Fat, Feminism, Self-Image

Colonization of the Brain

Barry over at Alas has posted an old-ish comic of his, representing his inner monologue as a fat dude — and the dark thoughts that continue to creep in, even long after recognizing that “Self-hatred isn’t the natural consequence of being fat. It’s something I was taught.” It’s brutally honest, heartbreaking, and well worth a look. You can see a large pdf here and a large jpg here.

58 thoughts on “Colonization of the Brain”

  1. That comic is amazing. It describes exactly what’s going on in my head whilst struggling with FA. I want to accept myself the way I am, fat included, but then there’s that colonization thing I cannot seem to get rid of even though I *know* it’s crap to think that way.

  2. “I suck because I bash myself.” Oh my, so true… The keystone that holds up the arch of never ending suck.

  3. I want to marry Barry and have babies with Barry and see if we can’t keep our kids from being as screwed up as we were!

  4. It’s the next line — “it’s something that was done to me” — that just kills me. Amazing.

  5. Have to say, I was mainly looking at the painting. That is a damn well painted painting. Although personally I feel she could do with a head.
    Other than that, I was very impressed.

  6. The painting has one of the key male bits, yeah. (Discussion of the feminization of fat men, anyone?)

    As for the comic … I dunno. The last three panels totally lost me, and I’m not seeing why everyone else is calling it amazing.

  7. I’m curious what you react against in the last three panels, Maewyn, if you don’t mind me asking.

  8. The last three panels totally lost me, and I’m not seeing why everyone else is calling it amazing.

    For me, it goes back to what I’ve said many times about how this whole fat acceptance thing can be a loooong, slow journey, with a lot of switchbacks and setbacks. The comic’s not amazing in a “Yay! Fat pride!” way. It’s amazing to me because Barry articulates the early parts of the process of trying to shed decades of anti-fat conditioning so honestly and well in so few words. (And when I say “early,” I mean in contrast to later stages where you’re more reliably self-accepting — but that “early” stage can take years and years.)

    When I first started writing this blog, I worried that if I ever admitted to having an off day, where I just wasn’t feeling the body love, I’d look like a huge hypocrite and no one would ever come back. Then I did start admitting it somewhere along the line, and it turns out that the posts where I talk about how I still struggle with internalized self-loathing strike a major chord with a whole lot of people. Those are the posts that bring loads of “Thank you for saying that!” e-mails, usually with a note about how the reader thought FJ, SM, and I were all perfectly self-confident 24/7, and the reader just couldn’t figure out how it’s so easy for us when it’s so hard for her.

    I’m happy to say that I AM pretty self-confident the vast majority of the time, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that self-acceptance doesn’t come all at once, and even after you’ve made a lot of progress, it can still be a struggle. The comic speaks to that struggle, which resonates with a lot of people — and I’m sure the lack of a happy ending resonates with a lot of readers here who might be newer to fat acceptance. Getting over that societal conditioning can be a long, shitty process, and we’re all at different places along the way.

  9. Ditto what Kate just said; also, the last three panels struck me as very Speigelman-homage (which I could totally be making up) – the kind of unresolved and brutal honesty that is not about making things nice but making them true. Messy and complicated and unfinished and true.



    That’s the exact monologue in my head, too (at every size I’ve been), minus the ‘I’m a feminist, I WILL NOT FEEL THIS WAY” ineffective bonus flail.

    Beautiful work, Barry. Thanks.

  10. Oof.

    I dunno what’s up with me, but I’m actually feeling suicidal right now, about my weight. It’s all tied up with an ongoing health situation (see my blog for gory details), and the fact that I’ve been reading up on it and finding all the horrible things that can supposedly go wrong with me because of the level of fat in and on my body. I just feel like jumping off a cliff and saving nature the trouble of killing me slowly with [insert obesity-caused illness here].

    I know that most of what is commonly thought to be obesity-caused illness actually *isn’t*, but today that’s just not getting through to this woman of size. I look into the future and just see an slow slide into chronic bad health. This comic kind of drives home for me the fact that IN ADDITION to the physical things I have to worry about, I’m also doomed to fight, maybe forever, the very durable colony of self-hatred planted in my brain. WHAT’S THE FUCKING POINT? I ask myself.

    I’m sorry to be a downer, but I got nowhere else to go with this shit.

  11. That was amazing — both heartbreaking and beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with us, Kate, and thank you, Barry for sharing yourself.

  12. Ooops – apologies to the painter!
    Honestly, I saw the naked torso and leapt to the conclusion that it was female without paying too much attention. Obviously, I should never be a detective. Or, there should be more pictures of naked men around, and then I wouldn’t automatically assume that nakedness = woman.
    Also, I hope Hera is feeling better now.

  13. Just popping in to say I’ve read the comments and I’ll be back this evening for discussion. Some days at work, I can be on the internet more than others. This is not a day with lots of internet time. :)

  14. Hey everyone, I’m off The Ledge — thanks to all who wrote and commented, and sorry about the dramatic thread hijack. I really wish there were some safe place to go with the shit I was feeling last night. A while ago Kate et. al. asked for some feedback about this site and there were many requests for a message board/forum… has there been any headway on that? A moderated message board would be really useful to me during those psycho times — just a place to spew, to people who GET IT.

    Thanks to everyone who wrote/commented. It helped me not feel so alone with this stuff.

  15. OK, I’m back! Let’s see if I can’t make my English degree and Art History classes worth the student loan payments.

    Lilah, I don’t think I’m reacting against anything — I don’t understand the point he’s making. For most of the strips he’s talking about his lifelong experience of fat, then using the phrase “the personal is political” to emphasize that his experience (and the self-hating monologue) wasn’t an innate part of being fat, it was a learned behavior from the society we live in. I get that, and apart from my own experience, from comments here I get that this is a common journey on the road toward self-acceptance.

    Then he asked whether knowing that self-hate is a learned behavior will “help de-colonize my brain”, then he … walks away? Disappears? The panels are spiraling inward, the last two panels fade, he’s shrugging in the second-to-last panel, and in the very last one his back is to the viewer, as if to enter the navel of the person (himself?) painted behind the panels. He’s leaving the comic.

    It’s the text in the third panel, combined with his behavior in the last three when compared to the rest of the comic, that has me confuzzled. Since they’re phrases, I get that they emphasize his confusion (about the solution to the situation?), but I don’t know what the endings of the phrases might be, or what point he might be trying to get across.

    On the whole, I read the comic as making several points about the experience of fat, then totally walking away from the discussion. I can’t decide whether he’s leaving it up to the viewer to decide the final message or just dropping the point entirely. Where is he taking the viewer? Is the point that we don’t know what the next step is? (Because that, I disagree with; I think enough of us have gotten far enough toward self-acceptance that we can suggest next steps to people who have gotten through the “THEY did this to me!!” phase.) Is the point that everyone has to answer this question for him- or herself? Am I thinking too hard about it?

  16. Kate and Theriomorph, thanks for explaining a little bit. Maybe the point of the comic is to describe the early process (from “Wait, I’m not disgusting!” to anger at society, or starting even earlier) and the feeling of aloneness, of blazing a new path without clear signposts to help direct those feelings or show what others have done in the same emotional situation. Messy, realistic honesty and frustration?

    In that case, it’s probably just not as satisfying or communicative(? I’m looking for a word that means “speaks eloquently to say what I have been unable to say”) to me as it does to others. Which is not a dig on the comic; more like horses for courses.

  17. Lilah, I don’t think I’m reacting against anything — I don’t understand the point he’s making.

    I hope that question didn’t sound snotty – reading it, it was kind of a weird way of asking why the end ruined it for you, which was what I was going for. Thanks for the explanation!

  18. Ah, I see what you mean now! I thought maybe I was unconsciously showing some unexamined prejudice. ;)

    In that case, I’m glad to have answered the question you were asking!

  19. Well, by turning toward the torso he’s literally “navel gazing,” right? Maybe it ties into the idea that he has to make a self-deprecating joke so that he’s not written offl?

  20. Hi, everyone. I just wanted to pop in to say that I’ve been lurking, and I really appreciate the comments from everyone (including your comments, Maewyn).

    Hera, I’m glad you’re feeling better today.

    Theriomorph, it wasn’t consciously a homage to Speigelman, but I certainly love his work, so maybe it was an influence there. I’m sure I’ve seen the “turn and walk away from the viewer” ending to an autobio comic done in the past, although I’m not sure by who.

  21. Hi Barry. :) Thanks for being cool with criticism!

    This didn’t really fit with my other comments, but I do love the layout of the comic and the way panels are placed over the backdrop of the body — first realizations up near the head, memories and emotional reactions over the heart, anger coming up from below the groin and through it, spiraling inward to the navel and solar plexus when the narrative turns inward. Nicely done, there.

    I could poke more at what I didn’t get, if you want.

  22. I really liked this comic! Thanks, Barry! I liked the way it was laid out in a spiral, which is totally how these kinds of thought processes feel to me. Like another commenter above, at first glance I also assumed that the torso was female, and I think the fact that it isn’t just points out another instance of “brain colonization” right there.

  23. Just don’t forget that everytime you go to Amp/Barry’s website, you are giving pornographers money. He sold his site to pornographers, so every time you click on his site, those pornographers gain. Personally, I really don’t appreciate a MAN running a “feminist” website that is actually owned by pornographers. I know that this blog has his blog linked, which disturbs me on a regular basis.

  24. Wow, really? A draw? They do good work, profiting off of the abuse of women. How is that good? What does that do for feminism?

    I’m so glad I asked, because I like this blog, but if you are going to defend this, then I’m not going to be able to read here anymore. That is just sickening to me. It’s like linking to a bunch of white supremacists who also are pro-choice.

    It’s not a draw, and I’m extremely sad that you think it is. Count me as one feminist who will not be back here, because of your support for this man who profits from the abuse of women.

  25. Lol, you sound real sorry! You really don’t have a problem with a man promoting pornography, and calling himself a feminist, and drawing feminists to his site- which creates more profits from pornographers? I mean, really? What do you think about pornography in general? Don’t you think porn has a HUGE impact on how women see our bodies? I just think this is extremely, well, contradictory to your overall message.

  26. I’m not trying to be a snarky asshole, but I am really extremely concerned about this. I would appreciate you addressing it, at some point, at least.

  27. Sigh….

    1) Years ago, when I was having financial problems, I sold the domain amptoons.com to a Search Engine Optimization company. The SEO doesn’t create pornography, so the claim that I sold the domain to a pornographer isn’t true.

    2) The SEO’s clients include porn sites. The SEO’s work enables sleazy porn site “A” to turn up higher in search engines than sleazy porn site “B,” when someone searches for “porn.” I don’t think the world is made worse place because one sleazy porn site gets better search engine results than another.

    3) Since the initial financial crisis that motivated the sale passed, I’ve received $2000 a year to keep “Alas” on this domain. 100% of that money (over 10% of my annual income) is given to good causes (such as Women for Women International and “no on 8” in California). This, I believe, does more good than moving to another domain would, even though I get a lot of shit for not moving.

    4) “Alas” itself contains no links to porn. The domain that “Alas” is on, which I don’t own and do not control in any way, does contain links to porn. — just as domains like blogspot.com do.

    5) To tell you the truth, as far as I’m concerned I only did one thing that was really wrong. When this all went down, years ago, I dithered a few months before publicly announcing the sale. That was wrong, and I’ve apologized for it.

    But the sale itself was just a compromise I had to make because sometimes life sucks that way, unless you’re rich or a college student or something. I don’t really see the way “Alas” is currently set up — in which it gets money from someone who, in turn, gets his money from porn advertisements — as any different from when I’ve had cartoons appear in alternative newspapers which got their money from escort ads (and, just as bad, from diet and WLS ads).

    I don’t think I’ve done anything so awful that years later, people should be hounded for linking to my comics. (The thread on “Pandagon” linking to my comic “Hereville” — which isn’t even hosted on amptoons — was a nightmare.) I don’t agree with the idea that if an artist, years ago, had to make money in a way you disagreed with, that person’s art should be blacklisted forever. I just don’t.

  28. Well, that’s a real NICE justification, but I still think you are a scum sucking pig, and I think it’s INSANE that so many feminists think you are some super hero. You disgust me, your rationalizations are ridiculous, and so are you. Fucking pig.

    You made money on the abuse of women. That’s all. And you knew it was wrong, or you would have publicly announced the sale. Asshole.

  29. I would appreciate you addressing it, at some point, at least.

    Well, I invited Barry to address the specific issue, which he did ably. (Thanks, Barry!) Part of the reason I dismissed it as a “draw” was because I was quite sure “OMG READING ALAS EXPLOITS WOMEN!!!11!” was substantially overstating the matter, but I couldn’t remember the exact details behind the whole controversy. So I asked Barry to explain it here for the umpteenth time, instead of shooting my mouth off.

    I knew, however, that one of the other umpteen times I read a thread on this very subject, I’d already determined that for me, the situation didn’t warrant not linking to Alas. (Hence Barry’s having been on the SP blogroll for quite some time.) So I was ready to stand by my assertion that no, what Barry actually did doesn’t bother me enough to stop linking to him.

    How much and in what ways porn bothers me is a whole different issue. It might be one I take up here someday, it might not.

  30. Zubblin, you’re way the fuck out of line. Making direct attacks on other commenters is a bannable offense. You won’t be warned again.

    And no, I don’t think Barry’s some kind of superhero, but I sure think he’s behaved more decently in this thread than you have.

  31. I think YOU are way the fuck out of line. And so is Barry.

    It’s fine, ban me, I won’t be back. I’m incredibly disgusted by you and this site. The fact that you are too scared to even address porn says a lot about you. Too afraid to make waves? Too afraid the men won’t like you? You couldn’t even write your own thoughts on it, you had to have Barry come and write the same old tired justification. Nice. YOU haven’t addressed anything. But, you’ve made it quite clear that you support men who sell out women, and you are willing to throw a feminist off of your site for disagreeing with that man. Nice. I’m really glad to be clear on that fact.

  32. kthxbai.

    And FYI, I find people’s arguments a lot more persuasive when they’re not made almost entirely in the language of concern trolls, regardless of the subject.

  33. Concern troll? How am I a concern troll? Don’t they usually say something like “if u don’t wanna be fat, just don’t eat!”

    You are just trying to dismiss and invalidate my feelings and opinions, which as a feminist, I find extremely problematic.

  34. Oh, look. Someone who’s been acting just like a concern troll flounces and then comes back for more in under 10 minutes. Imagine.

    You’ve made your point, Zubblin. It’s there for everyone to see and evaluate for themselves. And now you’re banned, ’cause you’re boring me.

  35. “3) Since the initial financial crisis that motivated the sale passed, I’ve received $2000 a year to keep “Alas” on this domain. 100% of that money (over 10% of my annual income) is given to good causes (such as Women for Women International and “no on 8″ in California). This, I believe, does more good than moving to another domain would, even though I get a lot of shit for not moving.”

    What other monies to you receive from the pornographers Ampersand? It’s taken you over two years to admit that you’re still getting cash from them, not that it wasn’t blindingly obvious.

    It’s not unlike continuing to share a website domain with the KKK then justifying it by saying you hand over the money to anti-racist organisations.

    I don’t see why Ampersand is getting the good guy creds here, this – http://reviews.amptoons.com/review/bangbros – is what keeping his blog on the pornographer’s domain is supporting. How can any feminist be OK with that?

  36. “You’re a bad feminist if you can’t take my abuse!!”

    Geez, that wasn’t concern trolling, but just straight-up normal old trolling. Good riddance!

  37. That is possibly the most disingenous explanation I’ve seen Ampersand write yet.

    The “years ago” that Amp sold his domain was precisely two years ago, in October of 2006. The first year he received the rough equivalent, according to his own words, of a year’s salary.

    As to Alas “not containing any links to porn,” uh huh. Kindly go to the main page of Amp’s blog. Go down to the very bottom on the right, where it reads:

    “Alas, a blog runs on WordPress blogging and review software. Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS). ”

    Click on “review” which is a link. You will pull up a page on Amptoons.com that is entitled “Honest Reviews.” Click on “Websites”. You will pull up a page on Amptoons which features links to the following:

    Website Reviews

    Review Name Score Sub-Section Date
    MILF Next Door 88 Mature Aug 8, 2006
    MILF Lessons 84 Mature Aug 8, 2006
    Test Review 84 Amateur Aug 1, 2006
    Nicole Star 83 Solo Models Jul 26, 2006
    Christine Young 84 Solo Models Jul 25, 2006
    Joyyourself 88 Live Webcams Jul 24, 2006
    Livejasmin 88 Live Webcams Jul 23, 2006
    Bangbros 95 Networks Jul 22, 2006
    Liz Vicious 85 Solo Models Jul 22, 2006
    Melissa Doll 86 Solo Models Jul 20, 2006
    Lexington Steele 87 Adult Film Star Jul 20, 2006
    Tawnee Stone 87 Solo Models Jul 19, 2006
    8th Street Latinas 86 Ethnic Jul 19, 2006
    Epic Cams 86 Live Webcams Jul 18, 2006
    First Time Auditions 86 Amateur Jul 17, 2006
    Ball Honeys 87 Ethnic Jul 16, 2006
    We Live Together 84 Lesbian Jul 14, 2006
    Milf Hunter 90 Reality Jul 13, 2006
    Amateur Allure 86 Amateur Jul 11, 2006
    Mikes Apartment 85 Reality Jul 11, 2006
    Brainpass 86 Networks Jul 10, 2006
    Mike In Brazil 85 Reality Jul 10, 2006
    In The VIP 87 Reality Jul 10, 2006
    Club Vanessa Blue 84 Adult Film Star Jul 10, 2006
    Maximum Pills 82 Adult Film Star Jul 10, 2006
    Peter North 88 Adult Film Star Jul 3, 2006
    Pages: 1

    Click on the links, for example, “Ball Honeys” and “Eighth Street Latinas” (which are the two I chose) and you will pull up pornographic images.

    If you do not believe me, click here, but beware you will pull up, again, racist, pornographic images:


    Amp, that comment up there is *dishonest*. Do you really think those of us you have repeatedly thrown under the bus will let you get away with this kind of shmoozing? You say you are a feminist, you know what? I see you as a man with huge issues with women and it sucks that so many view you as someone who really gives a shit.

    Alas contains “no links to porn” my eye. Please click above.

    As to the financial hardships, in Amp’s original explanation he said that “down the line” he’d be in trouble if he didn’t do something. Unllike those of us who blog away day after day when we are already in trouble, and who depend on those who support us to continue, which is the honorable thing to do.

    God. I cannot believe, Amp, that you stated here there is no porn on your site! Did you forget?


  38. I just posted a bunch of comments that were in the mod queue, responding to Barry’s comment. Now there’s even more information here for people to evaluate for themselves.

    Zubblin remains banned and Barry remains someone I will choose to link to when I feel it’s warranted. If you disagree with my decision, you’re welcome to discuss it elsewhere, but not on my blog. See the comments policy.

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