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Naughty or Nice?
|Big Beauty – (Version 3.0 – Pt II)||
“What do catwalk fashion models do? Nothing, not even smile. Sulk and smoke. Is that an image that ppl should be aspiring to? Barbie is a better role model.” ~ Martin J. Willett
Utopia of Fat
Here are some rewards and pleasures that would accompany a utopia of fat:
1. Dinners would be scrumptious, sociable, and warm.
2. Children would acquire no eating disorders because “feeding would be calm and loving, always sufficient, never forced.”
3. Fat people would love their bodies and “dress expressively.” Women, in particular, “would wear their weight with new conviction.”
4. “A fat society would be a comforting society, less harried, more caring.
5. A fat society would be less harshly competitive, less devouring.
Schwartz is one of the first, and certainly the most eloquent, to find in fat the emblem of Capitalism, a metaphor and index of our societies relation to consumption. We are all consumers, and the fat that we wear or the fat that we flee expresses a certain relation we have, as consumers, to the objects of our desire. Schwartz is one of those who has most carefully and thoroughly distinguished hunger from appetite. Hunger is a drive, a biological need motivated from within by the body’s lack of what it needs; appetite is a desire, stimulated by the attraction or seduction of things outside the self that provoke an interest or inclination to eat. One’s appetite can be stimulated, even if one is not hungry. Indeed, for some, that is the function of good cooking.
As a society, we are fat phobic. This means that all of us face or deal with fat phobia in one way or another. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself how many times you hear about Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig before the summer begins? When was the last time you saw a fat woman in a Calvin Klein fashion ad? What size person fits comfortably in an airline or movie theatre seat?
How fat phobic is our society?
It’s so bad that we have potato chips that actually include ingredients that our bodies cannot digest. This done in the name of labeling them “fat free” (and in case you missed it – that’s supposed to be a good thing and you are supposed to want to buy them). If that’s not enough, ask yourself what are the majority of images you do see and what is their message?
The growing number of facilities where people can “treat” their weight “problem”, coupled with the omnipresent image of the thin body, sends the message that fat is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
On the other hand, fat oppression only affects a select group of people in our society. Fat oppression is spawned out of people’s fear of fat. It manifests when a fat woman is not hired or promoted because of her size; when people feel it’s okay to comment on what a fat person orders in a restaurant; when the representations of fat women in movies reinforce the stereotypes of fat women as domineering mothers, whores, psychopaths, or the unattractive-but-funny best friend (Rosie O’Donnell or Kathy Bates); when a personal ad qualifies its respondents by saying “no fatties please”; when a clothing store only carries women’s sizes up to a 12 (I hate that); when a fat kid is teased or ridiculed by classmates; when only one state in the U.S. makes it illegal to discriminate based on size (Michigan); or when no one objects when the media becomes fascinated with how large or small Oprah Winfrey, Rosanne Barr, or Elizabeth Taylor have become. All of this is a form of oppression, but not everyone suffers from this oppression – only fat people and in particular, fat women.
Fat phobia and fat oppression are clearly different from each other. They are also connected in a very important way. Phobia makes oppression possible. The way in which our society is constructed, makes our fat phobia invisible, hence fat oppression is still one of the remaining legitimate, acceptable, and legal forms of discrimination.
The Curse of Eve Myth
Appropriately enough, a magazine survey found that a majority of women were ashamed of their stomachs, hips and thighs – parts of the body that contribute to female shapes. Roberta Seid wrote, “Our female ideal violates the natural anthropomorphic reality of the average female body… is more like the body of a male than a female. The goal is to suppress female secondary sexual characteristics”. This goal is in keeping with our culture’s “curse of Eve” myth.
In light of this extreme sexual pessimism it is perhaps ironic that men, who have controlled the means of representing women in art throughout history, have so focused on the female form: the flesh, the body. The fashion industry has always been dictated by men, which has often meant beauty norms that immobilize women such as corsets, foot binding, and modern thinness. Several have also noted the 20th century’s extreme interest in the nude female form in fashion as well as in the media. Roberta Seid points out that, fashionably garbed, a woman “virtually became wholly exposed.” Hence clothing is no longer enough; a woman must manipulate her very being to be fashionable nowadays. The representation of women in the media has become increasingly pornographic. Such pornographic images are usually of curvaceous, voluptuous women. But beneath the seeming implication that sexuality is becoming more socially acceptable is an uncomfortable double bind: “the “fat” pornographic images present a female body without a mind, without subjectivity. The fashion models in women’s magazines are meant to represent women with minds to acknowledge and appeal to female objectivity, but they have no bodies”. Women who have noticeably female bodies become objects in cultural consciousness. They are reduced to sex and sex alone, and are not allowed any sense of physio-spiritual integrity. If a woman wants to be taken seriously, she cannot be a sexual being and so, cannot be “fat”.
Can you be big and healthy?
It would probably surprise most people to hear that there is a great deal of debate among researchers regarding this contention. Will weight loss improve your health? The jury is still out, but here are two conclusions from a 1992 National institutes of Health conference on obesity: Although there seems to be little doubt that overweight individuals have increased risk for morbidity and mortality, it does not immediately follow that weight loss reduces the increased risk [Some studies indicate that intentional weight loss (rather than weight lost due to illness) is associated with increased mortality]. Given the high likelihood that weight will be regained, it remains to be determined whether these time-limited improvements confer more permanent health benefits.
The issue of fat and health is a complex one, with many factors to consider. Medical research has raised more questions than it has answered. It seems that, while there are health risks associated with being fat, there are also some health benefits. It may be healthier to remain at a stable high weight than to yo-yo diet.
Given that permanent weight loss is elusive for most fat people, the issue of fat and health is irrelevant. The only true option available is to be as healthy as you can, regardless of your weight. (Often times the health issue serves as a smoke screen to justify denying fat people their civil rights. The assumption that fat people are unhealthy is often used to defend discrimination in employment, educational opportunities, housing, and adoption privileges. Health issues should never supersede one’s civil rights.)
Dave Alexander, who stands 5-foot-8, weighs 250 pounds and has completed 264 triathlons and a professor who also is clinically obese but runs 35 miles a week. The professor has studied some 25,000 people since 1970 and says that fat men who were fit had lower mortality rates than men who were unfit but of so-called normal weight. Some scientists say that some ppl are programmed to be fat.
Myth #1: Fat people are compulsive eaters.
Info: Some fat people (as well as thin people) are compulsive eaters; some are not. Studies which set out to prove that fat people eat more than thin people concluded that there is no measurable difference in the food consumption of fat and thin people. Since compulsive eating generally occurs in response to dieting, those people who diet are at risk. Since most fat people, especially women, have felt pressured to diet, some will have developed a compulsive eating problem. Compulsive eating tends to heal and normalize once people stop dieting.
Myth #2: Fat people become fat from overeating and under-exercising. They can become thin by dieting and exercising.
Info: Some people get fat from eating too much and exercising too little. At least two-thirds of fat people, however, are genetically programmed to be fat, regardless of their eating and exercise habits. On average, fat people eat no more than thin people; this has been repeatedly verified. If someone has become fat from a combination of overeating and under exercising, their size will probably diminish as they eat less and exercise more. However, they may never become thin, unless they are genetically meant to have thin bodies.
Myth #3: Fat people are avoiding or covering their sexuality.
Info: Some people who are fat may use fatness to protect themselves against their own or others’ sexuality. As with anyone, however, this must be determined on an individual basis. Many people who are fat are quite comfortable with their sexuality, and are sexually active.
Myth #4: Fat women have all been sexually abused when they were young.
Info: It is estimated that about 30% of women of any size have been sexually abused. One cannot assume any correlation between body size and a history of sexual abuse.
Myth #5: Fat people lack willpower.
Info: Most fat people in our culture have spent years dieting, and have lost vast quantities of weight. However, more than 95% of dieters regain lost weight. Contrary to what the $33 billion per year dieting industry would have us believe, the failure of diets is not the fault of the dieter; rather, the body’s response to a very low calorie diet (VLCD) dictates that the diet will fail.
A person’s body weight is determined by a number of factors, including genetics, metabolism, and dieting history. The body will naturally stabilize at a certain weight; dieting serves to raise this natural “set point”. When the dieter goes off her diet, her body converts extra calories consumed as fat, in anticipation of the next period of “starvation,” resulting in weight gain greater than the amount lost. This “ratchet effect” is evident in yo-yo dieters, who may lose 20 pounds, gain 30, lose 30 pounds, gain 40, etc.
Very low calorie diets result in both physical and psychological pressure to resist what the body interprets as starvation. This psychobiological pressure leads dieters to binge in order to receive vital nourishment. Fortunately, for the survival of the human race, biological necessity usually overrides willpower.
Myth #6: Inside every fat person is a thin person trying to get out.
Info: Given the prejudice which confronts fat people in our society, most fat people would like to be thinner. Nevertheless, they cannot become thinner, they need to accept themselves and get on with having the best life they can have. Do not assume that with the “right” treatment, a fat person will get thin. Biology largely determines a person’s body size and shape. With the “right” treatment, however, a fat person can have a full, happy, and healthy life.
Myth #7: “Fat people are ugly.”
Info: Beauty is a learned concept, and the cultural norm of beauty changes over time. At the turn of the century, the leading sex symbol, Lillian Russell, weighed over 200 pounds. Marilyn Monroe would be considered “overweight” today. The media, advertisers, and the diet industry tend to set the standard of beauty in today’s society. We must remember that they are selling us dissatisfaction with our bodies in order to make a profit.
Myth #8: “Fat people can’t find romantic partners.”
Info: It’s estimated that at least 5-10% of the population has a preference for a large-size partner. As the preference for the large-size partner is legitimized, the 5-10% figure may rise.
Sixty-one percent of U.S. Adults are overweight or obese. (1999)
Thirty-five percent of U.S. Adults are overweight (BMI of 25.0-29.9). (1999)
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