Short Cuts: Kitchen Sink edition

By | August 8, 2011

The title sign for my CSTI workshop, reading "It's Okay to be Fat!"Damn, y’all, how busy have I been? Really, really busy.

A weekend ago I collaborated with the amazing Nancy Haque to deliver a workshop on radical fattery for Western States Center’s Community Strategic Training Initiative. It was a pretty excellent time. The day-long workshop went surprisingly great — I am always astounded when people seem open to these ideas, and don’t fight me on them — and I got to explore a bit of Portland besides, although my impression is that Portland is probably a more compelling place when you have a handy local to show you around.

I spent the better part of Sunday at Powell’s epic store of books, the only real break being when I figured I’d better check out some other places downtown and walked to Fat Fancy, which was closed. I took this as a sign and returned to Powell’s for another couple of hours. Later, I ate a donut with bacon on it, because pretty much everyone was all “GO EAT THE BACON DONUT!” It was less life-changing than I might have hoped, but an interesting experience nonetheless.

What else? I was on NPR’s Morning Edition today, talking about fat characters on TV. This bit was recorded back in January, so I had to read the transcript to remember what I said. You can read (or listen) here. And, of course, there’s lots of new stuff from me on xoJane, including this post about street harassment, the comments to which are cuckoobananas in their awesomeness and their rage.

But enough about me. On to the most amusing links of the past month.

Last week the NYT had an article about celebrity diet spokespersons which really says nothing all that new on the subject:

Famous people, however, play out their weight struggles under glaring lights. It’s hard to forget commercials of the actress and former Jenny Craig spokeswoman Kirstie Alley lustily drooling over the program’s sanctioned fettuccine, or of her triumphant disrobing on “Oprah” to reveal her new bikini body in pantyhose.


Last year, another diet program, the Fresh Diet, parted ways with its famous “spokesdieter,” the pop singer Carnie Wilson, after she gained weight while under contract.

“It didn’t work out with Carnie,” said Zalmi Duchman, chief executive for the Fresh Diet, which delivers fresh meals daily across the nation. “She dropped like 20 pounds in the first three months. Then she, I mean, she had to go off of it. There’s no question. She might have eaten the meals, but she ate the meals with a lot of other stuff. She started a cheesecake company.”

Poor Carnie Wilson, man. I don’t want to laugh at her endless struggles, nor do I want to lend credence to the idea that the Fresh Diet “works” as a long-term weight-loss solution any better than any other overpriced diet shenanigans, but “She started a cheesecake company” is kind of hilarious. As though simply being a fat lady in the proximity of cheesecake is going to further enfatten her.

But no, the real reason I’m bringing this article up is because it includes two before and after pictures of Carrie Fisher, one of many current celebrity spokespeople for Jenny Craig. Here, check them out:

Carrie's Before and After Jenny Craig pics, photoshopped so thoroughly that they no longer look entirely human. Plus? I don't actually know where she's lost weight.

Dude, that purple shirt probably weighed at least a pound.

Oh shit you guys, look how much weight Carrie’s Second Life avatar has lost! Or don’t, because I kinda don’t see a difference, aside from the before image showing Carrie in a loose overshirt, and the after image without. It doesn’t help that Carrie’s face and body have both been photoshopped right into the uncanny valley. Does Jenny Craig now come with Botox? I just don’t get how anyone can see these images and take this shit seriously, y’all.

In other news of the absurd, a couple weeks back, there was a brief bit on The Today Show featuring a lady with a new! diet! revolution! Oh, I’ll let her speak for herself:

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I had to watch this twice to make absolutely sure that it wasn’t an Onion parody.

Susan Cheever, a random person with no apparent past writing credits than I can find, nor an identifiable background as an authority on anything other than her own life experience, wrote an article for Self about what she calls “The Mean Diet.” She lost 25 pounds by being “mean”, or in other words, practicing perfectly reasonable self-care. Then they put her on The Today Show. Where she said:

I realized that being overweight and eating protected me. I had a kind of suit of armor. A friend of mine said obesity is the American burqa. I was a little bit invisible. I was a little bit protected. If I accommodated the world all day I could go home and soothe myself with food. Once I saw that, I started changing my behavior and in a lot of discussions with my brother we worked at what we call “the mean diet.” I started saying no to people. I stopped answering the phone. I started being mean.

Yes, yes, that lady called being fat “the America burqa,” which is one of those things where I have to laugh, laugh uproariously and even a little deranged-ly, lest I totally lose my mind about it. How to unpack such a notion? For one, the burqa — the actual fabric burqa — is not an oppressive evil force, and painting it as such not only erases the agency of the women who choose to wear it, but also insults a culture and religious tradition that frankly gets enough shit already. For another, even IF the burqa WERE a smothering horror, the assumption here is that all fat people are buried — dehumanized, even — under an obfuscating layer of fat that “protects” them is preposterous.

My fat doesn’t protect me from shit (well, maybe from dying from a stab wound from a short-bladed knife, I suppose) but more often makes me an obvious target. And while one can be fat and invisible, invisibility is not an intrinsic aspect of fattery. One can also be fat and very, very seen.

You know that Susan Cheever lacks bona fides because they had to pair her with a psychiatrist to nod and agree. And you know, it’s cool if she has worked out a method of self-care that works for her — that’s not the issue here. Susan Cheever can do as she likes when it comes to her own body. The issue is that Susan Cheever has decided to basically package this as a universally-applicable idea. The fact that Today gave any time at all to a woman who — let’s be honest — just made some random shit up and called it a “diet” speaks to the persistent and defiant absurdity of diet culture.

Finally, an intentionally-funny link: Mary Jo Pehl, late of Mystery Science Theater 3000, currently of Cinematic Titanic, author of the forthcoming Employee of the Month and Other Big Deals, and seriously one of my funny-smart heroes going back many a year, has taken up the bloggering on a regular basis. I am so happy about this I must share it! Here you go.

Got any links I missed? That’s what comments are for.


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