As I have cited in previous articles, I am currently a graduate student in the field of Somatic Psychotherapy (veering from traditional talk therapy in that it is a Wholistic approach; bridging the gap between the mind and body, utilizing touch) and as of now I am officially claiming the placement of Body Positive before that title. Recently, my powerful colleague, Psalm Lewis, and myself collaborated on a final project for our Trauma course in which we Diagnosis Society with the Disease of Fat Phobia, presenting in severe symptoms of Fat Shaming, and explore the lived experience and resulting trauma of being a female existing in a fat body in Society during a time when widespread and pervasive Fat Phobia is being masked as a war on obesity and falsely labeled a health care concern. It is extremely important for us to begin infusing the field with our insight and expertise on a topic all too often left out of the classroom discussion (hell, the classroom itself is not designed for our bodies – the myriad of tiny desk-chair combos scream out unwelcoming sentiments at us as we try and establish this place of learning as a safe one…sadly not fully possible at this time). It is also extremely important to us to begin operationally defining these terms, legitimizing their reality in the academic realm, while also being able to bring them to the public’s attention in this empowering Wear Your Voice format! Fat Phobia can be defined as pathological fear of fatness (definition found in medical academic article Fat phobia: measuring, understanding, and changing anti-fat attitudes), whereas one symptom of this pathology, Fat Shaming, can be defined as the widespread openly acceptable practice of judging, criticizing, and discriminating against people living in fat bodies. In doing this, I have personally reclaimed the pathologizing and oppressive language of the medical field by flipping it back upon their own practice in the form of the following visual creative case study I have created, featuring Kelly Clarkson in the role of the latest Fat Shamed Scapegoat.
The Patient: Society.
(photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edlam; Ed Lam)
At first, I was tempted to just put America as the patient, however, the ideals are pervasive amongst many western cultures (aka the Fat Phobia Disease is spreading rapidly), and the illness is now deeply imbedded into the beast that is Society and its’ current norms as a whole. I believe that as soon as a female is born (and I could say humyn here, but I am speaking from the female perspective) her body begins to be owned and claimed by the outside world, by the other – this is a process that only continues and becomes more expansive as the female grows at hits various societal rights of passage.
The Disease: Fat Phobia.
(photo source top: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/10/fatphobia-guide-for-disbeliever/, bottom left: https://norwalk.digication.com/deykabecedichealvez/Ad_Essay, bottom right: https://aloftyexistence.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/open-question-are-you-anti-fat-and-why/)
I would hope that the old adage, “a picture’s worth a thousand words,” could suffice for the above trifecta of fucked-upness; alas, I know how conditioned our minds have been to see and accept these images daily so I will break it down a bit – PETA’s billboard simply makes ZERO sense just serves 100 percent fat shaming realness (especially since it is not currently a common practice for humyns to eat whales at least in this country, so I’m not getting the vegetarian connection; plus most of the veg’s I know compensate for the lack of protein by eating TONS of carbs and sugar…so how is that deemed “healthy”?)! I included the diet ad because it is so typical it hurts – all I see in the images are a thin, thinner, and thinnest body; talk about spreading warped perceptions (*personal Body Positive Tip that didn’t make it on my official list: press MUTE for ALL commercials when watching tv and pretty much avoid most mainstream media messaging and advertising*)! The baby billboard is just annoying to me – if I wanted to be funny, which I most often do, I would comment that this could actually be an ad for some new restrictive line of the Fat Phobic brand American Apparel Toddler Attire featuring the #NoMoreChubbyCheeks – then again this wouldn’t even be outside of the realm of possibility, which in turn just makes it sad.
The Pervasive Symptom: Fat Shaming.
Fat Shaming comes in many forms – most often pervading all sources of mainstream media. Most generally, there is a connection constantly being made between food and fat – this syllogism is one that must be eradicated immediately in order for our Scoiety to begin healing and recovering from this Widespread Fat Phobic Disease. One source of healing from this societal trauma that Psalm and I discuss in our final (besides coming to see us as therapists/taking our workshops to deepen and expand your Self-Love work) are again the teachings of the wise and wonderful Bell Hooks who breaks it down best in the amazing panel discussion entitled Transgression: Whose Booty is This when she poses the current challenge of being a womyn in any body today: “That’s the challenge…here we are in this imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy, first of all let’s not even get to sex, HOW DO WE CLAIM THE BODY AS A LOCATION OF DELIGHT, PLEASURE, LOVE?” This question resonates with most womyn I know, no matter what size body they call their home…this question must begin to be addressed personally so that it can start seeping out socially into the masses (if you can right now I would urge you to even re-read the statement and reflect/meditate on it for a moment if possible, noting what is coming up for you emotionally as you do).
(photo source left: http://newwavefeminism.tumblr.com, photo source right: http://myfoodmychoice.org, Illustration by Leah Tiscione, N.Y. Post )
Coming across these propaganda-filled photos was truly sickening, and yet, I wonder frustratingly how many of our own readers might actually be making these same assumptions or believe these outright disgusting acts of fear-based hatred. I only wish I could sit down and have a little chat with Michelle Obama (so thrilled to have a Black womyn in power; so disappointed this is her “chosen” platform) to get to the real root of the publicized agenda against obesity, which has only created more of a panicked riot amongst the diet cultured masses (yes the illustration on the right is still problematic because it solely associates food with fat, which is again what this “War on Obesity” is doing) – never forget to question who is actually making money off of all this…
Here is a PSA full of Real Statistics I would present the First Lady, mother of 2 little girls no less, with:
- 42% of 1st – 3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
- Girls’ self-esteem peaks at 9 years old.
- By age 10, 80% of girls report being afraid of becoming fat.
And this pure gem, image sourced directly from The Fat Girls Guide to Life, by Wendy Shanker, a book I highly recommend womyn of ANY size, which debunks cultural myths left and right – READ CLOSELY!!!
(image source: https://books.google.com/)
*No you don’t need your glasses (ok maybe you do, sorry for the small print) – that statistic you can’t believe DOES in fact read: WOMEN WHO ARE 50-75 POUNDS ‘OVERWEIGHT’ WILL ON AVERAGE STILL HAVE LONGER LIFE EXPECTANCIES THAN THOSE WHO ARE 10-15 LBS. ‘UNDERWEIGHT’ A.K.A. FASHIONABLY THIN.*
The Current Scapegoat: Kelly Clarkson
(photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alexislegend)
Currently, society’s self hatred and Fat Phobia has been directly channeled through the body of beautiful and talented Kelly Clarkson, new mom and longtime powerhouse performer who exudes Body Positivity. Most recently, Kelly’s body size was the topic of Fat Shaming at the hands of radio personality Mike Wallace (I know – who even is he?…Seems like another good old boring, over-opinionated, white, privileged, patriarchal, misogynist to me!) who made some rude and lewd body negative remarks. Earlier this month, Kelly was again the focal point of some truly fat phobic comments via some British female reporter barely worth mentioning and giving extra notice to, but further explored below. (Tweet Kelly some Body Positive Love – H E R E.)
The Treatment Plan: Fat Humyn’s Joy and Self-Love is both a Personal Choice and a Political Act.
(photos source: https://www.pinterest.com/singprettylin/stand-project/, Stand Project)
This beautiful campaign seems to be in response to the previous Fat Phobic one, which I showed you in addressing The Fake Agenda. It proves in blunt visual form, that womyn need to take authority over their perspectives and agency over re-claiming their bodies as their own! As a Photographer, I have thought a lot about the strong impact the Body Positive images I produce would make (potentially stronger than my words) – the images themselves becoming one political act after another asserting all womyn’s rights in this world to exist freely and happily just as they are! (*I am currently planning several Photo Shoots both in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New England that will require womyn’s bodies of ALL SIZES, as well as emphasizing Plus Size Models of all skill levels, so if you are interested please shoot me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org!*)
The Real Talk: Our Fat Bodies Confront your Shadow Self
(photo source left: http://phatgirlfresh.com/tag/pam-chatman/, Artist: Heather Keith Freeman; photo source right: http://society6.com/taraobrienillustration, Artist: Tara O Brien – K.I.T: Instagram / Facebook)
Our bodies trigger the Deepest Desires You innately feel as a Humyn, which have been Masked as and Manipulated into your Deepest Fears by Society. I now realize that my body serves as a conduit for all the negative feelings others have internalized about themselves because of their Fat Phobia. There is nothing more confronting to a woman seeing me moving joyfully and freely in the world, claiming my space and my own agency when she is by all societal standards “acceptable” in body size (let’s say a size 4 for example – *insert eye roll here*) yet quite unhappy in the unrealistic ways she constantly attempts to achieve it. This then confronts every belief this womyn has been taught to hold about herself and others – no wonder people be hating on me!!! I could also recognize that for some men (mostly in my experience white privileged misogynist ones) finding themselves primally sexually attracted to all of me (including my sumptuously luscious curves, not just my face) directly challenges everything they have been brainwashed into believing is attractive about a womyn – I don’t believe this phenomenon is exclusive to men either, I’m sure many womyn find this body attractive as well and become completely confused by that (we are taught societally to deny our sexual desires after all…that’s working out really well for us isn’t it!?).
*My personal call to readers: I challenge you to truly see me, not as just a reflection of yourself in me, and once you do I welcome you to LET GO of every misconceived notion about who you think this body makes me, and in doing so, EMBRACE your own.*
As the important Feminist theorist Bell Hooks reminds us, “Patriarchy knows no gender.” This seemingly simple conception and statement is actually much more complex, and if understood correctly, completely freeing. To me, Hooks is saying here that the power of the patriarchy lives in all humyns bones and blood – not exclusively males. Just by exisiting in this society, females internalize this patriarchy into their own bodies, owning it as theirs, rather than being able to understand its deep roots. I believe that illuminating this truth just by highlighting and addressing it is the first step to undoing the patriarchy from one’s being and existing more freely in one’s body as their own. It is clear that womyn have been force fed lies about their bodies for so long that many, and, like the journalist in this instance shown below, have actually swallowed, digested, and shitted them back out all over one another, perpetuating this cycle of falsities.
Kelly reacted to Katie’s comments to Heat magazine: “That’s because she doesn’t know me. I’m awesome! It doesn’t bother me,” she said, taking the high road. “It’s a free world. Say what you will. I’ve just never cared what people think. It’s more if I’m happy and I’m confident and feeling good, that’s always been my thing. And more so now, since having a family — I don’t seek out any other acceptance.”
A lil’ breakdown of Kelly’s latest triumphs over her haters (those inflicted with the illness known as Fat Phobia) – clearly what doesn’t kill her makes her stronger (couldn’t resist the pun)!
At the end of the day, Kelly could say absolutely nothing about these Fat Shaming incidents, and by totally OWNING and ROCKING the shit out of her recent performance of Etta James’ “At Last” (her original American Idol audition song) have proved all the Fat Phobic wrong, or at least confronted their false opinions and challenged their current perspective by joyfully celebrating and performing her talent at any size!
(Side note: Shout out to Nick Fradiani *follow on Twitter here* currently in American Idol’s Top 8 – a fellow Wheaton College alumnus and honestly from the sincerest spot in my heart, one of the nicest men that I have ever interacted with! I miss running into to you around campus Nick; WYV is wishing you all the best and congratulations on all of your hard-earned success – no luck is needed when true talented in on your side!)
Have you seen other instances of Fat Shaming in the media recently? If so, comment below and your tip could be turned into my next Body Positive Article!