The Fat Shaming of Miss Universe Canada

no-fine-printSiera Bearchell represented Canada in the Miss Universe Pageant.  A reporter at a media event recent asked her “How does it feel to be so much… larger than the other delegates?”

She has been publicizing the fat shaming that she receives, and recently posted “I have a vision to redefine beauty. I have a vision in which women around the world will recognize that true beauty, validation and self-worth start from within.”

I applaud her for what she’s saying and doing (and for not going with the extremely damaging “I’m not fat” defense.) And I encourage her to really mean it by including every body in her work. Too often when people talk about body positivity or redefining beauty, they have limitations and exclusions in the fine print – only certain skin colors, only certain shapes, only certain sizes.  If we are redefining beauty then our redefinition has to include and center the voices of:

  • People of Color
  • Fat people (with absolutely no limits or caveats about size or “health”)
  • Trans and non-binary people
  • Disabled people/people with disabilities
  • Non “hourglass” bodies
  • People who don’t meet current cultural stereotypes of attractiveness
  • People who don’t care about (or can’t afford) clothes that are “in fashion”
  • People who don’t want to (or can’t afford to) wear makeup
  • People who live at the intersections of these identities

We need to be done with concepts about “body positivity” and “beauty” that come with a bunch of exclusions and limitations (based on things like racism, healthism, ableism,  sizeism, and classism.) I hope that Siera Bearchell will be part of the no-fine-print movement that we need to be.

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We Are Not Too Much

the-questionThe phrase “You are too much!” is usually used when someone goes out of their way to help you, or says something really funny, or does something out of the ordinary.  “You are too much!” is typically a good thing, a compliment.

In our culture fat people hear that we’re too much all the time, but absent the complimentary nature. It’s not just those who describe our bodies as fleshy castles or whatever ridiculous fat bashing BS they’re saying.  It’s ingrained in the language – overweight, extra space, plus size.  The (massively mistaken) idea being that there are people who deserve to live in a world in which they fit, but at some point (a point which is pretty arbitrarily assigned and different based on who you talk to, or what plane you’re on) we lose that right.

I’ve talked about this phenomenon, including the fact that it’s acceptable for hospitals – which were built and stocked by people who knew full well that fat people exist – are allowed to simply shrug and tell me that they don’t have beds, or blood pressure cuffs, or equipment, or chairs, or crutches, or wheelchairs, or whatever, that fit me. In a fat hate forum someone said that my saying that fat people should have beds that fit us in hospitals shows that we want the world to “bend over backwards for us.”

I’m here to suggest that we do not have to buy into, or feel bad about, this bullshit argument.  The question shouldn’t be “why does that fatty have the audacity to suggest that those who provide medical care to the community should have equipment to treat her?”  The question should be “How come I can go into any hospital and expect that they’ll have equipment to treat me, but fat people can’t?”  A nice follow up question would be “How can I help correct that?”

We are not too much.  The world is not yet enough.

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Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

Justice for Debbie Johnson – City Council Woman and Upskirt Photo Victim

debbie-johnsonDebbie Johnson is a City Council member in Port Wentworth, Georgia.  She is also a Black, plus size, woman – in fact, she is the first Black woman in the council of all white men. In 2015, during a closed session meeting Ernie Stanhope, another member of the city council, took an upskirt picture of her and shared it around with men including the city attorney and the mayor (who is aptly nicknamed “Pig.”) Then Eric Steely, a political opponent of Ms. Johnson, upped the ante by posting it to Facebook complete with lies and derogatory statements about her. None of the men told her that the picture was being circulated.

The picture went viral and ended up on the front page of the local paper, and on the evening news. That led to a police investigation in which the mayor (who, seriously y’all, goes by “Pig”) chose to obstruct the investigation by refusing to reveal who took the picture. He finally gave up Ernie Stanhope in a follow-up interview. He said “If this does get out, I ain’t gonna be the one that’s gonna be held responsible for it.” Well said, Pig.

Ernie Stanhope sat with his legs wide open and tried to suggest that it was her fault that he took the picture because she was sitting with her legs wide open.

City Attorney Eric Gotwalt brought his own attorney to the proceedings and when asked about the picture requested to take a break. Then it appears he tried to claim that his looking at the picture was an act protected by attorney client privilege.  When asked if we was representing the mayor or the city he responded “I think we represent both.”  He thinks…I’m sure that’s confidence inspiring for both the mayor and the city.

Eric Steely lied about the picture’s origin and then tried to suggest that it was Ms. Johnson’s fault that the picture existed saying: “I could constitute that as a deliberate attempt at public indecency.” Though it’s not clear by what authority he might “constitute” that.

The investigator then asked “What purpose would it serve for her to do that?”

Eric went with the “she was asking for it” defense, claiming “I could sit here and say she has some kind of perverted sexual fantasy and that satisfied it.” Of course that means that Eric’s response to finding out about what he considers to be a sexual predator out there exposing herself is to post an upskirt picture of her to Facebook, captioned with lies and derogatory statements. What a fine upstanding citizen he is.

Ms. Johnson wants to pursue the matter but District Attorney Meg Heap refused to press charges. Ms. Johnson describes it as being repeatedly violated, at every Council meeting. In discussing Meg’s refusal to press charges Ms. Johnson points out:

I’m a black woman that was violated by all white men. What if it had happened to her and it was Black men?  If Black men were violating her? They would be underneath the jail.

I appreciate her pointing out how systemic racism and privilege are at work here. As a Fat Activist I wonder, too, how this might have played out had she not been plus size?

Mayor Pig said ““When I started thinking, I said well again, Miss Johnson being a big woman can’t cross her legs and the picture says it all. ”

This is an example of what we talk about when we talk about intersectionality as coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. Ms. Johnson is being violated and oppressed by white men at the intersections of being Black, plus-size, and a woman.

She is being represented by The Claiborne Firm, which takes on civil rights cases including, according to their website “cases under the federal civil rights statute after excessive use of force by law enforcement officers and denial of medical care by corrections officers and private contractors.”

Her attorneys are asking for our help:

Call City Hall: 912-964-4379

  • Demand the removal of City Attorney Eric Gotwalt and his firm
  • Demand the resignation of  (seriously can’t believe I’m typing this) Mayor Pig Jones

Contact District Attorney Meg Heap: 912-652-7328 mdheap@chathamcounty.org 

Share this information with your community.

You can find more information about the case here and in this video:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fclaibornefirm%2Fvideos%2F401358736863358%2F&show_text=0&width=560

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

When We Talk About Weight Loss Research

credible hulkOne of the reasons that I’m no longer interested in attempting weight loss is that my review of the literature informs me that it simply has no basis in evidence as being an effective way to either lose weight or become more healthy (which are two separate things).  When I say that, people often object insisting that there are studies where people have lost weight.

The problem is that any old research where a couple of people lost weight won’t do (go ahead, review the literature.  I think you’ll be shocked to find how often the average participant lost a few pounds, gained back half of it before they stopped tracking, and then the authors declare the study a success.)

The research we would need for weight loss to meet the criteria of an evidence-based medical intervention is twofold.  First, we would need a study where the majority of the participants lost the amount of weight that we are told we need to lose to change our health and maintain that weight loss long term (over 5 years).  If we had those studies – and we don’t –  we would then need some proof that weight loss actually caused health improvements – and this study already brings that into question.

This rules out the National Weight Control Registry because they’ve chosen to study 10,000 people who experienced weight loss while completely ignoring the up to 800,000,000 failed attempts that happened in the same time frame.  Then they just look for things that the 10,000 have in common. So when they say things like “eating breakfast contributes to weight loss” what they actually mean is that they asked the 10,000 people who succeeded what they did, and a majority of them said that they ate breakfast.  Note that they didn’t ask how many of the up to 800,000,000 people who did not lose weight also ate breakfast – that would be important information to have since if a majority of the people who didn’t lose weight also ate breakfast then breakfast may have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Imagine if I got together everyone who had survived a skydiving accident when their parachute didn’t open and started looking for things they have in common.  Even if every single one of them wore a green shirt and had oatmeal for breakfast, I cannot say that wearing a green shirt and eating oatmeal will allow you to survive a skydiving accident, nor can I ethically start Ragen’s School of No Parachute Skydiving “free green shirt and oatmeal with every jump!”  When your entire sample is a statistical anomaly, your research is useless. When all you’re looking for is random coincidence among a select group of outliers, you’d be better off using your research money on lottery tickets.

Other times, people bring up studies where phase 1 was weight loss and phase 2 was maintenance, the study lost between 40% and 70%  of participants during or after phase one, and then the researchers continued on as if the remaining people were the complete study group.  Not ok. Why did all of those people quit?  How will their experience be accounted for? Often the remaining subjects start gaining back the weight they lost so that at the end of phase 2 the average participant has gained back half of their weight with a net loss of less than 10 pounds.  Or they only follow up for a year or two when we know that most people gain their weight back by year 5.

People list study after study and all of them have one or more of the above problems, which I or someone else in the discussion points out.  At that point, the person listing the studies often gets frustrated and says something like “Why don’t you like my studies?” or “You just don’t want to believe.”   If they examined it, I think they’d find that their frustration isn’t with me, it’s with the fact that they’ve been sold a lie and they bought it at full retail price.

I certainly know that frustration, when I did my first literature review of weight loss research I expected to find that all diets worked – I was just looking for the “best” one, the one that had the most solid success.  I was so shocked at what I found that I read through all of the literature again.  I simply couldn’t believe that this thing – weight loss – that had been marketed to me more aggressively than anything else in my life had no basis in evidence.  I couldn’t believe that doctors had been giving me an intervention which had been shown repeatedly to almost always end in failure, and the majority of time had the exact opposite of the intended result.  When I found out that there weren’t even any studies that showed that weight loss caused changes in health I was just stunned.

It took me a lot of time and a lot of work to accept the truth.  It was hard to find out that I’d been lied to (on purpose and inadvertently), it was hard to find out that the thing that I’d been promised would solve all of my problems was never going to happen.  In many ways, at least for me, Health at Every Size was about giving up, but that’s what I do when I find out that I’ve been harboring a mistaken belief.  That’s what scientists (well, good scientists) do when their research does not support their hypothesis (however strongly held or widely believed it might be.)  They don’t suspend the rules or research and logic and argue for a belief that they can’t support with evidence.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Cheap Fat Jokes Are Not Political Commentary

Talking NonsenseOn Saturday millions of people around the world marched in solidarity for progressive, feminist goals*. Enter Mike from Mike’s corner who decided that the best thing that he could contribute was a crappy fat joke:

march-meme
Facebook post from “Mike’s Corner” It’s a picture of a protest march that says “IN ONE DAY, TRUMP GOT MORE FAT WOMEN OUT WALKING, THAN MICHELLE OBAMA DID IN 8 YEARS

This is obviously crap, and I’ve been asked to talk about why so that we can decide how best to respond.  There are several things happening here.

First it’s an attempt at humor based on stereotypes “ha ha fat women don’t usually walk ha ha” Just like people of all sizes, there are fat women who walk (and roll) and fat women who don’t but people who would make this joke are not likely to let the facts get in the way of their bigoted humor. There’s not much to unpack here other than to say that if someone thinks this is funny, they could maybe try to be less of a bigoted piece of shit moving forward.

There’s the issue of this being factually incorrect. Michelle Obama focused on kids (sometimes in ways that were horribly ill-advised) and didn’t have any programs about women walking.  I guess Mike is a fan of “alternative facts?”

The most dangerous takeaway that I’ve seen size bigots suggest is the idea that fat women delegitimize a protest simply by being there – as if the marches would have somehow been more legitimate had all the participants met Mike’s definition of “thin.” This isn’t original, the brain trust who created this meme was beaten to the punch by Ann Coulter (which is to say that this dude is getting his ass kicked by women from every direction.)

The size of the women (or people of any gender) who participated in the marches has nothing to do with anything, and yet fat phobia is so powerful in our culture that the first thing this guy decided to do was try to make a fat joke.  (I will say that I couldn’t find a single march whose platform included anything about size discrimination and so perhaps this will help us explain to organizers of future events why that’s important.)

When we respond to things like this, the most important thing is that we not reinforce the prejudices upon which they are built, or create more bigotry in the process. For this reason we want to avoid the mistake of responding about how fat the attendees were or weren’t, or using comebacks that are healthist and/or ableist.

If this appears in a space that you manage, I would suggest either simply deleting it or pointing out the issues as I have here. (If you’re interested in a discussion of moderating comments in personal online spaces as well as groups we manage online, I  recently wrote a piece for Ravishly about just that!)

If you see it in another space, you might leave a comment pointing out how widespread sizeism is, how messed up it is that women’s worth is judged by how closely we are able to approximate a stereotype of beauty, and how this meme proves the need for such marches.  You could also suggest that the person who posted it try to be less of a bigoted piece of shit moving forward.

If you have other suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Also, you may notice that the meme above was shared by Jack E. Sandlin.  What you might not know is that he is a Republican state senator. His office number is 317-232-9414 or 317-232-9400.

*They are many things to talk about when it comes to these marches and how we can do better moving forward including how they could have been more inclusive of groups like People of Color, Trans and Non-Binary people, Fat Acceptance as a platform and more. These are important discussions that are worth having – cheap fat jokes parading as political commentary are not.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

One Last Time

Today I’m taking a break from my usual Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size writing to say goodbye and give my respect to President Obama.  I’ll be back tomorrow with my usual fare.

I’ve certainly publicly disagreed with the way that his administration has talked about and treated fat people. He wasn’t perfect, nobody is. But for eight years I’ve had the opportunity to live in a country with a leader I could respect, who worked to move us forward, make progress in civil rights, and be a mature, level-headed leader in the face of horrific racism and obstructionism. Thank you President Obama, I’ll miss you.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Fat Bodies Don’t Need Pity or Preaching

no-pity-no-preachingI saw a cooking show recently at a hotel and I made a note to blog about it.  It seems familiar so I looked back and, indeed, it turns out that it was a re-run and I had blogged about it before, so I’m re-posting it. There was a chef whose passion was “healthy cooking.”  She started out by talking about how many people in her family “struggle with their weight”, she teared up as she talked about how sad it was for her to watch.

Then, when she went in front of the judges with a soup that was, to me,  a horrific looking combination of black eyed peas and cabbage – pureed –   she suddenly got angry and went on a rant about how she was “fed up” how there is “no excuse for it.” Happily the judges were not into the attitude which neatly  summed up two reactions that people have to fat people that I find utterly inappropriate and unwelcome.

First – Pity.  Don’t want it, don’t need it, won’t listen to it.  There is nothing pitiable about my body.  As I’ve mentioned before I do not “suffer” from obesity, I do suffer from people’s attitudes about my body.  That’s a suffering that will end as soon as people acknowledge that bodies come in different sizes for different reasons, that there is no wrong way to have a body, and that it’s nobody else’s business at all.  When someone says that they pity me because of my body it indicates that they think there is something superior about their bodies. My body is amazing and I won’t allow it to be treated that way without sticking up for it.  People can keep their pity, and their opinions and assumptions of my body, to themselves.

Preaching is the second issue.  It seems like every time I turn around someone’s trying to score points by giving “tough talk” to us fatties.  Telling us that they are just fed up with us and our big, fleshy bodies like we should care how they feel.  Saying that the world needs to stop “coddling” us, asserting that the world would be better if we didn’t exist,  waging war on us for power, politics and profit.  Suggesting that the problem with fat people is that we’re just not bullied and oppressed enough.  Somehow certain that the reason we’re not thin is that 386,170 negative messages a year about our body are just not enough. That somebody needs to tell us we’re fat. If shaming fat people made us thin, we’d all be thin.

I reflect sometimes on how the achievements of fat people are made more impressive because we accomplish things under the crushing weight of near constant stigma and bullying. Despite the pitying, the preaching, and the constant drumbeat of “your body is wrong”, we keep rising above, keep fighting back.  Just getting out of bed when you know the work water cooler conversation is going to be about weight loss resolutions, or going to the gym when you know the junior high level fatphobia you might face, are gold medal sports some days and we just keep doing it.

So go fatties go! Everyone else can keep their pitying and preaching to themselves, we’re fine.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.