Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Best Thing

A pen and watercolour illustration by Colleen Clark of a fat woman with light brown skin and dark hair who is naked apart from white underpants with a frilly trim. A ribbon is twined around her bearing the words "your body is not the best thing about you, your body is not the worst thing about you".

A pen and watercolour illustration by Colleen Clark of a fat woman with light brown skin and dark hair who is naked apart from white underpants with a frilly trim. A ribbon is twined around her bearing the words “your body is not the best thing about you, your body is not the worst thing about you”.

I love this illustration by Colleen Clark. It’s beautifully drawn and has a beautiful message. You can even buy a copy of it here in Colleen’s webstore!

But, actually, I think my body IS the best thing about me.

I don’t mean that my appearance is the best thing about me, or that my flesh is all I amount to.  I have far more to offer the world than beauty or fuckability or fertility, the traditional value measures applied to the female body by the sexist society I live in.

But my body is how I experience the world and participate in it. My body allows me to see and hear and smell and touch. My body enables me to think and speak, to type and draw and to communicate in myriad other ways. Without my body, I’m not sure I would be anything.

Even when I don’t feel happy about the way it looks or the way it feels or functions, even when I am demoralised by the aforementioned sexist measures of my body’s “value”, I try and remember that. My body is my link with the world, and that makes my body awesome.

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IT HAPPENED TO ME! I Changed my Mind About Wanting Kids.

A very young pale-skinned child is sitting in a pink car seat, apparently asleep, and cuddling a large marmalade cat (almost as big as the child!) who is also apparently asleep.  Awww.

A very young pale-skinned child is sitting in a pink car seat, apparently asleep, and cuddling a large marmalade cat (almost as big as the child!) who is also apparently asleep. Awww.

It wasn’t because of that image, but I really wanted to post it because it’s SO CUTE, and this is probably the only post for a while on which it will be relevant!

When I was eighteen, I decided I was never going to have children. I did not like kids very much. I didn’t feel comfortable around them, find their antics cute, or want to cuddle other people’s babies just because they were babies. I didn’t think I would be a good mother and, furthermore, I had no desire to become one.

I heard all the responses you can imagine. You’re so young, you’ll change your mind when you get older. Oh, when you find the right man, you’ll want to settle down and have a family. It’s different when they’re your own kids. I’m sure you’d be a great parent! At the time I developed a really negative attitude towards children and parenting that I’m not terribly proud of today; children are human beings who are learning how to be part of society, and “hating” them all en masse is pretty bigoted, even if you don’t want to be involved in raising them yourself. But I think this attitude was largely a backlash against the way everyone refused to take my decision about future parenthood – or rather, non-parenthood – seriously.

They were all missing the point. Like Christina Yang says in Grey’s Anatomy, “I’m not a monster. If I had a baby, I’d love it” but I did not want one.

I saw, and still see, parenting as something you shouldn’t just assume will happen to you eventually, but something you make a deliberate decision about. Sometimes it does come unexpectedly, and that doesn’t mean that unexpected parents can’t be wonderful parents, but I knew at eighteen that I did not want to be a parent. And a few years later when I started having sex with a man for the first time, I knew that if I accidentally got pregnant I would have an abortion, and I made sure he knew that too.

As our relationship got more and more serious, my feelings about having children did not change, but my position was complicated by the kind of relationship I was (and am) in. I’m polyamorous, and my partner had – and still has – another serious relationship with another woman. Over time we have developed into a family unit, and in the same time it became very clear to me that while he wasn’t so invested in having kids that my stance on parenting was going to be a problem, she was.

Even so, it wasn’t a matter of me thinking “well, my partners want a baby so I’ll just have to give in”. Parenting is an enormous, life-changing thing. I don’t think anyone should ever enter into it as a matter of compromise. I suspect that way lies resentment and horrible emotional trauma for everyone involved. But it did mean I needed to think about the situation again.

My perspective also changed, interestingly enough, as my lack of desire for a baby became less of an issue for the people around me. I got a new gynaecologist who was much more relaxed about me not wanting to get pregnant. I got older, so people in general were more inclined to believe I had given the issue real thought, and if not accept it, then at least leave me alone about it. I found I had other friends who did not intend to have children, so the assumption every woman will one day be a mother was less prevalent in my social group.

I also had friends who did have children, and got to meet some kids who weren’t just generic sticky babies that I resented because I was expected to love them (purely because I had a womb and they came from one), but individuals that I got to know and like as cool little people. The idea of my family creating a cool little person started to seem like it would be okay. And then from okay, it started to seem like it would be really wonderful.

But that troubled me a bit too, because it made me feel like a Bad Feminist. That’s not to say that mother are Bad Feminists, but that I felt as if I were capitulating to a sexist paradigm of what I was supposed to want. When I went to pick up something from my partner at his work and had a weirdly vivid daydream about walking into the office with a toddler on my hip to visit her daddy at work, I felt like I had crumbled under pressure and given in to a fantasy of a womanhood that I had never wanted. I worried that I was only entertaining it now because I wanted to make my partners happy, and most of all I was worried that everyone I’d ever told “I don’t want to have children” would suddenly shout “AHA!” and take my change of heart as proof that all ladies really want babies after all.

But that’s not what it means at all. It’s okay to change your mind. People aren’t ideas, we’re messy and complicated and we’re subject to all kinds of influences. Of course my decision – not to “give in” to the idea of being a parent, but to WANT to be a parent, and even daydream about it – was influenced by the world and people around me, because every decision I have ever made was so influenced. But that’s okay too. I have thought about this a lot and I don’t feel like I’m giving anything up. I feel like I’m looking at a new opportunity.

I still don’t want to be pregnant. It’s complicated.  If I were to get pregnant by accident (all but impossible for a number of reasons) or my partners were unable to conceive for some reason, that would be a serious issue that would require some soul searching for me. It might seem bizarre for me to tell you that although I now actively want to help parent my partners’ baby – and will think of that baby as “mine” also – I might still want an abortion if I myself were to become pregnant, but there it is. Pregnancy is not something I have any desire for, nor is it something that would be good for me, physically or psychologically.

I’m impatient to meet our baby, and that baby hasn’t even been conceived yet. It is a very odd place to be, when five years ago I did not want a baby at all, and felt really uncomfortable holding or talking about other people’s babies. I still occasionally wonder whether I am giving in to some broader social pressure, that on some level I am aware that the pop cultural narrative assigned to people like me – in a stable romantic relationship and nearing thirty – involves babies around this point and that is what’s driving me. But I don’t think that’s true (or the whole truth, anyway), and in any case I don’t think it matters too much. The decision I’ve made has changed the course of my life, of course it has, but it hasn’t changed me very much. I still applaud other women who have chosen not to have babies, and support their right to exercise autonomy over their own bodies and lives. I am certainly not about to start telling women who don’t want kids that they are “selfish”, because that’s ridiculous, or that they’ll change their minds like I did, because they probably won’t. I think I am actually quite unusual in this.

If for no other reason than to spare other people the angst of wondering if their decisions are their own, I’m quite happy with that!

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Rebel Wilson’s Fat Girl Comedy

Rebel Wilson playing Fat Amy in the movie Pitch Perfect.  Amy, a fat blonde white woman, sings into a microphone on stage in front of a group of other singing women.  She has ripped open her white shirt to reveal a tight white tank top underneath.

Rebel Wilson playing Fat Amy in the movie Pitch Perfect. Amy, a fat blonde white woman, sings into a microphone on stage in front of a group of other singing and dancing women. She has ripped open her white shirt to reveal a tight white tank top underneath.

“Even though some of you are pretty thin, you all have fat hearts, and that’s what counts.”

So says Rebel Wilson’s character Fat Amy at the climax of her recent film Pitch Perfect, an ensemble comedy about college competitive a cappella singing (kinda like Glee, but without any backing instruments).

From what I understand, a lot of Amy’s lines in Pitch Perfect were ad libbed on set by Wilson. That’s how she does her thing, she’s a comedian rather than a comic actor per se. A lot of comedians do movies this way; Robin Williams is famous for it, and check out the out takes for Scrubs to see some of the bizarre ad libs from the Janitor that didn’t make the final cut (hilarious!).

And actually, knowing that is really awesome, because it makes me realise that the fat jokes in Pitch Perfect – and there are a LOT of fat jokes – aren’t comedy at Amy’s (and Wilson’s) expense, they’re a great big Fuck You to fat stereotypes.

The line in Amy’s introductory scene says a lot about what Wilson is doing here, and often does with her particular awkward deadpan brand of comedy. When she introduces herself as “Fat Amy” and uptight Aubrey replies “you call yourself Fat Amy?” she explains: “Yeah, so twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back.” That’s what Wilson is doing throughout the whole movie when she slaps her belly as she sings “I got game by the pound”, when she yells “I’m going to finish him like a cheesecake” and when she says “yeah, don’t put me down for cardio”. Those fat stereotypes are ridiculous, and she’s showing up just how ridiculous they are. She’s not making fun of fat people with Fat Amy, she’s making fun of the people who think real fat people are food-obsessed and prefer “horizontal running”.  She’s thrusting her fatness in their faces and forcing them to look.

And she totally owns her body, too. I know Wilson has expressed a desire to lose weight before (she was a Jenny Craig spokesperson at one point), and I don’t know if that has changed or not, but Amy the character loves being fat, she doesn’t shy away from it or act self-conscious at all. It’s wonderful to see a fat character on screen who calls herself fat unashamedly, and who is so physical. Unlike the fat chicks in Glee, she doesn’t get relegated to the fat lady versions of the costumes (gotta cover those arms!) or background dancing. She moves, she throws her whole body into the performance, and she rips her clothes off on stage, too.  And she’s funny!  There are definitely some jokes – from her and other characters – that made me cringe, like the “deaf Jews” bit, and the film isn’t at all without problems.  But, perhaps surprisingly, the fat jokes aren’t the bad part.

In fact, the only person who ever insults Amy’s appearance is the guy we are absolutely supposed to hate from the first moment we meet him.  For a while I was worried he was going to be a love interest for Amy, but while there’s an in-text hint that she may have used him for sex, it’s not one of those stories about a fat-hating douchebag being the best the fat girl can hope for.  Amy has lots of boyfriends (whom she is “bored with”), and we see her lounging in the pool with several conventionally attractive, muscle-bound guys on Spring Break.

In general, I do wish awesome fat comedians like Rebel Wilson, Magda Szubansky and Melissa McCarthy got to play more roles that weren’t centred on how fat they are. They are talented women and they can do more than that. But I really like what Wilson does with the fat jokes in Pitch Perfect. They really made me laugh! I hope it’s as confronting and embarrassing to fat phobic audiences as it is clearly meant to be.

And I hope you all appreciate how hard it was for me to avoid making a “rebel with a cause” pun in the title of this post.

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Sex, Desire and Self-Critical Analysis

The idea that beauty has any kind of objective meaning is rubbish. The cliché says that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s partly right – the eye, mind, culture, taste and social conditioning of the beholder are all at play when it comes to determining whether or not something is beautiful. Even beyond the variations of individual preference, even “mainstream” beauty ideals are culturally and historically specific, and socially constructed.

I know what you’re thinking. But Sarah! What about hip-to-waist ratios and symmetry and the biological imperative to produce healthy babies! To you I say that the visual measures of health and fertility that some scientists claim determine what most people find attractive only go so far in explaining who is attractive to us as individuals and why. Such scientific measures of attractiveness may have some basis in human evolutionary history, but they prop up compulsory heterosexuality and exclude a whole host of people as just “naturally” unattractive including people with disabilities, intersex people, trans* and genderqueer people and people with infertility. They don’t explain same-sex attraction, or how people who don’t want to procreate experience attraction either, nor do they adequately explain why people recognise and praise beauty in others they are not attracted to. To claim that the sole function and meaning of physical attraction and the concept of human beauty is the selection of an appropriate mate for procreation is to ignore thousands of years of human social history in favour of biology. Attraction and beauty are far more complex and culturally mediated than just determining who has whose babies.

It strikes me as somewhat odd that we’re perfectly happy to accept personal taste when it comes to being a dog person or a cat person, or preferring The Rolling Stones over The Beatles, but we’re determined to get physical attraction between people down to a science. The reason, I think, is that if we can point to a scientific study and say “but I can’t help preferring thin people/young people/currently able bodied people/cisgendered people/etc. etc.” then we get a free pass on leaving one area of our internalised biases unexamined. And I think that if you are invested in intersectional social justice, you have a responsibility to examine all your biases as often as you can.

What I’m not saying here is that people are obliged to find everyone attractive, obliged to date everyone or obliged to be sexually intimate with everyone. Nobody is entitled access to anybody else’s body. If I received incontrovertible proof (if there is such a thing) tomorrow that people will die if they do not have a minimum amount of sex with another person, I would still believe this. The right to personal bodily autonomy is at the core of quite a lot of my beliefs!

BUT.

I think we could all benefit from a self-critical perspective on the issue of attraction and desire. There’s a great post about this topic on gudbuy t’jane from back in 2011 that partly inspired my own post. Here’s a quote:

“Understandably, who we are attracted to is a very sensitive topic for most of us. We want to believe our desires are our own, unshaped by the media, patriarchy, racism, ableism, transmisogyny, or other oppressive systems. This is even more challenging when one’s identity is based in ideas of activism, social justice and equality; We don’t want to feel like we’re upholding oppressive standards, or engaging in systems which sometimes violently desexualize marginalized identities.”

So when I say I think it’s odd that we’re so much more invested in rationalising our biases when it comes to dating and sexual desire, I guess what I really mean is that I think it’s unfortunate, because I can certainly understand why people are quick to defend their desires as something innate and beyond their control. Desire is so intimate and personal, it feels natural to get defensive when your desires are challenged, and may feel comparable to being asked to check your privilege for the first time. People – especially people who identify themselves as activist in some way – don’t like the implication that they are prejudiced. But just as it is worse to experience racism than it is to be called racist, it is worse to be unthinkingly dismissed as a potential lover solely because of your membership of a marginalised social group than it is to be (or feel like you are being) called shallow.

Because it’s not about being shallow, not really. There’s the danger in this discussion to stray into areas of the Nice Guy (TM) and the ridiculous concept of the Friend Zone – I do not wish to associate my argument here with the feeling of entitlement certain men seem to have to sex from their female friends and acquaintances. As I said before, you’re never under obligation to have sex with ANYONE, and as the above article says, we can’t “simply reprogram our desires for the sake of a more egalitarian community”. But this claim that attraction is innate and beyond our control seems pretty empty to me when you consider the changing face of beauty across time and cultures, and even within the same culture. As a frivolous example, let’s compare my lust for Jason Segal (he’s big and huggable and funny, and he can sing) with many of my friends’ fancy for Tom Hiddleston (who’s very cool and a great actor, but doesn’t spark any sexy-type feelings in me at all). If attraction can differentiate that far, why not further?

In fact, I’ve noticed something in the last few years. Ever since I started being involved in Fat Acceptance, reading blogs and looking at pictures of fat people (mostly women), I have started to find more fat people attractive. In a book on self-image in teenage girls I once read about the idea of visual languages, and that the images we are frequently exposed to (as well as their positive or negative context) shape our ability to think in certain ways. In that study the author was exploring how the limited range of female bodies that are visible to young women in media images affects their ability to accept deviation from the media ideal in their own bodies, and promotes bad self esteem. In turn, that theory can be extended to talk about how we think about bodies in general, the ones we find attractive as well as our own. It has certainly been the case for me; expanding my visual vocabulary to include images of fat women – in the context of them being attractive, stylish and sexy – has enabled an expansion of what is desirable to me. Not just fat women but fat people in general, including fat men and genderqueer fat people (both of whom need more visible/visual representation online).

When I was younger – not that much younger, I guess, but we’re talking ten years ago – I was a fashion design student. We did not learn how to design for fat bodies, or how to draw clothes on fat bodies (although weirdly we did have a fat life drawing model who was always nude – when we drew clothed life models they were always thin) and the vast majority of the teachers and other students were thin. We designed for thin models and used designers who exclusively made clothes for thin people as inspiration and research. I sketched people, particularly women, all the time even outside class, and they were always long and thin and catwalk-model-shaped. At the time, I was rather more attracted to women than men, and would you believe it, all the women I found myself attracted to were likewise long and thin and catwalk-model-shaped.

Needless to say that since I was not a long, thin, catwalk-model-shaped woman myself, internalising this idea that only those sorts of women were attractive really hurt my self-image. There is a lot more to self-worth than attractiveness, and more to internalised fat-hatred than feeling unattractive, but that was a big part of it for me at that time, and precipitated my initial descent into an eating disorder. It also led me into some awful abusive situations where I felt like I should be “grateful” for any (sexual) attention I got even when I didn’t want it, because I was so undesirable it wasn’t guaranteed to come around again. I still live with the baggage of that – while I now find other women who resemble me attractive, and even like the way I look a lot of the time, I don’t think of myself as a “desirable” person. I tend to be dismissive of anyone who tells me otherwise, and even got angry at a friend once when he counted me among women he found attractive, because I felt he was just trying to humour me or something. I even feel weird and embarrassed writing that down, because surely people will scoff at the idea anyone would find me desirable!

It’s pernicious stuff. It hurts us to not be self-critical about attraction and desire, because what we find attractive affects how we feel about ourselves, too. Before I thought about desirability as something socially constructed, it was completely impossible for me to try and counteract this learned idea that I was an innately unattractive person, and with that came a deep sense of shame and worthlessness. Of course, someone not finding you attractive is not something you should ever feel ashamed of, and I would like to dismantle the idea that worth is connoted by attractiveness, too, because not everyone is interested in sex and sexual relationships, and there’s more to all of us than sex. But I do think that analysing our own prejudices should include those that are imbedded in the idea of beauty and desire, and that we will be better, happier, more egalitarian communities for it.

When you find yourself wanting to reply to this post with something like “I’m not racist, I just don’t tend to find Asian guys attractive”, pause a moment and ask yourself why you are willing to dismiss an entire (and enormous!) group from ever being potentially desirable. Are you sure internalised racist ideas, assumptions or connotations are not lurking behind that thought? When you think “I just don’t find fat bodies beautiful”, follow that up with a question. Why not? Are you assuming anything about fat people when you think that?

Hell, I even think straight people should critically analyse their straightness instead of assuming humans are heterosexual by default.  That may sound radical, but I don’t mean you need to “experiment” with your sexuality or that you’re a bad person if you identify as straight.  I mean that compulsory heterosexuality is a received idea that most of us never challenge.  It’s perfectly okay to think about it and decide that you are, in fact, straight.  But thinking about it is a good thing!

The take home message of this post should not be “if you are marginalised, people owe you sex”. Nobody owes anybody sex. But I do hope that people will consider looking at and thinking about different kinds of bodies and thinking critically about where their own desires – or lack thereof – come from.

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NSFW: Dancing time!

A cartoon (drawn by me) of a fat, naked white woman with wavy yellow hair, dancing.

A cartoon (drawn by me) of a fat, naked white woman with wavy yellow hair, dancing.

As you can see, I cannot draw hands 😀

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Wishing My Christmas

Well, I said my next post would be about cake or dresses, and here we are!  I’m working on a few more serious posts at the moment, but the hectic holiday season and an irritating injury have been getting in the way of my focus somewhat lately.  Instead, prompted by being tagged (by the ace Fat Heffalump) in a meme, I am going to keep this blog alive by indulging in a little materialistic frivolity.  Hurrah!  You may assume that my Christmas wish list also includes a lifetime supply of Moët et Chandon and Peace On Earth And Goodwill To All, but these are more the sorts of things that Santa can wrap up and put under my Christmas tree:

  1. A PhD scholarship.  OK, so that’s not going to be wrapped up and put under the Christmas tree, but still, the seasons coincide!  I find out really soon.  Oh please, oh please, oh please.

    A slim white woman with long dark blonde hair wearing jeans, a white tshirt and a mint green leather biker jacket with large lapels and quilting on the shoulders and waistband.

    A slim white woman with long dark blonde hair wearing jeans, a white tshirt and a mint green leather biker jacket with large lapels and quilting on the shoulders and waistband.

  2. This leather jacket from ASOS Curve.  YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT, A MINT GREEN LEATHER JACKET.  How awesome is that?  It’s on my family Christmas list so this one may even come true *crosses fingers*  And hey look, the model is wearing matching nail polish!  I’m totally doing that if I get one.

    A slim white woman (head mostly cut off by the photo framing) wearing a long rust-coloured jersey dress with long sleeves and a wrap bodice.

    A slim white woman (head mostly cut off by the photo framing) wearing a long rust-coloured jersey dress with long sleeves and a wrap bodice.

  3. A Rachel Pally maxi dress.  I don’t even care which one, they just look so comfy!

    A small dark blue clutch decorated with appliqué, sequins and embroidery depicting a circus elephant and a circus lion behind gold bars.

    A small dark blue clutch decorated with appliqué, sequins and embroidery depicting a circus elephant and a circus lion behind gold bars.

  4. This circus clutch from Irregular Choice.  I am a sucker for the cute, the silly and the irrepressibly sparkly.

    A somewhat slim brown-skinned woman with long dark hair, wearing a white tshirt.  The tshirt is printed with a cute cartoonish illustration of a fat white girl with blonde hair and the caption "Fat and Sassy Blonde".

    A somewhat slim brown-skinned woman with long dark hair, wearing a white tshirt. The tshirt is printed with a cute cartoonish illustration of a fat white girl with blonde hair and the caption “Fat and Sassy Blonde”.

  5. A Tiny Hobo fat positive tshirt.  So cuuuute!  The only question is whether to get Fat and Sassy Blonde (my current hair colour) or Fat and Sassy Brunette (my real hair colour)?  Given that the aforementioned lack of focus means I haven’t retouched my roots in ages, I’m kind of both at the moment anyway.  And I got an actual genuine compliment for how cool my unwashed, half-grown-out roots looked yesterday, so I am pretty sure I am rocking it.  Lazy femmes FTW!

    On the left, a rubber stamp depicted alongside an impression of the stamp inside a book.  The stamp shows the following hand-lettered message, inside a circle: "from the library of oritgat if found, return. oritgat@gmail.com".  On the right, a rubber stamp depicted alongside an impression of the stamp on paper.  The stamp shows a curling ribbon banner that reads "EX LIBRIS" and leaves space for a name to be added.

    On the left, a rubber stamp depicted alongside an impression of the stamp inside a book. The stamp shows the following hand-lettered message, inside a circle: “from the library of oritgat if found, return. oritgat@gmail.com”. On the right, a rubber stamp depicted alongside an impression of the stamp on paper. The stamp shows a curling ribbon banner that reads “EX LIBRIS” and leaves space for a name to be added.

  6. A lovely Ex Libris stamp like this lovely hand-lettered one by plurabelle on Etsy (on the left). Or this one by extase (on the right).  Actually I’d really like one that says “I belong to Chrestomanci Castle. And Sarah.”

    A haphazard stack of old books with various coloured and textured covers.

    A haphazard stack of old books with various coloured and textured covers.

  7. And, on that note, BOOKS!  Novels and non fiction and poetry and comics and the works.  There are an extraordinary number of academic type books I want and need to get my hands on now that the whole PhD thing is starting to loom, and academic texts are ludicrously expensive.

I’m not going to tag anyone in because…I have no idea who I would tag, but if you feel like posting your own list do share a link!

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Anorexia Jokes and Derailing

TRIGGER WARNING: Eating Disorders

I really don’t want this place to be about thinness. I don’t want to have to keep being distracted from the issue of fat liberation to talk about defending thin women, because that isn’t the point of this blog and it’s derailing and distracting. The whole world is about thin people, and this place shouldn’t have to be.

But eating disorders are part of my history and part of what has led me here, both my own and the experience of seeing far, far too many of my dear friends struggle with anorexia and other eating disorders. So when I see yet another stupid, ignorant comment about force-feeding someone a hamburger because she looks too skinny, I blow my top. Not because thin women have it harder than fat women, but because eating disorders are not a fucking punchline.

Have you ever sat at the dinner table with a loved one and begged her to eat just one more bite? Have you ever followed someone to the bathroom after lunch to make sure she didn’t throw up? Have you ever felt with crushing certainty that someone you love is really, actually going to starve herself to death? Sadly, I suspect plenty of you have.  I have, more times than I care to count. I’ve done these things while struggling with my own demons regarding food and weight, and felt the grotesque and horrifying combination of fearing for a friend’s life while simultaneously envying her for getting further along the path to killing herself than I had.

It’s not a joke, and it’s certainly not something that people who have never experienced an eating disorder – personally or from close by – should feel smug about.

The only time “force-feeding” someone who is anorexic is ever helpful is when they are actually about to die of starvation, and even then it’s not going to do a thing to “cure” the illness, it’s purely about keeping them alive long enough to find something that works.

Joking about force-feeding a person so her body won’t offend you, even if she is starving herself, is disgusting.

A person’s body is their home and who they are in one. Our bodies are how we constitute our experience of the world and our identities, whether our identity is in sync with the way the people around us code and interpret our bodies or not. And as the saying – now famous in body positive circles – goes, there is no wrong way to have a body.

Pause and let that sink in for a moment.

THERE IS NO WRONG WAY TO HAVE A BODY.

Of course, it’s certainly possible to feel like your body is wrong, and that feeling is perfectly real and perfectly awful. As a fat woman I have definitely experienced the feeling that my body was wrong – inside every fat woman is a thin woman wanting to be free, amirite ladies? – but the fact I felt that way certainly doesn’t make it true. That sense of wrongness is externally imposed rather than self-evident.

You cannot cannot CANNOT forward the cause of fat liberation by making cruel jokes about other people’s bodies.  One of the first things we all need to do in order to achieve body liberty for everyone is let go of our judgements about other people’s bodies.  Even thin women. Even women who are thin because they are starving themselves.

And – here’s the important bit – until we can stop bandying about bullshit like “give that girl a hamburger” we will never be able to decentralise the thin, young white woman from our discussion of body image, body shaming and beauty idealism. We will never actually get to the task of dismantling the systems that keep most women preoccupied with their bodies and marginalise fat people, disabled people, trans* people, intersex people and people of colour on the basis of their bodies and their looks. Because as long as we keep making ignorant jokes about force-feeding people and walking skeletons and models who look like boys and “real women” and other such nonsense, we’re focusing the whole conversation on thin women. We just keep having the same fucking arguments about whether or not it’s okay to pick on thin women, and some of us will keep having to defend thin women instead of working to liberate anyone else.  You know what that is?  It’s derailing.  And I won’t have it.

Hopefully now I won’t ever have to write about this again and can get back to talking about fat some more.  I think my next post should be about cake.  Or dresses.

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