Quick hit: Fat Barbie

No, not that fat Barbie, sadly. According to WWD, shoe designer Christian Louboutin, who recently designed some high fashion Barbies, had to “reshape” the dolls because “He found her ankles were too fat” (according to a spokesperson).

Cankles? (photo by melloveschallah)
Cankles? (photo by melloveschallah)

I’ll let you sit with that one a minute.

*wanders off, pours some booze, comes back*

Barbie’s ankles are too fat for fashion. Barbie, the fashion doll. Barbie, the legendarily disproportionate model of femininity, whose feet are permanently molded for high heels, has cankles.

(Hat tip Broadsheet.)

“The most beautiful girl in the world would be completely picked apart”

Behold! The Queen of the Fat-o-sphere and the, uh, Fairy Princess of Plus-Size Modeling have combined powers! Kate interviews the lovely Crystal Renn for Salon. They talk about eating disorders, the treatment of models, and Crystal’s new book (cowritten by Marjorie Ingall, who delurked here recently — hi Marjorie!). It’s a terrific interview, and I for one am delighted to hear what Crystal Renn has to say, so we can put a voice to that gorgeous face.

Becoming visible

Lesley at Fatshionista is posting scanned pages from her epic archive of MODE magazine, a fat fashion magazine from the late ’90s. MODE’s run corresponds almost precisely with my time in college, and my dorm had a subscription for a while (thanks to FJ, I believe). I remember almost nothing about the written content of the magazine; I assume it was on par with your standard women’s magazine, but with fewer diet tips (which is no small feat, I acknowledge). It wasn’t quite aimed at me, demographically speaking — I didn’t have the same “My people!” feeling I did the first time I read BUST, for example — but I loved reading it anyway. Because what I do remember about MODE is simple: Kate Dillon.

Kate Dillon amazed me. She was so lovely, and she was all over MODE:

On the cover:

Kate Dillon in MODE
Kate Dillon in MODE

In the fashion spreads:

In hats
In hats

And even in the ads:

In swaths
In swaths

I had never seen anyone like her in magazines: she had a rack bigger than mine, for one thing, and she had substantial thighs and upper arms and somehow she was still allowed to be in magazines because that’s how damn pretty she was. I found her completely entrancing and I had a huge crush on her and even now, ten years later, she’s all I remember about MODE.

I say this not to diss MODE — I don’t remember enough of the content to know if it would pass my feminist sniff test now — but to illustrate how much of an impact diverse media images can have on individuals. There is a line between me gaping at Kate Dillon’s hotness in MODE and me writing here. It’s not a very direct line (it has to pass through Susan Bordo and BUST and several weight changes and LJ fatshionista first!), but it’s there.

I think this may be why people are so fucking delighted when they see an image they relate to in a magazine or a movie or tv show or what have you. We are bombarded by images every day, and almost all of them portray people who look nothing like us, whether because of size, shape, race, ability, gender presentation, class markers, or just plain photoshopping. This, I imagine, is why many people seem blown away by actresses or models like Christina Hendricks, who is clearly conventionally stunning but whose hourglass figure hasn’t been (or maybe can’t be) dieted away. Most of us don’t look anything like Hendricks — but we might look more like her than like Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston or the model in the billboard across the street.

When Glamour recently ran an image of a white blonde woman in her skivvies who is conventionally beautiful in every way except for a few stretch marks and a bit of a pooch, readers fell all over themselves to thank them.  The model in the Glamour photo, Lizzi Miller, says of the reader response:

“When I read them I got teary-eyed!” she says. “I’ve been that girl, flipping through magazines trying to find just one person who looked a little bit like me. And when I didn’t find it I would start to think there’s something wrong with the way that I looked.

Seeing Lesley’s MODE scans brought me back, momentarily, to being that girl myself: sitting on the couch in my dorm living room, flipping through magazines, and seeing Kate Dillon looking back at me, looking just a little bit more like me than anyone else I’d ever seen in a magazine.

Elsewhere on the internet

I wrote about anonymous cyberbullying for The Guardian’s Comment Is Free:

Yet all over the web, people operating under the illusion that their identities are thoroughly hidden continue to prove John Gabriel’s famous theory of internet behaviour: Normal person + anonymity + audience = total prat.* And too often, particularly when it comes to misogynistic attacks that not only harm women’s public reputations but drive them away from participating in online communities, citizens of the internet side with the prats. People become obsessed with hypothetical legal arguments about freedom of speech – even the kind of speech that’s never been protected – to the exclusion of looking at a larger, more important question: What kind of internet culture do we want?

And then I wrote about the fake controversy over Michelle Obama wearing shorts over at Broadsheet:

That’s right: Michelle Obama wore shorts. In August. To The Grand Canyon. Which is in Arizona. Which is really, really, really hot. And which is also in the United States, where it’s been common for women to wear shorts in public for decades. Not seeing the news angle? Neither is any other thinking person, but that didn’t stop outlets from the L.A. Times to “The Today Show” from discussing the American people’s ostensibly conflicted reaction (unfortunately, most journalists haven’t been able to locate an American person willing to express an opinion other than, “Seriously?”) or the Huffington Post from asking readers: “Does Michelle Obama have the right to bare legs?” … My favorite part of that poll is that the pro-shorts answer is, “Absolutely! It’s so modern!” Shorts. In August. “Modern.” Did Peggy Olson sneak in and write that copy? Or Laura Ingalls Wilder, maybe?

Talk about those posts, or anything else your heart desires, in the thread below. ‘Cause I am way too lazy to write something new here today as well.

*Gabriel’s phrase is, of course, “total fuckwad,” but the editor cleaned it up in a delightfully British way for me.

Don’t be this boring, ever

Actual sentence appearing on cnn.com today as a caption to a photo:

Jessica Ordona (in white) disliked the fit of her jeans, so she signed up for a class she says addressed the issue.

Dear inhabitants of planet Earth: If you need a special class to make you like the fit of your jeans, YOU ARE WEARING THE WRONG JEANS.

This obviously is infuriating for all the usual FA and feminist reasons, but what’s killing me today is the sheer fucking drabness of a world where people are convinced that instead of thinking creatively about how to dress, they should pay money to sculpt their asses so they can wear the same fucking clothes as everyone else. There is a whole world of creative people out there who look awesome in clothing, and it’s not because they spend five days a week doing ass workouts. It’s because they use their fabulous minds rather than their six-pack abs to decide what to wear.

Don’t like how you look in skinny jeans? For god’s sake, wear something else. Someone profited by convincing you to put on the jeans in the first place; don’t let someone profit off the fact that they don’t fit you now that you have them.

Hidden Plus Sizes on Etsy

You may already know that Etsy is a middle-class fat girl’s dream when it comes to stores like Jane BonBon, MissBrache, and SelenaEon (reviewed by stitchtowhere on Fatshionista), all of whom specialize in or at least explicitly advertise plus sizes. If you’ve got the money to buy new clothes but don’t think you have the money to get everything bespoke, Etsy sellers skirt that line — affordable personal seamstresses for all! Marianne collected a bunch of plus-size sellers in a recent post, and her readers actually turned me on to a few shops I hadn’t known about (I spend a LOT of time on Etsy, but it’s also a vast site with a lot of chaff to sift through). For fatties with the freedom to spend about $100 on a dress, there are plenty of talented dressmakers working in 14+. Kate, incidentally, wore a Jane Bonbon custom creation for her party; there was some waiting involved, as there always is for handmade stuff and especially for Jane because she’s in high demand, and the dress still required a little alteration when she got it, but she got to set the parameters of the dress herself and work with someone who knows how to design for fat bodies. (Jane’s making me a skirt too, and she asked me whether I had a sticky-out butt — she likes to add a bit of length in the back for the big-arsed among us, so that our skirts maintain an even hemline. That’s service!)

What you might not have known is that not all the plus sizes on Etsy are out in the open. Because of the high level of customization and personal attention that’s generally involved in an Etsy store’s business model, many stores displaying a standard straight-size range will happily open their size charts’ borders to let in paying customers. SM and I both had experiences recently with sellers whose posted size charts top out at L or XL, but who are still body-positive and happy to make their wares you-sized. Below the fold, we offer reviews, with links and (headless) pictures.

Continue reading

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.

Faith 21: I give it 3 months

Faith 21, the new “plus-size” line from Forever 21, is out.

The bad news: The goods pretty much range from “meh” to “WTF?” (I realize I’m like 20 years older than the target market here, but still: Not a dress, not a dress, not a dress. I would consider buying this AS A SHIRT.)

The good/bad news: It probably won’t fit you anyway. 

When I first heard about Faith 21, I noted that they only planned to go up to a junior 2X, which is not so much “adding a plus-size line” as “expanding our range of sizes all the way up to roughly a standard XL!” Now, having seen the size chart, I can say it’s even worse than I thought:

Are you fucking kidding me? For the record, I often wear the smallest plus size available in actual plus size stores, and I can still wear some straight XLs, at least on top. (My ass is pretty consistently an 18W these days, but in tops and dresses with full skirts, I’m usually a 14W.)  And my measurements are 43-38-48. Ergo, I am pretty much sized out of this line. The only other ostensibly plus-size line I know of in which I wear a 3X is Stop Staring, which is well known for running — as Fillyjonk puts it — “criminally small.” 

As I said before, this is great for true in-betweenies, who often really are screwed when it comes to finding clothes that fit. But it’s not so great that this is being heralded as a “plus-size” line when it’s anything but. It’s bad enough that “junior plus” sizes further confuse the issue of what a “2X” (etc.) is to begin with, but when your junior “2X” is more like a usual junior “1x,” which is already like a plain old “X” (edited to fix arithmetic fail), who the fuck are you trying to kid? And what the fuck is the point? You are setting yourself up to fail, when all those girls who wear a Torrid 2X and were stoked to be able to go to (a few) Forever 21 stores with their friends find out that they still can’t wear your shit, and even if they could, they’d need to carry all of their weight somewhere other than their thighs in order to pull half of it off. (Unless, of course, they’re rocking massive body confidence, which would be fantastic — but I’m thinking that segment of the teenaged fat girl market is pretty damn limited.)

Between designs that are only meant for basically thin girls with bellies, sizing that still excludes a great deal of the junior plus market, and the decision to only offer the line in a handful of bricks-and-mortar stores, I give Faith 21 about 3 months before it folds, the company sends out a press release saying “the market just wasn’t there,” and Forever 21 once again becomes a Thin Girls Only store. Awesome work, guys. Just terrific.


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 fatosphere.com, screwinnerbeauty.com, and kateandmarianne.com — 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.