Social Justice, Mythic Foundations and Miss Piggy

300px-Piggy_karateThis is going to sound odd, but I think I owe really big thank you to Muppets Covergirl, Miss Piggy. Let me explain myself.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about fat activists and other social justice-y types and wondering stuff. For instance, what makes someone the kind of person who can look at the status quo and see that even though it’s accepted as normal, it isn’t fair? Are activists just more sensitive – so called bleeding hearts? Or is there something about our experience and influence that affords us the compassion to identify injustice and the strength to stand up and fight for our rights and the rights of others.

To be clear, this isn’t a scientific or academic inquiry I’ve been conducting; it’s one of those late night contemplations and, while I’m wondering this on the grand scale, it’s also personal. I am on a journey through my past, hedging about trying to figure out why I am compelled to act, to speak out amiss-piggy-the-muppets-121914_330_400gainst weight bias and other injustice. I’m on quest to reclaim my history, my story from the people that hate fatness, to unearth the mythic sources that give me courage and insight, so that I can share them with others.

As many of you know, I have an academic background, and in a very academic way, I believe that human beings often rely on a mythic foundation – the ideas we perceive as universal truths. And that we gather these mythic understandings from symbols we repeatedly encounter in our lifetimes. These symbols can be overt, meaning they declare themselves as life-defining, for example, the messages, images and ideas we associate with religions. Or they can be covert, clearly influencing you, but not really claiming an ideological stance, like the characters, the stories and representations we connect with in the media. I believe that these mythic symbols lay the foundations of our consciousness and help us organize, define, frame and understand our world as we know it.

And so, I’ve been wondering was there something in my past – some symbol that allowed me to love my fat body, allowed me to see, and know that there was beauty, power, joy and fulfillment in my physical being despite what the world all around me was saying about being fat.

And then there she was… an image of Miss Piggy rolling through my social media feed.

As a child, I was obsessed with Miss Piggy. I had a Miss Piggy puppet that I carried with me everywhere. I slept with her. I ate with her. I watched her on TV. I listened to her ideas and I loved her. I don’t know if you remember but some of the things Miss Piggy says are badass.

Here are some awesome quotes:

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

“Style comes in all shapes and sizes, therefore the bigger you are, the more style you have.”

“Never eat more than you can lift.”

“A bowl of fruit is sometimes served in place of dessert. This practice should be discouraged.”

“Too much exercise can damage your health.”

“I, moiself, have always enjoyed a good scrimmage.”

“Beauty is all about loving who you are and if you have problems with that may I suggest you try loving who I am?”

~ Miss Piggy

Miss Piggy is part of my foundation. She’s a powerful, strong, successful, joyful, beloved fat woman, and I think somewhere, deep in the recesses of my subconscious, the symbol of Miss Piggy crept in and helped keep me from ever really buying into the mainstream machine that spews cruel and unjust ideas about fat people.

So, really, thank you Miss Piggy.

Want more Miss Piggy? Check out this Buzzfeed article.

Can you think of positive symbols that might have contributed to your mythic foundations – symbols that could contribute to a future reality where weight bias no longer exists?

This post was originally published on Fierce Freethinking Fatties

 

I Can’t Help Myself, I Love My Mad Fat Teen Diary

My-Fat-Mad-Teenage-Diary_g3I don’t know how many of you partake in the nighttime television dramadies on Britain’s E4, but I’m a fan, and currently, I’m particularly turned-on by a relatively new show, My Mad Fat Teen Diary. It’s worth mentioning that this particular show isn’t yet available in the US but through the magic of the internet, a simple google search will give you access to some of the episodes.

Based the real diary of Rachel Earl from the late 1980s, the show revolves around Rae 225238_551130004927875_97200257_n(Sharon Rooney),  who has just been released from a psychiatric hospital because she is dealing with metal health issues, which include self-mutilation, anxiety, and binge eating disorder. Concurrent with her fight to be mentally healthy, Rae is a teenager, interested in hanging out with friends, passionate about music, obsessed with having a sex life, cocky, moody, sensitive, and brash. Honestly, Rae is a hot mess and watching her is so refreshing. In part because the choices she’s making feel honest, but mostly because it is a pleasure to watch a young, delightfully messy, funny, smart protagonist who is fat.

I’m not going to lie to you – like all media – My Mad Fat Teen Diary has moments that are problematic, like the stereotypical idea that fat girls love junk food and that’s how they got fat, but my past self – a high school-aged fat girl – quickly overlooks any negative bits in favor of the fantastic fat heroine that I was dying to see then, and am still hankering for now.  Like the Women’s Media Center tells us – “You can’t be what you can’t see,” and as I remember it there were no fat girls on television when I was growing up, which meant fatness was something one was just not allowed to accept about themselves.

8440526385_07c8040903_oI want to tell you that this show, this character, changes that. Rooney’s portrayal of Rae gives fat women everywhere a realistic fat girl who is struggling to be happy and fat in a world that bullies fat people. There is a fantastic scene in the first episode where Rae fantasizes that she is having a conversation with a younger version of herself who takes no issue with her body.  Young Rae tells seventeen-year-old Rae that she doesn’t care if she gets fat because people will love her anyways. Seventeen-year-old Rae asks: “Why would they like you?” Child Rae responds, “Because I’m brilliant,” and promptly struts off chomping away at a pastry. Young Rae radiates the confidence that seventeen-year-old Rae fights to reclaim, reminding her that she possessed this confidence at an earlier life stage. It is moments like this that relay to the audience that one can be fat and still be awesome, happy and loved.

In short, I’m telling you to watch this show – and realize that representations of empowerment – of all kinds – aren’t necessarily always perfectly free of the oppressions that Western culture normalizes. Sometimes representations of empowerment are as simple as images of people who fight to accept themselves even though the culture tells them that what they are isn’t normal or acceptable, like mad fat teen Rae. Here’s the Trailer:

Body Revolution Telesummit

I just registered for the Body Love Revolutionaries Telesummit! Join me for free by checking out this website and signing up!!!

For more info and to register, go to http://www.bodyloverevolution.com.

Here’s a very brief rundown of the topics and interviewees:

SCHEDULE (Full schedule is at HTTP://WWW.BODYLOVEREVOLUTION.COM) :

1/31 — FAT ACTIVISM with Peggy Howell, Amanda Levitt & Marilyn Wann

2/2 — FAT HEALTH with Linda Bacon & Ragen Chastain

2/7 — FATSHION with Marie Denee, Rachel Kacenjar, & Yuliya Raquel

2/9 — FAT SEX with Hanne Blank & Virgie Tovar

2/16 — FAT BLOGGING & SOCIAL MEDIA with Marianne Kirby, Margitte Leah Kristjansson & Brian Stuart

2/21 — FAT FITNESS with Jeanette DePatie & Anna Guest-Jelley

2/23 — FAT/QUEER INTERSECTIONS with Bevin Branlandingham, Charlotte Cooper, & Jessica Luxery

2/28 — FAT POLITICS & HISTORY with Paul Campos & Amy Erdman Farrell

Again, the address to register is http://www.bodyloverevolution.com..

Also, I’m not sure how many of you would be interested, but I heard about this by belonging to the yahoo fat studies group – which is perhaps the most awesome and informative “listserve” I’ve ever been part of – the group is super smart well informed and genuinely engaged in thinking about how fat studies and fat-phobia and hatred are with us everyday. Check it out.

An Afternoon in Boston…and by the way what’s up with PETA?

Randy and I are up in Boston for a good friend’s wedding, so we spent the afternoon traipsing around my old stomping grounds and few things happened that I wanted to share with you all. First, we had the pleasure of  walking past Roxy’s Grill Cheese Food Truck:

Randy noted that the Roxy Logo was similar to the new feminist cupcake logo, which I thought was pretty cool.  We ordered two sandwiches – a mac and chorizo grilled cheese and a fall inspired grilled cheese which had butternut squash, raisins and granny smith apples – can you say yum?!?! The food truck idea is so awesome – I am totally going to look this up from now on — in fact, I’m thinking I need to share more of my food exploits with y’all. Because to be honest, when I’m not thinking feminism, I’m thinking travel and food. So, if in Boston on a Friday afternoon, definitely hit up Roxy’s Grilled Cheese – they park outside the public library in Copley Square.

Secondly,  I wanted to share this gem, which they were selling at a novelty store on Newbury St:

I don’t have a whole lot of deep thoughts to go with this moment – To be honest, my first reaction was to giggle but ultimately, I think I’m offended by the ‘designer beaver’  because it’s objectifying and represents the vagina a plaything to be manipulated.

Finally, there was  another weird objectification moment at the Copley Square farmer’s market – Have y’all seen the PETA Pilgrims?  I didn’t have a camera with me, but here is an example:

Apparently sexy pilgrim outfits promote tofurkey…  This is not the first time that I’ve seen PETA use the objectification of women as a tactic for saving animals — the argument is vegetarian is “sexy.”  Take a look:

It seems so bizarre to me that a group of people who are trying to save the lives of animals would do so by capitalizing on the objectification of female bodies. I was particularly frustrated by this image, which seems to sexualized violence towards women in order to make a point about cruelty to animals:

PETA also makes fun of and perpetuates fat prejudice:

I am all for a discussion of animal rights – I am horrified by the cruelty that animals suffer at the hands of human beings – factory farming, puppy mills – these things are sickening things and you can and should read about these issues. BUT I am also horrified by PETA’s advertising campaign. Is this the kind of thinking we genuinely want to see for those that are working with a social justice issue – or isn’t the goal to rise above the commercialization and commodification of humans/animals as objects so that we can end the world’s inequalities??

Clearly, PETA doesn’t get it.