’t wait to hear what y’all think.


mikey said...

the "love your body" combined with the "new years resolution" weightloss rhetoric seem to be in direct contradiction with the rhetoric surrounding what constitutes the "refugee" body, particularly as it is perceived through and represented by IMAGE. in the way we only ever see weightloss commercials around new years, we only ever see the refugee body as ravaged, dusty, and emaciated. and like the tension you highlight here in regards to a feminist perspective you (I) can commit to, our perceptions of refugees need to be tempered by the many ways in which the refugee experience is lived. it is represented as a homogeneous one, and policy is written and carried out as if it is such, and yet like healthy body, the refugee body is "embodied" in pluralistic, heterogeneous ways.

that's my post-video game critical writing. caught me at a good time. good post, as they all are. xocupcake

mikey said...

ps- this was a surprising connection for me as i read your post, so thank you. i've been thinking about the representations of refugees, but had not seen this kind of parallel in rhetoric. it seems useful, since both are globally circulated. sorry, i'm writing more. i just meant to type "thank you" in this post script. blerg

Little Ms Whatshertights said...

Holy hell. Fucking smart observations. Thank you for making that connection back to refugee rhetorics. I feel like I articulated that so poorly so it's good to see what others can do with it. ps fuck Delaware. come back here and hang out.

Liz said...

Thanks for writing this. I've been thinking about these issues a lot this past semester. Everyone knows I watch "America's Next Top Model," but I also watch "The Tyra Show" on occasion (embarrassing or not, I admit it). I've been really pissed off at Tyra for contradicting herself between her two shows. For example:
Tyra Show-Tyra: "Girl, love your body. Big frame, small frame, big booty, small chest, you are beautiful."
ANTM -Tyra: "You're too short for the modeling business. You don't look like a model. Girl, what are you wearing?!"

See the difference? Now, I don't care if she needs to assume two different roles for the two shows. I care that she's sending two completely different messages to her viewers, and it pisses me off. I like the Tyra Show -Tyra. She supports the "love your body."

Why can't she support "love your body" on ANTM? If she's so set on helping young girls, why not help the modeling industry by changing it to have women (and men) on the runway who actually do "love their body," i.e., have body fat, are under 5'7", are over 25 years old? Why can't Tyra start that on ANTM? This may seem like a shallow place to start, but it is a place to start.

I need to write a letter.

Kristi said...

No smart comments here - just kept waiting for the phrase "the body politic" to come up.