The time has come for me to wrap up my gig blogging about representations of fat in pop culture at Bitch Magazine, and I find myself reflecting on what I personally am taking away from the series. I went into the job with high hopes, thinking I was going to be able to really analyze some complicated issues surrounding portrayals of fatness. Instead I was met with hostility almost immediately, and I realized I was going to have to run a fat acceptance 101 course concurrent with analyzing fat in pop culture. Since I was there do to the latter, I made it clear I was not going to accept any discussion of whether fat was healthy or unhealthy. I did this because opening up the health issue for debate just enables those who would seek to shame fat people, blame rising health care costs on them, and openly “concern troll” under the guise of actual interest in fat people’s well-being. Naturally, this upset some people and there were cries of “intellectual oppression” and other such nonsense.

To digress a minute, commenting on an article online is not a right and I don’t feel the need to coddle commenters who feel like the writer OWES them something, such as a thorough education on a topic that was already discussed, when Google is quite easily available. As so many have said, oppressed people are not a learning opportunity and you need to take it upon yourself to become educated on a topic.

Although fat acceptance has been around for quite some time (and I personally have been writing about it since 1998), people still don’t seem to understand that it is a feminist issue. FEMINISTS don’t seem to understand. Traditional feminism breaks down at the intersections and clearly, this is one of them. Blogging at Bitch brought that realization front and center for me. It was somewhat disheartening to experience the pushback against fat being even simply a value-neutral word, much less a positive term. But I did take solace in the comments I got that were supportive, and the people who said they had learned something from the series.

I also learned that among many feminists there is still a gag reflex when it comes to fat. I was surprised at the amount of people who, to their credit, admitted that they had an immediate reaction of disgust at the story of Donna Simpson, a 604 lb. woman who expressed a desire to weigh 1000 lbs. so she could hold a Guinness World Record. I’m not making any extra value judgments on that story here, so don’t ask. I wrote that post to get people to think critically about their commitment to practicing fat acceptance, not to ask people to condone Donna’s choice. That particular post sparked many critical (to put it nicely) comments that were eventually moderated out, which angered the villagers and spawned more cries of intellectual policing. People, ostensibly feminists since it is a feminist site, were upset that they couldn’t speak to the health issues of Donna’s situation–but they ended up doing it anyway. All the same red herrings that are thrown about in discussions about the “obesity epidemic” on any number of non-feminist sites appeared in this discussion.

So, what did I learn? I learned that we have a long way to go in reconciling mainstream feminism with intersectionality, in this case fatness. I learned that many supposedly enlightened feminists will turn on you when you push their perceptions of what is covered under bodily autonomy. Actually, I already knew these things, they were just reinforced by the experience and I suppose I had kind of a rosy view of how fun this whole gig was going to be. I appreciate the support I did receive, and the editors of the site were extremely supportive as well. But it is pretty much always a thankless task to speak truth to power and to force people to think about things that are important yet uncomfortable to think about.

I’ll brush my shoulders off and prepare for the next challenge.

My “day job”, as it were, is seriously stifling my creativity. I spend all day doing things that are antithetical to creative thought. Filing, answering phones, fetching coffee. Not exactly stimulating work. My writing has to take a back seat, because the only time I have to work on it during the day is at my 45 minute lunch break, of which 30 minutes are taken up by eating. And of course, when I get home I’m mentally and physically exhausted and sometimes writing can seem like a chore. Which is horrible, because writing is so often my escape, my passion, my reason for living at times. I don’t have the resources to jump full time into freelancing, so I do the day job hustle like so many other creative types are forced to do to survive.

U.S. culture is such that your job is your identity. When you attend any group gathering, inevitably you’re asked “what do you do?” How people treat you is often tied up in your answer to this question. The majority of our time is spent working, and we’re expected to be upwardly mobile — to chase that promotion or that bonus or that raise. We’re not encouraged to grow as people, to enrich ourselves, or to improve societal conditions. Those things have to be done on what little free time you have, along with grocery shopping, taking care of children, eating, sleeping, or any number of other things that are basic to our survival but not important enough to merit reducing precious work hours. So many people today work without paid sick leave or insurance or vacation time or any of the perks that you might get working at better jobs, because we have to. In this economy, you can’t afford to be picky in your work choices. Sometimes it’s between unemployment or working without benefits. And our work culture is stifling our freedom as individuals instead of just a cog in a machine, a coffee jockey.

Some people are able to work doing what they love, or work for a good cause, and I wish I was one of them. I wish my job actually improved people’s lives or in some way helped the world be a better place. Unfortunately, I work to help rich people get nasty divorces and other rich people sue corporations for not giving them their “golden parachute” when they got let go as a partner. It’s hard to do that with a smile on your face, and I perform quite below par because I just am not interested in this work at all. I want to work writing anything, although if I got a shitty writing job doing copy for a corporation I probably would be dubious about it. But at least I’d be working doing the craft I’ve been honing since I was a little girl.

Our culture needs to encourage personal growth and working towards happiness rather than just the go-go-go system we’re in right now. I feel like we should all be able to pursue our dreams, and I know it’s idealist of me, but I just think the world would be a better place if we liked what we did all day. I always hear romanticism about European countries and the supposed “siestas” they take after lunch, and more than once I’ve jokingly asked my boss for a cot in the conference room. Of course, I’m not actually joking. Somehow I think the trend is towards demanding more productivity with less free time and lower pay, not accommodating workers with naps and longer lunch breaks.

And now I’m off to bed, only to wake up tomorrow and start running in the damn hamster wheel all over again. With copious amounts of coffee in me.

Tonight I did something I do less and less of these days — I came home and didn’t jump on the Internet. Didn’t rush through my meal to hurry up and check my e-mail only to be inundated with the day’s nauseating blog comments. Didn’t skip reading the book I’m almost finished with to see what’s going on with Twitter. Just fed the animals, changed, ate my dinner, watched Louie, and then sat down in the new dorm-room style circle chair I bought on sale at Target with said book I’m almost finished with.

I don’t want to go all Calculon on you by saying I was filled with a large number of powerful emotions, but I actually was. I was unplugged and I could hear myself thinking without the background noise of the fan keeping my laptop from burning my palms as I type. I thought about how my whole life is in light; fiber optics transmitting my thoughts to people I’ll probably never meet, silicon holding my words only to be revealed by the tickle of electricity sent to circuits triggered by the touch of my finger to a button. Where do my words go when I’m gone? The frantic pace of the Internet makes me feel that if I don’t check in every few hours, or every day, or every other day, all memory of me will vanish. Do people read my blog archives? Or do they simply absorb the missive I’ve sent for the day, then dash off to some other blog, where they’ll read something else that scoots my words out of the way to implant themselves in their place? If I didn’t post for a month, would you remember who I was? All you know of me is light. My picture appears to you in pixels and photons, but you don’t know the flesh behind them. And this is true for all of us who inhabit this world, who put their words out for consumption in blog form or comment form or tweet form or e-mail form. When we’re all gone, — all of us, including you — what will be left of us to know?

I’m a realist, I don’t expect our current mode of civilization to last for a thousand years or even a hundred years if we keep doing what we’re doing with no major modifications. When the time comes that there are no more working DVD players to play our DVDs, when our infrastructure is so dilapidated that we can’t access what’s left of the Internet, when there’s no electricity being generated to power our communications towers and our orbiting satellites come crashing to Earth from lack of maintenance, how will we remember what we are? How will whatever civilization rises after us, comprised of whatever beings have replaced us, know who we were? Civilizations we consider ancient today used decidedly more low tech materials to share their information, and we can pore over them today. We only need other low tech writings to teach us how to interpret the strange symbols their society used to communicate. I can’t even begin to figure out what a shiny CD has on it without benefit of fancy technology that, in our future as it stands to become now, will no longer exist. I can’t take out my laptop’s hard drive and flip through the circuits to find that short story I wrote 2 years ago. I can’t tell you one damn thing about what’s on that drive except through the low tech method of retelling memories — what I can remember about what I had on there. It’s kind of frightening to me, this impermanence. It feels like the knowledge about this golden age of history is a mere electromagnetic pulse away from becoming nothingness. I know, I know, I’m getting all existential up in this piece. But if you sit with it, it leaves you cold.

That’s why I’m obsessed with notebooks and pens and paper and books, why I’m putting together an anthology telling stories of women of color on paper, why I’m not too keen on e-books and I still buy CDs — hey, at least the liner notes and lyrics will still be readable. I don’t advocate some kind of neo-Luddite existence. I don’t think we need to start carving stone tablets. Just write some. Papryus is still around, I have hope that archival quality, acid-free paper will be too. Write your memories, journal daily, write your speculative autobiography. Write your parents’ or your significant other’s biographies. Leave your story for the climate refugees of the 2100s to read. Go out with your friends and tell each other your stories and write those down. Don’t let the only ones remembered be the ones lucky enough to get their words in print before the clock runs out.

Now excuse me while I go finish reading that book I’m almost finished with.

[cross-posted at Feministe]

So yesterday Jezebel contacted me and asked if they could republish “As Fat As I Wanna Be”, which I posted here I think a few days ago. Here’s the Jezebel link and all the glorious comments I’m preparing to shred. There are definitely those at Jezebel who get it, who don’t miss my point, and there have been those who get it as well with the last two posts of mine they’ve republished. So not everyone on Jezebel is a complete jackass. This goes back to my post inspired by the comments to one of my other republished posts there — I’m not writing Fem101 shit. My words are controversial to some because I express ideas that make some people uncomfortable. Like that we shouldn’t shame women over getting plastic surgery. Or that feminism is for the privileged, too. Or that choosing to be fat isn’t an invalid choice. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by some of the negative reactions I got.

Usually I would let this slide but I am getting a shit ton of traffic from there right now and I figure now’s a good time to set things straight because there’s a LOT of ASSuming going on.

Let’s start with the facts:

  • I developed gallstones from dramatic weight loss, NOT from eating like shit. In fact I was eating very healthfully at the time I had my first attack. I also had untreated hypothyroidism which contributed. SO I DID NOT EAT MYSELF UNHEALTHY as so many seem to think. I had my gallbladder out because I kept getting attacks even when NOT eating a fatty meal, I could eat nothing but broccoli and it would still happen and peripherally, which I addressed in the post, I did not like or follow the dietary restrictions on fat intake. SO SORRY! I am privileged enough to have private group health insurance, so I’m not taking your hard earned tax dollars!
  • Let’s take a time out here and examine what I just wrote. Now, I wrote the original post declaring that I shouldn’t have to explain my eating habits just because I’m fat. Here I am, and what am I doing? Explaining my eating habits because I’m fat. Look up, Jezzies. Do you see that point flying over your head? Catch it and get back to me.
  • Let’s say I’m doing what you think I’m doing, which is ruining my body with junk food. Do you remember in the beginning of the post where I said I am perfectly healthy? Do you really think my body is still somehow ruined? And IF I WAS RUINING MY BODY, WOULD IT BE YOUR BUSINESS? NO! IN FACT IT WOULD BE NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS so stop the “I can’t support someone with such disregard for their bodies” refrain because that can be applied to any fat person you want it to be applied to, regardless of their eating habits. That is exactly what I’m talking about. The whole comment thread is EXACTLY WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT.
  • NOWHERE did I ask for praise, hi-fives, compliments or “you go girl” statements for eating like shit. I don’t need validation regarding what I choose to stuff in my mouth. I’m sorry if you feel like my wanton gluttony is making your fat friends look bad because they exercise and eat right and here I am, blowing it for them, being the stereotype they try so hard not to be. My point was that, again, FAT PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE EXPECTED TO OUTLINE THE WAYS THEY’RE TRYING TO NOT BE FAT, OR THE MEASURES THEY TAKE TO COUNTER THE ILLEGITIMATE CLAIMS THAT FAT = UNHEALTHY. An aspect of my point is also summed up by the observant commenter “alibabathieves”:

    … its not about championing this poster’s decisions and saying they are good, but about how we should lay off of demonizing people just because of the way they treat their own bodies.

  • I am not: slovenly, giving up on myself, defeatist, killing myself, losing more than one organ, going blind, on the verge of dying, or any number of other perceived negative effects of my lack of healthy diet and exercise. I wash myself, I brush my teeth, I wear clean underwear, I wear deodorant. I mean, what do you want from me? You hear that I eat like shit and you assume I’m just collapsed in front of the pantry door every night eating anything in sight until OMG ONE DAY MY GALLBLADDER WENT BAD? BUT! AND I WILL CONTINUE TO TYPE IN CAPS FOR THIS! IF I ACTUALLY DID ALL THAT IT STILL WOULDN’T BE YOUR BUSINESS! YOU STILL WOULDN’T GET TO SHAME ME! AND I WOULD STILL HAVE A RIGHT TO BE FAT. I’m sure that’s disappointing and I’m sure you’ll keep right on judging. Just don’t do it where I can see you.
  • ALSO! I am not “stealing health” from cancer patients! It is totally out of my control that some people get cancer! It is not my fault that their cancer cannot be cured by simply eating healthier and exercising. That sucks, but it’s not my fault. If me exercising and eating well would cure their cancer you can bet I’d be on that treadmill in 2 seconds. Sadly, I don’t have those magical powers.
  • One last thing. I “plastered” this shit “all over the Internet” to try and raise some consciousness about different types of fat acceptance, the acceptance of fat people who may actually be able to lose weight but choose not to. Because it’s our business what we do with our bodies and that comment thread just proves how not up to the challenge most people are. I didn’t write it to feel better about myself, or to be bratty or have a “bad attitude” or any number of other accusations being thrown around. It was not supposed to be a debate on MY eating and exercise habits. It was originally posted here, on my blog, where commenters who are savvy have thoughtful discussions without all the “for your health” crap I’m getting off Jezebel. I love the editors of Jezebel, we’re cool. But the readers run all over the map.

And to the lone commenter who snarkily stated that my writing was unimpressive, I’ll be snarky back. Whose article are you reading, and whose article are you commenting on? Not yours! So I’d wager a guess that your beloved Jezebel editors find my work, 3 times now, pretty damn good. Thanks.

Oh and next time, Tasha, don’t read the comments.