Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day: Debbie’s Entry

Debbie says:

In my neighborhood of the blog world, everyone (including me) is excited about International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, created by Jo Walton based on some intemperate remarks by Howard Hendrix, which I imagine he is deeply regretting.

Jo is compiling a list of entries. Oh my is there some fine reading here. A very partial and very yummy list of participating posts is here.

I’ve been thinking for a long time that the introduction to Women En Large should be available on line. I’d have posted a much longer chunk here, but my 13-year-old file of the text is disturbingly corrupt. Laurie will dig through her files in the next few weeks and we’ll post the whole thing on the website. Meanwhile, it remains one of my favorite pieces of writing, and it’s certainly been one of the most lucrative (and made a significant impression on many people):

***

Fat. Woman.

Fat is the way your body stores food for hard times. Fat is the soft white material cut off the edge of a slice of meat and left uneaten, congealing on your plate. Fat is the metaphor for “too much,” for waste in business or government. Fat is almost any part of a body that jiggles or is soft to the touch. And fat is the feature of your body, and of other people’s bodies, that you are taught earliest and most deeply to hate and despise.

A woman is a person with two X chromosomes. A woman is a person with a vagina and a clitoris and without a penis and testicles. A woman is a person whose body can bear children. A woman is a person who expects to be judged by her looks every minute of every day.

A fat woman always carries both of these labels with her; she is always fat, and always a woman. Traditional stereotypes of the fat woman range from the fat lady in the circus through the jolly fat aunt in the family circle to the lovely fat models of Renoir and Degas (who, although beautiful, never seem like real people). In our times, fat women are frequently figures of fun, occasionally villainesses, often “bad examples” of people with no self-control and/or low self-esteem. Like “corporate lawyer” or “sullen teenager,” the phrase “fat woman” contains the implication that you now know all you need to know about the person in question.

As a fat woman myself, I had a lot to learn when doing this book. The most important thing I learned was the one that should have been most obvious: the label “fat woman” tells you only two of the hundreds of things you need to know about a person to understand her. Fat women are rich, comfortable, and poor; of African, Asian, European, and other descent; big and small; poerful and weak; interesting and boring; fulfilled and constrained; professionals and unemployed; athletes and couch potatoes; artists and mathematicians; lesbian, queer, bisexual, transgender, and straight; disabled and temporarily able-bodied; optimistic and depressed; fundamentalist and radical; mothers, office workers, laborers, and sybarites; beautiful, good-looking, and ordinary-looking.

Nonetheless, being fat is important enough to give fat women in this culture a set of shared experiences, especially shared pain. Being fat is a gestalt of experiences that start before you are five and never end till the day you die. We are bombarded many times with hateful messages about fat. Most of those messages are also about women, from diet center ads through “Your Health” columns to the images of conventionally beautiful thin women on every television screen and magazine page. But the fat woman herself is rarely shown at all, and virtually never shown as beautiful, or real, or powerful. (Yes, there are exceptions–and how hard they have to fight every day of their lives to win and keep that status.) When six-year-old daughters can look at their mothers and say, “Mommy, I love you but you’re too fat,” fat women all too easily develop the bonds of oppression and shared self-hatred.”

***

We’ll let you know when we post the rest on the site.

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2 Responses to “International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day: Debbie’s Entry”

  1. susan senator Says:

    Brava!
    I was remembering being in gym class, around 10, noticing how my body was different from the other skinnies. I went on my first diet then. It was 1972. A few weeks later the gym teacher remarked that I looked good, like I had “lost weight.”

    At 44, still struggling with low self-esteem and body image issues.

  2. other blog » The Politics of Rewriting Says:

    [...] wrestling with the same issue in a much less grounded and physical context. The other day I posted a blog entry on Body Impolitic which includes the beginning of the introduction to Women En Large: A Book of Fat Nudes, a book [...]

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