Laurie Toby Edison

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Fat Carnivals, Stupid Fat Laws, and Fat Suits

Ampersand has not one, and not two, but three excellent posts on fat and size acceptance issues.

First, he plans to organize a bimonthly blog event, tentatively called “The Carnival of Fatty Goodness,” which collects and highlights posts on fat issues. This is a terrific idea, and we have told him that we certainly want a booth at his carnival.

Second, he highlights a totally repulsive proposed Hawaii law which would require schoolteachers to weigh in twice a year and meet an obesity standard. As he so pointedly says, “This is a bit similar to a story a year ago, when a California legislator proposed including children’s BMIs on report cards, right under their grades. Because if there one thing California culture lacks, it’s people being judged by their weight.” All we can say is, “Sigh.”

Finally, he calls attention to an MTV.com article on fat suits, with a very thought-provoking discussion of the relationship(s) between fat suits and blackface. Blackface is a very complicated social phenomenon, and we aren’t going to go into its history or complexity here.

The post got Debbie to define some categories , all of which have different relationships to fat people, to blackface, and to fat oppression.

First, there’s what the MTV.com post is discussing: fat suits for entertainment purposes, as with Edddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor or Julia Roberts in America’s Sweetheart. The contention here is that people laugh more easily if they know there’s a thin person under the fat suit. I flat out don’t believe this: there’s too much laughter directed right at ordinary un-famous fat people, and I also don’t believe that people laugh more easily at a fatted Eddie Murphy than they do at Jack Black, or one of the Belushi brothers.

Second, there are the people who wear fat suits to learn something about living as the “other,” much as John Howard Griffin wrote about in Black Like Me forty years ago. This has brought about some thoughtful opinion pieces by people who have tried it, and is at worst an interesting curiosity.

Then there’s the whole issue of the fat villain (who again might be a member of any marginalized group). The villain himself, or herself, isn’t funny, but permission to laugh at something about the frightening figure probably is comforting to the audience. Again, however, I don’t believe it matters if the villain is actually fat (like Sydney Greenstreet) or dolled up as fat for the movie.

Anyway, read all three Ampersand pieces, and look for the upcoming Carnival of Fatty Goodness.

<br /> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/fat" rel="tag">fat</a><br /> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/fat+suit" rel="tag">fat suit</a><br /> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/fat+laws" rel="tag">fat+laws</a><br /> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/Body+Impolitic" rel="tag">Body Impolitic</a><br />

4 Responses to “Fat Carnivals, Stupid Fat Laws, and Fat Suits”

  1. Arthur D. Hlavaty Says:

    Insofar as antifat prejudice resembles racis, using the BMI as a measure is like saying you can’t use the white water fountain if you have a good enough tan.

  2. Patsy Nevins Says:

    I find it particularly upsetting that they are doing this thing in HAWAII, of all places, where a large percentage of the residents are of Polynesian descent, people for whom being fat is a very natural, genetic thing. It is repulsive in any case, but, given the genetic heritage of the Hawaiian people, it just plain makes no sense. The insanity is spreading every day, I guess.

  3. Stef Says:

    and is at worst an interesting curiosity.

    At worst, it’s another way of silencing people who actually live as “the other” every day. Because if someone famous dons a fat suit for a few hours, then they’re an expert on what it’s like to be fat, and since they get to take the fat suit off, a much more attractive expert than a real fat person, for people who find fatness discomfiting or offensive.

    As for the proposed law, I agree it’s offensive and wrong, and I also find it interesting how many people get much more upset about it than they get about the forced weighing of students that has gone on in many schools for decades. Is this because it’s new, or because it’s targeted at adults rather than children, or what?

  4. Laurie Says:

    Patsy,

    I agree. When I visit Hawaii I see so many gorgeous fat people.
    I don’t know if I’ll ever photograph there, but I’d love to.

    And I was particularly surprised because Hawaii seemed to compare really well to the mainland in being fat friendly.

    Stef,

    I’m not sure that people get more upset if it’s adults. I know that the San Francisco fat activist community worked very hard and successfully, so far, to prevent the stigmatization of fat students in “health” programs in the schools. I was one of many people that testified before the Board of Supervisors on “health at every size”.

    I agree that society always prefers experts who are talking about “other” people’s issues.

    Arthur,

    I hate the BMI and I hate the way it is everywhere. It’s even in my dentist’s bathroom.

    And, as I am writing about this, I realize I need to complain to them about it and I will.

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