I have feelings about ‘My 600lb Life’

So I’ve been watching ‘My 600lb Life’ for a while, and I’ve been wanting to write down my thoughts, but every time I try, it’s never as eloquent as I want them to be.  So I’m just going to write, and not worry about how it sounds.

Firs and foremost, this show contributes to pathologizing fat.  It contributes to the “fat is a disease” and “fat people are lazy and gluttonous” framing.  It contributes to the idea of the “good fatty” – the one who expresses self-loathing and wants to lose weight.

Aside – I first heard the phrase “good fatty” because I follow a number of blogs and twitter accounts, including Fat Body Politics and Dances With Fat, which is where I first heard this idea explored.  The “good fatty” phenomenon is the idea that fat people need to actively working toward thinness and actively focused on health, but in this mindset, thinness and health are erroneously conflated.  A “good fatty” would never feel good about him/herself while fat, and would comply with society’s expectations by limiting food and actively pursuing weight loss.  Someone who lives in this sort of mindset, fat or thin, would reject HAES and would feel frustrated or threatened by any fat person who does not pursue weight loss, and who accepts and feels good about their body as-is.

‘My 600 lb Life’ definitely reinforces the idea of the “good fatty” trying to fix their “diseased” body, but it’s a conundrum.  It’s portraying people on the extreme end of fat, people whose mobility is often limited and independence is compromised, and shows them crying about how terrible they feel and how ashamed they are.  But instead of compassion, I think the show is encouraging viewers to respond with, “Well, you should feel terrible about yourself.  How did you let yourself get like this?  This is all your fault.”  Close ups of people putting food in their mouths and chewing, whole scenes where the viewers do nothing but watch people eat, send a clear message – these people are gluttons who brought this on themselves.  Which then carries over to any fat person – you’re fat because you’re lazy and you eat too much.

Eat less, move more.  That’s the magic formula that’s constantly being thrown around without regard for context.

It’s not that simple.  It never is.

Continue reading “I have feelings about ‘My 600lb Life’”

Hey fat admirers: Try not to be creepy, mmmk?

I’m a bit behind on my xoJane reading, but I saw this article entitled “My 300-Lb Body Is Considered A ‘Fetish’ And I’m Simultaneously Flattered AND Outraged“.  The title speaks for itself, and the author speaks candidly about her personal experience with men who identify as “chubby chasers.”  (FTR, I hate that phrase.  It sounds predatory – we chase things that are running away from us.)

So once again, I’d like to remind everyone who identifies as a FA/fetishist/”chaser” – Don’t be creepy.  Please.  Just don’t.  I’m asking nicely.

In case you’re sitting there thinking, “But Cassandra, how will I know if I’m being creepy?”  Well, here’s a checklist for you…

Continue reading “Hey fat admirers: Try not to be creepy, mmmk?”

Everyone’s applauding Angelina Jolie, but all I see is privilege

So I think most of the Western world is aware that that Angelina Jolie’s ability to have first a double mastectomy and now her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.  And that’s all well and good – her body, her family history, her choice.

What irritates me is how this is being touted as the “brave” choice that more women need to consider.  But all I can think about is the fact that there are many women who can’t afford the testing or surgery, or who possibly can’t take the time off from work/school/kids/life to go through multiple surgeries that have recovery processes.

CNN assures its readers that the test “is not terribly expensive” – a mere $150 – $300 will pay for a consultation with a genetic counselor.  I take issue with the phrase “not terribly expensive” – to many people in this country, $150 is exorbitant.  There are people who barely have $15 at any given time, let alone $150+.

CNN redeems itself somewhat by pointing out that some genetic counselors will work with you on the price, that Obamacare now requires insurance to cover the tests when recommended by a provider, and listed an organization that can help with financial resources.

Okay, great.  But so it comes back that you have the gene.  And you have a family history.  And it seems that having these surgeries is a solution you might want to consider.

What if you don’t have insurance?  What if you do have insurance, but no short term disability (which you very well may need)?  What if you have insurance, but it won’t cover some aspect of these procedures?  What if it does, but you can’t afford the co-pays?  What if you simply can’t get that time off from work?  What if you don’t have another responsible adult to cover your responsibilities and help you out post-surgery?  What if you don’t have the financial resources to keep up with breast implant maintenance long-term?  I understand that most insurance will cover HRT, but again, what if yours doesn’t, or you don’t have insurance, or aren’t consistently insured?

There are so, so many socioeconomic factors that go into these procedures, and they tend to favor people who have more financial resources at their disposal, and who have a solid support system to help them through the process.

I’m glad Jolie spoke out about this, I really am.  I’m glad she urges women to be well-informed.

What bothers me is what always bothers me – that there are solutions to problems that are not accessible to everyone.  That healthcare and big pharma are more concerned with making  money than providing care and resources.  That issues that impact women specifically are not taken as seriously and not covered as fully as issues that can or only impact men.

So apparently non-Celiac gluten sensitivity IS a thing

At least, Harvard says it is.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ll take Harvard’s word – and my own experience – over the rantings of random internet jackasses who get irrationally angry over other people’s diets because they read a headline on MSNBC once that suggested that gluten sensitivity might not be real because clickbait and they’ve never had an issue with gluten therefore it must all be in our heads.

By the way, the summary that Harvard posts, about how someone can have issues with gluten but not show signs of Celiac?  Yeah, my doctor told me that two years ago.  So if you live in the Denver area and have gut issues, go see this guy.

Thank you to the friend who sent me this link.  :-)

 

What I’ve learned about writing a first draft of a novel

I’m writing this specifically for the benefit of a friend, but since I thought it might be helpful to others, here’s what I know about setting up and then writing a first draft of a novel.

Keep in mind I’m unpublished at the moment, but I do have an MA in Lit, I seem to pull out of slush piles, and I’ve gotten two personalized “I really like this, I just don’t know how to sell it, let me know if you have anything else/keep writing/please query me again when you’ve completed your next project” notes directly from agents.  I’m doing things right, but getting published is about more than just doing things right.  Patience and perseverance is a big part of it.

That said…

Continue reading “What I’ve learned about writing a first draft of a novel”

I’m a magnet for passive-aggressive people

This has been on my mind lately, because I recently worked with someone who had passive-aggressiveness down to an art, and so when I saw an article on how to handle passive-aggressiveness at work, I read through it.  (Not linking to it because the advice was terrible.)

But that got me to thinking about hallmarks of passive-aggressive behavior, and I realize…I’m a magnet for this sort of personality.

I wonder on some level if it’s because I am naturally assertive, so I’m bringing out passive-aggressive tendencies in conflict avoiders, and/or I have the sort of personality they can hide behind because I’m not the type to back down from a conflict – sometimes, even ones that aren’t mine.  If I see something that needs to be addressed, more often than not, I will have an opinion.

The literature about passive-aggressive behavior agrees that it’s due to underlying anger and hostility.  But I also think it’s very much tied to a refusal to take accountability.  Remember, these types of people are talented conflict-avoiders, and recognizing the need for accountability means recognizing a conflict.  Knowing that can be helpful in not allowing them to escalate you (took me a long time to learn that), but it’s hard to get them to recognize their behavior.  So every “how to deal with…” article I’ve read leaves me feeling unsatisfied, because it hinges on the assumption that the person at some point acknowledges their passive-aggressiveness, or that passive-aggressive behavior can be successfully managed by others.

In my experience, it can’t.  It often involves you walking away or distancing yourself from that person, and/or refusing to cover for them, help them, wait for them, etc.  I’ve read a lot about calmly calling out the behavior, explaining how it negatively impacts you, and using specific examples.  The thing that I’ve found is that this only works temporarily – they’ll tell you what you want to hear when backed into a corner, then go right on resenting you and being passive-aggressive the moment you back off.

So here are examples from my personal life and how I handled them, in case anyone deals with this sort of thing…

Continue reading “I’m a magnet for passive-aggressive people”

This week in fat news…

It’s getting to be that time of year where weight loss advertisements are running rampant, and people are fat shaming themselves on social media in anticipation of the Months Of Wearing Less Clothing.  So on that note…

Finally…

There were a number of women in the fat acceptance movement who were aggravated over the reponse to #DancingMan, because the feeling was that had this been a woman, people would not have been as eager to reach out.  It was especially annoying to many women activists who have been speaking up about fat shaming online, in print, in art, and wherever else they can for years, only to be ignored by mainstream media and bullied/trolled, while a viral video of a man resulted in such a widespread outcry.

I just want to signal boost this perspective, because while any fat shaming sucks, we also have to get all intersectional here and to think about gender and race dynamics.  Why this video?  What if it had been a black woman instead?  Had it been a woman, particularly a woman of color or a woman who wasn’t  the right kind of fat (i.e. not simply a curvy size 16) would famous women have been as generous with support?  How would famous men have reacted if it had been a woman – or would they?

Without a side-by-side social experiment, it’s ultimately impossible to tell, but living in a world that values whiteness and maleness over anything else means that these questions do need to be asked.  And asking them doesn’t necessarily mean that Fat Acceptance, as a movement, isn’t united.  It just means that there are activists who recognize intersectionalities, and aren’t afraid to speak up when they see fat shaming being reacted to in a way that seems positive on a superficial level, but could be more problematic than meets the eye.  I applaud them for asking those questions, and ask others to consider those questions in turn.

Thank you for playing, Starbucks. Better luck next time.

I actually appreciate Starbucks’ misguided attempt to discuss race relations, in a way.  It came from an internal meeting where employees expressed concerns about racial relations, and the company responded by attempting to address it.  #RaceTogether is the result, and while well-intentioned, it’s ultimately ridiculous.

Continue reading “Thank you for playing, Starbucks. Better luck next time.”

How to make a narcissist

I think everyone has met a narcissist at some point.  If you haven’t, you will, and when you do, you’ll know.

A study has recently come out demonstrating that narcissistic tendencies can be developed in children by parents who overvalue them.  Here’s NPR’s summary of the study, here is the link to the actual study (it’s only 4 pages long), and here’s a cool link NPR has in their article for parents to determine whether or not they overvalue their children (it’s a short survey).

This study I’ve linked to is all about how parents can unintentionally create narcissistic children, and how those personality traits can turn toxic when they grow up.  Basically, it comes from overvaluation of your child – their skills, abilities, looks.  It comes from feeling and communicating to your child that they’re better than and  more deserving than other children.  And oh my lord, have I seen this in action.  As soon as I read it, I immediately thought of one of my father-in-law’s exes and her daughter.

Let me tell you a story…

Continue reading “How to make a narcissist”

Racial discrimination is not okay, and references to lynching are never “just a joke”

The faternity of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma, who were caught on video chanting that no “n—-” will ever “signed” to the fraternity, along with a reference to lynching, just demonstrated how “freedom of speech” (if that’s even what this was) does not mean freedom from consequence.  Because already this morning, I’m seeing comments sections on news articles claiming that the OU chapter of SAE being shut down and OU’s ties to the fraternity being severed is too harsh, and impinges on freedom of speech.

So first of all, I think people don’t realize that not all types of speech are protected by law – so if you think that any and all speech is protected in the U.S., you might want to look that up.  And while I’m reasonably certain that this example was not actually illegal, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be and shouldn’t be consequences.  Because freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence.

As for the joke defense I’m seeing?  (I.e., “They clearly weren’t condoning lynching, it was just a chant, they didn’t mean it to be taken seriously” etc.)  Even if these young men were just “messing around,” it was an excessively poor choice on their part, and it should be taken seriously.  I’m willing to buy the immaturity + peer group pack mentality explanation, because I’m not sure these guys understand the gravity of their words, but that doesn’t mean they should get off lightly.

You can always say after the fact that something was a joke to try to minimize the hurtfulness of your actions.  When someone puts you down, then tells you it was just a joke and you need to chill, that’s actually a sign of an emotionally abusive relationship.  And I think it’s fair to say that white people have, are, and will continue to be emotionally and physically abusive to black people.  So when I hear “it was just a silly chant, it was bad but not that bad, people are just being to sensitive,” that fills me full of NOPE.

Fact is, if you’re not an insensitive racist asshole blinded by your own privilege and/or lacking the strength of character to not go along with peers who are, you’re probably not going to chant about rejecting black people using a racial slur with a reference to lynching to begin with.

The casual reference to lynching is what really disgusted me.  If anyone doesn’t understand why it’s beyond disgusting and insensitive to make light of a very dark and cruel chapter of American history – well, congratulations, you’re part of the problem.  Go read this New York Times article for some perspective on how pervasive and acceptable killing black people was – and still is, if you’ve been paying attention to the news lately.  Black people are still being threatened with violence simply for being black.  Black people’s lives are still considered of less value, and black people are more likely to be killed by police rather than facing justice – and when they do manage to make it to a courtroom, they’re more likely to be convicted and more likely to receive harsher sentences than white people.

Now tell me again how the lyching comment wasn’t serious and we all need to just chill?

For the record, my day job is in higher ed, and just last week, I was chatting with a coworker about some of the challenges of the traditional college age group when it comes to non-curricular education.  We can offer them activities and opportunities to learn more about diversity and interact with people who are different from them, we can offer them volunteer work and study abroad programs and community engagement, but they have to want to pursue those opportunities.  Making those sorts of things mandatory often doesn’t educate so much as it becomes a chore whose message they will reject, and we don’t want to do that, either.  Incorporating values of equality and diversity in the classroom is good, but then we get student feedback telling us that we’re coming on too strong with our message, and when that happens, students become dismissive and cling to their social microcosms.

The point is, you can’t educate people who don’t want to be educated.  Sometimes the best you can do is introduce and reinforce the notion that actions have consequences.  While that doesn’t mean people will ultimately take accountability or truly question their attitudes, at the very least, at the very least, perhaps they’ll think twice before being so vocal about expressing their hatred of, rejection of, or gleeful willingness to see harm come to populations of individuals to whom they feel superior.

I think OU’s response has been good so far, and I’m glad that the SAE leaders shut the chapter down.

However, I’m not convinced that those young men really learned anything from this.  My feeling from having worked on more than one majority-white college campus whose white students typically come from privileged families is that they’ll be so blinded by their privilege that they’ll never understand why that chant was so horrific or why shutting down the chapter was justified.  Many will have parents who will positively reinforce their sons’ behavior by defending and rationalizing it, and they’ll have supporters who will do the same.  And they will continue to be blind to how black people feel about the situation, and the issues and realities faced by people of color.

I hate to end on a note that’s not optimistic, but I feel like infusing this with a sense of “I hope someone learns from this” or “we can change the world” undermines the fact that shit like this happens constantly, that people of color deal with this sort of thing everyday, that this is not new and not an isolated situation.  I’ve been reading responses to this situation by people of color, and while they’re varied, the one thing I did hear many of them stress is that this situation is not surprising, shocking, or new.  I want to amplify that – that this is the sort of thing that happens and has always happened, that they deal with constantly, that just because it doesn’t explode into national news doesn’t mean it’s not happening.  It is.

Let’s not go too crazy celebrating body diversity in fashion just yet

I wanted to signal boost this Bustle article because it gets something really right that also really bothers me – the fact that the mainstream media is acting like the latest crop of plus-size models who have been celebrated and the concept of Size Acceptance is a new thing.  It’s a short article and worth the read.

If nothing else, read this quote:

I’ve seen this happen so many times before: Marginalized people work hard and hustle to get good at what they do and build up an audience on their own, only to find that there’s no place for them. The connections aren’t available, they’re told they’re too “provocative.” In general, humans just aren’t ready for them. To imply they don’t exist, though, or that they haven’t existed until the “new breed” of them, is just disingenuous and insulting. It suggests that people can only exist once the general population is cognizant of their existence.

I also want to point out something that I’ve seen more than one Fat Acceptance activist say – that while society is starting to kinda sorta embrace the “curvy girl” physique, it still excludes a number of fat people whose bodies aren’t shaped in the “right” way (i.e., hourglass).

So while I’m also somewhat happy to see the media praising and celebrating plus-size models, they lose points for me in not acknowledging the many Fat Acceptance activists who have been doing activism and writing about it and performing it in various ways for many years.  Also, we still have a long way to go to achieve true acceptance of body diversity, and the fashion world is only one small part of the many parts of society that need to change their attitude about fat.

Live Long and Prosper

LLAP

Leonard Nimoy, 1931 – 2015

I’ve been a fan of Star Trek since I was a kid, and the Spock character was always one of my favorites.  But aside from embodying an iconic character and just generally being a kick-ass dude, Nimoy also supported the Size/Fat Acceptance movement.

I own an incredible collection of photography that he put together called The Full Body Project in which he explored the nude form of a group of burlesque performers, none of whom have bodies that conform to narrow societal beauty standards, but all of whom are comfortable in and proud of the bodies they have.  Here’s the NYT review from 2007 in which Nimoy is interviewed.

RIP, Mr. Nimoy.  You made the world a better place.

(Please note: I found the above image through a Google Image search.  It was connected to a Pinterest account.  I have no idea if it’s copyrighted or who it belongs to, I just thought it was cool.  If it’s yours, I will credit or remove upon request.)