It’s Not Logic, It’s Fatphobia

facepalmThe Toronto Transit Commission created a campaign about public transportation that juxtaposed public transportation backgrounds with dancers from the National Ballet of Canada.  Fat activist Jill Andrew pointed out that the campaign falls short on inclusivity and representation when it comes to who uses the TTC. She explained:

We can’t deny that there is a lot of body-based discrimination that happens … within our moves around the city…My experience as a racialized woman, as a fat woman, I’ve been called an f-ing fat black b—- on the TTC, is this video really moving me? Is this video at all depicting me on the move?  The body types of most ballet dancers do not adequately represent those of most Canadians and, I dare say, most TTC users. This is simply an opportunity to reflect on who is being left out by an ad campaign such as this.

Predictably someone wrote an article to whine that Jill is being “too sensitive” (with thanks to the always amazing Tigress Osborn for making me aware of this.)  That someone is Erin Davis who wrote about this for Notable.com in a piece in which she prefaces an attempt to discredit the words of a fat activist by saying “I am all for the ever-important body positivity movement.” Right. Out of curiosity Erin, what would this piece have looked like if you weren’t “all for the ever-important body positivity movement?” You know what, never mind.

When requests for inclusivity and representation are met with shouts of “oversensitive” and “too-PC” it’s a pretty good bet that it’s being done by someone who is not thinking critically. As if to make it crystal clear that she just doesn’t get it, Erin makes the common mistake of confusing logic for fatphobia when she “explains” the lack body diversity of the ballet dancers in the ads saying: “Dancers look the way they do because they’re dancers.”

Except that’s not actually true at all. The truth is that dancers look the way they do because if they don’t look that way they have almost no chance of being employed regardless of how talented they are because of the rampant fatphobia that exists in the dance world.

So Erin has actually been duped by the very lack of representation that Jill Andrew is pointing out and that Erin is trying to shout down as being “over-sensitive.”  Priceless.

Representation is important, and it’s important to think about who creates the images that we see in the media, what their own prejudices and/or profit motives might be, and it’s important to question that lack of representation not just of fat bodies, but also of People of Color, disabled people/people with disabilities, and other under-represented groups and those with multiple marginalized identities.

So while I don’t love Erin’s article, I do appreciate the great job that she did of proving my (and, as far as I’m concerned, Jill Andrew’s) point: Representation Matters.

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Published in: on November 16, 2016 at 2:40 pm  Comments (7)  

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for this piece.
    And it is equally important to note that I was never contacted for interview by Erin (Notable) or Sabrina Maddeaux (24hrs newspaper) both “journalists” who wrote stories that not only erased my racialized experience as irrelevant but in Sabrinas case also suggested that I was hurting women with my argument. I have reached out to Sabrina Maddeaux the 24hrs writer (and her editor and publisher at that) expressing my concern around poor journaism, no fact checking etc. no response. Erin however was “nice enough” to respond and apologize for “throwing me under the bus.”
    What really happened here was a fat Black woman had the “arrogance” to critique an ad…an ad on public transit and on online video that happened to feature ballet dancers. And how dare we critique any art form – esp ballet because after all its not like scholars and activists haven’t critiqued ballet for its predominantly Eurocentric and thincentric body ideals. That’s NEVER been done before. Smh.

  2. It should stop surprising me that shouts of ‘too sensitive’ and ‘too PC’ are always used by people who simply want to be jerks.

  3. Silly fat people! Don’t we know that we aren’t supposed to be using public transportation? We are supposed to hide ourselves away from the view of the public until we force our bodies to conform for a time to the coveted Thin body type. Then and only then may we venture out.

  4. As a fat woman who was formerly the biggest person in my college dance program and picked the Dance Therapy track instead of the Fine Arts track because I knew I could never be a “real” dancer, I applaud this post.

    • I applaud you for becoming a therapist using the arts. I know it is scoffed at by the traditionalist, closed-minded set, but therapy which allows people to express themselves is such a wonderful thing. I took some ballet lessons in my 40’s and was fortunate to find a teacher who didn’t shame me for my body type or tell me I had to lose weight before taking ballet. She never brought up my weight at all. I wish I could have afforded to continue the lessons.

      • My very first dance teacher was a brilliant, fat, black woman. She said when she was a girl she wanted to be a ballerina, but then she “decided she was fat and black, and ballet wasn’t the right place.” I learned a lot from her.

  5. There is a team-building game where teammates will make 3 statements about themselves, only 1 of which is true, and the other members of the team have to guess which statement is true. I always throw in a statement that I danced with a professional ballet troupe in a production of The Nutcracker. This statement is true (I was a chubby, tall 8-year-old at the time). It is amazing that every time… every damned time… this statement is either skirted around or outright dismissed. This idea that a large woman might have some skill or experience in this arena is both baffling and aggravating.


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