[Image: A green/blue and white duotone design with large typography overlapping a silhouetted fat body. The text is bold, overlayed and overlapping. It simply states: “GLORIFY OBESITY - Redefining Body Image”]
This is part three of a poster series I’m working on that focuses on using blunt and unapologetic messaging to incite thought and reaction (hopefully of a positive or inquisitive nature) regarding fat discrimination, health, obesity hysteria, etc.
[Part Two: Fat ≠ Death]
[Part One - “There is no obesity epidemic.”]
MY DESIGN WAS FEATURED IN AN ARTICLE BY LESLEY KINZEL ON XOJANE!!!!!
“I GUESS I’M GLORIFYING OBESITY JUST BY EXISTING — IS THIS A PROBLEM?”
I AM TOO GODDAMN EXCITED TO NOT USE CAPS RIGHT NOW.
HERE IS A BEAUTIFUL EXCERPT:
“…glorifying obesity is depicted as a dangerous virus, implying that if fatness is allowed to spread unchecked, our culture and civilization are at risk of cataclysmic destruction. Possibly in a hail of donuts.
The thing is, this is actually kind of true.
If obesity continues to be “glorified” in the manner described — by allowing fat people to be on television, to share pictures of themselves feeling good about their bodies, to wear bikinis, to enjoy food, and so forth — the social fabric of our current body culture in the United States would be severely threatened.
Some of the dangers of glorifying obesity may include:
- Young girls might not fear getting fat more than they fear nuclear war, losing their parents, or cancer.
- Fat people might no longer be at an increased risk of having their illnesses (including cancers) misdiagnosed or diagnosed late, by doctors working in a medical community in which disdain for fat bodies is rampant, or given the wrong dosages of medicine — both of which can cost millions in unnecessary tests and prolonged treatment.
- Eating disorders — which admittedly are not exclusively about weight but which are cultivated by a culture that identifies fatness as a failure of control — might no longer be a central feature in the lives of 10 million Americans.
- We might not have a weight loss industry that generated $60 billion in revenue in the United States last year, mostly by making women feel like crap about themselves.
- Fat people might not have to worry about whether seats on airplanes or in restaurants or basically anywhere they go can physically accommodate them.
- Dudes might not yell at me in parking lots.
- Fat people everywhere might develop a powerful self-respect, and demand respect from others, and might be less likely to suffer bullying and shaming in silence.
- Fat people might not be so handy for scapegoating, schadenfreude and cheap laughs, or as a means by which others can feel superior.
- People of all sizes might feel better about themselves, because no one would be wasting energy and focus worrying about what would happen to them, how their life would be ruined, if they became fat.
Many of us are willing to back up Stella Boonshoft and Jennifer Livingston because we recognize them as individuals — they’re not an epidemic, they’re not a threat to our national security, they’re not selfish gluttons using up all the healthcare: they’re PEOPLE.
What shame-centered obesity epidemic rhetoric accomplishes better than anything else, better even than its purported intention to improve public health, is to erase the humanity of fat people. Because all those obese folks clogging the overstated statistics are, in fact, still people. They’re friends and coworkers, moms and dads, children and grandparents. You know some of them. You probably like them. You probably don’t think of them as an epidemic, or as posing a clear and present danger to the future of humanity.
If reminding folks that fat people are people first — that they are individuals and not some monolithic amoeba of disease rolling itself over the planet, and that their bodies are not shameful, not ugly, not embarrassing, not immoral, but as worthy of acceptance as every other body is — if THIS is the same as glorifying obesity, then bring on the glory. I will carry the banner. I won’t be sorry, not for my part in changing our culture around bodies in general and not for my own body that I live in, right now — I won’t be sorry, and I won’t apologize. Neither should you.”
OKAY SO I ENDED UP COPY/PASTING MOST OF THE ARTICLE, I COULDN’T JUST PICK ONE LITTLE BIT, SORRYIMNOTSORRY.
Just some things I’d like to say about the body positive, fat positive, body acceptance, fat acceptance movement…belief system….whatever it is that is going on:
- We are not trying to say that fat women or men are sexier or better than thinner bodies. We are trying to say that we are JUST AS attractive as the “norm” and can be considered hot.
- We are not “glorifying obesity”, (which is one of my favorite terms because it incites an image of all of us lifting the token Golden Fatty on a platter above our heads as we sing the McDonald’s theme in unison), we are trying to put out there that fat bodies can be healthy bodies as well. Some of us like the taste of salad and enjoy going to the gym because greens are yummy and exercise produces endorphins and we love those.
- We do not need your approval.
- We are not going to change because you don’t want to watch us eat, we make you uncomfortable, you’re worried about our health (we can do that on our own, thanks), and all the other bullshit excuses.
- Fat people have relationships and pretty awesome sex. Often. We are just as lovable as the next (thin?) person, and image would not restrict that if you actually loved a person
- There are many different types of bodies. It seems that if we do get a plus size role model in Hollywood, they are expected to be curvy with a big rack and ass,a bit of a tummy, but not a speck of cellulite and everything magically perky forever. We’re trying to lift this limit of how far the “fat look” can go.
- We would really like it for fat people on TV and in movies to not have to constantly refer to the fact that they are fat and be used strictly as comic relief.
- There are shitty fat people. There are great fat people. There are shitty thin people. There are great thin people. Everyone in between-shitty and not so much. The biggest goal of this movement: Decide what you think about people based off of what they have to say and the content of their character, not if they look good in a bikini.
I love this, however, regarding your second point…What if we redefine what “glorifying obesity” means?
The word “obesity” comes from the Latin word “obesus” which means “one who has become plump through eating” according to Richard Barrnett from the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine. However, in Latin, “obesus” also means “coarse” or “vulgar”.
The word “obesity” first appeared in a medical context in a book titled Via Recta by Thomas Venner published in 1620, Barrnett notes.
Venner believed that obesity was an occupational hazard of the civilized class, and that their physique could be restored by following the concepts of Hippocrates of balancing diet, sleep, and other factors to create and maintain health.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, writers preferred the term “corpulence”, which means “excessively fat” and the pressure remained on individuals to treat themselves according to Barrnett.
“1959, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company first attempt to define ideal weight, weight, and hence to create medical criteria for intervention in obesity” says Barrnett.
“Obesity” was a word created for the sole purpose of turning fatness into a medical condition. From that point forward, the stigma heaped upon fat bodies and supposed health based on level of corpulence has driven our society’s perspective of fat health.
It’s a junk term, arbitrary, and holds no meaning to me once I strip it of its ability to correlate fatness with health, which in itself is an untruth.
It perpetuates this way of thinking wherein negative attitudes about fatness are more hazardous to our mental and physical wellness than excess fat ever had the potential to be. [x]
Surely I can’t be the only one who thinks this way, but perhaps it is too radical for some to swallow, I don’t know. We see the word “obesity” and, as a society, have been trained to literally recoil from it, make snap judgements. Just as we have been taught to recoil from and heap shame upon fat bodies in general.
The Radical Fatty series I’m working on is something I am using as a platform to pose these questions and spark critical thinking about the language we use when we talk about fatness. I don’t know where this thinking will take me, but I know that the power of language should be harnessed and never underestimated. There is something about the reclamation of words and phrases that feels so essential.