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Fat Activism Gone Right... or Wrong?

Okay, so there's something going on with the media machine and the fabulousness of fat girls, who are apparently the next big thing. (Why do bad puns come so easily?)

Last week Times Online's Lisa Armstrong gave props to Beth Ditto (The Gossip) for being an up-and-coming fashion icon who is turning the industry "upside down", "smashing taboo", and being lauded as a role model for women who have a more plentiful physique. This week two more stories broke about fat acceptance in our size-obsessed society.

After being refused entry into a West Hollywood nightclub, Lisa Marie Garbo opened a posh club of her own that provides a judgment-free environment for a plus-sized crowd to dance 'til dawn and size-hating is checked at the door. Club Bounce sounds pretty freakin' cool, right?

The other bit of news, which rang my skeptic's alarm, is that Fox is casting for a new, supposedly fat-friendly reality-dating show, which they're calling "More to Love." In the vein of "The Bachelor," the show will feature several "average-looking" women vying for the affection of one "average-looking" man. The producers are hyping it with the mantra 'fat girls are lovable too', but I'm suspicious about the potential for a twist that may involve modelesque women stealing the show (and the guy) from the more hearty ladies.

Is this feminist fat activism at work or just another way to make fun of those of us with junk in our trunks?

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Comments

23 comments have been made. Post a comment.

So a bunch of people from

So a bunch of people from the maistream media (Fox, of all people!) woke up one day, and decided to do something that empowers the larger women, instead of keep feeding their insecurities, which compells them to spend billions of dollars on junk that is supposed to make them feel worthy by adjusting to impossible beauty standards?
*catches breath*
Yea, right.
And really, as cool as the Club Bounce initiative looks, I still think it's a bit of a disservice to fat activism. We shouldn't have to isolate ourselves from the crowd. The idea of a crap-free environment is certainly attractive, but no progress we'll be made if, at least once in a while, we don't rub our fun to the faces of people who believe we have no right to be fat and happy.

I disagree re Club Bounce.

I disagree re Club Bounce. If there's one thing I've learned in over 20 years of fat-acceptance, it's that different people have different levels of confidence--even the same person on different days. Being fat, fabulous, and out there is important, but it's ALSO cool to have a safer place. Plus, confidence & joy dancing in one place may lead a person to be more public a dancer.

I am skeptical of anything

I am skeptical of anything on Fox and would look at "average" women finding "average" love as exploitative. Especially with the idea that fat girls need love too. Just awful. As for Beth Ditto, she's great and absolutely breaking down barriers. I think it was Blender that had her on the cover practically nude. However, the fine line that someone like Ditto must walk--I would assume--is incredibly difficult. Is she on Blender as a spectacle or is she really empowering those of us with lots of rolls. In this instance, I like to think empowerment is in the eye of the beholder. The most empowering move I ever made for myself was reading Marilyn Wann's classic Fat!So?! I think (taking Fox out of the equation) we might finally be ready for some serious pop fat acceptance.

re: Beth Ditto, and the state of network/cable TV

Beth Ditto was naked on the cover of the UK music magazine NME last year. This year she's on the cover of a new mag launched by Conde Nast called Love Sounds like another UK one. As for Blender, she was never, ever on the cover of that Maxim-affilliated mag and never will be, as Blender's current issue is the last one on the stands. That ending I am cheering, despite its continuation online.

When on earth is the network/cable TV industry going to stop for a moment and say "enough is enough" with the reality and remake nonsense?? This discretionary feminist viewer is craving for something more creative, meaningful, thought-provoking, non-exploitative, and empowering than anything that is on all those network and cable channels currently, and I'm sorry to say that Gossip Girl -while it might be fun, thought-provoking entertainment for some of you- does nothing for me (The masturbation scene in an episode last fall wasn't as groundbreaking as the nudity I accidently stumbled accross on HBO some 25 years' ago when it was illegal for me to watch it). Every time I think about throwing out my TVs and taking down my satellite dish, I remember what Sut Jhally said about the need to take back our TV (Watch his speech called "The Factory in the Living Room: How TV Exploits its Audience") - and the thought that I would miss the essential channels Current, Free Speech TV and LINKTV . I'd rather be part of the taking back process than giving up. It's time to advocate for something better. Our society deserves better!

It concerns me that "fat" is

It concerns me that "fat" is equated with "average."

concerned as well

Or that fat people aren't capable of being loved or receiving it from 'attractive' people. Why are only fat people capable of being loved by fat people? *sigh* I think these fat-positive schemes have good intentions but aren't quite there yet. Or we as a society/media aren't quite there yet to take it seriously. And I agree fat people (just like lesbians and gays) shouldn't have to separate themselves from the rest of society to have fun or be attractive in their own realms.

Acceptance means acceptance, period.

The opposite of anorexia nervosa isn't obesity; it's compulsive eating, including binge-purge. A person can have a compulsive-eating problem and not have a high BMI or can be very fat and not be a compulsive eater.

Especially after a history of compulsive eating and/or yo-yo dieting, a person can have healthy habits of eating & exercise and still be obese. True!

The best approach is to encourage healthy habits and accept all body shapes and sizes! You don't know, and can't judge, what choices others make, what options and limitations they have. No one has to date us, but no one should disrespect us.

Yeah wheee and when you are

Yeah wheee and when you are 40 maybe you will have an extra roll and find no sympathy either. So proud that YOU are better than fat old me. Thanks a million.

yeah right.

Anyone who thinks that "More to Love" would be used to find love for the "average" person and not as the new punchline-inducing vehicle for every mainstream media outlet is sadly mistaken. This show will be used to make fun of chubby women. As if an extra 20 or 40 pounds is more abnormal and shocking than the "acceptable" women on the other dating shows where it seems to be required to have fake boobs, veneers, nose job, enhanced lips, incredibly fake tans. Oh yeah, and she must be blonde. And WHITE. Oh, Bitch, you just hit one of my sore spots.

I hope this show really doesn't come to fruition. It's not at all about empowerment. But let's take bets on how many episodes it takes to get to the makeover.

And on FOX no less. They'll

And on FOX no less. They'll probably find a way to work some 'fitness and diet' program in and work on making American women feel even more shitty about the way they look. No show called "More to Love" could be expected to do anything less.

If your not Skinny, your Average-looking.

The word-play bothers me immensely, by being thick or chucky you are labeled average-looking, I don't remember reading the description for the bachelor that they called the women or man average-looking. And what exactly would Fox consider fat? There are different levels of fat and I doubt heavily (pun intended) that they are going to pick real bigger-sized women for this project.

lol @ stupid skinny people.

oh the ignorance in these comments is already overwhelming. fat hate is the last really acceptable form of hate in this country, and people feel really JUSTIFIED in their hate because being fat is "YOUR OWN DAMN FAULT"

i would really love to see some peer-reviewed articles based in science to back up all the media hype these some of these commenters have obviously fallen for hook, line and sinker. of course, i will be waiting a long time for this...as obviously people would rather take information already disseminated for them then to actually base their hate and abuse in something real. how typical.

Unkindness Does No Good

As you can see from other comments, I'm on your side, but

1) Skinny =/= fat hating. I know naturally skinny allies in fat-acceptance, and of course many fat people are the worst haters of fat.

2) Anti-fat hatred exists and is awful, but I only wish it were "the last acceptable form of hatred." It does seem to be getting worse while many other types seem to be getting better, but there's plenty of hate to go around.

That said, yeah, I do see a lot of ignorance here/ Let's actually, factually educate 'em!

Oh, really?

Really? The last acceptable form of hate in this country? I'm not sure where you're living but I see lots of hate that seems perfectly acceptable to people in this country. Try being a transgender person. Try having no rights to use the correct bathroom. Try having no laws to protect you from job discrimination. People who are of a certain weight are actually given protected status as 'disabled' and prevented from being discriminated against by federal law.
There is no such thing as the 'last acceptable form of hate'. Hate is hate and acceptance of people based on size,race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. should be in existence across the board.
Have you been down south? Try walking down the street as a transperson on any given day, see how acceptable the hate is.
Oh, and clearly hate based on race isn't acceptable anywhere in this country. Oh, wait...
How typical, right back at you.

Sense when did the fat

Sense when did the fat acceptance thing and feminism come together?
Do they really have ANYTHING to do with eachother because I don't see the connection.

I don't think that any form of hate is healthy, but neither is being fat. So why should our society be trying to create more acceptance for something thats so harmfull?

Fat is a feminist issue for

Fat is a feminist issue for a lot of fat activists (including myself). Fat is not harmful or unhealthy; body hatred is a heck of a lot more harmful than fatness, and society has absolutely no problems with that.

Fat & Feminism

"Fat acceptance" is not saying "you should be fat" but rather "fat people should not be treated badly just because they're fat." In what other groups does "concern for health" manifest as insults, derision, and, as studies have shown for fat people, lower pay? Does that seem helpful, like it will motivate a person to be healthier?

As far as feminism, anti-fat feelings have always been gendered, but especially since the 1950s it's been much more a women's issue: see Susan Brownmiller's Femininity ("Body" chapter), Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth, Susan Bordo's Unbearable weight, and others. (Susie Orbach's Fat Is a Feminist Issue is in most ways a better title than it is a book.) For one thing, as long as men are more judged by what they do and women more by how we look, fat will be seen as a greater flaw in women--I'm "morbidly obese," a very hard worker in a good job, but some people feel empowered to either yell at me or whisper about me in public, presumably at least in part because, to them, I don't look like a woman should. Anti-fat prejudice kicks in at a much lower weight for women, and women are more likely to internalize the idea that fat makes them bad people.

Feminists fight for all people

not just white, cis- and heterosexual, thin, able-bodied women.

@ Bernadette Bosky

Fantastic response; you explained the connection between the fat acceptance movement and feminism perfectly. Obviously there is no mold for how a woman 'should' look, contrary to media messages and some of the misguided comments on this post.

Take note: Opinions expressed are those of their respective authors, not necessarily those of Bitch. Dig?

Comming from a person who is

Comming from a person who is at least 20lbs "overweight", and also someone who is kind and respectful to ALL people, reguardless of size, race, gender, income, ext. I think this fat acceptance thing has gone WAY too far. I love Beth Ditto, and I think she is amazing to be able to be so comfortable with herself.. but, as I watch her antics on stage, all that energy, all that passion, I wonder why she can't put all of that towards eating well and excersising regularly as well (and I'm not just talking about her, she was just a good example of what I'm trying to convey). I do not think it is fat peoples fault that they are fat, I think it is societys fault for making such aweful, unhealthy foods so readily available, and good organic healthy foods so expensive, and often, out of reach of the public for so long. I think chunky or curvy women are incredibly sexy, however, there is a limit, it is NOT okay, or beautiful, or healthy to be obese, and people should stop and think when they reach a certain weight, as I have, and think to themselves "this is enough", but there does have to be support and respect for these people if they're to get healthy. But if someone does CHOOSE to be obese, that is thier right, just as it is someones right if they want to do hard drugs, or extreme sports, risking your life is, after all, your choice.

Energy?

I think it's really telling how - in the same sentence, mind you - you talk about all of the energy that Beth Ditto expends on stage and then go right into saying that she doesn't exercise enough. You do know that stage antics often use up way more energy than a basic gym routine, right? Besides, you're missing the point. While everyone is standing around "respectfully" judging fat people and focusing on their physical health, they are completely ignoring the psychological impact (i.e. mental health) of the same people they are shaming. That shame becomes so ingrained that it makes a lot of people not want to leave their homes. It becomes so relentless that many people wonder why they should even bother. If you really want to help, stop trying to remind fat people that they are too fat (like they have never heard that one) and start being the bigger person. Because sometimes bigger is better. And instead of posting this kind of redundant judgmental comment, if you really want to fight the systemic contributors to obesity, go out and challenge the diet industries and the corn industries, not fat people.

finally someone people who

finally someone people who agree with me!!!
^_^

new documentary about size acceptance