Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fear me.

So I was at today, as I am usually every day, and this article caught my eye. It’s not a huge revelation that high-end designers aren’t interested in designing clothes for fat women. Something that burned itself onto my brain years ago was Donna Karan proclaiming she’d never make clothes for fat women because she didn’t want to alienate her thinner clientele – she said something along the lines of that if a thin woman saw a fat woman wearing the same outfit as she was, the thin woman would feel horrible because she’d “worked so hard” for her body and how appalling it would be to see a woman who didn’t work hard in that same outfit (after all, us fatties – lazy, lazy, lazy bitches we).

The thing that rang my bell more was this little bit from the L.A. Times article written by Emili Vesliind: "The fear of fat is so ingrained in designers and retailers that even among those who've successfully tapped the market, talking plus size often feels taboo.” The fear of fat. The FEAR of fat. As if fat is this creature stalking through the night, seeking out new victims, a mythical critter hell-bent on wreaking havoc. Simply put, fat is the globe’s chupacabra.

Thing is, though, it’s quite easy to imagine the fear of fat, because most, if not all of us, have had that kind of funky, unsettling experience where you can sense someone physically shrinking away from us because of our fat. I can remember my mom telling me stories about patients at the drug/alcohol/eating disorders clinic she used to work at where some of the anorexic patients were terrified of sitting near the fatter patients because they thought they might “catch” the fat and gain weight. Logical adults would see the illogic in that, of course – but then you have scienterrific knobs claiming fat spreads like a virus amongst friends and family and the world gobbles the illogic up because, after all, a SCIENTIST said it and it MUST be true. It’s not difficult to find articles that are a variation on “Kids Say The Darnedest Things!” where kids proclaim they fear being fat more than they fear the end of the world or fire or war or any number of things that are far more horrible and awful.

And it’s not hard for me to imagine people thinking that if they looked like I do, it would be the most horrible thing to ever happen to them. They’re informed by the media every day that a person that looks like me is a ticking time bomb, a heart attack waiting to happen, a slovenly, lazy, filthy, out of control thing that eats everything in sight, is unloved, is friendless, is pathetic. I’m sure I’ve made reference to this before, but when I was in third or fourth grade, a classmate of mine told me her mother had seen me at some sort of school play or whatever and asked her, “does she have any friends”. Some years later, I was performing in an event at my high school – every other year, they’d throw a madrigal dinner, kind of a Renaissance Faire lite sort of thing where food was served and entertainment was of the “Huzzah!” variety. I was playing Portia from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” in a playlet called “When Shakespeare’s Ladies Meet” by Charles George. My parents and sisters were sitting at a table with strangers (never the Nolans’ idea of a good time) and were stunned into silence listening to the running commentary they were making on me and my size. These were adults mocking a teenage girl, a kid. But in the world we exist in, there are plenty of people who might try to justify such a thing. The same people who raised hell because Torrid exists (making cute clothes for fat teenage girls only “enables” them, you know – let them wear sackcloth and repent for their sins!), the same people who believe that liking yourself if you’re fat – hell, loving yourself if you’re fat – is a terrible thing, the same people that want fat people to stay indoors and out of sight and stop defying society’s rules by being loved, being loud, being visible.

If I’m going to be shunned for my fat, then by God, I want to be feared. I want you to fear that I’m not going to shut up about everyone being allowed to love themselves, appearances be damned. I want you to fear that I’m going to screech it from the rooftops that everyone deserves to be loved. I want you to fear that I’m going to convince more and more people each and every day that being different is okay – not just okay, but goddamned great. I don’t fear being feared – I fucking embrace it.

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