Call for Participants: Size Acceptance Survey

Posting this on behalf of Michaela — if you have any questions, please contact her. — Kate

Hi, my name is Michaela A. Null, and I am a doctoral student in Sociology at
Purdue University. I am doing a study about the embodiment of size-accepting fat
women, with attention to the ways in which gender, race, sexual orientation, and
body size intersect.

I am currently looking for individuals who are interested in volunteering to
participate in my study. If you are interested in volunteering to participate in
an interview, I ask that take an electronic informational survey, which will
take approximately 5 minutes. Please go here and complete the
informational survey. After all survey data has been collected, participants
will be selected for interviews, which will be conducted in-person, by phone, or
via internet chat, and will last between an hour and an hour and a half.

Participation is voluntary and participants must be at least 18 years old.

This project has been approved by my university’s Institutional Review Board,
which protects human subjects of research. I will provide confidentiality to all
volunteers and participants will be referred to by a pseudonym in all research

If you have any questions regarding this study, you can contact me at For more information on me, you can access my university
profile here
. You can also contact Professor Eugene Jackson, Assistant Professor of Sociology
at Purdue University, at


Michaela A. Null, Doctoral Candidate in Sociology, Purdue University

New Stuff

Those of you who hate change, brace yourselves.

In addition to the new template, I’ve got news. Over the last few months, three of my longtime co-bloggers have moved on (well, Sweet Machine wasn’t necessarily taking a permanent vacation, but realistically… yeah), and Snarky’s Machine and I have been trying to keep things going in some form that sort of resembles the old SP. But both of us are busy and tired and cranky about moderating, which you’ve probably noticed on account of how we’re always talking about being busy and tired and cranky about moderating. Snarky’s also started up a fantastic pop culture blog, I Fry Mine in Butter, and wants to spend more time on her office supplies blog, Does This Pen Write, in addition to her paid writing projects. In the meantime, we’ve both either been feeling guilty about not writing here or cranky about moderating when we do write.

So Snarky’s bowing out, and “” will finally be an accurate url for this blog once again. It’s just me now. And I don’t even know what it will become yet. I know it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll update more than a couple of times a week for the forseeable future, so you should put Shapely Prose in your reader if you want to keep up with new posts. (You should put Jezebel and Broadsheet in there, too, because I’ll still be doing one-offs for them as well.) Big thanks to everybody who’s stuck around this long and everybody who continues to. When I figure out what I want to do with SP (if there’s to be any overarching vision at all — most likely it will be the same old stuff, but probably with more personal blogging), you’ll be the first to know. While you wait, you can feel free to explore the 1200+  posts in the archives. Rock on, Shapelings.

Out of Office

Hey, it’s another post where all I do is explain why I’m not really posting!

I’m out of town until mid-next week, and at this writing, my internet access is not quite as robust as I hoped it would be. So posting from me might be even lighter than expected. In the meantime, have an open thread and be good.

Commenting Issues

So, hey, here’s a screenshot of one chunk of our recent spam queue. If you click to embiggen it, you will see that there is one actual spam comment in there. Additionally, there are comments by Plumcake of Manolo for the Big Girl and The Manolo himself, attempting to call me out for ripping Plummy off — which I didn’t do, and we worked that out in comments over there, but the whole kerfuffle was compounded by the fact that their comments never showed up here, so they thought something fishy was going on. (Note: in comments there, I said I never found her comment, but I just did — there was also a bunch of actual spam above and below this, and my eyes glazed over.) Below that, you will also see several “Hellooooo? What the hell?” comments by our beloved Tasha Fierce, who could not seem to comment on her own damned guest post, among other places.

So yeah, the spam filter is evidently having a hypersensitive week.  Usually, it does its job reasonably well, with only occasional missteps. But then there are periods when it just starts letting everything through, which are usually followed by an overcorrection period, during which it sucks a lot of non-spam into its gaping maw. This is one reason why the comments policy has included the following for a couple of years now:

Tenth rule: Be aware that if you posted a coherent, reasonable, and respectful comment and it didn’t show up, you probably got trapped in the spam filter, which I can’t control. I do, however, check it occasionally and release the coherent, reasonable, and respectful comments. So either relax and wait for that to happen or e-mail me (sometimes, when spam volume is high, I don’t even see the good comments), but either way, know that if you behaved like a decent human being, I didn’t delete you on purpose.

As always, I encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with the whole policy before they try to leave a comment.

Also, although this is not stated in the policy, it’s been stated numerous times before, and I’ll say it again: All first-time comments are held for moderation. This is why you never see drive-by trolls here, which is something most folks seem to appreciate. (And again, if you want to know what you’re not seeing, have a look at the Helpful Comments blog Sweet Machine was keeping up for a while. Trigger warning for pretty much every possible trigger there.) But the unfortunate corollary is, every first-time comment has to be released by a human being, and that can take a while. We currently only have two active mods, both of whom have lives and can’t be checking the queue every five minutes. So even if you’re lucky enough not to have your first comment eaten by Akismet, it could be a long time before you see it show up.  Like, possibly a couple days, if it’s a weekend and we’re out doing stuff and both sort of vaguely assuming the other one might be dealing with the mod queue. The good news is, once it does, you will be free to post in real time until such time as you piss us off and get banned.

I realize this is frustrating, and I’m sorry about that, but I can’t control the spam filter issue (and don’t routinely check it as often as I do the mod queue, although I will until it calms down again), and the first-time moderation issue is a necessary evil, so I can’t really do anything besides tell you what the deal is and ask for your patience. So that’s what I’m doing. Thanks for understanding.

Sweet Sabbatical

Kate’s wonderful post on the somewhat lost art of getting absorbed in an activity — deliberately not multi-tasking (unitasking? monotasking?) — nudged me closer to a decision I’ve been putting off for a while. Toward the end of her post, Kate said

Also, if you don’t see me around here? It’s generally safe to assume it’s because I’m feeling the need to do more listening than talking. That’s all.

For the last several weeks, I’ve had this terrible feeling that I would have to  flounce from the internet altogether to retain my mental health. It’s not that I don’t love this blog, or that I don’t adore having a real audience for my writing,* or that I don’t have anything to say about what we talk about here. It’s just that I’ve been writing and moderating here for almost three years,** and I am tired.

I’m tired of high-speed, high-quality interactivity. I’m tired of multitasking. I’m tired of keeping track of commenters; much as I love you all, there are just so damn many of you these days. I’m tired of reading drive-by trolls whose sole purpose in life is to hurt me and anyone else who happens to be reading. What I’m not tired of, thank god, is reading and writing; I’m tired of talking. Bone tired. Kate’s post hit me between the eyes: I need to make more room in my life for being absorbed, for letting my mind stay with one thing for a while without wandering. If I don’t do something differently, disaster is imminent.

An artist's depiction of my current state of mind

So here’s what I’ve decided: I’m not gonna flounce off the internet. I’m not going to leave the blog and scorch the earth behind me. I’m just going to take a Shapely Sabbatical. You won’t see me around here for a while (except possibly with an occasional comment, link, or especially clever lemur). I have complete faith that my co-bloggers will soldier on just fine without me, and that you all will play nice and follow the ever-more-draconian comments policy we all know and love. And I trust that I can go on sabbatical, work on my dissertation and my poetry and my sanity, and come back to blogging when I’ve got the passion for it again.


*It still floors me, in fact — I can write something, and then thousands of people will read it and pass it on! I have dreamed of having that kind of audience all my life, and it’s no less delightful even with my author photo as a cartoon and my nom de plume stolen from a Doty poem.

**I believe that’s thirty in Internet Years.

FYI: Clothing swap on Ning

If you haven’t been over to the SP Ning community in a while, you might be interested in the clothing swap thread Angie G just started. She noted the number of people who commented on Snarky’s recent post on wanting to get rid of clothes that don’t fit and thought that a swap might be the perfect solution. If you’re interested, pop on over to that thread (and please, everyone, abide by the honor system!). And if you are new to the Ning community, click here to register (you might have to wait a few hours for one of us to approve your membership, so please be patient).

Oscars Liveblog Tonight/A Gabby Rant

For those who have been wondering, yes, we’ll be liveblogging the Oscars tonight! Snarky’s Machine, Sweet Machine, Fillyjonk and I are all on board, though we can’t guarantee we’ll all be there from start to finish. We’ll start with the red carpet at 6 EST/5 CST/3PST 7 EST/6CST/4PST (we decided we can’t take quite THAT much merriment) and keep going until we’re bored or too drunk to type.

All this will be happening over at the brand new Shapely Prose Liveblog site, which we hope will work better than Cover It Live did for the Golden Globes. If all goes well, that’s where we’ll do all liveblogging in the future, and the archives will remain there for anyone who missed the events.

If you can’t watch on TV, here’s a list of options for watching at least some of the coverage online. (We’ll try to agree on one of those sites toward the beginning, so we’re not all talking about 5 different things.)

In the meantime, Erica Kennedy has a glorious rant about Gabourey Sidibe’s stylists over at The Feminista Files. I’m not sure I agree that Andre Leon Talley is the answer here, because I still haven’t forgiven him for Jennifer Hudson’s space bolero, but I heartily agree with this:

Now if you had read this on USA Today’s site and not on another blog that was linking to it, you would have noted, as I did, that they felt the need to put “full-sized” in quotes like it’s such a derogatory thing to say about a woman that they needed to soften the blow with… well, kinda.

She IS full-sized, mofos. She’s not ashamed of it. Stop trying to be ashamed for her! DAMN.

I’d noticed that Gabby was showing up to a lot of stuff in off-the-rack dresses — mostly ones I’d lusted after on the Saks website, so at least it wasn’t like, as Kennedy puts it, “She HAS to do the red carpet and then to have to say 100x, ‘It’s… Lane Bryant’?!” But then I was online window shopping the other day, and I stopped by SWAK Designs, which at the time had a bunch of pictures of Gabby (supposedly) in their dresses — which I think top out at $99.99 — at major events. And she’s certainly been out on the town in Igigi.

Now, I’m a fan of Igigi, and when I have semi-formal events to attend, it’s one of the first places I check. And for most of us here in the real world, those dresses ain’t cheap. But most of us here in the real world are not FUCKING OSCAR-NOMINATED ACTRESSES. Gabby is allowed step it up. Gabby is expected to step it up, in the crowds she’s now running in. Remember when I attempted to run up an imaginary tab as high as Sarah Palin’s from high-end department stores, and utterly failed? Yeah, here’s what I said then:

If a fat woman were running for office at that level, she’d still be in suits that cost under $1,000, ’cause that’s all that’s out there. Some of the career wear for fatties is very well made and plenty expensive, but if you buy the only argument in support of Palin here — that women of her stature are expected to dress a certain way, and it costs that kind of money — then a fat woman who aspired to be a woman of Palin’s stature and look the part would be shit outta luck.

And of course, it goes without saying that a woman who wears over a size 24 is already shit outta luck. Everything I’m saying here about upper-class fat women being shut out of dressing like their peers goes quadruple for fat women who are sized out of high-end department stores.

Also, is Tadashi really the only fucking designer making plus-size evening wear? (What happened to Carmen Marc Valvo’s plus line?) There are loads of dresses that cost over $1,000 in Saks’s straight size section, and some a lot more than that, but only one over $500 in “Salon Z.” Again, if fat women want to move in the circles where women blow a couple thou on a dress for one night, we don’t even have the option of dressing to the same level. We’ve got to show up to our charity events and opera openings in gowns that don’t cost much more than the average bridesmaid’s dress.

Gabby is moving in circles where women blow many more than just a couple thou on a dress for one night (or at least, are loaned/given dresses worth that much). And yet all of the above still applies. (Except that David Meister has joined Tadashi in Salon Z –more on that in a moment.) Sure, she can also have stuff made — she did for the Golden Globes, and apparently for tonight. But even though Kevan Hall, who designed the GG dress, talks a good game — “it’s all about picking the right silhouette for her shape,” he told Robin Givhan — that dress was such a fucking disappointment to me.

I think the color’s gorgeous, but the sleeves are bog standard Fat Girl Arm Tents, and the beading doesn’t look much more impressive than what you find on a $150 Igigi. And as for it being “the right silhouette for her shape,” um, am I the only one who can’t even find her shape under there?

Which brings me around to the other side of this rant, in which I note that sometimes, off-the-rack is not such a bad thing. This dress, which she wore to a Precious press conference in Toronto (I have no idea who it is or where she got it), is slammin’ — sleeves and all.

And as for formal gowns, in my opinion, she has yet to top this $530 David Meister.

FAT GIRL IN SHINY FABRIC WITH BARE ARMS! THE HORROR! And yet, if you can get past that (and okay, the wrinkles at the bottom), she looks a lot younger and prettier than she did at the Golden Globes. There’s that.

As long as she looks like the beautiful, confident twentysomething it girl she is, I really don’t give a shit if her clothes were a dollar a pound at Goodwill. Sharon Stone wore Gap to the Oscars, and everyone found it charming. But the difference is, Sharon Stone had a bazillion other options. Her Gap top was seen as a conscious rejection of the pressure to princess out for Hollywood’s annual circle jerk, and hooray for that. But the problem for Gabby is, you can’t consciously reject things they won’t let you have in the first place.

And my big problem with Gabby’s event wardrobe is not that it’s cheap, comparatively  — as I said, some of her off-the-rack dresses have made me swoon —  it’s that it shows such a stunning failure of imagination on the part of whatever stylist(s) she’s working with. People who get paid a lot of money to make her look her absolute best apparently default all too often to the fashion approach ordinary fat women are all too familiar with: If it fits, it’ll do.

We all deserve a hell of a lot more than that, but an Oscar-nominated fat woman attending A-list events left and right not only deserves it, she should be able to get it easily. So if her stylists can’t be bothered to think outside the Salon Z, and designers can’t be bothered to cut more fabric for a hot, young, highly visible actress, we’ve got a problem. Not that that’s a surprise, but still.

Anyway! Here’s hoping Gabby looks more gorgeous than ever tonight.  If she doesn’t, I am going to be making this face all night.

See you at the liveblog.

We Are the Boss of You

Shapelings, we need to talk. I just updated the comments policy with the following:

Eighth rule: If you’re having trouble processing the seventh rule, just know that sassing the mods is a very bad idea. There may come a time when one of the moderators —me, Fillyjonk, Sweet Machine, Snarky’s Machine, or A Sarah — tells you to step back, knock it off, shut up, get lost, etc., and you think, “But I didn’t do anything that bad! This is unfair!” And you know what? Sometimes,  it might even be unfair. As I said long ago of this blog’s zero-tolerance policy for headache-causing bullshit:

Realistically, this means that we have probably, on occasion, banned or berated a perfectly decent person who might have eventually blossomed into the kind of commenter we can’t wait to hear from. And you know what? We’re okay with that. We’re not proud of it, and we certainly don’t set out to exclude bright, interesting people from the conversation here. But if it happens every now and again, oh well — because overall, our being hardasses helps keep this blog readable and only rarely crazymaking.

But here’s pretty much the worst thing you can do if you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been upbraided by a mod, can’t figure out why, and are pissed off about it: Ignore the warning and spend your next comment or comments complaining about the unfairness and/or reiterating the point that earned you a warning. Because even if you didn’t do anything all that bad in the first place, now you’ve become a Person Who Doesn’t Take Mod Warnings Seriously, which will make all five of us much less favorably disposed toward you and seriously reduce your chances of bouncing back from a not-all-that-bad-actually incident.

I don’t know how to make this any clearer than I already have: Commenting here is not a right, and decisions about what’s appropriate are not made democratically. Each of the five bloggers here has complete authority to moderate as she sees fit. It is straight-up dictatorial, and not always benevolent. Some of us are more naturally inclined to couch warnings with assurances that we get what you’re trying to say and know you’re not a bad person or whatever. But none of us do that every time, and every official statement about our policies has reinforced the basic point that we feel no obligation to be patient, issue warm fuzzies, poll commenters on whether we’re overreacting or hold back when we’re pissed off. Moderating is a lot of work for zero remuneration, especially now that every post gets hundreds of responses, and sometimes, we do not have the energy to say anything beyond, “You are getting on my tits, and it needs to stop. Now.”

Now, let’s say you get a warning like that from a mod, and you’re genuinely confused about what just happened, and you have a history of making valuable contributions here and think you’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. Well, first, maybe you have and maybe you haven’t; we’re reasonable people who don’t get off on issuing warnings or bannings, but we’ve also never made promises about giving anyone the benefit of the doubt. Quite the opposite, in fact. Second, you need to ask yourself what your goal is, and then what the most practical way to achieve that goal would be.

If your goal is to continue participating in discussions here, then challenging the mod’s authority in the heat of the moment is, hands down, the least practical thing you can do. The very best thing you can do is just step away from the thread for a while — go look at lolcats, go for a walk, make yourself some tea, whatever. Remind yourself that blogdrama is only a teeny tiny part of your life, and the worst-case scenario here is that some people who’ve never met you and have no knowledge of all your wonderful characteristics will have some negative thoughts about your screenname, right up until they go look at lolcats or go for a walk themselves. And then remind yourself that the one way to guarantee the problem doesn’t escalate is to not comment while you’re pissed off. If you don’t comment, you cannot make the situation worse! And if you’ve been taken to task by a mod for something or other, and your goal is to continue participating in comments here, not making the situation worse is job one.

If, however, your goal is to make the mod feel like a turd, and/or gather the support of other Shapelings who think you’ve been treated unfairly for a good old-fashioned pile-on, I can see how continuing to comment and challenge the mod’s authority might seem like a good idea. But that behavior is extremely likely to get you banned, even if your original transgression wasn’t anywhere near banworthy and everything would have blown over in a day if you’d just taken a deep breath and backed off when you got the warning.

That’s the other thing to remember: This shit does blow over. As I’ve said before, there are at least a handful of long-time commenters here who’ve had run-ins with the mods, stepped away from the problematic threads, and never had a problem again. And you know what? I don’t even remember who most of them are. You have to work pretty hard at being such an asshole that out of the thousands of commenters who’ve dropped by and hundreds who are active at any given time, you stand out as a particular problem for us. (And usually, if you’ve pissed us off enough times that we do see your name and think, “Oh, it’s that pain in the ass again,” we ban you, so long-term animosity during your tenure as a commenter here is just not a big concern.)

If, after you’ve taken some time to let yourself — and, crucially, the mod in question — calm down, you feel like explaining yourself further or trying to smooth things over, you can feel free to e-mail that mod. She may or may not respond, and if she does, it may or may not be what you hoped for. It may or may not be a better idea than laying low for a bit and just letting it blow over. But that’s one thing you can do without escalating the situation on the blog and putting yourself on the fast track to bansville. I cannot stress this enough: If you want to keep commenting here, challenging a mod’s authority on the blog is a colossally bad idea.

I’m not kidding about the dictatorship thing (even if having 5 independent dictators is a bit of an unusual situation). One characteristic of a dictatorship is that even when the dictator is flat-out wrong, there’s not a damned thing anybody can do about it. There is no appeals process. There is no recourse. This is why no one wants to live under a dictator, or 5 of them, in real life. But when it comes to moderating blog comments, it’s the approach that makes things most manageable for us, so we’re sticking with it. The good news for you is, if you think we’re wrong and can’t stand our moderation style, you are free to leave at any time. You are free to stop commenting, to stop reading the blog, to stop thinking fondly of us. You’re free to shit-talk us all over the internet, if that’ll make you feel better. But you’re not free to go off on a mod in comments and expect to keep commenting here. It’s really that simple, and I really can’t believe I have to keep explaining this.

Some Stuff

So, three of us have colds, one of us is out of town and indisposed, and the other one hates you all. (Kidding. Mostly.) Until we’re back into blogging shape, have some links.

I wrote about Lincoln University requiring fat students to take a “Fitness for Life” course before they can graduate here. I’ve got more thoughts, and we’ve got a half-assed SP roundtable going on about it behind the scenes, but that might take a while to get anywhere (see above), so start there.

I’m also writing for Broadsheet 5 days a week now (usually two posts a day), if I haven’t officially mentioned that, so there’s lots of other stuff there. For instance, I wrote today about a British “Next Top Model” kinda competition for women with disabilities, and a couple weeks ago about Candy Crowley’s weight and how The Rules will. not. die.

I would link to stuff other people are writing, but between working and and traveling and getting laid out with a cold over the holiday weekend (and thus spending 3 straight days doing nothing but watching 21 Jump Street on Hulu, which was actually kind of awesome), I haven’t been reading shit. Well, I did read Nick Hornby’s latest novel while I was traveling, and I loved it, but that’s about it.

One more link, though! Women, Action and the Media (WAM!)  is auctioning off a bunch of cool stuff to support their work for gender justice in the media, and one of the items is an opportunity to have me edit any prose manuscript up to 25 pages. I actually used to do that for a living, and I really miss it, so if you need feedback on something you’re writing, support WAM! and give me the chance to have some fun with it.