Big Fat Flea in NYC Tomorrow!

Last year I went to the Big Fat Flea in NYC for research, fat community, and, of course, shopping. I mentioned the Flea in my post on fat clothing swaps, but I wanted to make a separate post about the Big Fat Flea to remind anyone in the NYC area to GO! GO! GO! It’s such an amazing experience and is so affordable and there is so much great stuff. Nothing is over $10, and admission is also only $10. Located at NYU Law School (40 Washington Sq South), the event begins at 10:30 and goes til 6 pm.

Flea volunteers model donated clothing, via bigfatflea.tumblr.com

I attended the flea last year, and after everything was over I escaped to a cafe in Chelsea with my friend and Flea volunteer Jenn Leyva, where I interviewed her about her experience volunteering and shopping at the Big Fat Flea for her first time.

Me, holding up some sort of product called ‘Blondie’ at the cafe where Jenn and I met up. Whatever, it was cute.

Over lattes and croissants we spent the first several minutes of conversation going over the pre-Flea volunteer coordination details, and Jenn’s specific experience being in charge of the masculine clothing area (heads up, fatties: BFF aims to cater to all, with both masculine clothing and clothing 5x+). We talked about the importance of staying gender-neutral and queer-friendly and body-positive, and how adept the organizers of the Flea are at these things because they are enmeshed in their community and take great pains to make sure politics turn to practice.

Jenn Leyva about to say something smart.

Near the end of Jenn’s summary of her experience, I think we got into some really important things that are potentially useful to others who are interested in going to the Flea (which I highly suggest you do if you can!) and that relate to politics of fat fashion, accessibility, and fat community building and resource sharing: Continue reading

‘Fat Studies’ Goes to College

Fat undergraduates often experience subtle forms of prejudice that most people tend not to notice, from tiny wooden desks that won’t fit their bodies to sidelong stares whenever they visit the student fitness center. Some—like Margitte Kristjansson, a Fat Studies graduate student and alumna of the University of Washington—will voice their concerns to administrators, but many fat students would rather suffer in silence than spotlight themselves by speaking up. “It’s definitely harder to be a fat student on campus, when you don’t yet know that you deserve respect in the same way that any other student would,” Ms. Kristjansson says.

Oh hey, that’s me, quoted in an article by Yale University senior Eve Binder for The Daily BeastCheck it out here.

The author’s basic argument here is interesting to me: she essentially asks “who is the audience for Fat Studies?” and if it is fat students, “how do you reach them if they aren’t making it to college?”

It is critical that we recognize that there is a problem when fat students are not found on college campuses at the same rates as their non-fat peers.  It has been a documented problem for a long time now (at least as far back as Marcia Millman’s Such a Pretty Face: Being Fat in America was published in 1980).  At the same time, in the author’s focus on the fat undergraduate student as the only audience for Fat Studies (or undergraduates as the only audience for any discipline), she misses the point.  Fat Studies is not a discipline about making fat people feel good about themselves.  It is about—at least in my opinion—doing rigorous academic work in, on, and around bodies from a lens that is critical of mainstream conceptions of fatness and the ‘obesity epidemic’.

The primary audience for Fat Studies is not necessarily fat undergraduates.  In many cases the audience is other academics, colleagues who do similar and unrelated work in critical/cultural studies, health sciences, gender studies, american studies, science studies, etc.  In general, I think the hope is that this work will eventually be put out there for a more mainstream audience, which certainly includes fat undergrads but is not limited to them.  In fact, many people could benefit from Fat Studies: those bigoted readers who all think fat people are gross, ugly, and unhealthy over at the The Daily Beast, (see comments on article above) could benefit from Fat Studies; those well-intentioned people working on health policy (like Michelle Obama) could benefit from Fat Studies; those people who took time out of their dinner to call my friend and I “poor fat girls” the other night could benefit from Fat Studies; Maura Kelly could REALLY benefit from Fat Studies… and so on.

I do work in Fat Studies because I believe that knowledge production, in combination with my own personal activism, is how I can best do my part to change the cultural feeling around fatness, so that all those fat kids in high school who are too busy being bullied, obsessing over their weight, put on the fast-track to vocational schools, and ignored by teachers and other possible mentors, can buck this trend and go to college, if they want to.

Unlike the author of this post, I don’t think that not having enough fat students on college campuses will prevent Fat Studies from taking root in academia: I think that Fat Studies MUST take root in academia in order to make the changes necessary for fat students to enter university at a rate equal to their non-fat peers.

“I was a fat kid…”

(Originally posted at riotsnotdiets)

Scanned from Le’a Kent’s “Fighting Abjection: Representing Fat Women” published in Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression edited by Jana Evans Braziel and Kathleen LeBesco in 2001. Brought to you by my procrastination while reading about Julia Kristeva on “the abject”.  Enjoy!

Scanned from Le’a Kent’s “Fighting Abjection: Representing Fat Women” published in Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression edited by Jana Evans Braziel and Kathleen LeBesco in 2001.

Brought to you by my procrastination while reading about Julia Kristeva on “the abject”.

Enjoy!

“Plus-size and fashion week: Open door or unhealthy invitation?”

(Originally posted at riotsnotdiets)

Outrageous blog post of the week alert, y’all.

In this relatively uninteresting post, someone asks if the world of plus-size modeling promotes “obesity”.  My dear friend Kristy pointed it out to me, and while the post itself is just more of the same ol’ “BUT FAT IS UNHEALTHY” nonsense, it’s a worth reading so you can understand Kristy’s response, which I think is freaking fantastic.  So freaking fantastic, in fact, that I’m just going to copy and paste it here:

I have a differing opinion, in two parts.

The first is this:
I think we have tied too closely the ideas of size and the idea of health. We use size as the main indicator of health when, in reality, it is such an untrustworthy indicator. There are way way way too many variables to use size as a causation for health.

Therefore, I think that we talk too much about health when we talk about fashion – *because* we continue to talk about size. Fashion isn’t about health. Yes, there are the social repercussions of viewing popular culture and internalizing what that means in terms of body image, but what we really need to be talking about is not whether fashion is a model of good health, but about how fashion *can never* be a model of good health because fashion is about image, and image is a poor indicator for one’s actual health. Once we “de-link” these concepts we can start talking about fashion and we can start talking about health, and we can even do so together, but in the end the conversation itself will be a much healthier one (pardon the pun).

Second, I completely agree with you that runway shows should be integrated. No doubt about it, all sorts of bodies should be shown together at once. However, this integration is so stigmatized that we have to see it as a social movement – something that doesn’t happen all at once and that has historical “movements” or “waves” – just like feminism or gay rights.

And one of those waves is having an insular group, represented singularly and confidently. Showing the world that the marginalized group is not ashamed and is actually entitled to the same human rights as everyone else. This is what is happening with the fat world right now. Sure, media and social structures are stepping in to try to keep it segregated and insular – using this stage of the movement to continue to separate and isolate – but it is still a movement and it is still needed on the road to integration.

And again, the only way we will begin to see this integration is to disconnect our ideas of health (aka mortality, which is something that humans have an instinctual interest in decreasing among their populations) from our ideas of size and shape, because frankly, they have little to do with each other.

Once we can make this disconnect and stop pointing fingers at fat people for being unhealthly, actually believing the two concepts are different (we used to think homosexuality was unhealthy and deadly), we will see the changes we’re looking for.

Awesome, right?  I love having friends (regardless of whether or not they identify as “fat”) who really get FA and understand why it’s so imperative.  YAY for body-acceptance warriors.  I <3 you, Kristy!