Ch-ch-changes

I created this blog when I started grad school as an addendum to my activist-oriented tumblr to talk about my research interests (fat identity politics, fashion, and media representations of fatness) in an accessible and academically rigorous way. I hoped margitteleah.com would be a testament to my professional and intellectual development, but as I eventually learned, it is incredibly difficult to work on several side projects, be involved in community organizing both locally and online, and do the work graduate school (and TAing) required of me. (Did I just master the art of the humblebrag?) While many of my projects flourished, this blog did not. It eventually became relegated to longer cross-posts from Riots Not Diets and occasional snippets of essays written for various grad courses (and I’ve been done with coursework now for over a year).

Clearly, things around here ought to change. And I’m excited about the prospect of doing something new, especially as I take on new hobbies and interests (like the indie polish company I started with my bff!). My vision for this blog is a place to catalogue my various adventures, projects, and ideas–like a quirky little lifestyle blog dedicated to fat babeliness and social justice. Lately I have half-jokingly, half-seriously taken on what I call the pursuit of The Cute Life. I have a lot of complicated feelings about cuteness, as a cultural construct with real-life consequences that is inextricably linked with youth and femininity, and also as a thing that describes a lot of stuff that I like. Continue reading

Whose bodies?: On public harassment and victim blaming

(Originally posted on tumblr, here.)

A few weeks ago a man approached me while I was downtown waiting for the bus. We both had just exited the 150, which runs from my campus and the Veteran’s hospital (both in La Jolla) to downtown San Diego. I was listening to music on my phone as I usually do, sunglasses on, unsmiling. I was not mad or unhappy in any way, just keeping to myself. The man walked up to me and waved his hand in my line of vision, smiling.

“Hey lady!”

I smiled back, and then looked down at my phone.

“Lady!” He motioned for me to take off my earplugs.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“You should smile more often, you’re awfully pretty!”

“Thanks,” I said, again looking back down at my phone.

“But I saw you on the bus though. You know what the problem with people is these days? You people don’t interact. You don’t smile! You just listen to your music and tune out the rest of the world! You should talk to people, honey, c’mon.”

I sighed. He went on. I smiled. I even agreed with him. I did and said anything I could think to do or say to indicate (politely) that the discussion was over and I didn’t want to talk anymore. But he was oblivious, or just didn’t care. I was basically stuck there, with all the women near me silent (probably thankful that they were not the subject of this dude’s tirade), wishing I could just tell him to shove it and walk away. I didn’t say anything like that though; it wouldn’t be polite. He eventually walked away and I chalked it up to a minor annoyance. Continue reading

Sometimes your body changes, and it sucks

(Originally published on tumblr, here.)

Historically, Fat Acceptance has framed body positivity in fairly stringent and problematic ways. I think a lot of work has been done to address these issues, but oftentimes these things get played out over and over again as new people come to the fold.

When you first discover body acceptance, after years and years of hating yourself and fucked up weight loss attempts and (for many) disordered eating, it can be so tempting to latch onto this mantra of “LOVE YOURSELF NO MATTER WHAT, THERE IS NO ROOM FOR COMPROMISE”. This results in a lot of fat activists advising others to simply “accept yourself”, and anything else is automatically Bad Activism.

Of course, not understanding the nuanced ways we experience ourselves/bodies and embracing this approach to self-acceptance often means trying (usually unsuccessfully) to sweep one’s more ambivalent feelings under the rug. It also means not being open to others’ discomfort with their own bodies in ways that can be racist, ableist, and cissexist.

In The ‘Fat’ Female Body, Sam Murray writes about one of the more insidious aspects of this kind of humanist logic: it reasserts a problematic dichotomy between mind and body. It says that we must, in our minds, overcome our bodies (and hatred of them). This is problematic for a couple of reasons: 1) this is the same strategy we are supposed to use, according to contemporary fat-hating society, to lose weight and become “normal” people, and 2) our bodies and minds are not ACTUALLY split—we perceive and understand the world THROUGH our bodies, and to imply that we can just “change our minds” about how it feels to be fat in a fat-hating world—in a world not made for our bodies—disregards this pretty important reality. Continue reading

My fat from the side: Or how I am constantly realizing just how big my big butt is

(Originally published at Fat From the Side, here.)

My friend Kyla took this (entirely candid) picture of me while I was getting ready for a (not at all candid) photoshoot to create publicity materials for the documentary last Saturday. She took a lot of behind-the-scenes shots that day, but this one is probably my favorite. Continue reading

a letter to potential ‘admirers’: what does my fat body mean to you?

(Originally posted on tumblr, here.)

I’ve been wanting to write some sort of response to that Village Voice article about fat admirers from last week (beyond my first impressions post), but every time I sit down to write about its many problems, or about representations of fat sexuality in general (and where this article in particular fits in), I draw a blank. So instead of addressing that article in particular, I’d like to share some thoughts with you about my fat body and what it means to be the object of someone’s desire, in the form of a letter.

Dear Potential Sex Partner,

Continue reading