Weighty Matters

Debbie says:

Everyone is talking about weight this week.

Most surprising, it’s on J.K. Rowling’s mind. The original article may be on her website, but we didn’t have the patience to find it amongst all the Flash gimmicks.

I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny, a thousand things, before ‘thin’.”

We have to wonder if Rowling will back up her laudable assertions by being a little kinder to her fat characters, most noticeably Dudley Dursley. Still, it’s always good to have this kind of fat-positive commentary.

Next, and far less surprising, Ampersand, who is fast on his way to becoming a national treasure, provides the definitive (honestly; bookmark it and never have the argument again without it at your fingertips) case against weight-loss dieting. This piece is a superb combination of documented science and deep human compassion. Read every word, but just in case you’re busy, here’s the summing up:

1) No weight-loss diet has every been scientifically shown to produce substantial long-term weight loss in any but a tiny minority of dieters.

2) Whether or not a weight-loss diet “works,” people who go on weight-loss diets are likely to die sooner than those who maintain a steady weight or who slowly gain weight.

3) For fat people (or anyone else) concerned with their health, the best option is probably moderate exercise and eating fruits and veggies, without concern for waistlines. In other words, Health At Every Size (HAES).

4) The model on which most weight-loss diets are based – in which fat people eat like fat people and must learn to eat like non-fat people – is probably a myth.

Finally, the Health At Every Size Community has been instrumental in producing an exhibit both Laurie and I would travel to Colorado to see if we possibly could. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any pictures.

New Vista High School students from the Boulder Youth Body Alliance and the Naropa Community Art Studio will be displaying its Yay Scale Project, a celebration of a body positive life, at the Art and Soul Gallery The art opening is on April 7, 2006 at 7:00 pm, and the scales will be on display from April 7 – April 30, 2006. The project is also sponsored by the Youth Opportunities Advisory Board (YOAB).

Through the facilitation of Merryl Rothaus, MA, ATR and Carmen Cool, MA, LPC, using the language of art and a variety of art media, several Boulder youth will transform traditional bathroom scales into individual pieces of art, and work with their body image in the process. The “YAY scales” were invented by the irrepressible Marilyn Wann and register a positive adjective instead of a number. Both Marilyn and Connie Sobczak from The Body Positive advised the facilitators on the project.

This is as positive an action as we can imagine: art, tangibility, the pleasure of destroying a symbol of oppression, and positive body reinforcement throughout. Plus, the artists are doing what Laurie and I feel is so important in our own work: incorporating text throughout. Here are a few selections from artist comments on their pieces. Peggy Elam at On the Whole blogged the whole press release and a much longer list of student comments.

“In this rich country, we have a poverty of self-love. We lack the luxury of wholly believing in our intrinsic beauty. We lack love of our flesh, bones, hair and skin. How do we teach ourselves to hold our heads high? We must open our chests to sprout wings from our hearts. Wings that allow us to soar into love of our bodies and faces with reckless abandon. (If your heart was “heavy” with this kind of love, would you put it on a diet?)”

“What an epiphany, to accept yourself and to love your own unique body for the work of art it is.”

“Transforming a scale, an object I have over time learned to Fear, into something I want to be Near, demonstrates the power of art as Alchemist. The result is a tangible piece of art; a YAY scale, that reminds me to celebrate my myriad of vivid colors and delicious textures, embodied wildness, and quiet Gratitude for my place within this world.”

” I hope that when a woman stands on this scale she feels empowered. I hope that she really feels “beautiful” or “captivating” or “divine”, no matter what size or shape her body is. I want this scale to be a message of independence, freedom and empowerment.”

“In the end, when I look back, the things in my life I will be proud of will have nothing to do with the size or shape of my body. These three women, my mother and two grandmothers always wanted the best for me and valued me for everything not just my body. They are my body inspiration.”

“When I saw the metal guts spill out of my scale, I wanted to throw it across the room. Instead, I poured my heart and guts into the thing I hated most and finally realized that we could be friends.”

“Our perfect generation is breaking free from the typical and from the binding structures society builds for our youth, women, people, minds, bodies and spirits. That is all I ask of our generation and our society–to try. Break free, live free, laugh, eat, sing, become the perfect generation.”

“I don’t want some genetically modified girl in my place. No thanks. I’d rather just be plain old extraordinary me. I’m allowed to be beautiful and strong and stunning and outrageous and unique and confident and original. I’m allowed to be me.”

<br /> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/body+image" rel="tag nofollow">body image</a><br /> feminism<br /> fat<br /> art<br /> beauty<br /> women<br /> scales<br /> youth<br /> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/Boulder+Colorado" rel="tag nofollow">Boulder Colorado</a><br /> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/Boulder" rel="tag nofollow">Boulder</a><br /> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/Body+Impolitic" rel="tag nofollow">Body Impolitic</a><br />

10 thoughts on “Weighty Matters

  1. So when do I get to be ugly?

    Serious question.

    As long as we keep beating people with the pretty stick, the “everybody’s beautiful in SOME way” stick, we’re at the mercy of whoever decides what pretty is. And no, that ain’t us.

    I want ugly to be okay too. When do I get that?

  2. Dorothea, I want to get to be ugly too. I suspect we’re going to have to just take it, rather than waiting for it to be given to us.

  3. I think Miss Piggy, Muppet, pig, and star in the Hollywood grand manner, said it quite well:

    “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

  4. Stef and Dorothea, I think this is a very complicated question. “Ugly” is so by its nature a negative word, like “cruel,” that its very difficult to reclaim. Besides, I’m not sure it exists outside the context of beauty. In the world I dream of, neither word would be particularly relevant at least to how people look–but can you do that and retain awareness of the beauty of a sunset, or a painting, or a suspension bridge?

    I’m not sure that ugly can be okay without a context of “everyone is beautiful in some way.” And at the same time, I know that feeling of wanting to get to be ugly. I often claim it in life.

  5. Gosh, I must be having a real cartoony week, but did you ever see the Looney Tunes cartoon with the two witches? (In another minute after I’ve sent the comment I’ll remember the primary witch’s name, she was a recurring character). Anyway, the two were having brunch and cackling delightedly, “My dear, you’re positively glowing with ugliness–you must tell me some of your ‘ugly’ secrets!” There was definitely a “screw you, I’m a witch and we got our own standards, baby” quality. Plus I liked the cackling–note to self, do more cackling.

  6. I am not crazy about “claiming ugliness”, as someone who has had names such as “four-eyed crippled freak” thrown at her in the course of a lifetime. I am more anxious to claim & believe in my own unique beauty & worth as an individual, to see what those who love me see that I never have been able to see. We all ARE beautiful, the concept of what is ugly & what is beautiful in this culture is extremely arbitrary & exclusionary, but we are all beautiful, if we believe that, love ourselves, & know that we all have a place in the world which cannot be filled by anyone else. All of us who are fortunate enough to have loved ones in our lives are beautiful to someone just as we are, & there is no one from whom love is more valuable than oneself. I claim the word “fat” & I claim myself as a beautiful, middle-aged, disabled fat woman…just as I am. However, I have no desire to claim ownership of ugliness & I sure as hell have no desire to be able to proudly proclaim that I am cruel, especially since I never am & since I have been on the receiving end of cruelty enough in my life to know that it has no redeeming value.

    As for Rowling, I appreciate the comments, & I love the Harry Potter books. Hagrid is very large & a very popular, loved character. Dudley is a disgusting little brat & would be whatever his size. His mother is also no prize & she is thin, as is Draco Malfoy, one of the most unlikeable of characters.

    Very good points about the futility of weight loss attempts, btw, & about how unhealthy dieting is, especially as we age. Study after study has shown that fat people, on average, eat no more & no differently than thin people, just as study after study shows more & more that it is at least 80% or more genetic. For people my age & older in particular, trying to fight Mother Nature can be deadly.

  7. Thanks, Dan’l, I forgot to mention Neville, who is indeed at least plump & a wonderful character. I have no objection to a writer creating evil, unlikeable fat characters as long as he or she also creates good, heroic ones, & also has thin villains, as indeed there are aplenty in the Potter books. Dudley may be a bit more stereotyped than we would prefer…lazy, greedy, selfish, mean, stupid, & gluttonous…but there are plenty of thin characters who are every bit as hateful & there are REAL fat people in the world who are not good people, as well as the many of us who are. I get very teed off with authors whose EVERY fat character is a villain or some kind of stereotype.

  8. I’m with Dorothea and Stef – it’s not so much about “reclaiming ugly” as the new beauty, though: I’m frustrated that so much of the fat movement is dedicated to making a larger appearance acceptable rather than just making appearance not matter.

    And no, I don’t mean in an everyone is beautiful in some way/inner beauty/whatever way – just straight up no one caring what we look like. Simply being rather than being beautiful and celebrated.

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