I did a post a couple of days ago about seeing the Cirque du Soleil show “Zumanity” and noticing that, in a show of people who are nearly naked, the only two fat women in the show were also the only performers wearing full body stockings (long pants, long sleeved) all the time. I got a lot of interesting reactions to the piece that I wanted to talk about.
A very common response was asking if perhaps the women (who are known as The Botero Sisters) might prefer to be covered by a full body stocking, and isn’t that their right?
As women of course it’s their right, but I don’t think it makes this any less important to discuss. If this is the case, then I have a couple of questions. First, would such a request would have been honored if it were made by one of the thin performers, or would they have been told that they were signing up for a show where being scantily clad was part of the job? Also, while it’s their right to make the choice, I think it’s worth examining if choices like that are driven by a society that says that a thin naked body is sexy and a fat naked body must be covered or contained to be seen.
Some people wondered if the costuming was made to help them with their performance but other people who did the exact same thing that they did wore far less clothing so I don’t feel that’s it. (In fact, now that I know their background and how talented they are, I feel that they are vastly under-utilized in the show.)
Another response suggested that perhaps Cirque did a study and found that people found them more sexy with the body stockings. If that is the case, then I would have to ask again if that is driven by the rampant fat hatred in society and if “giving the people what they want” is worth reinforcing and contributing to the stigma and shame that are heaped on fat people by society – especially in a show like this that is supposed to be about breaking boundaries. As I said in my original piece, I applaud the step forward of having these women in the show, and I think it’s worth talking about what the next step is.
I think I wasn’t clear enough in my first piece so let me be clear now that I’m not suggesting that we judge these women – or other fat performers – for the choices they make when it comes to costuming. As a fat dancer who has both competed and is in a fat cabaret company, I can absolutely understand how hard it is to make costume choices and the criticism that can be leveled by anyone and everyone about anything and everything. I am not suggesting that we should run around criticizing fat performers for their costume choices.
What I am suggesting is that we critically examine the culture that leads to those choices. What I am suggesting is that we recognize when something might be driven by that culture – when fat people have a different experience than thin people because of the way fat people are viewed and treated in the culture. What I am suggesting is that, like fat people in all manner of clothes and lack thereof, those things are worth looking at.
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