A series of things.

By | December 9, 2010


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The outrageous:

Amanda Hess has a short piece up on the media’s never-ending fixation with Elizabeth Edwards’ weight, even in her obituary.

Edwards’ passing provided the Washington Post with a rare opportunity to remind readers of its obsession with her body weight, and what it all means. Four paragraphs into the Post’s Edwards obit, the paper describes her as having possessed a “real-woman figure” and “serious intellect” (in that order).

I have so many feelings about this but I continue to lack the ability to write them into the epic shrieking rant they deserve. It seems there is nothing that a woman can accomplish which will be enough to eclipse her weight.

(Hat tip to Sarah for bringing this piece to my attention!)

The confounding:

On Alternet yesterday, A lady named Greta Christina talks about being Fat 4 Lyfe:

I sometimes feel like the thinnest fat woman in the world. (Well, probably not the thinnest… but you know what I mean.) Some people say that, inside every fat person, there’s a thin person trying to get out. I feel the exact opposite. Inside this relatively lean body, there’s a fat person nobody can see. People think they can stupid, bigoted, hurtful things about fat people to me, because they don’t see me as one of them. They couldn’t be more wrong. I am fat. Not in a body-dysmorphic way — I don’t look in the mirror and think I’m still fat — but because this fat identity shaped me for years, and it will always be with me.

Christina used to be fat, and was an “ardent” member of the fat acceptance movement, she says. Christina has since lost weight and credits FA with her ongoing self-acceptance, but she also feels rejected by FA. And there is anger! Christina describes some fat-acceptance ideologies I am not familiar with. For one, she states that FA uniformly insists there is never any connection between weight and health. The prevailing FA argument I know is that weight does not necessarily cause health problems all the time, and its impact is dependent on the individual. In other words, some fat folks have health issues caused or aggravated by their size; some do not.

Christina also asserts that FA advocates believe all weight loss is always damaging and bad. I think most of us agree that the industry that sells weight loss is always damaging and bad, and I think most of us agree that weight loss can be damaging and bad for many individuals, depending on circumstances. But all the time? No. When it comes to the complexity of human bodies, pretty much nothing is true all the time for everyone. Christina goes on to state that she was dismissed and abused for noting that her weight was contributing to a mobility issue. Frankly, this makes me wonder if she wasn’t actually hanging out with FA folks, but with run-of-the-mill assholes.

Simply put: fat acceptance/activism/whatevs is a movement of criticism and questions, not authority and groupthink. Its purpose ought to be noisy inquiry into what our culture tells us about bodies, ours and other people’s. Its purpose is not to replace one set of monolithic rules with another.

Christina finally argues that FA should be “supportive” of people who diet. Sillypants! As many folks have observed in many places over many years: the whole world is supportive of people who diet. FA should not overtly condemn or attack people who diet, but dieters should be cool with just not bringing that up in FA circles, which, again, are meant to question the culture that supports dieting.

(Hat tip to Regina for the email alert!)

The unsurprising:

Michael Gard writes about Australia’s increasing life expectancy and declining incidence of heart disease and stroke. Way to go, Australia! Good news, right?

Actually, this is good news for everyone except for a group of health experts who have spent the last decade telling Australians what a fat and unhealthy lot we are.

The obesity lobby has good reason to be worried. The avalanche of chronic disease and sharp decline in life expectancy that they predicted have not materialised.

[...]

People who study body weight know that, in reality, the concept of ‘ideal weight’ is at best purely theoretical. Nobody actually knows what a person’s real ideal weight is and being a little above your theoretical ideal is not actually very significant for your health.

In fact, being technically overweight is no better a predictor of life expectancy than your height or hair colour and a steady stream of recent research articles shows that overweight people have the same health prospects as so-called ‘normal weight’ people.

So this is part of the explanation why we are getting heavier and healthier; most of the hundreds of thousands of Australians who technically fall into the overweight category are perfectly healthy.

Because I have nothing to add that isn’t already covered by the above, I’ll admit that when I read articles from Australian sources, I give them accents in my head. I do this with UK ones too.

The really, really unsurprising:

The Daily Fail is fail-y!

…I fail to buy into the myth that girls today feel pressured into being thin.

Monica Grenfell’s thin friends feel “marginalised” by an alleged pressure to be fat. We should send them flowers.

(Hat tip to BuffPuff for the giggle.)

The semi-coherent:

There is a new Fatcast. We were supposed to have a tight conversation about closet organization. I’m not sure what went wrong.


25 Comments

Nyssa23 on December 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm.

I’m glad I wasn’t the only one imagining an Australian accent on that news item. Ha!

Good stuff as always.

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Jenny on December 9, 2010 at 1:06 pm.

I am fat. Not in a body-dysmorphic way — I don’t look in the mirror and think I’m still fat — but because this fat identity shaped me for years, and it will always be with me.

I actually feel the exact same way. Due to an eating disorder, I gained about 40lbs (which pushed me up into the “obese” range of the BMI), and have since lost most of that weight with recovery and increased exercise(because-hello! set point!). Unlike some formerly-fat folks who rail against fat people once they have lost weight, losing weight has actually strengthened my belief in FA. I don’t agree with any of her assertions about the FA community, either. I wonder if maybe she didn’t respect one of the FA spaces she was in, and started talking about weight loss, and possibly received some backlash, which then resulted in her comments, especially the one about “supporting” diets in FA?

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metermouse on December 9, 2010 at 3:18 pm.

Thanks for the delicious perfect sized tid-bits! I love your longer posts, but this was just right for my lunchtime catch-up.

cheers

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Diana on December 9, 2010 at 3:51 pm.

I have a hard time buying that she feels “unsupported” in dieting. At the same time, as someone who was fat…then thin… and is now fat (and self-accepting) I think there is a tribe of sabotage among the dieters that speaks to issues of women’s bodies as “public property” that extends far beyond FA.

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Willow on December 9, 2010 at 5:07 pm.

Lesley, re: the Christina thing, I believe she’s coming off as a bit sanctimonious, but there are certain blogs out there which I refuse to read anymore that do insist, blatantly, that weight has NOTHING to do with overall health. The moderators of these blogs, after my personal experience with trying to comment on them, are assholes who refuse to see any POV other than their own.

Which is why I like your blog so much. You’re willing to actually discuss a topic that may – gasp! – be controversial, rather than say, “Read Feminism 101. Here is the link. You’re banned. Good bye.”

Ahem. So. Yes, there are some assholes in the FA movement who have unfortunately managed to taint the movement overall.

Plus, while I’m on my soapbox, I’ve noticed comments on all sorts of FA blogs that say, in effect, “I’m not an overeater, so….” Well, so what if you are an overeater? Isn’t that the point of FA – to say that fat bodies are okay, whether they come from genetics, illness, or overeating?

Overarching point is, sounds like Christina has been badly burned by some of those FA assholes. I would wager she even read the same blog I did that, for a while, caused me to become disenchanted with the movement because the moderators were such assholes. But then I found this blog, and there were unicorns farting floral-scented rainbows and faeries perched atop toadstools and Viking goddesses and…

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Lesley on December 9, 2010 at 8:48 pm.

Ha! I dig that description.

Fact is, assholes exist everywhere we go. I believe that Christina had some bad experiences, but it does sadden me when folks through the fat baby out with the fat bathwater, so to speak. I think part of the problem is that we so often start out looking for a strict belief system and/or set of “rules” to grab on to, but eventually most of us figure out that life is too complicated for that. :)

And my experience has been that dismissing or refusing to consider subjects or conversations only leads to drama and resentment and unhappiness. And I HATE drama.

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Frances on December 9, 2010 at 5:46 pm.

“I’ll admit that when I read articles from Australian sources, I give them accents in my head.” – This made me laugh quite heartily. (Would it help if I wrote that in my Australian accent? “This mayyyde me lahhhhhhff quoiiite haaahhhhhhtily.”)

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Lesley on December 9, 2010 at 8:51 pm.

Little-known fact: 100% of my knowledge of Australian accents comes from having watched Muriel’s Wedding approximately ten billion times over the past fifteen years.

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Marcia on December 10, 2010 at 9:10 am.

@ Lesley-OMG,I LOVE that movie! I remember when it came out and dragging my boyfriend to see it at Chestnut Hill, which was like 25 miles away from my house, because no one else was playing it. Of course, when it came out on dvd, I bought and played it a million times. I am the only person I know who likes it. Everyone I force to watch it thinks it’s depressing. Um, hello, are they not getting how awesome Muriel and Rhonda’s friendship was and how frigging funny their rendition of “Waterloo” was??????

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Meowser on December 9, 2010 at 10:47 pm.

Willow, I think there’s a big difference between saying, “Fat never causes or exacerbates any health problems, ever” (and I actually don’t know of anyone in FA who espouses that view, so I’m not sure who you’re talking about), and saying, “We don’t know how to make most fat people permanently thin, so it really doesn’t matter whether ‘thinner is healthier’ is true or not,” or, “This is not the place to be all yay-weight-loss; there are a zillion other blogs for that, and this is a safe haven for people who don’t want to be triggered by yay-weight-loss stuff.” I mean, really, you think we haven’t been blanketed with enough warnings about how our fat is going to kill us? I hardly ever turn on the television, and I feel completely saturated by them. I see the voodoo coffin; I just refuse to leap in.

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lilacsigil on December 9, 2010 at 10:52 pm.

I’ve brought that issue up with Greta Christina more than once on her blog – I said I would like to see the blogs she’s referring to, as I’ve never seen this in FA – but she didn’t reply, though she replied to other comments. While I’m sure someone, somewhere, has said things like that, I find it really off-putting that she’s constructed a straw fattie all of her own, rather than listening to what FA people are saying. I’ve never not been fat, but I have lost considerable amounts of weight while following the FA philosophy and I found no contradictions in or hostility from FA at all.

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spacedcowgirl on January 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm.

It is really depressing how regularly people (especially people who have lost weight) claim that FA has the particular characteristics that Christina claimed, plus a couple more. In my experience they are: 1) They won’t admit that fat has anything to do with health, 2) They hate thin people and want everyone to be fat, 3) They’re trying to force everyone to be attracted to them, 4) They aren’t supportive of healthy eating and want everyone to eat junk, 5) They are meanies because they don’t recognize that the difference between being thin and fat is the same as the difference between eating healthy and eating junk, and 6) They are meanies because they won’t concede that everybody can choose to be either thin or fat. And I mean, fat is fine for THEM, but…

I feel like I hear this crap ALL THE TIME. And when I consider how most FA sites I know bend over backward to be, you know, ACCEPTING, and specifically do not allow thin-bashing and certainly do not privilege unhealthy eating, it makes me want to tear my hair out.

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Willow on December 10, 2010 at 3:39 pm.

Oh, Meowser. You’re one of the commenters from the blog to which I was specifically referring and which I will not name here. I’m not surprised that you misconstrued my comment, as most of the commenters there seemed to have drunk the Kool-Aid.

Because, you see, that blog immediately pounced on anyone who ventured to say that, actually, their own personal heaviness contributed to weight problems. It was not a blog devoted to a reasonable discussion about anything. It was a blog devoted to the ranting of the moderators, and if you happened to disagree, there was an incredibly high likelihood you’d get banned. Which I was: for sharing my personal experience, and being told that I was just blinded by “privilege.” I could go on about why the moderators were idiot overprivileged assholes, but this is Lesley’s blog and I don’t want to start any shit.

And I, myself, am fat. You think I don’t go through the same shit that most, if not all, fat people go through in this society? People look right through me as though I don’t exist, etc., etc. And yet I have lower blood pressure than ALL of the thin people I know. And I exercise regularly. Believe me, I get the experience of being fat and stereotyped. It isn’t fun. I never posted anything even remotely resembling “Yay weight loss!” on ANY blog.

It’s time to get back to rainbow-farting unicorns & dragons named Jimmy.

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silentbeep on December 10, 2010 at 10:40 pm.

There will always be tension between those that want to define the underlying principles and foundational concepts of a movement, and those that want to be as flexible as possible. Neither side is inherently right or wrong, just different, and depending on the situation, they can offer each other some needed balance. Sometimes hardliners can stand to “let up” a bit and maybe be more welcoming. Others can stand to be reminded that no, FA really isn’t an anything goes kind of thing, there is critiquing involved and boundaries especially in FA blogs that choose to be safe spaces. There is no FA cabal, there is no authority where someone “decides” who gets to be FA or not, or what the “right” FA stance is. I’ve been pretty hard-ass in the past, but ya know, my opinion is just one opinion, no more no less. Anyone else is welcome to disagree and say a totally opposite thing on their own blog and what am I going to do about? Nothing, as it should be.

Sometimes we all are not going to be comfortable, and drama is just part of it. We all try to be nice which is good, but sometimes, it’s really not.

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Kathryn on December 10, 2010 at 11:43 pm.

The “giggles”? Do you really think it’s funny? You don’t live in the uk, you don’t know what it’s like here. As an ex-fat who is now thin (as a result of having cancer twice and a liver transplant in the last three years) I’m now being constantly told that my body is awful and ugly and I’m not a “real woman” because I’m not overweight which is what a british size sixteen is unless you are about six feet tall. It makes me so angry that people think it’s alright to bash thin people now and tell them they’re ugly, just as much as I don’t think it’s right to criticise fat people – if someone is happy with their appearance then why should they change? And if I’m happy being slender and actually like the way I look for the first time in my life, how dare anyone try and take that away from me?

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Lesley on December 10, 2010 at 11:53 pm.

I’ll take this in steps.

First, I never bashed thin people, nor do I think it’s ever “alright” to shame anyone for the size of their body, regardless of what that size might be. I did bash the article’s author, because she is an idiot, but her being an idiot has nothing to do with her being thin.

Second, while I grant that your experience may differ, I know a great many people in the UK who tell a very, very different story — including several who have lived in both the US and the UK and argue that fat hatred in the UK is far worse than here.

Third, I am taking nothing away from you; if you’re happy, then I’m happy for you.

I think you’re reading a lot into a very tiny blurb in my original post.

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Sarah on December 10, 2010 at 11:55 pm.

Willow – If you don’t like the comment policy of a blog, too bad. You don’t have a right to an opinion at a blog where it’s not welcomed. I KNOW the blog you are referring to, and I find it a little childish of you to come here and whine about it and then insult its other members for expressing an opinion you don’t like. But yet, you attack others for silencing you.

From reading your two comments here, you probably acting in the same childish manner at the other blog – and you wondered why you got banned. Some people don’t have time for whiny shit deliberately posted to trigger and upset others.

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Living400lbs on December 11, 2010 at 1:31 am.

Christina goes on to state that she was dismissed and abused for noting that her weight was contributing to a mobility issue. Frankly, this makes me wonder if she wasn’t actually hanging out with FA folks, but with run-of-the-mill assholes.

Especially if the assholes have a lot of fear.

Many fats have health issues dismissed with “Just lose weight”. “Lose weight, if that doesn’t work we’ll try something else” is the nicer version.

This is not only infuriating, but it can lead to the feeling that if you admit that weight loss could help with item X then you will be left with nothing except weight loss as an option. When item X is hugely impacting your life to the negative? This breeds a lot of emotions, none of them enjoyable.

Stating that “Weight loss may help with this health problem, but isn’t sustainable for most people and so may not be very useful” or “Weight loss may help with this health problem and it’s up to each individual to decide if that is something they want to do” is reasonable and nuanced. A lot of people have trouble with reason and nuance when dealing with things they are very emotional about — especially with trolls who see “nuance” as “weakness”.

I do know someone who was kicked off an fat support mailing list because she lost weight. She did not espouse weight loss on the list, but the fact that she had lost weight was a problem for the list organizers.

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Meowser on December 11, 2010 at 3:35 am.

If weight loss by itself was enough to get you drummed out of FA, Paul Campos, for one, would never have been let in. His own book talks about his having been a successful dieter, in the very last chapter. However, he doesn’t use it as a springboard for, “See? I did it, so can you”; far from it. He knows just how difficult and all-consuming holding down one’s weight can be, and that it’s not something that should be held up as a cure-all.

I’m sure there are FA hardliners who would say Campos is a ringer, and that Glenn Gaesser is too, because his books contain “weight management” plans along with the HAES stuff. Or who would kick someone out of a support network solely for losing weight, intentionally or not. I’m certainly not one of them, any more than I’m the kind of “feminist” who hates all men. But again, how the heck do I know how much you weigh, or what you weighed six months or a year ago, or what you’ll weigh next year at this time, unless you tell me?

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Living400lbs on December 11, 2010 at 3:12 pm.

Heck, Linda Bacon talks about her weight loss in her book. :\

how the heck do I know how much you weigh, or what you weighed six months or a year ago, or what you’ll weigh next year at this time, unless you tell me?

In the case I mentioned, she’d related a few funny WW stories on her personal blog (not linked from the mailing list) and answered questions about WW on her blog, including such sentiments as “I’m doing this to make my back injuries easier to deal with” and “I don’t think everyone should do this, it’s a personal, individual choice”. Either someone googled her and got offended, or someone who both reads her blog and the mailing list got offended, or something. (Of course she’s still fat enough to get called a “fat bitch” walking down the street, too. *headdesk*) Heck, my blog gets links and comments from people with weight-loss blogs because of my exercise posts. There’s not a lot of realistic info about how to start an exercise program when you’re my size out there, so I’ll take notes and comments from others who are going down that road and not care if they’re talking about their weight-loss diet elsewhere.

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Living400lbs on December 12, 2010 at 4:57 am.

Oh – and thank you for the Michael Gard quote!

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Erina on December 12, 2010 at 12:40 pm.

Could Carnie Wilson finally be on the road to FA?! A quote of her saying “I’m fat as f***. What are you going to do?” is going around. Here’s the clip straight from Carnie
http://www.popeater.com/2010/12/10/wilson-phillips-carnie-weight-naughty-but-nice-with-rob/

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BuffPuff on December 12, 2010 at 6:55 pm.

Kathryn, I live in the UK and I know exactly what it’s like, thanks. Fat phobia is rising exponentially here. It’s enshrined by government, espoused by the media and scarcely recognised as a legitimate form of prejudice, either by those who wield it or the majority of those who experience it. The UK is a very long way from embracing FA as a concept. Of course that hasn’t stopped Monica Grenfell going into hysterical overdrive in case, God forbid, she sells half a dozen less diet books this Christmas, which is the sole reason behind the arrant twaddle she wrote in the Mail.

Oppressed people sometimes bitch at hapless individuals rather than the system that oppresses them. And the system we have in place is one that decrees a fat person’s body is intrinsically and unquestionably inferior to a thin person’s. When those bodies happen to be female in a culture that still judges women’s primary worth on their looks, the scope for bitchery only increases. Unhappy women of all sizes bolster their diminished egos at the expense of other women they perceive to be less attractive, as if life itself was a beauty contest. It’s a vicious circle of self-defeating, counterproductive pointlessness, but it keeps most too busy for most to question, criticise, or stop. Self-elected health experts like Monica Grenfell, (or, as I prefer to think of them, drivel-blathering, self-serving charlatans), profit obscenely from this profoundly unhealthy situation.

Images of predominantly young, very thin women are used to make all women feel like shit about themselves by Hollywood, the media, and the fashion, beauty and health industries. That is why some fat women lash out at them. Some use language like “real women” because fat women often have big tits and/or arses and lad’s mags are forever assuring straight girls that “all men want something to get hold of in bed”. They are grasping at straws to elevate their self-esteem on the backs of those they’ve been brainwashed to believe they will never be equal to, never mind superior. It’s not right; it’s not commendable but it is understandable given that it’s what all women have been socialised to do. Most of us who become politicised about fat grow out of it and you certainly won’t find many in the fatosphere who condone it. You certainly won’t find many mainstream media platforms granted to anyone who wants to proclaim that fat women are superior to thin women when it flies in the face of deeply ingrained prejudice.

Lastly, given your negative feelings about your once fat body, I can’t help wondering why you choose to read this particular blog when there are thousands of slender-body-centric blogs who will gladly wax lyrical about the unbridled joy of thinness.

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spacedcowgirl on January 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm.

Bravo, BP! That is an excellent analysis of why the “real woman” rhetoric is unacceptable, but also why it happens. I never feel like I can include that type of discussion because people will think I’m saying thin-bashing is OK. It’s clearly not OK, but there are very good societal reasons as to why it happens. Once most people become aware of those reasons, they recognize it as harmful and stop.

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Willow on December 17, 2010 at 2:06 am.

Willow – If you don’t like the comment policy of a blog, too bad. You don’t have a right to an opinion at a blog where it’s not welcomed. I KNOW the blog you are referring to, and I find it a little childish of you to come here and whine about it and then insult its other members for expressing an opinion you don’t like. But yet, you attack others for silencing you.

From reading your two comments here, you probably acting in the same childish manner at the other blog – and you wondered why you got banned. Some people don’t have time for whiny shit deliberately posted to trigger and upset others.

Hi, Sarah!

I never posted anything deliberately meant to trigger and upset others. All I did was post my experience on that blog, and I got banned because my experience didn’t fit the bloggers’ view of what my experience should have been. Which was my whole point, which was not “whining” but a comparison: I never, even before I got banned, felt comfortable at that other blog; but I feel comfortable here, because people are allowed to disagree. I honestly don’t see how my comments here were “childish.” (Except for the Kool-Aid. Meowser, I’m sorry about the Kool-Aid comment. I truly am. That was childish, and not like me. I feel badly about posting that. I hope you accept my apology.) And Sarah, you’re right; the comments policy for any blog is not in my power to change. All I was trying to say is that I enjoy reading and posting on a blog that welcomes different points of view.

I didn’t read Meowser’s post as an attempt to silence me; I read it as a misinterpretation of my post. Interesting that you would phrase it that way.

I respect Lesley’s blog, and I really, really don’t want to start a heated debate about semantics, “childish” posts, and so on. So I won’t post on this thread anymore. Consider it a lesson learned from that other blog. Lesley, please accept my apologies for any misunderstandings / negativity that my posts on this thread have engendered.

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