Image Map

Size Matters: Just One Last Donut

The majority of my life has been spent inhabiting a body deemed too fat. While I spent my early childhood and elementary years as a "normal" sized child, I soon started the upward climb towards "fat" and when I reached that particular mountaintop, my body built a house, bought the furniture, put in a pool and declared that this was where we were to stay. My mind, however, was a different story.

I tried my damnedest to tear down that house, to make it unappealing for my body to live there. I shat in the pool. I pissed all over the furniture. I tried not paying the mortgage, but it turned out my body had bought that house outright. In fact, it turned out that when I wasn't looking, my body had BECOME the house. Starving, vomiting, over-exercising—I did every unhealthy thing you can do to yourself to try to get out of my fat body and into the lean, svelte body I knew it was holding hostage inside.
Of course, pop culture was there to remind me that this was a fight that I had to win if I was going to be worth anything as a human being and especially as a woman. I read Seventeen magazine, with its oh-so-helpful fat shaming diet tips; I saw the TV shows and movies that depicted any fat child as the outcast, the loser—and often showcased their "transformation" from fat ugly duckling to lithe swan. I wanted someone to come and transform me from fat me to gorgeous me. I carried How to be a Reasonably Thin Teenage Girl around until the cover fell off, and then I still carted it around in my backpack, surreptitiously reading it over and over when no one was looking.

Yet every time I'd lose some weight, I'd end up just gaining it back. Which is normal, as I now know. But it was like a death sentence for me. It took almost 16 years before I started considering the thought that hey—maybe I'm not the one who's messed up here! Maybe I should be fighting society's fat hatred instead of practicing it! Not to give too much credit to Riot Grrrl, but this was around that time and I was becoming more empowered in different areas, too. I wrote a zine, Bitchcore, and coined the phrase "fat is not a four letter word." Years later I would be asked if an indie t-shirt maker (who I miss dearly, Two Girls and a Garage) could use that phrase on a t-shirt. I said hell yes and send me one! Sadly, it got stained and the girls no longer have the garage.

It wasn't smooth sailing from then on.I constantly struggled with fat acceptance. And my weight fluctuated. I've been a size 28 pushing 30 and a size 18 pushing 16. My eating habits wax and wane. The difference now is, I can just barely visualize the promised land of fat acceptance. I see that pop culture is starting—creeping up on—portraying fat people in a more positive light, being somewhat more accepting of larger body types. We've got better clothes, although they cost more than their skinny counterparts. We've got more movie roles, although much fanfare has to be given to each part since they're so rare. Things are slowly, slowly changing. But don't worry, we still have a lot to talk about.

During my tenure here at Bitch, I'm going to mainly focus on pop culture and fat women. Fat women are more often reviled than fat men, and since this is a feminist site, it seems apropos to me. So we're going to unpack the donut box of fatphobia. We'll talk about fat women in pop culture history and deconstruct the sassy fat best friend trope in TV and movies (and its cousin, the supportive fat best friend trope)—but we won't stop with that. We'll dig in to how race plays out in that trope. Fat fashion? Oh, we'll do a ton of gabbing on that. Race and fat stereotypes such as men in fat black woman suits are going to get knocked down. We'll even discuss some things that don't get mentioned much, like fat women and eating disorders—and how race plays into their treatment. Oh yes, we will talk about fat women's sexuality in the media. And I wouldn't be me if I didn't break down the "fat is the last acceptable prejudice" myth (hint: it's not!). But I don't want to give too much away, so I'll shut up now.

I'm excited to be here and I hope we can have a big fat productive dialogue about big fat bodies and their representation in pop culture. On this particular topic, the personal will most definitely be political (but isn't it always?), so let's keep that in mind and not fat shame, body shame, or in any other way make fellow commenters (or me!) feel bad about what they're working with—or how they deal with it.

If you have any personal missives, questions, post ideas, etc. OR if you just want to talk, you can add me on Twitter and send me a mention.

Here's to eight weeks of juicy fat discussion!

Guess what? Subscriptions to Bitch—our award-winning, 80+ page print quarterly—are 20% off to help us reach our $25,000 funding goal by September 30. Pitch in to support feminist media: Subscribe today

Subscribe to Bitch


Comments

43 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Full Figured Fashion

It will be nice if the C.F.D.A. catches on to the fact that full figured women can be very attractive. At least Lane Bryant is paying attention and had their first annual Lane Bryant Blogger Conference. I know there are fashion magazines that have pledged to use more realistic models and they are to be commended.

I agree

And I wish they would use models other than just Crystal Renn, who while larger than the average model, still has a body that isn't too obtainable by a lot of women.

*noms a doughnut* I'm

*noms a doughnut*

I'm excited! I am really looking forward to reading about fat bodies in pop culture and there are a lot of juicy things to discuss, for sure.

I wish I had a donut

It would make this Monday morning 10 times better, that's for sure.

But I promise, I won't focus only on donuts. There's so many other pastries to deconstruct.

How to be a reasonably thin teenaged girl

Was that the one where there was a bit about not using too many condiments with the anecdote about the guy who "put food under his ketchup", and the one where 'if you start running you'll probably want to eat more, but don't, because you'll just not lose the weight'?

Hmm

I don't remember that being in there, but it was a long time ago. I remember it saying things like "plan your calories, if you're going to a slumber party where there's going to be fudge, eat less for the rest of the day" and "if you're going to pizza with your friends after the game, eat a lighter lunch so you can have ONE piece of pizza, and talk a lot so your mouth is busy" etc.

Yikes!

I'm glad I'm just now hearing about this book. While I am what I would now consider "reasonably thin" (or Southern thin, as I call it affectionately) and was so as a teenage girl, at the time I did not think I was. I thought Mischa Barton was reasonably thin and hated that I could not get that skinny even when I did my 40 minute Winsor Pilates tape every day (and I was mean hungry at that point). If I had seen this book when I was in high school I would have bought it and read it and been frustrated with myself because of it. Food guilt is so infuriating.

These are important discussions.

That's my story, too. Somehow, pop culture manages to perpetuate this myth of an all-encompassing rivalry between fatter and thinner women, while simultaneously telling them ALL that they need to lose weight to be attractive. Fat-shame is also a really effective, albeit sometimes subtle, way for women to hurt one another, especially when they have competition in mind (eg. "How do you eat like that and stay skinny?" "I'm now down to size [whichever.]" "Let's not eat now that we've exercised; otherwise it'll have been pointless." Boy oh boy, could I go on!)

Perhaps strangest of all, I think there's also a sentiment, at least in certain circles, that despite the mainstream's emphasis on women's weight, it's shallow or weak to struggle with body image. At the height of my own disordered eating, I remember bullying myself by thinking that it was pathetic and not a "smart girl" problem to have. The fashion mag ideal is not just willowy and large-chested; she's also oblivious to her body, and contrary to what I believed as a teenager, education does not erase years of unhealthy conditioning from all sides.

Size-acceptance is a lovely, and crucial, thing, and I'm looking forward to the exploration in this column. Welcome, Tasha!

The "only shallow women worry about their weight" problem

Yes, yes, yes to all this--especially the idea that it is somehow shallow or weak to struggle with body image.

The situation there is similar to that surrounding cosmetics in the 19th c, where white women were held up to a beauty standard only possible with "paint," but shamed and thought cheap, shallow, and "loose" if they used it.

I often feel this idea blocks honest conversations about body image among women, especially those who identify as feminist.

I am so excited about this new series!

Yay!

I'm so excited for this! I can't wait to read what you have to say!

____________
Katie Waldeck, New Media Intern
Are you there, blog? It's me, Comments Policy

Looking forward to this series of posts.

I can't wait for more posts, Tashie! Very excited and congrats.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Yay!

Oh, how I hope you have copies of Bitchcore lying around.

 Really looking forward to reading this series, Tasha. Keep up the great work. :)

Alyx Vesey

No it isn't, actually.

A Random Male,

Thanks for your comments. However, being fat is NOT equal to being unhealthy, and NOT everyone can change his/her body with diet and exercise (nor does everyone wish to). Yes, there are unhealthy fat people, and there are also unhealthy thin people. However, equating fatness with poor health is a fallacy and one that will not be tolerated here. For more information on this topic, check out Health at Every Size.

Just for the record, further comments about fat people being "generally unhealthy" will be deleted.

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

BMI isn't accurate.

BMI isn't accurate.

More often than not, weight

More often than not, weight problems are linked to emotional issues that are exacerbated by perpetual shaming. Throwing obesity statistics (which, by the way, are overused to the point of banality) into the faces of people who are already feeling downtrodden and ashamed of themselves has the effect of pushing them to a point of even lower self-esteem. If more emphasis were placed upon dealing with the emotional aspects of weight gain and empowering women and men to treat themselves with love and kindness (part of which is by fueling their bodies with healthy and delicious food), we would all benefit. People are more than the labels "underweight", "overweight", and "obese".

Has concern trolling been

Has concern trolling been demonstrated to cure fatness and facilitate good health? If so, wouldn't we all be thin by now? Xena knows, we've heard every argument presented in the comments a billion times before.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

False beliefs do not

False beliefs do not facilitate good health. Unless miseducation is the aim, you're not doing the world a service by spreading false beliefs. Anyways, it's on your conscience, not mine.

"False beliefs do not

"False beliefs do not facilitate good health."

Neither does anonymous concern trolling. Seriously, I hope you're not under the supposition this is new shit coming to light for any fatties.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

This is not the point but I cannot help myself.

The word is "anyway," not "anyways."

Grammar ninja strikes again!

A Random Male, Kate Harding

A Random Male,

Kate Harding has a great FAQ about Fat Acceptance concepts. You might find it useful to help catch up a bit. I'm pretty new to FA, and I know a lot of the concepts can be difficult to wrap the brain around - especially with how deeply ingrained our attitudes towards health and bodies are in this culture. hth

A Random Male, do you also

A Random Male, do you also know that in 1998 the parameters of the BMI test were changed, such that, overnight, millions of people who were not previously considered "obese"[sic] were suddenly "obese"[sic]? And that will no doubt happen again (when too many of us fat folks feel good about ourselves and our bodies)? And no, it's simply not the case that "anyone can change their body any time they want" (and therefore people are fat and get the shit they do because they're just not working hard enough to not be fat? have i understood you right?); and no, that's not "a fact of biology of physics" (but a fact of perpetuating stereotypes about fat people. Straight up.

OP, i commend you for stepping up and doing this. i hope it becomes a regular part of the magazine.

Well I'll just put it in one post

anon + A. Bear - No I agree BMI is not a good indicator of health, but it is a decent basic measurement for obesity over a large set like this study. I doubt many of the participants were powerlifters.

anon - I think obesity statistics are used so much because they are shocking. 5% obesity to 33% in 50 years? That's no small change.

Anomic Entropy - Thanks for the link, you're right I've never heard of FA before.

A. Bear - No that's not what I meant - I meant that the laws of physics dictate if you eat nothing for a month you will be close to death and guaranteed to be a few pounds lighter. People seem to have this idea their body is a magic machine impervious to change which is not true. Humans are energy in/out machines, and hence can be changed at any time in any way by altering what goes in or out.

I'd actually like to take a backstep on that post because it was a little frayed. I guess what my issue is that western countries have a serious obesity problem that has more to do with the culture of food and exercise than it does with the media. It seems wrong to antagonize such a dire situation. Especially if the obesity problem is making the idealized image of the female body worse.

Random, you seem to be of

Random, you seem to be of the belief that bodies are purely an in/out process, and that therefore fat folks must have significantly more in than out than thinner folks, and so all that is to be done (if indeed anything needs to be done at all) is for fat folks to have less "in". This is unfortunate.
You speak of an obesity "problem". The problem lies not in the bodies of fat folks, but in the minds of everyone who has fallen for the line that fat folks=less than. One way of getting to the root of that stuff is via the media. "The Media" is already at odds with fat folks, has already helped set up this antagonistic relationship. Fat people speaking to it is not antagonistic.
Possibly as you read more about FA, HAES, and other takes on fat solidarity and pride, you will begin to have a bigger picture to work with.
For my part, i'll leave it here as you've said you will take a step back.

More of a quandary than I thought

That wasn't what I was implying. I was replying to the sentence "NOT everyone can change his/her body with diet and exercise" by Kelsey and the fact is anyone can because that's how our bodies work. That's not to say they should, or need to.

Well I've rewritten this three times over half an hour of pondering but I'm not above admitting I'm wrong. Maybe it's true, I have fallen for the line that that there is something wrong with being fat, it's a leap to make. There are health issues like joint problems associated with obesity, that's just a fact. But otherwise, I think I have mixed issues with the food industry and media with fat people.

Thanks very much for all your thoughts, I will do my best to learn more and avoid contributing to the modern worlds dismal skewed view of people.

I don't think A Male is

I don't think A Male is trying to be mean - he makes some valid points and I would hope that this blog would be open to all points of view. There have always been a variety of body types, but the American food system/agribusiness has conspired to get people hooked on addictive/non-nutritious foods which has made a lot of people unnaturally fat AND unhealthy. That said, there is no excuse for making anyone feel badly about how they look and having one beauty ideal is ridiculous. If you eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise then keep it up. It's about loving and caring for yourself.

It's irrelevant what A

It's irrelevant what A Male's intentions are. The point is, Tasha's blog's emphasis is NOT about weight loss or the fat/health debate, but on the pop culture depictions and conversations about fat and bodies.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Just to make my 2 cent deposit

I've been on the less green side of the BMI fence (and that's my euphemistic way of saying I used to carry around an extra kindergartener in body weight) and I have to take Male's side a bit on the in/out finction of the human body. I actually lost a lot of the weight (which took me 4+ years guys, a full on mental breakdown, a whole new outlook on life, a support group, and the pushing love of my fiance, not because he thought i needed to, but because he was so tired of watchin me breakdown everytime my jeans wouldn't zip, when a gal in a sales pos told me they didnt carry "plus size", and so on and so forth...) I actually started eating more food- 5 meals as opposed to 2 or three but it was what I ate that made all the difference. Fresh veggies make up the majority of my meals now, with most of my protein coming from fish- and I walk to and from work, with yoga on my lunch break- I have dropped 60 lbs., and it's changes my whole outlook on life- I have no arthrtis (I had ankle surgery in the past, and this used to really bother me), my knees don't hurt, I don't battle depression- I get that out in exercise I think, sweat out those blues- my anxiety still bothers me, but I hvaen't been tempted by bulemia in ages (17+ mos, not like I'm counting- i so am though), even when I gorge on the ice cream. Where am I going with this? I feel better. Was it necessary? For me? Yes, I was in a bad place. I feel better now. I do feel healtier. Was I beautiful before? YOu bet your sweet ass I was. I am the same person, just I reach for the M/L now instead of larger sizes- nothing happened to my sexiest appendage- my brain, my heart. Did my doctor take note? Yes, and for me personally, this is better, and I do beleive as powerful as we women are- doing as much as we do the biggest problem is not as I 've heard from ignorant wads, laziness- it's the opposite. We give too much of ourselves- being mothers, support groups, model employees, nurses, mentors, etc., that we forget to take care of ourselves.

re: 5% to 33%

As pointed out earlier, what counts as "obese" has changed in the past 50 years too, the BMI scale has changed. If you change your tools of measurement, then yes, you're going to get different results. What was considered thin 50 years ago is larger than what is considered thin now.

Not everyone's body works the same. Yes, we all take in and release energy, but we do so at different rates and in different ways. Medications, medical conditions, physical difference -- all of these things have an impact on how our bodies process energy. It is definitely not so simple as changing your body by changing what goes in or out. Two people can eat the exact same thing, and exercise the exact same amount, and have very different results.

Unfortunately we live in a culture where all women -- regardless of size, shape, or anything else -- can be made to feel unattractive and inadequate. That's the real problem. We can and should have more fat acceptance, and include larger bodies in the pool of what is considered beautiful. The terms of ideal beauty are not fixed, they have changed throughout history, and no matter what the rules are, not everyone can ever achieve them. No one should be shamed or devalued for that though.

Hear, hear!

And mint chocolate chip ice cream tastes way better when you have it without guilt (I just did and it does)!

SO excited

I am so happy we can have a serious discussion about size, beauty and food. As someone who has been battling (usually winning!)an eating disorder, and a physical disability for most of her life, and is all to familiar with the yo yo gravity of weight- I am so happy we can dish this out.

Love!

I love this subject. Thanks

I love this subject. Thanks for taking it on, Ms. Fierce. I can't wait to read more.

Donuts!

So apparently just reading the word "donut" has some kind of Pavlovian/Homer Simpson effect on me and now I can't NOT eat one (the mug full of coffee on the banner at the top of the page isn't helping matters, either).

I'm looking forward to reading your posts! Fat acceptance and sizeism are really important issues and (obviously) intersect with a lot of conversations about class, race, gender, and "health" (and its many opposing definitions).

As for me, I am going to ride my bike to the donut shop and not feel any shame or guilt about it.

Just to be clear

This post will be the last on which I entertain any discussion regarding the "obesity" epidemic, whether or not fat is healthy, or any other topic other than that which I'm addressing in my posts. This blog is about fat and pop culture, not "obesity" and health. There's been plenty of links given out on this thread to places you can learn more about the myths regarding fat and health.

Thanks!

huzzah!

I'm excited to hear from you. Issues like body image, beauty and the perception of beauty are really interesting to me. One of the things that you touched on, and that has always bothered me, is the fact that no matter the size of the woman, she's encouraged to lose weight, but is then criticized for being vain, shallow, or, is pathologized for doing exactly what society tells her to do. I also have a real problem with the way women are pitted against each other based on size ("She's so skinny--I hate her!" the book recently published entitled "Skinny Bitch," and, of course, all the fat-shaming). It seems that no matter what she looks like, women are still ultimately defined in our society by their appearance. And that sucks.

I totally agree

Valuing fat over thin is no better than valuing thin over fat; women should not be judged by their body size or type. I think we need to pay a bit more attention to valuing fat women's bodies, however, not so much to posit them as "more real" than thin women's bodies, but to emphasize the idea that fat is beautiful, acceptable, normal, etc.

The way to do that is not to devalue thin women's bodies, though. I think we need to be careful not to cross that line.

the way i look at it for

the way i look at it for myself, is that i can't truly honour my fat body on the backs of other people's bodies (a la "you dont have to fuck people over to survive"). It doesn't help me to feel the awesomeness of my fat body if i do it by denigrating some other random person's body. i love and adore my fat body because it's mine and it's amazing, hot, powerful, squishy, comforting, sexy as fuck, mine! i love it because it is what it is. If i start loving it only in comparison to someone else's body (no matter what that comparison looks like or how socially acceptable the comparison is), i've defeated myself before i've even begun to dip my toes into self-love, and that seems a shame.

Raising Kids

This particular subject is near and dear to my heart. Fat truly is a feminist issue. As a rounded mom raising a teenage daughter, I have been trying for years to encourage in her a positive body image and an interest in health rather than diets. In the face of the tremendous pressure on teenage girls I also have been feeding her a light diet of good literature and personal commentary on media, women and exploitation. We even share my copies of "BITCH!"

A few months ago I took my daughter and her friends to a play by "36-24-36" about eating disorders. It was held at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA in honor of Women's History Month. It was very well done, and inspired some good conversation. They have a trailer on YouTube.

I struggle with my weight, body image, compulsive eating and self esteem on a daily basis. I made a decision very early on that I would not recreate for my children the toxic home environment in which I grew up. It is an ongoing effort to stay conscious and awake to the influences, both good and bad, which affect our minds and bodies.

Ruth

You are an inspiration,

You are an inspiration, Ruth.

I struggle with my weight, body image, compulsive eating and self esteem on a daily basis. I made a decision very early on that I would not recreate for my children the toxic home environment in which I grew up.

I too would like to do this but am realistically years away from it. But it is enormously important to me that I not perpetuate the intense cycle of fatphobia and self-hatred that has consumed so many women in my family, and I want to have built better internal structures for myself before I have kids so I don't model what I learned. It's inspiring to read about your efforts there.

Horah! I signed up just to

Horah! I signed up just to say that. I can't wait to read what you've got to say.

Just a reminder...

Hi there,

We've had comments from several of you thus far (many of which have been deleted by Tasha or myself) concern trolling about health issues. While I realize it's difficult to separate size and health because we're used to discussing them in tandem, this blog series is not about health—it's about size and popular culture.

Please keep your comments relevant to the post, or at least relevant to the topic at hand. If you'd like to discuss the merits of weight loss or gain as they pertain to health, please do so elsewhere. Again: This is not a blog about health. It's about pop culture. We are not doctors, nor are we playing them on TV. Now let's talk about pop culture, shall we? Kthxbai.

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Hot topic!

This is a very interesting topic. I applaud you for taking it on. I get that you are not talking about health and fitness but about self image and media portrayal but I have no idea how you can pull off leaving health and fitness (which is also poorly represented in the media) out of the discussion. Good luck.

If you cannot accept yourself as-is that's an issue, regardless of your goals.

Personal note ~ My size fluctuations have been from 6-14, what I can't stand is all the yo-yo-ing. I feel most comfortable at a 10. I want to feel steady, balanced. I do not believe that our size is supposed to vary so greatly once we are adults.

Was the original post by 'random male' deleted? I felt a little lost for a moment trying to figure out the replies to a comment I didn't see.

Tasha, I know this has nothing to do with this topic but your hair in your bio head shot is super fab!!

*KEESH*KEESH*

*KEESH*KEESH*

Yes most of my posts have

Yes most of my posts have been deleted unfortunately :( But oh well, it's not my blog so I guess I will have to respect it even if I disagree.

My mom always told me: don't

My mom always told me: don't let yourself become fat, like me. She is 5'9 and went from about 160 (very hippy, busty, leggy figure, same as myself) to around 250 very quickly when i was about 5 years old. She did fad diets and attempts at exercise but never lost it and has a LOT of leg/knee/foot troubles now from carrying the weight.
I never was overweight. I grew to 5'8, was all boobs, legs, and hips. Then in less than a year when MY daughter was 3, I went from my adult weight of 138 lbs up to 200lbs and then up to 220 later on. From four months of heavy cardio, low to no carbs (and only healthy carbs) and counting every calorie, i lost 35 lbs. a few years after i gained the weight.
Then guess what. I lightened up on the exercise a bit, loosened the diet a bit, and gained 15 lbs BACK.
So now I am a leggy, busty, hippy 5'8 at 200 lbs, lose a lb, gain a lb back. I am vegan, for the most part, and exercise between 2 and 4 x a week...and yet STILL do not lose weight.

I have felt like my "real" (slim) body is trapped under this weight, I cannot rock the clothes i want to fit into, and just am not content and satisfied with my body. I don't feel like my body represents my Self. AND WHY?! Media and societal programming. It's really, REALLY in there, to the point that i cannot enjoy a fatty snack or large meal without being acutely aware of being NOT in the body I feel I should have. There is a lot of guilt. And chances may be this is just genetics, that this is my body TYPE, that unless i want to have a grueling life of constant cardio and salads, THIS . IS. IT.

Making peace with that would be a LOT easier if my body type was represented as sensual and beautiful. Not just so i could feel like I'm 'acceptable' but so that society would now be brainwashed by the media to at least not be fat-phobic.