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

 

Diets don’t work. I’m Living Proof.

I'm in gray behind the adorable white bunny. I thought I was so fat. Ridiculous.

I’m in gray behind the adorable white bunny. I thought I was so fat. Ridiculous.

We often hear people say that diets don’t work, and there are a lot of articles and research out there that explain why this is true, for example this, this, and this. And yet, so many people continue to believe that if you have a fat body, then you can make ‘choices’ which will result in you having a body that is less fat. In other words, despite the research, we continue to believe that diets do work. I am hear to tell you otherwise, but not in some scientific way. I’m here to tell you that diets didn’t work for me. And I had every opportunity…

I am lucky enough to have been born to a loving upper middle class family. They are amazing.  And because they loved me they spared no expense when it came to trying to help me get thin. I could attend any weight-loss program or participate in any exercise regime.  The culture taught my family that thin was necessary for happiness and success so they genuinely believed that weightloss was the best possible option and they supported any and all attempts I made to lose weight. In response, I spent the first 30+ years of my life trying not to be fat.

When I was six my mother took me to the diet center. I remember sitting in the waiting room. I remember the fabric on the chairs. It was maroon, but not much else. I remember eating rice cakes. I can’t tell you if I lost weight, I don’t remember. I do remember wanting to lose weight and understanding that my mother brought me to the diet center because they could “help” me.

a thin year

A thin year – but not thin enough. I was drinking only liquids and eating meal replacement bars.

Sometime around 10 I went to fat camp. At camp they provided us with portioned meals and we exercised at least six hours a day. During the summer three girls tried to commit suicide. I know that sounds outrageous but it’s true. I don’t know for sure why these girls tried to take their lives but I remember the communal feelings of desperation. I was very popular at camp because when you removed the stigma of fatness – by creating an all fat environment – people who are funny, smart and savvy can shine. I remember the pictures from the end of the summer – a thin me in a green striped top – I remember these pictures  because this is one on the first times I remember feeling adorable in photos.

When I was 12 I went to another weight-loss center called 40 Carrots.  Again, I went with my mom, who has always been thin – by anyone’s standard – but she has also always dieted. I remember standing in the kitchen with her weighing out 4oz of chicken, seasoning it with vinegar, dijon mustard and pepper, chopping carrots and pouring water. I remember being hungry. I also remember losing like 20lbs. I got new clothes and felt beautiful. I remember walking into French class and having a boy I’d know since kindergarten asking me when I’d changed so much.

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It was a beautiful day – I adore my husband.

When I was 14, I went to Jenny Craig. I lost 20lbs eating food made by nestle that quite literally has no nutritional value. I remember daydreaming about getting to the Jenny Craig “maintenance program,”  where I would learn to stay thin. Instead, I gained the 20lbs  I lost plus 10 more.

During my later high school years, I tried weight watchers, slim fast, atkins, nutrisystem and plain old starvation. I always lost weight and I always gained more than I lost.

I broke up with my high school boyfriend in my freshman year of college and got thin again – this time I think it was 45lbs. I don’t remember a particular program, but I remember buying a skin tight brightly colored paisley dress and wearing it so he would see what he was missing. I was fat again by sophomore year.

I was  happy in college – I had great friends. But I still felt body conscious and I weighed 200lbs for the first time. For graduation I asked my parents to send me to Structure House – which is like fat camp for grown ups. At Structure House I lost 50 lbs.  I gained it back .

In grad school I watch a newscast about some soap opera star who lost weight on a liquid diet – Optifast. I lost 60lbs doing this – three times –  between the ages of 23 and 30.

At 30 I followed a program called Dr. Bernstein and worked out like crazy to get ready for my wedding. When I walked down the aisle I weighed 172 pounds. I look thin in the pictures but I had wanted thinner. I wasted time on my wedding day thinking about how I could have looked prettier.

Do you see a pattern? It’s not like I wasn’t committed.

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We are so cool.

When I think about my childhood, I remember crying a lot about my body. I remember feeling like a failure and not understanding why I wasn’t thin like my friends. I would have given anything to be thin, and I tried everything to be thin. I’m not going to lie to you. I have always loved food, but honestly I wanted thin way more than I ever wanted food. Each time I was thinner I loved being thinner, and I desperately wanted to stay thinner but as soon as I stopped starving and started eating normally I gained the weight back. Thin was/is not in the cards for me.

Today, I work out regularly and eat healthy but I don’t lose weight. At least I think I don’t lose weight because at this point in my life I never get on a scale and my clothes seem to fit.   I genuinely believe that constant  dieting made me fatter. I think that if I had accepted my body rather than diet I might have been a bit bigger than others but I never would have been as big as I am now. Diets failed me. They haunted me – they filled my life with failure because no matter how many times I dieted, I never stayed thin.

People say things like, “It’s not about dieting – It’s a lifestyle change.” Well, I’ve made a lifestyle change. I’ve decided not to diet because diets don’t work.

Plus, I’m fabulous – just the way I am.

Dear Narrow Minded Yoga Dude and Other Fat-shamers at the Gym, You Suck

Me Doing Yoga circa 2002

Me Doing Yoga circa 2002

Recently, I took a private yoga class with my family – mom, uncle, husband, father – we were all there. I haven’t taken a whole lot of private yoga instruction in my life but I have been practicing yoga on and off for a number of year, so private instruction sounded like a good time. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Basically, this yoga dude showed up to our hotel room, stripped down to his skivvies and proceeded to tell us that most people practice yoga for all the wrong reasons – which in all honestly is probably true – but his presentation of these ideas was off putting and a little pretentious – mostly because he presented himself as a yoga genius and treated us like idiots. Because of his belief in a universally flawed perception of yoga – this dude would not lead us through a series of asanas. Instead, we had to start from scratch and re-learn the poses we already knew with him as our guide. Fine.

My Bulging Tricep

My Bulging Tricep

After a few rounds of sun salutations, which honestly felt the same as all the other times I’ve preformed sun salutations, we moved on to warrior pose and the yoga dude explained that the first sign of aging is the flabby wings that we get under our arms (<— not true), and that obviously, we all fear this flab (<— not true x 2). His “solution” for this flab was flexing one’s palms towards the floor so as to tighten the triceps – he explained that he practiced by pressing against the shower soap dish for years and now his arms aren’t flabby. In response to this explanation he asked us all to flex our arms and he went around touching our triceps, proving that “horrible flab” was easily eliminated.

Eliminating the flab under my arms, which by the way is unnecessary, cannot be accomplished by flexing my triceps. In family – I am the fattest; I am also the most fit. I work out all the time – I train 3 times a week for an hour and I do cardio on the other days. I am super strong and while they are covered in fat I have huge bulging triceps, which regularly sling stuff around. When the jerk-faced yoga dude got to my tricep – he pinched the fat under my arm and said “I don’t think there is a tricep in here.” Fat-shaming douch-bag.

News flash: Fat people work out too. Just becasue I’m fat doesn’t mean I lack muscle tone or that I don’t go to the gym to work on my health. (Check out these awesome images of fit fatties!) My health is mine to define. Fat can be fit or maybe it isn’t but either way another person’s arm flab or level of fitness clearly none of yo’ business. Furthermore, shaming me in from of my family or shaming others wherever isn’t doing any good. It’s clynically proven that fat-shaming does not encourage this fat person to become less fat.

Fat Gym Rat

Fat Gym Rat

Clearly, this yoga dude – is just one jerk but this is not the first person to give me a hard time about being fat and wanting to exercise my body. Regularly at my gym strangers come up to me to express their joy that I’m working out. “Good For you,” they say – which really means “Good Job Fattie – proud to see you trying to overcome your fat.” Another comment I hear frequently, is “You really work hard” expressed with a startled awe. Whether they know it or not these beasties are expressing their hard held beliefs that if your fat you must be a lazy, un-fit slob who sits around and stuff your face all day. This is fat-hate and their comments are fat-shaming because they believe that a fat person is only valuable when trying to get thin. To be clear – I’m not trying to get thin. I’m trying to stay fit. I go to the gym because it makes me feel good. I go because I know that pursuing fitness will help me live the life I want to live. Despite this choice that I make for myself – no one should tell you how to care for your fat body. It’s yours to do with as you please.

OMG. It’s not about JLAW. It’s about Genuine Body Acceptance.

love+the+word+fatAs some of you are aware I have written a petition on change.org: Kelloggs, Tyra Banks and Jennifer Lawrence – Stop Shaming Fatness But Continue to Support Actions Against Body Hatred

Other bloggers out there are addressing this too, including The Militant Baker, Jenny Trout and Fat Body Politics.

And much to my surprise – some people just don’t get it. So I’m writing this post to be clear.

To clarify, I like JLAW and I think she’s a definite supporter of people accepting their bodies but she is still perpetuating fat shame. When she said we should “outlaw” the word fat – I don’t think she knew what she was saying. I think she was talking about how people who are not fat get called fat, or call themselves fat.

And yes, it’s ridiculous to call thin girls fat because they’re not. And when some one does call someone thin “fat,” they are trying to insult thin people – by saying they are like me, fat. This is the same idea as the boy on the playground getting called a pussy – he’s weak, badly performing masculinity – and therefore he’s a pussy, a vagina, a woman – the insult is that he is less than a man, a woman – this is clear sexism. When some one calls you fat they they are shaming your body by calling it a less acceptable body – a fat one – this is body prejudice.

“Outlawing” the use of the word fat doesn’t encourage those of us who are fat to accept our bodies. If I am fat am I also worth outlawing? And really, the fear of fat – i.e. the idea that fat is this horrible thing to be avoided – doesn’t help others reach a place of body acceptance.  JLaw is most often acknowledging her body as healthy – and telling us that her body shouldn’t be condemned – and it shouldn’t, but neither should mine. My body is awesome and FAT. You can’t “outlaw” the use of the word fat and not at the same time underscore the idea that being fat is a bad thing, a thing I should be ashamed of.

To be clear I understand that people feel bad when they are called fat. This is because fat is a word we use to shame people. But outlawing the use of the word on TV doesn’t stop that – it affirms it. It literally takes it to the extreme telling people that calling some one fat is such a horrendous insult that we can’t bear to hear it in the media – you can’t get rid of the word without dissing the people who are actually fat.

We feel bad when people call us fat because we think that being fat is unacceptable and because we have been shamed. This is what we have to work on – normalizing the idea that there are fat bodies and there always will be and that’s okay. One of the ways that we can work on this is to recognize that Fat is just a description.

Fat, like short, tall, blue eyed etc. is a descriptive word which has been taken out of context and made an insult – much like the negative use of the word “gay” – to mean uncool.  Clearly, we should stop using the word as an insult – but we can still call gay people gay and fat people are fat because that’s what they are.

Genuine body positivity would mean that even if someone was fat, they wouldn’t have to feel body shame. I believe that we need to raise awareness – shift our perspective and create a world that accepts all people. Currently, in our culture it is perfectly acceptable for people to be cruel to fatness and fat people. It reminds me of Peggy Macintosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html). We live blindly in privilege until we open our eyes and become aware of the prejudice and shame all around us.

In reality, my petition and the blog posts you’re all seeing aren’t about JLAW – she is just a catalyst for a much larger issue – recognizing that “body acceptance” and fat acceptance are not always synonymous and they should be.

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Fat, Thin and Everything In Between is What We Want Feminists to Look Like

Hello Cupcakes — I am excited to announce that today – your very own feminist cupcake has written a guest blog for Soapbox, Inc.  Check it out here or read below:

 

Fat, Thin and Everything In Between is What We Want Feminists to Look Like

By Lindsey Averill

Kelly Martin Broderick posted this picture on facebook: Kellyfeminist

Only to have it changed into this meme:

082113feministmeme

It is clear that the meme attempts to use Kelly’s body type – her fatness –to insult feminism and underscore the a misogynistic misnomer that only women who are outside of the male gaze, i.e male sexual desire, chose become feminists. Clearly, the meme is childish, cruel and not factual (many people are attracted to fatness… there are whole dating sites dedicated to fatness…sigh). But, the meme also underscores exactly why feminists need to continue to concern themselves with issues like body-positivity and fat-empowerment – because when women speak up about their rights, they are still being pigeon holed based on their appearance.

Whenever something like this happens, I am reminded why, as a feminist, I still need to be fighting this particular fight – the fight for each woman to feel excellent about her body and the bodies of other women. I hate to say it – but sometimes even smart, savvy, dynamic, influential, informed, feminist women feel that they have a right to judge their bodies and the bodies of others, particularly if they are judging that body for being FAT.

In the mainstream, fatness is understood as always negative and therefore we are allowed to shame and torment it in ourselves and others. We discuss weight gain and loss endlessly: cabbage diets, juice cleanses, nutrisystem, weight watchers…We call out our muffin-tops and condemn our saddlebags. We pose in pictures with our chins stuck out or turned to the side to look thinner. We fear fatness at every turn and we save our “skinny jeans” because we refuse to believe that our bodies are awesome at any size.

I don’t mean to oversimplify, but arguably anytime we are accepting of shaming and brutalizing our bodies or the bodies of others, we are failing to see and dispute a source of oppression. As women, particularly feminist women, we need to constantly examine the messages that the media projects about our gender and our bodies and try to stand up and speak up when we see injustice.

I see injustice towards fatness. I see this injustice keep amazing women from feeling powerful and confident. I see internalized fat-hatred keeping women from being and doing awesome in the world.

I’m over it. picresized_ece6e5_1a97205ae8d4232b2a1e39a9226c626e.png_srz_205_195_75_22_0.50_1.20_0

This fed-up-with-it-ness is why I’m telling you about Kelly Martin Broderick because she is over it too. In response to the meme Kelly wrote an article for xojane entitled, “My Picture was Stolen and turned into a Fat-Shaming Anti-feminist Meme on Facebook,” and she created a tumblr, “We are What Feminists Look Like.” The tumblr calls for “folks” to send in their pictures or thoughts that make it clear that feminists come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, sexualities, genders, nationalities, political parties… you get the idea. I was thinking you should send in your picture – be over it too.

I sent in my picture: Feminist Bride

Also, if you’re ready to stop feeling oppressed by fat-hatred you should check out these amazing body-positive blogs, speakers, books, and coaches:

The Routund – Marianne Kirby
Big Fat Feminist – Kaye Toal
Dances With Fat – Ragen Chastain
Riots Not Diets – Margitte Leah
The Adipositivity Project –Substantia Jones
Body Love Wellness – Golda Poretsky
Extraordinary Being – Lindsey Averill
Two Whole Cakes – Lesley Kinzel
Big, Big, Love – Hanne Blank
Fat! So? – Marilyn Wann
Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere: Quite Dieting and Declare a Truce with your Body – Kate Harding
Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion – Virgie Tovar
Body Drama – Nancy Redd

These suggestions are just the beginning – the world is full of amazing body-positive people, all you have to do is look.

Huffington Post Plugs ‘Plus-size’ Models

o-BEST-PLUS-SIZE-MODELS-570While I hate the term ‘plus-size’ because it instinctually implies larger than ‘normal’ – I love that the Huffington Post published and advertised (via an emailed mailer) and article entitled “Best Plus Size Models: Who is Dominating the Industry Right Now” and I love that they included some models who are ‘genuinely’ fitted to larger clothes – versus the more traditional larger sized model who is anyone over a size 6.

It’s also worth noting that two of the mentioned models are on the cover of French Elle and Quebec Elle: Justine LeGault and Tara Lynn. Bravo Elle! How about some of this body positivity on US magazine Covers.TARA-LYNN-FRENCH-ELLE-COVER That said, there is a part of me that wonders what impact magazines still have. Do any of you regularly read magazines or has our western  media guzzling culture become completely reliant information derived from the internet and other high-tech sources?

Either way – check out the Huffington Post article – I smiled.

I’ve been reading an interesting book by Samantha Murry…

It’s called The ‘Fat’ Female Body. Samantha Murry works at  Macquarie University in Sydney Australia and she writes about fat studies and fat activism. If you want to know more about her you can check out this post by Charlotte Cooper – another amazingly interesting woman who is thinking about ‘Fat’ in England.

I am bringing this up to y’all because I am currently struggling to make my dissertation come to life – which if you don’t know is focused on examining representations of the ‘fat’ female body in teen media –  and I feel this book is the first one that really hits home for me with regards to fat studies. (That said, there are definitely articles in the Fat Studies Reader that inspire) In particular, this book considers the ideas mind/body splitting and how this relates to fat activism and treatment of fat bodies – really, if you haven’t read it, you should. (Especially, if you have a schollarly or personal interest in Fat Studies or Fat Activism!)