Yes, another fat rant

Culture, Personal

Just incase you don’t feel like reading this entire post, let me begin with my conclusion (which is my very common go-to conclusion for almost every issue): everyone’s both right and wrong.

Now, the issue.

I happened across this YouTube video a few days ago, by *ahem* accident, which is the first in a trilogy of “fat rants” by an American writer/actor/filmmaker/model named Joy Nash. I guess you’d have to call her a YouTube celebrity at this point, since her first fat rant video has over 1.5 million hits – I’d say 1 million is the benchmark, no?

Her plus-sized diatribe attacks our image-obsessed society and its war on fat people – a war where the victims (larger folks) are the objects of mental and emotional violence to the point where they (we) feel that they (we) actually deserve it. Being “fat” has become so synonymous with “bad”, she argues, that it’s natural to feel embarrassed in a fitting room, to believe that you’d be prettier if you could just lose some weight, and to assume that so-and-so would only ever ask you on a date if you were thin (whatever that means). Nash advocates for plus-sized people (especially the ladies) to stop hating their bodies and to not just accept how they (we) look, but to be proud.

Okay, she has some valid points. I agree that there’s a lot of bad mojo out there against fat people. Snide jokes about the assumed and socially accepted undesirability of “fat chicks” aren’t helping anyone. Images that assume thinner is better wreak havoc on the majority of the population’s views of how their bodies should look. And I can’t begin to express the bitterness that’s associated with trying to shop in a store that doesn’t carry anything close to your size. Basically, when you start slurring the words “fat and ugly” so that you’re now saying “fat’n’ugly” like it’s the same thing, there’s a problem. The shame, the embarrassment and the self-hate that are the product of how we view “fat” people definitely need to go.

That being said, I can’t swallow everything Nash is saying. She claims that she’s not advocating for people to start eating everything in sight, neglect exercise and get as fat as they can.  She says she’s a firm believer in healthy eating and an active lifestyle. I, unfortunately, have to suggest that she may not be an expert in what exactly is a healthy weight, a healthy diet or a healthy active lifestyle.

You can’t deny that there is such a thing as “too fat.” Too much excess fat stored in your body is bound to have negative implications for your health. Watch one episode of some daytime talk show where they pull a guy out of his house with the Jaws of Life, and you’d be hard-pressed to believe otherwise. And I could discuss some study about couch potatoes, or rising obesity levels, but we’ve heard them all before. So, I guess the question becomes: how fat is too fat? What’s unhealthy obesity, and what’s “plump,” “full-sized” or “curvy”? And, in this case, are we sure Joy Nash knows the answer?

I know a lot of us would pull out the ole’ BMI index to determine how fat is too fat, but there are plenty of reasons why we can’t rely on it to make those calls for us. Frankly, I think it’s up to each individual (and their family or doctor) to determine if we’re getting into unhealthy territory. There are too many factors to consider that are unique to each person – genes, body type, thyroid problems, etc. etc. Obviously, one person’s idea of a “healthy weight” cannot be applied to everyone.

Nash says she “eats healthy” and exercises “about two times” per week. According to her, that makes her healthy. That’s fine for her, but she’s given me no reason to accept her standard as the final word on what’s enough, what’s healthy, or what’s “too fat.”

Having said that, now I’m worried I’m going to get categorized with people like this (which is a response to a different fat rant, by the way). For a more balanced discussion than that, watch this video:

Meanwhile, remember when the blogosphere was in an uproar over the apparent controversy surrounding designers not wanting to dress Precious star Gabby Sidibe for the Oscars? I remember reading a post that called her “full-sized” and I recall the word “euphemism” popping into my head. (By the way, I hate using Gabby as an example, as I’m sure she’s been used as a launching point for similar debates ad nauseum, but I think it proves my point.)

Gabby Sidibe

Does it concern anyone else that Gabby’s body type is being promoted as “curvy”? Isn’t it possible that she falls into the category of “too fat”? I’m not saying she should be stoned in the streets, but I don’t like the idea of people being taught (and yes, that is what’s happening here) that this level of obesity is okay. I don’t think Gabby should be ridiculed, or criticized, or pitied, or even encouraged to lose weight by anyone other than her own fully functional brain, but it would be irresponsible to actively support this body type. Public figures necessarily end up representing issues like weight loss (and adultery etc.), and when we put a positive label on this body type,  just like when we idealize unrealistically thin models on billboards, we just end up reinforcing unhealthy standards.

So isn’t there some middle-ground we could be occupying? I feel like one camp thinks overweight people are the scum of the Earth, and the other camp refuses to accept that we have a problem with weight at all. I think, ideally, the images and messages we receive from the media would be a little more balanced than that.

On a more personal note, I would appreciate it if my rude uncle stopped recommending that I take a brisk walk each evening, as if my issues with weight could be so easily resolved. I’d be pretty happy if sitcoms and rom-coms would stop making lame jokes about fat chicks. And it might be nice to see a few less commercials encouraging me to change my life by losing weight (it’s going to take more than a few pounds shed, thanks very much).

Frankly, I don’t need your criticisms or your encouragement (which is just criticism in supportive wrapping paper). Just like any other issue that I may or may not want or need to deal with, that’s my business. I think the reason fat people get looked down on in such a socially-accepted, nonchalant, normative way is because it’s right out there for everyone to see. You can hide your giant consumer debt, but I can’t hide my giant ass (not effectively, at least).

So in that respect, I do agree with Nash. Unless you’re my family doctor or my mom, you can just shut your pie-hole.

Is there anything you can’t learn from TV?

Entertainment, Writing

At the risk of sounding like I’m obsessed with this show, here is another post on Ugly Betty, starting with some random oil paintings created by Betty’s on-screen boyfriend while they were broken up, which appeared in a fourth-season episode (they were later auctioned off IRL to raise funds for Save the Children).

You can see the rest here. I think you have to remember that they were created by a heartbroken ex, otherwise they’re kind of offensive.


The series finale aired this past Wednesday, and I have to admit I got very emotional. I don’t even watch the show regularly, but when I do, I can’t help but relate to Betty’s character – from not being conventionally pretty to trying to make it as a writer. But the final few episodes really hit close to home with Betty trying to decide between risking it all to move to London for a job that she feels is right for her and staying put in New York and playing it safe.

At one point, she worried about leaving her father alone (since her sister was also planning to move away at the same time), and she asked if it was selfish of her to leave. She got quite a bit of grief from her father who tried to convince her to stay, and I could understand her guilt for leaving him alone. She also felt like she was being naive or foolhardy for leaving a reliable job at a magazine that was estalished, where she had spent 4 years working her way up, to pursue a more interesting position at a magazine in London that was just starting.

Ultimately, though, she got her happy ending (as so often happens in TV shows). She took the riskier option, and left everything to pursue her dreams. The montage at the end of the episode shows her adapting to London life, working hard, making friends and generally being pretty happy with her decision. I think there’s a pretty clear message there. Oh, and by the end, her father gives her his blessing to go. Awww… (That was partly sarcastic.)

Sometimes when I find myself pulling meaning, guidance or relatability from entertainment – like I am right now – I feel silly for a moment. And then I realize that stories exist for a reason. Besides entertaining us, they offer truth, often universal, and almost always simultaneously mirroring and influencing our lives. Yes, even silly TV shows that are often guilty of being oversimplified and somewhat unrealistic have something to offer, depending on what you’re looking for.

And then, when I think of my silly dreams to be a writer and I worry that not only is it unattainable, but that it often feels simply unimportant, I think about how much TV shows, books and movies have made my life better, and then it doesn’t feel so silly.

“Get your camera outta’ my face!”


Anytime I’ve tried to take photos of strangers, I haven’t just felt awkward, I actually harbored a serious fear that they would secretly curse me or, worse, yell at me for taking their picture without permission. Besides that, I always wonder if it’s okay to secretly snap someone’s picture without them knowing, even if it’s in a public place.

Well, dilemma solved! Glimpse has a little article that discusses just that problem, which I guess is more common that I thought. Although, the suggestion they’re offering, which is to start a conversation with your subject, is a little hard to take, especially if there’s a language barrier or, frankly, if you’re just shy. But the best advice is always easier said than done, I guess. Personally, though, I’d still rather be some kind of unseen ninja photographer…

Ugly = Sad, and Pretty = Bad

Culture, Entertainment

As if there wasn’t already so much evidence in support of this sad, sad truth, here’s another.

In the recent episode of Ugly Betty where Betty finally gets her braces off, she ends up hitting her head and seeing what her life would have been like sans braces in an extended dream sequence.

Key points:

Bitchy Betty

Pretty/Bitchy Betty

1. Born with perfect teeth, Betty grows up to be a bitchy, materialistic… meanie because without that imperfection to keep her grounded and humble, she doesn’t know how to be a good person.

Ugly/Fat Hilda

Ugly/Fat Hilda

2. Betty’s older sister, Hilda, who is known as the “pretty sister,” is actually ugly (read: fat) in this alternate universe because there can only be one pretty sister and the other one is ugly (again, read: fat). And, of course, Hilda is pretty miserable and never had a kid in high school (because being fat is better than birth control).

Ugly/Sad Mark

Ugly/Sad Mark

3. Mark, who is generally very put-together and confident in the show, is a miserable push-over and lacking in self confidence in this alternate reality because the Evil Betty took his job and was mean to him. Of course, this miserable version of Mark is ugly (read: wears glasses and has somewhat greasy hair).

I know the show is an ongoing commentary (of sorts) on popular definitions of beauty, but their usual comments on the subject don’t tend to bother me. This episode, however, bothered me. Why did having perfect teeth make Betty a vain bitch?

Okay, I know, I know… I get the rationale that the inevitable difficulty that comes with having an imperfection (according to our society’s standards) can keep a person humble and builds character, blah, blah, blah… But I don’t agree with the idea that pretty people end up being vain or shallow. It’s possible to care about outer beauty without forgetting about inner beauty.