Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Headless Fatties Rant

Long before I became aware of the above term, the habit of many news stories of using headless shots of large bodies to illustrate the "unhealthiness" (you can read that more correctly as "ugliness" if you choose) of being fat enraged me.

I had vowed personally to pay close attention and if I ever recognized my own pants on the headless fat woman on the street, I would be calling a lawyer. And then I learned that others were outraged too.

I shouldn't have been surprised at this, but it was vindicating. I did not ever feel the same kind of vitriole about this from thinner friends (although I was probably making enough noise for both of us), and so hearing the outrage that others who are fat feel is reassuring.

It is perhaps a sign of how common a practice this is that I hardly notice anymore when it happens. Perhaps I've had to shut down my rage recently in lieu of things more pressing (like figuring out what was making me nauseous for the past year). But this morning, reading an article someone had forwarded to the Fat Studies listserv I'm on, I was shocked back into rage.

The picture that confronted me (and every other reader) was from a newspaper in Jamaica. It was trying to convince Jamaicans that they should not find fat attractive because it is unhealthy. This conflation of asthetics and health is continually horrifying to me, most especially because I work with chronically ill people (and have a chronic illness myself).

But they felt it necessary to pull out the biggest guns possible and introduced to the end of the article a torso-less fattie. The person in question (you could not even determine gender from the portrait) was seated in a type of chair that, let's be fair, makes any fanny less than admirable. So for the crime of sitting in a chair that many find uncomfortable and was never meant to be flattering this ass was captured on film.

I suppose that this hits me quite personally as well. One of the first body-related humiliations that I received was one day when I was probably about 6 sitting on a box in the park and hearing tittering behind me. 2 boys my age were drawing their own rendition of my ass and giggling. Now I was 6...my little bottom was curvy but not fat, and it was still horrifying.

It occurred to me this morning to be horrified, as well, that the feminist movement is not up in arms about this. At least, I haven't noticed it. They should be the first, I would think, to make the connection between the objectifying of a particular body part or portion (removing it from the context of the person it is connected to) as being wrong. Sure, they are used to the objectification-to-create-anonymous-sexual-object trope, but it's not such a leap to see that removing the person from the fattie creates a situation in which fatties become less-than. Thus opening the idea that we do not have to respect fat people as human beings.

Just a caveat...If you feel the need to make some sort of fat=death comment in response to this note (those of you who know me well will know better), restrain yourself. That's not what this note is about...and even if it were, there is never any excuse for dehumanizing another human being for any purpose, even if you believe it is for their own "good."

3 comments:

Aravis said...

I know what you mean about objectifying. I've noticed the way not showing people's heads depersonalizes them, seems to make it okay to talk about them as if they're not human, just a body. I don't blame you for feeling the way you do about this. :0(

ExecutiveDirector said...

As a somewhat official representative of the feminist movement (or whatever), I want to agree with you here. I do think that some elements of the feminist movement DO make the connection and are pissed off about any objectification or attacks on the body, especially women's bodies. But I will also say that many many in the feminist movement suffer from the same biases as anyone else in our society, including sexist blaming of other women for 'bad choices' about their bodies. Now I realize that this implies an idea that being fat is a 'choice' and I also know that you and I both agree (as bisexuals, among other things) that a) so what if it is a choice? and b) you can't oversimplify these things because for some people it is a choice and for some it is not, and really, who the fuck cares? Either way the thing (being fat, having an abortion, not having kids, having too many kids, being sexual with both men and women) is considered bad. I don't know if that was an answer or just a rant, but that's all I can offer!

Hyde said...

The whole thing about conflating aesthetics and health is absolutely ridiculous when there is still such a thing as "heroin-chic" and smoking is sexy... I'm with you on this one.