Cha-Cha-Cha-Chaka Chubby

When it's this good there's no saying no...

I once signed up for a dating site and despite stating I was chubby/fat/whole lotta woman I frequently received messages of the “well just exactly how fat are we talking?” variety.

These assclowns had a lot of cheek demanding I clarify shit that was spelled out when their own profiles often rocked euphemisms like freelancer. Have a job or learn a trade or write a novel – just don’t waste my time with high flying acts of chow chowery designed to disguise your lack of ambition. I didn’t care what folks looking to date me – when I was on the market, so to speak – did for work/living/rent scratch, as long as it didn’t involve sitting on my couch all damn day, burning up my internets and making my light bill sky high – while graciously allowing me the privilege of financing their fuckery.

It should go without saying, I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT FOLKS WHO ARE UNABLE TO WORK. It should go without saying, but since it won’t – for the privileged hard headed folks in the cheap seats1 (cause of that whole othering POC thing, which frames our word choices as far more loaded and intentions far more sinister than if the same words were written by a NWL) – I’ve said it HERE AND NOW.

Playa, do you have a jobby job or what? Well just exactly how deadbeatish are we talking?

If the spirit moved me, my reply might go something like this:

Go to American Eagle/Gap/Macy’s and pick up a pair of [size redacted to avoid “you’re an inbetweenie” derailing] pants and hold them up to the light. If they look “too fat” then my delicious fat ass is TOO FAT FOR YOU. Good day to you, sir!

I am fat. I am a chunkerbutt. I am hourglassy. I got real big tits. I got a real small waist. I got some hips. I’m 5’0ish. My weight fluctuations have mirrored that of my personal hero Chaka Khan. Sometimes I’m Chaka Khan “I Feel For You” size.

Ha. I dance like that (still). *point Cha-cha-cha pizza served head snap big finish*

For like ten minutes in 2002 I was Sweet Thing chubby and often wore my hair and clothes like that.

Mostly, I’m Chaka “Ain’t Nobody” fat2 Oddly enough I have that outfit and sometimes my hair looks like that, except dark brown. Damn, I wish I could SING LIKE THAT, though.

I used to hesitate calling myself fat, not because of any shame – cause I don’t have any – but with an earnest desire NOT to misappropriate the term, in real life only when I won’t let a zombie playa street harass me or on the web or when I’m on certain meds, do I get called fat to my face. Chubby is the way I acknowledge I fully understand that my fat is relative and my experiences have often been relatively free from the kind of tormenting – though I’ve certainly had my share – faced by those bigger than I am.

Besides, you just aren’t going to hurt my feelings by pointing out the OBVIOUS.

With FULL FRONTAL FUCKING ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I am an “acceptable” kind of fat given the shape of my body and my height – my fat gets a “pass” not because I’m black. Not even cause I got real big tits, but mostly because as a black woman I’m just not supposed to be “sexy” or desired anyway. Sexualized, yes. Sexy, not so much. Being called fat – when it’s tossed about in as an insult and in an ignorant manner – is another way of saying, “You’re supposed to something else. Something a little less eye sore-ing and a lot more crotch tenting/soaking.”

In addition being fat isn’t my sole visible oppression. There are few others that get way more attention, thus it’s not always at the top of my lists of things I need to deal with, but it’s always there. Moreover, it doesn’t change how I practice my activism, which is different than most people.

I don’t seek to win hearts and minds. That’s not my style and besides, they are way better folks for that job. I don’t care what people think as long as it doesn’t blow up my spot or the spots of others dealing with oppressions. What I care about is behavior. My activism seeks to make it unpleasant and EMBARRASSING and EXPENSIVE to engage in fuckery. My style of activism – whether it pertains to fat or other -isms – seeks to cause folks tremendous shame and discomfort so they STOP ENGAGING IN THE BEHAVIOR and pressure others to do the same. That’s why I’m nasty when I smack down acts of -ism fuckery. I’m not trying to get folks to “embrace a diverse range of voices” – I’m way too pragmatic for that – I’m just trying to get them to STOP WHATEVER FUCKERY THEY ARE DOING, hopefully embarrassing them and causing others to give it serious thought before engaging in similar behavior.

I am all about the “you ain’t got to go home, but you’ve got to get the fuck up on out of here” style of activism. I’m like Eastwood after beating down a mess of assclowns who then looks around and says, “Anyone else want some of this?”

I’ll give you an example. I used to work with a woman who often used the term “Porch Monkey” (hopefully I don’t need to explain why that’s not a good thing when the bulk of the org’s service users were BLACK). I am not the freaking thought police. I don’t care what she thought about black folks, provided it didn’t inform her treatment of them at work and as it related to the services she was supposed to be providing.

I made things REALLY unpleasant. I tattled. I brought it up in meetings and finally demanded they bring in a diversity specialist to shame us all via workshops for two long days. You know what, after that, I never had to say another word and wouldn’t you know she modified her behavior. If she even started to say any word with a “pah” sound there were like five coworkers ready to bitch about not wanting to do “race training” again. Moreover, she became a better worker, when she actually had to do her work rather than complain about the folks she served. You’d be surprised how quickly folks change their behavior when the price is too high to stay the same.

I didn’t care that my doctor – initially – blathered on about my size when I had good numbers and came in for vaginal tune up. His thoughts about my size or his biases were not my business; his behavior was. So I complained. I ranted at him. I ranted for all the fatties who aren’t as mean as me.

Three years later, he’s the one proselytizing HAES and FA when I lose my way. Think I changed his heart or his mind? No. But I damn sure changed his behavior. And if you happen to go to him, you best believe he won’t be concern trolling you about your fat.

I’d do this for fatties who love me. I’d do this for fatties who hate me. I will have your back even if I don’t like you. If someone’s blowing up your spot (regardless of -ism), you can call on Snarky’s Machine. I’ll smack ’em down hard enough to harsh their ancestors’s mellows. Seriously. Nothing gives me more pleasure – other than sex and cupcakes – than telling an assclown where to go and how to fucking get there.

As a fat activist, that’s how I roll.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a hairbrush and a standing room only engagement of Through the Fire I need to attend to. Hopefully I can finish before the neighbors call to report hearing the sounds of small animals fighting in the dumpster.

a more expletive riddled version of this post appeared on Snarky’s Machine.

1 don’t even start. “Cheap Seats” is a termed most often attributed to Broadway where there is no such thing.
2 and sometimes this version of Ain’t Nobody fat too And you better believe I strapped big ass into an outfit JUST LIKE THIS ONE in my goth days and you couldn’t tell me shit except, “Play on, playerette.”

Tell Me Something Good: Open Thread

What’s currently thrilling you – pop culture wise. Books, music, movies, interesting blogs? Share with the rest of the class. Also, why aren’t you reading and commenting on Snarky’s Machine? Tsk Tsk! After Kate’s electrifying post oh yes, I’m most certainly going to toot my own clown horn, baby. You’ve seen me here. You’ll soon see me on Bitch Magazine guest blogging this summer. You want more Snarky’s and I love giving people what they want.

And even though I’m pretty sure this song didn’t come out during the spring, it always reminds me of Spring. Snow be damned! I’m putting on my springy dress and maybe even a big silly hat.

I present Miss Chaka Khan for your chair dancing pleasure.

So as the title says, Tell me (and each other) something good.

Toot your own clown horns, Shapelings! This thread is open and ready to serve you!

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.

The Butt Might Be Smaller, but the Disappointment is Still Pretty Big*

MSN Health is running a story about folks who have shed weight, but not the fantasy of being thin. The article – saddled with a terribly clown hornian title “Skinny Dream Bubble Burst” – had all the greatest hits of TFOBT.

That said, it was incredibly heart breaking to read this early in the morning with snow falling gently over Vermont.

Here’s how the article’s main subject Jen Larsen is described:

Despite being a self-described “accomplished fat girl,” with a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of San Francisco, a great job working in the school’s academic library, a slew of friends and a loving boyfriend, Larsen thought her life had hit a plateau. By age 32, she believed she’d be writing a book, “doing something important,” she says. The only thing holding her back, she thought, was weight. […] Larsen thought skinny came with a mega-boost of self confidence. And a huge dollop of happiness. She thought she’d be dynamic and brave and ready to take on the world, just because she was thin.

Larsen states:

“I think fat people are sold a fantasy, and then get no support in the reality, because we’re simply supposed to be grateful that we’re no longer fat,”

The article stops short of suggesting anything approaching FA or HAES. In fact, it suggests the way to dealing with the disco fame hangover is to tamp down expectations once weight goals are achieved. I don’t know about you, but I’m just not sure people work that way.

There’s a lot of chow chow about naughty media preying on folks and we’ve all heard that before. But nothing approaching a serious analysis. (fortunately, that’s what SP does!) The article seems unaware of the extent to which culturally sanctioned messages telling us getting thinner impact fatties, regardless of whether or not they diet. It’s clown horn journalism at its finest.

Or as Kate put it:

The question is, who do you really want to be, and what are you going to do about it? (Okay, two questions.) The Fantasy of Being Thin is a really convenient excuse for not asking yourself those questions sincerely — and that’s exactly why it’s dangerous. It keeps you from being not only who you are, but who you actually could be, if you worked with what you’ve got. And that person trapped inside you really might be cooler than you are right now.

She’s just not thin.

Just another reminder of why I love FA so fucking much.

*opted to change the title after reflecting on the term and not wanting to upset folks or hurt feelings.

The Last Three Paragraphs

I wrote another piece for Broadsheet yesterday because this Daily Beast piece made me tremendously ranty, and I figured I might as well get paid for it. I’ve been thinking a lot about the social advantages and disadvantages of motherhood these days, so once I started, I couldn’t shut up even more than usual. Which meant that the piece I turned in was absurdly long, and I fully expected to see large chunks of it missing in the final version.

What’s missing, as it turns out, is the last three paragraphs. They were exactly the right thing to cut, since I’d already made my argument (and then some) by that point, and the rest was a combination of tangent and reiteration. But the tangent was one I really wanted to get in there — that choosing not to have kids really doesn’t come off as a glamorous, attractive choice, just because it might increase a woman’s chances of reaching the top of her field. If you know you want kids, the message childless* women send is kind of beside the point. I know people who want/have kids, who don’t want kids and who are ambivalent — and sometimes, ambivalence gives way to a default decision one later regrets — but I have yet to meet a woman who’s like, “I am absolutely certain I want to be a mother, but I’m going to completely ignore that overwhelming urge because it might ruin my career.” Some women gamble on delaying pregnancy and lose, but that’s really not the same as saying, “I desperately want children but have officially decided I will never have them because Sonia Sotomayor is my hero.” And that’s what Beinart seems to be worried about.

So. Please do go read the Broadsheet post, because that’s all about how brutally hard it is to balance motherhood and career ambition, and if you just read this part in isolation, you’ll think I’m missing the point entirely. (I’ve been writing and thinking a LOT lately about my own ambivalence toward having children and how much of it stems from the fact that neither childless women nor mothers get the social support and respect they need, so committing to either feels like asking to have a load of shit shoveled down my throat — whereas existing in this liminal state allows people to project whatever future they think is best on me, and thus not harass me too much about my choices. Problem is, this state has a fast-approaching expiration date.) But I think there are lots and lots of important points that arise from Beinart’s piece, basically — too many for one post — so I wanted to put up the rest of my rant, and open a space for discussing the whole thing that’s free of Broadsheet trolls. And make sure you all saw Tami’s piece, because it’s brill, and I basically spent the whole rant working up to quoting her, but then that got cut.

Without further ado, the last three paragraphs:

And trust me, young girls are hardly getting the message that choosing not to have children is an easy path — or if they are, they shouldn’t be. If you haven’t thought too hard about it yet, girls, let me break it down for you: In addition to the potential for lifelong regret, which you’ll never stop hearing about from the Hewletts of the world and their proxies among your friends and family, you will be widely regarded as a freak, as incomplete, selfish, irresponsible, unfeminine, somehow broken — what kid of woman doesn’t want kids? — and you’ll spend half the time and energy you saved by not having kids defending that decision and your credibility to people who inexplicably think it’s their business. So basically, the message you should be hearing loud and clear is that you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t — which means the only good reason to have kids or not is because it’s what you feel is best.

Blogger Tami of What Tami Said nails it:

The problem is not that women without children are getting too many extra goodies, too many shots at the brass ring. The problem isn’t that working mothers don’t have enough role models to demonstrate that they can have it all. The problem is that for all our superficial obsession with “baby bumps” and our pledges that “the children are the future,” we aren’t willing to walk the walk. We don’t support women in having it all. We fail to back up our supposed belief in families with legislation and societal values that truly establish successful nurturing of the next generation as a priority. (I can pretty much guarantee that our “family values” friends on the right would be the first to rail against any sort of strengthened parental leave or socialized childcare.)

Beinart concludes his argument, “[C]hoosing Wood would send the message that women can have kids and still reach the apex of their profession. That’s a message that I’d like my working wife –and our 2-year-old daughter — to hear.” Hey, as a married 35-year-old professional currently grappling with the question of whether I can handle motherhood, that’s a message I’d love to hear myself — but only if it’s true. And for the most part, right now, it’s just not. Right now, the number of women who reach the apex of their profession, kids or no kids, is still so tiny relative to the number of men who do, the girls and women I know will take any dingdang role model we can get. So instead of scrutinizing potential Supreme Court appointees’ reproductive choices, it would probably be more helpful if men who care about their wives’ and sisters’ and daughters’ futures would help women agitate for longer parental leave, subsidized day care and a culture that supports women who choose motherhood, women who don’t, and women who want to balance parenthood and career ambition without being condemned as either coldhearted monsters or half-assed employees, just like men always have.

*I’m using “childless” because I actually find “childfree” just as problematic, in addition to the fact that not everybody without kids identifies as such. To me, “-free” overcorrects for the lack implied by “-less”; now, instead of implying that people without children are missing something, we’re implying that people with children are burdened, and those of us without have dodged a bullet, suckers! I don’t particularly like what that says about parenthood or about people who choose not to have kids, who are often stereotyped as simply unwilling to sacrifice and take on the responsibilities of parenting. So what I’d really love is something in between, but since I can’t think of anything, I revert to the word that’s more commonly used.

Guest Blogger Tasha Fierce: Jillian Michaels Be Illin’!

Tasha Fierce is THE shit! Her work been featured on Racialicious and Jezebel. She’s the creative director and the real boss of IFMiB, which is to say she handles all the administrative duties while I dish Milos Forman!

Shapelings, show your love for Miss Fierce.

So screeching, overly pushy Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels refuses to “ruin her body with pregnancy“, in other words, fatten up. Think of the stretch marks! The post-baby pooch! Apparently Ms. Michaels was fat as a teen and just can’t handle having a baby mess up her weigh ins again. I don’t want to judge her choice to not bear children, it’s her body – but I don’t appreciate the implicit fatphobia implied in saying pregnancy would ruin her body.

This celebrity aversion to gaining weight during pregnancy is nothing new, of course. It’s unfortunate that it’s the case, however, because it just ends up fat shaming women, who don’t have access to trainers or 5 hours of time to spend every day working out, and tend to gain much more weight while pregnant. And again, it just goes back to the general fatphobia constantly pervading our collective consciousness, to the point that the natural and needed weight gain associated with pregnancy is something to be reviled and avoided at all costs.

The whole celebrity “lose the baby weight in 10 days” drama plays out on the pages of tabloids every day. Because female celebrities are unfortunately seen as role models for everyday women, losing the weight fast after pregnancy is seen as a primary goal to be reached, even to the detriment of a woman’s self-image and esteem – or even health. Women are made to feel bad if they gain too much weight during pregnancy or take too long to lose it.

You see the effects in makeover shows featuring women trying desperately to lose the baby weight and devaluing their own bodies for the changes it went through during pregnancy. If we can’t be fat at the one time in our lives that weight gain is supposed to be healthy, that obviously doesn’t bode well for those of us that are just plain fat. So please, Ms. Michaels, adopt as many kids as you want and never bear a child, but refrain from saying that a fat body is “ruined”. Of course, when your whole job consists of fat shaming, this may be too much to ask.

CNN Makes Jaclyn Friedman Sound Like a Victim-Blamer! Again!

It’s hardly a well-kept secret that journalists can make an interviewee sound like she said pretty much anything. Those of us who are asked to speak on controversial topics know we risk seeing our words twisted to fit a predetermined narrative — even to suggest the exact opposite of what we clearly meant — every time we agree to an interview. But it’s still quite a jaw-dropper to watch it happen as blatantly as it did this week, when CNN’s Carol Costello warped an interview with Jaclyn Friedman (friend of SP and co-editor of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape) into something about “raunch culture” and the pernicious influence of Ke$ha. The whole video (which purports to explore “what could be the ‘third wave’ of feminism,” because apparently, the last twenty fucking years have gone unnoticed by CNN) and a transcript are available over at Shakesville. But here’s the juicy part:

Costello: When it comes to binge drinking, experts say, sadly women are up to the challenge. According to Southern Illinois University, in 1996, 33 percent of women admitted to binge drinking or having five drinks in one sitting in the past two weeks. In 2008, that percentage shot up to nearly 41 percent.

Jaclyn Friedman, Editor, “Yes Means Yes”: It’s a really troubling message.

Costello: That’s disturbing to feminist editor Jaclyn Friedman. She says women having fun or making stupid mistakes is one thing, but adopting destructive, raunchy behavior is scary.

Friedman: When it comes to sexual assault, most rapists use alcohol to facilitate sexual assault.

Aaaand, bam, Jaclyn’s gone and we’re back to Ke$ha. That song is so catchy!

If you’re looking at that part I bolded and going, “WTF, Jaclyn?” well, you should be. You’re absolutely right that it sounds nothing like the position of a feminist activist who spends half her life explaining and decrying rape culture. Mostly because it’s not her position. Not even a little bit. On Twitter, Jaclyn’s explained that she actually “said there was a double standard worrying about girls’ drinking and not boys’, and that the trouble with the binge drinking culture in general is that it gives plausible deniability to rapists. And that we should be telling men that THEY need to drink responsibly, because alcohol’s not an excuse to rape! ARGGGGHHHHHH.”

So the real question is “WTF, Carol Costello? What the fucking fuck?”

Jaclyn was kind enough to G-chat with me for a few minutes this morning before she got on a plane. I could probably keep ranting about this bullshit for another 90 pages or so, but for now, I’ll just leave you with what she sounds like when the interviewer is not merely exploiting a subject’s feminist credentials to further a tiresome, sexist narrative about “dirty girls.”

Jaclyn: Part of the problem is one of nuance — the things I’m trying to say sound complicated, because they aren’t things that people have heard much before. It’s easy to understand the “OMG bad girls! Danger!” trope. Everybody knows it and can name that tune in three notes.

Me: And that tune is apparently “Tik Tok.”

Jaclyn: Hee. Yes. It’s a lot harder to say: “Wait. It’s not that simple.” To talk about women’s freedom to be “good” or “bad” or drink or even do risky things, just as men have that freedom, while simultaneously talking about the real danger that is violence against women, and how the “bad girl” trope is used to excuse it. But I also think they knew what story they wanted. And when I didn’t give it to them, they just made it work anyhow.

Me: Yep.

Jaclyn: Because they never once asked me about “raunchy behavior.” Or third wave feminism!

Me: I know! I can’t stop laughing at “what could be the third wave,” even though it also makes me want to cry.

Jaclyn: And I told them straight up that it was ridiculous to wring our hands over girls’ drinking and give boys a free pass. I’m just so angry. Because this is the second time I’ve been on CNN. Different producers, different reporters, different shows. And the EXACT SAME THING happened both times: I gave a smart, nuanced interview in which I steadfastly refused to victim-blame. And they edited me to sound like a total victim-blamer.

Me: Unbelievable.

Jaclyn: To be fair, I haven’t done this kind of soundbite interview for any other networks. So I’m not singling out CNN over, say, FOX or MSNBC. I have no idea.

Me: But if they’re going to keep spinning it like this, it’s like, what’s the point of having you on instead of just inviting someone from the Independent Women’s Forum or whatever?

Jaclyn: What’s the point? I have more cred. Which they are evidently determined to DESTROY.

Me: And then this goes out there as “what bona fide feminists believe,” and we have to spend even more time telling trolls that’s bullshit.

Jaclyn: EXACTLY. I mean, I’m CRUSHED to think anyone now thinks I actually believe that bullshit. I spend my entire life trying to UNDO that bullshit.

Me: I know!

Jaclyn: I am secretly pleased about one thing: All the people who bought Yes Means Yes b/c they saw me on that segment are going to have quite the surprise when they start reading. :)

Me: Ha! Right on.

Jaclyn: We did get a sales spike after it ran.

Me: That is terrific news… Although also sort of depressing news because it reinforces why we need to keep throwing ourselves to the wolves like this.

Jaclyn: Uch, I know.

Me: Well, thank you for taking one for the team YET AGAIN.

Jaclyn: NP. Wish it had gone better.