Open Thread: Headless Fatties

Y’all, I want to talk (again) about the headless fatties used to illustrate articles on THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA. 

First, somebody just sent me a link to this old MeFi post by someone who recognized him/herself as a Headless Fatty on the local news. S/he asks if there’s any legal recourse, and the answer is pretty much no, but the ensuing discussion is really interesting.

Is it really defamatory — ethically, not necessarily legally speaking — to identify a fat person as a fat person? From an FA perspective, no, of course not — but it can still feel that way, even for someone who’s fine with her body.  The problem is not that your friends and relatives might watch TV and discover the big secret that you’re fat — it’s that you’re there as the embodiment of a freakin’ “crisis,” and more often than not, the reporting will reinforce that people like you brought this upon themselves, are emotionally dependent on food, are obviously sedentary, have no self-discipline, are suffering from serious health problems or will be soon, are costing other citizens money because of those health problems, yadda yadda. There are a whole lot of presumptions and implied insults there. But because those are only being thrown at “The Obese” in general — not at you, the specific person in the picture — all you can really argue is that they called you fat. Which you are. Not much of a case.

I do love this response from one of the commenters:

The alternative reaction is to parlay your displeasure into celebrity. Picket outside the station with a sign that says, “Why are my pants on TV?” Talk to every reporter in town. Contact some local DJs and see if they’ll put you on the air. People love little-guy-versus-authority stories, and if it’s about a garish pair of pants, all the better. Have fun.

I do not love that the original poster ultimately concluded that s/he needs to throw out the comfy, recognizable pants and lose weight. Sigh.

So there’s that. Second, somebody wrote to me asking if I had any thoughts on the “Headless Fatty” phenomenon, and I was like, “Oh, let me direct you to this perfect post I wrote!” Except then I searched the blog and realized I’ve never written that post. We talk about HFs all the time, but usually in comments on tangentially related threads.

I did find this one, where I remarked that the photos chosen are usually of people who would fall into the “morbidly obese” BMI  category — i.e., about 6% of the population — to illustrate articles about an OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA that’s comprised primarily of people with a BMI of 30-35. (It should go without saying that those in the “death fat” category deserve exactly the same rights and dignity as any other human being — but illustrating a so-called epidemic with pics of people who represent a very small percentage of the population is intentionally misleading.) That’s one point. But I still haven’t written the epic post I thought I’d written on how decapitating the fatties dehumanizes us, how the photos chosen are inevitably unflattering and clearly meant to evoke disgust rather than merely represent an ordinary fat person, how the headless fatty shot injects a bit of editorializing into even the most objective article, etc. 

Unfortunately, it’s almost 5 on Friday, and I’m done thinking for the week. So think for me, Shapelings! Your weekend assignment is to give me a brilliant thread on headless fatties that I can point to the next time somebody asks. Thanks!

111 thoughts on “Open Thread: Headless Fatties

  1. Yeah, as someone managing to stubbornly stay alive despite being over 300 pounds and clearly death fat, and who prides herself on being a statistical outlier whenever possible, it pisses me off that the media are attempting to make my body size seem like it’s average. Clearly I am exceptionally fat, here!

    Seriously, though, these pictures are clearly chosen to play into every fat prejudice and stereotype, and up the fear factor as much as possible. Also, what with the whole *headless* part and accompanying dehumanization (this isn’t a person, it’s just a body!), it removes the recognition that we’re talking about a real live human being, with all the attendant complexities. There is nothing I can see about headless fatty pictures, either in intention or execution, that is positive for fat people. I dunno if this necessarily means that finding a headless picture of yourself somewhere ought to be an actionable offense….but it’s certainly not a fucking compliment, and I think getting pissed off is understandable.

  2. Clearly I am exceptionally fat, here!

    You are indeed!

    More seriously, that goes along with the whole “fat is socially acceptable” meme I rant about in that linked post. Suggesting that “the obesity crisis” = everybody’s death fat = no one’s too fussed about fat anymore completely sidsteps the fact that you are subjected to way more naked hatred than I am, and I’m subjected to way more naked hatred than someone with a BMI of 25, and on down until you get to the underweight folks who get their own brand of body-hate. Acting as if folks in the death fat category represent a large portion of the population not only misleads the public about what “obesity” actually looks like in medical terms, but undercuts your right to be extra specially pissed off about this bullshit. :)

  3. It seems to me that, not only do they go out of their way to find exceptionally fat people, they try to find ones wearing fanny packs or with sweatshirts tied about their waists to make what is already unusually large seem even larger.

    It is my deeply cherished hope that someday a fattie will notice the camera, bend down, and wave cheerfully, and that this footage will be shown on some national spot when the very serious anchor is discussing how horrible and tragic life is for fatfatfatties with an equally serious “medical expert.”

  4. I just read “rethinking thin” and one of the OMG SUPER HUGE FATTIES in the 2-year diet experiment? Is my height and 6 pounds lighter than I was before I got pregnant. SOOOOO FUCKING FAT. It was a little jarring because, you know, yeah. I know I’m fat. And I’m really healthy… no problems with blood sugar or blood pressure or cholesterol or any of the other OOGABOOGA FATTY GONNA DIE ailments. I passed the GD screen with flying colors, no less. And here’s this book that is ostensibly positive or neutral towards fat people, and people with my body type are lumped into the megafatz group complete with unflattering deadly language.

  5. Recently, the noos reported that the city I live near, Huntington,WV, was the fattest in the nation. They really meant that the region–SW WV, Eastern KY, and S Ohio – had high numbers of deaths from the “killer obesity” diseases, and had few plafces to workout safely. To which Huntingtonians replied, in effect, “DUHH, assholes, we’re trying to fucking survive here in a depressed economy!”, which also was seen as a repugnant and lasy attitude. Of course fatties say that.
    What hurt me sooo much was a shot of “The lone woman walking down the street while the park was empty of walkers andsuch.” There was a butt shot of a young woman who I feel would be totally humiliated to be shown that way to the world. I felt so bad that I could know her, or run into her on the street-that is, if she ever goes walking on a street again!

    And the hyper-moral doctors get to reflect, ( in the article) with a tsk, tsk, we’ve got to educate(brainwash) the people to buy into —just BUY—DAMMIT—the skinny myth. They think they’re right!?! The docs are so ignorant and happy to be that way; they have the upper hand, and more money than the most of us here.

    Yes, I’m still steamed.

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a news item purporting to be about any other kind of “epidemic” show headless photos or footage of people suffering from it. For example, (some of that great anecdotal evidence) right now, there’s a story on the BBC News site about the alarming rise in measles in England and Wales. It is illustrated by a rather artsy photo of some bottles of MMR vaccine. It does not show a decapitated body covered in rashes.

    That makes me wonder–how are the headless fatty photos supposed to contribute to the report? Are they supposed to show us what fat people look like, in case we don’t know? A field guide to diagnosing obesity?

  7. I know this is about the HF and not the BMI, but the BMI thing drives me nuts. I would need to lose 70 lbs to get to obese class 2. And I have no real health problems. Healthy pregnancy with no issues (and I lost all the 50 lbs of weight I gained during the pregnancy immediately). BP OK. Cholesterol fine. AND I EVEN BUY NON PLUS SIZED CLOTHES ON OCCASION. (OK, not pants. But I have some XXL dresses and sweaters and tees that fit me just fine, and I even bought a L shirt at the Gap a couple of months ago). Yeah I’m fat. I get it. But really, I’m going to keel over any second? I don’t THINK so.

  8. Richelle, that is such a great point! Only one of the many ways in which people can’t be consistent with their pathologizing of fat — it’s a disease until you want to start blaming people for it, or discriminating against people for it, or making fun of people for it, which of course is illegal or at least unethical when it comes to diseases. The rest of the time, of course, it’s all about health!

  9. It seems to me that, not only do they go out of their way to find exceptionally fat people, they try to find ones wearing fanny packs or with sweatshirts tied about their waists to make what is already unusually large seem even larger.

    So true—and they also try to find really fat people (I’m also one of the 6% death fat) wearing skintight clothing, sloppy or wrinkled clothing, and especially on the ladies, shirts that do not cover asses or are tucked in, so we can see belly and ass fat for that extra panic shot.

  10. I’m so tired of these ZOMFG!! OBESITY! CRISIS! FAT TERROR LEVEL RED!! omg omg!!!111oneone!!1 fucking articles.

    The headless photos are just another way of society throwing this sticker on you, to make you feel bad; and try to force you to feel bad and that you’re of lower human worth.

    I don’t have the link, because it was posted a long time ago, but Yahoo (a “news” engine that’s just a fuckload of shit much like MSN) had a series of articles about some poverty-stricken town in West Virginia being this “anomaly” because of all these OMG TEH MORBIDLY OBESE FATTIES were going to take the whole town over….then used the nostalgia trump saying that everyone was in great shape when it was a mining town way back in the day because they “ate the same unhealthy foods but burned it all off in hours of grueling manual labor”.

    My band passed through Wheeling, WV some years ago. Saw about the same amount of fat people I see here in the ghettos of New York! Just another fat-biased media outlet, tis all…

    To get back to the topic though, the headless fatty photos are just as demeaning as other forms of objectification and dehumanization: and notice that most of the photographs’ subjects are women? I’ve only seen 2, maybe 3 men. Naturally it has to be a woman that the media and government want to enforce low self-worth on because of her body type.

  11. First, somebody just sent me a link to this old MeFi post by someone who recognized him/herself as a Headless Fatty on the local news.

    This truly used to be a nightmare of mine. Every single “ZOMG OBESITY EPIDEMIC!!!” story that was clearly shot in the city I lived in, I was petrified that one of those headless fatties would be me.

    The problem is, I have never been fat enough to qualify for a HF shot. And I knew that, I did. But the fact that they’re faceless, the fact that obesity is AN EPIDEMIC and SNEAKING UP ON US and (like a recent article I had to swear about a lot on my own blog) SOME FATTIES DON’T EVEN KNOW THEY’RE FAT … I was sometimes seriously questioning if I just didn’t know that I was That Fat, and wondering if one day the helpful news people would enlighten me by displaying *my* ass and stomach to the world.

    So the headlessness serves a lot of different purposes: without faces, the fatties are anonymous not-real-people whose lives and experiences and diets and activity levels can be assumed based on their size, AND they’re a blank slate for people to project themselves onto, either worrying that maybe I DO really look like that (and looking like that must be the End of the World!!!) or if I don’t join the diet programme guaranteed to be plugged in the next ad break, I WILL look like that!!!

  12. It seems to me that, not only do they go out of their way to find exceptionally fat people, they try to find ones wearing fanny packs or with sweatshirts tied about their waists to make what is already unusually large seem even larger.

    Yes. Not to mention that they’re also often holding some stereotypically fatty food, like a drumstick or ice cream.

  13. Reuter’s used to have one in rotation that had me shaking with outrage: the lower body of a fat, apparently nude woman on an exam table shot directly from above, the flesh of her thighs covering her pudendum. So, not only headless, not only dehumanized, but trebly vulnerable and exposed to implied medical personnel and the gaze of the viewer.

    There is absolutely no reasonable excuse for a shot like this.

    I’ve only seen 2, maybe 3 men.

    What I’ve noticed about the headless shots of fat men used, is that they tend to be of men with especially prominent bellies, but who are not necessarily very fat elsewhere — who look almost as if they were pregnant, in other words, and I’ve wondered if that were indeed the subtext: that fat feminizes men, makes them less than real men, even as the headless shots strip them of identity.

  14. I always wonder how they get those shots, and if someone were to try and take one of me, would I notice? And if I did notice, would I have the guts to flash them, which is what I’d want to do?

  15. I can’t think of anything brilliant regarding this topic. I’m too busy thinking, “That’s MY body.”

    That’s my body. Those headless fatties have the same body I do. It’s a fat lady in a freakshow body. It’s a line up buy tickets to see something you’ll never believe body. It’s MY body. And I don’t appreciate being treated like a freak by mass media and the people who comment on it.

    I’m not just a rare faceless statistic. I’m not just a random minority being used to shame others into being afraid of their bodies. I’m a person who is having my body commented on by countless people every time a story like that runs.

    I’m not an exception. I’m a person. I’m not a headless fatty. I’m a human being. Cut my head off and I’m still a human being.

    Here’s my point. That person that is being held up as an example of a fate to be avoided is someone who loves people. Somebody loves that person, probably many somebodies: friends, lovers, parents, siblings, coworkers. That person loves life. That person thinks and feels and laughs and cries and gets sick and heals. All those things happen in that body just like they do in every other body.

    We’re not just talking about pictures and society and how people react to a body. We’re talking about how society reacts to a person. You don’t think people are mean enough to say that stuff to my face? I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard worse than you have because people tell me what they really think without cleaning it up for polite company.

    That’s my body.

    So, I have nothing brilliant to say about it. All I have is some hard won self-respect because what other people think doesn’t demoralize me anymore because I figured out my worth as a person. My life would be a lot more fun if other people could figure it out to, but they won’t. It doesn’t stop me fighting, but I know the reality of the fight. We will always win ground, but we will never win the war because people will always find a reason to hate as long as they hate themselves.

    I fight for what I need: self-respect, proper medical care, autonomy. I don’t have to change human nature to get those things. I just have to change enough minds to carve a space for me and people like me in the world.

    I’m not knocking ideals. You have to shoot for the stars to reach the moon. I’m just saying that’s where the rubber meets the road, so don’t get so caught up in ideals that you give up fighting because people “just don’t get it.” They don’t have to. They just have to give me MY space. They just have to give us our space.

    So, I am not demoralized by what people say about bodies like mine because I know the value of my body and I don’t need them to agree with me. I just need them to respect me just enough for me to be able to have the things I need.

    Like I said, nothing brilliant, just heartfelt and poorly communicated. I’ll work on brilliant later.

  16. Is it really defamatory — ethically, not necessarily legally speaking — to identify a fat person as a fat person? From an FA perspective, no, of course not — but it can still feel that way, even for someone who’s fine with her body. The problem is not that your friends and relatives might watch TV and discover the big secret that you’re fat – the problem is…

    You could finish that sentence in a lot of different ways.

    This is how I would finish it:
    …the problem is that they are pathologizing your body.

    Or alternatively:
    …the problem is that they are pathologizing you.

    Or perhaps:
    …the problem is that they have already decided that being fat is shameful, and they are conveying that view to the world, regardless of how you actually feel about your body. Hell, in this case, they didn’t even ask you.

    How would you finish the sentence?

  17. twilightriver, your whole comment was righteous and awesome, but especially this:

    Here’s my point. That person that is being held up as an example of a fate to be avoided is someone who loves people. Somebody loves that person, probably many somebodies: friends, lovers, parents, siblings, coworkers. That person loves life. That person thinks and feels and laughs and cries and gets sick and heals. All those things happen in that body just like they do in every other body.
    We’re not just talking about pictures and society and how people react to a body. We’re talking about how society reacts to a person.

  18. Strangely, in whatever commercial media I am most likely to watch (I live in Australia), males are the most common HFs. The quintessential image is a guy in an ill-fitting t-shirt with stomach hanging out below over a pair of equally ill fitting shorts, generally with a burger and/or coke in hand.

    I think that may be because the main image the photographers want to portray is the meandering, junk food eating slob who doesn’t care about themselves enough to even dress acceptably. Because it is, in general, easier to find a bloke than a woman who doesn’t care much about how they dress, the shots are more likely to be men.

    Maybe there is a more charitable explanation, but I doubt it. I believe there is very explicit intent to equate fat with slob, junk food, unattractive, irresponsible, directionless and any number of other things these images are deliberately designed to elicit. Taking their heads away makes it easier for the editors to live with themselves.

  19. All right. I hope this is okay here… it is related, but I’m unsure of the extent to which it is related. If it’s not close enough to what’s going on here, and it’s possible to delete it, please do…

    Every time we have an “obesity epidemic/panic and headless fatty!” discussion, people here generally give data like their height, weight, and general health, as a reference point for their own experiences, especially when it comes to comparing oneself to the Standard of OMG Death-Fat as presented by teh mediaz.

    Okay, so, most people here, it seems, know an awful lot about their own bodies and health. Which is cool. But it just makes me realize how much I utterly don’t.

    I know how tall I am. I am five feet tall, and, depending on whether I am in shoes or which doctor office I am in, either one or two inches.

    I kind of, sort of know what I weigh. I mostly don’t weigh myself, because I’m afraid to get obsessive over it. I think I weigh somewhere in the league of 170. It could be more. It could be less. It’s something like that. And, it does fluctuate a bit, especially depending on my stress levels, probably more than than any other factor, in fact. When I get depressed I gain, when I get anxious I lose, when I am happy, I don’t know, or care. Ha ha.

    As for my general health, cholesterol levels, condition of my heart, or any numbers related to the tracking of my levels of OMG Impending Death… clueless. Dunno. Never even had a mammogram, actually. My heart could explode tomorrow, and I’d be standing over my body, scratching my head, saying, “who knew?”

    It makes me wonder if I ought to be more proactive about that kind of thing. On one hand, I’m only 26, but on the other hand, I’m more than a quarter of a century old.

    I guess it’s partly another “Good Fatty” vs. “Bad Fatty” thing, how much you keep track of/ take care of yourself. And certainly, a lot of other things seem much more important, just now, than trying to tack on giving a shit about my health to everything else on my plate. But, this has given me something to think on, I suppose.

    Okay, so that was the lead-in, so here is (what I think/hope is anyway) the related-to-this-issue question. Is it the articles and doctors and media pressure, like this very headless-fat phenomenon, that encourages us to be so in-the-know about everything right down to the pH of our bloodstreams? Or is it a personal dedication to trying to make the best of the soul-vessel? Or a mix of the two? Any general ideas on this? I really think in some ways if I tried to “track” my health, it would be so easy to get just as obsessive and UNhealthy about it as when I used to obsessively track my weight.

    Just another reason these stupid articles and news pieces need to freaking stop. The general aura of stress that is cultivated by and encouraged in our modern culture is going to kill us all a lot faster than obesity!!!

    Hmm. I also have other, more direct opinions on headless fatties but the brainings just aren’t with it at the moment so I’ll have to come back to this.

  20. The headless fatties are to me somewhat analogous to photos in advertisements that show only (mostly women’s) torsos, hands, breasts, whatever, but rarely their faces. Because really, the purpose is the same: to dehumanize the body and turn it into a prop to sell something, whether it be the ZOMG OBESITY EPIDEMIC GO JOIN WW or perfume and jewelry.

  21. Australia does seem to have a disproportionate amount of male HFs, but definitely photographed belly-first in ill-fitting clothing or shirtless. My one happy HF story is one taken by my local newspaper, in a highly recognisable location, of a HF eating…OMG A SALAD ROLL! The next week, the letter column had almost a page of angry comments from readers, about photographers stalking women, about asking permission, and about WTF is the poor woman supposed to eat, if she’s being demonised for a healthy lunch? I was thrilled!

  22. I think the HF phenomenon is a startlingly graphic depiction of the fact that our culture really does separate people’s (especially women’s) heads from their bodies. Your body is an enemy to be vanquished. Your body (if you’re fat, and according to the diet ads) doesn’t reflect who you “really are.” Your body is subject to public scrutiny, and the “verdict” of clothing sizes. Your body is something you think (or are told you *should* think) about constantly, putting your identity and the vessel that carries it in direct conflict with each other. Somewhere in the middle of this insanity is the truth, the still small voice which is so hard for so many of us to access: Our bodies are as sacred and as predetermined as our brain wiring and our identities.

    BTW having had a child, I am also bothered by “headless pregnant” shots for a somewhat similar reason- here the body shape may be sanctified instead of vilified as with the HFs, but it is just as reductionist and objectifying. I think this whole headless-body thing is the sign of a deep soul sickness I can’t quite put my finger on, but I bet one of y’all can and will!

  23. The thing that I find most interesting about HFs is how out of sync they are with the articles they tend to illustrate. I remember eating up articles about the horrible fatties and how disgusting and lazy they were during my restricting days, when I was also at a BMI of between 30 and 22. The articles I was reading were about people at my highest weigh, lets call them the ordinary fattiest. The HFs in the pictures look more like I do now, after gaining 100 pounds, the extraordinary fatties. The articles are generally addressing someone with that “extra 20 pounds” not someone who can rest things on the area above their belly button. (The little perks that I’d never considered a year or two ago!)

    In short, the HF pictures are scare tactics tantamount to showing a cougar in an article about rabbits plaguing the gardens of suburbia, in order to sell more papers to parents of toddlers. I am cougar-level fat; don’t be comparing me to no bunnies.

  24. SugarLeigh, if you are in your 20s and nothing especially is bothering you health-wise, if nothing really hurts and your appetite and thirst levels haven’t changed dramatically and there are no weird lumps or bumps or moles that have shown up all of a sudden and you haven’t gained or lost a great deal of weight in a very short period of time, I’d say, forget about it and just enjoy yourself. Deaths from natural causes in people your age are very, very rare, and in fact, don’t (at least in the U.S.) amount to anything statistically significant until you’re 45. And even then it’s not that high, until you get to be about 65.

    That’s what’s killing me about the “headless fatty” stuff. The very purpose of it is to get people to freak out and go I’M GONNA DIE LAST WEEK IF I DON’T SLIM DOWN, WHAT AM I DOING TO MYSELF?!?!?!? But age is still the biggest cofactor by far in morbidity and mortality. Second is genetics. Third is socioeconomic status. Almost every cofactor that you can think of for natural-cause morbidity and mortality is connected to one of those things.

    As Paul Campos said in The Obesity Myth, even the most fatphobic epidemiologists acknowledge that there is no link AT ALL between fat and early death starting at age 65. After that, who dies when is basically a crapshoot. So basically what they’re trying to get us to believe is that somewhere between 45 and 64, if we aren’t slimmed down, BOOM, our hearts and/or heads go splodey and that’s it.

    Problem with that argument is that in that age group, the highest percentage cause of mortality (though it still doesn’t cover anywhere near a majority of deaths) is not heart disease or strokes, it is cancer. And I hate to break it to the haters, but the types of cancer that have statistical association with higher BMIs tend not to be the ones with the lowest survival rates.

    But we can’t have women not freak out about their health and not be ashamed of their appetites or their bodies. Our entire economy would collapse.

  25. Is it the articles and doctors and media pressure, like this very headless-fat phenomenon, that encourages us to be so in-the-know about everything right down to the pH of our bloodstreams? Or is it a personal dedication to trying to make the best of the soul-vessel? Or a mix of the two? Any general ideas on this?

    SugarLeigh, I think that’s a good question. Generally speaking I think those do factor in. But there’s also all sorts of idiosyncricies. I started tracking some of that stuff because my mom would keep telling me it “runs in the family”. Now I track it because I post it on my blog….!

    On one hand, I’m only 26, but on the other hand, I’m more than a quarter of a century old.

    When I was 26 I didn’t track that either. I’m 42. Toss in that my mother died three years ago after dealing with hypothyroid, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and dementia – and the first three had shown up by the time was 40? Suddenly I think about it more.

  26. “So true—and they also try to find really fat people (I’m also one of the 6% death fat) wearing skintight clothing, sloppy or wrinkled clothing, and especially on the ladies, shirts that do not cover asses or are tucked in, so we can see belly and ass fat for that extra panic shot.”

    This is a slightly off-topic post, but I just want to point out that apparently fat people don’t “deserve” decent, well-fitting and well-made clothes. I am 5′ 5″, 175 lbs, and a size 14, and I have a hard enough time finding clothes that I like (I barely fit the largest top size at nearly ALL my favorite clothing stores; luckier with jeans and pants tho’). I am guessing it is more difficult to find nice, well-made, decent clothes if you are a good deal larger.

    Either that or I’m really missing out on some “Diagon Alley” of fabulous, fat clothes for 31 year old women who don’t want to wear a muu muu, lots of elastic, or “optical illusion” tricks!

  27. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I think that the headless fatty phenomenon is very illustrative of the historical Western mind/body divide. The body is material, distracting, sinful. The mind is immaterial, pure. This sort of thing has been going on since the ancient Gnostics, and people have abused their bodies in a myriad of ways in hopes of somehow purifying their minds and spirits. Self-flagellation, the notion that to bathe is to commit the sin of vanity, fasting (and I’m not talking Ramadan style fasting, where you eat after sundown; some of the really fanatic Christians would go for weeks at a time without eating ANYTHING), enforced celibacy. The body became the enemy of the soul.

    Except… the two really aren’t all that separate. Electricity flashes through neurons in a living brain. Is that a thought of the mind, or an action of the body? Could it be both? I think so. Our bodies are not mere shells, and certainly not our enemies. We are just beginning to understand the myriad ways in which the mind affects the body, and vice versa. I have achieved some degree of control over my seizures with meditation and biofeedback, and if that doesn’t demonstrate a mind-body connection, I don’t know what does.

    The people promoting the image of the headless fatty are firmly entrenched in the old school of the mind/body divide. They want us to hate and fight against our bodies because, surprise surprise, there’s money in diets, weight loss pills, and exercise equipment. Working with one’s body? Not nearly so much money in that! I hope to see the day when the philosophy of the mind and body as enemies is relegated to history books, and my grandchildren ask me if people really cut up their stomachs just to be thinner, because they read about it but it sounds too horrible to be true…

  28. Yeah, the HF phenomenon is meant to shame the people they show. On the surface, it’s “Let’s be SENSITIVE and not show their faces, because that would just be too humiliating for them.” Underneath, it’s “And they SHOULD be humiliated, those Fatty McFatalots! We’re not gonna show their faces because just walking around being fat is humiliating enough!” So they can point and laugh at the HFs, all the while pretending to be “protecting their identity” (and saving their own asses from being sued).
    UGH!

  29. SugarLeigh: I get regular physicals, gyno exams, etc., because 1) I was brought up to see the doctor regularly, and just kept doing so after I left home, 2) I have various health issues in the family that I’d like to keep an eye on, and 3) Doctors won’t give me drugs unless I come in for checkups. Since I’m on anti-depressants, allergy drugs, birth control, and thyroid medication, they’re pretty much guaranteed to have me come in with decent regularity for the rest of my life.

    As far as why I remember all of my random numbers from blood tests and the like, either they’re important (my thyroid hormones, my A1C, which was high, and will shortly start suggesting diabetes unless it goes down), or they’re normal, and I like to throw them back at the doctors who think I’m sick because I’m fat (my blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.). Mostly, I’m just kind of self-absorbed, and like knowing stuff about me. I think it’s fascinating. I also think my masseur telling me stuff about my back is fascinating, as is anything else anyone knows about me that I don’t know.

    So, if you feel ill, go to a doctor. If you want to have regular physicals, check the fat-friendly physicians list, but otherwise, I don’t see a special reason to go. And you don’t need a mammogram for at least another 10 years, longer if you have no family history of breast cancer. They’re mostly for older women.

  30. “This is a slightly off-topic post, but I just want to point out that apparently fat people don’t “deserve” decent, well-fitting and well-made clothes. I am 5′ 5″, 175 lbs, and a size 14, and I have a hard enough time finding clothes that I like (I barely fit the largest top size at nearly ALL my favorite clothing stores; luckier with jeans and pants tho’). I am guessing it is more difficult to find nice, well-made, decent clothes if you are a good deal larger.”

    Absolutely true, Kelly. I’m a larger “in-betweenie” myself, at 5’8″ or 5’9″ depending on the day, and about a size 16 ish or 18 ish. I can find some stuff at “regular” stores, like NY&Co, because I happen to be the shape some of those stores cut for at that size. I do not have this kind of luck at Lane Bryant most of the time, nor Old Navy, and the Gap is right out. Their clothes all seem to be cut for a fit model who has smaller breasts and larger arms than I do, so things hang funny and look kind of lumpy.

    More on topic, I really, seriously hate the Headless Fatty pics they all use. And, this may sound weird, but I wish they would come take a picture of me. Seriously. Come on news media, get a shot of me, because THIS is what most “obese” people look like. What you might think of as “curvy” or “chunky,” or even “soft.” Some might use the words “real woman,” as if those larger or smaller than myself are somehow imaginary. I digress. My point is, if you really feel the need to illustrate your sensationalist bullshit with an image of an obese person, let’s at least use an image that’s more typical of what “obesity” really looks like in most cases. The supersized people of the world take enough shit on a daily basis as it is.

  31. These comments are so brilliant and thought provoking! I almost snorted milk at:
    “I am cougar-level fat; don’t be comparing me to no bunnies.”

    One point that really struck me is Richelle’s:
    “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a news item purporting to be about any other kind of “epidemic” show headless photos or footage of people suffering from it.”

    These HF pics are just like the anecdotal way people see the “obesity epidemic.” I have heard so many folks say “I never used to see so many fat kids” or “Go to the mall and you’ll see way more fat people than you used to.”

    I also suspect the HF footage in news stories encourages this kind of thinking- after people see a few of these “OMG worst nightmare death fat” stories on the news, they might see their friends or people on the street in a new way, and notice more people who are like the HFs. I’m not saying fat people were invisible to them before (although in some cases that’s true), but that the HF photos categorize fat bodies and label them. And as many have pointed out, linking them to stereotyped behavior.

    What I personally hate about HF shots is the same thing I hate about all fat hate incidents- they focus on one aspect of life and no other. The photographers, just like concern trolls and hate-speakers, have no idea about the life stories they’re judging. Is that the first ice-cream cone the targeted fatty has eaten in years, or the 51st that day? Is walking down the street the only exercise s/he is getting that day, or has s/he already cycled 15 miles before work? It’s no-one’s business, and all fatties, “bad” or “good” deserve respect. But shallow assumptions and decapitation in HF pics drain out all of the complexity of lived experience and leave just one thing: fat.

    I think in the end I mean something similar to twilightriver, but with less passion and poise!

  32. This post reminded me of something I ran across online yesterday (I was googling for information on vegan nutrition, not diet info, but the site I’m about to link is really anti-fat pro-diet so don’t read the crap, just look at the photo!)

    The text on this page is your typical “Rah rah OMG obesity we’re all going to die and fat people are evil” bullshit, but I was struck by the photo they chose to illustrate it. Isn’t she beautiful? I mean, if that’s not an photo that says, YAY FAT LOOK AT GLOWING HEALTHY FAT PERSON, then what is? Plus, the pizza looks yummy.

    If more news articles and blog stories about fat illustrated them like that instead of with a headless fatty, I bet there’d be fewer people worrying that they might end up fat (cos, you know, being really fat means you get DECAPITATED).

  33. What I find interesting about the person who found themselves represented as a headless fatty on TV, is how did they not know they were being shot?

    I mean, do the photgraphers or camera people hide in the bushes? Actually, this is starting to remind me of when Ren & Stimpy would go out to hunt a Lummox. Which, was a really stereotyped version of fat men, but it also was making fun of itself in it’s over-the-top-ness. It’s interesting that actually seems to have come to life now, considering the headless fatty phenomenon.

    As far as what I would do if I was caught as a headless fatty, I really don’t know. I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable putting myself in the media to counteract what was done.

    I have thought, some brave people could wear t-shirts that have a snarky statement on them referring to the cameramen that would turn them into a headless fatty on the back. So when they got footage of them, they’d have to deal with being crticized for their own behavior.

    It could say something like, “Believe it or not, I do have a head!” or “It’s called a waiver!” referring to how, with other people they need to have signed a waiver before being shown on TV.

    Of course, I’m all for throwing baby donuts at the camera person too!

  34. I hesitate to say this because I believe my experiences and perceptions are my own and thus individualized to myself regarding fat acceptance and the media’s portrayal of the obese. That being said, and the fact that I am human and seek out similary minded people, it just feels like discrimination to me to see headless fatties paraded behind the talking points meant to scare people or influence policy.

    It’s as if the media (and society for that matter) has been so “good” at not discriminating against people (out loud that is) who are a different race, religion, culture, ability, etc. etc., that they are laughing giddily at the chance to make fun of SOMEONE/ANYONE without being seen as politically incorrect. They all seem to heartily jump on the bandwagon at the chance to degrade, humiliate, or chastise someone publicly or privately because it’s been so long since that’s been acceptable!
    What deplores me the most is that people who wouldnt DREAM of calling someone a derogatory name based solely on their skin color, religious beliefs, heritage, ethnicity, physical abilities, or whatnot, have the audacity to tell a living, breathing, beautiful human being that she is disgustingly fat—AND OTHERS WOULD BACK HER UP!

    Now, I know this is a sensitive subject, and I tread lightly here….but that kind of negative behavior is never ok, regardless of the circumstances. Being fat has become a morality issue when it isn’t even about morals at all. Society should and does chastise criminal behavior because of its damage on human beings and the devastating impact of that criminal’s actions has consequences for the rest of us in some way, shape or form. The size of someone’s bottom in Tallahasee FLA has no negative impact on my life in Seattle, regardless of what the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical doctors,etc. say. Insurance costs are higher today because of advances in medicine and medical equipment and loads of other politically and profiteering bullshit spoonfed to the masses via evening news soundbytes.

    I used to believe that the disparaging looks I recieved from other people meant they were disgusted with me because they had a miserable life trying to stay thin and fit, while I seemed free to eat what I want and not work as hard as they do to maintain their size (ie jealousy). I still believe that some may feel that way, but most truly believe that somehow, my being obese takes money out of their pockets, food off their table, is the root of their 401k nosedive, and caused their job to be sent overseas!

  35. I also suspect the HF footage in news stories encourages this kind of thinking- after people see a few of these “OMG worst nightmare death fat” stories on the news, they might see their friends or people on the street in a new way, and notice more people who are like the HFs.

    I think this is so true. It’s like when waiting for someone who drives a blue car. And you suddenly think, why are there SO MANY blue cars around? Next day, you’re waiting for a red car, and red cars are EVERYWHERE.

  36. What deplores me the most is that people who wouldnt DREAM of calling someone a derogatory name based solely on their skin color, religious beliefs, heritage, ethnicity, physical abilities, or whatnot, have the audacity to tell a living, breathing, beautiful human being that she is disgustingly fat—AND OTHERS WOULD BACK HER UP!

    Regina T –

    Please don’t do that. Just don’t.

    The oppression olympics are gross. Even in the fatosphere.

    Go look at Policy #11. (Oh man, Kate et al? What with TNH’s gross, racist behavior recently in the blogosphere, I’d like to be one vote in favor of taking down the reference to her at the start. I used to be an admirer of her moderation skills until… stuff.)

  37. Some months ago I was reading an article about how the obesity epidemic (ZOMG!!!) is starting to encroach on China since the Chinese are starting to have the same abundance of food that we have. The accompanying photo was a very unflattering image of a Chinese man eating as he walked down the street.

    However dehumanizing the headless fatty images are, none of them pissed me off as much as that photo. First, there’s no way that publishing that photo would be legal in the U.S. If he were American, he could sue that newspaper, but of course furriners don’t get the same rights we have. Second, it was clearly a deliberately unflattering photo with a clear judgment of: look at that fatty stuffing his face. I also couldn’t help feeling that the image was racist. Someone earlier in this thread mentioned how fat men are often feminized. It seemed like that photo was doing that, and we in the U.S. have a long history of feminizing Asian men, whether they’re overweight or not.

  38. Electrogirl, not pedantic at all… I’ve been meaning to post on how mind/body dualism is behind a lot of our attitudes towards fat. I’m too dumb/sick to do it right now, though, so I’m glad you did. :)

    Elusis, what’s the story with TNH? You can email me…

  39. (Oh man, Kate et al? What with TNH’s gross, racist behavior recently in the blogosphere, I’d like to be one vote in favor of taking down the reference to her at the start. I used to be an admirer of her moderation skills until… stuff.)

    Elusis, can you email us about that? I haven’t heard anything.

    And yes, Regina T, the media would and do dream of “calling someone a derogatory name based solely on their skin color, religious beliefs, heritage, ethnicity, physical abilities, or whatnot.” This is why we don’t play Oppression Olympics here.

  40. I will confess this has been bugging me for awhile around the fatosphere: why mention that the “face” (or the “headless fatty, most often) only represents the fattest of the fats and not the real situation regarding tubbiness in America?

    Yes, it’s intentionally misleading—but when it’s brought up, I feel like I’m hearing “well, if everyone was like that, then yeah, you should panic—but they’re not, only 6% of people are, so no need to!”

    As a fatter fat, reading that stipulation makes me feel excluded from the discussion, like being at the upper end of the fat spectrum means I need to be set apart for some reason.

  41. SugarLeigh: About the only routine health measure that most doctors would recommend for someone your age are checking your blood pressure and getting Paps (with STD screening if you’re sexually active).

    While some do check cholesterol, many don’t check until 30, which is what the US Preventive Service Task Force recommends. Other stuff is more based on symptoms or family history (like checking cholesterol earlier if a parent had a heart attack really young).

    This is pretty neat: you can put in age and sex and see what the official recs are or preventive health and how strong the rec is (based on how much evidence there is for it): http://epss.ahrq.gov/ePSS/search.jsp
    Obviously just one set of guidelines, and maybe too technical to be of interest to the general public, but y’all are some smart folks who might like it.

  42. Regina – I would dispute the idea that our media has been anything resembling “good” about diversity. Yes there are a few words you cannot say on the air or in “polite company” anymore but there are a billion other methods for spreading hate about people for being different and every single one of them gets used. We are still frequently racist, sexist, ableist and homophobic as a society and our media reflects that. A lot.

    Meowser – of course, now that the economy *is* collapsing, I wonder if they’ll find a way to blame it on the wimmins somehow, even though last time I checked most of the captains of industry running banks and corporations were old white dudes. *sigh*

    I agree the HF shots tend to contribute to the pathologizing of all fat. There’ve always been very large people, but when the only time you see a person that big in the media is when they are being equated with the downfall of Western (and now Eastern, apparently) civilization because they’re so dangerously fat that we could all catch it from them, they become the barbarians at the gate, the Others of whom we should be afraid. So the next time you are out in the world and you see someone of superior size, you don’t think “Hunh” and just keep going, you think “OMG RUN AWAY!” Or “OMG I MUST GO TELL THAT PERSON THEY ARE DESTROYING OUR SPECIES!”

    It’s Othering. Footage of starving children in Africa or Asia produces a similar psychological result, but it’s at a geographical remove. When the only times Americans see news footage of Africa is during coverage of wars or famines, we assume there is no civilization on that continent. No cities, no culture, no middle class at all. Just starving people scratching in the dirt or killing each other. Not to dismiss the genuine problems going on in various African countries, but there is more to the continent than what the American news media shows us. However, you have to realize that for yourself.

    Fat people are Others, and the HF shots, while condemning the HF and anyone who looks like that, encourage us to do the same to any people of larger size we run across in real life. And those stories also put ALL fat people into the Other category, from which we conveniently could escape if we were only strong/moral/good enough to get ourselves out. It’s a switch from some types of Othering that are based on genetic or social factors the person cannot control (race, religion) but the process is similar, and the effect is still damaging.

    DRST
    Free Hungry!

  43. Disclaimer up front: I’m really hoping that you all will see this comment not as trollish but as the genuine request for education that it is.

    I totally agree that so many things about the way the obesity “crisis” is reported are terrible, starting from calling it a crisis at all. The judgmental, hateful tone of many of these articles should be unacceptable to everyone. And the idea of taking a picture of someone without their permission and then using them as an example of a terrible thing is awful and shameful.

    But I’ve always felt that using a headless picture was some tiny attempt to be kind. Yes, it’s dehumanizing, but that’s the point – the idea is that the “problem” is not with the person but with the fat. There are of course all kinds of problems with that attitude, but my sense is that using the picture of the HF is a (backwards) attempt to actually preserve dignity. I guess I think that using the HF is a symptom of the underlying problem with the way people think about fat, not the problem itself. I feel like those same awful articles with a different picture would be no better.

    What do you think?

  44. Stories like these are the reason why I never watch the news anymore. Oddly enough, they admonish us on how dangerous cheap fast food is to our health, whereas restaurants like Red Robin and Weber Grill (which have burgers about 3x the size of a Big Mac, I’m sure) are usually untouched.

    Also, this is kind of the reason why I don’t go outside much or eat out as often as I would like to. I have severe social anxiety disorder and it doesn’t help much that I fear that someone might be spying on me with a camera, waiting to publically humiliate me not unlike one of those bullies in high school. But, if I stated that concern to the media, they’d just retort with “Aww, did we hurt your feelings? Get over it, you PC motherf*cker!” or something like that.

    I’m afraid that all the stories about health might be true though. I’ve been fat for 20 years (I’m 23), I’m in the “death range”–maybe even higher (I haven’t checked my weight in a long time), I have a long history of mental disorders and sinus/respiratory problems. However, I’m still too afraid to see a doctor because I’ve been taught that all my health problms are just in my head and I’ve been forced to go to school even when I was so sick I couldn’t focus for more than three minutes. And doctors would always give me the you’re gonna die at 28 lecture if you don’t eat sensibly (meaning low fat, low sugar) when you’re 8. So, I’d much rather die than have a life of misery, however my relatives will just say that it was weight-related. But I hate how when a fat person dies, people say it was all their fault that they didn’t eat right, even if said fat person is over 80 years old. But when a thin person dies of the same cause, they think it was all a fluke.

  45. “What I personally hate about HF shots is the same thing I hate about all fat hate incidents- they focus on one aspect of life and no other. The photographers, just like concern trolls and hate-speakers, have no idea about the life stories they’re judging. Is that the first ice-cream cone the targeted fatty has eaten in years, or the 51st that day? Is walking down the street the only exercise s/he is getting that day, or has s/he already cycled 15 miles before work? It’s no-one’s business, and all fatties, ‘bad’ or ‘good’ deserve respect. But shallow assumptions and decapitation in HF pics drain out all of the complexity of lived experience and leave just one thing: fat.”

    Swellanor – thank you! It’s also a safe bet to humiliate these very large people, since they represent this small percentage (6% is what I’m reading). It’s like selecting a small group for repeated shaming incidents!

    And as for that…

    “As a fatter fat, reading that stipulation makes me feel excluded from the discussion, like being at the upper end of the fat spectrum means I need to be set apart for some reason.”

    sauvage1983, I was wondering about that. From what I can tell the authors here are careful about calling out HF pictures as being demeaning and wrong, period. They are demeaning to the ‘fatter fats’ as you say, while intentionally misleading the public that the ‘obese’ (under which the author would apply) all look like these pictures. But I’d imagine if I was in that larger person place I’d start to feel a twinge of, well it’s OK to take a picture of or put down the ‘fatter fats’ then, because what we’re saying is they really ARE huge and deserve ‘freak’ status.

    I confess this issue is clouded for me. I only recently started reading this site but I am already unsure of the value and information stored in the “obese” category, as well as the BMI. I feel like the way I grew up and the labels I was taught / shown to use, no longer apply! I do know that while I’ve never been as large as the woman in the article shown sitting in the chair, my heart has always cried out that it’s wrong to take her picture unbeknown to her and throw it up on the internet (or news story) and say horrific things about her chances for life. I also am re-training myself (thanks largely to what I read here, no pun intended) to see large people as people with their own story, instead of “other” them – which is when I’d find myself thinking, I’m so glad I’m not as big as he is!

    One thing I do think the HF thing continues to do – as been posted here a few times – is create a category where morbidly obese or very large people aren’t quite human to us. They are to be pitied and shunned. This seems very, very much alive in our culture.

    “However, I’m still too afraid to see a doctor because I’ve been taught that all my health problems are just in my head… ”

    Krystal, my aunt was recently at a doctor who “abused” her verbally – said she was way too big, laid a lot of problems based entirely on her weight. I can imagine not wanting to go to a doctor if every doctor has just treated you like a huge weight problem and nothing else. However, whether you are perfectly healthy now or not, the assistance and help of a good healer and doctor is something valuable. I wish you the best in finding a compassionate healer who can listen to you and TRUST what you are telling him / her – not just put you in a “death fat” mold and refuse to treat you like a human being.

  46. I think HF also cause body image problems. I was called fat many years although I wasn’t technically overweight. I saw myself as large as a HF and carried myself that way. I didn’t care about how I looked or dressed because I saw myself as helpless. It might make many fat people think why should I bother to dress nicely and hold my head up high if people are going to look down on me, just because of my size.

    I admit that HF weren’t in the papers all the time in the seventies and eighties or if they were, I wasn’t aware of it. However, I saw myself as much bigger than I was and felt helpless in my situation. With all our focus on being thin in the media, HF must cause young women body image issues.

  47. SugarLeigh, I would think you were me except I have a couple inches and a couple dozen pounds on you. I only know my blood pressure is consistently good because it gets checked every time I go to the obgyn to get my birth control reupped. I don’t know any of my other health stats because no one’s ever checked them. Since I’m also only 26, I’m not going to start thinking about things until I’m at least 30. Then I’ll pay more attention to the factors that have a family history of being problematic.

  48. But I’d imagine if I was in that larger person place I’d start to feel a twinge of, well it’s OK to take a picture of or put down the ‘fatter fats’ then, because what we’re saying is they really ARE huge and deserve ‘freak’ status.

    Not to speak for sauvage, here, but I do know where s/he is coming from. I don’t think anyone is saying that it’s okay to take HF photos. Just that there have been a fair few times lately in the fatosphere where people are saying that fatter fats are really out there on the bell curve! And they deserve dignity too! And I feel like, hey, I’m right here and I felt like we were all in this together. I don’t think it’s intentional, but phrasing that makes sure to distinguish those of use who are Death Fat from the rest of the obesity epipanic hurts.

  49. Yes, it’s intentionally misleading—but when it’s brought up, I feel like I’m hearing “well, if everyone was like that, then yeah, you should panic—but they’re not, only 6% of people are, so no need to!”

    I’m sorry it comes off that way, and I can certainly see how it would.

    It’s not that I, or anyone else in the fatosphere, think it would be worth panicking if more people were, as Tari put it, “exceptionally fat.” It’s that the people choosing those photos most certainly do think that. Along with most of their audience. Fat is bad, which means exceptionally fat is exceptionally bad. I am very much not trying to make that distinction here on the blog in general, but I think it’s worth acknowledging in a discussion of how media outlets choose photos for the maximum public panic value.

    I don’t have any interest in trying to distance myself from people bigger (or smaller) than me or sort fatties into a hierarchy of acceptability. But when we’re talking about how the media tries to whip up the public’s general fear of fat into all-out hysteria over THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC, the fact that they keep implying obese = supersize when talking about the 32% of American adults who are obese or 60-odd% who are overweight or obese is pertinent. Especially when we know “overweight” can look like this.

    Misrepresenting what the majority of “overweight” and “obese” people actually look like while talking about the “staggering” number of “overweight and obese” people is part and parcel of their efforts to foment panic about an “epidemic.” If you illustrated an article that said “two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese” with a picture of Shauna there, it would be just as relevant as illustrating it with a typical HF — one is on the low end and one on the high end of the full spectrum of BMI-defined fatness — but it wouldn’t play on people’s fear and disgust the same way.

    The fact that an image of a supersized person will ratchet up the fear/disgust/hatred factor is, in itself, a fucking horrible thing, and that’s a big part of the reason why I write this blog. But in a discussion like this, I can’t ignore that that’s part of it — or that a picture of me would evoke more fear and disgust than one of Shauna, or even one of Joy , because she’s got a lot of features that bring her closer to the beauty standard, despite our having very similar BMIs.

    And the fact that so many media outlets do their damnedest to play up the fear and disgust angles — not just with unflattering HF photos, but with phrases like “ballooning,” “blubber,” “packing on the pounds,” “spare tires,” “tipping the scales,” etc. in so-called science reporting — makes things worse for all fat people. It’s othering and dehumanizing, and we all feel the effects — but no one more so than supersized folks, who are held up as the embodiment of the “crisis.”

    So I think it’s worth unpacking that aspect of it, even though it’s tough to do without sounding like I’m saying they pick “bad” fatties for the photos, but most of us are “good” fatties! I’m really not. It’s more like, let’s say the birth rate goes up, and the media decides this is a crisis. So they constantly report on how we’re going to be OMG OVERPOPULATED any day now, because of statistics showing the average American family now has 3 kids instead of 2 — but every damned time, they illustrate that with a picture of the Duggars or Nadya Suleman and her kids. Now, within my extended family and circle of friends, I know a few families with more than 10 kids. They’re great people, and they would not fucking deserve to take any crap if society started flipping out about overpopulation. But they are still not representative of an average bump from 2 kids to 3 kids. So constantly using uncommonly large families to represent OMG LOOMING POPULATION CRISIS would be disingenuous, and the only reason to do it would be to amp up the panic.

    Does that make it any more clear?

  50. sauvage and robotitron,

    To me, at least, pointing out that people your size are only a very small percentage is meant to underline the way the HFs are being exploited. And I do feel that using them as illustrations is exploitation, because if they used someone my size, or Kate’s, etc very few people would panic. Their intention is to use these people to incite fear and disgust. And it’s wrong, not only morally, but factually.

    Using the extreme case (there’s no value judgment in that, I’m just referring to the squinchy end of the bell curve) to illustrate everyone in a group is absurd and offensive. Not because the rest of us don’t want to be associated with you, but because we don’t like seeing you exploited for use as the bad fatty poster child.

  51. I understood that you were trying to point that out that the media uses the HF pictures they do in order to incite panic, and I know you’re not cool with fatter fats being denigrated.

    However, I’m still not sure what I think of going at the problem that way—why not just head straight for the main point, which is “fat, no matter how much of it, is nothing to panic over?” I think that pointing out that obesity can look like an “average” person just serves to cut out fatter fats and only gain approval and normalcy for smaller fats—which I know is not what you are out to do. I find it parallel to showing that “not all gays are flamboyant/butch/kiss their lover in public.” Sure, it’s true, but why point it out? Why not just go for wholesale acceptance?

    The comments that the HF selected are larger and less fashionable than the average fat just . . . you’re right, it does sound like separating good fats from bad fats. I know that’s not your (or probably any other FA blogger’s) intentions, so I’m wondering if this conversation can be had differently when this topic arises.

  52. Emmy—I agree that it’s not cool to make fatter fats the bad poster child of the OBESITY CRYSUS.

    I feel like we should stick to saying that though, pointing out that fatter fats are worthy, human, and don’t deserve to be dumped on, rather than getting mired in how they “aren’t representative of the average fat person.”

  53. I wonder if I could put together a Headless Fatty costume for Halloween. Too-tight sweatpants and a fanny pack, maybe, but what would I do for the headless part? Construct a giant shirt that covered my head? Wear a paper bag over my head?

  54. However, I’m still not sure what I think of going at the problem that way—why not just head straight for the main point, which is “fat, no matter how much of it, is nothing to panic over?”

    Well, there are loads of variations on that theme within FA, let alone other social justice movements, and it’s an ongoing question. Personally, I think it’s important to fight against misinformation and misrepresentation — which are often the basis of damaging stereotypes — alongside fighting to reinforce that fat does not equal bad, period.

    And I think it’s important not just because I can’t stand dissembling, but because I think it hurts all fat people. Misrepresenting what the 32% of obese people look like, on average, whips up fat panic and hatred in general, which is then unloaded on supersize people more than anyone else. If people get more realistic about fat (in a zillion ways, not just this one), that might calm the general climate of fear and hatred, which would be beneficial to fat people of every size.

    Another example that comes up all the time is binge/compulsive eating, and I fight to distinguish that from the typical fat person’s diet for the same reason — not to marginalize fat people with eating disorders and score pats on the head for the rest of us, but because the misinformation hurts all of us in different ways, and none of us more than people with eating disorders. As long as people assume that all fat people overeat, there’s no reason to treat binge eating seriously as a disorder, which leaves people who would like real help for it SOL.

    It’s absolutely valid to put the focus on demanding equality for all, period, and letting some misinformation go uncorrected to avoid dividing the oppressed group. But I choose to split my focus between that and correcting misinformation, even though it means I have to be extra vigilant about checking my moderately fat privilege, and sometimes I will say assy, alienating things despite my best intentions. It may not be the best way to go about it, but I believe it’s important to try to do both. Other people disagree. I can only tell you where I’m coming from.

  55. My apologies to all who called me out on “da rules’ (#11 to be exact). I was trying to tread lightly in what I wrote and obviously get a big FAIL.

    I didn’t want to make parallels or comparisons to other groups who have suffered immensely throughout history and today. That is just…well…pure fuckness. I don’t think I made that very clear in my post. Each person/group’s experiences are different and unique to them, as are mine, and comparisons are just ridiculous.

    I was trying to say that my view of the use of headless fatties in the media is unfair and over-generalized stereotyping meant to scare the masses into accepting the proposed policy, medicine, diet product, et al “solution” for ZOMG TEH OBESITY!

    What I wasn’t trying to say was “just like such and such group faced this and that…” which is just….a load of crap wrapped up in a fuckball.

    So again, my apologies for not bringing my best words to the proverbial table.

  56. @Eucritta: Reuter’s used to have one in rotation that had me shaking with outrage: the lower body of a fat, apparently nude woman on an exam table shot directly from above, the flesh of her thighs covering her pudendum. So, not only headless, not only dehumanized, but trebly vulnerable and exposed to implied medical personnel and the gaze of the viewer.

    AND desexualized. Fat people don’t have sex!

  57. I vary between “overweight” and “obese” depending on what time of the month it is and what I may have eaten in the last couple of days, and I have never seen a body that looks like mine used to illustrate on of these obesity scares stories, despite the fact that I’m a whole lot more representative of the horrible obesity epidemic than the people they show.

    Perhaps what should happen is that those of us in the 30-35 BMI range (which is typical of most obese people) should take pictures of ourselves, headless or not, and send them to the news outlets and let them know that, next time they want to run a story about the obesity epidemic, they should use us, because we’re the people they’re talking about when they talk about the whatever-high-percentage they’re giving of people that are obese.

  58. And, re: why it’s a problem to only use extremely large people in these stories, I think a big part of that is that a shocking amount of serious fat hate and prejudice comes from fat people. They may realize they’re fat, but they associate “obesity” with extremely fat people, so when they hear the news talking about how the obese fat fatties are costing us so much money and are destroying the earth, they don’t think the news is talking about them.

    Now, I’m not saying that “Fat people don’t know they’re fat.” Fat people know they’re fat. However, if people have a skewed perception of what obesity is–and I think many, many people do–it’s because the media has bombarded us with images of extremely large people as representative of what obesity is. So fat people know their fat, but a lot of people who are clinically obese don’t think they are, and think “obesity” is just about those really fat fatties. They don’t realize that when the media is talking about how eating McDonald’s for five meals each day has made us all huge, money-sucking, carbon-releasing monsters, they are talking about them. And too often they end up having as much fat-hate (both for themselves but a whole lot more for people much larger) as people who aren’t fat.

  59. Sure, it’s true, but why point it out? Why not just go for wholesale acceptance?

    One should. But the cultural panic attack over the obesity epidemic is inflamed in part by the conflation of “overweight” with “very obese”, and it’s that inflamed panic attack that drives a large part of the rest of the discriminatory attitudes (not all of it, of course.)

    To put it another way, if they used pictures of headless people at BMI 27 running in the park in fashionable exercise clothing to illustrate their story on overweight Americans, it wouldn’t look like a story.

    And, after all, one strategy LGBT activists used, say, against Prop 8 was to show cute kids with culturally-approved-looking adults. It can’t be the only strategy, but it can be a helpful one when the alternative is being otherized.

  60. The issue of “how big is a headless fatty” is definitely not about good fatties and bad fatties, which we have discussed as a false binary many times before. This is about, as Kate already said, misinformation, which contributes to body dysmorphia and cognitive dissonance for people at many different places on the spectrum of body shape and size. As Meowser said in a comment a million years ago: OK, so I guess the pictorial rule is: When you’re writing about women who weigh 160 pounds, you illustrate the story with a woman who weighs 500 pounds. When you’re writing about 500-pound men, you illustrate with a man who weighs 200. But goddess forbid, in either case, you illustrate with the actual person you’re writing about. Because all fatasses are interchangeable after adjusting for gender. The headlessness is dehumanizing, and so is the misinformation. It’s a fatty version of “they all look alike to me.”

    We are talking about a world in which a woman who wears size 8 is considered a plus-size model, and in which readers of The Rotund guessed Marianne’s weight at everything from 140 to 345, because they thought she looked like them (or their wives). Our culture is totally saturated with lies about what people of any weight look like, which is why it’s so shocking to see people just flat-out state their weight. Using people with a BMI of 45 to illustrate the supposed dangers of having a BMI of 26 contributes to a culture of fat hatred, body ignorance, cognitive dissonance, and lies. THAT’S why it’s a problem, IMHO.

  61. So fat people know their fat, but a lot of people who are clinically obese don’t think they are, and think “obesity” is just about those really fat fatties

    This is a really interesting point. Everyone who is not living under a rock knows about OMG THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC the same way we all know about global warming. I wonder if we think about it the same way, too, as a distant, overarching social problem, one that’s removed from us as individuals. (But of course, not removed enough that we don’t judge everyone else accordingly. “OMG don’t you know what kind of damage bottled water does to the environment?” while drinking Evian, for example)

    I wonder if the news stories conflating any talk about overweight + obese people as meaning the same thing and all of it meaning the HF actually damages the culture’s attempts to get people to exercise more and eat less, because the targets who are not actually in the death fat category see those stories and look in the mirror and think “Aw, I’m not *that* bad” and… go eat more baby-flavored donuts. Or something.

    I bought Dolly Madison powdered sugar mini donuts today, too. Every time I eat a donut now I think of SP and chuckle a little.

    DRST

  62. Regina – good job on taking that feedback on board and just responding, and not being insane-o. Thanks for that.

    Mods, I will email, but I’ll have to dig through links. There are… a lot of them.

  63. Finally must come out of the shadows to add this – I saw an internal news article on my university employer’s website yesterday with following headline:

    “Researchers win $3 million grant to fight obesity in kids under 2″

    Yes, you read that correctly UNDER 2! And it was accompanied by non other than a photo of a headless fat baby! I was shocked (and HUGELY disappointed in my university) that this phenomenon has descended down to a baby. There are so many, many things wrong with the whole concept (babies are SUPPOSED to be chubby, parents are already being bombarded daily with “how you should raise your children” advice, it’s a BABY for chrissake!) and it worries me tremendously that it is the harbinger of only bad things to come.

  64. I feel like a comprehensive Headless Fatty post ought to give a shout-out to Adipositivity. I’ve been enjoying their Valentine’s Day shots so much, I’ve checked in nearly every day… and as an ally, I keep asking myself why they make me so happy. They are mainly shots of headless women, after all, something that would normally make me cringe. I don’t identify with the bodies in the photos, or desire them. So what’s my deal?
    And I can’t think of an answer except that they are pleasing to see. They are beautiful photographed, often with highly stylized color and composition (one of my recent faves featured a monochromatically dressed woman sitting in an ornate red chair), so they are pleasing to look at. But the bodies in them appear to behave however they please, shy or outgoing, active or in repose, and the highly aesthetized composition is framed around them. That’s why I especially love the Valentine photos of couples – they are quietly or exuberantly interacting bodies that dominate the frame. I can’t think of those bodies as objects to desire (even though many images are erotic) or objects to incite fear or disgust. They quite clearly belong to active subjects.
    Er, that’s enough rhapsodizing, I still feel I haven’t expressed what works about Adipositivity. But it’s something to think about – how not to objectify fat women even if their heads are not visible. Here’s an old thread from Tiny Cat Pants in which folks feel a little more ambivalent toward it than I do.

  65. The only other group of people that get decapitated lots in images for news stories are pregnant women – see here and here.

    I think it’s a similar thing of presenting pregnancy as the only important thing about pregnant women, as fatness is presented as the only important thing about fat people. There’s also a link in the sense that many of the stories about pregnancy are about what women should or should not eat/drink/do in order for their children to be healthy. Very much like the ‘obesity crisis’ discourse’ in terms of policing what people do with their bodies in the name of health.

  66. @ QoT – “So the headlessness serves a lot of different purposes: without faces, the fatties are ….. a blank slate for people to project themselves onto….

    @ Twilight Driver – “but I know the reality of the fight……because people will always find a reason to hate as long as they hate themselves.”

    Clearly, this image – the “headless fattie” – has now become an archetype of power (in the Jungian sense, an image which both evokes and lets us project our inner fears and hatreds outwardly onto a sub-group forced to become our – ie this lipophobic society’s – “blank slate”) . So how do you dismantle an archetype of power? How to rob it of its sub-conscious resonance? How to find the space to live under the shadow it casts?

    Answer @ Nepenthe – “I am cougar-level fat; don’t be comparing me to no bunnies.” RIDDIKULUS!!! *wave magic wand*

  67. PS – I also agree with Tanglethis – “Adipositivity” is definitely another way of dismantling – and reconstructing – the archetype.

  68. … what works about Adipositivity.

    It mostly doesn’t for me, because I mostly don’t much care for the photography — it usually doesn’t speak to me, and rarely rings my aesthetic bells. Photography isn’t passive; it’s an art and craft, and no-one’s work will appeal to, or move, everyone.

    This is an aspect of HFs I think we need to remember. By and large they look like candid street shots, but even candid street shots reflect the photographer’s intent and craft, his or her choices both in the field and in what’s offered to the news agencies as stock.

  69. OperaDoc, you’ve got me wondering when we’ll finally get to the war on prenatal obesity.

    “Do these pants make my zygote look fat?”

  70. Eucritta, I didn’t mean how the photos “work” as in “work for you” or all people. I mean “work” as in “operate” – as in, what is the effect of the artistic decisions made there on the female bodies depicted? How does it work differently from HF photos in the news?
    And I’m still trying to work that out, as I said. But what you pointed out about the decision to print “candid-looking” shots in the alarmist articles is definitely part of the crucial difference for me. The HF pictures alongside articles are not active subjects in those frames – they appear to be “caught,” like something less than human or like humans doing something wrong. That is not the case in most Adipositivity pics; even when the subjects are posed to seem unaware of or disinterested in the camera, there are still a lot of little signs that suggest activity and personhood. That deserves a lot more thorough analysis than I’m going to fit in a comment. But I wanted to clarify that I was trying to move the appeal that the photos have for me personally to an understanding of how they might typify a way of looking that is more humane than the example HF in this post.

  71. @ SugarLeigh – “Is it the articles and doctors and media pressure, like this very headless-fat phenomenon, that encourages us to be so in-the-know about everything right down to the pH of our bloodstreams? Or is it a personal dedication to trying to make the best of the soul-vessel? Or a mix of the two?”

    SL, I do think this is an important discussion, too… one striking aspect of our thinking on disease is that despite the scientific discoveries we are making, at heart we have not deviated far from holding ourselves to blame. While seeking the cause of our illnesses an early Chinese spiritual healer might have accused us of insufficiently venerating an ancestor, the old Testament might accuse us of worshipping idols, the New Testament might accuse us of taking the Lord’s Supper while in an unworthy state, a shaman might claim that we have offended our totem animal, modern “alternative” therapists may locate the fault in our relationship issues, and following right in that tradition, modern doctors tell us we have paid insufficient care of ourselves – gluttony and sloth all over again. The truth is – shit happens. Illness can strike anyone at any age for no particular reason at all. There are some, but very few, screenings that have a proven value in evidence-based medicine – eg. cervical screening. But others – for example, screenings for cholesterol levels, have no proven value for reducing mortality or morbidity, although they have a proven track record for putting money into the pockets of statin and Flora (plant sterol) manufacturers. Certainly, as the readers here know, measures like BMI and waist circumference have little predictive power in relation to future health, and in any case, do not logically lead to any intervention whose benefit can be proven. (As for example, the proven interventions that would be taken if a cervical screening showed abnormal cells).

    On a personal level, SugarLeigh, I would say – “don’t worry, be happy.” (Although a failure to do this very thing can also, in some quarters, be blamed for your illness…GRRR!). You’re young, you have your health, and like everyone else, you’re gonna live til you die. I’m 48, and have consistently refused to know my weight, my cholesterol level, and various other things – because it seems to me that “knowing” would lead to the delusional inclination to “control.” I do get cervical screenings, and had my first mammogram (ouch) this year. Otherwise, I’ll wait until I feel unwell (ie – have a symptom) to put myself in the hands of doctors.

    But for the purposes of general discussion I submit the following:
    -we are not to blame if we get ill
    -we are not particularly virtuous if we remain well
    -shit happens AND shit happens randomly for no particular reason
    -screening tests (with some exceptions) exist as a method of control
    -screening tests, and the relationship they fostor between us and our doctors, separate us from our interior knowledge of our own bodies.

    Maybe this should be another thread?

  72. scotlyn wrote: So how do you dismantle an archetype of power? How to rob it of its sub-conscious resonance? How to find the space to live under the shadow it casts?

    First, there’s no D anywhere in my username. Second, I think the answer to those questions is in my comment.

    Humanize people rather than dehumanize them and the archetypes have no power because people stop giving them power.

    Humanize yourself and don’t let others dehumanize you and you have power. Obviously, you can’t stop someone else from doing a thing. However, when you don’t join that person in dehumanizing you by saying that they are right or behaving like you believe they are, you have power.

    Archetypes don’t have any power that was not given to them. What we have given, we can take back. Don’t want something to have power? Give the power to something else. Give it to yourself. Give it to your own ideals. Create your own archetypes.

    It’s ok to disagree with the rest of the world. It’s ok to follow your own drummer, make your own rules, etc.

    I gave up finding space in this world a long time ago. People don’t make space in this world for people like me. I make my own space. Learning to do that was hard. Actually doing it is the easiest thing I’ve ever done.

  73. Hey, Twilightriver – apologies for the D – twilight river is a lovely name and evokes a pleasing image, but I must admit, the Twilight Driver (as I did initially read your name), in my head was a pretty kickass woman guiding her power rig down a moonlit road, following her star … anyway, I shall stand contritely corrected.

    And thanks for your reply, too. Yes, you are right – we give archetypes their power, and therefore, only we can take it away. But, it may be, that since a part of their power lies in the subconsious, taking it away may require take more resources than just conscious intention.

  74. scotlyn, it takes action as well as conscious intention to take power away from an archetype. Conscious intention can drive action, but experience feeds the subconscious. Experience is driven by action.

    Taking the power away from something isn’t a simple act of saying, “You have no power over me.” There’s a journey that takes place in which a person learns all of the ways that a thing has no power but what is given to it. That journey only happens through choices, actions, and results.

    Humanizing people isn’t just about looking at them and saying, “You’re a human being too.” Plenty of bigots know how to do that and still manage to behave as though other people are less.

    Language and intent are very powerful tools, but they are only tools and they are not the only tools necessary for the job of building change.

    As for my username, I never did learn to drive. However, I am a pretty kickass woman following my own star. I just do it without aid of a car.

  75. Yeah, I’m actually really not all that concerned about my own health.

    What I was meaning is, well… why do we bother? It seems to me that checking the blood, or urine, or I dunno, dopamine levels, is just another form of weighing ourselves, you know? Another thing to worry about being perfect over, whether we’re taking care of ourselves enough.

    I honestly don’t even bother caring anymore. I always figured I’d die first out of my mother’s children. My health is worst and my driving is worst. But the youngest, healthiest, and careful-est got hit while driving. So, clearly, we’re all here exactly until Death decides to come whack us, and not a moment sooner nor later. It was really freeing, actually.

    ANYHOW. Headless pictures.

    Aside from being creepy…

    …and pointless…

    …and insutling…

    …and misleading…

    …don’t scare me.

    SO. The media fails, all around.

    Worse things could happen to me than Fat. I could get stuck in an elevator with, I dunno, George Bush, or a rapist, or an angry zombie. Or one of those manticores/coconut crabs.

    I’m too busy being afraid of important things, like never finding a job and having to live at home forever. I fear neither Fat nor Death nor Not Being Fuckable Enough.

    YAY!

  76. The other thing I’ve really noted about the HF phenom is that they’re often people who are dressed like they are working class or lower. Food courts and fast food (which are associated with poverty, even if the middle and upper classes use them) and old, poorly constructed and ill fitting budget store clothes.

    One of the things FA has allowed me to see is that often it IS the clothes that are the problem with my self confidence, and frankly, if I’m wearing clothes that flatter me, I feel acceptable to society. I get flirted with. I’m a size 20 and am in the death fat BMI range, but people *respond* to me differently when I’m makeup’ed and coiffed and have my nails done and am wearing interesting and well fitting clothing. I COULD be an HF, but in certain outfits, I wouldn’t be.

    But suddenly I’ve gone from spending the bare minimum on clothing (and feeling both meagre and moral) to spending money and energy coveting all the wardrobe I cannot afford. I want consumer goods in a way I didn’t before.

    Anyway. You rarely see beautifully dressed fat women and men as HF. You don’t see the rounded business man in his custom suit and rolex. And that’s about class as well as fat, and how the two fears intersect.

    Race, especially in the States (HF in Canada aren’t quite the same as the HFs I see on American news channels), is something I can’t well speak to intelligently, but American HF twig my radar sometimes as being constructed racial shaming, too; although that could be because our populations are different and I’m being hypersensitive to those differences.

    Of course they’re all about population and intersecting shame – poor people are more often heavy than rich people, people of colour are over represented among the working poor, and women post divorce who have children take an economic hit and are often at the age of weight gain, so you’ve got single moms in there too. And Ann Coulter’s new freak book about single moms taking the world out shows that’s out there still, too.

    …. And speaking about shaming, and measles, and people keeping their heads: I’ve never seen a Headless Overthin person. I know very small people get the eat a burger, what’s wrong with you attack from strangers, and I’ve quelched a few of those discussions (people sometimes look to the fatty, I think, as if they’re “taking my side against the enemy”, whereas it’s the commentary and moralizing about someone else’s both that’s the enemy for me…)

    You still don’t see headless groups of teenage girls, who are featured, usually, in anorexia stories.

    What sometimes you see, though, is them from the back with heads still attached.

    Why are fatties headless, and not just from the back?

    Maybe in part because pictures of people where their bodies fill the frame make everyone look disproportionate and wrong? It’s easy to feel overfat in a Mini.

  77. This: “whereas it’s the commentary and moralizing about someone else’s both that’s the enemy for me…”

    is supposed to say: “whereas it’s the commentary and moralizing about someone else’s BODY that’s the enemy for me…”

  78. Another thing to worry about being perfect over, whether we’re taking care of ourselves enough.

    It can seem like that, as I recall anyway, when you’re young, healthy and able-bodied. But for those of us who are none of those things, monitoring our health is more likely to be a useful informational tool.

  79. Okay, so my history as a person who worked for a weekly newspaper kicks in around this time, finally, and I have to say that I think the main reasons these images are used are:
    1) It’s not illegal
    2) Photos communicate bias at least as much as language does
    3) A story’s writer often doesn’t choose the photo, a harried editor does
    4) These photos are cheap and easy to take. Photographers might be taking photos of other things and then stumble upon an unfortunately dressed person or group of fat people, and bingo, a photo they can get paid for
    5) This is an ethical, rather than legal, issue, and there are plenty of unethical photographers out there. Just a few unethical photographers would be enough to produce sufficient HF photos to fill the newspapers and internet articles for lifetimes to come

    I don’t know about action, other than writing letters to the editor and contacting the ombudsman or people’s editor of a news outlet. If enough of us did this — saying, “use a real fat person’s photo to illustrate a story, head and all, and if you aren’t able to do that, maybe you need to write the story differently” — maybe we could make a difference.

    I recently subscribed to my local newspapers just on Sundays, mostly for the comics and coupons and the main section, but if I did see a HF photo I think I might write a letter about it. But that would have to be an article published on a Sunday, because that’s the only day I get the paper.

    The photo of the HF is what people (editors) have come to expect when they are publishing an article that relates to fatness. Maybe we need to offer up some photos that they can use for free of Headded Fatties. That would be a great web site — editors — free photos you can use to illustrate your articles! A risk, most certainly, but maybe one worth taking?

  80. Also, a headless fatty photo contest might be in order… we could submit photos of ourselves in the most unflattering light, from the back or without heads and dressed in Christmas sweaters (I happen to be wearing one today as I’m cold and not at work).

  81. I actually noticed at Fatshionista that the flicker widget, by accident of thumbnail placement, was creating HFs out of outfit of the day pics. And everyone looks great.

  82. I bet I could be a Headless Fatty if I slouched right and wore the right clothes. So much of it is in the posture. And the off-grey underwear.

  83. We could have a thin-Shapeling headless fatty contest! *g*

    The headless thinnies! With flouresent lights and dingy underpants!

  84. Arwen: I checked my BMI to make sure I’m still technically thin (I am sometimes technically overweight, though the *clothes* never change much) and indeed I am, right in the middle. I’ll have to find some too-small underpants and see what happened to our zillion candlepower DIY torch. I’ll also have to check whether HFs are photographed from just below the thighs to maximise butt-bulge and cellulite. I really do have quite a strong urge to photograph myself as a Headless Fatty.

  85. “I really do have quite a strong urge to photograph myself as a Headless Fatty.”

    You know – me too! I’m thinking that would be a great project!

  86. …complete with awesome fat names, such as Faton von Fatista, Plumpella deSquoosh, and of course Fatty McFatterson.

  87. SM: I’m not very articulate about it, but I think the difference between thin Headless Fatties and fat Headless Fatties is less than the difference between Headless Fatties and Headless (usu. faceless, actually) Thinnies, such as are used to illustrate eating disorder articles etc. That is, I think the differences in composition, pose etc are more significant than the body size differences.

  88. Oh, Ailbhe, I completely agree with you. It’s about the visual rhetoric of the headless fatty shot, the way the pose/framing/etc dehumanize the object of your gaze. I actually think it might be really interesting to see what it looked like when other types of bodies are subject to the same treatment: is it immediately obvious how demoralizing it is? Do we start subjecting those bodies to the same kind of scrutiny? Pictures of very thin people used to illustrate ED stories often show them in a way that emphasizes a sense of agony or struggle, whereas the HF phenemenon emphasizes cluelessness and anonymity.

    I’m thinking of the infamous yogurt ad “parody” of American Beauty which was supposed to show how gross fatties are but instead showed how incredibly hot they can be. What happens when you put other bodies in the frames that are used to demonize fat people or glorify thin people?

  89. I did send a letter to the editor of my local newsrag one time for a HF infraction.The gist of the letter was that I thought it was not just dehumanizing, but lazy as well. I then offered to sign a release and let them use my image if their photographers didn’t want to survey for someone fat to photograph.

    Not only didn’t I get a response, they didn’t publish the letter, either. No surprises, eh?

  90. It’s funny, this entry and the entry linked in it reminded me of how my senior year of college I lived with a girl who was a size 26. I don’t know how much she weighed or what her BMI was, but she was pretty visibly fat. I remember a friend of mine saying to me, “How much do you think she weighs? 200 pounds?” I was stunned and a little hurt. I responded in the calmest way possible, “I was 200 pounds the end of our sophomore year when I was a size 14/16.” I don’t know what hurt me more, the statement that said anything 200 pounds or more was unacceptable, or the fact that she refused to believe that I actually had weighed THAT much. She insisted, “noooooooo Swan, there’s no WAY you could have weighed 200 pounds. You weren’t FAT… you were just…. well, I mean, I barely noticed.”

    She was absolutely right. I wasn’t 200 pounds. I was 210.

  91. Today I was walking and passed a hot dog stand, and suddenly this headless thinnies discussion hit me and I started glancing at the people eating hot dogs, from the neck down. Some thin, some fat, everyone would look sort of sloppy without heads, trying to eat fast food in public. There was the “trying to avoid dripping ketchup on myself” stance, for one, where people were sort of slouching over their own midsections.

    Headless, no one looks good eating a hot dog. Even if it’s an organic veggie dog in a whole wheat bun.

  92. Man I was reading down the thread to say soemthing about the class and race intersections of Headless Fattiedom, and then I see that Arwen has already posted some. *sadface*.

    I do think there’s a lot of intersectionality going on in the HF photos. First, I have to say that I think fat is a shorthand as well as being its own oppression. The words “fat slob” bring up someone in cheap, bad clothing, dirty environment, and of course fat–all of which can easily be tied to the working poor. Africans and black Americans have been demonized by images of fatness from the mid-1800s on. I don’t think it’s coincidence that what is being focused on in Nadia Suleman is that she is fat, POC and also living on government funds, for one modern example of fat undesirables.

    Then I find it interesting that most HF that I see are white. It’s not particularly shocking when a black person is fat, because of course someone “undesirable” in one way will be “undesirable” in another. I see HF-dom as slipping racial borders. By presenting a white person in a badly classed and raced position, it stirs up more than just fears about being fat–it’s about loosing privelege too. If you eat that pizza outside, you will become Headless Fatty. If you don’t control your portions, you loose white privelege. If you don’t exercise 2 hours a day, you become white trash.

    I think it works so well as a tactic because most white people don’t even understand the fears of loosing their priveledge, and it hits them even harder for being so intangible but so deeply rooted into their daily lives.

  93. Haha, I was just watching some program that used ‘stock footage’ of a Faceless Thinny – a girl wearing a tank top, shown from the back, sitting slumped over with her shoulder-blades and backbone protruding. The back of her head and part of her face was visible though.

    So: we get to see the bony women’s (whenever there’s any mention of underweight, whether it pertains to EDs or not, they only show women, never the young men who are the majority) heads, but not their faces. Fat people, pregnant women, we get to see the bodies but not the head. ‘Hot’ women are often reduced to close-ups of the part in question (see the Olympic volleyball player post) There must be some sense to it.. *ponders*

  94. So, today I saw two articles illustrated with photos by the same photographer, Lucas Jackson, who works for Reuters. Here’s a link to a profile page about him, with a photo:
    http://www.lightstalkers.org/lucas_jackson

    So, if you see this guy taking pictures of fat people, you may be seeing a HF photo in the making.
    Here are the articles that the photos illustrated:
    http://www.canada.com/Health/Researchers+link+obesity+birth+defects/1277326/story.html

    http://www.canada.com/Health/Body+levels+good+indicator+overall+health+Doctor/1274455/story.html

    (the second article is something I’ll blog about if I have time tonight)

    So, now I’m imagining I’m wearing a fabulous outfit (with a really great looking bra) and my hair looks amazing, and I see Mr. Lucas with his fancy heavy camera with a really big lens (you know what they say about a man with a really long lens) and I realize that he’s about to take a picture of me from the neck down (I suppose he could take a picture that includes my face and then crop it out later — I don’t know how that works) and I approach him and let him know that I’ll sign a release, that I don’t want to be a headless fatty. And he’s taken aback at first, but produces a release from his messenger bag and I take out a really nice pen from my fashionable bag and sign it with a flourish. And I give him my card and let him know I can be photographed in the future. And he has a spiritual awakening and never takes another HF photo again.

  95. Which is why they’re such a contrast to the “classic” headless fatty, I’m guessing. The people in the BMI pictures have agency, while the people in the “obesity epidemic” pictures have had their agency taken away..

  96. This is fascinating!

    I note, too, that the editors who pair these photos with stories are, while making sweeping and unfounded and insulting assumptions about the subjects of the photos, also making a sweeping and unfounded and insulting assumption about the VIEWERS of the photos–namely, that they will all be repulsed at the photo subects. It’s insulting in the way that it is when someone tells you an abusive joke assuming that you’ll find it as funny as they do, because doesn’t everybody react like them?

    Clearly we don’t. Clearly many of us react with rage at the attempt at dehumanization by the news organizations involved. (And I must admit, while my thinky brain is reacting in high feminist dudgeon to the dehumanization, a much baser part of my brain is reacting to the occasional photo with “Nice ass, YUM,” which I am QUITE sure was not the intent of the story, either.)

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