Link Round-Up: Space Hopper Edition

Some stuff I’ve been meaning to comment on this week, and some new stuff…

1) Via reader Melissa and numerous blogs that got there first: An article on plus-size fashion from the L.A. Times. It’s 99% really good, although A) I could have done without yet another unfounded assertion that “Americans are getting larger,” and B) the thrust of the article is that “the average woman” should be able to buy fashionable clothes — which is totally true, but women sized out of Lane Bryant, let alone designer lines like Rachel Pally and Tadashi, should be able to, too. Ahem. Otherwise, it’s a variation on the usual, “Knock knock, designers, anybody home? Untapped market here!” article, but a lot more thorough than usual. 

Fabulous quote from the article, “getting larger” comment notwithstanding:

It often seems that it’s easier to find and buy stylish clothes for Chihuahuas than for roughly half the country’s female population.

Americans are getting larger, and 62% of females are already categorized as overweight. But the relationship between the fashion industry and fuller-figure women is at a standoff, marked by suspicion, prejudice and low expectations on both sides. The fear of fat is so ingrained in designers and retailers that even among those who’ve successfully tapped the market, talking plus-size often feels taboo. The fraught relationship between fashion and plus-size is far from new, but seems particularly confounding in a time when retailers are pulling out all the stops to bring in business. Carrying a range of sizes that includes the average female would seem like a good place to start. 

2) The Daily Fail sent a thin woman in a fat suit to Fashion Week. Like all thin women who write such articles, she learned a very special lesson about judging people by their appearances, and leads up to that revelation with a lengthy series of tired fat jokes. Referring to life in her unfathomably enormous UK size 22 (US size 18/20, I think) fat suit, Kate Faithfull shares such trenchant observations as, “My bottom is big but pert, and, beneath my clothes, looks like two puppies fighting under a blanket.” And “It’s a good job my breasts are made of foam and don’t require any support — it would have to be a bra to fit two space hoppers.” And “people leap to get away from me as if they might be sucked into the swell of an ocean liner.” And “Does my bum look big in this? Oh hell, yes. It’s the stuff of nightmares. “

Then how does she wrap it all up? LESSON LEARNED: Making fun of fat people is mean, you guys! If I still had feelings in a suit so mindbogglingly gigantic it very nearly sized me out of Dorothy Perkins, it follows that actual fat people might have feelings, too! I’m not saying we shouldn’t refer to them as ocean liners, or to their breasts as space hoppers, or trot out the ancient “two ___ fighting under a blanket” canard, mind. And I’m certainly not saying that having a size 22 ass is NOT the stuff of nightmares. I’m just saying… uh, something.

Head. Desk.

Also, as both BFD and Jezebel noted, half the fucking problem with this game, every time it’s played, is that the author assumes people are giving her funny looks for being fat, as opposed to giving her funny looks for walking around in a fucking fat suit.

I’ll mostly leave aside whether her choice of outfits did her any favors. I know lots of fat women who would wear that outfit, and they’d rock it. I would wear most of the components of that outfit, though probably not together. But none of us, in that outfit or any part of it, would have arms and legs with no more definition than soft sculpture dolls, or a head that clearly belongs to a much smaller woman, or breasts that look like, as Shinobi put it in BFD comments, “she stuffed two balloons in her shirt and didn’t even bother with a bra.” Which is pretty much exactly what she did, by her own admission, except it was foam instead of balloons. Hi, even if your foam boobies don’t require support, it’s going to be obvious that they’re foam boobies if they are A) mostly perpendicular to your chest and B) bouncing noticeably, without any weight to them. If you can’t figure out where to get a space hopper-sized bra, ASK A FUCKING FAT WOMAN, because you need one if you want any prayer of pulling off the illusion that you are not a thin journalist swaddled in polyfill.

If Kate Faithfull walked past me in that get-up, there’s every chance that I would give her the what-the-fuckiest of what-the-fuck faces, because SHE HAS A TINY HEAD AND WEIRDLY WEIGHTLESS BOOBS AND TUBELIKE ARMS TOPPED OFF WITH A REALLY, REALLY BRIGHT OUTFIT, not because she’s “fat.” And then she would probably go and write an article about how even fat people are so judgmental of other “fat people,” it’s all just so sad, why can’t we all get along? INSERT “OCEAN LINER” JOKE HERE, HUR HUR!

(Also, new Shapely Prose decree: Breasts shall henceforth be referred to as “space hoppers” around here. I don’t even know what a fucking space hopper is — is it like a bouncy castle? — but nevertheless, I am so calling my boobs that from now on.)

3) Vesta44 has a righteous rant about the latest “progressive” journalist to draw a terribly clever parallel between fatness and greed. Citigroup just can’t quit the Doritos, y’all. I am not making this up.

4) In non-fat body policing, via Michelle Obama Watch, we learn that The HuffPo says folks are up in arms (haw!) about the First Lady’s wanton sleevelessness. Social Secretary Desiree Rogers paraphrases Obama’s response as: “If I want to wear no sleeves to hear my husband speak, that’s what I’m going to do.” I really hope that means her verbatim response was, “OK, seriously, are they fucking kidding me with this? SUCK IT. ” 

What other links have you got, Shapelings?

79 thoughts on “Link Round-Up: Space Hopper Edition

  1. Not new, but the local paper’s “Suddenly Sick” series was an interesting look of how drug companies lobby to have more people to treat. Examples are how the definitions of high blood pressure and “overweight / obese” have been lowered, but also on how deep vein thrombosis, osteoporosis, and female sexual dysfunction.

  2. Yes, very interesting, that. You see, according to my doctor, I’m very sick.

    I don’t FEEL sick, and I don’t LOOK sick, but my fasting glucose # is just a little too high. And because that # is high, my cholesterol is too high–though it wouldn’t be if my fasting glucose were normal.

    Confused yet? Me, too. Apparently, the fact there is no history of heart disease in my family on either side, or that my HDL is MUCH higher than my LDL, means nothing. The number is too high according to some chart, therefore I need “fixing”. Grr. But if/when my doc tries to put me on cholesterol-lowering meds, she is going to have a fight on her hands.

  3. Living400lbs, that article you linked -while otherwise very interesting – pours scorn on the notion that a woman in her 30s might get DVT. I got DVT at 30. Shapelings, please note: if your legs are different colours, go to hospital.

  4. Oh, and a space hopper is a kid’s bouncey toy, like a yoga ball with handles. They were a craze in the late 70s in the UK.

    Funny, isn’t it, that the default way for the privileged to find out “how the other half lives” is to dress up as one of them rather than to ask them. I suppose we have George Orwell to blame, but at least he could fucking write.

  5. Oh, and a space hopper is a kid’s bouncey toy, like a yoga ball with handles. They were a craze in the late 70s in the UK.

    In the 80s in the US, we called them pogo balls!

  6. Oh man, I’m tired of hearing about Michelle Obama’s arms, whether it’s how audacious she is for showing them or whether it’s how “hard she works” to get the “season’s hottest accessory.” SHUT UP, mindless talking heads.

  7. I think I’ll dress up as a clueless journalist, take a long lunch down the pub, stick my head up my arse for the afternoon and then write up my experiences for a grateful public. Because oterwise, how will we know how they really feel?

  8. Seriously, if I see “the right to bare arms” wrt Mrs. Obama one more time I’m going to throw something heavy.

  9. Wait, I’m lost… there’s a problem with the president’s wife wearing short sleeves or something?

    I mean, I really had to think about that for a minute. I had to sit and have myself a good, hard, think about the fact that [i]I live in a country where there is considerable national comment over what the president’s wife is wearing. And we’re not even talking schoolgirl fetish outfits or a mascot costume of, I dunno, Scooby Doo, we’re talking short sleeves.[/i]

    Wow. Way to prioritize, America. *lawlz great big US thumbs up yeeha!*

  10. Oh, and a space hopper is a kid’s bouncey toy, like a yoga ball with handles. They were a craze in the late 70s in the UK.

    :-( I was thinking of actual UFO type space ships and imagining them shooting lasers at each other underneath her blouse. There goes the only shred of entertainment I might have gotten out of the story.

  11. No, a pogo ball is different, it’s a very small yoga ball that you stand on. This sounds more like what I would call a hippety-hop.

    Ohhh I get it. I have seen those but I don’t have a word for them, so my mind when straight to pogo balls. Which aren’t really breast-like, but hey.

  12. On a side note, this discussion just caused me to google pogo balls, having never been allowed to have one as a kid due to my dad thinking they looked dangerous; turns out that some sites are selling them for adult exercise purposes. I am sooo checking a local athletic store on the way home today, and hopefully injuring myself with a grownup pogo ball tonight!

  13. This sounds more like what I would call a hippety-hop.

    Yes! That’s what I got from MissPrism’s description, but I couldn’t remember the U.S. name. I knew Pogo Ball wasn’t what I was picturing, though.

  14. Which aren’t really breast-like, but hey.

    Neither are hippety-hops, so you could be forgiven for thinking it was just a totally asinine metaphor.

  15. I read the article, saw the pictures and had to keep going back to look at them. The journo girl looks like Widow Twanky- what the FUCK is she she wearing??? Is she trying to tell the world that fat girls have all got personality disorders?? Fucking hell… And I read all the comments Daily ‘Hate’ Mail readers had left (and I spotted quite a few from SP readers- yay!) and was pleasantly surprised that even the most rabidly anti-fat knobheads could see that a thin girl dressing up in the duvet off her granny’s bed under a nasty cheap dress and a cardigan out of a charity shop wasn’t exactly representative of the experience of us fat beauties. Jesus… And the silly bitch thought she was Martin Luther fucking King for the fat!!!

    Can I be a Daily Mail reporter and just write a load of bollocks that tells no one anything they didn’t already know? I could knock my copy off in about 10 minutes and spend the rest of the day eating cake and sleeping…

  16. Her space hoppers, in the fat suit, are enormous and strangely shaped. I have big boobs, and I think they are enormous. I’d stare at her if she walked past me, too, not because she was fat (she looked pretty typical, size-wise, to me in both pictures), but because of her enormous, weirdly-shaped boobs.

  17. I was thinking it was some kind of space-mining thing. Don’t you put ore in a hopper? So I thought maybe her breasts resembled whatever they use to haul ore in space. If asteroid mining actually existed, I mean.

    Yes, I read sci-fi.

    I’m still going with Rack of Doom. (Actually, I’m getting rid of the Rack of Doom some time in the next few months, but that’s neither here nor there)

  18. killedbyllamas, I have an adult pogo ball (UK 1980s “disco ball”) designed for sports training and it is fabulous. However I give you advance warning that unless you have very small breasts you will need a really good sports bra!

  19. I have a stability ball. My little boy dog is frightened of it and rushes around it barking so forcefully that, like, all four paws come off the ground.

    He does not, however, bark at my breasts.

    And dear, sweet Jesus on the female sexual dysfunction! My girlfriend practices medicine, and she actually brought some Levitra home for me.

    Little does she know, I’m not having any dysfunction. I’m exhausted from the full time job, the board presidency at a local nonprofit and having to either do most of the housework, or finish the little of it SHE starts!

  20. But none of us, in that outfit or any part of it, would have arms and legs with no more definition than soft sculpture dolls, or a head that clearly belongs to a much smaller woman

    Well, I do have both of those things, but that’s because I have lipoedema. I only wear ankle-length skirts but there’s still no hiding the weirdness and disproportionateness (it’s a word now, ok?) of my sizes and shapes, and you’re absolutely right – it gets a lot of attention. People stare at me a lot, and it’s not because I’m fat – it’s because I look bloody weird. Maybe they think I’m in a fat suit! Except my tits are much less foamy.

    Mmm, foamy tits.

  21. A journalist dressing up in a “fat suit” to experience what it’s like be fat is about as effective as if they dressed in a coconut crab outfit to understand what it’s like to be a coconut crab.

    I would love to see Tyra Banks dressed as a coconut crab though.

  22. Mmm, foamy tits.

    They are like Muppet tits really. If Miss Piggy went without a bra that’s what her tits would look like. Fortunately Miss Piggy is far to fashion conscious to do such a thing.

  23. Popping up from my months of lurking to express my utter frustration with these bloody “fat suit” articles. Honestly, time and again these things seem to reinforce the idea that fat people don’t want to be seen at all, not even in an article ABOUT BEING FAT.

    As in, no matter how many qualified, fat journalists there are to take on a piece about this subject…no, time and again we have the size 10 in a ridiculous fat suit (most likely deliberately unrealistic to garner reactions, of course). It’s like, they think no one will read anything written by somebody over this woman’s size. As if people will think “Ick” and turn the page. Who wants to hear anything about what some REAL FATTY EW goes through, after all? At least, that’s always the impression they give me.

    I’ve a feeling I just stated the obvious there, but it’s good to vent! Also hope I didn’t ramble too much, because I should know better and just scroll away as soon as I see The Fail mentioned…

  24. I would love to see Tyra Banks dressed as a coconut crab though.

    Photoshop, someone, pleeeeeease? :)

  25. Well, I do have both of those things, but that’s because I have lipoedema

    Hey, I’m sorry I didn’t think of anything like that. And of course, sorry assholes stare. And really sorry that by the logic of my post, I might be one of those assholes — except there still is the not-foamy part. :) I like to think I’d know the difference.

  26. Oh, absolutely no problem, Kate – lipoedema’s not rare but it’s seriously underdiagnosed and as of 2006 when I got my diagnosis, it wasn’t even in medical textbooks (and I doubt it is now). I can generally tell when people are staring with an attitude of “Huh. Something a bit strange there, can’t figure out what though” rather than one of “OMG LOOK AT THE FATTY HUR HUR”, so if I were to see you staring at me, I’d not mind. Actually, I’d go “JAMES JAMES IT’S KATE HARDING WE MUST BUY HER SOME HOT CHOCOLATE AND THANK HER A LOT” and probably make a fool of myself.

    Also, if delightful people want to look Very Carefully at my boobs to make sure they’re not foamy, that’s fine by me :P

  27. A journalist dressing up in a “fat suit” to experience what it’s like be fat is about as effective as if they dressed in a coconut crab outfit to understand what it’s like to be a coconut crab.

    Terrifying Like Me: The True Story of Anti-Coconut-Crab Hatred, As Told by a Nice White Lady

  28. Some years ago, I saw a fat suit exercise very similar to this one in which the woman concerned sat on a crowded tube train and ate her way through a box of chocolate eclairs, and exclaimed people were staring at her to illustrate her terrible day spent as a fat person. Forget that no fat woman alive would actually do that unless they were a) a performance artist, or b) a raving masochist … hello! – the woman had a press photographer with her all day, just like Kate Faithful did.

    People do tend to stare at folk having their photograph taken, not least if they’re sporting a mammoth pair of comedy tits and moving awkwardly as a result of being rendered six dress sizes larger than they’re used to being. The stupid burns so badly I want to rip off those preposterous foam boobs and ram them up her Paul Dacre’s backside.

    To coin a popular phrase, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!

  29. I read some of the comments over there, and I felt really sad for one woman who is fat and dieting. She said that people do stare at her because she’s fat, and she wishes she could hang a sign on her neck that states, “I lost x pounds. I used to be FATTER!” I wish women weren’t trained to feel as if they owe the world an explanation.

  30. **Terrifying Like Me: The True Story of Anti-Coconut-Crab Hatred, As Told by a Nice White Lady**

    Sweet Machine. I just inhaled my minty chewing gum while braying in laughter at this.

    Ouch, and thanks!

  31. Why don’t any thin journalists follow around a group of OMGFATFATFATTIES for a day and observe how people react to them? That would give them a much more accurate view of a regular day in the life of a fat person.

    Also, whenever I see pictures of Michelle Obama with a sleeveless outfit, the only thing I think is that she must be cold, and I want to give her a jacket.

  32. Terrifying Like Me: The True Story of Anti-Coconut-Crab Hatred, As Told by a Nice White Lady

    *dies*

    I have not laughed so hard in weeks. Thank you, SM!

    For the cover of this book, I totally imagine a split screen photo with a half body of an earnest-looking Nice White Lady on the left side and a half body of a coconut crab on the other.

  33. And now the above news items are colliding in my head and I’m imagining a Nice White Lady putting on a Black First Lady In A Sleeveless Dress suit and writing an earnest memoir about the negative attention attracted by the bare arms (WHICH ARE NOT REALLY BARE GEDDIT? BECAUSE, CHECK IT — IT IS A SUIT! omg literary genius.)

  34. Also, whenever I see pictures of Michelle Obama with a sleeveless outfit, the only thing I think is that she must be cold

    My guess is that the Capitol interior, Vogue photography studios, etc. are heated.

    I love Michelle in sleeveless dresses, and I would love Michelle in sleeveless dresses even if she didn’t have the guns of an athlete. She’s a tall, elegant, painfully classy FIrst Lady — why shouldn’t she work the “modern Jackie O” angle as hard as she can? That means sheath dresses, and she does it and does it well.

    Some people in Washington will make drama out of anything, though… are we sure there’s been an uproar and not, you know, an uproar?

  35. This whole thread thrills me to the core.

    I’m a little confused about why you find “Americans are getting larger” to be a controversial statement–is there some problem with the CDC data that I’m not aware of?

  36. I should say that my take on the CDC data is “Of course Americans are getting larger around as they get taller, because that’s how human topology works.”

  37. @muffinbean
    Just like for movies either a thin person has to gain weight to play the part or wear a fat-suit; Angelina Jolie plays a woc; no way one could actually find actresses who fit the job description naturally…

  38. I’m a little confused about why you find “Americans are getting larger” to be a controversial statement–is there some problem with the CDC data that I’m not aware of?

    No, but that’s looking at data from between 1960 and the present. As the article I linked points out, the increases leveled off in 2007. (They leveled off for women around 1999, actually.) Yet people keep saying we’re getting bigger, as if it’s an ongoing thing, and the “normal” and “underweight” BMI categories will eventually disappear entirely.

    We got bigger. But at present, we’re not getting bigger.

  39. Terrifying Like Me: The True Story of Anti-Coconut-Crab Hatred, As Told by a Nice White Lady

    Snerk.

    I propose: ‘Inside the Crust-acean, or, Life Among the Crabs; the Anonymous Exploits of A Fair Lady in Disguise, as told to An Armchair Anthropologist.’

    But then, I’ve been reading old books lately [g].

  40. The best – well, only interesting – fat suit story I’ve heard was David Sedaris’ account of his sister acquiring only half a fat suit and wearing it home, without comment, and gradually freaking their father out with it. Your point about them being obvious reminded me of that.

  41. Sleeveless Like Me: My Day in a Michelle Obama Costume, by A Nice White Lady.

    ‘Inside the Crust-acean, or, Life Among the Crabs; the Anonymous Exploits of A Fair Lady in Disguise, as told to An Armchair Anthropologist.’

    I love you people. I’m laughing/crying here.

  42. JPlum said: “I was thinking it was some kind of space-mining thing. Don’t you put ore in a hopper? So I thought maybe her breasts resembled whatever they use to haul ore in space.”

    That is *exactly* what I was thinking. But most asteroid-mining hoppers are somewhat blocky (think old Volvo) unless they are supposed to operate in atmosphere, in which case they tend to be more shuttle-shaped — neither of which really reminded me of breasts.

    So then I thought that perhaps she meant the kind of space hopper that space-faring teens and young adults joyride in … you know, a little two-person near-space scooter, effectively.

    All of which lead to a lot of odd thoughts about her docking bays …

  43. WHAT – quote from comments on the Daily Mail article.

    “Who doesn’t like fat sloppy women?

    After all Michelle Obama is what, a size 24 and we elected her husband President. ”

    Again, what?

    Also agreed that people were staring at the reporter because she was wearing a fat suit and unfashionable clothes. Also, another person who knew people who were at LFW came in and said that the reason people didn’t want to sit next to her was that it was clear she was pulling some kind of PR stunt, given obvious fat suit and photographer in tow. So all in all a dumb idea – why not just send a journalist who was actually fat and dress her appropriately if they MUST do this?

    Personally I’d have stared at the obviously fake comedy boobs too. In fact in at least one of the pictures that’s exactly what the woman standing next to her is doing.

    The thing about Michelle Obama wearing sleeveless shirts is just ludicrous. What, are muscular arms required to be covered now too? Or is this some sort of the First Lady must look like she stepped out of Leave it to Beaver, no white shoes after Labour Day type nonsense?

  44. If a size 20 is “unfathomably enormous” then what the fuck is a size 30? People don’t treat me like a runaway ocean liner, they mostly treat me like every other woman (not that I don’t have complaints about how women are treated in general). And if they stare, it’s usually because I’m mad and have just said “fuck” in front of their precious little child. Of course this is my body, and I’m walking around in it comfortably (relatively) because it’s not a fat suit. I may not get to zip out of it at the end of the day, but I’m not struggling to be natural in it either.

    On the other things, the only time I want to hear about the POTUS and FLOTUS is when it relates to national policy. Michelle can go topless and Barak can do his job in a pair of speedos for all I care. I am still waiting for my unicorn pony though.

  45. And if they stare, it’s usually because I’m mad and have just said “fuck” in front of their precious little child.

    And this is why we love you.

  46. Shipment of the magical unicorn ponies has been delayed due to the Post Office’s proposed cut in service.

    How can they CUT service, as it is I only get mail every other day and half of it belongs to someone else.

    Also This:
    And if they stare, it’s usually because I’m mad and have just said “fuck” in front of their precious little child.

    If only it were possible to give myself an NC-17 rating and require everyone within hearing distance to be carded before admission.

  47. The best – well, only interesting – fat suit story I’ve heard was David Sedaris’ account of his sister acquiring only half a fat suit and wearing it home, without comment, and gradually freaking their father out with it. Your point about them being obvious reminded me of that.

    That story killed me. I listened to the audiobook, because I think adding David Sedaris’ voice to the mix only heightens the funny, and I actually had to stop, turn off the swiffer vac, and double over in laughter at the image of her wearing the lower half of a fat suit, and sticking her stuffed butt out while rummaging through the refrigerator. Of course, Amy Sedaris is just so totally funny in her physical comedy antics that having David describe them is like a perfect storm of hilarity.

    I think it does make a difference that she was doing it strictly to get a rise out of their dad, as opposed to trying to know “how fat people Feeeeeel!”

  48. Apart from the obvious idiocy, these “thin lady in a fat suit” stories bother me because they sneakily reinforce the oft-repeated idea that every fat person has a thin person inside them (“waiting to come out” of course).

    The article also echoes the common “super skinny is unattractive/fat is unattractive, why can’t we all just be average?” refrain, which gets to me because, like the idea that there is a thin me living inside my fat self, it implies that there is (for ‘some people’) a disparity between what the human body is supposed to be and what it actually is.

    As though the goal is to reflect as closely as possible the magical cosmic cookie-cutters with which the Almighty created us, but unfortunately some of us came out a little too big or too small or whatever.

    Not like there’s anything inherently interesting or beautiful about variation.

  49. Re: Michelle Obama’s sleevelessness:

    Aside from the fact that she’s got an enviable set of guns, she’s quite tall. Which means that she may very well have had sleeve-length issues for most of her life. And if you have sleeve-length issues and an enviable set of guns, why the hell not develop a style that involves sleeveless sheaths? Problem solved.

  50. And if you have sleeve-length issues and an enviable set of guns, why the hell not develop a style that involves sleeveless sheaths?

    Outstanding point. As someone who’s had sleeve-length issues in the other direction all my life, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.

  51. No, but that’s looking at data from between 1960 and the present. As the article I linked points out, the increases leveled off in 2007. (They leveled off for women around 1999, actually.) Yet people keep saying we’re getting bigger, as if it’s an ongoing thing, and the “normal” and “underweight” BMI categories will eventually disappear entirely.

    We got bigger. But at present, we’re not getting bigger.

    If I remember right, we also barely got any bigger. The peak in population BMI changed shape so that the center of it shifted very slightly. (And I do not know how much of an effect the increase in population height in that same time period may have been reflected in the peak shift, and I’m not sure if anyone has corrected for that to see if it made a significant difference.)

    I love David Sedaris. Also Michelle Obama’s lack of sleeves.

  52. Michelle Obama looks amazing in the photos. I simply do not get this – is there some American etiquette on sleevelessness that I am failing to understand as a limey? Given the clear “dressiness” and stylishness of her clothes, there’s no way I’d have thought it was “inappropriate” unless she was in a Muslim country.

  53. thegirlfrommarz, that explains Princess Diana’s shocking informality at her own White House reception, all those years ago.

    I don’t think it inappropriate – I’d shy away from bared arms in church, but that’s more an issue of air conditioning and conservative churches than anything else. Sleeveless is (to me) more casual than sleeved, unless you’re wearing, say, a spiffy designer sheath, in which case you’re back to pretty dressed up.

  54. thegirlfrommarz, that explains Princess Diana’s shocking informality at her own White House reception, all those years ago.

    For serious? I’m in the UK and she looks perfectly formal to me. (And I covet that dress, actually.) How interesting.

  55. The reason for the ‘thin woman in a fat suit’ or ‘white man in black-face’ phenomenon—-look, it isn’t even a matter of “why don’t they hire a [fat/black/etc] journalist instead?”

    There are plenty of fat women writing about their experiences. There are and were plenty of black people talking and writing about their experiences, sometimes with conclusions along the lines of “You need to stop discriminating like this.” The fundamental problem is that privileged groups don’t believe the underclasses. So a privileged person who pretends to be in an oppressed category has more credibility among the overclasses. That’s why they hire one of their own, someone they can trust, whose judgment hasn’t been compromised by their obvious bad judgment in not meeting standards.

  56. kate harding wrote: As the article I linked points out, the increases leveled off in 2007. (They leveled off for women around 1999, actually.) Yet people keep saying we’re getting bigger, as if it’s an ongoing thing, and the “normal” and “underweight” BMI categories will eventually disappear entirely.

    We got bigger. But at present, we’re not getting bigger.

    AH. This is one of the downsides of an education in history–I’m so used to taking the long view that I often miss finer granularities.

    volcanista wrote: If I remember right, we also barely got any bigger. The peak in population BMI changed shape so that the center of it shifted very slightly.

    If you look at the data in the CDC reports, the change in height is significant and the change in weight even more significant between 1960 and the 1990s.

    That said, there are lots of health-positive reasons for that, including less malnutrition among the kids who grew up when the Great Society programs were still operating. When I was a kid in rural Massachusetts in the early 70s, the state used to send nurses around to check kids for rickets and other vitamin-deficiency-related issues.

  57. “For serious? I’m in the UK and she looks perfectly formal to me. (And I covet that dress, actually.) How interesting.”

    Ahem, no, sorry, I was being snide. She looks lovely and formal, which is why I don’t get the OMG SLEEVELESS cries. If anything, we’ve gotten less formal over the years, so sleeveless should be more acceptable. It’s not like she’s wearing polo shirts and scrubs.

  58. “unambiguously health-positive reasons” I mean–obviously neither high nor low weight is in and of itself health-negative, but addressing issues of malnutrition and vitamin deficiency over a large population produces an increase in average weight as well as health benefits.

  59. volcanista wrote: If I remember right, we also barely got any bigger. The peak in population BMI changed shape so that the center of it shifted very slightly.

    If you look at the data in the CDC reports, the change in height is significant and the change in weight even more significant between 1960 and the 1990s.

    Yeah, I think what volcanista is remembering is that we didn’t actually get much fatter. There was a population-wide increase in height as well as in weight.

  60. She looks lovely and formal, which is why I don’t get the OMG SLEEVELESS cries.

    I think part of the claim from the sorts of people who take it upon themselves to police women’s presentation is that while sleevelessness can be formal, it can’t be professional. Which is still nonsensical but does explain why Diana (and, for that matter, Michelle at the balls) would be considered perfectly appropriate.

  61. If I remember right, we also barely got any bigger. The peak in population BMI changed shape so that the center of it shifted very slightly. (And I do not know how much of an effect the increase in population height in that same time period may have been reflected in the peak shift, and I’m not sure if anyone has corrected for that to see if it made a significant difference.)

    That was my understanding of the data, too. The median weight increase was very modest. The largest Americans did get significantly larger, though, for reasons we don’t understand, and that throws the averages off.

    OT, but I’ve always wondered if the increase in people taking medications that can cause weight gain has ever been considered as part of the reason for the increase in American’s weight. I mean, if we’re talking about 1960 to the present, how much did the percentage of women on birth control pills, which we know cause weight gain, go up? How much, in the 1990s, when the rates of obesity and particularly child obesity were supposedly skyrocketing, did the rates of people taking anti-depressants, which we again know cause weight gain, and of children taking all variety of prescription medications, in many cases with effects in children we don’t even know because they are being used off-label, increase? I’d tend to think that just the increase in prescription medications that cause weight gain could be enough, in and of itself, to explain the slight weight shift that occurred.

  62. I think part of the claim from the sorts of people who take it upon themselves to police women’s presentation is that while sleevelessness can be formal, it can’t be professional. Which is still nonsensical but does explain why Diana (and, for that matter, Michelle at the balls) would be considered perfectly appropriate.

    The silliness, it burns. She’s not a professional when she’s showing up with her husband. I mean, First Lady isn’t a professional role – it’s not a job, it’s a title. Which doesn’t mean she’s not working, but GAH.

    I’m more impressed that she’s warm enough – usually the air conditioning/temp is set for men in suits, which in the winter may very well be wool. I’d be freezing and/or doing distracting jumping jacks to keep warm.

  63. If you look at the data in the CDC reports, the change in height is significant and the change in weight even more significant between 1960 and the 1990s.

    Right, I was thinking of the compiled data in the BMI chart. Even if I thought BMI were meaningful, the peak barely shifts. It becomes slightly more asymmetrical. And I think you’re right that, IIRC, the increase in height is associated with better nutrition overall. (Take that, people who think we eat just soooooo badly now!)

  64. Kate, I’m so glad you took on that reporter in a fat suit story. I wanted to say exactly what you did. You know what I wish? I wish, when the rags wanted to do a ‘what’s it like to be fat’ story, they’d HIRE AN ACTUAL FAT PERSON to write it. Duh.

  65. There are plenty of fat women writing about their experiences. There are and were plenty of black people talking and writing about their experiences, sometimes with conclusions along the lines of “You need to stop discriminating like this.” The fundamental problem is that privileged groups don’t believe the underclasses. So a privileged person who pretends to be in an oppressed category has more credibility among the overclasses. That’s why they hire one of their own, someone they can trust, whose judgment hasn’t been compromised by their obvious bad judgment in not meeting standards.

    Holy crap, Rozasharn nails it.

  66. “I think part of the claim from the sorts of people who take it upon themselves to police women’s presentation is that while sleevelessness can be formal, it can’t be professional. ”

    “Professional” is a sliding scale according to social status. My smaller female colleagues can get away with way racier attire than I can in the office, but my Rack of Doom makes wearing a modest v-neck “inappropriate” despite that I’m not showing any more skin than anyone else. There’s an assumption that my flesh, specifically, is something that makes people uncomfortable.

    Don’t forget also the culture’s tendency to consider Black bodies as more sexualised, making any skin reveal OMG scandalous! I suspect that this might have a lot to do with it.

  67. “Terrifying Like Me: The True Story of Anti-Coconut-Crab Hatred, As Told by a Nice White Lady”

    Sweet Machine, thanks for making me laugh out loud after a tough day.

  68. I think part of the reason people are bothered by Michelle Obama’s arms is that First Ladies are not supposed to have bodies, not really. Bodies imply sexuality, and sexuality in a powerful woman is terrifying. And the nature of a First Lady’s power makes sexuality particularly problematic. She may have no official brief, but she does have an influential public platform. She must be very careful with it. First of all, because her power is perceived as reflected (she’s the moon to her husband’s sun), she shouldn’t engage in any activities not seen as strictly supportive of her husband’s program (she shouldn’t generate her own light, to continue the metaphor). Even in the service of such seemingly “safe” causes as education, literacy, and beautification (kisses to you, Lady Bird), she has to step very carefully, so as not to seem to cross the line from a pleasant public advocacy to lobbying. And that’s because of the second, truly thorny reason a First Lady has to take care: she sleeps with the President. (Even if she doesn’t, that’s not likely to be public knowledge.) This invokes, however deep in the cultural sub-conscious, images of the scheming seductresses of history (who were often slandered, themselves, in being filed under that category), royal mistresses who used their influence to get power they never would or should have had otherwise, or queens who ran governments into the ground by using their powers of manipulation to sow discord between king and governed.

    The best thing a First Lady can be is matronly. Mothers are protectors of the home and the hearth. Their primary concern is their children: something outside of themselves. For most of us, mothers embody safety and security. Even if our own experiences as children or mothers or both runs completely counter to that image, it’s still the basis for thinking about motherhood in general. And the institution of “republican motherhood” appeared alongside the United States itself.

    And that, I think, is the problem with Michelle Obama’s arms. I look forward eagerly to the utter chaos in cultural discourse that I am sure will result if our first woman president happens to have a male life partner.

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