Tag Archives: social media

When the fatties win, they just change the rules.

Recently I came across a link to this important story in the Guardian that talks about what happened when a fat man won the Mr. Gay UK contest. The contest was open to all comers. There were 4 judges and several rounds of elimination. And at the end of the day, the contest came down to two finalists. One was an chiseled, underwear model type with washboard abs. One was a 419-pound man named Stavros Louca.

The final round was the “underwear” round, where the two guys were given underpants and a vest (undershirt) and told they had to dance around in them. One problem, the underwear given to both contestants we were small. Really small. There was no way on earth that Stavros would fit in them. It was a crappy move–one that could have easily caused Stavros to feel humiliated and back out. But instead, Stavros put those underpants ON HIS HEAD and danced his heart out. In the end, the judges decided the final round would go to an audience vote. And vote they did–overwhelmingly for Stavros. You really should check out the video above.  The winner is quite obvious.  And that night Stavros was crowned Mr. Gay UK–a crown he was to wear for less than 3 days.  It seems just two days after the contest, he received a call notifying him that he had been disqualified on a technicality.  He was disqualified for wearing the underpants on his head instead of trying to put the entirely too small garment on to his nether regions.  So even though there was absolutely nothing in the rules stating that the underpants had to be worn on one’s bottom, and even though Stavros was clearly the crowd favorite, he was disqualified and all but erased from the experience.

This is because Stavros broke the biggest rule of all.  He was fat in a fat hating world.

This reminds me so much of the controversy a while back surrounding Nancy Upton and the American Apparel plus-sized campaign.  American Apparel created an online contest where plus-sized people could submit photos.  The photo with the most votes would win a trip to Los Angeles to star in an American Apparel photo shoot.  The ad announcing this was an massive pile of stinking and offensive fat puns and fat stereotypes.  I present it here:

Think you are the Next BIG Thing?

Calling curvy ladies everywhere! Our best-selling Disco Pant (and around 10 other sexy styles) are now available in size XL, for those of us who need a little extra wiggle room where it counts. We’re looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next XLent model, send us photos of you and your junk to back it up.

Just send us two recent photographs of yourself, one that clearly shows your face and one of your body. We’ll select a winner to be flown out to our Los Angeles headquarters to star in your own bootylicious photoshoot. Runners up will win an enviable assortment of our favorite new styles in XL!

Show us what you’re workin’ with!

To say that blogger Nancy Upton was offended by this tripe masquerading as an ad is an epic understatement.  But rather than just getting mad, Upton decided to post some photos that showed American Apparel just how she felt about this model call.

Nancy blogged:

The puns, the insulting, giggly tones, and the over-used euphemisms for fat that were scattered throughout the campaign’s solicitation began to crystalize an opinion in my mind. How offensive the campaign was. How it spoke to plus-sized women like they were starry-eyed 16 year olds from Kansas whose dream, obviously, was to hop a bus to L.A. to make it big in fashion. How apparently there were no words in existence to accurately describe the way American Apparel felt about a sexy, large woman, and so phrases like “booty-ful” and “XLent” would need to be invented for us—not only to fill this void in American vocabulary, but also make the company seem like a relatable, sassy friend to fat chicks.

Nancy got together with her photographer friend Shannon Skloss and staged a photo shoot that hammered home the stereotypical view that so many people have about fat folks.  There were pictures involving Nancy eating a whole pie, a whole chicken, multiple cartons of ice cream and vats of salad dressing.  She submitted two of the photos to the contest–never dreaming that she would actually make it through the process of being vetted by the company.  Surprisingly company employees let the photos through.  And then, Nancy won the contest–clearly garnering the largest percentage of the popular vote.  And then she un-won the contest.  She got disqualified for not being the right kind of fatty.

Not only was Nancy disqualified for not upholding the spirit of the contest, but in what is perhaps the worst non-apology PR disaster letter EVAR, she was told she should be ashamed of herself for the way she treated the contest and the way she called out the folks at American Apparel for being sizeist douchebags.

So apparently, another more acceptably malleable and less fierce fatty won the fabulous trip to Los Angeles.  Because while it is against the rules to be a fatty, being an uppity fatty is clearly cause to tear up the rule book and just walk away.

Which isn’t to say that fat people in our society can’t win.  They can.  But given our fat-phobic world, they simply aren’t allowed to win for very long.  Brands and groups that put things to a popular vote–a vote which might show that the idea of a one-size-fits-all underwear contest is a little ridiculous or that asking plus-sized women to submit bootyliscious photos of themselves is perhaps a tad sexist, objectifying and just plain icky–find that the winners aren’t the brand representatives they were hoping for.  But luckily there is one positive change.  The fatties in question are no longer guaranteed to slink quietly away in shame.  The fatties in question have blogs, and movies, and social networks and gobs and gobs of friends.  The fatties in question have voices and some of them have decided to use those voices to shout about what an epic pile of disingenuous poo is being shoveled here.  And in that small way, the fatties in question, have in the long run, won.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to speak to your group about how people of ALL sizes can win?  Click HERE!

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Kids, Bullying and Plastic Surgery

plasticsurgeryI was somewhat floored this weekend as I listened to a brief radio report on my local public radio station about kids and plastic surgery.  The story (which made reference in the intro to Renee Zellweger’s altered appearance at a recent awards show) talked about the number of kids having plastic surgery and the reasons behind it.  The report opens by talking about the number of teenagers who have had Botox (TM) in 2013.  According to the report, that number is 17,958.  Now the report was careful to state that most of these procedures were for medical reasons.  Botox is used to treat migraines, strabismus (cross eyed) and facial spasms.  Yet when all was said and done, over 1,000 of these Botox procedures were performed on kids in America for “purely cosmetic reasons”.

Now I’m not going to tell any parent or kid what they should do with their own bodies.  It’s their body and their choice.  I don’t think I would let me kid have Botox treatments (if I had one).  But you know what, I think it’s a lot easier to judge if you are not in the situation.  In fact the report went on to state that cosmetic procedures are on the rise among young people, and experts suggest that the reasons for that rise probably include social media culture and the rise of the “selfie” as well as a rise in bullying in our schools.

My knee jerk reaction at the time was, why aren’t they fixing the BULLYING?  Why are kids undergoing the risks and rigors of plastic surgery all because kids can’t stop being mean?  And then I remembered my own school days.  There was a period in my school life, after I had moved to a new school where I was bullied relentlessly.  I was verbally abused and physically abused.  I had my property repeatedly stolen or damaged.  It was so bad, that I often got physically sick from the stress of it all.  My parents were extremely worried, but I felt that their involvement would  only make it much, much worse.  There was no surgery that could have fixed my situation.  And even if there were, I doubt we could have afforded it.  But I wonder, if there were a medical fix, that we could afford if we would have used it.  I was miserable.  My parents were deeply concerned.  Would we have undergone a medical risk if it meant that the problem would go away?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that not all people who are bullied can have that problem fixed by surgery.  The reasons for the bullying are not always physical or may not be easily physically corrected.  And even for surgery that is readily available, a whole lot of people cannot afford it.  And this lack of access to procedures that can make our social media selfie red carpet ready is just another gaping chasm between the haves and the have nots in our world.  So on the one hand I sort of feel like the families that are “opting out” of bullying by changing their physical appearance are making things even harder for the families that do not have that privilege.

It’s easy to heap scorn on the families who seem to take the whole notion of cosmetic surgery very lightly.  The report stated that husband/wife cosmetic surgeries are followed only by mommy/daughter plastic surgeries in popularity.  It’s easy to heap scorn on the privileged families who hand out boob jobs as high school graduation presents.

But I’d like to suggest that not all cases of kids and families choosing plastic surgery over bullying are quite that simple.  If I could have had a surgery to make the bullying stop, might I have done that?  I honestly don’t know.  And if I had done it, how would my life have turned out differently?  Would I be as strong?  Maybe not?  Would I be less fearful now?  Would I take greater emotional risks at this point because I spent less time as a target–less time being wounded?  And if my parents had chosen that route would they be wrong for perpetuating the need for perfection just because they wanted me to live my best life, be less in pain?

I don’t really know all the answers here, and I think that’s a good thing.  In my mind this is not a simple or black and white thing.  I sincerely believe that we need to change the culture of perfectionism, social media shallowness and cruel bullying among young people.  And I think that erasing differences by changing whatever faults the bullies choose to target in their victims ultimately make things worse for all of us.  But I think it’s important to view this subject through the lens of compassion.  Because if back then, when I was a kid, I would have been able to undergo a brief medical procedure that would make the bullying stop, even for a minute, I don’t know that I wouldn’t have done just that.

Love,  Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come to your school and talk about bullying?  BOOK ME!

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The Childhood Obesity Challenge

Uuuuugh!  Well we’re halfway through “Harass Kids About Their Weight Month” otherwise known as “Let’s Build Eating Disorders As Young As Possible Month” or “Childhood Obesity Awareness Month”.  I’ve mentioned before how I feel about this.  I can’t think of any adult or child in this country who is not aware that the dominant culture likes little kids to be thin.  I don’t know of any kids who aren’t aware, by age five or six, that thinner is better.  And this whole month seems designed to amp up the shame felt by larger kids and parents of larger kids to “11”.

This was brought home to me in a very visceral way today as I read a facebook post by a parent who had a negative reaction to being nominated for “The Childhood Obesity Challenge” on facebook.  I have no idea how widespread this “challenge” is.  Apparently a “friend” in this woman’s feed posted an apres workout “sweaty” (that’s a selfie where the folks are sweatin’ y’all) with the following text:

“Another sweaty for (fb friend)’s call to action for childhood obesity. Children learn from example. I will challenge some amazing parents I know to do the same. You all inspire me and make me better.”

Only problem, the parent with the negative reaction had been a fat kid.  She understood the real challenges of being an obese kid in a fat-hating world.  And her kid was also not as thin as some in society deemed acceptable.  And her kid was facing health challenges that made exercise difficult.  Yet there she was, nominated to post a picture of her sweating after a workout to prove to kids they shouldn’t be fat.

Seriously.

Yes, kids do learn by example.  And if we want our kids to be healthy, here are a few options of things we could model:

1.  Let’s choose not to judge by appearances.  You don’t know what is happening in another person’s life by looking at them.  You don’t know if they are healthy by looking at them.  Let’s not make snap decisions about a person’s health or moral worth because of how they look.

2.  Exercise can be fun!  Let’s not ruin exercise by making it about arbitrarily changing our body size.  Let’s make it about getting together and having a great time!  Because sometimes moving our bodies feels awesome!

3.  Exercise can be fun, but it’s not a moral obligation.  And exercise is a whole lot easier for some people than for others.  Let’s decide not to worry about how much exercise other people are doing.  And let’s decide on exercise for ourselves based on our own bodies and how we feel.

4.  Let’s not panic about our body size!  People come in all shapes and sizes.  There are greyhounds in this world and there are pit bulls.  Everybody looks a little different than everybody else and that’s okay.

5.  Let’s not boil down a very complex issue like childhood obesity into some silly facebook game, okay?  Let’s choose to accept that body size is influenced by a wide variety of factors–both inside and outside of our control–and learn to love our bodies as they are.  That way we won’t feel quite so much need to judge other people’s bodies, okay?  (See point #1).

And if modeling points 1 through 5 doesn’t work, we could always model how to fake a sweaty. (A little blush, a little water spritzed on the face and hair and TA DAAAA instant sweaty!)

Or if you want to be more professional about it:

I can’t help but be frustrated by the whole notion of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month as it currently stands.  It’s time for a Childhood Weight Stigma Awareness Month.  During this month we could talk about how to help kids avoid eating disorders, we could talk about how bullying based on size is at record levels, and we could talk about how social media is pressuring kids and parents more than ever to have “perfect bodies” at all times.  That’s a movement I could get behind.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S.  Want to hear me speak with YOUR group about how to teach fitness to kids in a way that isn’t damaging to them?  Book me to speak!

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