(Sorry to those on the subscription list who got this early due to my premature pushing of the publish button!)
My friend to her friend (who I don’t know): That’s Ragen, she’s a bad-ass dancer. She has won National competitions!
Friend’s friend: Keep at it, you’ll lose the weight.
Me: What the fuck???? (Actually I said that in my head but it must have come across in my facial expression because she quickly developed an acute case of verbal diarrea…)
FF: I mean, when those people go on Dancing with the Stars they lose weight and there’s that Dance Your Ass Off Show and all of those people lost weight…
On Dancing with the Stars there is great emphasis placed on the star’s weight loss. If Kirstie Alley would have won Dancing with the Stars but not lost any weight what kind of press do you think she would have received?
Dance Your Ass Off is a reality show and fat people go on the show and they learn to dance and are put on extreme diets and the only way to win is both dance well and lose weight.
The creator of Dance Your Ass off is actress/comedienne Lisa Ann Walters. I was a huge fan of her from her work on Shall We Dance where she played a fat eccentric who was a great dancer. So it actually broke my heart a little that she had jumped on the fat=fit train. Then, when I posted about the world the diet culture built, she commented on the blog:
This link came to my Dance Your Ass Off FB page and I, like you, am appalled – but, sadly, not surprised at the flourishing “size-ism” that is our last, completely acceptable prejudice. I am encouraged by voices like yours that fight. I created DYAO for that reason. I did, in fact, write a book about women and self-esteem to help combat negative body-image issues!It’s funny and very empowering – I hope you get a chance to take a look, you are very inspiring. Best, LAW
After much soul searching, I replied with this:
First, I am such a fan of you and especially your performance in Shall We Dance. While I am honored that you would consider me inspiring and the book looks fantastic, you are breaking my heart because I believe you that you think that Dance Your Ass Off helps to fight fat hatred. However I, who am a fat National Champion Dancer, am certain that your show and others like it are partially responsible for creating a culture where a stranger feels comfortable telling me they want to punch me until I die because I’m fat. You are an amazing actress and comedienne with a platform much bigger than mine and if I could truly inspire you, I would inspire you to encourage a focus on actual healthy habits rather than a focus on thinness that only adds to the stigma against fat people and doesn’t actually increase anyone’s health. Your show sends the loud and clear message that talent is not enough and health is not enough – you must be thin to win. I wrote this post http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/the-real-biggest-loser last year specifically to discuss the dangers of shows like yours, I hope you’ll read it, think it over, and then do whatever you think is right.
Thank you for the comment and very best of luck to you,
The whole dancing/weight loss thing creates an annoying problem for me. The conversation that I opened with is not rare. Most people would be shocked at how many times someone appends a compliment of my dancing with “how much weight have you lost?”. I understand that some people think that these go hand in hand but to me they are so different that it’s like someone telling an artist “Wow, that’s a beautiful painting. Had you considered a boob job?” Non sequitur and inappropriate all at the same time.
Let’s talk about what you know in this situation. You have watched me dance, and you thought that I was talented. You complimented me. Excellent logical thought process. And thank you for the compliment.
You watched me dance, you thought that I was talented, you see that I’m fat. You asked me how much weight I’ve lost. Hit the brakes and back up the logic train, we had a passenger fall off.
I haven’t lost any weight. I am not trying to be thin.This is not the kind of thing to guess about. Now I’m irritated and the person who made the comment is embarrassed. This could all be avoided by focusing on what’s in front of us. You don’t know anything about my weight, or my health or my intentions for either by watching me dance. You do know whether or not you think I’m a good dancer so let’s keep our eye on the ball here and stick with what we know.