Tag Archives: anger

Sorry, RogerEbert.com, It’s Not Okay that Sadness is Fat

Guess which one is Sadness. Go on. Guess.

Recently I saw a piece by columnist Olivia Collette Roger Ebert. com called “Why Can’t Sad Be Fat?”  The piece was written in response to the recent backlash regarding Pixar’s recent release “Inside Out”.  In the film, which takes place primarily inside the head of an 11 year old girl, there are characters embodying various emotions including anger, disgust, joy, fear and sadness.  In particular, the article skewers Joni Edelman, editor-in-chief at Ravishly.com, feminist and body-positive activist, about a piece she recently wrote for The Huffington Post.

Let’s first address the fact that Joni admits she wrote the article without having seen the movie first.  In retrospect, this was probably a bad idea.  I don’t believe it invalidates Joni’s argument.  It just makes it awfully easy for the opposing side to take cheap pot shots at her.  And they did.  Yes indeedy.

I did see the movie.  And in many ways, I liked it.  But immediately afterwards, I asked my hubby, why did they have to make Sadness fat?  You see, the character called Sadness is blue, wears a frumpy sweater and glasses and is, well, fat.  This is in contrast to the character called “Joy” who is thin, yellow, tall, twirly and wears a gorgeous green Doris Day dress.

I was frustrated.  Because I liked the movie quite a lot.  The movie featured a female lead who loved to play hockey, came from the Midwest, also loved unicorns, and was all around cool.  I loved the fact that sadness was recognized as an important human emotion, and that when the main character Riley is told to put on a brave face regarding a cross-country move to San Francisco, and tries to squash her feelings of sadness, all heck breaks loose.  It’s important to acknowledge that we need to feel sad sometimes.

In many ways the movie is great.

But why did they have to make “Sadness” short, frumpy, bespectacled and fat?  Why did they feel the need to pair fat with lazy?  In the movie, Joy actually picks up Sadness’ leg and drags her around because she’s “too sad to walk”.  Check it out (if you want) in the clip below:

And I can’t help but shake my head at Olivette’s critique of Joni.  In the article on RogerEbert.com, she suggests that Joni is the one equating fat with bad.  Olivette suggests that since Joni hasn’t seen the film, SHE’S the one projecting negative stereotypes onto the fat character and therefore missed the nuances of the film.

Firstly, if she’s a body-positive activist, I wonder what led her to assume that the fat character is a bad one. Not in an evil way, of course, but at least in a way that’s not as uplifting as Joy.

To which I reply:

right animated GIF

Look.  I love the fact that Sadness is important and that Joy misjudges her.  But (and this is a big but) you are still portraying sadness as a character who is fat, and lazy and frumpy.  There is a very, VERY strong notion in our country that being fat is an outward manifestation of being emotionally unbalanced.  That we are fat because we are sad and then we are sad because we are fat.  If I had a dollar for every time I came across an ad or a program or a person in my life who insisted that once I learned how to be happy, once I learned to be emotionally fulfilled, I would stop eating and the pounds would just melt away.  “Fat people shouldn’t be hated.  They should be pitied.  Because they are sad which makes them eat, which makes them more fat, which makes them more sad, bless their hearts.”  Grrrrr.

I understand fully that the Joy character initially misunderstands the Sadness character in the movie.  And I am really clear about the transformation that happens as Joy understands the importance of Sadness to Riley.  But it still doesn’t do anything to take away from the Fat=Sadness=Fat trope in the movie and in the world.

And I don’t buy the argument that if we made Joy fat, the movie would be criticized for furthering the Fat=Jolly stereotype either.  (I.E. you just can’t make those fat people happy no matter what you do, so why try?)  I am glad that this film gets so many things so right.  But it doesn’t take a away a little feeling of Sadness that they had to do it by showing very young girls that the fat girl and the thin girl can be friends, but the fat girl can’t ever really be happy.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to hear me speak about body positivity at YOUR school?  Check out my speaking page HERE.

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Newly Published Paper says Social Media Campaigns Balloon Up Stereotypes and Stigma associated with Fatness

Eric needs a new job–preferably one that doesn’t stigmatize an entire population.

I’m pleased to share with you that my colleague Lily O’ Hara has recently co-authored a paper in the journal Media and Culture.  The article offers a critique of two major anti-obesity media campaigns that ran in Australia.  These campaigns include “Measure Up” and “Swap It, Don’t Stop It”.  The Measure Up campaign promotes health management through body weight and waist circumference.  It included television advertising, posters, a community guide and a handy 12-week planning kit complete with, you guessed it, a tape measure.  Highlighted headlines included “The more you gain, the more you have to lose.” and “How do you measure up?”

Not surprisingly the images that accompanied these campaigns were troubling for many and triggering for some.  In the Measure Up campaign, there were video ads that showed a young man looking sadly at a waistline that expanded as he digitally aged.  Naturally dire warnings about disease accompanied the video.  In still images, both men and women were shown, head bowed, looking dejectedly at a tape measure slung around their waists.  These people were shown clad in their underwear (similar to the shorts/sports bra getup in The Biggest Loser) to add to the “public shaming” aspect of the campaign.

Ad copy for the Swap it Don’t Stop It campaign used fear and panic words, highlighting diseases and phrases like ballooning weight.  In fact the star of the campaign, Eric, is made of a balloon.  In the campaign he says,

over the years my belly has ballooned and ballooned. It’s come time to do something about it — the last thing I want is to end up with some cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. That’s why I’ve become a Swapper! What’s a swapper? It’s simple really. It just means swapping some of the things I’m doing now for healthier choices. That way I can lose my belly, without losing all the things I love. It’s easy!

So aside from the panic inducing words and shame producing “balloon image” we have the assertion that swapping just a few foods in a person’s diet will significantly change weight, BMI and waist circumference, despite the fact that there is no concrete evidence that this result would indeed happen.

The paper concludes:

Through the use of textual, discursive and social practices, the social marketing campaigns analysed in this study perpetuate the following concepts: everyone should be alarmed about growing waistlines and ‘ballooning’ rates of ‘obesity’; individuals are to blame for excess body weight, due to ignorance and the practice of ‘unhealthy behaviours’; individuals have a moral, parental, familial and cultural responsibility to monitor their weight and adopt ‘healthy’ eating and physical activity behaviours; such behaviour changes are easy to make and will result in weight loss, which will reduce risk of disease. These paternalistic campaigns evoke feelings of personal and parental guilt and shame, resulting in coercion to ‘take action’. They simultaneously stigmatise fat people yet serve to invisibilise them. Public health agencies must consider the harmful consequences of social marketing campaigns focused on body weight.

So let’s take this apart for a moment, shall we?  I’ve spoken before, at great length, about how shame fails to make people healthier, happier or thinner.  In fact, I’ve spoken about how shame tends to make us, less happy, less happy and larger than before.  I’ve talked about how obesity levels are actually flattened out, and the obesipanic doesn’t really make sense in that context.  I’ve talked about how hard our bodies fight to maintain our weight and that in most cases, a few simple changes will not result in significant (if any) weight loss.  So everything about these campaigns are doomed.  They are much more likely to cause harm than to help.  But let’s look at one other aspect of this.  The taxpayers of Australia paid for these things.  They are government sponsored.

We’ve all  heard the argument that fat people can be fat as long as they don’t cost  you tax dollars.
And there are many reasons why this is a ridiculous argument.  But one eloquent comeback I see after reading this paper is this:

Your fat hatred is costing me far more tax dollars than any money you are supposedly losing caring for people of size.

We have ample evidence that these campaigns do no good.  We have ample evidence that these campaigns are actively causing harm to the people targeted by them.  And to me, the worst part is we are making people pay for the very media that is stigmatizing, brutalizing and depressing them.

The only thing ballooning here, is my rage over this particular state of affairs.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Spring Chicks

spring_chick

The first day of spring was a while back.  But I have to admit, for me spring starts with Easter.  This is a time of year where I yearn for renewal.  I tend to take a look at my life, see what seems to be working, and figure out how to strengthen those things.  I also take a look at what isn’t working and throw those things out.  Oh, and this is the time of year that I start cleaning like a wild, rabid banshee.  But that’s a different story.

But I think this time of evaluation is so important.  I tend to get really busy and get really focused on finishing the next task on the list.  So it’s really easy for me to lose track of whether or not things should even be on the list.  The older I get, the better I understand that I just can’t do everything I want to do.  I have to prioritize.  I have to choose.

So while I sweep and polish and scrub and throw stuff out, I’m also spending time spring cleaning my life.  A few of this year’s revelations:

1.  Envy can help me figure out what I really want in my life that I am not getting.  But it can also sap me of my strength.  This year, I’d like to hold onto envy just long enough to give me a kick in the pants and help me revise my priorities to focus on getting what I want and then show envy the door.

2.  I also spend more time angry than is really useful.  This year, I’d like to hold onto anger just long enough figure out if it can attach to meaningful action. If there is an action to take I will take it.  Then I will take that anger and just dump it.

3.  I spend way too much time Plants vs. Zombies and Burger Shop 2.  I won’t link to these games because they are like crack cocaine for casual gamers.  Seriously.  This year, I’d like to figure out what scary things in my life I’m avoiding while making virtual burgers and blowing up the undead and then go do those things.

I think you can see, that this year, I feel I need to focus more on action.  I have so many ideas in my head that seem super cool.  But I’ll never really know if they are super cool or kinda stupid until I just go do them.

So how about you?  Got some “spring cleaning” you need to do in your life?  Wanna share?  I’d love to hear from you!  Because sharing time with you is one of my big priorities for 2013 as well.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

The Power of Being Wrong

Yesterday I posted a story about some women who verbally attacked me.  As I mentioned, I think these women were willing to go to these lengths of nastiness simply to avoid having to admit that they were wrong about anything.  And you know what?  I’ve met so many people like this.  I’ve met people who will give up friendships and jobs and deals and money and even marriages all because they are not capable of admitting they could have possibly been wrong about anything.  I’ve watched people lose everything simply because they were unable to utter those little words, “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.”

How often do we watch somebody on the freeway, pull a totally ridiculous, dangerous and downright illegal move, and then honk their horn and flip people the finger as they speed away.  “Nope, can’t admit I’m wrong,” they think.  “Better make sure everybody else knows it’s their own fault.”  So they compound the originally dangerous situation with an ever more dangerous situation and put their life as well as the lives of those around them at risk.

What is this all about?  Why will we hurt other people and even act outside of our own best interests just to be right about everything?  I know that I see it sometimes in myself.  Sometimes I will fight for hours or even days against admitting it even when I KNOW down deep that I’m wrong about something.  But I’ve learned over the years that as hard as it is to force those dreaded words past my tightly clamped lips, it is the right thing to do.  And if I want to have friendships and family relationships and a marriage that works, I have to do it.  You can be right ALL the time or you can have friends.  You can’t have both.  Unless you want to be alone, you have to learn to say it.  Let’s practice together now:  “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?  Well, no.  It’s easy to say those words out of context.  But it is good practice for later.  Nobody is right all the time–not even me.  If we can learn to simply admit it, apologize and move on, the whole world will be a much better place.

Love,

The Fat Chick

Why does doing good sometimes feel so bad?

In yesterday’s post, I shared with you a glowing report about an amazingly awesome activism event–Take Back the Beach.  It was powerful and wonderful and moving.  It was a  special and discrete moment in time where things went well, everyone got along, and changing the world seemed not only possible, but inevitable.

And then I came back home to my email inbox. And that mailbox was filled with the real-life frustrations that come when many people within many groups try to make the world a better place.  Along with the magic moments of transcendence and transformation come many days of messy arguments over who holds what power and who is making the rules and who is following the rules and who gets the credit, and who gets to speak and who is heard.  Sometimes it’s really hard to hold the thread and keep the focus.  It’s easy to forget that it’s really about making the world a better place.

I wish I could say this experience is unique to one group, but I’ve experienced it in so many places and with so many organizations.  Sometimes it’s tempting to go off into a corner and just try to do activism all by yourself.  But that doesn’t work either.  To make change you need a lot of people, all working at the top of their game, all sharing to the best of their abilities.  Everyone needs to be valued.  Everyone needs to be recognized.  And each and every time, you have to realize that there is no group of people, anywhere in the world that is going to get it right all the time.  People are fallible and relationships are messy.  We are all by turns proud, defeated, aggressor, and victim.  All you can do is try to build groups with enough strength and elasticity to bend and not break when the wind blows through.  And then you try again.  And then you try again some more.  Wash, rinse and repeat.

That’s why it’s so helpful to have those special moments in the sun, like Take Back the Beach.  It helps me so much to have these memories to treasure and hold close and remember why the heck we’re doing this in the first place.

My little Chicklettes, please remember that the road to making the world a better place is never a smooth one.  Sometimes reaching a wing out to help somebody else simply results in two feathery butts bouncing on the ground.  But sometimes you and the entire flock will soar!  Here’s to remembering your days of high flying.

Love,

The Fat Chick