Archive for the 'Rants' Category

Real Beauty?

Earlier this week, Dove released an advertisement called Real Beauty Sketches, the latest video in their self-esteem campaign. Reception to this video has been largely positive, and while I understand why women are embracing the ad, all that glitters is not revolutionary gold.

We live in a society where we are told in many different overt and covert ways that a woman’s only value is her beauty. Smart? Successful? Courageous? Not enough. Germaine Greer wrote about the ridiculousness of this idea late last year:

“At an event in Amsterdam recently, I was ordered by a woman on the stage to take the hand of the woman next to me, who happened to be 76-year-old Hedy d’Ancona, and tell her she was beautiful. This would be more conducive to her self-esteem, apparently, than reminding her that, having served as a minister under two Dutch governments, as a member of the European Parliament, and as chairman of Dutch Oxfam, she was immensely distinguished and I was honoured to be sitting next to her.”

On top of that, this Dove ad tells us is that it is also not enough to be merely beautiful, you have to know it too. Those superficial messages of body politics – Love yourself! Nothing is sexier than confidence! You’re prettier without make-up! – is just another way of prescribing how women should look, feel, and act. It’s not your responsibility to be beautiful.

Not to mention that the form of ‘beauty’ that is being valued by Dove is the same beauty ideal that is presented by other beauty companies. I am loathe to rewrite things that have already been written perfectly, so I am going to quote a massive chunk of jazzylittledrop’s excellent post on this subject:

Let’s look at which descriptors the editors chose to include. When the participants described themselves, these were some of the things that were implied as negatives: fat, rounder face, freckles, fatter, 40— starting to get crows feet, moles, scars…  Whereas some of the implied positive descriptors used by others were: thin face, nice thin chin, nice eyes that lit up when she spoke and were very expressive (my actual favorite), short and cute nose, her face was fairly thin (this was said twice), and very nice blue eyes. So… I don’t know if anyone else is picking up on this, but it kinda seems to be enforcing our very narrow cultural perception of “beauty”: young, light-skinned, thin. No real diversity celebrated in race, age, or body shape. So you’re beautiful… if you’re thin, don’t have noticeable wrinkles or scars, and have blue eyes. If you’re fat or old… uh, maybe other people don’t think you look as fat and old as you do yourself? Great? Oh, and by the way, there are real women who look like the women on the left. What are you saying about them, exactly?

Indeed, for all their talk on real women and self-esteem, Dove has only ever presented a narrow definition of beauty in their advertisement campaigns. In 2010, Jezebel revealed a Craigslist ad seeking models for Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign that seemed at odds with their messaging:

DOVE “REAL WOMEN” PRINT CASTING JUNE 28-30, 2010 in NYC
ABSOLUTELY NO ACTRESSES / MODELS OR REALITY SHOW PARTICIPANTS or ANY ONE CARRYING A HEADSHOT!!!!
REAL WOMEN ONLY!
LOOKING FOR 3-4 REAL WOMEN for a DOVE PRINT CAMPAIGN!

AGES 35-45, CAUCASIAN, HISPANIC, AFRICAN AMERICAN, & ASIAN!

SHOOT: SUNDAY, JULY 18 in NYC! MUST BE AVAILABLE FOR THE SHOOT!
RATE: $500 for Shoot date & if selected for Ad Campaign (running 2011) you will be paid $4000!
USAGE: 3 years unlimited print & web usage in N. America Only

YOU WILL BE PHOTOGRAPHED FOR THE CAMPAIGN IN A TOWEL!
BEAUTIFUL ARMS AND LEGS AND FACE WILL BE SHOWN!
MUST HAVE FLAWLESS SKIN, NO TATTOOS OR SCARS!
Well groomed and clean…Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic.

 Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles! A DOVE GIRL!!!
STYLISH AND COOL!
Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!

 PLEASE SUBMIT SNAPSHOTS of FACE & BODY ASAP & WE WILL CALL YOU IN FOR A CASTING NEXT WEEK 6/28-6/30 in NYC!

According to Dove’s description for their latest video, “Women are their own worst beauty critics … Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful.” What Dove fail to explain is the part they play in this statistic (and the part of their parent company, but I’ll get to that in a minute). Dove claims to promote ‘real beauty’ in ‘real women’ but only if that beauty is accessible, and more importantly, marketable to a mainstream audience. Which gives you a strong sense of their motivation.

Dove is owned by Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company with products from foods and beverages to cleaning agents to personal care. Two of Unilever’s brands are Pond’s and Fair and Lovely, both of which market skin whitening products in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Timor Leste. In 2007, Fair and Lovely had to withdraw television advertisements that depicted sad, unemployed, single, dark skinned women suddenly finding new boyfriends and glamorous careers after they had lightened their skin. There is a very clear message there that stands in stark opposition to Dove’s “You are more beautiful than you think” rhetoric.

(The hypocrisy of Unilever owning Lynx/Axe, renowned for its sexist advertisements, has been written about by people more intelligent than me.)

No matter how unethical you think that is, Unilever is well within its rights to send those kinds of mixed messages because they are a company responsible for many brands in many countries selling products for profit.

This is not to offend or dismiss people that have gained something from this ad. I certainly value my body-confidence and, as someone who’s first positive thoughts were the result of compliments from others, I know that there is no ‘right’ path to a strong self-esteem. However, Dove’s campaigns deserve to be critiqued. To paraphrase @definatalie, a multinational company is not the best source of empowerment (particularly when that company is actively trying to disempower your brown sisters).

Fat stigma is so passé

I’m pretty aware that there’s been a lack of Serious Content on this blog for a while. The month long (or more) hiatuses punctuated by the odd outfit post have not been intentional. I haven’t run out of opinions and the world certainly hasn’t run out of fat stigma. I just get so bored of it, you know?

Today I read an opinion piece by satirist/writer/radio host Dominic Knight talking about fatness and happiness and how it doesn’t matter how happy we are because we’re too fat… or something. I started picking it apart and refuting his arguments before thinking to myself, “HOLY CRAP, THIS IS SO BORING.”

The same dull statements about how fat Australia is. The same tired old fat jokes (sumo wrestlers! LOL!). The same predictable conclusions about eating well and exercising more.

AnnaNicole

I’m at the point now where I don’t really get angry when I see yet another anti-fat article. I’ve been in fat activism for so long, and have so many friends with rad body positive attitudes, that the only reaction I’m capable of is “Really…? Are we still talking about calories in/calories out like no one’s ever thought of it before?! REALLY?!”

It bores me. But since the same arguments keep coming up, I guess the same rebuttals need to be made. Second verse same as the first…

BUSTED: SUPER ULTRA MEGA BORING OBESITY CLICHES

I’m positive that this list is not exhaustive. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Australia/New Zealand/America/UK/[insert developed, English-speaking nation here] is the fattest nation in the world.
Nope. When a country is breathlessly declared by journalists as being THE FATTEST NATION IN THE WORLDDDDDD, what they actually mean is “The fattest nation out of a list of approximately 30 nations that make up the wealthiest countries in the world”.

According to this 2010 list (with data sourced from the International Obesity Taskforce), USA is 18th, Scotland is 32nd, New Zealand is 35th, England is 38th and Australia is 47th. So there.

But HEALTH!!!!!!!!!
1) Health is determined by a set of behaviours, not a set of body shapes. Moving regularly, eating well, getting enough sleep, not smoking, drinking in moderation, maintaining a work/life balance… they improve health outcomes for people of all sizes. And here’s the rub: You don’t know a person’s healthy, or unhealthy, behaviours just by looking at them.

2) Health is a privilege. People who treat eating well and exercising regularly as things that are easily achieved are putting their ableism on blast. Those behaviours aren’t possible, or are only possible to a certain extent, for some people with physical, mental and/or psychological disabilities.

3) Fat stigma is more pervasive than you think. It’s pretty challenging for a fat person to go to a gym when they know that judgemental eyes will be watching their every move. It’s intimidating for a fat person to go for a run when they’ve had insults, or even rubbish, thrown at them from passing cars. (If you can’t imagine such things ever happening to anyone, that’s your thin privilege in action.)

4) Diets don’t work long term and may cause more harm than good.

5) People are able to prioritise health for themselves. That means they can choose to not prioritise it. That means they can be the Bad Kind of Fatty. And if someone chooses that lifestyle for themselves, they still deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

There’s overweight, and then there’s obese
OR I’m talking about people who are fat because of their lifestyle

No, you don’t get to be a jerk to anyone. There is no level of fatness, or pathway to fatness, that justifies arseholish behaviour.

No one enjoys being fat
First of all, if people don’t enjoy being fat, I’d wager that a good deal of that is due to the stigma they experience and the stigma they have internalised. For most people, having a fat body is not a barrier to anything.

Second of all, there is a great number of us who are happy with our bodies, thank you very much, and do not take kindly to people making gross assumptions about our happiness.

There were no fat people in concentration camps.
This argument is beyond vulgar and yet it is trotted out all the time.

People in concentration camps were starved and tortured. Their suffering is not a motivational “See? You can do it too!”-style example of thinness.

“There were no fat people in concentration camps” is a longer way of announcing “I am a massive tool”.

Fat people are ugly.
No one’s forcing you to enter a marriage with a fat person; your long years of passionless misery broken only by gin-fuelled screaming matches, torrid affairs in dingy motel rooms, and enduring the spiteful tongues of your resentful children over the dinner table at their annual Christmas visit. We don’t want that life either.

Find someone you do find attractive and try to have sex with them. Fatties will do the same. Everyone wins.

[Insert fat joke here]
Making a joke at the expense of any socially and culturally stigmatised group of people is lazy comedy. Do better.

The Corpulent Declaration

I’ve been getting a few emails from people and companies that have profoundly misunderstood what I’m about and what I stand for. Sometimes this means that they haven’t read my stuff closely enough, but I suspect that I haven’t signposted my core views as much as I should have.

In order to avoid having the same three conversations over and over again, I present to you the Corpulent Declaration.

1. Yes, I am fat

I should not be required to defend the way I classify my body, and yet…

I am fat. According to my measurements, I am plus sized. I weigh 95kg/210 pounds (give or take a few). According to my height and weight, I am obese. When people talk about the obesity epidemic, they are talking about people like me. I have had people tell me that they are worried about my health because of my size. I’ve seen the frenzied whispers when I wear something ‘too tight’. I’ve heard people snickering over the size of my arse. In my view, I have fulfilled the selection criteria.

I recognise that I am not very fat. I’m conscious that I have a measure of thin privilege. But that doesn’t negate the fact that, yes, I actually am fat. As Kate Harding said in a really awesome article on Salon:

It’s … OK to point out that I’m not that fat, so I’ve never personally been the victim of the worst fat hatred our culture has to offer — that’s the plain truth. But telling me I’m not fat is a goddamned lie.

2. My fashion doesn’t flatter

This is aimed at the clothing companies - and PR companies representing clothing companies - that email me promoting their “tips to look slim and sexy instead of fat and frumpy” or “Sizzling Swimsuits to Flatter Any Figure” (those are direct quotes).

I’m down with people wearing whatever they want. Some fatties want slimming clothing and that is their prerogative. But I wear miniskirts, spandex, bodycon, horizontal stripes, bright colours, shapeless sacks and leggings as pants. Fat girl fashion rules mean nothing to me.

3. Good health is a fine goal, but it’s not what drives me

The argument that fat and health are not mutually exclusive is a worthwhile and valuable one to make (and one I make fairly often). Having a fat body is not a health problem in and of itself except in the most extreme of cases, and fatness is no barrier to healthy behaviours. Health at every size (HAES) is a fantastic alternative to weight loss and absolutely deserves to be promoted.

However, I am not a HAES advocate and Corpulent is not a HAES blog. It is not my job, nor my purpose, to encourage fat people to lead the healthiest lives they can. I don’t advocate for fatties who meet a certain set of criteria. I just advocate for fatties.

I know that some people are fat by choice. I am well aware that some fat people don’t exercise, don’t eat well, have health issues or have mobility problems. I’m not ignorant; I just don’t care. No matter our situation, we are all worthy of respect and dignity from ourselves and from others. That’s the point of it all.

Is Frances OK?

Until I did that interview with Hack, I had no idea that so many people out there were so heavily invested in my wellbeing. This is just a sample of the ~500 comments the story got on Triple J’s facebook page:

“Can she run 5km?… What are her cholesterol levels?… Does she still get a period (many obese women do not due to their size and are unable to conceive)?”

“Id like to hear what her diet and exercise regime is if she feels so healthy.”

“Frances needs to wait until she’s a bit older and suffering from osteathritis, unable to move due to the risk of her excessive body weight shattering her bones”

“Are Frances’ parents happy with her health/size? Are they happy with their own?”

“While Frances may not feel unhealthy, she is not doing herself any favours long term.”

“imagine how good she would feel if she was healthy and not obese then!”

“If she is technically obese then the reality is she is unhealthy wether she feels that way or not.”

“Being a fattie for 10 years till last year I lost my 14kgs of weight and feel great! Maybe Frances should do the same.”

“Frances may not feel unhealthy, but unfortunately, if she’s obese because of excessive fat mass and too little muscle mass, then the reality is that her body is not healthy.”

“she can feel fine with her body if she wants to but she’s not going to live past 50″

YOU GUYS. I AM SO TOUCHED.

Under normal circumstances I would be totally creeped out if a strange man living in another country was thinking about my untimely death, or if an unknown woman was speculating about the regularity of my menstrual cycle. But this is different. This is borne from an unselfish and unwavering concern for my precious, precious health.

After all my ranting about weight stigma and thin privilege, it never occurred to me that these people actually loved me. Why else would they care about my parents’ approval of me? Or the details of my food intake and physical activity? Why else would they ignore my lived experience to insist that I am not living my life to the fullest? Their concern is not a general ‘I care about my community’ sort of thing; they genuinely want to know microscopic details about my life.

Some cynical folk may try to say that comments like these are intrusive and offensive. And maybe that’s true of some, as Triple J did have to explicitly state that personal attacks on me would not be tolerated. Fortunately, however, others have been able to recognise that it’s all just a bit of tough love:

“[H]ave any of you ‘no fat chicks’-type commenters (excluding anyone who is genuinely concerned about people like Frances) thought about the impact of your comments?” (emphasis mine)

See? That woman knows that most were just being cruel to be kind.

Please know, random facebook folk, that I truly appreciate your concern. Unfortunately, I’m pretty busy and I don’t think that I have room for all of you in my life. I have a full-time job, a relationship, a great circle of friends I don’t see nearly enough, a family, a social life and an internet life. I just don’t have the energy to constantly reassure a few hundred people that I’m doing alright. But it is clear to me that, without this reassurance, you are going to keep fussing over whether my femur has shattered into a million pieces due to the sheer bulk of my arse.

To put everyone at ease, I have created a twitter: @IsFrancesOK. That way, no matter where you are or how little you actually know me, you can see daily updates about how I am faring. No longer will you have to spend sleepless nights worrying about whether I’ve developed Type II diabetes or if I’ve suddenly died as the result of a massive heart attack.

You’re welcome, babies. I love you too.

Obesity and disgust revisited

You may remember that in May of this year, I blogged about a study conducted by Dr Lenny Varatanian that found that negative attitudes towards ‘obese’ people are based on an emotional response of disgust. The study was fascinating as it confirmed what fat people had long been aware of: that fatness, due to the notion that body size is infinitely malleable, was seen as disgusting as it transgressed people’s morals.

Dr Vartanian followed this research with a study, published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders, into whether the use of the terms ‘fat’ or ‘obese’ impact societal attitudes. In the study, a target group of 425 undergraduate students (side note: I do wish that Dr Vartanian would test a more diverse group than undergraduates, but that’s a rant for another day) were asked to answer questions about a range of social groups, including overweight individuals. Compared to ‘fat’ people, ‘obese’ people were rated as less favourable and more disgusting. In addition to this, participants saw themselves as being less similar to obese people and less likely to become an obese person than a fat person. Dr Vartanian posits that this is due to ‘obesity’ being a medical term, whereas ‘fat’ is more familiar.

I would add that media reporting of obesity is also a strong factor in these attitudes, given that the vast majority of obesity-related articles and stories are accompanied by grossly objectified ‘headless fatties’. After all, it’s difficult to identify with something portrayed as less than human.

So far, so interesting. Unfortunately, the coverage of the story descended into the medicalisation of fatness. A Sydney Morning Herald article about the study stated that Dr Vartanian believed that ‘obese’ should continue to be used medically to refer to those who have a body mass index of 30 and above and those people “are at increased risk of type two diabetes and heart disease … [Fat] doesn’t have a place in (public health) forums, and while obese might be seen more negatively and as less desirable to obese individuals themselves, at least it has an official definition.”

It pains me that, despite his research into societal attitudes towards fatness, Dr Vartanian still does not/will not/cannot question the usefulness of the BMI. The BMI is a deeply flawed concept and not at all reliable indicator for determining the health of a population, let alone an individual. The medical profession and health policies should be moving away from its reliance on the BMI, not continuing its use – and further stigmatising fat bodies – because it provides a convenient definition. My body is not a medical condition.

Two Piece Swimsuit, Two Middle Fingers

I love the beach. I spend all summer there and spend the rest of the year pining for summer so I can park myself on the sand again. For most of my life, I’ve lived in the same house in a small coastal town with a beach literally down the road. When the Boyfriend and I move in together, we want to live in eastern Sydney so the Pacific isn’t too far away. I’m emotionally dependent on the ocean. I feel my whole body relax when I smell the sea air and I physically ache for a swim when I’ve gone a while without a dip. My love runs deep.

When I go for a swim, I wear a bikini. I’ve been wearing two piece cossies since I was about 10 years old. I find them more comfortable, it’s quick and easy to change out of my swimmer bottoms right there on the sand when I come out of the water (to avoid getting thrush) and – the Cancer Council will have me hanged for this – I like having an even tan.

I’ve been planning a bikini post for months. I was always going to show my half-naked self on Corpulent to tell everyone that I’m not ashamed of my body (and hopefully encourage you to not be ashamed of yours). I was going to wait until it was a little warmer and I had a bit more of a tan to take some photos and write this post. However, my schedule was pushed ahead by this gem of an article by Natasha Hughes.

Hughes’ article questions suitable beach attire; namely whether “overweight Australian women” should wear bikinis. The article itself is tiny – less than 250 words – but it made me furious. The most bilious section states, “I know there’s going to be two schools of thought on this but I’m with the Fat Should be Camouflaged College. Who wants to be exposed to someone’s rolls? Where is their sense of style, of decency?”

Decency? DECENCY?! How’s this for fucking decency:

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The article was published on Tuesday and, 6 days later, Hughes’ spiteful words still make me angry. I hate the sense of entitlement that comes with a question like, “Who wants to be exposed to someone’s rolls?” Hughes’ tone is reflected in many of the comments. According to them, displaying our bodies becomes a vicious action – we are “subjecting”, “inflicting” and “confronting” – because our fat is “disgusting”, “nauseating”, “gross” and my personal favourite “pollution for the eyes”.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I despise the idea that all fatties (and indeed, anyone with bodies outside the beauty ideal) must shield the eyes of the poor, unsuspecting public from the offensiveness of their bodies. Listen and repeat after me: Life is not a beauty pageant. We do not exist to be aesthetically pleasing to the judgemental eyes of strangers.

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As Lesley wrote on Fatshionista,

You do not have to be beautiful. It’s not your responsibility to be beautiful, for yourself or for anyone else, not for your family or your partner or your friends or some stranger on the street who finds your face unpleasant.

Similar sentiments were written by Erin on A Dress A Day,

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

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There is a fabulous quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh that states, “One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much. Clothes, first. Of course one needs less in the sun. But one needs less anyway, one finds suddenly … One finds one is shedding not only clothes – but vanity.”

That beautifully encapsulates what I love about the beach and what I hate hate hate about Hughes’ article. The beach necessitates freedom but Hughes is trying to apply bullshit sartorial decorum to it. True style and true decency is borne from a comfort in one’s skin and a confidence in the image one is presenting to the world. Fat hate masquerading as bland fashion advice? How terribly passé.

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Fancy “inflicting” your flesh on others?

  • By Ro Designs has cute bikinis and monokinis from size 1X (which equates to a US size 18/20) to 6X
  • noXceptions is an Australian online store that stocks a few two piece togs from an Australian size 16 to 40
  • Stacked on etsy has adorable custom retro two pieces
  • Midnight Black has adorable 40s and 50s style bikinis up to a 2X (more styles are available in their Newtown store)
  • Pin Up Girl Clothing also has retro bikinis, but their plus size stock is a bit low. I saw a couple of US size 18s and 20s, as well as a few 14s and 16s in their main range.
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry Anymore stocks bikinis up to an Australian size 20
  • Big Gals Lingerie has bikinis in a number of different styles in sizes 1X (US size 16/18) and 2X (US size 20/22)
  • Love Your Peaches has two pieces from 1X (US size 14/16) to 6X (US size 34/36). However, their website states that their clothing runs large and recommends ordering a size down.
  • Monif C sells saucy high waisted bikinis
  • If you’re on the smaller side of fat,  Asos sells bikinis up to a UK size 18 and Outdoor Girl sells bikinis up to a 2X (US size 18)
  • Smaller fats with smaller boobs: Don’t disregard straight size surf/swimwear shops. I found my bikini in a Rip Curl shop. That said, I found it after looking in many other stores, so if you’re going to hunt for a straight size bikini be prepared for some frustration.

Menfolk, I don’t mean to exclude you. I love seeing a man in a pair of swim briefs so please feel emboldened to “expose” your rolls too. I know that Speedo’s only go up to a 44”/110cm waist, so if anyone knows where to get plus size swimwear for men please leave it in the comments.

Beyond Fatshion, or Practical Plus Size Clothing

Full Figured Fashion Week was recently held over a three day period in New York. Judging by the posts over at Musings of a Fatshionista, this year’s built and improved on last year’s event and we’ve got some exciting new plus size labels heading our way.

The event sparked some impressive press. The New York Times used FFFWeek as the context to report that retailers are beginning to recognise the market in plus size clothes. In reply, Jezebel questioned whether this was having an impact on production. The Jezebel article concludes with the idea that “It’s not just about making things available; it’s about making things fashionable.”

As heartening as all this discussion is, what of the clothes that have a purpose beyond fashion? The practical clothes that are afforded to straight size people that do not extend to plus sizes? Where can I buy them?

For example, the Boyfriend and I have been throwing around the idea of going to a country in western Europe for New Year’s Eve. Berlin, perhaps, if we have the money and can get enough time off work. Berlin in late December/early January is damn cold. As I live in Sydney – where winter is not much cooler than Berlin’s summers – it will be a cold like I’ve never experienced. My cotton tops and my thin, wool-blend coat will not be able to cope.

I don’t need a fashionable jacket – likes the ones I could buy at La Dan’s Closet or Dorothy Perkins – I need one that will keep me seriously warm. The thing is, I have no idea where I can get good quality outerwear or thermals in my size.

The more I think about it, the more examples keep popping up. I go to a samba class and we’ll be putting on a performance at the end of the year. Considering all the samba dancers I see are teeny tiny, where am I going to get a plus size samba outfit from?

If I learn to scuba dive, where will I buy my wetsuit?

If I ride a motorcycle, where will I buy my leathers?

I’m on the small end of fat, so I know that there will be many of you that have it infinitely worse than me. What clothing do you need but cannot find?

Plus size models protest Australian Fashion Week

(L-R) Ivina Sotnikava, Kaila Conklin, Belinda Morgan, Kate Hislop, Mackenzie Sipos and Natalie Wakeling. Pic: Renee Nowytarger, Source: The Daily Telegraph

The Rosemount Australian Fashion Week (RAFW) is over for another year, but it didn’t pass without controversy. Plus size models from BGM Models – who must have a fantastic PR department – protested outside the main venue over the complete lack of plus size models in this year’s events.

After all the attention plus size fashion has received in the past twelve months, Australia seems to be – quite embarrassingly – falling behind the rest of the Western world. As BGM agent Darrianne Donnelly states, “While the rest of the world is embracing women with curves, Australian fashion is going backwards. The public wants to see themselves, in all shapes and sizes not just size 6.”

(As an aside to BGM Models: I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but can you please lay off the whole ‘REAL WOMEN’ angle? You don’t advance one group of people by tearing down another. To imply that straight size models are not real is just another way of dictating what women should and should not look like. That’s exactly what we’re trying to get away from.)

Organisers did not make official comment, instead deferring questioning to individual designers as they are responsible for the model casting for their own shows.

First of all – because I have seen this incorrectly reported on other blogs – plus size models were not featured at last year’s RAFW. Last year’s City Chic fashion show was held during the 2009 Sydney Fashion Festival. They are two completely different events (though it is sponsored by the same company) and RAFW is The Big Deal – it is the exclusive, industry-only event.

Though that’s the point, isn’t it? Plus size consumers are given a free, public show in the less prestigious runway show yet continue to be snubbed by Australia’s top designers in our premier fashion event. It smells just a little bit like tokenism.

It is interesting to see how little impact the Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image may have. In October 2009, the National Advisory Group on Body Image – which was established by the Australian government in March 2009 – submitted the Proposed National Strategy on Body Image to the government. Among the recommendations is the Code of Conduct on Body Image, which recommends using “a diverse range of people that are appropriate to their target audience. When considering diversity, particular focus should be given to including a range of body shapes, sizes and ethnicities”. The report is currently under consideration by the government, and they are due release their response this year. You can read the complete report here or, if you’re lazy, a summary of the recommendations here.

The key word to take note of is ‘voluntary’. It is up to each magazine and fashion label to sign up to the Code of Conduct and abide by its principles. However, with Australian designers so reluctant to use plus size models, we must question what a voluntary code could achieve. With no incentives or punishments, and with seemingly no champions in our fashion industry, I do wonder how we can move forward.

World’s fattest woman?

You may remember a story from the Daily Mail last month about Donna Simpson, a New Jersey woman “determined” to become the world’s fattest woman.

The Daily Mail isn’t exactly a bastion of media integrity. It is a conservative, reactionary British tabloid that has been involved in a number of notable libel cases. All of this was noted in an excellent post by Charlotte Cooper of Obesity Timebomb, who questioned whether the article was just “journalistic spin on running a random stereotype-filled story about a superfat woman on the eve of bikini season – always a crowd pleaser”.

In spite of the Daily Mail’s track record, many did take the article at face value. Donna Simpson’s alleged goal inspired some pretty visceral reactions from people: that she is the antithesis to fat acceptance, that she is eating herself to an early grave, that she is a bad mother, that she is selfish and – horror of horrors - that poor old Joe Six-Pack will be saddled with her ever-increasing hospital bills.

As it turns out, Daily Mail did twist Donna Simpson’s words in order to turn her into a big fat freak show.

As was gleefully pointed out in the article, Donna Simpson is a model on the fetish website Supersized Bombshells (“she runs a website where men pay her to watch her eat fast food”). Like all models on all sexually explicit websites, she provides very obvious fantasy for her subscribers. Her ‘goal’ of eating 12,000 calories a day to reach 1000 pounds? All part of the act. The mind boggles at the idea that a journalist could take information from Treasure Bombshell’s profile – who is essentially a fictional character – and attribute ‘her’ words to Donna Simpson.

Internet porn is nothing new and gainer/feedee websites – like all fetish websites - have long been a part of it. Despite this, because of the attention the Daily Mail received as a result of their article, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story on gainer blogs. Predictably, the story speculated at the undiagnosed mental conditions these craaaazy gainers could have and noted their inevitable death by fatness.

The media’s portrayal of fat people forever feels like one step forward, two steps back. Just when it seemed like progress was being made – with plus size fashion and health at every size getting more and more attention - fat people are objectified as mentally ill sexual freaks that market their bodies to perverts.  Spectacular.

After all this, what I’m really curious about is what premise Donna Simpson was given to get her to agree to the interview with the Daily Mail in the first place…

Flying Fat

Another day, another airline decides to boost its profits by charging fat passengers more.  Air France-KLM have announced that fat passengers that cannot fit into a single seat will have to pay an additional 75% for a second seat. A spokesperson for Air France-KLM states that it is a matter of safety: “We have to make sure that the backrest can move freely up and down and that all passengers are securely fastened with a safety belt.” (The fact that they can charge 175% for one ticket is just gravy!) The new policy will apply for people who book their tickets from 1 February 2010 for all flights from 1 April 2010.

This development follows American airlines, such as Southwest and United Airlines, in their decision to charge their fat passengers more. (At least Canadian and Australian carriers won’t be adopting the move anytime soon.)

Predictably, the majority of commenters on the article reporting Air France-KLM’s new policy have praised the move. In amongst the explicit fat hate (“fatties need to go to the gym!” “I was nearly crushed!”) are those who think the move is completely logical: if you take up two seats, you should pay for two seats.

I can’t say I blame them. I mean, I live in Australia – we’re an island floating in the middle of nowhere. If I want to visit my big sister in London, I have to spend 24 hours in transit. When you’re spending that much time in the air in an economy seat, you want as much room as possible. I get it.

However, instead of blaming the fatty fat fatties, perhaps some pressure should be placed on the airlines. The article states that the average plane seat is 43 centimetres/16.9 inches wide. Some planes offer a generous 48 centimetres/19 inches. That’s it. Hundreds of dollars for a ticket and all you can lay claim to is less than 50 centimetres. Shouldn’t we be expecting more from our airlines? If newer aircraft can have enough room for their obscene first class suites, couldn’t they also increase the width and pitch of their economy class?

Secondly, and I’m not the first person to ask this, but who decides who is officially too fat to fly? Those booking their tickets on 1 February won’t know if their arse is too wide for the seat. Will gate agents have a tape measure at the ready? Will they rely on their oh-so-accurate perception of how fat someone is? Will passengers be weighed on the luggage scale? Or will they be given the benefit of the doubt, only to drag people who are too big for the seat off the plane to pay their 75% and hold up the flight for everyone?

But rather than put those cogent questions to those who think this discriminatory policy is logical, I’d probably tell them to harden up. Economy class is uncomfortable – that’s why it’s affordable. It’s cramped, there are lines for the bathroom, the food sucks and it smells. Until airlines charge a levy for people who have long and/or wide legs, people who have broad shoulders, rude folks that take my armrest, people who smell, people who snore, crying babies and children that make themselves known to me at any point for any reason no one deserves to complain about fat encroaching upon their precious seat.


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