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Via the always hilarious Garfield mins Garfield.
I hereby declare “flossing the otter” as the hip new masturbation euphemism. Who’s with me?
Kataphatic linked this essay by Linda Bacon (pdf) taken from her keynote speech at the 2009 NAAFA conference, and it is seriously blowing my mind this morning. I strongly encourage you to read the whole piece (it’s about 12 pages long, so perfect for printing out or loading on your mobile device and reading on your commute home (unless you drive, in which case don’t do that)). Two parts that made me, like, roll backwards from my desk and put my hands on my head and with awe whisper, “Oh my God!” are this one, in which Bacon perfectly manages to compare methods of oppression without going for the gold in the Oppression Olympics, and reminds me that as much as I like to think I have my FaD (Doctor of Fatlosophy) in Fat Acceptance, I still have a lot of inner junk to overcome:
As positive as an appeal to fairness may be in some regards, however, when it gets conducted without substantive challenge to the weight paradigm, it backfires. Because thinness is still seen as normative and ideal, even when well-intentioned potential allies get involved in these issues, the tendency is to fight fat bias in order to support fat people in getting thin. The Rudd Center is classic in this regard. Theirs is a dual mission: at the same time that they conduct anti-bias work, they undermine it through their other mission: fighting “obesity.”
Put in other terms, their platform is one of “love the fat person, hate the fat.” Historically, we know that this attitude stands in the way of civil rights. Consider the common religious belief to “love the homosexual, yet hate the homosexuality.” That attitude may have supported my in-laws in loving their daughter and her partner (me) – or at least their conception of who we are – but it sure didn’t help them to celebrate the announcement that we were having a baby, which was viewed as a product of our sin. It also required that we maintain superficiality in our relationship because there were so many aspects of who we are that they couldn’t engage with because they didn’t want to acknowledge as a part of us.
It’s just not effective to tell someone to “love the sinner but hate the sin” when the “sin” you’re referring to is integral to who they are. It’s just not possible to separate me from my queerness, just as there’s no guarantee that you can separate a fat person from their adiposity in a healthy manner. The result is that you end up instead giving power to the “thin person within fantasy,” all the while denying the reality of the real person in front of you.
And then this one that so perfectly explains why I don’t post Fat Acceptance links on my own personal Facebook page that I almost posted this essay along with a truncated version of this except, just to see what would happen:
I used to believe that education was the cornerstone of change, before I actually started doing this work. If only people knew the truth, they would act in ways that support what they know. But this just isn’t true. Certainly we need to provide education on these issues and expose the myths. Indeed, a large part of my career is dedicated to educating people about the myths and realities associated with fat. And I applaud NAAFA for the recent Size Discrimination Toolkit, another crucial component in our arsenal. I don’t want to suggest that attempts at education are unimportant –– just that, when it comes to weight, academic and other rational arguments hold limited independent value as social change strategy.
Most people have internalized fatism and believe that there is something wrong with fat, from the perspective of appearance as well as health. We’re all subject to what psychologists call “confirmation bias.” Once a belief is in place, we screen information in a way that ensures our beliefs are proven correct.
Also, because we like to believe that our values are derived from a well-reasoned thought process of our own volition, there’s a natural resistance to the notion that we’re basically pawns who have absorbed an oppressive system, actively complicit in our own oppression and that of others. It makes sense that people have a strong defense system – denial – that prevents many people from seeing this.
People also reach for denial when an intolerable situation has been pointed out to them but the means for change are hard to grasp and the penalties for contributing to that change are high, causing even those who may be more willing and capable of challenging hegemony to get suckered back into the denial. Myths about weight are so deeply entrenched that it is difficult for some people to imagine that they can live happily and successfully in a large body. Similarly, it is hard for professionals to believe that they can capture an audience if they support size acceptance.
Okay, I thought about excerpting more bits, but I realized I was pretty much just copying and pasting the entire article and interjecting such trenchant commentary as, “Holy shit, is this genius or what?” and “Dude! DUDE!” I will thus leave well enough alone and let you all run along to enjoy some pretty amazing, goose-bump raising insights into the concepts of thin privilege and the inner workings of fatphobia.
I could give two shits about fashion, but I will say this for it: fashion is easy.* You buy a magazine, you watch a television program, you read a website, you keep your eyes open when walking past shops with window displays, you hang out in the common areas of any accredited undergraduate institution, and ta da! You now know what is in fashion. You may not like it and you may not have the knack for making it look effortless and you may not be able to find it in your damn size, but at least you know that skinny jeans and high heels that lace up and kind of look like boots but are also open-toed and over-sized watches are on trend.**
But what about style? Not what the fashion industry is excited about this season, but what I am excited about every day? For some people, those two things are the same, but alas, not so for me. The problem is that after, shit, nearly a lifetime of having to subjugate my own personal style instincts in the face of a dearth of off-the-rack, at-least-semi-well-fitted, affordable clothing, I had no idea what my actual style preferences were. In the same way that in a patriarchy, women are strongly encouraged to ignore their own instincts regarding hunger and eating, in a capitalist society, everybody is encouraged to ignore his or her own personal taste and preferences regarding consumer goods, because capitalism feeds on the constant dissatisfaction of the consumer base the way Pennywise the clown fed on little kids’ fear. If the consumers stop chasing the brass ring of the Next Great Thing, capitalism stops working (or at least starts winding down (presumably; it’s hard to say what those in power will do to keep the status quo chugging along)), so consumers shouldn’t worry about what they actually like, because if they buy it and hate it, they can just buy something else!
So my first step was to figure out what I even liked, style-wise. I could have followed Plumcake’s reasonable directive to make an inspiration board, but I have this thing where when I get an idea and I know it’s good, I’m all, “FULL STEAM AHEAD” and “DAMN THE TORPEDOES” and many other naval metaphors and creating an inspiration board was going to take FOR-EV-ER and GOD I just wanted to do this WARDROBE THING, OKAY? So instead I started by thinking about stuff that I like, the kind of stuff where when I see an item that is representitive of said stuff, I say, “Ooo!” and run directly toward the representative item, leaving my companions standing around, brows furrowed in puzzlement. For me, this list includes (but is not limited to):
The Arts and Crafts Movement
Jane Austen Novels
The English Renaissance
Norma Desmond’s bedroom in Sunset Boulevard
While there are a few outliers, this is a sufficiently cohesive list from which I can tease out a general aesthetic trend: bookish, proper, and correct yet unrestrained and unpretentious, and a little witchy with a crypto-goth streak a mile wide. The cool thing for me was realizing how right freaking on this general aesthetic trend actually was. I looked around and saw this aesthetic on my bookshelf, in my DVD collection, on my iPod, around my workspace, and to a lesser extent in my home decor (I do live with another person whose preferred aesthetic is best summed up by the concrete and stainless steel modular home that this dude in Japan built that was featured on the TV show Small Space, Big Style a couple of years ago, in which you can slide big, blank, dully reflective walls around to hide your kitchen, bathroom, living and bedrooms, and which, in its native state, looks like a big, empty concrete and metal box, the mere thought of which makes my chest tight). The one place this aesthetic does not appear? My closet.
Unfortunately, another place in which this aesthetic is absent is on the racks and webpages of most plus-size retailers, unless Victorian Dress Reform included a hidden period of enthusiasm about polyester and plastic bedazzling. And so, now familiar with my personal style aesthetic, I bought this dress in every color and spent $5,000 at Holy Clothing and called it a day.
Just kidding! For me, there is a lot more to creating a capsule wardrobe than just selecting clothes that satisfy a particular aesthetic paradigm. I also have to consider the logistics of why I need to wear clothes. There are obvious environmental considerations: I live in Chicago, which while sometimes as hot and humid as a hobo’s armpit, is mostly temperate to colder than batshit on a witch’s tit. Then there are professional considerations: I am a legal professional and while my current job does not require a particularly high standard of dress, I am a believer of dressing for the job I want, and I want a job where people won’t ask me if I am going to be on TV or something because I happen to be wearing a tailored black dress and pearls. And finally there are general, practical considerations of personal preference: a strong preference for natural fibers and dresses more so than pants, a unabashed love of cardigans, a white-hot hatred of constricting clothing, the need for durable and easy-care garments, and a tragic lack of closet space.
The bigger challenge for me was taking this aesthetic, and all these logistical considerations, and turning them into a style. I actively and intently thought about this quite a bit. Eventually I settled on the following characteristics: evolved from an Anglo-Western tradition; was fairly modest without being timorous; relied on smart tailoring and a wee smidge of stretch to achieve a fit that emphasized simple lines yet was comfortable and non-restrictive; had a decidedly yet subtly old-fashioned vibe; was minimally embellished and then Morris over Mondriaan; and constructed, whenever possible, of natural fiber fabrics. Think an episode of Project Runway as hosted by Lady Dedlock and Aubrey Beardsley, with special guest judge Queen Elizabeth I, in which the designers have to create a plus-size look appropriate for presenting oral arguments before the US Supreme Court, and Stevie Nicks wins.
And thus was born My Personal Style. The next step is to apply this nascent personal style to my fantasy capsule wardrobe.
*Well, in some respects. In other respects, such as the respect of actually finding those on trend items in your actual size, it’s fucking hard as hell as Gabi and many other excellent fatshion bloggers can tell you.
**Actual trendiness of the listed items not guaranteed.
I have been chuckling at this all day:
Which isn’t to say that I have anything against nutritionists. Especially fat nutritionists, and especially especially The Fat Nutritionist. But I still think those guys are on to something, here.
About two months ago, a thought exploded to the forefront of my little brain with all the ferocity of a supernova: I could give two shits about fashion.
And it’s true. I could really, seriously give two shits about fashion. I don’t care about what’s “on trend.” Sometimes trends and my own personal taste will intertwine, but 90% of the time as I pass store windows or read fashion blogs, I wind up just shaking my head in puzzlement or dismay.
Now, please do not mistake me. By “fashion,” I absolutely do not mean “style.” Style is extremely important to me. Style is what makes me feel confident enough to push my way onto a crowded train. Style is what helps me stand up to misogynistic jagoffs in a professional setting. Style is what supports me when I am feeling a little deflated in the ego department but still really want or need to appear in public.
Style, however, is not fashion. Which isn’t to say that fashionable people lack style. I merely realized, in a moment of cerebral detonation, just that one need not be in style to have style.
Though simple, this realization was startling.
I have been struggling valiantly to develop a wardrobe of clothes that suit my style and my personal distribution of fat for at least the past year. And friends, I have been failing spectacularly. Sure, I have (and wear, fear not) clothes, but clothes, I would posit, are no more synonymous with style than fashion is. Getting dressed is just something I do because the alternative is hypothermia or jail or both. Getting dressed for me is a routine, a desultory start to my day. And you know, I totally deserve better.
Over on Shapely Prose in the comments to a post that I will never be able to identify at this point, A Sarah mentioned that she was looking for a tailor to help her construct a capsule wardrobe. What is a capsule wardrobe, you ask? Let me provide this excellent definition from Shop Talk, a blog I just found by Googling “capsule wardrobe” and that also happens to sport the eerily relevant tag line “Fashions fade, style is eternal”:
It is what’s left when you downsize your closet to the bare essentials. It is the actual backbone of your wardrobe and as such should work with everything. For that very reason it must be based on timeless, best-quality items (think cotton, cashmere, silk) with the most flattering cuts. Think of it as a style investment as these pieces will transcend fashion trends, year in year out. Finally your Capsule Wardrobe will be built around key pieces in neutral colours that suit your natural colouring.
I don’t give a shit about fashion, I thought. A capsule wardrobe, I pondered. Clothes that excite me, that fit, that reflect my personal aesthetic, that make me want to get out of bed and go out there and knock ‘em dead, I enthused. Could I, fat woman looking down the barrel of 40, have and embody… style?
Yes, I thought, I absolutely can.
And so, what I have been calling in my head My Own Personal Wardrobe Project was born.
Despite what the title of this post might lead you to believe, the following link is not only entirely safe for work, but is also quite delightful:
I guess you all know what is for dinner in the Ottermatic household tonight…
And from that same site, although probably of interest only to that tiny little slice of the Venn diagram where my readers and fans of Russian literature and film overlap, is a pictorial spread about people who go into the still irradiated Chernobyl disaster zone and play real-life “S.T.A.L.K.E.R.,” which is a video game, sure, but a video game based on a book by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky and film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, all of which I find totally amazing for some reason. Probably low blood sugar.
ETA: First link is fixed! Sorry!