Category Archives: body snarking

a rite of passage – my first troll

So, I got a comment the other day from my first troll. I’m a big lady blogger now! It actually makes me feel a little like I’ve “made it,” so to speak. It happens to most of us (and for an absolutely epic takedown of trolls, please see Fat Heffalump’s piece from a couple weeks ago), so I can’t say I’m surprised. I should say I don’t want to make light of the situation. I have been extremely lucky in that they are few and far between for me. Some folks get this drivel on a daily fucking basis and I can’t even imagine how that must feel. So I’m also sending a special shout-out to any other folks out there who have to deal with mean-spirited, small-minded people who spew hatred in their direction. I’m sending you happiness and sunshine! And the occasional “fuck you” to the trolls on your behalf!

I won’t give him or her (I don’t know the gender of the commenter but for sake of ease, he’s a he in this post) the air time and paste the comment here, but basically this person is seriously, truly concerned that I am a huge massive fatty fatty 2 by 4. I’ve been compared to an animal of the sea (hint: an awesomely fierce and beautiful whale of the killer variety) and have been told that I shouldn’t post pictures of myself. Among other things.

And you know what? I’m not even mad. Are you kidding me? While anger can be an absolutely fantastic outlet for people (and it certainly has been for me, I’m not knocking the anger!), this time all I felt (well, after I laughed) was sorrow for the commenter. What must be going on in his life such that he feels it necessary to take time out of his day to tell someone they shouldn’t do what they obviously enjoy doing. Is he unhappy with his life? Do I intimidate him? Does my obvious comfort with how I look make him feel like shit about his own body? I don’t know, but on my best days (and fortunately I read the comment on one of those days), all I want to do is send good vibes out into the universe so that this person can feel better about himself and not feel the need to post what he perceives to be mean things about some random person on the internet. On my bad days? That’s where the anger comes in handy.

And if the person who sent me that comment is reading this? To you I say: I hope whatever is going on in your life rights itself, because life is too god-damn short to be an asshole about what other people choose to do with their bodies. peace.

look, a fatty!

I was at a meeting the other day and during a break a friend/colleague of mine was talking to her high school friend on the phone about their recent 10 year reunion that she wasn’t able to attend. She came back after a while and gave us the play by play. Overall, she said she loved catching up on all their old friends. Then she said she asked her friend, “so, who got fat?” and then after what seemed like a bit of an awkward pause (to me), she said, “and also who got skinny?” I felt like that second question wasn’t actually posed and was instead stated for my benefit. “see, i’m not singling out fat people, i’m just curious about the changing shapes of all bodies!” and frankly even that is problematic. but i wanted to talk about how it made me feel. to put it bluntly, it made me feel like shit.

being fat isn’t something to be gossiped about. when you want to find out “who got fat?” you’re asking about who “let themselves go,” or who “doesn’t have it anymore.” Inherent in all of this is the idea that being fat isn’t correct, it isn’t right, we shouldn’t be it.

I am not saying it’s abnormal to notice a change in someone’s weight or appearance. We’re visual creatures, I get that. And some of the time, statements like that don’t carry with it the intention of judging someone. But most of the time? I’d venture to say nearly all of the time? Comments about people’s weight or appearance aren’t simply a statement of fact. They’re riddled with judgment. And above all, it reduces someone’s weight or appearance to a story, to gossip. Fat people are more than just a story to be gossiped about over a phone conversation. I went a while back to the a Fat Meet Up at the ever so lovely coffee shop of Not Blue At All, and we had a great discussion about being fat in public, especially around children. One of the people there said she gets the “look mom, she’s so fat!” all the time, and she sees it as a teaching moment for the children, because inevitably the parents will be mortified, pull their children away, and whisper furiously “we do NOT say things like at!” What message do you think kids get when they are simply pointing out what is, to them, just a fact? Look, she is fat. Look, he is tall. Look, I’m noticing these things as a new person in the world and it’s amazing to me! In the blink of an eye, they have fully received society’s message that fat is a bad word, that even if someone IS it, we certainly don’t point it out. And ta da, society’s boatload of shit is laid down upon some child who was just pointing out a fact. That child likely wasn’t judging her body, she was simply noticing it. Then adults come in and fuck everything up.

Here’s the bottom line…my friend’s question to her friend about who got fat in the last 10 years didn’t feel like an innocent noticing of the fact, a la kids. It felt like I, and people who look like me, was being reduced to something to be sensationalized, gossiped about. And it sucked. But I have to say that it didn’t crush me to a million pieces like it may have a couple years ago, so for that I am grateful.

Who has called this type of behavior out in friends before (nicely or not-so-nicely)? How’d the conversation go?

an update on my “diet”

Back in November I decided to go on a “diet.” I know, even the word is incredibly triggering for a lot of us. But have no fear! This diet has nothing to do with food! I decided to stop buying shitty weekly glossy mags. those that know me know that these were my weakness. i shudder to think of the hundreds (eek, thousands??) of dollars i have spent on them. turns out? all they do is reinforce the negative stereotypes of fat people, glorify a very certain body type, and make you feel like shit about yourself – all without you even realizing it until it’s almost too late.

So, here I am, three full months later (whoa, to the date, spooky!), having not purchased one. single. gossipy. magazine. i’m very proud of myself. What i want to share is this: on my flight back from the east coast yesterday, i bought a couple magazines, Food and Wine and the now quarterly People Style Watch. I love the former, because, hello, food and wine. And I dig the second because they have pictures of sparkly jewelry and shoes and handbags and fun makeup in them! harmless, right? NO.

As a fun little experiment, I’ve jotted down most of the body-shaming, body-policing statements in the advertisements and copy of the magazine. I say most because I’m sure I missed some – those little suckers hide EVERYwhere. So, for your viewing…annoyment? displeasure?

“small by design, gorgeous…even under stress, how to look great and shop smart!, discover instant smooth perfection, magically blurs pores and lines, velvety soft perfection, because you’re worth it, tame frizz, defend against humidity, 100% poreless skin, baby-smooth perfection, perfectly perky and impossibly fresh, control your hair, amp up your lashes, get the right size, work the feminine angle, smoother-looking skin, dedicated to perfection, perfect harmony requires infinite attention to every detail, edgy cool, sexy glam, perfect pairs, unflattering top-heavy effect, makes your outfit look oversize, make your legs look longer, get your perfect fit!, it’s time to turn heads, healthy makes it happen, guilt-free shopping, shrink your pores, lighten dark under-eye circles, get rid of blemishes overnight, fade fine lines, it’s the end of dull and flat, smooth skin, for skin that’s smooth and taut, curling! separating! eye brightening! lengthening! voluminizing!, perfectly straight hair, perfectly pulled-together!, get hair shiny, flatter almost everyone!, slim and refined, beautiful and effortless, it’s easy to give your complexion a fresh, radiant look, be glamorous.”

I kind of gave up looking really hard for these messages halfway through, so there’s a good chance there are tons more. The takeaways:

don’t be big, look great at all times, even while stressed. be smooth, perfect, and velvety soft. don’t have frizzy hair. don’t have pores. have the skin of an infant. be “fresh” even though they tell you it’s IMPOSSIBLE – try anyway!, don’t forget to be perfect!, also smooth!, things that are acceptable when large = eyelashes and lips only. sometimes hair. but it better be smooth and shiny. and straight. have long legs. and be perfect.

Ragen, over on Dances with Fat, did an absolutely wonderful (and heart-breakingly sad and depressing) experiment of cataloging all of the messages she got about her body in a 24 hour period. The final tally? 1,058 negative messages in one day telling her she’s too fat, unhealthy, a drain on the healthcare system, and on and on.

And we wonder why body image issues start so young?

body snarking – no thank you.

One of the things I love most about the FA movement is its central tenet that all bodies/shapes/sizes are wonderful and that no one has the right to pass judgment on others bodies. whatever you look like, rock on. whatever weight feels most comfortable and right to you, rock on. our job is not to tell you the “right” foods to eat, the “right” and “flattering” way to dress, or the myriad ways in which your choices are going to make you OMGDIEOFTHEFATS.

Recently, I was out with some friends at a bar. the conversation turned to a skinny celebrity and the following was stated: “she is gross,” “you can see her rib cage,” “it’s just not healthy,” “i want her to eat more.” I was extremely uncomfortable. People had opinions about what some random person they will never meet (heh, i wrote that as “meat” at first) is EATING. And opinions about that person’s health, one of the most personal aspects of our lives. How the hell do we know what she eats? How healthy she is? More importantly, why do we feel a need to comment on it?

When we body snark about anyone – fat, skinny, in-betweeny – we are just buying into the idea that there is an ideal body type, a “right” way to look. To me, there is very little difference between calling someone a fatty fat heifer and exclaiming disgust at the fact that you can see someone’s ribs. Both take place because people believe they have the right to police others’ decisions, bodies, lives.

I’ve been wondering why I didn’t say anything to the group when the snark was in full effect. I think I was just too chicken. I didn’t want to be the one to put a damper on the evening, to drag the conversation into “serious land.” Also? I just wanted to have beer with friends after work, wind down from the hectic week, and relax. So do i just ignore it and strike up a conversation with anyone who isn’t participating in the snark? Leave in a huff? silently sit and start drafting a blog post in my head? I did the first and the last. I’m not afraid that these folks will, like, cease to be my friends. And in fact I’m fairly certain they will agree with me. Despite knowing those two things, I still said nothing. I’m not mad at myself for remaining quiet. This experience is one of many like it and with each one, I learn something. Yay for learning!