Op-Ed: Body Politic (or, Skinny Hate: Maria Kang, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the New Misogyny)

March 30, 2014
By

By Laila Pedro

As a longtime dancer now working as a scholar, writer, and media strategist, I am (often to my detriment) deeply and constantly aware of how women’s bodies—my own and others’— are talked about and looked at. I follow with befuddled, irresistible interest the bafflingly tone-deaf coverage of “fat acceptance”, body issues, and health in the otherwise intelligent media outlets that constitute my daily cultural news diet.

Ballet-Ballerina-1853

I have been at a weight I was uncomfortable with, and I worked hard — still do, every day — to  change it. I’ve been at the other end, too: at a weight that was unhealthy, unsustainable, draining, and exhausting. I frequently find myself in the position of defending universally reviled, supposed mean-girl types like Gwyneth Paltrow and Maria Kang. And I find myself increasingly bewildered, and a bit depressed, at the responses of otherwise brilliant, driven, confident women to any suggestion that more exercise is good, that dieting becomes increasingly something to be considered as we get older, that, in short, perhaps the standard American body—overfed, under-stimulated, ready for heart failure at any moment — is not inevitable. That it is, in fact, anything but natural. Women of my age and education in America (Lisa Frank folders submitted in lieu of D.O.B.) grew up in a culture of self-help talk and D.A.R.E. programs, of dialogue and interaction cues metered by the Very Special Episode. The Gothic fetish-specter of eating disorders haunts our collective psyche[1]. It is socially acceptable to mention, with beatific concern, the (statistically much lower) possibility that a friend is not eating enough, but beyond the pale to suggest that she is (as the vast majority of Americans are) eating too much.

Gwyneth_Paltrow_2012

Gwyneth Paltrow

Let me be clear: I am not into fat shaming. I am not into disparaging people based on their bodies. I am not a fan of Hot-Or-Not, or Best-and-Worst Beach Bodies fashion magazine issues (unless I am on a transcontinental flight, in which case I will do what I want and all bets are off).[2] My reason for being opposed to these things, however, has nothing to do with fat acceptance. I don’t like fat shaming because I dislike shaming, not because I like fat.

A few months ago, the internet lost its collective rage-mind at a woman who posted what was clearly intended to be a provocative photo on her basically run-of-the-mill, midlevel life-and-fitness website. Responses to Maria Kang ranged from the class-based (“She MUST have nannies”) to the quasi-racist (“She’s shaped like that because she’s Asian”). I admit, while I (a veteran of gym culture and long runs and hot yoga and boot-camp style workouts who has benefited tremendously from this type of aggressive motivational language) found it inspiring, badass, hilarious, and delightfully third wave, it was also simplistic, tone deaf, and sure to attract ire. Part of the problem, I suspect, is in a collision of equally valid but mutually incompatible discourses: the motivational, no-excuses, ONE MORE REP liturgy of traditional gym culture (now resurgent in CrossFit, Tough Mudder, and the like) and the self-accepting, non-judgemental, nominally supportive discourse of progressive, yoga-inflected feminist-ish female friendship. At their worst, the former sees the latter as hopelessly weak and indulgent, while the latter sees the former as sexist and borderline fascistic. So it’s not surprising that these two rhetorical camps, enriched by images of Kang’s six-pack or Gwyneth’s everything, explode in the semantic powder keg of the internet.

What is surprising, and, to me, disappointing, is the misappropriation of empowering critical inquiry to bully, demean, and hate other women. That, to me, is insidiously, and fatally, anti-feminist. Why then do demonstrably smart, feminist women who are supposedly all for sisterly solidarity so loathe one type of woman? A simple answer is that feminist discourse is a) not monolithic and b) not always as subtle and informative as we might like.  Enough has been written about how troubling much of Jezebel’s approach is that I don’t need to cover it here, but the comments on that site, and others, are hardly paragons of sisterly love. Kang and Gwyneth are seen as a kind of fifth column, as inside traitors in a culture war. This reading is superficially logical but, ultimately insufficient and disappointing. There is a specific dimension having to do with bodies, with our right to do with them what we want, and to participate in the cultural practices that we want to, without invoking feminine ire.

Tough_Mudder_SoCal_2013_Walk_the_Plank Upon inspection, then, the  vitriolic rage seems to me to derive not simply from the fact of being on the “wrong side”, or as the cattier among us might say, simply being luckier, prettier, richer and thinner, but from something much more troubling: the intensely self-loathing, self-defeating, internalized misogyny I see in much of feminine American discourse today.

More and more, I am fascinated a major question facing women (really, everyone) in America today: Why do we hate those who we perceive to be healthier (and in many cases, more attractive) than we are? Why do we look for excuses and make ourselves complicit in our own physical dis-empowerment? Many of my peers seem much more ready to come up with a dismissal than they are to believe that they have the power to change their bodies and themselves. This power — the power to make your body and mind fitter, faster, stronger, to be in charge of yourself — is real power. It is serious power. It is probably scary power. I argue that obesity is more than a disease, that fat is more than a choice, and that we use weapons of misogynistic defensiveness (in the case of Kang) and class (Gwyneth Paltrow looks like that only because she is rich) to remain complacent in a society that is set up to make us weak, lethargic, complacent, and unhealthy.  We turn what should be our most potent weapons — our intelligence and critical thinking skills, our ability to parse precisely the inflections of class, race, and physical power that conspire to occlude and diminish women — against  other women, and, consequently, inevitably, against ourselves.

Fit women are strong women; strong women make demands and change conditions and take on the world. Fit women, in other words, are terrifying.  By hating other women who talk about fitness in a serious way, who reject “fat acceptance” and choose to change, we are really internalizing a cultural, social, and capitalist construct set up to keep us docile, weak, and self-loathing. We use stereotypically “feminine” weapons — gossip, side-eye, cliques — couched  as “concern” and “critique” to put down other women. Only by seeing each other as role models in a shared struggle do we begin to transcend these issues and empower ourselves. A healthy body, just like a body that is loved and accepted on its own terms, unconditionally, is not an unattainable privilege of the rich or genetically blessed. It is not a weapon to use in judging and diminishing other women. It is a source of empowerment. It is a philosophical statement. It is political. It is a choice. And sometimes, it is — quite literally — all you have.

_________________________________________

LPLaila Pedro is a Havana-born writer, scholar, and media strategist based in New York City and South Beach. She studied French and dance at Connecticut College, and will defend her doctoral dissertation, “Paris and Havana: A Century of Mutual Influence” at the Graduate Center of the City of New York this spring. She writes about modern and contemporary poetry, painting, dance, and performance art, with particular interest in the representation of human bodies.


[1] Ask most women my age why they know who Karen Carpenter is

[2] I do, however, bring my own food on said flights, which is a whole other story.

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18 Responses to Op-Ed: Body Politic (or, Skinny Hate: Maria Kang, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the New Misogyny)

  1. Chris B on March 31, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Excellent article that raises a very urgent concern among women and men equally, and very much gay men. Though I do feel that in some instances, there are class distinctions associated with Paltrow’s GOOPification that cannot be separated from her very positive focus on healthy living — and perhaps this conflation of privilege and health leads to some of the unfortunate (and uncritical) blending of the two. The challenge that many face is the ability to express their ideas in a way that is comestible to the people who need it the most. That is to say: through messages of empowerment and not exclusion. That leads to the question: is it unfair to hold people with a microphone, or today a keyboard and webcam, responsible for articulating the message? I’m inclined to say: yes, if you project a message, you must learn to articulate it. The churning vortex of internet commentary (this response a prime example) permits by definition a plurality of voices, and in the howling of the many, it’s definitely hard to hear the best.

  2. T'kins on April 1, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Love this, especially the line about being opposed to fat-shaming because you are opposed to shaming, not because you like fat. I come from a family of overweight people; I was a fat kid; I got pretty plump a couple of years ago again in my late 50s (but then lost 20 pounds very healthily through portion control and an emphasis on minimally-processed vegetables and fruit), and I am stymied by the claims that there is no obesity epidemic; that some bodies are just naturally fat (read: obese); and that to think otherwise is anti-feminist. Farm subsidies for corn that made corn syrup cheap and therefore ubiquitous; absurdly huge portions in restaurants of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods; the difficulty of obtaining healthy snacks outside of one’s own kitchen; the relative cheapness of high-calorie, low-nutrient, binge-inducing foods: these are only a few of the determinants of a what I’ll call obesity-inducing culture (it’s certainly not fat-supportive!). I worry about the way the very necessary push-back against fat-shaming plays out.

  3. Stealth Racism on April 1, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    I find this article troubling because I think that it all too easily overlooks how the trauma of racism/colorism/sexism (as intersecting oppressions) and sexual assault/harassment trauma factors into weight and motivation to exercise. If you have been targeted for how you look in ways that are specifically about how your non-White/Black body does or does not conform to a White-supremacist beauty ideal, you may have very different reasons for not caring about how you look and being unmotivated to exercise. Especially when you are struggling with motivation, due to depression/PTSD related to a use you have sufferers because of how you look. As such, I don’t find this article empowering. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  4. BeaBea BumbleBea on April 6, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    While I do agree with many of your points, there is one very problematic issue, & that is the promotion of assumptions about someone based on arbitrary visual criteria. I agree that people should, ideally, strive for health. I think that people should, ideally, empower themselves in their lives. I think people should, ideally, not misrepresent their envy or jealousy, & subsequently funnel it into the bizarre sport of internet hatred groupthink. I have no problem with Maria Kang or Gwyneth Paltrow as women, beyond the occasional facepalm elicited by the misguided/out of touch tone of a given comment (or meme, in Maria Kang’s case).

    However, I’m a good example of someone who fits most of your criteria… Except I’m a size 12-14. I’ve always had an athletic body- broad shoulders, broad hips, & muscle- combined with a genetic predisposition toward some extra chub & a slower metabolism. My weight has oscillated throughout my life. The two times I was at my thinnest, once I was anorexic, the other time I was recovering from a breakup by doing yoga six days a week, sometimes twice a day, & eating an incredibly healthy but restrictive vegan/macrobiotic diet, & working part time at a vegan restaurant. I had very few friends after the breakup (I’d moved to that city to be with my partner, so all of the people I knew were his friends), which meant all of my time could be spent cooking & working out. I got down to a size 6 & looked damn good! But, that was an unsustainable way of life for me, when I went to grad school, started making friends, & met the man who ultimately became my husband. I still work work out 3 days a week, plus am an advanced skier, so for 3 1/2 months out of the year, I’m skiing every weekend, & swim & play tennis on the weekends in the spring/summer. I still cook most of my meals, which are tasty & healthy, but I also allow myself little indulgences here & there. Because above all, I believe in moderation & balance.

    I’m naturally an hour glass shape (bordering on pear, as I was blessed with a sizable posterior), & ever since turning 30, I seem to carry a little extra fat. Whether I work out every day or not, I still carry some extra fat these days, it seems. This isn’t an excuse, it’s a simple fact. I’ve accepted this &, after a long hard journey, have learned to love my body as it is, & focus solely on being healthy & fit, regardless of how I look. I know I’m in good shape, but it is enormously frustrating to constantly be underestimated & spoken down to. Not just by random articles or Maria Kang, but even by acquaintances. When I was sore from a new workout (one of the bits was basically grand pliés on steroids- 4 rounds of 15 reps in relevé the whole time while holding a 30lb kettle bell), the number of people condescendingly saying “well, good for you for starting to work out!” Argh! Likewise, I’m strong as an ox- I can dead lift 200lbs for goodness sake- but the number of people who assume my arms are just full of fat (bc my muscles bulk & don’t do that pretty Jennifer Aniston toned thing), therefore rush to pick things up in my stead, or help me carry things without my asking.

    By the same token, I have several friends with “perfect” skinny bodies who eat fast food & don’t work out. One of them is currently 6 months pregnant & is still skinnier than I was when I was in my breakup skinny place! But people look at them & assume they are fit, & that they make healthy choices, meanwhile assume I make poor diet choices & loathe exercise.

    So I understand your overall point. I do. But please know that body acceptance & so called “fat acceptance” isn’t necessarily about carte blanche justification of unhealthy habits. It’s also about recognizing some personal limitations (I will never look like Gwyneth, even if I eat only macrobiotic food for the rest of my life), & determining your personal priorities, & aligning them with your life. I can sincerely say I’m 10 times happier right now at a fit size 12/14 than I was at a lonely & miserable size 6. So let’s shift the dialogue toward increasing health consciousness & personal empowerment, rather than an arbitrary line in the sand between “fat” & “skinny”.

  5. Ragen Chastain on April 10, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Note that in her supposed feminism Laila does not ask the question “why don’t all women have the option to try to make our bodies look a certain way or not as we choose without fear of shaming, bullying, stereotyping or oppression?” No, she characterizes those who don’t make the same choices as she’s making as looking for excuses, “complicit in dis-empowerment” and “ready to come up with a dismissal.”

    I suggest that what we loathe are not those who are benefiting from deeply flawed, often misogynistic, views around weight, health, and beauty. Rather, what we hate are the social constructs that support the notion that body size is the same as health, fitness, and attractiveness, and that women have an obligation to be “healthy” and “beautiful” by someone else’s definitions in order to be afforded basic human respect and the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on our own terms.

    That is why we take issue with women, like Laila, who try to perpetuate those constructs and call it feminism. Why are women perpetuating the oppressive idea that we should be judged based on how we look?

    Ragen Chastain
    http://www.danceswithfat.org

  6. T'kins on April 11, 2014 at 9:50 am

    In reply to Ragen Chastain, I can say that (again, coming from a family of fat people) it’s not only women who are shamed for being fat, though yes, we bear a disproportionate burden. Fat is a feminist issue, as the anthology title has it. But it’s also a more broadly social and socio-economic issue. Long work hours, long commutes, double shifts, supermarket “deserts,” and the farm subsidies I already mentioned (where what is subsidized is the stuff that has ruined the American diet)–these contribute to the social fact that there is more obesity now than there was thirty or forty years ago. Anecdotally I can say that Americans traveling abroad often stand out for being overweight. Body types may vary from ethnic group to group in where fat is deposited, but white women have no lock on thinness, nor is the black or brown body “naturally” fat. That doesn’t mean fat-shaming is right, but it does mean that a healthy skepticism about some of the claims of the fat-acceptance movement is, well, healthy.

    • Ragen Chastain on April 11, 2014 at 12:40 pm

      Hi T’kins,

      It’s absolutely fine for individuals to have a healthy skepticism of fat acceptance as it applies to their choice to participate or not. (I think it really helpful to first research and fully understand the movement, which, based upon Laila’s characterization of it, I feel she hasn’t done.)

      The problem occurs when people insist that their choice not to participate is the “right” and “superior’ choice for everyone. These discussions (of a diet model vs. a fat acceptance and/or Behavior Centered Health model) are only “equally valid but mutually exclusive” if we feel that there must be competition between the two, with one eventually “winning”. If both dialogs exist and people are allowed to choose what works for them, then we have no problem. Part of the problem, I suspect, is in people’s unwillingness to respect other people’s choices as they want their choices to be respected.

      I wrote a response addressing the full piece here, http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/laila-pedro-gets-fat-and-feminism-all-wrong/

      ~Ragen

      • T'kins on April 11, 2014 at 5:42 pm

        Thank you, Ragen–Read your blog entry, watched footage of your graceful dancing, and ordered your book as an e-book. I like your ability to spot a false dichotomy (though I don’t think I was guilty of articulating one myself). I look forward to reading your book and seeing whether you persuade me that a lot of body fat is compatible with sustained good health or that, absent a metabolic disorder, “size is just size.” I have no doubt that one can be fat and athletic–a “fathlete” as you say. I have known fat distance cylcists and I have been a somewhat plump one myself. And you are right to question Laila’s claim that women should diet as a matter of course as they age–a claim that I, an aging woman, seem to have blipped right over. I agree that nobody should impose her choice on everybody else, and that individuals’ decisions about how to live their lives must be respected.

        But that’s not, I think, incompatible with my desire to frame obesity as a social problem. When I hear people say that obesity (I don’t think you use that word) is about “individual choice”–as though social forces have nothing to do with the “individual choices” people make–I know we’re dealing with a misplaced individualism.

        –And (back to the provocation) I appreciate that the piece to which you object asks us to question a point of view that is developing into its own orthodoxy, if an oppositional one.

        • Ragen Chastain on April 11, 2014 at 7:58 pm

          T’kins,

          Thanks so much for being so open to dialog about this. I’ll delay any further comment as you read the book and I will very much hope to hear your thoughts about it!

          Thanks!

          ~Ragen

      • Claire Oberon Garcia on April 29, 2014 at 12:25 pm

        Dear Ragen~ Your blog post was a great response to this article, which is based on several false and unexamined dichotomies and uncritical generalizations. Thank you!

  7. LadyTL on April 11, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    If you point was that we should stop shaming women on appearances, you kind of failed miserably by spending almost the entire article trying to shame women for being larger then what You personally feel comfortable with.

    The attitude you have is the same one as Kang, the same one as every other size bully who can’t stand that some people (not just women) have decided to get off the hate treadmill.

    You know what, I am fit. I am also almost 300lbs. I have full range of movement and am stronger then almost all my coworkers, many of whom I out weigh.

    Yet you cling to the stereotype that I can’t be fit because I don’t fit your stereotype of what fit should look like.

    It’s attitudes like yours that create worse healthcare for people because of this idea that I am making myself fat by not making myself sick on a diet.

    It’s attitudes like yours that put terrible fitting clothes into most stores for fat people (when they even have them).

    It’s attitudes like yours that push people into eating disorders because they can’t be sick if they are thin right?

    It’s attitudes like your’s that make people feel entitled to stereotype me and get angry because god forbid a fat person eat, exercise or simply exist in a public space.

    You want to do more for feminism? Stop publishing your hate and stereotypes in public. That would do alot to help empower women.

  8. HdG on April 11, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    “Fit women are strong women; strong women make demands and change conditions and take on the world.”

    So are unfit women. So are thin-but-unfit women. So are fat-but-fit women. This piece’s conflation of so-called fitness with so-called power is ridiculous.

    “Fit women, in other words, are terrifying.”

    Fit women are neither more nor less terrifying than any other women. Maybe you mean smart women. That I could agree with.

    • Claire Oberon Garcia on April 29, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      Great response to an article that had too much silliness in it.

  9. pir on April 12, 2014 at 1:31 am

    “What is surprising, and, to me, disappointing, is the misappropriation of empowering critical inquiry to bully, demean, and hate other women.”

    it’d be nice if you didn’t just pay lip service to that.

    i couldn’t care less what any self-proclaimed fit woman does with her own body, because to a feminist a woman’s body is her own, JUST AS IT IS. it doesn’t belong to the male gaze, it doesn’t belong to other women to downgrade it in comparison with their own, it doesn’t belong to society to mold it into the fashion of the day.

    i only care when such a self-proclaimed fit woman shoves her self-righteous, narrow-minded invective in my face. because MY body is MY own, and i have decided (after years of research) that the messages hollywood, the diet, fitness, and pharmaceutical industries, and the rest of society rain down upon all of us are detrimental to my mental and physical health. i have decided that there is nothing “natural” about trying to look the way a set of industries has invented (for its own profit, not my well-being), nothing “healthy” about trying to push myself into a certain shape that i could not actually ever be even if i lost ALL my bodyfat.

    while defending those who lead such attacks you spent the entire article indulging in thoughtless ableist talk, demeaning people who make choices that bewilder you. i suggest the problem lies with you, not with them. if you truly don’t understand, you need to do more research, and a heck of a lot more listening. some of us aren’t terrified by fit and conventionally attractive people at all. we’re terrified of them pushing constantly to mold us in their image, as if that were truly the only image worth pursuing. because that’s what they’re actually doing, and it’s vastly more detrimental to our health than fat or whatever else is the sacrifice du jour. if only y’all fought meanness and shaming as hard as you’re fighting fat, we’d all be a lot healthier — emotional stress is more damaging than fat.

    Maria Kang has every right to shape her body into what she thinks of as attractive. she has no right whatsoever to tell me i have no excuse not to do the same. i don’t need any excuse to make different choices. my body is my own, and it is not worth any less than Maria Kang’s, even though it looks nothing like hers. 58 years it’s supported my life with every breath (ask yourself why you can’t even say your own age out loud). what an amazing body it is — it can lift more than its own weight in iron, it can glide power- and gracefully through miles and miles of water, it can scramble up mountains to admire the world from the summit. and it can hug my loved ones, which oftentimes is worth much more than its feats of physical fitness. it’ll still be amazing even when i can’t be fit anymore because the ravages of age and disease visit us all, even those lucky enough to be fit and healthy now. and i’ll still deserve to be treated with dignity then. all of us do, even those of us whose choices bewilder you.

  10. Miri on April 14, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I think you missed the entire point of a lot of the anger at Maria Kang. While I’m sure there was the odd misogynist who literally hated her for being skinny, *I* was pissed because of her shaming and superior “What’s your excuse?” bullshit. My excuse is that I’m in recovery from an eating disorder and have no desire to go back to that. My excuse is that my body is biologically incapable of looking like that, which I’M fine with, but Maria seems not to be.

  11. Carolyn Tyjewski on April 14, 2014 at 10:39 am

    After reading this, I had to take a moment to determine how to address your commentary…. While I appreciate the fact that you think you aren’t into bullying or shaming (most people don’t like to think of themselves as “bad people”), your approach to the subject matter ignores (intentionally or not) real systemic issues related to class, race, sex, gender, disability, age, etc. that are connected to the issues surrounding the normalization of bodies, food scarcity within certain communities, etc. and, in turn, project a bullying, shaming tone upon a whole group of women because you, perhaps, felt slighted by some people’s inappropriate and equally bullying remarks on the internet.

    Your discussion of “fit women” suggests that “fit” means “thin” and “thin” means “healthy” and, according to you, “Fit women are strong women; strong women make demands and change conditions and take on the world.” Prior to this you suggest that to be unfit/unhealthy/obese is to allow one’s self to be disempowered. However, history disputes this claim. Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, etc. were not disempowered by their weight and/or health issues (they all had disabilities and all were, according to today’s standards, obese); these were powerful women, smart women, feared women that not only demanded change but were integral instruments of change (we wouldn’t know their names if they weren’t). If one looks throughout history, one will find that most women (and more than a few men) who are/were activists for change were disabled (your definition of “unfit” and “unhealthy”); many were, by today’s standards, obese (again, your definition of “unfit,” and “unhealthy”). And the judging by today’s standards is another problem with your critique.

    Definitions of beauty, who is fat, who isn’t, etc. are all arbitrary markers that change based on time, place and space. According to today’s medical standards, Marilyn Monroe is obese…. Like it or not, when one utilizes a particular society’s standards of beauty to defend the disparaging of the group that does not fit that standard is the very definition of shaming, bullying and playing into the patriarchal system that set up that standard in the first place.

    As others who have commented have already pointed out, there is a huge disparity in availability of healthy food choices for those who are poor. There may be a reason (a causative link) between obesity and poverty since the states with the highest poverty rates also have a higher concentration of obese people. We do know that healthy foods are more expensive and harder to acquire in poor communities; we know that the average SNAP payment does not make it possible for one to afford healthy foods for the month and have enough caloric intake to sustain one’s self; we do know that more working class poor are working more sedentary hours for less pay than their predecessors (who tended to work in factories and other “hard labor” jobs). So, while it is accurate to point out that we have an obesity problem in the U.S. and that this does TEND to cause health problems, it is also true that not everyone has access to healthy foods they can afford and/or time or energy (due to a lack of food sources among other things) to do the extra things that would be required to lose the weight. And, then, like it or not, there are differences amongst bodies.

    I know people don’t like hearing this but medical diagnoses and suggestions are based on norms; norms are based on averages and not everyone is average… some of us are just, well, not average. For example, the medical establishment will tell you that eating tons of salt will raise your blood pressure; and, for the average individual, that is an accurate statement. However, for someone like me, it’s an inaccurate statement. If I eat what is considered a “normal” amount of salt, my blood pressure will rise slightly; if I go on a “low sodium diet” my blood pressure shoots through the roof. If I eat an amount of salt that would put the average person into cardiac arrest, my blood pressure is rock solid. To say the least, I’m not average. And, not everyone is. The reality is that those that tend to carry more weight even with exercise and eating healthy and those who are obnoxiously thin that never stop eating and never exercise are not the norm. And being something other than average is not a bad thing.

    I agree, people shouldn’t make snide remarks about others because of x, y, or z. AND, it happens all the time and it’s more to do with self-defense than most would like to admit. AND, if one doesn’t like the behavior, one shouldn’t utilize the behavior. Because as much as you claim that you aren’t into “fat shaming” or “bullying,” you’ve taken a position that is based on stereotypes, misinformation, and preconceptions of other people’s positions and lived experiences and then attached assumed feelings to these individuals that appear to be based more on your lived experience than knowledge of the systemic processes in play and/or how their non-normative position might not be as you’ve imagined it…..

    There’s an able-bodied saying that, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Well, that’s from a sighted person’s perspective. The reality… In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man isn’t king; he’s just an anomaly… and probably not a welcome one because just like in the real world (this able-bodied one), the presupposition is that the normal/average body is the “correct,” “fit,” “healthy” one…. and, those that are not the norm are criticized and policed, bullied and badgered, and it doesn’t matter whether we speak of this in terms of weight or race or sex or disability or or or….

    While I agree that what you object to is not appropriate, what you’ve done within this work is, in some ways worse, because you’ve taken your privileged subject position and castigated those who were lashing out by first telling them that bullying the privileged set is wrong and then telling them that they are wrong for being something society doesn’t like (for existing), lazy and self-hating.

  12. Rebecca on April 15, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    The tyranny of what our bodies “should” look like, or “should” be capable of is an old, misogynistic tyranny. Equating body capacity and power is ableist and oppressive. As an aging hippie who was once incredibly strong, I am now mildly mobility impaired. And yet, I’m smarter, more compassionate, and a much better all around community member and radical feminist citizen than I was at the heist of my physical prowess.

    Ms. Pedro has demonstrated ableist superiority, and thinly veiled body shaming in her writing here. It’s an old story, that of attaching oneself to the dominant narrative while also trying to keep one’s cred in resistance politics. Frankly, size acceptance is a deeply feminist and class issue, and I hope she can open up to this truth.

  13. Rebecca on April 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Of course, that sentence should read “at the height of my physical prowess”!

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    In our Poem Suites, we bring together the voices of emerging and established poets exploring a common theme. In today’s Poem Suite, two poets explore processes of change, motion, and becoming from feminist perspectives.        From “Lesion” By Indrani Sengupta   thereafter   overgrown freckle. overzealous lovemark not [...]