Hampshire Liveblog Three: Written on the Body

I’m now sitting in the lecture hall, excitedly waiting for Written on the Body: Body Politics & the Media to begin! Our panelists today are Courtney Chadwell, Letisha Harris, Tara Ellison, and Brenda Hernandez (who is also moderating.)

Brenda: Were here to talk about our bodies and the ways in which they have been named and used.

Letisha: Women of Color Leadership Network (WoCLN) puts on a stage production about body politics where women write stories about their bodies down during one semester and perform them during the second. (We did something super-similar at Ramapo with Bare Confessions: The Body Image Monologues!) Her office tries to do outreach to the community, they invite high school students to the show & they tour various colleges with the show; they do talk-backs after the show that allow them to really process.

They work to identify areas where they are lacking representation (like representation of Asian American women) and work to bring those women in.

They also have a program called “Dorm Dialogues” where they go in and facilitate workshops on various topics (like sexism or safer sex) with college students.

They have a program called “Social Hour” where they invite women from the community to come, sit down, relax and hang out.

… basically they do a ton of awesome things!

Tara: Is going to talk to us today about fat liberation: a social justice movement dedicated to ending the oppression of fat people. [Check out their manifesta along with us if you’d like.]

Talking about intersectionality, how her weight-gender-ethnicity converged in her life [“More people read me as white because the idea of a fat east-Asian woman was not on their radar.”] This intersection lead to her being sexualized by her peers.

– Origins of obesity

Definitions and measures

Efefects of obesity on morbidity and morality

health benefits or detriments of diets.

Can we think of anyone who was fat and lived to old age? Yes. A person who is skinny but eats unhealthily? Yes. Do we think they are healthy? Not so much. So why do we think that fat people are automatically unhealthy? Because we are conflating correlation and causation. (Unrelated example: going to bed with one shoe on causes headaches because there is a strong correlation between the two… or both just mean you went to bed drunk.)

What are some of the extra variables the explain the relationship between fat and poor health?

  • Yo-yo dieting – periods of starvation, weight fluctuation, etc.
  • Poor diet and physical activity
  • Avoidance of doctors and medical treatment
  • Depression as a “lurking variable”

The Manufacturing of an Obestiy Crisis

The diet industry is a 60 Billion dollars a year industry. Which is bigger than GDPs of Iceland, El Salvador, and Jordan combined! Most obesity studies are funded by this industry.

The CDC has changed their story on obesity over the last ten years, from one that didn’t make an issue of it to one claiming an “obesity epidemic” based off of a study that was not accurate at all.

Questions to ask:

  1. Is health a moral imperative?
  2. Who benefits from demonizing fat bodies?
  3. What communities are targeted by anti-obesity campaigns?
  4. How does the focus on fat people ignore and shortchange non-fat people?
  5. Should one’s health status have anything to do with one’s rights?

“As fat activists we have to get information about ourselves by organizations [diet industry and anti-obesity campaigns] that are trying to get rid of us.”

Both black and white women experienced significant wage penalties for being “overweight.” (based off of data from a 1988 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.)

Studies have also shown that doctors treat patients worse when they are fat. 9Doctors were reported as the second most common source of fat stigma.) “I can count maybe on one hand the number of doctors that have not brought up weight within the first ten minutes of my visit, regardless of what I was going for.”

Now we’re looking at the Thin Privilege Checklist.

I can’t type fast enough to recap all of the ridiculous quotes from former Surgeon Generals and other important people declaring BS Wars on Obesity, comparing obesity to the environmental crisis… just lots of fail, basically.

Fat as the “last acceptable form of prejudice” and communities made up of people of color being more accepting of fat are silly claims since low-income women and women of color are more often targeted by these campaigns. This line of thought can further marginalize the voices of fat women of color (like our speaker) whose communities might pressure them in similar ways and in different ways than fat white women… but its all a valid struggle.

Fat and gender oppression. Women are supposed to be thin with womanly hips, small hands and feet, etc. fat women are often masculinized or painted as sluts (so desperate for sex they will sleep with anyone.) Basically, they are “othered” as women. Men’s bodies are not nearly as often scruitinized, BUT fat men are sometimes feminized over their weight. For fat trans-feminine or trans-masculine people it can be harder to get read as masculine/feminine due to these assumptions that we make about the way men/women “ought to” look.

  • Workplace discrimination.
  • Being gawked at.
  • Healthcare struggles.
  • Inability to be insured based on one’s body.
  • Structural inaccessibility.
  • examples of what you “don’t want to become”
  • Both disability justice and fat liberation imagine a world in which a diversity of bodies can exist.

Your health status should not be the basis of deserving rights or respect.

Ten Ways to Challenge Fat Phobia and Sizeism [I’ll paste these in whenever I have a free moment]

I’m going to stop blogging now because my laptop is dying and because the conversation is getting very personal/I didn’t get a chance to confirm that it was okay to cover this. Sorry!

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