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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.
My clothes are wearing out. They are pilled, stretched, faded, misshapen. They have lost buttons. Hems are fallen and seams are torn. My t-shirts inexplicably developed pin-holes in weird places. My pants completely explicably developed tears in the inner-thighs. I have babied my clothes, repaired them, dyed them, and patched them but I can only delay the inevitable disintegration for so long.
In other words, it’s time to shop. And that’s where the frustration starts, because Spring 2009 Trends? I am just not that into you. I wasn’t that into your older sibling, Spring 2008 Trends, either. The year before that? That was my Magical Year of Shopping While Fat. Unfortunately, because I’m fat, and because plus-size, high-quality, timeless pieces designed to last more than one season are the Unicorns of the Fashion World, my clothes are wearing slam out, as some of my country relatives would say.
Dear dingy, pilling Target dress, hang in with me for one more year and then I will give you the royal send off you deserve for three years of loyal service, which is two and a half more years than you were created to offer.
Of course, some retailers do make clothes that I love. I have a life-long, tragically unrequited love affair with Anthropologie. Back when I could wear their clothes, I couldn’t afford them. And now that I can afford them? They have decided that I am Too Fat. And don’t even get me started on Ann Taylor, which used to be my never-fail go-to for professional clothes. They are selling clothes that I love, but they are not selling clothes that I can wear. The retailers that are selling clothes in my size are stuck in this whirlpool of Boho-animal print-polyester-bedazzled-South Beach colored horribleness that is to my personal aesthetic what right-wing evangelism is to my political leanings.
And so Twistie’s post here spoke to me, right to my fat, discontented heart. Twistie calls us all to action:
People, it’s time for a revolution. Not a dreary one nor a bloody one. We need a revolution of fabulousness. I want each and every one of you to stand up and do something about this. We are not a tiny minority. We are a mighty community and we are not being served.
I want every person reading this blog – fat or thin, tall or short, male or female, every color of the rainbow and all stops in between – to refuse to be invisible. Write to a retailer or manufacturer and say that you want clothes in your size. Wear something down the street that makes people stop and stare in wonder. Laugh in the face of someone who tries to shame you into ’slimming’ colors or ‘weight appropriate’ cuts.
We. Deserve. Nice. Clothes.
And she’s totally right. And so I wrote to two retailers – Anthropologie and Ann Taylor, natch – and not only told them that I want clothes in my size, I provided them with a sample order of what I would purchase, today, as I sit here on my lunch hour, from each of them. And friends, it’s a significant amount of money. An amount of money that I am extremely privileged to have at my disposal were those stores far-thinking enough to offer anything in a women’s size 20. An amount of money that instead will stay comfortably tucked away in my checking account, patiently awaiting the clothing trends that plus-size retailers are willing to embrace to come back around to my way of thinking.
After the cut, I’ll provide you with the text of the letter I sent to the corporate office of Anthropologie so you can use it as a template for the letter you write to the retailer of your choice.
I came across this gallery of USA First Ladies and I’m just totally fascinated with it. First of all, Dolley Madison was the Chubby Hotness. And there is something about Louisa Adams that makes me want to sit up all night drinking and playing cards with her. Also take a peek into her hat closet. I swear Hannah Van Buren looks like somebody I know. It shouldn’t, because people are people (so why should it be???), but it always kind of throws me when people in old photos look like modern people, just dressed up in dusty clothes from the Old Time Photo booth on the boardwalk.
I also find it interesting to see how, around the time of Sarah Polk, so the mid-1800s and right before the Civil War, women’s fashion got really dowdy and intense. Mary Todd bucked that trend, but the Washington wives and the press really tore her a new one for it. Things didn’t really seem to lighten up much until Frances Folsom Cleveland, who was 21 when she married Grover in the Whitehouse and was considered to be pretty saucy for her day.
I also like to see how beauty standards have changed over the years. We went from the crazy frizziness of Helen Taft’s hair, to Lou Hoover’s considerable eyebrows to Lady Bird’s immaculately symmetrical brows and immobile hair helmet. And we never looked back.
Tomorrow being Super Tuesday and all, and me living in Chicago where politics is everybody’s favorite full contact sport, particularly since all of our real sports teams suck, I thought I might share some helpful Chicago-specific election day links.
First, the awkwardly named Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners for the City of Chicago. If you enter a partial address on this page the site will return your polling place, all of your various and sundry wards and districts and precincts and sub-circuits, and most awesomely, you can generate a sample ballot for your particular polling location that will list every candidate for whom you can vote. (And while you’re at it, once you know your ward, go to the City Clerk of Chicago’s website and find out who your alderperson is so you know who to call and holler at the next time it snows and nobody bothers to shovel the sidewalks.)
Next head over to Vote for Judges. Judicial and retention elections are kind of a joke, I know, because you’re minding your business and doing your civic duty trying to vote for this that or the other thing and your ballot is ten feet long because there are 500,000 people you’ve never heard of who are up for judicial retention election so you either skip ’em or just vote to retain them all. While that’s understandable, we’ve got to do better. Judges have a considerable amount of power over your daily life, so you want to do your best to ensure that qualified and, as far as I’m concerned, bone-deep progressives are on the bench. At Vote for Judges, you can print a handy grid of the candidates and their judicial evaluations by local, regional, and minority bar associations. Consult the Grid to find out how your favorite bar associations evaluated the judges on your ballot and vote accordingly so that when you find yourself on the wrong end of a gavel, the person presiding over your trial isn’t some loony pants right-wing hate mongering legal ignoramus.
Then, you can also go to the Chicago Tribune’s Election Guide, put in your address, and faux-vote for all the candidates on your ballot. When you’re finished, you can print the completed ballot and take it in to the booth with you.
To help you decide, here are some endorsements and resources from local papers:
And here is my one endorsement: I think you should vote for Tommy Brewer as the Democratic candidate for State’s Attorney. Here’s the Chicago Defender’s endorsement of Brewer, and here’s a good article about him in the Reader.
And when it’s all over, if you think there’s been some shenanigans at your polling place, call the National Campaign for Fair Election’s Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.