Being the Funny Fat Person is Serious Business

Funny fat people squeeze their way into the tight pigeon hole of stardom by fulfilling fat fallacy. There is a sense of security and empowerment in the notion that when we’re in charge of the fat joke, it’s ok for the audience to laugh at fat bodies. Similarly, I learned that to survive the playground bully calling me fat, all I had to do was laugh with them, making it possible for me to be in on the joke rather than the victim of it. I latched on to being the proprietor of laughter, getting to the fatty punchline quicker than my enemies. My biggest hit as a 12 year old chubby girl was making a funny face where my double chin multiplied into 12. While I never wrote a joke, I could always make a whole room laugh at my body as a caricature of fatness, so that my audience could be comfortable with the “elephant” in the room.

Garnering laughter for positive attention kept space between me and harmful insults, but they both shared my body as the punchline. Coming into fat-acceptance consciousness often stares directly into the face of learned coping skills. Once one realizes that telling self-deprecating jokes feels just as shitty as being hurled insults, the laughter loses its feeling of security. After the laughter fades, a more serious fat performer is left standing under the proverbial limelight sans jolly material. The audience is uneasy if and when they realize they are laughing at the body and not the joke.


Healthcare starts with a focus on height and weight. It’s the first recorded stats after a baby is born. There are no less than one thousand reasons health is focused on thinness as a virtue, so it’s no wonder that thin people (and some fat people) see fat people and wonder, “What went wrong?” The assumption is made that everybody, especially women, is working to attain and maintain “health.” Health is in quotations because “health” is usually a code for “thinness,” as BMI and the social constructs it inspires dictates. Those who haven’t reached their “healthiest” peak are constantly pressured to present and perform.

Natalie, the plus size influencer and fat activist that makes up Nataliemeansnice, recently asked her audience, “Can you imagine being as unbelievably talented and having such an incredible career and list of accomplishments as Adele does and all people can talk about is your weight?” When fat people are surrounded by comments about how proud spectators are of Adele’s weight-loss, it serves as a reminder of how much weight conformity and thinness is valued over anything else. “Good for her,” comments are made from an assumption that Adele’s thinner body is not only an improvement of her health, but also an improvement of her overall wellbeing. There is no proof that either of these assumption are true. Adele has not made her any comments about her weight-loss and she does not owe anyone an explanation. The only thing these assumptions do is inform the fat people who hear them that you can have more Grammy Awards than your fat arms can hold, and people will still praise you more for becoming thin.


Even when I was holding a big foam finger to my fatness, I knew I had other talents that were more impressive than simply living hyper aware of my “shameful” body. However, no matter how I packaged my skills, like singing or making art: unless I was exclaiming that I was doing it in spite of my fatness, my audience would tell me how brave I was. Which was also to tell me, “you’re so brave for not waiting to lose weight before doing this publicly.”

The demeaning undertone of calling a fat person “brave” is unintentional, based on one’s own relationship with their body and the virtue of thinness. Since healthcare in the United States relies on weight being maintained against the Body Mass Index, we are conditioned to believe that those who fall outside the chart are doing a poor job with their health. When a thin person who values thinness sees a fat person, their internal bias informs them that this fat person has already failed at something: Attaining thinness. I’m using the term “internal bias” because most fatshamers lack the intention to hate or harm fat people. However, unintentional bias like this can act as an insidious undertone in communities, causing real harm to fat people in a systemic way. We should be encouraging to call out internal bias by its true name: Sizism.

Fat folks who don’t care to conform to thinness are pushed into harmful, hateful stereotypes like “lazy” and “careless.” If a fat person wishes to be taken even remotely seriously, they must be well-groomed, reserved, and working towards “health” as others see it. If a fat person wants to be respected, it seems that they must let the world know they are aware of their fatness as a problem.

I find myself working several times harder as a fat person than many of my thin counterparts to shed the lens of failure. When I was bullied in grade school for my size, I learned to find personal pride by finding value in myself that wasn’t informed by how I looked. I threw my heart and soul into vocal training. I enrolled in a tech school to get my cosmetology license. I ran for president of an extracurricular program and won the election. When I graduated high school, I finished with three degrees in my hand. These documents served as an exhaustive list of qualifications on why I should be respected. On paper, I was no less than perfect.

Perfection is something I’ve been practicing and performing as an indicator of my worth since I stopped telling self-depreciating jokes about my weight. I don’t speak without being certain that I’m well-informed because many people link fatness with low intelligence. When eating in a group, especially around new people, I’m hyper vigilant that the food on my plate is well balanced because many people link fatness with gluttony. Whether health studies or social constructs are recognized as classist and fatphobic, many fat people learn to play the part of the “Good Fatty” to protect themselves from criticism because no matter how talented we are, there is no escaping thinly-veiled fatphobia masking as health concerns (pun intended.)


Sometimes, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that my personality and strengths are a reaction to abuse. My eternal need to achieve is because I see my value through my accomplishments, which have to outshine others in order to been seen before my fatness. Dedication to peak perfectionism has reared its ugly head in ways I didn’t anticipate, too. I am committed to being the perfect friend, the perfect wife, the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect employee. Anything less than perfection feels like a big fat failure, because my productivity and how I can be of use to other people informs how valuable I am. Each time someone accepts a piece of what I have to offer, I feel rewarded with approval.

Understanding that fat people are often painted like failures regardless of any of their hard work is not to say that being a high achiever as a coping mechanism is bad. Coping is a way to heal, like a bandaid protects a wound. There’s a voice in my head (re: my therapist’s voice) that reminds me that being committed to being a good friend is a positive trait to put energy into. However, there are times when an obsession with perfection that’s fueled by running from failure has turned positive traits into harmful addictions.

A Plump Wife and a Big Barn Never Did Any Man Harm

With no exaggeration, I’ve been so distracted by the need to be perceived as successful to others that I burned myself while cooking a four course meal for a large dinner party I felt I needed to host. I didn’t realize I had permanently scarred myself until the next day. I’m embarrassed to say that the burn felt like a trophy of what I’m willing to do to love those around me. It’s proof of how hard I worked, but I also now realize that it’s also a piece of me I’ll never get back.

The need for fat people to fulfil a lifelong quest to collect accolades or use humor to be in control or is exhausting and violently tolling, even if it can also feel rewarding. I’m quick to write stories about my resiliency as a fat person because maybe it will offer a piece to someone else’s puzzle in their own advocacy and self-discovery. I stand with open arms willing to give pieces of myself away because giving benefits whoever is receiving and it represents their approval of my high worth. If I am useful to others, there is a hope that a part of my personality will take precedence over any misconception about failure that is tethered to my fat body.

There are positive stereotypes about fat people, particularly fat women, that we hear about far less than the negative ones. Positive fat tropes are born out of actions fat people take to be valued. Fat women are often the emotional sounding board for their friends and loved ones, often welcoming and warm-hearted, and often open books about our struggles to build community and camaraderie. Fat women are healers. Our need to use humor to be accepted by others was just one way we proved variance in fat stereotypes. It is but one facet to a history of fat nurtures taken for granted.

I often dream of a world where my wheels don’t always have to be turning at full speed to prove that I’m not failing. I have wondered what it would feel like to stand still and breathe in success in the moment, rather than continuing to push forward towards a new achievement. I wonder if I stop climbing towards greatness, I will also lose all the worth I’ve built up. I feel conditioned to consistently and unrelentingly work hard be seen as successful, even though it’s rarely a compliment I receive from the thin people in my life. I hope for experiences where I feel wanted and adored without having to give parts of myself away to be worthy of it.

I like being the serious friend, even if it’s emotionally heavy sometimes. I like working towards awards and high ratings. I like being the smartest person in the room. I like feeling worthy in a way that highlights the things I’ve worked hard for, even if it exhausted me to do so. By recognizing the amount of energy I use in my quest for knowledge or greatness, I can hold boundaries in how much I give away to others. I can know to check-in with myself to make sure I didn’t give too many pieces of myself away in order to feel purposeful. I can also make sure that when I’m useful to someone else, they appreciate it instead of expect it. Knowing some people will always see me as a failure simply because I’m not thin has also helped me recognize how privileged I am to have the affordability to hold virtue through other classist structures, like academia and the arts.

The strengths and accomplishments I’ve harnessed as an entertaining, funny, smart, fat woman were built from trying to prevent the pain of disrespect. Being an accomplished person is still a complicated mess conceived from a need to be valued by others. As a serious fat person, I’m not as easily likened to a punchline. I am in control of my own narrative in a way that feels important, even if there’s more dismantling ahead of me. At least now when I tell a joke, no matter how cheap, it’s one I find funny, too.

Body Shaming of Latinas

By Abbie Bevan
By Abbie Bevan

I have never been skinny. There is a common misconception that Latinas get a “free pass” to be curvy or larger, yet my experience as someone growing up in Puerto Rico has been far from that. I grew up being an awkward, chubby girl and was teased for being bigger than my female classmates. At the age of 11, I learned to loathe every aspect of my body. I hated my flabby arms, my fat rolls, my love handles, and my round face. I developed an eating disorder at that time and everyone around me encouraged it. Teachers, family members, and peers praised me for my weight loss. I had a teacher who even told me to continue to do whatever I was doing to be thin, as long as I didn’t get too skinny—meaning that losing weight this way was okay as long as I didn’t end up in the hospital. I enjoyed the control I had over my body. I liked punishing it for bringing me so much emotional pain. I starved myself and exercised until I looked like someone who was deemed acceptable by society, yet still didn’t feel confident enough.

I began to eat again and gain weight when I was 13. My mom complained about it and said that she didn’t like that I was gaining weight. People stopped praising my body. I began to receive criticism of my body again and would look at myself in the mirror and cry. I desperately wanted to look just the way I did when I had an ED. I began trying to make myself puke whenever I felt too bad about my body. I started using laxatives. I felt like I would never be able to be happy unless I was skinny. My ultimate goal in life was not to be skinny, yet I felt like I should have made it a priority so people would like me. Over the years, I had plenty of “friends” and family members point out my weight. I cannot express how many times I’ve been told “You would be perfect if you lost 20 lbs!” or ” You should diet. You need it.”

It certainly didn’t help that eating disorders became trendy in high school. Girls would congratulate one another for their weight loss, even if they knew that the weight loss was caused by unhealthy habits. The thinnest girls would be idolized and admired by the rest. The guys also seemed to prefer girls who looked like this because they resembled models. A friend once told me that the preferred body type differs in the island according to socioeconomic class. This might be true, however, I’ve seen women of different economic and social backgrounds worry about their weight to the point where they’ve taken extreme measures to live up to society’s standards. I’ve heard too many of my friends who are many sizes smaller than I am exclaim “I’m so fat!” and bully themselves into going to the gym, even when they don’t feel physically well, simply because they want to be thin.

Strangely enough, I experienced being in a body positive environment for the first time when I moved to the States for college. I was surrounded by people with different body types who were not shamed by their peers. Sure, many of my friends have insecurities but the pressure to be thin wasn’t as bad as in Puerto Rico. It was refreshing to be in an environment in which I could feel more confident and wear whatever I wanted without fearing being criticized by someone. Unfortunately, while my college may have been a safe space for people of various body types, this is not typically the case.

The desire to be thin comes from the media’s constant fat shaming and promotion of the idea that thinness equals success. It is so difficult to find someone who looks like me on television, film, and magazines. I vary from sizes 8-12, according to the brand and style of clothes. Even if I’m not considered plus-sized and can buy straight-sized clothes, I’m still considered a “fatty” by society. Anyone who doesn’t fit the mold of the ideal body image is shamed. I would love to be able to love my body and feel confident. I would love to be able to love myself and proudly wear a bikini and not worry about something so trivial as having “fat” arms or a tummy that isn’t flat. All I hope for is that someday society will accept that we all have different body types and they’re not meant to look the same. Health should be a priority, not thinness, and it’s about time this changed.

Glamorizing Eating Disorders

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A bit more than a week ago, Peaches Geldof’s death was announced but the cause of death remained inconclusive. Although I never really considered myself a fan of hers, I remembered her as someone who I could relate to in terms of her body type. There weren’t many curvy women presented in the media and she was someone who made me feel a bit more confident. When media sites reported how happy she seemed on Instagram before her death, I decided to take a look at her pictures.

Instead of seeing the Peaches Geldof that I remembered from my early teenage years, I saw an incredibly thin woman who did not resemble the image of Peaches Geldof that I once related to. She had openly talked about her body insecurities and discussed the influence that the media had on her body image:  “Sometimes it’s hard. If you open any high-fashion magazine, the girls in it are stick-thin and then they’ve been air-brushed down to the point where it’s just like, ludicrousness. I have days when I wake up and think ‘I’m so fat.’”

Despite the fact that it was evident that her body had changed drastically and there were hints that she may have an eating disorder, it was very difficult to find reports that discussed anorexia as a possible factor in her death.The “a” word was nowhere to be found.  It was not until a few days after her death that celebrity gossip sites began to post statements from family friends saying that they believed Peaches may have been anorexic, just like her late mother, Paula Yates.

The fact that Peaches may have died due to an eating disorder hit home for me because I had an eating disorder from the age of 11 to 14. It was a huge struggle to feel comfortable with my body and it still is. The media has taught me that my body is not deemed attractive because I don’t wear a size 0, 2, or 4. Actresses such as Amber Heard and America Ferrera feel forced to lose weight in order to gain popularity and be deemed acceptable. What this tells me is that I will never be accepted unless I find a way to lose weight- whether it’s in an unhealthy way or not.

As a person who is constantly struggling with body image and who has to endure conversations with her parents, where they ask “Are you still thin? Did you get fat again?,” it is easy to feel like I will never be successful if I am not thin. There’s plenty of worse things than being fat but society has taught me that being fat is something to be ashamed of and something that I need to change immediately. It has been almost a decade since I had an eating disorder and, although I still struggle a lot with my body image, I realized that it’s better to be healthy and “fat” rather than starving myself for something so shallow.

Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from some sort of eating disorder. Women, in particular, receive the most criticism by the media and are often introduced to diets from an early age.The media teaches women that their appearance is valued more than their health.Nobody should die trying to follow the body image standard. It is time to try to put a stop on the importance of being thin and focus on being healthy instead.

Update: Although Peaches Geldoff died of a heroin overdose, it’s still worth noting the fact that things weren’t going as perfectly in her life as the media reported it to be prior to her death. She showed obvious signs of having an eating disorder and feeling insecure about herself, to the point where she starved herself. She is someone who was constantly criticized in the media for her body and family life and it’s easy to see how something like that can take a toll on someone, causing extreme health risks and drug use.

Portrait of a Bitch: Bitchtopia’s Lindsey Averill

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Lindsey Averill -- Illustration by Lee Anna
Lindsey Averill — Illustration by Lee Anna

Lindsey Averill is a feminist blogger and activist headquartered in south Florida. Averill juggles several projects including Bitchtopia, her weblog Feminist Cupcake, and her coaching service Extraordinary Being. She is currently teaching at Florida Atlantic University in the Women, Gender and Sexuality department while she pursues her PhD in Women’s Studies. Averill’s most current project is a movie-length documentary called Fattitude: A Body Positive Documentary which aims to break down the cultural and medical demonization of fat bodies. Fattitude is currently in it’s developing stages with a projected release of late 2015.

What made you become interested in Women’s Studies and Feminism?

I don’t remember when or where feminism dawned on me, but by the time I started college I was comfortable calling myself a feminist. That said, I don’t think I realized that my life was going to be about women’s studies and feminism until I was in the second year of my Ph. D. program.  Just by chance, I took a class with Jane Caputi. (I liked the title of the class: Women, Myth and Reality). Jane was thrilling.  She shattered the ground beneath my feet and made me truly see how much of what I had been taught to believe about women, women’s lives, women’s roles and women’s desires was not actually fact but deep-rooted sexist assumption. She also made me realize the connections between our cultural demonization of women, our bodies and the earth. (Jane is fucking amazing. If you don’t know of her then go google her. Life changer.)

After being introduced to the theoretical feminism I started to recognize that my body was a sight of ‘intimate terrorism,’ as were the bodies of many others I knew. (Intimate Terrorism term I stole from Gloria Anzaldua – meaning the brutalities and oppressions that are so close they are self-inflicted.) I had to change that.

That’s why I started Extraordinary Being. That’s why I write Feminist Cupcake. That’s why I am making Fattitude.  Because it’s time to stop hating bodies, particularly fat ones, but all bodies, really.

Photo Provided by Lindsey Averill
Photo Provided by Lindsey Averill

Have your experiences directly inspired your body-positive activism?

Absolutely, my life experience inspired my activism. Like most people whose body weight is more than her peers, I spent years being bullied and bullying myself because I genuinely believed that my fat body wasn’t good enough.

When I think about my childhood, I remember crying a lot about my body. I remember feeling like a failure and not understanding why I wasn’t thin like my friends. I would have given anything to be thin, and I tried everything to be thin. I’m not going to lie to you. I have always loved food, but honestly I wanted thin way more than I ever wanted food. I dieted constantly. Each time I was thinner I loved being thinner, and I desperately wanted to stay thinner but as soon as I stopped starving myself and started eating normally I gained the weight back. Thin was/is not in the cards for me.

Today, I work out regularly and eat healthy but I don’t lose weight. At least I think I don’t lose weight because at this point in my life I never get on a scale but my clothes keep fitting so…

Honestly, I genuinely believe that constant dieting made me fatter. I think that if I had accepted my body rather than diet I might have been a bit bigger than others but I never would have been as big as I am now. Diets failed me. They haunted me – they filled my life with failure because no matter how many times I dieted, I never stayed thin.

We often hear people say that diets don’t work, and there are a lot of articles and research out there that explain why this is true, for example thisthis, and this. And yet, so many people continue to believe that if you have a fat body, then you can make ‘choices’ which will result in you having a body that is less fat. In other words, despite the research, we continue to believe that diets do work.

We are making Fattitude and I run Extraordinary Being and blog at feminist cupcake because I am trying to educate people about fatness. I am trying to get them to see that bodies are individual, some are fat, some are thin, some are healthy, some are unhealthy, some are short, some are tall, some are gay, black, white, brown, hetero, trans – it doesn’t matter. All bodies deserve kindness and respect.

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Lindsey’s Various Projects

There are a lot of incredible people coming together to Make Fattitude happen: What are your methods of networking to organize change?

To be honest, I just emailed or facebooked lots of people in the social justice/feminist/fat activist community. I know that sounds way too simple, but the these communities are  open to supporting most projects that look to help educate the populace about fat shame and fat hatred. Occasionally – before the trailer was complete people were a little wary, supportive but wary.  Now that we have finished the trailer most activists get right back to us.

That said, when we were filming the initial interviews we were not able to secure any interviews with male scholars or activists. This is one of our main goals for our next round of interviews. We absolutely want to have men in Fattitude and we will.

What advice do you have for beginning activists who are looking for their voices?

Find a mentor. Read everything. Start a blog. Write for established blogs. Comment on the work of others and listen when they comment back. Apply for scholarships to amazing programs for rising feminists, like those offered by Soapbox, Inc. Get out there and get learning because finding your voice is about knowing what you stand for.

What can we, the readers, do to help you make Fattitude happen?

FattitudeLogoFinalCOLOR1.) If you can, please donate to our Kickstarter. Every dollar counts.
 
2.) Share the Kickstarter on your social media feeds – facebook, twitter, personal blogs, etc. The more you post it the more likely we are to get exposure – and obviously, the more traffic we get, the more funds we can raise.

3.) Invite your friends to like our facebook page or tell your followers to like our facebook page. The facebook page is located at www.facebook.com/fattitudethemovie. On the right hand side of the page is a panel that says, “Invite Your Friends to like this page.” You click the words  “see all” on the right hand side of the panel. A new box will open up and then you can click “invite” to invite anyone you feel comfortable inviting. Honestly, this is a tedious process, as you have to invite each friend individually – but we would be ever so thankful if you help us grow our community.

4.) Check out our web page and sign up for our mailing list: www.fattitudethemovie.com.

5.) If you know anyone you can contact or who you think we should contact about the kickstarter, please let us know. This could be anyone from a great blogger to a mainstream media outlet to a friend who you think might be interested. Raising this money is an important part of this process and we need all the exposure we can get!

Fattutude’s Kickstarter campaign will continue until Sun, May 25 2014 1:52 PM EDT.

Would you like to share the story of a feminist in your life? Email Btopia.Mag@gmail.com for more information.

Special K Wants Everyone to Shut Up About Fat

Fat visibility has been rising at a rapid pace. Even Cosmo has started to advocate for body positivity, which means hell froze over, and we are living in a positive, post apocalyptic world. Special K, known for their exclusive cereal diet, decided to jump along on the body talk bandwagon.

Special K teamed with Tyra Banks and gathered a bunch of “fat talk” tweets and comments and plastered them up in a fake store called “Shhh”. It seems really obvious that there are no fat people under their employment, because this campaign lacked mighty fat guidance. One of the comments read, “I have a muffin top”. Special K added a simple-minded “Shhhh” to the left side of the comment, printed it on a label for the shoppers to read, and called it a body positive campaign. Let’s not forget, Special K is a company that sells diet food, along with a diet “plan”. They are not here for a person’s mental health; the company’s main basis is to have you buy their products so you can lose weight. By campaigning to #FightFatTalk, they are also pushing their weight loss products. This is directly about fat erasure, not body acceptance.

Back in the days of the glorious Tyra show, Ms. Banks dressed up in a fat suit in order to shed light on how fat people are mistreated. She learned, after a few short hours hours parading around in the suit, that being fat is hard. She described it as being “one of the most heart-breaking days of my life”. After the segment was finished, her rubber suit was removed, and Tyra went back to “smizing” in her straight sized body, with a new found pitying eye towards fat bodies.

Just like that, Tyra realized it was time to erase fat discrimination by erasing fat talk all together. Eight years later, and her distorted view of body positivity is still being promoted at large. She put herself in charge of shutting up every mouth that is talking about the burgers they put in it.

Special K’s “Shhhh” campaign does not advocate for body positivity. Instead, it advocates for the erasure of fat talk while encouraging fat to be seen negatively. Fat is so bad we will be shushed from identifying with it! The last line of the commercial, “reversing the fat talk. Making it positive talk” further reinforces that fat is negative talk. Special K has invited us to “fight fat talk” only because of their shallow concern with the way we identify and and use the word fat, and they are willing to get violent about it.

Excuse me, but I am happily fat. Instead of “fighting,” let’s open the dialogue about fat bodies. We can discuss how our bellies do cute things sometimes or about how proud we are to be just as we are. We should drown out the effervescent “shhhh” in our heads and exchange it with a vivacious “and perfect!” when we look in the mirror. (Or other positive phrases)  Let’s promote how wonderful it is that we can love ourselves in our own skin, exactly the way it is.

If fat wasn’t such a bad word, it would be easier to listen to our bodies. Instead of looking in the mirror to decide how much weight you want to put on or lose, one can simply say “I feel like working out today because it will make my happy”, or “I would like to eat that cupcake because it is delicious.” If fat was a positive reinforcement for a fat body, the relationship between food and weight would not be as skewed as it is. Food would not be a reward or a punishment, as the powerful industry that is diet culture would love to have us believe. There has never been a better time for “riots not diets” to be shouted from a mountain top, overpowering every “shhhh” Tyra throws at us.

Is Body-Positivity Ruining Your Life?

Ideas.Time.com recently published a piece called “Fit Pride isn’t ‘Hate Speech.’” I would like to begin by stating that taking pride in your body is never hateful, and can only improve your experience in the world. Where the problem comes in is when you start associating taking pride in yourself by putting others down.

Maria Kang wrote the article in question, and posted the photo that sparked controversy alongside the text. Below, you will see the photo.

ugh

From her Time.com article,

“Have we really created a society so sensitive and weak that we cry “hate speech” whenever someone points out the fine line we’re walking as a nation by promoting a healthy body image above actual health? Has the growing movement promoting “fat acceptance” and even “fat pride” gone so far that now we need a countervailing movement promoting “fit pride”? We may just.”

Society has finally, just hardly, begun to take back the idea that a body belongs to the person living within it, rather than the outside world around it. Additionally, we have just reached the tip of the iceberg in addressing how truly objectified we have encouraged one another, and ourselves, to become. We create hate between ourselves by not only finding things to hate about ourselves, but in others. For instance, the “fashion police,” in the back of every gossip/even some fashion magazine(s), discussing why a certain someone shouldn’t wear a certain something. Another example would be a traditionally attractive, fit woman calling an entire group of oppressed individuals “so sensitive and weak” over revolting against the idea that they should be shamed by that very woman’s personal standards of health and beauty. Yes, Maria Kang is fit, and she is beautiful, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that- but that isn’t the point here. You know better than that, right? Dear reader, I have faith that you understand that feeling good about your body doesn’t mean condemning another’s. I trust that you are wise enough to come to that conclusion on your own.

Kang seems to argue that we shouldn’t be so worried about a healthy body image so much as we should be worried about “actual health.” I would like to point out to Maria Kang that mental health is an actuality. So much so, that more than 24 million American people- of all ages- suffer from an eating disorder. As it turns out, mental health is actual health. Additionally, weight =/= health, as you may be able to infer from the statistics above.

THE MORE YOU KNOW

The concept of battling an overall positive movement by promoting “fit pride” is ignorant at best. When you reassert your state of privilege over an oppressed group, you are not creating a stronger case for your own cause, you’re just being a bully. Your cause has the upper hand, and it is not your place to smack the oppressed back down- it’s an opportunity, if you would like, as our friends and neighbors, to give us a hand up. If that’s too much to ask, then just don’t get involved. This isn’t about winning, or who’s better than who, it’s about us all being human beings deserving of respect. A photo asking “what’s your excuse?” is not “playful,” it is certainly not respectful- it’s condescending. What you have created is a fine example of something called “thin privilege,” wherein a person who fits society’s standards for weight cannot understand how harmful something might be to those who do not fit such a mold. It’s not your fault, but it’s something you need to make yourself aware of.

Another blurb from Kang’s piece:

“So, let’s set the record straight. There’s the normal, overweight woman. There’s the photoshopped fake woman — and then there’s an array of real women. I, Maria Kang, am a real woman — and I’ve stood up. It’s not hate speech to be fit and proud.”

Please redact that from the record, whoever writes the all-encompassing rules of womanhood. (Oh, hey, those don’t exist!) There’s the normal, overweight woman. There’s the normal, skinny woman. There’s the normal, paraplegic woman. There’s the normal, green-eyed woman. There’s the normal, extremely muscular woman. There’s the normal, gap-toothed woman, there’s the normal, freckled woman, there’s the normal blonde woman, the normal woman with natural hair, the normal woman with silicone breasts, the normal woman with a fake tan, the normal woman with facial hair, the normal woman who was announced as male at birth, the normal woman who has armpit hair, the normal woman who wears bright red lipstick, the normal woman who is a size 00, and the normal woman who is a size 8, 14, 28. And they are ALL within the array of “REAL” women. (TL;DR: every woman is a real woman- including, but not limited to fit women.)

Maria Kang, please take note: the body positive movement is not about you- not you in particular, anyway. It is not about telling your children they have to eat seventeen doughnuts a day, or that they’re worthless unless they’re fat. We aren’t trying to convert you, or to ruin your “actual health,” we are simply trying to be seen for people rather than pounds. The body-positive movement is not an anti-health movement, it is about improving the way we look at one another. It’s revolutionary and beautiful and based on loving oneself. So is your issue really with the movement, or with the fact that we didn’t allow you to bully us with your photo and its nasty comment?

The fat positive movement-which is more aptly called the body-positive movement, by the way, as it isn’t just about fat people, and even includes super fit people like you, Maria- is not about bringing you down. It is about allowing others, unlike you, to rise and be seen as people, rather than disfigured and evil. Your article paints the same picture we’ve seen, time and time again, of the fat, evil villain, and you’ve got it all quite wrong. You’re right, it’s not hate speech to be fit and proud; it’s hate speech to claim that a group of people you are obviously uncomfortable with are detrimental to society.Do not confuse the pain you feel from our very hard-earned joy with us actually harming you.

And the Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program Goes to… Misogyny?

With the Emmy Awards on September 22, I decided to check out the list of nominations for 2013, and I’m disappointed.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were watching an episode of South Park from season nine in which Cartman eats all the breading off a bucket of KFC, leaving no good parts for Stan, Kyle, and Kenny.  As revenge, the three completely ignore Cartman, and get most of their friends in on the ruse, too.  Cartman, as a result, thinks he’s dead and that’s why nobody can hear him.

It was one of the funniest episodes of South Park I’ve ever seen.  Episodes like that remind me of why I enjoy the show in the first place.

When I saw that a South Park episode received a nomination for an Emmy this year, I was happy for the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  I love most of their content.  I enjoyed Book of Mormon.  I remember when I was finally allowed to watch South Park (my mom wouldn’t let me watch it until high school), and I would watch episode after episode because it was just that good.

However, when I watched the episode that was nominated, I was disgusted.  The episode, “Raising the Bar,” is blatantly fat-shaming and misogynistic.

“Raising the Bar” centers on Honey Boo Boo, eight-year-old Alana Thompson, who competes in beauty pageants and has her own program on TLC.  While not everyone is on board with the show because of Alana’s silly, Southern family, South Park’s shaming of her and her mother, June Shannon, was just rude.

The episode in question shows the South Park gang watching Honey Boo Boo on TV and being disappointed that she is allowed to be on television.  Their reactions mostly stem from the fact that Alana and June are happy with themselves, even though their appearances are not up to par with most people’s narrow standards.

To put it simply, this episode attacks fat people, and more specifically, fat women who are happy with themselves, because that’s such an abomination, right?

Women (white women, in the case of this episode) aren’t expected to be happy with themselves.  Fat people aren’t expected to be happy with themselves either.  We can see these expectations in advertisements for the beauty and diet industries, respectively.  South Park is only perpetuating these expectations in “Raising the Bar.”

That’s shitty.  Nobody should be shamed for being who they are, especially if they are members of marginalized groups.

It’s okay not to like a television show.  I’ve disapproved of tons of TLC programming; I don’t agree with the Duggar family‘s decision to have umpteen children, but I’m not going to shame their decision to do so.

Also, I know that South Park rips on almost every famous person or popular product, because that’s just what they do.  I don’t necessarily approve of all of that, but it is what it is.

My biggest problem with this is that enough people agreed with the message of this episode that it got an Emmy nomination.  It’s a huge slap in the face to everyone who’s been working to stamp out body policing.  Not only do people agree with the fat-shaming of women in this episode, but they’re acclaiming it, and that’s not cool.

Another thing that angers me about this episode is that it perpetuates the white male savior complex.

The assumption in this episode is that the metaphorical “bar” has been dropped so low that fat women like Honey Boo Boo and her mother can become famous, and we just can’t have that.

To “raise the bar,” as the episode’s title would suggest, James Cameron plunges into the depths of the ocean to find the “bar” and bring it higher. Once it’s raised (spoiler!), everyone stops paying attention to Honey Boo Boo.

Really?  James Cameron, old white dude, director and writer of the worst movie ever, is going to save us all from the terrible, empowered women?  I can only hope that this is the ironic part of the episode, and that it’s calling attention to the fact that Hollywood casts a white man as the hero far too often.

As for the Emmys, I’m rooting for Bob’s Burgers to win with “O.T.: The Outside Toilet.”  That might restore some of my faith and show me that body policing is dying, slowly but surely.