Category Archives: Feminism

Art and Beauty

An amazing thing happened in my life.

I learned to love my body.

And one of the driving forces that helped me to do this was my art. I’ve always dabbled with painting and I am by no means a talented renderer. But I’ve dabbled so long that I finally figured some things out.

I started painting women that looked like women are expected to look. And that was okay. But then I started wondering what other body shapes would look like. And I started painting those too.

It freaked me out at first, when people started asking if they were self portraits, mainly because they are so explicit. They’re not self-portraits–at least not in the sense that they represent anything specific about me. I was not thinking of my vagina when I painted them. But in another way, they are portraits of how I see myself in a positive manner and how I view the beauty standards of the majority of Americans.

My painting lately, much like my writing, is buried underneath my mound of other priorities at the moment. But since I have a lot of new readers lately, I thought I would share my art with you all.

Oh and FYI, my art is generally NSFW! That means don’t click on it while you’re boss is standing behind you. Unless she/he happens to be very open minded.

You can see the whole gallery here.  Please note that I have made this gallery public for a short time only. Go check it out now before I protect it again.

The thing is, we can talk all we want about fat acceptance–and talk we should. But we have to see it too. Not just in ourselves but in others and we have to show others how beautiful we really are.

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Filed under fat, Feminism, Media Literacy, Self Image, Size Acceptance

Thank you, Kate Harding. Thank you, Shapelings!

I typed this originally as a comment, but it got long so it became a post. This is in response to Shapely Prose’s triumphant stand against Dan Savage’s GodHatesFatties religion. This is a big thank you to Kate, Fillyjonk, Sweet Machine, Joy Nash and all the other sisters and brothers of all sizes taking on the diet-pushing, body-hating, money-churning self-hate machine.

This has been a weekend of me realizing how desperately people need to cling to their self-hatred.

If people admit that you can be healthy at any weight, that being fat is not a sin, that it is NOT OKAY blame, moralize or mock people for their size–whatever it is–then they have to admit that they can’t change the way THEY are.

I know that people at least my age (27) have grown up our entire lives with these standards of self-loathing during every commercial break we’ve EVER watched. Not to mention the magazines, weight loss books and water-cooler conversations.

And what we have the hardest time realizing (and I’m so glad that I have) is that there is no diet, no amount of cocaine (via post secret today), no amount of surgery and no amount of hating other people that can make us love ourselves.

Thanks for getting the message out there, Kate. For taking all the negativity and dealing with the trolls that think being behind a computer means they can call someone fat and be any less of a sad, immature pig.

And thanks for holding up a mirror to people like Savage and the others who hold so strongly to their ideals of beauty–disguised as health–so they don’t have to face the long, hard journey of learning to love themselves.

True self improvement can only come from self-love. It takes a hell of a lot of courage to go down that road.

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Filed under fat, Feminism, Health, Media Literacy, Self Image, Size Acceptance

On politics and gender

And why I am voting for Hilary Clinton.
In my African American Women class back in college, my professor told the story of a conversation between Frederick Douglas and Ida B. Wells. Frederick Douglass, you probably know was a well known advocate for African-American rights and social justice. Ida B. Wells had the same mission but also fought for women’s rights and women’s suffrage.

Although Douglass was always a staunch supporter of women’s rights, he is rumored to have once told Wells that they must fight for a man’s right to vote before a womans and that the higher cause was the rights of African American men over women of any race.

I don’t want to demonize this statement into something its not. There are a lot of valid reasons for him to have said this. I understand how hard it is to be an activist and want to see change in all areas and being able to only focus your energy on one.

But there are a few not-so-valid reasons for this sentiment too. And it is the sentiment that still prevails today. Sure, women can be equal as long as men go first.

Today, the world is changing. Rapidly. Benizir Bhutto is an example of that. Think of it–a FEMALE leader in a fundamentalist muslim world. That is an incredible triumph, even in the face of her tragic death.

And here we sit. America. Land of the free. Leader of the world. Where all freedom originates and radiates to the rest of the world. Yeah, not so much. America is being left behind because we refuse to face the fact that we too have become a fundamentalist nation. I wouldn’t even go so far as to call it solely religious fundamentalism. There are a lot of different ways in which America is an extremist.

And yet, here we sit as a first world, developed country to have never put forth a woman as a leader in our top two positions. That is, to put it nicely…embarrassing.

And then of course the questions come:

Don’t you want the right leader, regardless of gender?

Of course, I do. But show me anyone in our political system that is truly the ‘right’ leader. Show me a ratio of good to bad that comes out of the “good ole boy system.” Our system is corrupt and we know that. We need change. But just walking around the halls of Congress declaring that, isn’t going to make it happen. We need a leader who can play the game but has an established agenda of righting this country’s wrongs.

But you don’t want the wrong woman giving the country a bad impression of women as leaders do you?

Could a woman ever really live up to the expectations of this country? Haven’t you seen it already? Hilary is too hard/harsh, Hilary is playing the victim, Hilary isn’t strong enough to lead. There is no right way for a woman to act in this country without someone finding a way to criticize her womanhood. Can you imagine someone questioning Barak’s masculinity every time he opened his mouth? Doesn’t happen. As far as I’m concerned if we can show the world that a woman is capable of being elected, that is as much victory as I’m willing to hope for. I realize that the next four years with Hilary will be hell as she is scrutinized at every step because she is female. It won’t go well. But at least it’ll happen.

But she voted for the war!

Yes she did. She was wrong and I realize that she won’t admit it. She’s a politician, still, after all so why act surprised about that? But the bottom line was that Congress, the United Nations, America and the entire world was LIED to by Bush and his machine. That’s no litmus test to me.

Aren’t you tired of legacy presidencies? Do you really want to go Bush Clinton Bush Clinton? (this is my SO’s view)

This is a valid question. Legacy presidencies are dangerous, even if you agree with the overall ideology. But a legacy is something that is passed from parent to child, not from husband to wife. Clinton has come out against her husband on many issues and aside from basic liberal ideology, I’m not worried that she’s carrying anyone’s agenda but her own.

I actually like every single one of the Democratic candidates. Its a win win situation, really. But for once, I’m not choosing the idealistic candidate. And yes, the fact that a woman is running has helped me to come to that decision, when perhaps I wouldn’t otherwise.

But here’s the reality. Eight years ago, this country elected the most calculating stupid man on the planet. And they elected his calculating cronies who could suck up power like hungry hungry hippos while we were distracted by the idiot in the president suit.

Here’s the kicker though: Four years later, this country RE-elected all of that.

As sad as that makes me for our country, that’s what we’re dealing with here. People want change, yes. And I think a lot of people are going to vote democrat for the first time in their lives this November. But these are still the people who once saw any sense in voting Bush into office, not once but twice.

This is not an argument for electability. I think those people are going to be just as wary about voting in an unknown minority as they are a well-known woman. And I think in either case, most of them will get over it. I’m talking about getting things done once the election is over.

The people who supported and voted Bush into office are still the ones that our next president is going to have to deal with. As much as I would love for Barak to show up to work on his first day and kick out all the lobbyists, all the religious fanatics or change this country’s abject fear of socialized medicine, I just don’t think that’s going to happen.

I could be wrong. And if he wins New Hampshire, he may have the chance to prove me wrong. And I’ll be thrilled if I am.

But for me, the right person for this job at this time is Hilary Clinton. We’ve got to overhaul health care and education. We have to stop the shrinking of the middle class and the marginalization of the poor. We have to end racism in our justice system. We have to change Americans’ earth-destroying lifestyles while maintaining our economy.

And we have to do all this while cleaning up the foreign policy shitstorm that the previous administration has dumped on the world. We have to bring our troops home in a way that minimizes loss of Iraqi life and we have to rebuild relations in the middle-east while putting an end to our greedy, fanatical meddling. We have to rebuild our armed forces to take on the countries that actively threaten us. And we have to be leaders in building a coalition of countries dedicated to bringing the entire continent of Africa out of the vestiges of hunger, violence, disease and corruption.

That’s a tall order. I believe that all the democratic candidates agree that these are our challenges. But Hilary is the leader that I believe can take active steps towards convincing the rest of America that these are our priorities.

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What is fat?

I have almost over-trained myself to not comment on people’s appearance. I hate it equally when an “average”-sized woman (or man) claims to be fat or needs to diet or when anyone tells a skinny woman that she needs a sandwich (and yes, I have been guilty of the latter). I don’t believe that someone’s body is a valid topic of conversation or criticism.

But sometimes, I find myself unwilling to state what seems obvious to others. She is fat. She is skinny. She is average. Our eyes can pick out of a crowd who is different and who is similar. But what does all that really mean? And what language should we use to describe ourselves and others in a casual, size-positive way?

If Kate Harding’s BMI project taught us anything, its that we can’t rely on this poor excuse for a medical tool to categorize weight. And our own experience shows us that what is considered “skinny” is a social construct that has changed drastically, even just in the course of our lifetimes. When I was shopping for clothes as a teenager, I had never heard of a size 0! Historically, harder times often meant that a person with a few extra pounds was seen as beautiful because they represented bounty, fullness and of all things, health!

But today, even though we have ample food, inequality keeps that food from getting to the places it should be. Fat, therefore, is seen as a symbol of excess, greed and injustice. The most nutritious foods are available only to those with the means, while those who are considered working poor or indigent can afford only the most processed, chemical-laden crap on the market.

Class, I believe plays a huge role in the social construct of weight. So, really when coming up with definitions, I think its important to note that anything I come up with are “middle-class” distinctions of weight. What is a fat or skinny person to me is based completely on the availability of food in my class or country and how I view others with similar socioeconomic and political circumstances.

So with those caveats in mind, what is fat? What is average? And what is skinny? And why do I think its important to even categorize people in this way?

Well, I don’t really. I don’t think we should need to categorize. But I have also read a lot in fat-forward blogs that people often feel they are either too fat or too skinny to participate in or be represented by this movement. So its got me thinking about what is too fat and what is too skinny?

There’s just too many variables to intelligently answer this question. How much do you weigh, how tall are you, where do you carry your fat, what’s your body shape, what’s your muscle mass? With all those factors, does average even really exist or is it just in our heads?

And isn’t there a difference between society telling you you’re fat and your body telling you that you’re fat? My body probably didn’t tell me I was fat until a year or so ago. My media-influenced mind, my insecurities and the people around me told me since I was in 5th grade. But my body didn’t speak up until quite recently. And Health at Every Size is about listening to your body, not the bias of other people.

I was hoping that writing this would lead me to a conclusion, but I don’t have one. Perhaps the answer is in discussion. Are you fat? What factors, social indicators or clues tell you that you are fat or not-fat?

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Filed under Feminism, Self Image, Size Acceptance

Corpulent Cogitation

The holidays are over and I have boxes of excess consumerism to deal with strewn all over my house. But with a quiet day at work, I’ve had some time to catch up on my Fatosphere reading.

I responded rather late to a post over at Shapely Prose and it got me thinking about how much time the average person, affected by the average (read: extreme) amount of media influence regarding food, diet and health, spends feeling guilty about the most common activity of our existence: eating.

So I decided to think back to a time when eating was a terrifying, guilt-ridden thing for me. A time when I bought into the near religious nature of food associations and the morality they attempted to apply to my choices: sinful, indulgent, divine.

Say, I ate an entire plate of spaghetti. I’d feel guilty for at least as long as I felt full, sometimes longer. So since the gastric phase of digestion takes at least 3-4 hours, let’s say I spent an average of 1-3 hours feeling guilty about my meal.

I eat three meals a day and rarely snack in between. But let’s go ahead and throw in the average two snacks per day and double the guilt there because snacking is evil in the dieting world.

So at the very minimum that’s 7 hours a day I would spend feeling guilty about my food and therefore negative towards my body and thus my entire self-image. At most, that’s 15 hours of guilt, stress, self-loathing and fear.

Think about that. In today’s stressful world of multi-tasking, helicopter parenting and financial rollercoasters, does anyone need 7-15 hours of feeling like shit about yourself for a task as simple as eating?

This is why I contend that dieting is so much LESS healthy than the industry would have you believe. When you pile all that stress and self-loathing wrapped around the basic need of eating, plus the stress on your body caused by yo-yo dieting, plus the general desire of the media to make you feel like crap about yourself without their product, I’D RATHER JUST BE FAT!

And realizing that is the most freeing feeling I’ve ever experienced. This doesn’t negate my responsibility to be a healthy person. In fact, this is me ACTING on my responsibility to be a healthy person.1

To me, getting back my 7-15 hours and spending it living is worth it. To paraphrase a beauty company’s motto, I’m worth it!


1Edited 12-27-07: I marked this out because I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a ‘responsibility to be healthy.’ That’s moralist talk creeping into my language. It sounded good when I wrote it but I wasn’t thinking about what it implied.

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Filed under Feminism, Health, Media Literacy, Self Image, Size Acceptance

Fat Pride=Insecurity

Last night I was at a casual gathering. The topic of fat bashing came up. In particular, the topic of ‘gross fat women on motorized scooters in Target.’

Yes, I know. Couth.

The first thing that I thought about was how amazing it is that people think its okay to make fun of fat people IN FRONT OF FAT PEOPLE.

Keep in mind, these are dear friends. Friends that would not intentionally want to hurt me. But their bigotry is so engrained that they don’t even think twice.

“Oh, but I’m talking about people way fatter than you!”

As if that matters! That’s just a matter of scale. The point is still the same: fat people are gross. And no matter how you qualify it, that applies to me too.

The second thing that marveled me was my reluctance to speak up. I tried to come up with some easier reasons, like not rocking the boat. But when I hit the truth it was this: I didn’t want to speak up because having pride in being a beautiful fat woman is often viewed as veiled insecurity. And I just happen to be the type of person that can’t stand making my weaknesses public. So even though it had nothing to do with insecurity, I couldn’t handle that people would even think that!

So I wonder if this is an issue in other types of bigotry. Do people who are gay or hispanic or disabled ever fail to speak up against bashing because they might be perceived as insecure? Or is this a phenomenon reserved only for fat-hate?

Either way, I didn’t say a damn thing while they went on and on about how fat people who get that bad have no excuse and they let themselves go and blah, blah, blah.

I need an elevator speech about fat-hate. What do you say in these situations?

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Smokin’

You KNOW you are one hot, sexy, unstoppable woman when you can get home from work at 5:15 and be ready for the fancy Holiday party by 5:45. Aw yeah.

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