Discuss and debate the issues that mean the most to you.
Britton Delizia works really hard to stay in shape, fighting the good fight against a culture that would prefer she not exercise or put any effort into being thin. She is bravely battling the numerous social pressures to be fat. And she wants women to know that it’s acceptable to do the same, to be athletic, and healthy, in spite of ubiquitous forces arguing that it is BAD to want these things.
So she’s launched a Kickstarter to fund a photo book to do just that.
Confused? Titled “I’m learning to apologize for my Metabolism,” her project will present a “collection of images of women standing up against a society that protects fat culture while bastardizing thin and athletic women.”
Still confused? Yeah. Me too.
Delizia’s argument, bafflingly outlined in the project description, is that there is some sort of organized effort to shame and dismiss women who are athletic or slender. She says:
Its undeniable that when we stand a skinny, athletic or even average sized female next to a larger (even if less healthy, overweight or obese) female, that unless we live outside of this stigma, we as Americans will assume that the heavier person is funnier, smarter, nicer, and less sexually promiscuous, all because she is not as thin or physically fit than the girl next to her.
Funnier? Perhaps. The idea that fat people are funny is a fairly well established cultural assumption, albeit one that very often means we are laughing at them and not with them, especially when they are women.
Smarter? No. Indeed, socially and even scientifically we tend to believe the opposite -- that fat people are inherently dumber than non-fat people, an ideology borne out in dubious studies that suggest that fat people have stupid kids, and that IQ decreases as weight goes up. Are these studies full of shit? Probably. But their continued existence would indicate that fat people are not generally considered smarter than not-fat people by the average person.
Nicer? Maybe. I mean, we kind of HAVE to be nice so people don’t get grossed out and hate us right away. “You know that fat lady in our building? Oh yes, she’s disgusting, but she’s so nice.”
Less sexually promiscuous? Well.
I know, I know -- it’s fairly absurd to even give this the credence necessary to unpack these points. But let’s soldier on anyway.
The premise of the book is not to bash or assault any single body type, quite the opposite. I want to share the stories of women who have dealt with this discriminatory action.
Er, you may have blown this premise already.
Why should a woman have to apologize for wanting to be fit? Why should a woman have to apologize because she likes to run? or eat healthy? or just has the metabolism that is geared to keep weight at bay?
FINALLY, something we agree on. No woman should be compelled to apologize for wanting to be fit, or for enjoying running, or eating however she likes to eat. Nor should any woman be made to apologize for having a certain body shape or size, regardless of what the specifics may be. But to blame an obesity revolution for the sudden oppression of athletic women -- well, that’s a bit of a stretch.
Let’s take a moment to hypothesize what a person who comes up with this idea might be thinking. She might be thinking that she’s hearing a lot more about fat people these days. She might be seeing things in the media -- a slow trickle, but a trickle all the same -- that are not uniformly critical of those individuals subsisting under the yoke of obesery. She may have seen the video of that Wisconsin news anchor who stood up for herself against a fat-shame-y viewer letter. She may have caught our own xoJane fatkini gallery this summer.
And she might be thinking, wow, suddenly there’s fat people EVERYWHERE, and they’re not all actively hating themselves. They’re living their lives! Being seen in public! Not hiding themselves in muumuus and basements, only venturing out in darkest night to replenish their stockpiles of bacon and lard, diving back into their hiding spaces like waddling flabbified vampires returning to their grease-stained lairs at the sunrise. They’re acting like people. Like they have a right to human dignity! THIS CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO STAND!
Some years ago, I wrote a post on my now-mostly-defunct blog that mentioned a conversation I had been having about my belief that the obesity epidemic is mostly a bunch of trumped-up paranoia, in which my conversational partner said, “Yeah, but you sure do seem to see a lot more fat people than you used to.”
Of this, a commenter observed, and I’m paraphrasing here, “When I bought my car, suddenly I started seeing my car everywhere. But that wasn’t because there was an abrupt increase in people purchasing and driving the same car as me -- it was because I was just now more aware of that particular car.”
The number of Honda Civics on the road doesn’t change when you start driving one, although you might start seeing them more, because it’s a car that has captured your attention. Thus, isn’t it just possible that an increased awareness might be coloring Delizia’s concept of how “society” now “protects” some undefined “fat culture”?
When people who have enjoyed a certain level of social privilege (OH SHIT Y’ALL I SAID THE P-WORD) see that privilege being eroded, they tend to freak out. A good recent example is the uptick in racist rhetoric seen since President Obama took office -- seen recently in the “OH CRAP, we’re not a white country anymore!” reactions to his successful reelection campaign.
This is not to suggest that everyone who opposes Obama’s administration is a racist, because that’s simply not true. However, the cultural shift signified by the popular election of a multiracial man with a funny name to the highest office in the land has startled and even scared many white folks who may fear for their continued dominance in a country where white folks are quickly losing their population majority in the first place.
Racism, obviously, is a very different injustice than fascist body culture, one with far more insidious and pervasive institutional underpinnings, and I am not attempting to conflate the two. But it works as a ready example of what happens when a group finds itself losing majority ground it has always taken for granted.
In this case, we have a woman -- and probably more, if we’re going to be real about it -- who sees the landscape shifting. Maybe she is worried that these new, diverse bodies are going to eclipse the ones she is used to -- the ones she values and patterns herself after. And she feels threatened. And you know what? It’s not an unreasonable worry.
Because for most of us, our entire lives have been spent seeing minor variations on one feminine idealized slender body everywhere we look. It seems natural then that there might only be room for ONE. That if we are seeing more plush bodies now, and more and more, soon that will be all that we see.
But I don’t think that’s what any of us want -- even those of us who are proponents of that terrible, destructive “fat culture.”
Delizia knows this book will “upset a few people.” But she has a higher purpose.
...if it just makes it into the hands of ONE little girl who feels like she has to be overweight to fit in with the current 70% of the overweight population of America, and it gives her the strength to know that being healthy isnt a bad thing.
Then this whole project is worth all the time and effort i can possibly afford to put into it.
For some, the kneejerk reaction -- beyond the obvious THIS IS FAKE, RIGHT? -- is to rain down snark and ridicule upon this woman with a thousand tiny chubby hammers of incredulity. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? This is what we want to ask, right? We want to mock her. We want to say, “I’ll give you something to feel persecuted about, young lady.”
But I'm not down with that. I don't want to bash Britton Delizia, as that's an unhelpful, unconstructive non-solution. Because here’s the thing: Women are so fucked up by our fucked up body culture that even their perspectives on what is real are sorely fucked up. We don't need to be in competition with each other. I promise.
Nobody should be shamed for being healthy, and nobody should be shamed for being unhealthy. Nobody should be shamed for being thin, and nobody should be shamed for being fat. We should all extend a mutual respect for one another and our natural diversity, and appreciate that our differences -- and our willingness to bridge them -- make us powerful and even beautiful. There is, in the immortal words of Glenn Marla, no wrong way to have a body.
It’s not that complicated. And I didn’t even need to crowdfund a photo book to say it.