Friday Fluff: Me and Oprah, and a very amenable beluga.

By | May 27, 2011

Animated gif edited to demonstrate Oprah releasing the bees on her show, and audience members celebrating/weeping in terror.


Over on xoJane, I wrote a post about what Oprah and I have in common.

When Oprah tries something new, millions of women will follow, diets included. And yet, if Oprah can’t manage to make herself permanently thin, with all her resources, then what the hell kind of chance do the rest of us have? In 2008 Oprah said she was “embarrassed” by her recent weight gain, and yeah, that’s understandable. This is a woman who can afford to employ a whole bloody team of nutritionists and cooks and trainers and coaches. If anyone can buy self-discipline and success, Oprah can. If anyone can overcome biology or behavior or whatever we think is responsible for making us fat this week, Oprah ought to be the one.

Read it all here.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a Tumblr, whose purpose continues to be hazy and undefined. Well, about a month ago I used it to invent a beluga who boosts your self-esteem and loves you unconditionally, and occasionally gives you thoughtful non-professional advice. Thus far Your Beluga Best Friend has talked about looking different, the challenges of moving into a new stage of life, the longing to be normal, and most recently, the difficulties of coming out, among other subjects.

You can read all the Beluga posts thus far here. The response has been pretty incredible. I suspect this is because it’s easier to accept kindness and advice from an imaginary beluga than from a real person; it speaks to the scared kid inside all of us, I think—those parts of ourselves that want to be reassured that we’re okay, and that we’ll be okay.

If you want to ask the beluga a question, you can do so here. I am also soliciting artwork for Your Beluga Best Friend, as I’m running low on Creative-Commons-licensed photographs. Send your beluga drawings to me at lesley at twowholecakes dot com, along with a link to credit, if you’d like.

Finally, here’s Heavy Impact performing a routine to Lady Gaga’s “LoveGame” on America’s Best Dance Crew, a season or two back. ABDC has a pretty great legacy of featuring dancers of different sizes, and I especially loved these guys.

Hat tip to Jennifer for sending this along and jogging my memory!

Have a marvelous weekend, y’all.

The awesome power of no.

By | May 23, 2011

A photo of me, a fat white lady, standing outside next to a tree. I'm wearing a short black dress with small flowers on it, a black cardigan, black leggings, pink ballet-tie flats, and a dark green messenger bag. Also glasses. Also, I am smiling.

This is me. I say no a lot, usually with a cheery smile.

Whenever I write things elsewhere that are critical of bodily norms, and especially about weight, there are always certain Bingo-friendly responses. The most common one is a sort of exasperated, heaving insistence that I—or anyone else—“just” lose weight. Don’t talk about things, for heaven’s sake! Don’t criticize the popular cultural messages about bodies and health! Don’t question the widespread assumptions and expect rational proofs beyond “but everyone just knows it’s bad to be fat!” Just do it! Just lose weight, and be done with it!

These people may as well be mumbling “Conform… conform…” in a zombie-esque drone for all the good it does. This is the pressure to assimilate, that I should keep quiet and swallow like everyone else. Why do you have to question everything? Why does it always have to be a battle with you? Why are you so hostile? These are the social obstacles that every social justice activist must learn to navigate, no matter their particular area of investment. Arguably, the folks who throw up these blocks do not get why a person wouldn’t just go along with expectations and norms; they can’t understand why someone would rather be a wrench in the works and not another useful cog.

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Friday Fluff: xoJane and me

By | May 20, 2011

A screenshot of xoJane.comSo xoJane is a thing, a new thing perpetrated by Jane Pratt, late of Sassy and Jane. The former was a massive influence on my formative years, the latter I loathed, just a little bit. Nevertheless, when the opportunity came to contribute to Jane’s latest project, my positive memories of the former won out over my cranky feelings about the latter and I said fuuuuuuuck yes, only with slightly less profanity.

I’ll be contributing over there once or twice a week (once a week when I’m working on book edits, twice when I’m not). You can check out my admittedly goofy-ass author bio to get links to all my stuff. Most recently I wrote something about “beach bodies” and daring to go out in public in swimwear. The overall site content thus far is definitely interesting, and while I have problems with some of it, I really really dig the idea of a ladymedia space where even the contributors can passionately disagree about stuff. This should come as a surprise to no one, given my penchant for emphatic debate.

Not interested in xoJane? Fear not, my pets. Posts here shall continue in their typically radical and polarizing manner. I thank you all, from the bottom of my very fat heart, for your continued patronage of my work, whereever you may partake of it.

Have a swell weekend.

Real Quick: The chicken and the egg

By | May 19, 2011

Screenshot from Cry-Baby, in which the homely Hatchetface gets an immunization shot.

Even Hatchetface knows she deserves adequate preventative care!

A few sharp-eyed readers have sent me a link to this recent poll of South Florida ob-gyns, which revealed that some offices outright refuse treatment to all women over a certain weight.

Fifteen obstetrics-gynecology practices out of 105 polled by the Sun Sentinel said they have set weight cut-offs for new patients starting at 200 pounds or based on measures of obesity — and turn down women who are heavier.

Some of the doctors said the main reason was their exam tables or other equipment can’t handle people over a certain weight. But at least six said they were trying to avoid obese patients because they have a higher risk of complications.

Hey, something else to add to my comprehensive list of reasons why I refuse to be weighed at the doctor’s office. The equipment argument is one of my favorites, as it’s unlikely you’d find doctors as willing to outright refuse accommodation to anyone other than fat folks. In my own anecdotal research, consisting of me hefting my 300+ pound ass up on many an exam table over the years, I have never yet run into a table that seemed on the verge of collapse under my ponderous girth. This doesn’t mean that weak tables don’t exist, but it does mean that strong ones do, and that they are common in the world.

Several ob-gyn offices said their ultrasound machines do not give good images of internal anatomy in obese women, making it harder to diagnose some medical problems.

Solution: don’t treat them! Brilliant!

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Short Cuts: Weight Watchers and obesity stigma for all! edition

By | May 13, 2011

Triumph of Bacchus (Museo de Prado, Madrid), by Cornelis de Vos (1584–1651). A fat and glowing Bacchus reclines on a chariot pulled by tigers, surrounded by adoring wood sprites and humans.

Fat dudes get all the best stuff. Where's MY tiger-drawn chariot?

David Sirota is a columnist over at Salon, and a couple weeks ago, he wrote an article about the cultural differences in how fatness is perceived in men versus women, inspired by Weight Watchers’ recent announcement that they plan to start targeting men explicitly in their advertising. It seems men are an untapped group in the diet marketplace, and Weight Watchers wants their money too!* Sirota is astonished by the low numbers of men in weight-loss programs, when men are markedly more likely to be fat than women, and rightly blames a culture that holds women to different standards of appearance than men.

For a far-reaching outlet like Salon, this is probably kind of a radical idea. Unfortunately, Sirota’s solution seems to be that fat men need to lose their “privilege” in the face of horrendous cultural stigma and be subjected to equal-opportunity fat hatin’. He proceeds to list all the fat dudes who have it too easy, from Chris Farley to Rush Limbaugh.

Similarly, in big-time sports, our male superheroes are often super-fat. Harvard University, for instance, found that 55 percent of Major League Baseball players are overweight, while the University of North Carolina found that 56 percent of National Football League players are obese. These whales, of course, are interposed on TV between beer commercials featuring super-thin female models and are often playing in front of impossibly dimensioned female cheerleaders.

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So Michel Foucault and Jeremy Bentham walk into an elementary school cafeteria*

By | May 12, 2011

A top-down view of a school lunch tray, featuring milk, a burger with pickles, crinkle-cut fries, a Rice Krispies treat, lettuce and tomato.

Crinkle-cut fries: the special touch that makes it clear your meal has come from a school cafeteria.

Five elementary schools in San Antonio are embarking on a “research project” which amounts to extensive surveillance and measurement of students’ lunchtime eating habits.

“We’re trying to be as passive as possible. The kids know they’re being monitored,” said Dr. Roger Echon, who works for the San Antonio-based Social & Health Research Center, and who is building the food-recognition program.

Here’s how it works: Each lunch tray gets a bar code sticker to identify a student. After the children load up their plates down the line — cole slaw or green beans? french fries or fruit? — a camera above the cashier takes a picture of each tray.

When lunch is over and the plates are returned to the kitchen, another camera takes a snapshot of what’s left. Echon’s program then analyzes the before and after photos to calculate calories consumed and the values of 128 other nutrients… Parents will receive the data for their children, and researchers hope eating habits at home will change once moms and dads see what their kids are choosing in school.

Damn, this is one aspect of our dystopian future that Blade Runner failed to anticipate. I consider myself a pretty jaded and cynical person on these matters, but this project has left me gobsmacked in a way I haven’t been for quite awhile. It’s partly because I grew up as a continuously dieting child, feeling as though every morsel I put in my mouth was always being scruntinzed and assessed—a belief that led to some significant disordered eating, and one that I still have occasional trouble shaking, even in my mid-30s. But it’s also because there are inherent psychological effects to constant surveillance, and as the project leader says above: “The kids know they’re being monitored.”

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Gagaphrodite and other new myths. [Crosspost]

By | May 10, 2011

Still from 'Judas': Lady Gaga stands on a rock, wearing an elaborate gold gown, while enormous waves come crashing toward her from behind.

Out of the foam.

My (relatively brief) analysis of Lady Gaga’s new video for “Judas” is up over on Gaga Stigmata. In it, I look at prostitution as the video’s main thematic thread, and its messages about what our culture does to women in positions of power. Check it out: Gaga/Magdalene: Unpacking Prostitution in “Judas”. Here is a quote to tantalize you.

Immediately following the lipstick application, straddling the distance between Gaga’s despair and the prostitute-kiss between Judas and Jesus, the video breaks to a dream sequence in which a motionless Gaga is overcome by a cascade of waves reminsicent of the early mythological origins of a much older deity: the Greek goddess of love and sexuality, Aphrodite.

Gaga thereby connects herself with another powerful, otherworldly feminine archetype worshipped long before Jesus was a glimmer in his [F]ather’s eye, and one also associated with sacred prostitution. Aphrodite literally means “out of the foam”; as the story goes, she was born of the ocean, after Uranus’ son castrated (or possibly emasculated) the elder god and threw his severed genitals into the sea. Given the persistent rumors that Gaga is intersex, or possesses both male and female genitalia, the depiction of her in the role of a distinctly feminine, sex-centric goddess born as a result of the removal of male genitalia is both tongue-in-cheek and incredibly apt.

Yes, I am still fascinated by the Gaga-penis rumors, and probably will be for some time.

Also, at some point in the near future I hope to write a fuller analysis of Gaga’s recent interest in co-opting Latino/a ethnic markers, because DAMN is that ever begging to be done. Until then, this will have to suffice.

You bitches are expensive! (Or, Brink has a lady problem)

By | May 9, 2011

A still from the trailer for Brink, in which a gaggle of military-dressed gentlemen stand looking at up someone speaking off-screen. All these dudes look alike.

Three cheers for diversity!

So! Brink is a shooty video game coming out tomorrow. I only know this because my husband is quite excited about it, and obviously my vagina acts as a barrier to my enjoying shooty video games.

At least, that’s what a surprising number of big-name video game developers seem to think. It’s true that I’m not real into shooty games, partly because the twitchyness makes me REALLY ANXIOUS, and partly because they make me motion sick, especially if I’m running down lots of narrow hallways. This is not a vaginal function, however. I am inclined to blame the obscene number of hours I spent playing Doom and, later, Quake back in high school. I suspect between those two games I used up all my allotted first-person-shooter points for the rest of my lifetime.

Or it could be that most first-person shooters are so obsessively hypermasculinized that all I can do is throw my hands up in disgust. It’s not even the hypermasculinity itself that bugs me, so much as it is the fact that there is no other option. In most shooty-type games you go in and play as a big lumbering meathead of a dude, or you don’t play at all. I choose the latter. There’s lots of other games for me to play, so I’m not really complaining about missing out on this one (terribly monotonous) genre.

However, a conversation has recently popped up on my radar about the lack of female characters in Brink. That itself is unsurprising; folks are always asking for ladyfied options, and developers are always saying “no,” and “because we said so.” But this example has created a perfect storm of idiocy around women’s representation in games that I just couldn’t leave unanswered.

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Short Cuts: You wanna be on top? edition

By | May 5, 2011

A very fat woman straddles a slender man, both in silhouetted profile.

Photo by Sam Vide, from the Village Voice article discussed below.

Let’s start at the bottom, and work our way up.

The Daily Mail, true to its usual levels of fail, has published an article whose sole purpose is to showcase a paranoid theory that wearing leggings will make you fatter.

Physiotherapist Sammy Margo said: ‘Leggings… hold in and support the quadriceps (thigh muscles), buttocks and core muscles in your tummy, and do the job the muscles are supposed to do.

‘As a result, the muscles are allowed to relax and switch off, so when we reveal our bodies for the first time as summer approaches, they are not as svelte or firm as they otherwise would be.’

THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC [sic] HAS BEEN SOLVED. Scientists can go home now! All we need to do is get a bill before Congress outlawing the sale and consumption of leggings and legging-related products. MSNBC isn’t much better, because they’ve actually bothered to respond to the above with a “fact check” featuring experts of their own. It’s an EXPERT THROWDOWN.

“That’s ridiculous,” says Dr. Jana Klauer, a weight loss expert in private practice in New York City. “There’s nothing in leggings that would cause any change to occur within the muscle or the fat of the leg,” she says.


While she admits that a too-tight legging on a chunky person can emphasize the wrong things and a fuller figure might look better in a semi-fitted, more relaxed pant, the clothes themselves “can’t make you fat or skinny.”

WHEW. Thanks MSNBC! No, wait, that’s not what I meant to say. What I meant to say was “fuck all y’all, and your stupid body-loathing crap!”

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Fat NYC: An uncharacteristically fluffy picture post

By | May 4, 2011

Me, standing on a New York street, wearing a ruffled chambray dress and black leggings and grey boots.

Marianne took this. Damn my crooked leggings.

So! Last weekend found Marianne and I in New York for the Fat Girl Fleamarket, and for our promised live Fatcast. The Flea was amazing, as usual, and I think the Fatcast went okay, though I was hopelessly distracted by technical difficulties and by the mimosas our brunch waiter totally peer-pressured us into drinking beforehand.

It was a swell trip, even if I did only get to see less than half of the folks I wanted to, as any exposure to radical fat community is always a welcome treasure. I only took a few pictures that wound up on Twitpic, and they mostly involve shoes, but here they are for your perusal.


Image of Marianne's feet in white socks and pink and black polka-dotted Dr Martens oxfords, and the bottom of her long black dress.

Marianne's socks and shoes and skirt.

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