You think you have self-esteem? That’s so cute, you poor thing.

Sweet Machine noticed this otherwise-okay article from the New York Times. She commented, “This article is not so bad… But the ‘what about your heeeeeealth’ caveat is even more ridiculous than usual.”

Indeed, check it out:

But others point to serious health consequences of being overweight. Andrea Marks, a specialist in adolescent medicine in Manhattan, suspects that “the vast majority of overweight girls are not so happy.” Apparent self-acceptance, she added, may be a cover for defiance or resignation.

Okay, I don’t really know who Andrea Marks is. Google tells me she is on the faculty at Mount Sinai, has co-authored a book called Health Teens, Body and Soul, and previously wrote a column called “Ask Dr. Marks” for CosmoGirl. More to the point, I don’t know if she was quoted correctly — which can be difficult, I’ll grant. So I’ll hold off on lambasting her, personally, and try just to look at this as a phenomenon.

Let’s say you’re a fat adolescent girl – or hell, ANY adolescent girl in any sort of western capitalist milieu – and you manage, somehow, to hold onto your self-esteem and like your own body, despite all the shit that our culture hurls at adolescent girls. You even think you might like to dress, or eat, or look, or sing, or dance, or date, or not date, or talk to adults, or [insert your own activities here] in a way that pleases you.

Apparently such girls exist. I was not one. But thankfully, blessedly, they are there — evidently in numbers large enough to have their “apparent self-acceptance” be a phenomenon that gets a nod from experts.

Except… wait, no they’re not! Turns out they’re only pretending. Because either the paper of record, or an expert in adolescent medicine, or both, can’t quite wrap their heads around the idea of a fat adolescent girl who likes herself. “That’s cute, dearie,” they say, patting you on the head in response to your adorable little act where you stand up for yourself, “but you can’t REALLY think you’re worth anything, and deep down inside you know this. That veneer of confidence is really just defiance and resignation.”

OH GEE YOU THINK? Bravely defiant to smarmy condescending attitudes like the ones displayed in the article, perhaps? Stoically resigned to the fact that there’s not a lot an adolescent girl can do to change the fact that most dominant discourses describe her primarily in terms of her defects? WHY YES I THINK SO TOO.

But, pray tell, how are those two attitudes — that’s “defiance” and “resignation;” as opposed, one assumes, to “compliance” and “lack of interest in buying self-improvement products — incompatible with the very same adolescent girl thinking, “Hey, I really kick ass!”

(Hint: They actually are NOT incompatible! In fact, they may be correlated. Also, you don’t bury survivors, and the surgeon was actually the child’s MOTHER. Mind-blowing.)

Queering my mirror

So if you’ve read my profile, you know that I’m queer. I’m out and have been for, oh, over a decade now. When I first came out, I identified as bi, but now I embrace the word “queer” for a lot of reasons, most having to do with not wanting to identify with a binary system of sexuality. I jokingly call my partner “Mr Machine,” and he is male, but we’re not married, for a lot of reasons, most having to do with not wanting to participate in an institution that would discriminate against us if we were with other people.

All this preamble is to say that I haven’t written a lot about queerness here, which seems to lead some readers to think that we’re all straight as arrows. I came to FA after I had started dating Mr Machine, and in fact dealing with apparently-straight-privilege is part of what made my body anxieties grow and grow and grow a few years back, which led me to FA in the first place. I felt much more pressure to be thin dating a man than I had dating a woman—and none of that pressure came from the man in question AT ALL. I suddenly found myself wondering if people looked at us and saw an “imbalance” of attractiveness: What a hot guy with a plain girl. How can a skinny guy date someone fatter than him? He must just like her for her tits, because she’s not that pretty. I suddenly began seeing myself not through my own feminist, woman-loving eyes, but through the male gaze that became more explicit to me as my ability to set off someone’s gaydar became way more implicit.

So this post might make Mr Machine feel a little funny*, but I want to talk about how having sex with women is good for my self-esteem.

Seeing the world through a queer eye makes me look at other women without the pathological measuring up/judging/comparing that I have been trained to perform since girlhood. Especially when I am actively dating a woman, I look at women and don’t think about how they differ from me and whether that puts us higher or lower on the hierarchy of acceptability. I look at women and think, How lovely you are. And there is a point, for me, when that can become How lovely I am.

When I was in college, I had a serious (but fun!) relationship with a woman who was also white, tall, and brunette. Our friends joked that we had Identical Lesbian Syndrome because we were roughly the same height and weight and had dark curly hair. The truth is, we really didn’t look alike in either our figures or our faces, but hearing that other people thought we did astonished me, because she was the most adorable, desirable person I could imagine.  People told me all the time that I looked like her—even though, to myself, for years I had looked like a clearly undesireable person with a flabby body, bad skin, and way too much hair, who would never ever be pretty. When I was dating my non-identical-gf, we could trade clothes with each other… so that implied my body wasn’t as grotesque as I had imagined. Our bodies were differently proportioned… but when we were naked we looked more alike than different.

It would be difficult to overstate how simultaneously liberating and confusing this was for me. Here was someone whose body I adored for the same reasons I had always hated mine: its softness, its roundness, its abundance. Her body was dramatic and singular, yet every time I looked at her and praised her, there was some part of my mind thinking, “And that is also true of me.” Having a strong relationship and good sex was positive for me in the way it often is, but this particular relationship made me look at myself differently; it was like having a different mirror.

That’s a psychological and erotic aspect of my queerness and body acceptance. But there’s also a strong social component to being visibly queer: people treat you differently, and they make different assumptions about you. Obviously, some of those assumptions are very harmful and add to the pervasive homophobia of our cultures. But sometimes they can have a different effect, given the expectations of femininity that are placed on straight women in a patriarchal culture. A good friend of mine who is gay told me once that before she realized she was gay, she felt like a failed girl, like there was this whole elaborate set of rules that she didn’t understand—but once she was able to articulate to herself that she was gay, she realized that she wasn’t a failure at all. She had just been playing a different game all along. Identifying as queer has had a similar “opting out” effect for me, but it is distinctly stronger when I am with a woman than when I’m with a man, even a queer hardcore feminist man like Mr Machine. We both know that we’re opting out, but not everyone else does…and the pressures of those seemingly invisible gazes accrete surprisingly quickly. This, of course, is also a privilege: in a homophobic culture, we can pass as straight (or, perhaps, straight enough): we don’t fear violence or discrimination as much as we would in same-sex relationships; we could get married if we needed or wanted to; even unmarried, we’re unlikely to be turned away from a hospital room or not taken seriously by our families or employers. When I hold hands with Mr Machine, I am seen (and see myself) through the lens of both straight privilege and the male gaze: the two are intertwined, a two-way mirror that is a default state for apparently hetero women. My body may be wrong, but my “lifestyle” looks right.

The problem with this aspect of bi privilege/straight-passing privilege, of course, is that it does not reflect who I am. I’m not straight. My history is not the history of a straight woman. My desires are not the desires of a straight woman. Hell, I don’t think my current relationship is the relationship of a straight woman. I love my queerness, and my queerness helps me love and understand my body. It informs everything I do, not because all queers are as obsessed with sex as their wingnut persecutors seem to think, but because in my lifetime, despite great social advances, being queer has been a non-normative experience. It took a lot of unlearning to accept my body and deprogram myself from the intense misogyny of the beauty ideal—but I didn’t have to learn to love other women’s bodies. What I had to do—and what, I’d argue, we all have to do—is learn to look at our own bodies with the generosity and, yes, desire through which we view others’ bodies, female or male. We must allow our own bodies the pleasure and grace that we see, by default, in those we desire. We must allow ourselves to be the subjects and objects of a non-patriarchal gaze.

*in his pants

Quick hit: Beauty by the dollar

I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about feminist issues long enough that I usually think nothing beauty-related can floor me anymore. But holy cats, two recent posts on the economics of beauty Sociological Images made my jaw drop, especially given the current economic doldrums.

First, check out this photo essay by Lauren Greenfield (of THIN and Girl Culture fame) about six NY women and what they spend on their monthly beauty regimen. I know we’ve talked about this before, but it amazes me the amount of money some women spend (and some people expect women to spend) to look like attractive but fairly “normal” women (“normal” as in “women who have jobs that do not involve being beautiful as an explicit part of the job description“). There is an actress profiled, so I wouldn’t count her in that category—but she spends way way less than the hedge-fund manager pictured just below her.

Second, Sociological Images points to a Newsweek feature on the economics of beauty throughout the lifetime of a “modern diva,” whatever that means. The feature seems to have disappeared from the Newsweek site, but you can still see the graphic at the SI post. As beloved Shapeling OTM says in the comments, By using the term “Diva,” the report places the blame firmly on the woman and fails to allow for a more meaningful analysis. Weird, too, that they conflate teens and twentysomethings; my body, appearance, and habits are wildly different as a 29-year-old from what they were as a 15-year-old.

Basically, both of these posts remind us that there are people out there who think we should (or perhaps, that we do) spend more money on cosmetics than I do on rent. What’s your take on these posts? What’s the most expensive part of your most expensive beauty routine? What’s the thriftiest? What would you be least willing to give up?

Quote of the day

Self-loathing is not a fucking character-builder. It doesn’t make you stronger. It doesn’t make you better. It’s just an ever-deepening, creepy-ass trap; a trap that is a huge moneymaker for corporations that do not have and never will have good intentions. You’re not disgusting. You’re not freakish. You’re not ugly. And you’re never going to be perfect. And holy shit, that is so okay.  —Jane from Casual Blasphemies, in an awesome post about Kirstie Alley

I had been planning to do a “Kirstie Alley flagellates herself” post after seeing her on the cover of People, but Jane beat me to it and also I am quite lazy.

Who’s laughing now?

As an American who never got into reality shows, I don’t know much about Britain’s Got Talent. I know people show off their talents in a number of different categories (when I’ve seen references or clips they’ve mainly been dancers, but there are singers too), and that Simon Cowell is on the board of judges because he’s made it his mission to tongue-lash every aspiring performer on two continents.

I also know that this clip made me blub like a maniac. (They’ve disabled embedding but you MUST click that link.)

In a culture that values youth, wealth, and carefully-maintained femininity, this woman is like a cheat sheet for “don’t take me seriously” signifiers. She’s over 40, she’s ungroomed, she’s on the fat side, and her accent denotes low class [1]. As it turns out, she also has learning disabilities and has never been on a date. She flies in the face of what we expect out of a performer and what we, as a culture, esteem in a woman. The judges respond accordingly: they snigger and mock, and her confident posturing just makes her (in their eyes) more ridiculous, more dissonant. Dissonant because confidence and sass don’t compute from a woman who falls so short of the ideal.


Check out the look on Simon Cowell’s face when she sings. He looks positively transported. They’re all so overwhelmed they don’t even taste the crow. Because as it turns out, being low-class, being older, being unfeminine, being any number of culturally downgraded things don’t actually keep you from being fucking extraordinary.

Folks, we are all Susan Boyle. Fat or thin, pretty or plain, butch or femme, old or young, abled or not: people will judge us and find us wanting. You can posture all you want, out of genuine confidence or bravado; you can insist that the ideals are wrong, that the goalposts need to be moved, that rational humans can shake off the shackles of cultural expectation. You can talk big and wiggle your hips — for some people, that’ll just make you more of a joke.

What makes people stop laughing — or at least, what makes you stop caring if they do? The discovery that something about you is utterly remarkable. Because it is. It might not be an angelic voice or some other showy talent. It might be humble, even difficult for others to notice. You might not know what it is yet (lord knows I don’t). You don’t even have to realize, right off the bat, how your remarkable qualities elevate you past any backwards beliefs about who you should be or what you should look like — apparently Boyle herself saw that clip and what she saw was “I looked like a garage” (which at least gets points for being an awfully humorous self-putdown). It’s an arduous process and goodness knows we’ve never said otherwise. But whatever it is, once you really know it’s there, once you know how much that means, a smirk from Simon won’t change a damn thing — and you’ll slap that smile off his face when you bust it out.

[1] Possibly. See comments.

Bachelorettes, bathing suits, etc.

Hi! Remember me? A long time ago, I used to blog here.

So, last time I wrote, I was off to my first destination bachelorette party. The destination, it can now be told (OK, it was already told repeatedly on Twitter last weekend), was Vegas. The bride, one of my oldest and dearest, works for a big, giant corporation that owns several casino resorts. Said big, giant corporation is not in the habit of comping its employees, on accounta they’ve got a bazillion employees and that would get spendy, but the bride and some of her local friends were able to call in a few favors and get us some ridiculous free shit, including rooms, a cabana by the pool for Saturday afternoon, and numerous free bottles of booze — including some at two different clubs of the sort I didn’t even frequent when I was 21, which is really the only time you’d want to.

So we all had a total blast, duh. But it was one of those total blast events I spent so fucking much time stressing about beforehand, it’s kind of a wonder I did manage to enjoy it. First of all, I didn’t realize there would be quite so much free shit, and with a book tour coming up, I was worried about spending too much money on comparatively frivolous travel. But that was really the only practical, reasonable stress. All the rest of it — and it was a lot — was self-image shit.

Not just body image shit — though gearing up to wear a bathing suit in public can still throw me for a bit of a loop. (As I said in comments on the bathing suit shopping post, it’s not even really fat shame anymore, just general prudishness; I’m simply not comfortable with anyone but Al and my doctor seeing that much of my naked flesh. And really, I’m not that comfortable with my doctor seeing it.) No, I was just all-around obsessed with how I’d present myself — i.e., making the fatal mistake, not for the first time, of assuming that anyone else really gives a rat’s ass how I present myself. Especially when I’m standing next to a woman wearing 4-inch heels, a white feather boa, and rhinestones spelling out “bride” across her shoulder. 

The problem was this: I didn’t know most of the other women who would be there. And even though I knew the bride would never be friends with assholes, I just couldn’t tamp down the following fears:

  1. They’d all be girlier, cuter, better dressed, more at home in bathing suits and fancy clubs, etc., than I am. (Actually true, overall — it just didn’t ultimately matter a bit.)
  2. There was a strong likelihood of running into diet talk, given that it was a group of 10 women. (Also true, but it was minimal.)
  3. Some of them might look at me like I had 3 heads, all of which were about to be diagnosed separately with diabetes and heart disease, when I told them what I write about. (Not true!)

Now, about 85% of this stress manifested as me going, “WHAT THE FUCK AM I GOING TO WEAR NO REALLY WHAT THE FUCK?” — I wasn’t having panic attacks or anything. But it was a good lesson in how much the stability of my self-image can depend on context. Still. After two years of blogging and writing half a book purporting to share the secrets of my awesome self-image.

Don’t get me wrong — I DO have an awesome self-image, both generally speaking and especially compared to what it used to be.  Overall, I’m plenty confident and often enough arrogant. It’s just, there’s still that “what it used to be” part lurking underneath, and certain situations can bring it shooting up to the surface. I can stand on a stage and read to an audience, write opinionated blog posts, get loud and stupid with my friends, wear skintight yoga pants in a class full of hardbodies, moderate the fuck out of comments, and talk easily to reporters, all without worrying too much about what anyone thinks. But put me in a group that’s mostly people I don’t know and ask me to socialize OR ask me to spend an entire afternoon wearing a bathing suit in public, and I am suddenly self-conscious as all hell. Ask me to do both at once, and I’m suddenly a useless pile of WHAT THE FUCK AM I GOING TO WEAR NO REALLY WHAT THE FUCK OMG OMG OMG THIS MIGHT ACTUALLY KILL ME.

But here’s the difference between me now and me when my self-image was like 90% suck: I went anyway. I didn’t talk myself out of it because I was so afraid the potential for being judged negatively outweighed the potential for fun. When I asked myself “What’s the worst that could happen?” the answer was, “Some of [bride’s] friends don’t like me.” Bride would continue to like me anyway, as would another one of our oldest and dearest who would also be in attendance. It seemed highly implausible that all 7 of the other women would find me repulsive, so it was unlikely that I’d get stuck with no one at all to talk to, or that a bunch of grown-ass women, including two of my oldest friends, would gang up on me like a pack of hostile 7th-graders. At the absolute worst, I’d get a polite brush-off from a couple of people I would only have to see one more time in my life. WAIT, THAT’S ALL I’VE BEEN FUCKING FREAKING OUT ABOUT?

So I went. I went, and I had a blast. What’s more, my very favorite part of the weekend was the part that involved wearing a bathing suit in public. (As it turned out, the day was cooler than expected, so I ended up wearing sweats over my suit most of the time I wasn’t in the pool or hot tub — so much for all the anxiety about finding a sufficiently adorable suit and cover-up combo.) I lovelovelove to be in the water, and I have now learned that I REALLY love to sit in a private cabana and have people come and refill my drink while I’m not in the water. (This is a bittersweet bit of new knowledge, since the likelihood of my ever having access to a free cabana again is about equal to the likelihood that I’ll ever have enough disposable income to just pay for one, i.e., nil.) And of course, I loved all of the bride’s friends I got to talk to for longer than 5 minutes, and I’m sure I would equally love the ones I didn’t. Most of my fears did not come true, and those that did turned out to be irrelevant anyway. (Oh noes! 90 seconds of throwaway diet talk!)  

All this should surprise exactly no one, least of all me. But when you’re an anxiety-prone person who’s still overcoming decades of self-hatred — even if you’ve written half a book about how not to hate yourself so damn much — it’s still so easy to get wrapped up in the fear of not being charming enough and smart enough and funny enough and bikini-ready enough to survive an unfamiliar social situation. Not so many years ago, I probably would have decided to skip the whole thing, purely because I knew I was likely to be the fattest person there by a considerable margin (which I was). I would have convinced myself that all of them — including the two I’ve been friends with for plus or minus 20 years — would be humiliated to be seen with me, disgusted by having to look at me in a bathing suit, and thus either terribly awkward (my friends) or downright cruel (all the rest). And the thing is, none of that would have been true then, either. But I never would have found out the fears were bullshit. I never would have found out that flitting between a cabana and an enormous pool all afternoon is pretty much my idea of heaven (though again, it might have been better if I never did find that out). Not to mention, I would have missed a celebration in honor of one of my oldest and dearest — all because of my own fucking insecurity.

I still get alternately angry and weepy when I think about how much I used to hold myself back, how much I chose to miss out on, because I was so worried that people would think I was too fat/ugly/dull/irritating/etc. — mostly fat and ugly — to deserve to take part in whatever fun activity was on the table. It wasn’t even that I didn’t think I deserved it, necessarily — but that I believed everyone else would be looking at me and thinking, “Who the hell does she think she is?” (I mean, wearing a bathing suit at a pool! Can you imagine THE NERVE?)

The first mistake, of course, was believing that everyone — or anyone, really — would be looking at me at all, much less long enough to form a strong opinion about my body and/or character. It is kind of amazing how closely related insecurity is to egotism. But the other mistake was believing that the risk of being judged was always greater than the potential fun of putting myself out there. I mean, how could I possibly enjoy swimming, or lying by the pool, or drinking fruity drinks, or dancing,  if there might be someone nearby thinking, “Damn, she needs to put those thighs away.” Oh, wait — I would still be swimming, lying by the pool, drinking fruity drinks, dancing. These are INTRINSICALLY ENJOYABLE ACTIVITIES in my book. It would take a lot more than a dirty look from a stranger to make those things not fun

Of course, sometimes you get a lot more than a dirty look. (And people fatter than me get a lot more a lot more often.) But as Lesley said in a brilliant post (which happens to be reprinted in the book) a while back:

Given the choice between restricting my movements and being assured of never being catcalled again, versus going out shamelessly and risking (or demanding!) attention – I will gladly take the latter. I like being visible. Even when I become a bull’s-eye upon which the insecurities and savagery of others are exorcised. Even when I lose time processing and remembering the emotional risks I take just by being myself, time I would have otherwise spent relaxing in the sunshine. When I first began my self-acceptance process, I decided first off that I never wanted to feel afraid of what those people – those who would mercilessly catcall me from a moving car, for example – might think or say about my body again. I never wanted to avoid life out of fear. And I’m still there, still fighting to be fearless.

So I say fuck those people. I’ll be on that beach tomorrow, and this weekend, and for months to come, and if they don’t like it, good, I’m glad to displease them.

And as my lovely co-author said just today:

I would rather be seen than be invisible. I would rather exist as a vocal and visual body than as a silent and hiding one, occupied mostly with minimizing myself.

Right on. I may never be completely rid of all those old fears, but these days, I feel strong enough to fight them, instead of rolling over and letting them win. That’s the big difference between having a mostly positive self-image and a mostly crap one. And I can tell you this much with absolute confidence: The next time someone invites me to spend an afternoon in a free cabana by a ridiculously gorgeous pool (oh please, let there be a next time), I will immediately say yes. 

Bathing Suit Season

The magazines have started. We are now in the pre-season — the  “unless you’re already quite thin, it’s time to start losing weight if you want to show your body in public this summer!” phase. (If you are quite thin, please wait for our May issue, when we’ll tell you you’re too pale*, hairy, blemished, and unfashionable, your boobs are too small to go with your butt, you could still stand to tone up those muscles, and your body insecurity is a real turn-off.)

With regard to all that, please go re-read Marina’s guest post, “28 Days to a Bikini Mind.” Today, I want to talk about more practical issues: To wit, how much plus-size bathing suits suck. I’ve been shopping for a new one lately, and I am not a happy fatty.

To be fair, bathing suit shopping just sucks, period. I didn’t find it much easier when I wore a common straight size. But at least I knew I could walk into several different stores and find options in “my size,” even though most of them wouldn’t fit me right anyway. As a fatty, I pretty much have my choice of Target or Wal-Mart — which would be fine (ethical concerns about big-box retailers aside), if they carried suits that work on my body. (More on that in a mo.) They don’t. Oh, I can also rent a car and drive to the suburbs to hit a Lands’ End** Inlet, where they will have about 4 plus-size bathing suits among the 900 non-plus ones. There’s that. 

So. I’ve compiled a list of requests I wish everyone making bathing suits for fatties would take into consideration. 

1) If you’re a retailer that sells both online and off, put some fucking suits in your bricks and mortar stores. You don’t have to put the entire line in there, but could we please have a handful? So we might have the tiniest little prayer of being able to buy a bathing suit we’ve actually tried on, instead of having to guess at sizing and spend a whole lot of time and money ordering suits and shipping them back? 

2) There has to be a happy medium between fabric that “takes 10 pounds off” while squashing your internal organs into a single blob, and see-through, lightweight shit that has no stretch left after it’s been in a pool twice. Please find it.*** I actually don’t hate the “control” fabrics as much as I probably should, given that the marketing is all about body shame; they have the side benefit of being far more supportive than regular suits, which comes in handy if you do anything other than lie by the pool. But A) being able to breathe is also handy, and B) the more “control” there is, the more they charge. So I don’t need a fucking Miraclesuit for $150 — taking off “10 pounds” around the middle will not actually prevent people from noticing that I’m fat — but I do want something that will keep my boobs and gut from flopping around in water aerobics class or, you know, walking to the beach. 

3) If you are a retailer who sells both straight and plus sizes, don’t have the same bathing suit available in 19 different colors for thin people and just black, brown and navy for fat ones. I know, I know, plus-size suits in light colors don’t sell as well, but that’s because we’ve all been brainwashed to believe that A) looking fat is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a woman, and B) dark colors have magical slimming powers that, like control fabric, will prevent anyone from noticing that you are, in fact, a fat woman wearing a bathing suit. I promise, we’re working on getting women to stop believing that bullshit! But meet us halfway, would you? It is so fucking demoralizing to be clicking through the suits (or anything else) at Lands’ End and go, “Oh, I love that color!” then click on the “plus” button and find out some decision-maker doesn’t think I have any business wearing that color. It doesn’t matter that what the decision-maker actually thought, in all likelihood, was just that that color wouldn’t sell well enough to the plus market. It feels like a slap in the face, and you can only slap your customers in the face for so long before they start wondering who else might need their money more.

4) Two words: adjustable straps. My chronic issue with plus-size clothing being cut for people with way broader shoulders than mine is just that much more irritating when it comes to swimsuits. And I’d imagine women with broader shoulders have a similar complaint. 

5) Two other words: cup sizes. You don’t even need a broad range — just “smaller” and “larger” would be a step in the right direction. Since we’re dealing with stretchy fabric, it’s possible for one swim bra to work with a lot of different boobs.  But as it is, different manufacturers usually go too far one way or the other. I love Junonia because their suits will (mostly) accomodate the rack of doom — but accordingly, I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone who wears smaller than a C-cup. On the flip side, the main reason I can’t buy suits at Target or a zillion other places is that anyone who wears larger than a C-cup is basically SOL there. JMS offers a couple of their suits in regular and D-cups, which is all I’m really asking for, but why the hell aren’t more folks doing this with a wider selection of suits? (Also, if you’re smaller of boob, do the “regular” options in that case fit you, or do you wish they had a third option?) 

6) Give us options for bust support that don’t involve some sort of hook/clasp around the neck or across the back. The clasp just throws a whole other fit issue into the mix — OK, the bra fits, but will that stupid clasp be too loose or too tight on me? Also, on the rare occasion when I’ve found one like that that does fit, I have not noticed one whit of actual support coming from the clasp. Make the backs higher and the bras stronger, whatever it takes, but fuck the clasps. (I don’t own one of these, but I think it’s a brilliant concept for increasing support across the back while keeping the suit reasonably easy to get into.) 

7) There’s also got to be a happy medium between matronly and sexpotty. Find it. 

8) Empire waists and defined cups are great for those who like them, but they’re not the end-all and be-all. And here, I am looking straight at Lands’ End, 2009. They’ve finally made a cover-up skirt I really want, but it’s meant to coordinate with a bunch of tops I can’t wear. Last year, there were at least a couple of tankini tops that didn’t look like ass on me, but this year, not a single one.

9) Women who wear above a size 26 like to swim, too. See point 3.

10) Put your plus size bathing suits on fucking plus size models. I don’t look anything like a plus model, but I cannot even begin to imagine what a suit will look like on me when all I’ve got to go on is an image of a very tall, very thin woman wearing it. I’m sure there’s yet another argument here about how stuff sells better on thin models, but I really, really don’t care. It’s offensive and frustrating — and it’s also pinning all your hopes on self-loathing customers, instead of customers who already believe they deserve nice things and won’t hold off on buying clothes until they lose weight. 

11) Finally (for now), if you’re selling exclusively online, you need to post a size chart for every brand of bathing suit you carry, and ideally every single suit. Oh, and if there’s any sort of skirt or shorts involved, YOU NEED TO MENTION HOW LONG THEY ARE. 

All right, that’s all I’ve got right now. Shapelings, tell us what you’d add to the list!

Oh, and for the record, here’s a list of all the plus-size swimsuit retailers I can think of off the top of my head. Please feel free to add more of these in comments, too. 


Lands’ End

LL Bean

Eddie Bauer (mostly, if not all, Miraclesuits)



One Stop Plus (includes Jessica London, Roaman’s, Avenue, and lots more)

Lane Bryant

Swimsuits for All

Always for Me 

Ulla Popken

Swim Outlet

Love Your Peaches




*If you’re a woman of color, you’re probably exempt from this one, but on the downside, we have no idea you exist. 

** Did you ever notice that that’s where they actually put the apostrophe? As in, the end of many lands? My sister pointed that out to me a while back, and it continues to drive me nuts.

***Junonia has come closest to finding it, in my experience. Their “Quikshape” fabric is like Miraclesuit-lite, and their spandex-free, chlorine-proof suits — at least, the one I got a couple of years ago — are quite supportive, though they feel weird and are a bear to get into. But then, Junonia’s got other problems. (See points 4 and 5.)

Quick Hit: Body Dissatisfaction Increases Suicide Risk in Girls

Body dissatisfaction — independent of actual overweight status — has an impact on suicidal behavior in U.S. girls, researchers said.

The researchers found the perception of being overweight among girls raised the probability of suicidal thoughts by 5.6 percent, the probability of a suicide attempts by 3.2 percent and the probability of injury causing suicide attempts by 0.6 percent. [Link.]

Did you note that it’s the perception of being overweight — “independent of actual overweight status” — they’re talking about here? OK, good. Now check this out.

The researchers found the risk of suicide by adolescent females has the potential to add about $280 million to $350 million to the costs of adolescent obesity, including the direct cost of illnesses and premature mortality.

“If being overweight not only imposes the usual healthcare and labor market costs, but also increases the risk of suicide, we need to take these costs into account when offering solutions,” [study co-author Inas] Rashad said.

It all comes back to the “costs of obesity.” Even when what we’re talking about is girls wanting to kill themselves because they think they’re fat. WTF?

I wish I were less cynical, so I could believe that “tak[ing] these costs into account when offering solutions” might actually mean “making an effort to improve girls’ self-esteem and body image.” (So they don’t try to off themselves and drive up healthcare costs. Ahem.) But since they’re lumping this in with all the usual alleged costs of fatness, I have to assume the logic here is, “This is one more reason to insist that fat girls must become thin! If they don’t, they’ll be suicidal!” Even though the study showed that poor body image independent of weight is what causes the suicidal thoughts, and one reason why so many girls hate their bodies and think they’re too fat even when they’re thin might just be that PEOPLE ARE CONSTANTLY TELLING THEM THAT FAT IS HORRIBLE, UNHEALTHY, AND SHAMEFUL, AND GOOD, RESPONSIBLE, HEALTHY PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE ANY VISIBLE FAT ON THEIR BODIES.

Read ‘Em

There are about a gazillion things we’ve missed in the last week, so it’s round-up time.

First, though, I have a favor to ask of anyone who can swing it. Al’s friend Peter lost his job last July. He and his partner of 20+ years, Ericka, are now in danger of losing their house — foreclosure proceedings have begun, and a sheriff’s sale has been set for May 8. Making matters more difficult, in this case, saving the house isn’t just a matter of keeping a roof over their heads. Quoting Peter:

Ericka has multiple, chronic, life-altering diseases and Peter is her primary caregiver. We have modified our home to handle her medical equipment and power wheelchair, etc. Things like the added and increased voltage electrical system, the ramp, the bathroom, the enlarged doors and added bedroom door (so the wheelchair and ambulance gurneys can get through) are just some of the things that have been adapted so that Ericka can continue to live in our home.

Peter recently got a temporary job, and they’ve received some donations already, but they’re still going to need more to keep the house. I know everyone is struggling right now, but if any Shapelings have a bit of cash to spare, please go here and use the donate button or bid on one of the items other friends are auctioning off. A bunch of small donations could make a huge difference. Also, if you’re in the Twin Cities area and know of anyone looking to hire a webmaster/information architect/business analyst (I don’t even know what two out of three of those things mean), Peter’s resume can be found here.

Now, on to the round-up.

The Meghan McCain thing
Backstory here. FJ e-mailed about it this morning and all she said was, “Just in case you needed another reason never to pull that “last acceptable prejudice” shit…” No kidding.

Nevertheless, I replied that I was reasonably pleased with McCain’s response, overall — although yeah, the “last acceptable prejudice” thing NEEDS TO FUCKING DIE, and it also seemed like there was a little too much, “But I’m not fat!” going on, even though she had the decency to acknowledge that the criticism would be bullshit even if she were. I also admitted that a small part of me quite likes what I’ve seen of Meghan McCain (which is not that much, I hasten to note) — that is, the part of me that thinks deep down she’s a Democrat who’s just a little too green to get why her youthful energy and optimism almost certainly won’t make the Republican party any less hateful in the next few generations — so I might be giving her too much benefit of the doubt. FJ is not similarly impressed. What say you, Shapelings? Is her message refreshing to see, or undermined by the way she articulates it? Or both?  

Attack of the fat babies
There are reports out today about a new program  designed to keep pregnant women from gaining too much weight. Once again, the reporting suggests that fat moms have fat babies because their fat uteruses are fucking obesogenic environments, not because fat is hereditary. As I’ve said before, I don’t think genetics are the only reason why some people are fat, and I don’t entirely discount the possibility that a woman’s fat cells themselves could potentially affect her eggs or fetus(es). I do, however, think that when we’re talking about fat moms having fat babies, and no one ever says, “Hey, you think maybe that’s because fat is hereditary?” William of Ockham starts spinning in his goddamned grave.   

Also, check out Lauredhel on how the supposed upward trend in babies’ birthweights is horseshit. 

Brain surgery to cure teh fatz
Today, BFD  got around to highlighting Withoutscene’s fabulous rant on the brain surgery for obesity story we still haven’t gotten around to discussing. Discuss.

A good old fashioned blood-boiler
(via Shapeling Judith) Please enjoy this essay, in which Mindy Laube compares fatness to crime AND admits straight up that health is beside the point: Her whole argument is that fat people should rightly hate ourselves on aesthetic grounds alone. Money quote:

When teenage girls are willing to flaunt their oversize bellies in bikinis only one conclusion can be drawn: human nature is in flux. At some point during the last couple of decades, we seem to have misplaced one of the healthiest of human traits: vanity.

Yes, folks, once again, fat is fashionable and thin people are being persecuted by the millions and millions of fat-accepting folks, who are drowning out the noble few still fighting for a thin beauty standard.

The louder crowd insists that slender women are bizarre anomalies who ought to be force-fed into obese conformity because the rotund figure of the average Australian woman is “normal” and thus ideal.

Wow. I know American public schools don’t do such a great job of teaching geography, but I am 34 years old, and until this moment did not even realize that Australia IS ON ANOTHER FUCKING PLANET.

If you’re fat, you should be standing up to burn calories anyway. (If you can’t stand up, fuck you.)
A fitness club in The Netherlands has installed these high-tech bus shelter ads with a scale in the bench that produces a digital readout of your weight up in the usual ad space, where everyone can see it. As Liss says, “Not only fat-hating/shaming, but deeply hostile to the physically disabled, who have to exchange their privacy and dignity for their basic comfort just to wait for a bus.”

Leave more in comments, y’all. Self-linking encouraged.

I am in love for the second time this week

This time with an officially real person, Emily Blunt. That is, Emily Blunt, Doughnut Smuggler

On being monitored to make sure she didn’t gain weight while playing a diet-obsessed fashionista in The Devil Wears Prada, she says:

I understand why I was asked to be like that for that role, my character was surviving on cubes of cheese at one point in the movie. But you need some kind of comfort when you’re on a film set all day, and mine’s usually food. I was being watched like a hawk, but by the end I’d be sneaking in doughnuts just to annoy the producers.

And on Photoshopping:

I did this photo shoot with a big name fashion photographer and he said ‘Just so you know, if you don’t like anything about yourself I can fix it afterwards – like that, for example’ – pointing to my face. I was like, ‘My chin? ‘ ‘Yes, that cleft on your chin, ‘ he said, to which I replied, ‘I wouldn’t mind keeping it, as it’s part of my face, you know’.

I love the phrasing of that: “If you don’t like anything about yourself, I can fix it afterwards.” Really? Can Photoshop help me quit smoking or pay off my credit card debt? If so, maybe I’ve been too hard on it. And of course, the assumption that a woman so conventionally gorgeous she’s being  photographed for a fashion magazine must have a body part she doesn’t like… sigh.

In other news, I’m going out of town for the week, so posting (from me, anyway) might be even lighter than usual. Or I might be bored in a hotel while Al’s at a conference and end up writing up a storm. Don’t know yet, but consider yourselves warned. And if there’s no new content, feel free to use this as an open thread for linking to interesting articles or sharing what’s up your ass this week.