And again today…

This time, I wrote about fat heroines in contemporary fiction at Powell’s. A taste:

[I]t’s absolutely true that, for many people, the perception of what 200 or 300 pounds “looks like” (to the extent that there’s uniformity among people who happen to share a weight) bears only the most tenuous relationship to reality. (For the record, here’s 200-pound me and 300-pound Marianne.) And for many readers, a female character any fatter than Bridget Jones will come off as highly unsympathetic. (Unless, of course, the narrative builds toward her miraculous weight loss — i.e., redemption.) Truly fat women in books and movies are most often villains, mammies, overbearing mothers-in-law, or unlikable tertiary characters (think the irritable secretary with a box of donuts in her desk drawer). The chick lit boom brought us a handful of chubby to moderately fat heroines — the aforementioned Jones, Jemima J.Cannie ShapiroHeather Wells — but you almost never see a non-thin female character in a mainstream novel whose weight is not a major issue for her. Jemima and Cannie struggle with their weight and eventually lose a lot of it. Bridget yo-yos within about a 10-pound, not-really-fat range, and only considers liking her slightly plumper self when a man comes along and says he does. Two of Meg Cabot’s three novels featuring “average-sized amateur investigator” Heather insist that she is “not fat” right in the title. You hear? Not fat! Don’t even think such an awful thing! Also, why the hell are a bunch of mysteries titled with references to the protagonist’s weight in the first place? (The third is Big Boned.) I know bodies are often central to detective novels, but come on! (See what I did there? I’ll be here all week, folks! No, really, I will.)

And if you missed Marianne’s post about whether the author really is dead when she’s blogging, check that out, too.

Today in Things I Wrote Elsewhere

I did my first feature on Salon, on the next generation of abortion providers. (That’s what kept me away from the blog for most of last week, btw.)

I also wrote this morning about how the vitriol aimed at women who choose not to have children is suspiciously similar to anti-abortion rhetoric. You think maybe the real problem is that some people don’t want women to control our own fertility at all? Just maybe? 

And finally, there’s one fat/book related item. Marianne and I are guest blogging at this week, and my first post, about the title of the book, just went up. For post number one, I wanted to do a mix of Fat 101 and writing/publishing issues, so that’s where I started. Haven’t yet decided what my next two will be about (I’m doing Wednesday and Friday; Marianne’s doing Tuesday and Thursday), so if there’s anything writing/publishing/reading related you’d like to hear me ramble about, let me know here! (And if you’re moved to comment over there, it would be nice to hear from people who are familiar with fat acceptance, since I imagine the alternatives are either no comments or Trollfest.)  

Also, feel free to self-link or point us to other interesting stuff in the comments. Thanks for your patience, crew.

Open thread

So yeah, adding another co-blogger was theoretically supposed to increase frequency of posting, but then A Sarah and Fillyjonk both had the nerve to go out of town and have lives or something, and Sweet Machine and I have both been dealing with shit that keeps us away from the blog, and I got really caught up in following and writing about Dr. Tiller’s murder, and here we are.

So, two things, before I tell you to talk amongst yourselves.

1) Reminder: Marianne and I and Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere contributor/Fatshionista extraordinaire Lesley Kinzel will be reading, signing books, and hanging out at Re/Dress in Brooklyn this Friday night, June 5, starting at 6 p.m. Deets:

Re/Dress NYC
109 Boerum Place
Brooklyn, NY
between Pacific + Dean
f/g train to Bergen Street stop
Shopping at 6:30, reading begins at 8.

Fillyjonk will be there, too, and there will be a dance party afterwards, and refreshments, and all the fatty vintage shopping you can handle. Come on down!

2) This article pissed me off on so many levels, I don’t even want to get started. I’ll just quote from a gchat I had with Fillyjonk yesterday.

FJ : was that the article about how there are fewer plus size fashion shops/lines because of lack of demand?

unlike every other segment of the retail economy, which is just zipping along?

life and style reporters are probably going to be sucking that teat for a while

“demand for popsicles is down!”

“demand for furbies is down!”

me: “demand for newspapers is down!” oh, wait.

[There is some discussion of just posting inflammatory quotes from the article and letting Shapelings have at it.]

me: “For one, plus-size collections are expensive to make—as much as 10% more than standard lines, experts estimate—because they require additional fabrics, and special fit models and patterns.”

SPECIAL fit models and patterns. The other ones are normal, so they don’t count.

Or cost money.

“’They’re really bargain shoppers,’ says Catherine Schuller, a plus-size expert and former editor at Mode, a magazine for larger women. Many are homemakers who can’t spend considerable amounts on clothes and are willing to sacrifice their own spending for their families, especially now, Ms. Schuller says.”

Um, with all due respect to the segment that fits that description, if that’s your understanding of the entire fatty fashion market, maybe I get why Mode failed.

FJ: maybe i should write something

it would have to be really short and horrible

me: And the one that really got me:  “Because these shoppers prefer to buy online, according to industry insiders…”


FJ: aaaaaaaaaaaaa

Me: Which extends to the fact that, if we go to the mall, it’s to see if the one fat store has anything that fits us, so there’s not so much point in going to the damned mall

Whereas people buying straight sizes can go to the mall to try on things at 20 stores.

FJ: right! but no, it must be because WE PREFER TO SIT IN OUR HOUSES AND WALLOW IN SHAME

Me: Also, once again, a company’s marketing fail gets blamed on the market.

How many Shapelings have said, “Wait, Ann Taylor carries up to 18? I had no idea.”


And then no one comes in and buys those sizes, so obvs, the market doesn’t exist

FJ: it’s as though they have to rediscover marketing for the plus-size market

“well, for normal-size people, we make a product and tell them how great it is, and then they buy it”

“for fatties, i think maybe we should try pretending the product doesn’t exist and see how that goes”

me: Ha, no kidding! We’ll cram a couple of plus sizes in the back, never say anything about it, and just wait for the customers to arrive! It’s a plan!

FJ: we’ll be rich! rich!!

me: Also, it’s important to have a deep understanding of the market…

So here’s what you need to know:

They never leave the house. They don’t like to spend money. They don’t want to look attractive.

FJ: they’re unlovable & they eat too much

they probably own one million cats

we did a lot of focus groups

on 4chan

me: HA!

There you go, Shapelings. What else would you add? What else do you want to talk about? Thread is yours.

(Oh, I just realized SM put up a fluff post while I was writing this. Oh well. Now you’ll have TWO threads to muck around in!)

Sad news and a call for help

Friend of the blog Heidi, who wrote one of our most memorable guest posts about a year and a half ago, could use some support from the SP community right now. 

On Friday, her father committed suicide. (Her heartbreaking and potentially triggering first post about it is here.) He was the primary breadwinner for the family — Heidi and her mom both have chronic health problems that limit their ability to work. Now, with no insurance and no savings, they’re dealing with burial costs and will likely have to move in the near future. They don’t know how they’re going to manage, and they’re obviously both terribly traumatized right now.

I know money’s tight for everyone, but if you can spare anything, she’s accepting donations via PayPal here. There’s also a mailing address at that link if you’d like to send a card. (As she says, “Mail that isn’t bills would make me so super happy.”) Huge thanks to anyone who can help out. And huge love and sympathy to Heidi and her mom from all of us at SP.

Welcome, A Sarah!

Exciting announcement time: We have a new co-blogger! Starting today—or whenever she has time to make her first post—beloved Shapeling A Sarah will now be a beloved co-blogger! And the boss of you!

Someday soon, we’ll even change the header and stuff, but Fillyjonk (who does the draw-rings) is on vacay, and I’m both busy and lazy, so…  Bear with us.

I am super-excited about this, seeing as how A Sarah is brilliant and hilarious. But I do need to acknowledge the elephant in the room, the one reason we hesitated to ask her to join us. To wit, as Fillyjonk put it: “Damn, we’re a bunch of white, middle-class cock-lovers. Even the queer one.”

I don’t have a particularly good excuse for that, especially in light of the fact that all of us at SP would like to see the fatosphere get a lot more diverse, and as a high-traffic blog, we’re (at least theoretically) in a position to help make that happen, if we put out the effort.  But I can tell you a bit about how the sausage gets made.

Basically, we weren’t actually looking for a new co-blogger. I wasn’t really looking for co-bloggers before Fillyjonk and Sweet Machine came along, either. What happened in all three cases was that I (and this time, we) got a bit overwhelmed, realized that spreading the blog work around would be a good idea, and asked myself/ourselves who we could ask for help.

The first time, I’d been reading FJ and SM on Fatshionista for over a year, loving their comments, and loving the way they played off each other. (I’d gathered that they were BFFs, which helped.) The main criteria for me were the following: at least 99% of the time, they A) wrote smart, thoughtful shit, B) cracked me up, C) made me think about things I might have otherwise missed, and D) did not piss me off. Since I had no intention of being a hands-on editor—the whole point was to lessen my workload—I wanted to feel as sure as possible that anyone I asked to write here would, unsupervised, produce posts I’d be delighted and proud to see on a blog that bears my name. And, just as importantly, that there would be almost no chance of me ever having to e-mail one of them to go, “WTF WERE YOU THINKING WITH THAT POST? GAAAAAH!” or to publicly apologize for my co-bloggers, or go through the icky process of deciding to can one of them. (As it turns out, I’ve fucked up way more than they have.)

The fat-o-sphere was then—and is even more so now—chock full of people who write smart, thoughtful shit, crack me up, make me think, and don’t piss me off. But at that point, FJ and SM were the only two (without their own fat blogs already) who I felt absolutely sure would be a great fit here (or as sure as I’d ever get), so they were the ones I asked. And I think my instincts were pretty right on, if I do say so myself.

The same basic thing happened this time around. In fact, Fillyjonk wrote to Sweet Machine and me ages ago to suggest that if we ever wanted another co-blogger, A Sarah was fucking on fire in comments—but at the time, I was like, “Ehhh… I like her, but she hasn’t been around long enough for me to feel sure, like I did with you guys.” Then many months went by, A Sarah continued to be fabulous, and we found ourselves feeling overwhelmed and wanting another blogger here. Finally, one day, I said, “I’m sure now. Let’s do it.” And A Sarah, bless her snarky black heart, said yes.

For the record, there are loads of regular commenters I think are absolutely fucking terrific, and I am so grateful for what you all bring to the site. As I said in the book’s acknowledgments, the Shapeling community is what makes this place so special, and what makes ME want to keep coming back every day. There are tons of commenters we could have asked to be co-bloggers, likely with great success. But our guts agreed that this time around, A Sarah was it. We spent a lot of time discussing the question, “Is she so awesome that it’s worth making the blog even more white, middle-class, straight, able-bodied, cisgendered, and not even that fat?” (A Sarah’s an in-betweenie.) And the answer we kept coming up with was yes. She actually is that awesome. (One way in which she is awesome: Her first response to the invitation was, “Um, isn’t it a problem that I’m white, middle-class, straight, able-bodied, cisgendered, and not even that fat?”)

Having said that, it’s clear that we can’t keep picking new co-bloggers the same way. As much as we don’t want to burden someone with being Our First Blogger Who Represents One Fucking Shred of Diversity, we also don’t want to keep making the masthead more homogenous. So something’s got to change. It’s likely that the next time we’re thinking about adding someone, we’ll actively recruit and strongly encourage people who don’t have the same zillion overlapping forms of privilege to apply, instead of just asking ourselves whose comments seem… um, a lot like ours. And in the meantime, we would LOVE to publish more guest posts by people who bring different perspectives to the table, so if you’ve thought about sending us one and hesitated, please go for it!

Also in the meantime, please give a warm welcome to A Sarah! Those of you who read comments will no doubt already know and love her, and I’m pretty confident that those of you who don’t will soon be charmed. Also, there is at least one important perspective she brings to the table that the rest of us don’t: She’s a mom. We’ve done some posts about raising kids in a fatphobic culture and had some great conversations with commenter-moms (including A Sarah), but FJ, SM, and I don’t have the daily experience to draw on, so we can’t wait to see what A Sarah has to say—about kids and a bazillion other things.

Thank you so much for joining us, A Sarah!

Want to talk to another reporter?

It’s time for me to ask for your help with the media once again.

I’m talking to a reporter who’s doing a story about what “messages” celebrities send with their weight-loss/weight-gain narratives. In her own words, she wants to know: “What was your reaction to Kirstie Alley‘s and Oprah’s latest revelations? Did their descriptions of the shame and humiliation they felt about it make you feel normalized? Hopeless? Angry? Other?”

If you’d be willing to talk to her, here’s the drill: E-mail me with “REPORTER” in the subject line by 5 p.m. EST tomorrow, May 20. Please include your e-mail address (so I can cut and paste it for her if necessary) and a short answer to the Kirstie/Oprah question. If she wants to follow up with you, she’ll get in touch and tell you what publication she’s writing for and more about the story idea. 

Once again, thanks a million for helping me with this stuff. And as always, I wouldn’t ask y’all to get involved if I didn’t believe this reporter was operating in good faith — but of course, I can’t make any guarantees about how the article will turn out.

Read ‘Em

-Lauredhel: Fat acceptance and Oppression Olympics fail on The Gruen Transfer 

An excellent elaboration of Rule 11, among other things.

The critique of the panellists completely fails to connect this one simple fact: That arguing “you wouldn’t tell racist or homophobic jokes, so why tell fat jokes?” misses the point that people do tell racist and homophobic jokes. Bram Williams alludes to this near the end of the segment, but the dots are not connected. These jokes are everywhere. The jokes in the this advertisement all have resonance because we’ve all heard them all before.

So how is the ad supposed to work? “We’ve conquered racism, now let’s work on fatphobia?” “We’ve conquered homophobia, now let’s work on fatphobia”? “Fatphobia is the last acceptable prejudice”? We haven’t, and it’s not. And it’s downright offensive for a bunch of white sexist blokes working on their personal growth to try to create traction by stomping all over other oppressed groups.

-NYT: Striking a pose for girth

-So much wrong with that headline, but it’s a pretty good article on Yoga for Fatties. (My only real gripe is the line about the use of props in a plus-size class, which implies that said props are unique to those classes — fatties can’t hack it! — as opposed to being a staple of beginning Iyengar yoga that about a zillion different schools have adopted.)

Anyway. I’ve heard this “we shouldn’t be shunting fat folks into separate classes” argument before, and while I do think it’s true that ALL yoga teachers should be trained in modifications for fat bodies, the reality is that even if they are, they won’t necessarily have the time to devote to helping fat students in a big class. And a lot of them aren’t trained, and have never thought about how fat might interfere with the typical expression of some poses. And a lot of them are teaching at gyms where body shame is the norm. And probably most importantly, plus-size yoga classes provide a safer space for fat people who want to try yoga but are intimidated by the thought of walking into a room full of thin people in spandex. So I’m a big fan of the concept, but I would absolutely like to see more awareness of fat people’s needs among general yoga teachers. (Thanks to a Damsel writer for the tip.)

-If you missed it, Obama thinks workplace “wellness” programs are a swell idea and has a team studying the “best” ones and “explor[ing] the feasibility of developing such a plan for federal employees and their workplaces.” FANFUCKINGTASTIC. That totally won’t fan the flames of employment discrimination against fat people or bring yet more fat-shaming into yet more offices. It’ll just make us all HEALTHEEEEEE!

As Zuzu, the first person who sent this to me, said in an e-mail:

If we had single-payer, these things wouldn’t be tied to keeping your job, and if doctors didn’t have to deal with bill collecting instead of providing care in the first place, maybe there would be enough resources for prevention of the kinds of diseases that doctors are always associating with being fat and overlooking in thinner people. Which would mean lower costs, since things would be caught early, what with people not having to do things like walk out of the ER with head injuries or refuse necessary treatment because it’s too expensive.  Or wait until a condition becomes life-threatening and expensive to treat before seeking help.  

I can’t really top that.

-This has been up on the sidebar via Twitter for a couple of days, but Marjorie Ingall wrote a terrific essay on dealing with kids’ curiosity about fat people — how do you teach them not to scream, “Hey, look at the fat lady!” without reinforcing the message that fat is bad? We discussed this topic a bit on the thread about Joy Nash’s “Staircase Wit” video, but I’m still not sure I know what the answer is.

All right, that’s all I’ve got right now. Reminder to Chicago Shapelings: I’ll be selling/signing books and hanging out at Vive la Femme, 2048 N. Damen, tomorrow evening (5/15) from 6-8 p.m. There will be awesome fat people, awesome plus-size clothes for sale, and refreshments! And if you’re interested in hanging out afterwards, let us know over at the Ning site.

Reminder: Philly and Boston appearances this weekend!

In case you missed it or hadn’t heard, Marianne and I will be reading and answering questions in Philly tomorrow at The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St., from 4-5 p.m. (in between performances of “Fat Camp,” the new revue by Big Moves Boston). 

On Sunday, we’ll be in Boston, reading at Lir Irish Pub, 903 Boylston St., starting at 1:30 1 p.m. (doors open at 12:30). That event was organized by the awesome Center for New Words and will also feature Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere contributors Lesley Kinzel and Julia Starkey. 

Come out and see us! And Chicagoans, don’t forget I’ll be at Vive la Femme next Friday, May 15, from 6-8 p.m.! I’ll put up another reminder next week.


Miriam: I want you to stop stalking overweight women

First of all, this guy is like a stalker, following her around, monitoring her. He’s creepy beyond belief. Secondly, this once again, for the millionth time perpetuates the myth that everyone who is overweight is secretly and guilty sneaking ice cream sundaes. We should know by now that weight is much more complex than that. Thirdly, this shit is just sensationalist. I want to save your life? This woman does not look like she is at risk of dying because of a few extra pounds.

Also, why is it always skinny white guys who have discovered the secret of weight loss and are going to teach it to women?

ETA: I haven’t looked myself, but I’m hearing that the Feministing comments are best avoided. Which is, sadly, not that surprising.

Renee: It’s All Because You Are Fat

Not everything that is wrong with someone has to do with fat.  I do have three chronic illnesses that maybe, just maybe, might be making me feel under the weather.  These doctors may have the medical expertise to diagnose an illness but they have no idea what it is to live with one on a daily basis.  The fact that they could even suggest that a lack of will stops patients from participating in behaviour that might have the potential to improve health only proves how disconnected they are from how the pain truly affects the body.

Michelle: All women are real

It pissed me off. And because this is my blog, I’m about to tell you why.

First, because it’s fucking patronizing.

Second, because it’s a sneaky little divide-and-conquer strategy, of the type commonly used to pit women against other women.

Third, because we’re ALL real women, you fuckwad.

Michelle’s awesomeness notwithstanding, a new study of dietetic students (with a small sample size, so take it with a grain of salt, but still) shows:

  • More than 40 percent of students reported that they believe obese individuals are lazy, lacking in willpower and are self-indulgent.
  • The majority of students surveyed also agreed that obese individuals have poor self-control, overeat, are insecure and have low self-esteem.
  • Students rated obese patients as being significantly less likely to comply with treatment recommendations and as having worse diet quality and health status compared with thinner patients, despite the fact that all patients were described as healthy adults.
  • Only 2 percent of students demonstrated positive or neutral attitudes toward obese individuals.

In happier news, HAES UK is launching on May 9!

HAES UK is a UK-based organisation whose membership is open to all who support its mission. HAES UK supports the Health at Every Size (HAES) approach as an effective, ethical and evidence-based approach to healthcare policy, practice and research. HAES UK is committed to challenging weight-based discrimination which is considered to be disrespectful and harmful to individual and community well-being.

Via Fat Chic via Fatshionista on Twitter, designer Rachel Roy has Tweeted:

“RT @rachel_roy: @MarieDenee I would love to do a plus size line. I just need the requests so please keep them coming. -RR Team”

Send those requests via Roy’s site.

And finally, the book is out in Australia and New Zealand! I heard from a reader in Melbourne this morning:

Have started reading it and love it already.  I bought it from a Dymocks (chain of independent book stores…if that makes sense!) in Melbourne city, and they had a lot of them on face-out display.

FACE-OUT DISPLAY, Y’ALL! I can cross that off the list of all-time fantasies, even if I never get to see it.  (Hey, if you do see the book face-out somewhere, either edition, would you send us a pic?) One more sleep until it’s out here!

Oh, and hey, our book site — which can be reached via,, and — is live, though there’s not much there you don’t already know. You can also follow fatospherebook on Twitter for updates on upcoming events and media appearances, and/or join our Facebook group.