Category Archives: Size Acceptance

February Links

Debbie says:

Just after the turn of the year, when everybody and her sister was telling you how they were going to lose weight in 2016, Veronica Bayetti Flores at Feministing released a whole post of great music videos to counteract the bullshit.  Here’s just one of my favorites, from Mz 007 in St. Louis:

And we really need those antidotes, because Ragen Chastain at Dances with Fat, who is always alert to fat-shaming, found one of the most horrifying anti-fat stories ever (and that’s not easy):

Elaine Yu, an assistant professor and clinical researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, will be conducting a clinical trial to see if taking pills containing the freeze dried fecal matter of thin people will make fat people thin….

Fecal transplants have been found to a legitimate, and very helpful, treatment to help people with bacterial infections, and the freeze-dried poo pill technology was developed as a way to facilitate these transplants. So now Professor Yu is going to give 20 fat people 6 weekly doses of poop pills (far fewer than in the bacterial infection studies where subjects were given 15 pills a day for 2 days), then track their weight at 3, 6,  and 12 months, telling subjects not to make changes to their eating and exercise habits (obviously, that’s difficult to determine, and I imagine that knowing that you are ingesting poo might have an effect on appetite – I know that researching ingesting poo did for me.)

Further into the post, Ragen deconstructs the assumptions behind this incomprehensible experiment with her usual good sense and flair.

Also deconstructing assumptions about fat we find Ampersand reviewing the Swedish study which said, basically, that you can’t be fat and fit.

I’m not saying that this Swedish study should be ignored (although it has limitations – see below). But it’s one data point among many…

This study only measured fitness at age 18….

So the study didn’t measure if being currently fat and fit reduces current mortality; it measured whether being fat and fit at age 18 reduces mortality over the next three decades. That’s an interesting thing to study – but it’s hard to see how this speaks to whether or not someone like me – a 47 year old fat man – might reduce my risk of mortality with regular exercise in my current life.

Furthermore, since the study only followed male subjects, it’s unclear if these results can be generalized to women.

Staying in the same arena, I saw lots of  links to this story by Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley at Gastropod about why calories don’t correlate to weight. This article doesn’t excerpt well, because it makes so many separate points. If you are at all interested in what calories are, how they are calculated in the lab, how the lab calculations relate to what happens in your body, and why restricting calories doesn’t seem to change your weight (if it doesn’t), this is a don’t-miss story. I’m adding it to my file of “send to people who claim losing weight is simple” links.

***

I did not realize that 2015 showed a marked spike in news and information about menstruation, but apparently I’m the only person who didn’t. Reina Gattuso at Feministing links to a number of mainstream articles on the subject, and then focuses on two student-led anti-period-shaming groups: Pads Against Sexism and Happy to Bleed.

According to the organizers, Pads Against Sexism (also called Pads Against Patriarchy) was inspired by a public art project by German artist Elone Kastratia, who celebrated International Women’s Day by sticking sanitary napkins (period diapers? vagina towels?) with feminist messages across her city….

Activist Nikita Azad started Happy to Bleed in November, as one of a chorus of feminist responses to a statement by Prayar Gopalakrishnan, president of the Travancore Devaswom Hindu Temple administering Board in the southern state of Kerala. Women aren’t currently allowed access to the state’s Sabarimala Temple (one manifestation of many world religions’ charming tendency to stigmatize menstruation). Gopalakrishnan posited that this could change when a magical machine was put into use to detect whether blood was — in the immortal words of Trump – coming out women’s whatevers

In response, Azad posted a rallying cry wherein she encouraged feminists across the country to post their own messages of menstrual solidarity on pads and social media.

A flurry of media activity in response to both campaigns helped lower the stigma and raised the profile of menstrual issues in India. Writers also took down the idea that periods are only chill because they’re important in making babies and babies are important to patriarchy. And Azad and other activists pointed out that menstrual stigma particularly affects lower-caste women and women living in poverty, who are often forced to miss school during their periods or have no sanitary accommodations at work. 

Oh, how I wish this conversation had been around when I was in high school and college!

***

Two victories for trans people. The Transgender Law Center reports on advances in restroom availability:

This week, San Francisco joins Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Austin, Seattle, Santa Fe, and New York City in requiring all businesses and city buildings to designate single-stall restrooms as all-gender. While transgender and gender nonconforming people have the legal right to use restrooms that correspond to their gender, this kind of legislation is still a relief for people with disabilities, trans and gender nonconforming people, and families with small children — not to mention women simply tired of waiting on line for the women’s restroom while the single-stall men’s bathroom stands empty.

And Bobby Hankinson at Towleroad reports on advances in competition guidelines:

Previously, trans athletes were required to undergo gender-reassignment surgery. According to guidelines made public on Sunday, the new recommendations remove any restrictions on trans men, and allow trans women to compete in the Olympic Games after one year of hormone replacement therapy.

“The new IOC transgender guidelines fix almost all of the deficiencies with the old rules,” chief medical physicist, radiation oncology, Providence Portland Medical Center Joanna Harper wrote to Outsports via email. “Hopefully, organizations such as the ITA will quickly adapt to the new IOC guidelines and all of the outdated trans policies will get replaced soon.”

Harper, who is also a trans woman, attended the Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism that helped craft these guidelines in November.

And finally, if you are interested in artistic interpretations of human/cyborg/machine transformations, George Dvorsky at io9 shared a fascinating video. Sonoya Mizuno dances in “Wide Open,” the latest music video from the British electronic duo The Chemical Brothers.

 

All links from my regular reading, which includes Feministe, Shakesville, and Sociological Images,, along with Feministing, and io9, which are featured here, along with other sites. Also, we’re always on the lookout for interesting posts that connect racism and body image, and even more so during Black History Month, so send links if you have them.

Please follow and share

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Fat Activism in One Volume: A Review of Fat Activism

Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement by Dr. Charlotte Cooper is being published today, January 4, 2016! In honor of this important publication, Laurie and Debbie, who usually greet the new year with a post of their own, are delighted to publish Lynne Murray’s review today.

Bright-colored cover of FAT ACTIVISM
Lynne Murray says:

This book addresses many issues that I personally have struggled with for 30 years of trying to live a fat activist life. Such as, why does each new generation of fat activists seem to have to reinvent the wheel?

True, in 2016 the internet provides a treasure trove of resources for those who search. But you have to know a thing exists before you can even start to look for it. Many people who desperately need fat positive information, inspiration and supportive communities will not even have an idea of what they are missing.

This is part of what inspired Dr. Cooper to write her book:

I was interested in how fat activist histories might be transmitted through communities because I was dismayed by how little fat activists seemed to know about the movement of which they were a part. I also felt that fat activism is under-documented and wanted to create a paper trail for others to use.

Fat Activism is an essential reference for those who want to know where the movement started and to get some ideas on where it can go from here. The breadth of Cooper’s research is amazing. Fat Activism is worth owning simply as a resource and a history of the movement. She seems to have studied and in most cases assessed almost every fat-related group, book or article created over the past 46 years. The 59-page bibliography alone is a Who’s Who and a What Happened When of fat activism.

Cooper deserves a medal for even reading the most condescending, smugly pseudoscientific “fat panic” materials. Examining these works of socially acceptable prejudice exacts a perilous price, as Cooper explains:

My own emotional response to such work encompasses feelings of powerlessness, anger that ranges from disgruntlement to rage and bewilderment at the flattening of the complexities of my life. Physiological effects are congruent with stress: shallow breathing, a tight chest, a sinking feeling. These are encounters with systemic sanctioned hatred. Reading this work as a fat person requires a certain steeliness, it can be physically and emotionally depleting.

Fat Activism doesn’t shy away from discussing internal tensions and stumbles inside groups and specific events. Cooper interviews activists to get individual reports on just what fat activism is and what it means to those who do it. She herself has been involved in a number of groundbreaking activism projects such as The Chubsters.

The project was formulated as a queer fat girl gang I established in 2003 after watching Katrina Del Mar’s low budget short film Gang Girls 2000, which created an imaginary world of queer gangs in New York. I imagined The Chubsters as existing in a similar universe where fat people take no shit and I hoped that this could bleed into real life. I enjoyed the blurring of fiction and reality. I used the gang to play with ideas of comic aggression and anti-social behaviour yet was explicit in my pacifism and welcomed all to take part; Chubsters did not have to be fat, queer, a girl or even remotely vicious. On reflection I suspect this approach stemmed from my own experiences of queer exclusion from lesbian feminist spaces in the 1980s.

The Chubsters operated through a website, a magazine photo-story, articles, workshops, talks and film-shows, a theme song, a short film and objects and ideas. These included a symbol, called The Screaming C, a snarling fat letter C with blood-dripping fangs, designed by two Chubsters, Yeti and Big Blu in 2004. The symbol became a useful manifestation of the gang. Other people adopted it, one person made me a hoodie decorated with The Screaming C, another is a stonemason and carved it into a plaque. In addition, The Chubsters produced hand signs, special terminology, a call and response; downloads for calling cards; and gang colours stitched onto torn denim waistcoats and worn in public. Another member made some Chubster embroidery.

This book began as a doctoral dissertation, so it starts with an appetizer of sociological terms and concepts. If these are not your treats, you can easily skip to the next course, which is tasty, juicy and mentally satisfying. Cooper provides insights and history enough to nourish any reader seeking understanding and inspiration.

Fat activism is habitually overlooked, assumed and dismissed, even by people within the movement, which is outrageous given how powerful it can be.  …

[T]here is no doubt that fat activism based on the lived experience, cultures and histories of fat people, which incorporates anti-oppressive values, feminist and queer tactics is able to offer a richer and more sophisticated vision for understanding fat than the proponents of obesity who remain intent on ignoring or belittling us.

So how might people know about fat? Through a disease model or through rolling down a hill together? Through bariatric surgery or poetry? Through terrible clinical encounters or a fat clothes swap? Through weight loss drugs that cause heart attacks and anal leakage or by reading Fat Liberator Publications? Through Very Low Calorie Diets or by visiting or working at a volunteer fat queer brothel? Through a conviction that something must be done about the problem of fat people or through getting tattooed with a Screaming C? Through a pernicious fantasy of slenderness or through a wink or a rebellious thought?

This book asks the hard questions and provides some encouraging answers. Highly recommended!

Please follow and share