A few folks, in a few places, have criticized my decision to formally contribute to the conversation began by Maura Kelly’s Marie-Claire-sanctioned fat-hate blog, arguing that my doing so somehow validates the original post, or that I wasn’t mean enough to Kelly, or that my submitting a response helps Marie Claire benefit by the uproar. On the first two points, the specific reason my response guestblog did not directly mention Maura Kelly nor her preposterous and abhorrent post is because I felt strongly about using the opportunity to create space for a discussion on a subject very close to my heart — the way fat people are represented (or not) in media. I believed, and still do, that berating Kelly further would just be unseemly, not to mention unproductive, after so much abuse had already been heaped upon her.
On the third point, I will readily cop to the fact that I didn’t even consider Marie Claire’s site traffic. I don’t do this stuff for fame; there are far easier ways to be famous. Nor do I do it for fortune, because, shockingly, being a loudmouthed fatass pays sweet fuck-all. Rather, I do it because I am passionate about body politics, because people suffer as a result of our toxic culture of self-loathing, because I want to help fix it and make it better. That’s it. The terrifying reality is that I do this work because I am an activist who believes strongly in these ideas and for no other reason.* So yeah, if somebody says, “Hey Lesley, wanna write something on a giant-ass ladymag website about fat and stuff?” my answer is very likely going to be “FUCK YES” because it gives me a chance to reach a huge new audience of folks with my wacked-out and occasionally-radical ideas, and that may result in another brick or two knocked down from the giant fortress of culturally-mandated body-hatred that’s trapped us all.
For me, the real question is why wouldn’t I contribute a response? Because some folks at Marie Claire are fat-hating jerks? Man, if I turned tail and ran at the sight of every fat-hating jerk I would have quit this scene a decade ago. I did not just fall off the back of the fat truck. Nor is this my first time at the fat rodeo. When it comes to the cultural forces that need subverting, Marie Claire is just one behemoth of many. The way we reach people and change things is not by keeping our hands clean and spectating this bullshit from the outside; it’s by getting elbow-deep in the muck and speaking our rights aloud even to people who refuse to hear us and do not care. Not all of us can do this all the time and maintain our sanity; this time, I stepped up for the opportunity to get dirty. Next time, it might be you.
The important issue here — yes, more important than Marie Claire’s ad revenue — the issue that affects the lives of anyone who does not comply with the current standards of what makes an acceptable body, is that of visibility. Because fat people are rarely represented and seen, except in the context of diet ads, “obesity epidemic” hand-wringing, and weight-loss reality shows, it makes sense that the prevailing conventional wisdom would be that fat people are all unhappy, unhealthy, unworthy, unloved.
Last year, I created the Museum of Fat Love as an antidote and a push-back against the sobbing Spanxified tragically-rolly woefulness of More to Love, a one-season reality show that took The Bachelor and remade it with a bunch of fat women gunning for the attentions of one oafish lump of a dudebro who, in his defense, was very complimentary of non-slender women. The response to this little project was overwhelming, and this underscores the need for more positive images of fat people in love, either with their partner(s) or with themselves.
This weekend, I will be reanimating the MoFL as a Tumblr, and I’m currently accepting new submissions from couples, friends, and individuals. Your submission should include a photo (no smaller than 600px, please) and your story, with as much or as little detail as you’d like to share. The only requirement is that at least of one the people involved should identify as fat. The original MoFL can supply plentiful examples.
Change starts when people show up; it starts when we are willing to be visible and unashamed in our bodies, no matter how fervently our culture may argue that we should not be seen. Email your lovin’ to email@example.com.
* That said, if someone wanted to give me a full-time job as a loudmouthed fatass, I certainly wouldn’t turn them away without hearing the offer first, on the off chance that anyone has such an opening. Wouldn’t we all love to make our living doing something we really believe in?
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