I’ve had a number of people ask me to comment on this NPR article. [Trigger Warning: contains diet talk, body shaming, disordered eating discussion etc.) It’s called “One Woman’s Story” and if that’s all it was I would have no problem with it. Kara Curtis is entitled to her life experience. She is allowed to conflate weight with health, weight with fitness, to be ashamed of her body, and to pour “all her energy and untold resources” into being thin. It’s Kara’s life and Kara’s body and Kara gets to choose whatever experience she wants. It couldn’t have been easy to tell her story like that, she never tried to extrapolate her experiences to others, and I wish her all the best.
To me the problem isn’t this “one woman’s story”, the problem is that it’s basically the only story that we ever see told about fat women, especially from a news outlet. When I see people like me portrayed on TV, in the movies, in magazines, and on the news with very few exceptions they are self-loathing, desperate to lose weight, unfit, unable to find love (or not even seen as sexual beings), the constant butt of jokes etc. I was once recruited for a reality show that was going to tell the stories of happy fat people. But the show didn’t get picked up because “nobody cares about fat happy people, and lots of people don’t believe in them”. People don’t believe in me? Am I a leprechaun? What the…
If NPR ran with something called “Two Women’s Stories” and one of the stories was of a woman who rejected the diet culture and lived a happy, healthy life with Health at Every Size that would seem more like balanced reporting. Maybe they intend to offer a balanced perspective: in their More About the Series box they say that they will talk about a “size acceptance” movement (quotation marks are theirs and don’t give me a lot of faith in how balanced this portrayal is going to be). But that only comes after they say a lot of very questionable things about obesity as if they are given facts. I hope that NPR isn’t joining the media frenzy OMGDEATHFATISCOMINGFORUS panic and contributing to a culture of body shaming and bullying as a cheap way to get readers and listeners, and I’ll wait to see how I feel about it until after the series is over.
It’s for this and many other reasons that I’m really excited to be in an upcoming documentary about weight and health. (See how I segued into shameless self-promotion? I’ve got skills!) Darryl Roberts, creator of the incredible documentary America the Beautiful which you can find on Netflix, is wrapping his newest movie and it’s about the conflation of weight and health and BMI and health in the US and I have a part in it! I’m super excited to be able to show a side of fat women that’s rarely seen in the media. I saw a pre-screening and the movie is amazing and I still kind of can’t believe that I get to be part of it. If you are going to be at the ASDAH conference in August the movie will be screening there and I’ll be part of a Q&A afterward. I’m so excited!
Enough about me. The point is that we do not have to buy what the media is selling us. We do not have to be who we see on TV. We can be happy, healthy, strong, fat, demanding of respect and certain that we are worthy of love. The more of us who claim that identity, and the more people who know us and see us living that life, the harder it is for the media to make people believe the negative caricature of us that they like to portray.
If you feel like commenting today I’m curious to know : Who are your favorite fat role models?