In Defence Of… Lindy West

Posted: February 13, 2011 in Identity, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,
28 years old, female, 59, 263 lbs.
I will explain in my next post why I feel the need to come to the defence of Lindy West. It involves debates around gay marriage, and the comments and attitudes of my favourite ‘bete noir’ and gayist activist, Dan Savage, of  Dan Savage Is Annoying fame. But for now,  I will simply repost Lindy’s latest article from The Stranger, where she works as a journalist, alongside Dan, and significantly, as will become clear, in a less senior position than Mr Savage. This is her article. It is good.
Hello. I am fat.
This is my body (over there—see it?). I have lived in this body my whole life. I have wanted to change this body my whole life. I have never wanted anything as much as I have wanted a new body. I am aware every day that other people find my body disgusting. I always thought that some day—when I finally stop failing—I will become smaller, and when I become smaller literally everything will get better (I’ve heard It Gets Better)! My life can begin! I will get the clothes that I want, the job that I want, the love that I want. It will be great! Think how great it will be to buy some pants or whatever at J. Crew. Oh, man. Pants. Instead, my body stays the same.

There is not a fat person on earth who hasn’t lived this way. Clearly this is a TERRIBLE WAY TO EXIST. Also, strangely enough, it did not cause me to become thin. So I do not believe any of it anymore, because fuck it very much.

This is my body. It is MINE. I am not ashamed of it in any way. In fact, I love everything about it. Men find it attractive. Clothes look awesome on it. My brain rides around in it all day and comes up with funny jokes. Also, I don’t have to justify its awesomeness/attractiveness/healthiness/usefulness to anyone, because it is MINE. Not yours.

I’m not going to spend a bunch of time blogging about fat acceptance here (but please read this), because other writers have already done it much more eloquently, thoroughly, and radically than I ever could. But I do feel obligated to try to explain what this all means.

You asked me for links, Dan, so here are some links for you. There are plenty more, but if you want me to go through each one and explain to you how these words and implications hurt and shame people, you’re going to have to pay me overtime (in Doritos!!!!!). I get that you think you’re actually helping people and society by contributing to the fucking Alp of shame that crushes every fat person every day of their lives—the same shame that makes it a radical act for me to post a picture of my body and tell you how much it weighs. But you’re not helping. Shame doesn’t work. Diets don’t work. Shame is a tool of oppression, not change.

Fat people already are ashamed. It’s taken care of. No further manpower needed on the shame front, thx. I am not concerned with whether or not fat people can change their bodies through self-discipline and “choices.” Pretty much all of them have tried already. A couple of them have succeeded. Whatever. My question is, what if they try and try and try and still fail? What if they are still fat? What if they are fat forever? What do you do with them then? Do you really want millions of teenage girls to feel like they’re trapped in unsightly lard prisons that are ruining their lives, and on top of that it’s because of their own moral failure, and on top of that they are ruining America with the terribly expensive diabetes that they don’t even have yet? You know what’s shameful? A complete lack of empathy.

And if you really claim to still be confused—”Nu uh! I never said anything u guyz srsly!”—there can be no misunderstanding shit like this:

I am thoroughly annoyed at having my tame statements of fact—being heavy is a health risk; rolls of exposed flesh are unsightly—characterized as “hate speech.”

Ha!

1. “Rolls of exposed flesh are unsightly” is in no way a “tame statement of fact.” It is not a fact at all—it is an incredibly cruel, subjective opinion that reinforces destructive, paternalistic, oppressive beauty ideals. I am not unsightly. No one deserves to be told that they’re unsightly. But this is what’s behind this entire thing—it’s not about “health,” it’s about “eeeewwwww.” You think fat people are icky. Eeeewww, a fat person might touch you on a plane. With their fat! Eeeeewww! Coincidentally, that’s the same feeling that drives anti-gay bigots, no matter what excuses they drum up about “family values” and, yes, “health.” It’s all “eeeewwwww.” And sorry, I reject your eeeeeewwww.

2. You are not concerned about my health. Because if you were concerned about my health, you would also be concerned about my mental health, which has spent the past 28 years being slowly eroded by statements like the above. Also, you don’t know anything about my health. You do happen to be the boss of me, but you are not the doctor of me. You have no idea what I eat, how much I exercise, what my blood pressure is, or whether or not I’m going to get diabetes. Not that any of that matters, because it is entirely none of your business.

3. “But but but my insurance premiums!!!” Bullshit. You live in a society with other people. I don’t have kids, but I pay taxes that fund schools. The idea that we can somehow escape affecting each other is deeply conservative. Barbarous, even. Is that really what you’re going for? Good old-fashioned American individualism? Please.

4. But most importantly: I reject this entire framework. I don’t give a shit what causes anyone’s fatness. It’s irrelevant and it’s none of my business. I am not making excuses, because I have nothing to excuse. I reject the notion that thinness is the goal, that thin = better—that I am an unfinished thing and that my life can really start when I lose weight. That then I will be a real person and have finally succeeded as a woman. I am not going to waste another second of my life thinking about this. I don’t want to have another fucking conversation with another fucking woman about what she’s eating or not eating or regrets eating or pretends to not regret eating to mask the regret. OOPS I JUST YAWNED TO DEATH.

If you really want change to happen, if you really want to “help” fat people, you need to understand that shaming an already-shamed population is, well, shameful. Do you know what happened as soon as I rejected all this shit and fell in unconditional luuuuurve with my entire body? I started losing weight. Immediately. WELL LA DEE FUCKING DA.

Lindy West

Comments
  1. Clarence says:

    That fat still isn’t sexy to the vast majority of people is a fact.
    I appreciate that some people really can’t help it -glands and things. I don’t believe fat should ever be the reason to reject someone as a friend or coworker, but I have to say that 5 foot 9 women who weight 260 pounds do not turn me on, even though she has a rather nice face. She outweights me by 40 pounds and I have muscle and I’m male and only one inch shorter than her.

    It sucks being a fat person I know. But I can’t get in with the whole fat acceptance movement in all its manifestations. It’s not healthy to be fat and most people do not find it sexy. Those two facts have to be faced.

    • I dont think this is about whether fat is sexy or not, it is about how Savage has basically said fat people are a drain on society’s resources and are repulsive.

      A lot of people find gay people ‘unsexy’ and repulsive. That is a fact.

      But one that I do not think we should endorse.

      • Clarence says:

        QRG:

        Talking about such things always makes me uncomfortable. I’m hardly Mr. Thin himself and while it doesn’t hurt me as much as it might a woman of similar weight/lack of height *though I’m only one inch shorter than male average* , I find that some women think I’m cute and others reject me out of hand for my small but nonetheless noticeable belly.

        But that’s not really the point. I’ve read fat acceptance blogs and (lurked) and feminist fat acceptance posts and I really grok probably about 85 percent of it. I would try never to descriminate based on weight, and I have quite a few fat friends including women and men, and some of the women are pleasant enough to look at (no double chins, hair, or really bad habits) that I consider them marginally sexy, and wouldn’t plop a bag over their head if we were in the sack together. And by the way, I’m not talking about girls here who are slightly over BMI ( a flawed measure anyway), I’m talking girls that are 55 or more pounds above normal weight.

        But there’s a certain segment of the movement, very militant and deluded that deny that fat is for the most part unhealthy , and seem to think there’s something wrong with the rest of society for not finding extreme weight to be extremely unattractive. I don’t know how to talk to those people because of their anger. I don’t even really know what they want when it all boils down to it. It’s easy enough to refrain from fatty jokes, for instance. I guess it’s sort of like you can see sexism everywhere if thats all you look for and all you are convinced exists, well all they see is fat hatred.

  2. humbition says:

    For me — by the way I’m a sometime contributor to Clarisse’s site and even to FC, and others through the years — I am always looking for allies.

    If I were, for example, to consider myself “an activist in the anti-shaming movement,” an unfortunately still hypothetical movement against the use of shaming tactics for purposes of social and individual change, then clearly Lindy West, and the fat acceptance movement, would be my allies. Regardless of my personal sexual attractions one way or the other which are not my business, according to my own personal ethics anyway, to inflict on anyone I am not flirting with at a given moment.

    You know who else gets shamed a lot? Men, particularly young men (which I no longer am), the cis and the het as well as the otherwise, particularly regarding their sexual desires and experiences.

    Women too, of course, regarding the same, though they are shamed for different things. Sinners, and anyone who claims not to be a sinner — shame is part of our religious heritage.

    But if you have every found it counterproductive to be shamed for who you are, if it has ever caused you to spin your gears and NOT to change to please those others who you hate for shaming you… then maybe Lindy West is your ally. Whether or not you ever thought you were hers.

  3. good points humbition. I would like to state my membership of the hypothetical anti-shaming movement too!

  4. I’m definitely on the anti-shaming movement bandwagon. In response to Clarence’s comment that it’s not healthy to be overweight, I have to point out that it’s not healthy to be anorexic, which is closer to the current coveted aesthetic. Beauty ideals have shifted with time. We’re currently on a starvation diet as a culture, but that was not always the case. Look at some old paintings–especially those by Rubens.

    http://www.halfsigma.com/2008/12/is-this-woman-hot.html

  5. isnt that interesting how standards of ‘male beauty’ haven’t changed much where the ideal woman’s body has? I wonder why that is.

  6. Maybe it’s because women’s desirability has always been more foregrounded. The shifts could be linked to so many things: a need for variety in what we’re all staring at (usually sexualized women more frequently than men in popular/art culture); a move from the emphasis on a larger female body that can bear more children to a more urban, fewer children paradigm; and of course because women’s bodies have long been a space for working out our collective issues.

    • good points. I wonder if we have reached a bit of a cul-de-sac now though as with a lot of visual culture. I could be wrong but I cant imagine bigger women’s bodies coming back in fashion now.

      • Jasper Gregory says:

        Hey QRG, Curvy Girls are back in fashion in the san francisco street culture. In fact I have published an e-magazine of SF voluptuous street fashion. Please take a look it’s free. The three main inspirations are sex-positive culture. lesbian femme gender play, the burlesque scene and Burning Man.
        I feel like Tumblr is also having a huge affect on Body Image by creating a huge visual encyclopedia of the nudes. Please see my tumblr project: http://voluptuousity.tumblr.com/

  7. Clarence- I think I know what you are getting at. If anything becomes an ‘identity’ with a ‘community’ it can become kind of extreme in its defence of itself.

    This has happened with the ‘fat’ community in America especially I think.

    But I don’t think Lindy West’s article is about that. It is about not spouting biogtry and intolerance of people.

    I will write a follow up post!

    • Clarence says:

      I will state that except for her “I just got a hot enema shoved somewhere in me” look, Lindy is more attractive than I may have thought given her described height and weight. I’d “hit it” but she’d probably have to keep some clothes on as I must admit shivering thinking of the stretch marks.

      I’m sympathetic to her as a person.

    • Jasper Gregory says:

      QRG, In San Francisco there are a lot of different currents. It is not shrill like the Internet Fat Acceptance Blogs. The Hip lesbian community has gone pro curvy in a big way. Mostly because Women who like big women are out of the closet. They are not afraid of losing their masculinity. One of the other centers for joyful fat-positivity is the Lusty Lady which is a worker owned strippers co-operative. They take the lesbian curvy girl aesthetic and push it out into the world. A lot of these women are in Burlesque troupes which push this voluptuous social imaginary even further into the straight world.

  8. Clarence says:

    Caroline:

    Beauty ideals haven’t shifted that much, I’m fully aware of Ruben for example, and his existence doesn’t prove what you probably think it does. http://roissy.wordpress.com/2009/09/16/the-myth-of-the-medieval-bbw/
    I may hate the “Dark Lord” at times, but he speaks truth here.

    I also never stated I found the mostly flat (non curvy) runway models to be the height of human beauty either. Remember that Dove campaign of a few years ago about I think, Real Curves? Those are more my type of “ideal” woman.

  9. most women have stretch marks clarence. I do and I am not what you might consider ‘fat’ I just ‘stretched’.

  10. Clarence says:

    QRG :

    Since I’ve given you enough information about what I consider fat, I’ll take your word that you are not. Some women who are in shape (meaning either some muscle or some thinness but not excessive thiness) actually can make the marks half way sexy or even seem to go away. I also view stretchmarks due to pregnancy as something a woman should be proud of.

    But I really must say that I also envision Lindy as having fat rolls in some very unfortunate places and that is why I would probably insist on her being partially clothed. Just being honest. You know many men if they were honest wouldn’t consider Lindy at all, though for a fat woman she’s rather pretty. She’d probably be hot if she lost 100 pounds.

  11. I wouldnt worry about it Clarence. There is a good chance Lindy wont want to ‘hit it’ with you anyway!

    Lets stop talking about her body-she only put the photo up to put her money where her mouth is. I didnt post this as an evaluation of Lindy’s physique!

    I take your point about the ‘fat community’ though.

  12. Clarence: I do think there are trends in beauty that ebb and flow (that cover everything from eyebrow plucking to body type), but that doesn’t mean that they necessarily dictate what people personally prefer.

    • Clarence says:

      Caroline:

      Didn’t notice your comment.

      Yes, fashion trends and beauty standards do vary a bit, esp if you look at the history of the modeling business. Anyway, I really value a lot of people who are not of “ideal standards” of beauty, so I think I’ll get off this topic. And while I’m “ok”, I’m certainly no Pitt or Adonis myself.

  13. Clarence says:

    Hey Riot Girl:

    I will agree that it was a brave thing that Lindy did. And while I usually am on Dan’s side when it comes to battles with proto-feminists I actually think he was partly wrong here.

    And no, I never thought she’d want to “hit it with me” , I was just being honest about my own preferences since she has her pic up for all and sundry to gawk at. But she and others like her might want to consider that for every guy like me who is relatively open minded and supportive and is slightly sexually attracted to her (not repulsed as in EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW a fattie!) there are probably a good 5 or ten who aren’t. And I very much do not have a fat fetish. I’d like to lose my excess weight and add some abs. And if I had to pick I’d far rather be doing someone who is 5’3 and 125 (or even 150) pounds than someone who is 5’9 and 260.

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