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The (On-going) Saga of Nancy Upton & American Apparel

The (On-going) Saga of Nancy Upton & American Apparel

I’ve been avidly following the saga of American Apparel’s “plus-size” model competition, and the entry of a fantastic woman named Nancy Upton, but previously chose not to add to the many, many blogs about it. Until now.

Quick refresher: American Apparel, which makes skimpy clothing for very small people who like to pose naked, decided to launch their new size XL (extra large, guys! That means fat people are OK now!) with a model-scouting competition.  Their call for models was… less than desirable:

Think you are the Next BIG Thing?
Calling curvy ladies everywhere! Our best-selling Disco Pant (and around 10 other sexy styles) are now available in size XL, for those of us who need a little extra wiggle room where it counts. We’re looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next XLent model, send us photos of you and your junk to back it up.

Just send us two recent photographs of yourself, one that clearly shows your face and one of your body. We’ll select a winner to be flown out to our Los Angeles headquarters to star in your own bootylicious photoshoot. Runners up will win an enviable assortment of our favorite new styles in XL!

Show us what you’re workin’ with!

Note that, yes,  it is always written as the Next BIG Thing. BIG girls. BIG. (and please bear in mind that American Apparel size XL is still BLOODY TINY) And, generally, American Apparel is known for being sexist, misogynist and sizist. All around ick.

Nancy Upton, amused by the call for models, decided to do a humorous photoshoot with a photographer friend and enter the contest in jest, as a statement about American Apparel’s back-handed treatment of us fatties. Her photos were hilarious and awesome, and as the contest was based on voting, Upton won by a landslide.

However, Nancy will not be the next American Apparel XL brand ambassador. Nancy received a letter from AA’s Creative Director that was… colorful, to say the least. This is where I decided to Say Something. You can read the letter in full here, but these are my favorite bits:

Along with four other women, I conceived of the Next BIG Thing campaign for American Apparel.

Translation: women came up with this, so it can’t be misogynist!

It’s a shame that your project attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge based on your personal distaste for our use of light-hearted language, and that “bootylicous” was too much for you to handle. While we may be a bit TOO inspired by Beyoncé, and do have a tendency to occasionally go pun-crazy, we try not to take ourselves too seriously around here.

Translation: I think I’m an awesome copywriter, you bitter fat person. You can’t take a joke. We’re not “serious” around here — sexual harassment, misogyny and making fun of fat girls (especially when our XL range isn’t actually for fat people) is A-OK!

I wonder if you had taken just a moment to imagine that this campaign could actually be well intentioned, and that my team and I are not out to offend and insult women, would you have still behaved in the same way, mocking the confident and excited participants who put themselves out there?

Translation: Won’t you think of all the poor fat girls who desperately want us to vindicate their existence by making them pose half naked in our adverts? Again, I’m a WOMAN, so I can’t possibly be misogynist! I have NO PROBLEM with reducing myself to a series of body parts or the Male Gaze, so clearly YOU are the dumb, wet blanket.

Maybe you’ll find it interesting that in addition to simply responding to customer demand and feedback, when you’re a vertically-integrated company, actual jobs are created from new size additions. In this case, for the XL women who will model them, industrial workers that make them, retail employees that sell them and beyond. That’s the amazing reality of American Apparel’s business.

Translation: The hipsters love this shit. And the lawyers/PR team made me include it.

There are thousands of brands in the market who have no intention of supporting natural – and completely normal – full-figured women, and American Apparel is making a conscious effort to change that, both with our models and our line.

Translation: by natural, normal and full-figured, I mean women size 10-12 who can squeeze into our size XL. Not actual fat women LOL.

If every brand that tried to do this was met with such negative press, we may have to wait another decade for the mainstream to embrace something so simple.

Translation: Fat people RUIN EVERYTHING!

In the past, American Apparel has been targeted for various reasons, many times by journalists who weren’t willing to go the extra mile to even visit the factory or meet the people in charge. Dov is a great executive director and American Industrialist, but there are hundreds of other decision-makers in our company, over half of whom are women.

Translation: I love misogynist douche bags! I am surrounded by women who also have no problem with this. We’re WOMEN, so clearly EVERYTHING MUST BE OK.

Oh – and regarding winning the contest, while you were clearly the popular choice, we have decided to award the prizes to other contestants that we feel truly exemplify the idea of beauty inside and out, and whom we will be proud to have representing our company.

Translation: This was the whole point of my letter, but I think very highly of myself so I treated you to a bajillion paragraphs of me patting myself on the back, making excuses and trying to make my company sounds like Not-Douchebags.


Please feel free to contact me directly anytime. If you want to know the real scoop about our company before writing a story, I’ve got it (or if I don’t, I can put you in touch with the person that does!).

Translation: But lots of people read your Tumblr, so… let’s be friends!


I mean… SERIOUSLY? Wow. If you’re curious, this is the Creative Director’s page on American Apparel’s website. She’s a gem!

Some of the tripe trotted out in this letter… the bizarre notion that women can’t possibly be misogynist toward other women. That the bend of the campaign and the language used in it aren’t demeaning to fat women. (again, the irony that AA clothes are TINY and size XL is not actually meant to fit real big girls) Frankly, if we want to really read into it, the focus on “bootylicious” and junk in the trunk is really limiting and sizist, reiterating the notion that being acceptably curvy — and “full figured” is limited to having culturally acceptable, womanly curves — and not fat in other places. (so: body snarking/politics!)

American Apparel was not looking for plus size models. They were looking for culturally acceptable “curvy” bodies with big butts. Upton’s response was humorous and a breath of fresh air – we “big” girls aren’t all sad and desperately waiting for that XL casting call. We can take the assumption that we sit around all day eating and turn it into a fabulous series of photos. American Apparel is Not Happy that she won. Who doesn’t take things seriously now?

You, Nancy Upton, are my hero. I love the photos, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and I’m sorry you had to receive this venomous letter — with media outlets copied in on it (really?).

*please note that the “translations” are completely made up, and are my attempt to be biting/funny. You know, in case that needs to be said. XD

Photo credit to Shannon Skloss Photography

Posted in Fashion, Fat in the Media, Fat Shaming, FeaturedComments (6)

Even your dishware can fat shame you now

Even your dishware can fat shame you now

You know where fat shaming and food guilt are absent? On my dishware! Luckily, Fishs Eddy is there for me — now I can have demotivational messages that remind me I shouldn’t have eaten that, fatty, right on my dishware!

No, really. Called “Intervention-Ware,” these meet-cute plates don messages such as:

  • “It’s hard to be around you when you eat like this.”
  • “Do you really need that second helping?”
  • “For the love of God stop eating.”
  • “Please stop eating. We’re worried about you.”

A second piece features the message “Big Mistake” in the center of the side plate.

Who on EARTH would you buy this for? If someone bought me a plate that said “For the love of God, stop eating,” I would DECK THEM.

In lieu of further angry commenting, I will show you the dishware in question and open things up for discussion. Fishs Eddy says LOL IT’S FUNNY. I say LOL ITS OFFENSIVE. Rock on, culture of fat shaming & social stigma!

What do you think?

Source: thanks to Jezebel for the tip-off

Posted in Fat in the Media, Featured, FoodComments (3)

On diet books for children & solving the “obesity epidemic”

On diet books for children & solving the “obesity epidemic”

Every so often, you get a comment that incenses. I am… concisely challenged, so no surprise when a passionate response balloons into monster of a comment.

Yes, this is about Maggie Goes On A Diet… again. Dead horse, I AM BEATING YOU. It’s no longer truly about Maggie Goes on a Diet, but about the various reactions to it — especially those in favor — and what that says about the United States, our young girls and how we view fat people.  This individual took exception to this particular point from my original Maggie post:

“You know what would be nice? A children’s book about a fat girl who LIKES HERSELF and people are NICE TO HER. And she can EAT HEALTHY and, hell!, still be STAR OF THE SOCCER TEAM, but doesn’t lose any weight. Because she’s healthy and happy wherever her body decides to sit, weight and size-wise. THAT WOULD BE NICE.”

Now, I think that is my salient point! A happy fat kid who can be Healthy At Every Size — as a soccer star! How can anyone disagree with that?


This is the comment that I received this morning (emphasis mine):

How about we appreciate the book as it is written as it has a lot of important points that young girls (and boys)can undoubtedly relate to. And for you, why don’t you start working on your own book so you can choose your own message. Everybody needs to stop acting so outraged for someone addressing a very real and very large (no pun intended) problem in our country-obesity! Focus your energy on ways to help not hinder. Our young need motivation to get into healthier lifestyles and this book sounds like a great example of how they can improve their lives and their health!

Here is what I wrote, then felt like a Crazy Person to post in response – I like to rebut idiocy, but don’t want an individual to feel attacked. I am turning it into a post, because what this commenter said is reflective of views I’ve seen on Tumblr, Huffington Post, Gawker and dozens of other places. And my response is for MORE than just this one commenter:

Here’s the thing. You seem to be as brainwashed as everyone else about the “obesity epidemic” and the common steps that people take to “solve it.” Namely: fat shaming, and telling girls that the only thing that matters about them is how they look. The book “as it is written” tells young girls that no one will like them if they’re fat, that you can’t be healthy fat (a lie, especially at age 14!) and that the only way to be active and have people like you is to conform and get skinny.


I was actually a fat kid, so let me tell you what fat boys and girls can relate to. Yes, we can relate to bullying. But you know what I could have related to when I was a fat little 8-year-old? A character in the media who was fat and HAPPY. Instead, I saw happy thin people and miserable, lazy, unattractive fat people — I got the message that I was Not OK and I should Do Something About It. Enter a compulsive eating disorder, and a lifetime of yo-yo dieting. I am 27, and only just learned to unconditionally love myself this year! Books like this promote eating disorders, as well as girls seeing themselves as objects, because the most important thing about us is our body. I went in the opposite direction, rebelling against thin standards (subconsciously). So many girls will see a book like this and develop orthorexia, anorexia, bulimia, compulsive exercising disorder — you name it.


This book is NOT about a “healthy lifestyle.” You can have a healthy lifestyle and be overweight. This book is about a sad fat girl who gets thin and happy. Obesity is a problem in this country, but not because girls aren’t “trying hard enough.” Look at the advertising industry. Images on TV, film, magazines. The way that we talk about fat people — like lazy, slovenly lepers. How the cheapest, most readily available food to 90% of society is absolute crap. These are problems that contribute to obesity. NOT little girls not trying hard enough. If little girls (and boys) learned to love themselves and knew that you can be healthy — yes, totally healthy! — and not have to be a size two, then maybe they wouldn’t enter the destructive cycle of dieting, which actually contributes to obesity.


I am not a children’s book author — it is actually one of the most competitive fields of publishing, which is why this author self-published. I am working on other creative material and you know what I write? Happy fat characters. I am trying to do something about it, including but not limited to this blog. And that includes calling out ridiculous examples of middle-aged fat men writing books for 6-year-olds that tell them how to diet.


And it’s true, lovely blog readers – my not-quite-formed novel features — gasp! — and Not Thin main character. She’s not a Big Girl, as it is not a Big Girl Does Stuff kind of book, but she is, incidentally, Not Thin and is — shockingly! — happy and loved and interesting and Does Stuff that has nothing to do with her body.

This commenter is right — we have to Do Something! But not because there is an “obesity epidemic.” Yes, we have a problem with obesity, but one of the problems is that we only accept a narrow, incredibly thin standard as beautiful, likeable and acceptable.  I’ve lived in countries that don’t worship the alter of size zero, and you know what? Their average size is smaller than ours. They don’t have as much shit food being shoved down people’s throats by the media. They don’t have as many morbidly obese people as we do. The “solution” to the “problem” is to reframe our thinking about bodies and food. NOT teach girls how to diet.

Posted in Advertising, Books, Fat Identity, Fat in the Media, Fat ShamingComments (2)

Life fail: “Subtle Ways To Tell Her She’s Getting Fat”

Life fail: “Subtle Ways To Tell Her She’s Getting Fat”

So AskMen.com, in an effort to aid men in Being Awesome and Having Hot Girlfriends, has published an interesting top ten list. Top 10: Subtle Ways To Tell Her She’s Getting Fat.”

Amazingly, unlike with most journalism nowadays, this isn’t just the case of an incendiary headline + mundane article. AskMen.com reaches truly new levels of disgusting misogyny with this one. Fellow blogger Jillian wrote her own pointed commentary on the piece and pointed me towards it (please read!).

Let me share some of these gems:

No.1 Take her to places where she has to wear a swimsuit

If she seems content staying at home eating donuts in her track pants, why not start taking her to places where she has no choice but to wear a swimsuit? As she awkwardly looks around at all the slender bodies having a great time, she’ll more than likely vow to do something about her recent weight gain, especially if she knows she’ll be back there in the not-so-distant future.

No.2 Leave “now” and “then” photos lying around

This is a highly effective way to draw attention to the explicit changes to her body as you see them.

No.7 Serve her unsatisfactory portions

When dishing up meals for the two of you, try giving her smaller-than-usual amounts. By making her ask for more food, you might succeed in shaming her into an acknowledgment of her recent weight gain, and hopefully to instigate a conversation about what she’s going to do about it. If you feel as though you’re starving yourself in the process, remember you can always go back for more when she’s not looking.

No.10 Buy her clothes that are too small

If you buy her clothes that are obviously too small for her, not only will she finally have to admit that she’s putting on weight, but she can easily return them for her correct size. First, she’ll have to reveal to you that the clothes are too small. “Oh,” you might say, “I thought you were a size 8. Isn’t that what you were last summer?” The onus is now on her to do something about it.

Sadly, there are more, including number 3, which was so bad, they actually changed it — originally it was “sabotage her chair.” That’s right — they were advising men to go full Shallow Hal on their girlfriends. What. The. Fuck.

Aside from the very obvious problem of OMGWTF WHO WOULD DATE THESE DOUCHE BAGS, it’s shameful how smug and manipulative most of these tactics are. Shame her into losing weight by buying her too-small clothing? Taking her to the beach? FEEDING HER SMALLER PORTIONS SO IT WILL PROMPT A DISCUSSION OF HER WEIGHT?!

Congratulations, AskMen.com. You managed to squeeze more misogyny and fat hate into a single post than I think I have ever seen before. *slow clap*

THIS is why women have eating disorders. THIS is why women are in abusive relationships and hate themselves. THIS is why the diet industry thrives. THIS is why women are raped and sexually assaulted with sickening regularity (because, you see, we exist solely for the benefit of men). THIS is why fat people, especially women, hate themselves.

Posted in Dating, Fat Shaming, Featured, Gender Politics & FeminismComments (18)

The Invisible (Horrible, Lazy, Unattractive) Fat Person

The Invisible (Horrible, Lazy, Unattractive) Fat Person

This post originally was posted on All The Weigh on June 16, 2011. I am reposting it here for posterity :) If this is new to you, please comment! But also do read the original discussion in the comments on ATW — there’s some good stuff there!

When Kenlie asked me to write a guest post on one of my favorite topics — fat hate in society and the strong influence of media — I was honored and excited. Then I tried to write. Needless to say, this enormous, weighty (ha!) issue ballooned into a post of monstrous proportions. So, I shall preface the following by saying: I edited it down. A lot. I hope to expand on many of the topics I’ve merely touched on in future posts, and through discussion.

For many of you, especially if you’ve lived any portion of your life overweight, that society hates and discriminates against fat people may be horribly obvious and my statements redundant. However, I find that sometimes stating what seems blatantly obvious can set off light-bulbs for others, and yourself. It’s especially important to second-guess the media and how it portrays reality — is something so because the media reflects reality, or because it SHAPES how we perceive and create the world around us?

People like to associate a variety of negative words with "fat people." Most are not true. All of them are hurtful and cruel.

No one likes to talk about discrimination against fat people

We’re a progressive society, constantly making strides against disgusting and demoralizing practices such as racism and homophobia. Minority and underrepresented groups, including but certainly not limited to blacks, Hispanics, Asians and LGBTQ, are becoming increasingly (and rightfully) visible on TV, in film, in music, media and advertising.

Yet hatred continues to be spewed against fat people, in the most extreme incarnation (see: Internet comments). And, more subversively, poking fun at fat people (see: token fat character); making assertions about their bodies, eating, health and fitness habits (fatsplaining, “fat as a lifestyle choice”); and, simply, not including them AT ALL in media, rage in society and culture. Fat people are simultaneously invisible and derided for possessing a number of negative characteristics, thrust upon them by virtue of how they look on the outside.

Fat hate — so bad, we even hate ourselves

The hate that is lobbied against fat people is staggering, pervasive and subversive. It’s so omni-present in media and society that most people don’t notice it, or if they do, they explain it away. Like misogyny which is also so entrenched in society that women themselves don’t realize it most of the time, people tend to have a laundry list of excuses and reasons for why it’s “not that bad” or “you’re just whining” or “you’re too sensitive” when you call them out on fat hate. Fat hate is so pervasive, fat people hate fat people.

No, really. If you are now or have ever been fat, overweight, obese — whatever you want to call it — have a nice, honest think about your past interactions with other fat people. Do you see another fat person — usually one who is bigger than you are — and smugly think to yourself “well, I’d never let myself get that bad!” or “Ugh, they clearly don’t exercise or try to eat right. Put down the cheeseburger.” Or, the slightly more innocuous but just as damning “how did *she* get such a hot guy — she’s fatter than I am!”

Many of these Schadenfreude-esque thoughts are somewhat natural — everyone does it, to almost everyone else — but many people take it beyond the “fleeting, dark thoughts” territory. If a fat person speaks out about discrimination, you certainly do see other large people call that person out for being a whiner, or making waves. Fat people are just as likely to guilt and fat shame as thin people — they do it on The Biggest Loser!

It’s often the fat person who reinforces the fat = bad; thin = good trope, because all our lives, this is what we are taught. One of the best places for this in popular culture? Shows like The Biggest Loser do a lot of good, but next time you watch a season, look at the adjectives the contestants use at the beginning vs. the end, and the clips editors choose to use. I’m not saying obese people can’t be miserable, but the subtle language of weight loss makeover programs is beginning/fat = bad, bad, bad, MISERABLE, unhappy, alone, bad, bad, bad which slowly transitions to thin = I AM SO PRETTY AND HAPPY AND NOTHING IN MY LIFE COULD EVER BE BAD AGAIN.

This just isn’t true! It’s not that you can’t want to be thinner and healthier. But equating being thin with happiness is dangerous. You will have good and happy moments in your life when you are fat, and you will have good and happy moments in your life when you’re thin. Same can be said for misery and feeling rotten.

Why do we think this about ourselves and our lives?

We are taught through relentless skinny images & media messaging that fat = bad... and thin is never thin enou

Blame the media! (no, really, let’s blame the media)

This is because we are taught, through every minutiae of our interaction with each other, through media — TV, film, music, advertisements, magazines, newscasts, etc. — that fat is Ugly. Fat is Bad. Fat is Stupid. Fat is Lazy. Thin (and sexy) = GOOD, LOVELY, AWESOME, BETTER. Most of the time, fat people are invisible. We don’t see people like us in magazines (Plus Size models = size ten. SIZE TEN), or on TV, or in movies. There aren’t fat newscasters (even the friendly, rotund weather man Al Roker is now a Skinny Thing), fat book heroines are few and far between (though better than TV) and, generally, TV and film are a barren wasteland of fat people. We are sent a message every day by the absence of larger people in these positive, informative, fantasy and “beautiful” roles.

Women, especially, rarely see representations of themselves. Teen comedies & dramas feature waif-thin beautiful people having Beautiful People Problems like juggling three boyfriends and finding the perfect dress for Prom. The intrepid, neurotic romantic heroines of rom coms are invariably a size 6 (whittled down the requisite size zero, nowadays), and even when they are meant to be “overweight,” they do it Bridget Jones style and have a size 2 actress “balloon up” to, what?, an eight? There being exceptions to every rule, I concede recent glimmers of hope: Drop Dead Diva & Huge (oh list, you are a short one. And also half cancelled).

In cases where we do see visible fat people, they only come in two “sizes”: trying to lose weight/makeover project and Negative Horrible Foil/Unloveable Sidekick. How many times have you seen the plump, dumpy sidekick crack jokes and end up alone? Invariably, either way, Token Fat Character eats. All the time. Whereas most characters on TV and in movies NEVER EAT (as in, actually chew food)… or use the bathroom (ever notice that?), we always see fat characters chowing down. On Glee, token fat girl Lauren DEMANDS A BRIBE of Cadbury Creme Eggs to join Glee Club. Fellow curvaceous character Mercedes was given an entire plot line about eating cafeteria tater tots. I mean… come on!

Probably the only positive plus size character I can think of from the last 27 years I’ve been on earth is Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray.

Fat girls = 1;Thin People: ELEVENTY-BILLION.

In the one arena where arguably Americans get to see overweight women in highly visible roles — daytime talk show hosts — we get a) Oprah (on a perpetual diet cycle) b) Ricki Lake (couldn’t get work post-Hairspray/fat; starved herself to get her show) c) Star Jones (evil wench who got gastric bypass) d) Rosie O’Donnell (ridiculed in pop-culture for being fat/unattractive when she came out as a lesbian). Yes, we all love Oprah (and her positive contributions to fat issues I think are notable), but she’s Oprah. Daytime TV’s Goddess can be any damn size she wants. Everyone else? Get skinny, then maybe you’ll get work.

I mean, REALLY?

In the end, the message that not only fat people, but thin people get is: fat people are invisible/bad, and only thin, beautiful people deserve happiness/love/positive attention. It trickles down and is pervasive (and equally tied to disturbing trends of misogyny in society), and leads to the real problem: the Othering of fat people, and the rise of flat-out hatred of them.

People are horrible; aka: the Internet kills the filter of basic human decency

You don’t have to go far to see this ugly, judgmental attitude in people — just read the comments on any mainstream article relating to weight loss topics. On my blog, The Curvy Nerd, rather than engage with asinine comments on blogs such as The Huffington Post, Gawker and The Daily Beast, I highlight and poke fun at the worst of the worst — feel free to browse through some of my finds, so far.

Generally, you see the same key phrases over and over again: “fat is a choice,” (aka: Fat As A Lifestyle Choice) “eat less, exercise more,” “I don’t want a fat person to infringe on MY space/life/whatever”.

It’s amazing how little empathy people have for overweight & obese people. They don’t hesitate to dehumanize, denigrate and attack fat people, usually with comments that draw the most outrageous conclusions about fat people in general as well as specific larger individuals (usually in response to commenters and/or public figures who appear to be or confess to be large). These things include, but are certainly not limited to: that you are unhealthy, lazy, ugly, miserable, stupid, entitled (no, really!), dirty, sexless, alone and undeserving of love. Many people will flat out say these things.

Then there are the “concern trolls.” These are people who Don’t Like Fat People, but they translate this into acceptable terms, ie: Fat Is Unhealthy. Then they fatsplain to you/fat people how being fat should make you feel, how it’s essential you Get Healthy and Stop Being Fat. Because they care about you, they do!

People we love can also communicate the message that fat = bad, though generally they do not hate fat people, or you, and will unconsciously say things that hurt you. My favorite is “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful!” Translation (on your end): you’re not fat! Fat is BAD, and you are NICE and I LIKE you… so let’s talk about how BEAUTIFUL you are (to me). I didn’t realize what an insidious phrase this was until recently. I do it too! We need to divorce the ideas that being fat = bad. But it’s a deeply ingrained thought within society (see; media).

Let’s get academic for a moment

Beyond the anecdotal evidence of people being hateful on the Internet, numerous studies have been done on the attitudes people hold towards the obese. One study found that children not only ascribed patently negative attributes to fat people (and positive ones to thin people), but that their views were reflective of their parents (who also participated in the study). An indicative pull-quote:

“Specifically, research shows that children are reluctant to play with overweight peers and are more likely to assign negative adjectives such as lonely, lazy, sad, stupid, ugly, and dirty to an overweight child than to an average weight or lean child.”

We pick up these attitudes young, and hold them for life.

More gems to illustrate a wide-spread trend of discrimination and hatred held against fat people:

Where does all this leave us? Well, the current trend is Let’s Beat Everyone Over The Head With Obesity As A Health Epidemic and OMGSHITTONS of fat reality shows. Instead of approaching the core issue of people hating fat people, the cycle of negativity, issues of food/eating portrayal in advertising, and Healthy At Any Size, we are trying to SHAME fat people into being less fat. Oi vey. But that’s another topic for another (LONG) post. :)

So thank you for having me, and sorry for the essay! I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts — what has your personal experience been, with the media and with other people’s attitudes and expectations?

Posted in Fat Identity, Fat in the Media, Fat Shaming, Featured, Meta/Personal, TVComments (2)

Comment fail: Meghan McCain responds to Glen Beck’s fat shaming

Comment fail: Meghan McCain responds to Glen Beck’s fat shaming

Meghan McCain posted a column on The Daily Beast responding to a bit Glen Beck did on his show where he pretended to vomit for ten minutes after seeing her “naked” (from the collarbones up) in a PSA. Her response is a good one, and I recommend reading it. Apparently, people have been body politicking McCain for a while saying she’s fat? Crazy train.

There is nothing wrong with her body! (note: photo is from 2008)

Things get really interesting in the comments, where one user, DSchlageter, rails against lazy, weak, pathetic fat people. Other users try to counter him, to not much effect…


This may be the only time I say this… But he’s right. Eat less exercise more Megan, being overweight is as bad as sunshine. Not that Glenn Beck is a honed razor himself. Eve realized “Nobody ever got fat eating apples” and got kicked out of the Garden for being healthy, now look at us. Ironic.


People who have nothing constructive to say often resort to the lowest common demoninator in criticism. Lack of value in their comments is reflective more of them than of those they are criticizing. DSchlageter and Glenn Beck are cut of the same ilk.


Not really David Schlageter has run 4 marathons He finished a 50 mile group and 84 mile individual bike ride last weekend, made a spin class Tuesday night after working out at lunch benching 245 for reps and hitting an intense weight training cardio class last night. That’s in addition to picking my son up from school, getting him to tennis and karate class, working with him on his homework and working on iPhone app development late so don’t feed me the “I’m too busy” shtick. He thinks saying “it’s ok to be fat”, “being fat is normal”, “you look good fat” reinforces weak behavior. He thinks being fat is being weak and lazy. Megan is out porking up eating out, wearing black and getting fat. You want to help her out call it out.


Physically, you may be a “strong” man, but you have an incredibly weak mind.

This whole thing is sick to me. A perfectly beautiful woman makes a PSA with other beautiful women and it leads to fat jokes. Please, can we all let Beck bury himself in one of the many holes he has dug for himself. What a small, simple-minded, publicity whore who lends nothing to the public discourse which so many of us are desperate for. Can we get back to having legitimate discussions of the many important issues of the day?


@ Schlageter,

So glad to hear you’re obsessed with yourself. I happen to be pretty fit myself, but I don’t judge others by their physique.

Do us a favor as stay out of everyone else’s business. If anything you may want to work-out your body a little less and your brain a little more. You are clearly unable to see the value in what McCain is doing here, nor the harm of what Beck is doing.


@ Mr Fit Johnny Aces, maybe you should get a little critical and create some awareness, the number of over weight people in this country is amazing. Pointing out that people are fat because they eat too much and exercise too little isn’t a bad thing. Telling them “it’s ok” and making excuses is. Megan is presenting her naked body in a video espousing healthy choices and it’s overweight. Beck is right but rude.

Pretty galling, right? Then it got WORSE!

Tony Hines

Good post. Being fat is a choice. If a person is OK with their body then being fat and being called fat would not be an insult.

If a person is fat and they are insulted by being called fat then they have a self esteme issue they need to work on as well as a weight problem.

It’s always disheartening to get a reminder that PEOPLE REALLY THINK LIKE THIS. That demeaning and “calling out” fat people is going to make them “eat less and exercise more.” That it’s that simple!

And being fat is a choice?! There is a BIGGGGG difference between making poor choices regarding diet and exercise (for whatever reason) and “choosing” to be fat. In fact, Tony Hines, there are many people who ARE ok with their bodies and DO call themselves fat. Fat doesn’t have to be pejorative. But people like Hines & Schlageter use fat pejoratively, and you wonder why “fat people” have “self esteem issues?” My friend, you are CLUELESS.

Posted in Comment Fail, Fat in the MediaComments (2)

Double standard: overweight men vs. overweight women

Double standard: overweight men vs. overweight women

Last week, Salon published and then Jezebel did a discussion post on how society goes relatively easy on overweight men, compared to women. I aptly followed the Jez discussion threads and have been noodling on it ever since. Salon’s main contention was an interesting one:

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 70 percent of men are overweight, compared with 52 percent of women. Yet, somehow, 90 percent of the commercial weight-loss industry’s clients are female, and somehow, this industry hasn’t seen males as a viable business. How can that be?

Two sentiments emerged in the comments on Jezebel:

  • YES, we should be harder on overweight men. They see big buffoons married to thin, hot women, whereas overweight women are deemed sexless and loveless.
  • NO, we shouldn’t demonize ANYONE for their size, period.

I see value in both arguments.

The fact of the matter is that, yes, there is a double standard. Just as men enjoy a place of privilege on a general level, they also enjoy an extension of it when it comes to media representations of their bodies, and the expectations placed upon them. Yes, fat hate is pervasive across society, but a giant helping of it is heaped upon women in particular. Why? Because women are meant to be objects to be observed and enjoyed by men. Most advertising and media is designed (oft subconsciously) around this concept, so women bear the brunt of fat shaming because HOW DARE YOU BE UNPLEASING TO THE EYE?!?!

I, too, have observed the overweight buffoon/hot, thin wife/girlfriend trope in media and it has bugged me. (This ties into a whole other subject I’ve been meaning to discuss — women ‘downgrading’ physically while mean are expected to ‘upgrade,’ and not the other way around) That said, perhaps I have merely been conditioned so, or I’m open-minded, but I don’t mind a tubby, huggy bear kind of guy. I use a Kevin James/King of Queens picture with this post to demonstrate the phenomenon… but I actually find Kevin James & his schtick totally adorable.

It’s not that you’d never see the dichotomy in real life of a big guy/thin and/or hot woman. It’s that you never see the opposite in media — fat/overweight/obese woman with a thin, gorgeous husband.

So there is a sense of annoyance, and even occasionally rage, that a man can be 50, 100 lbs overweight and be lauded, but a woman cannot be the same and get the same positive treatment. HOWEVER, to go after men and fat shame them the way we are fat shamed? Doesn’t really solve the problem or help anyone. At the end of the day, the media/people shouldn’t fat shame *anyone*.

That said, the original point of the Salon piece was with regard to Weight Watchers now marketing to men, and wondering why it took so long. I have to say, a marketing campaign directed at men about making lifestyle changes, if it strays away from a fat shaming tactic, is a-ok with me.

What do you think? Is it a unique experience to be a fat woman, verses what men experience? At the end of the day, is it the same?


Posted in Fat Identity, Fat in the Media, Fat Shaming, Featured, Gender Politics & Feminism, In the NewsComments (11)

Curvy Girl Dating – Robin Kassner, & humiliating the fat chick

Curvy Girl Dating – Robin Kassner, & humiliating the fat chick

Robin Kassner‘s disastrous turn on The Millionaire Matchmaker is old news, but last week she won a Soup Award, which reminded me of the debacle. I think it’s an excellent example of how overweight women are made to seem ridiculous and pathetic in a romantic situation, especially with “hot guys.”

Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger seems to have issues with women in general, holding her female clients up to a more stringent standard (especially when it comes to who is/isn’t “in their league”) and generally having a hostile attitude towards them from the word go. But in the fourth season’s 11th episode (which aired January 2011), Patti displayed a special level of contempt for her client, Robin Kassner, an overweight PR guru. Patti calls her a “plumpty dumpty” and ridicules Kassner for wanting to date a Matthew McConaughey type.

Now, to be fair, Matthew McConaughey? Does that mean Kassner wants the smelly naked bongo playing bits, too? </joke>

Stanger tells Kassner she’s dreaming out of her league, and designs one of her social experiments on mixer night to put her in her place. She recruits Luke, a purportedly attractive (if you like cocky beefcakes) plumber with nothing in common with Kassner, who gives quips to camera along the lines of him not being attracted to Kassner, but up for letting her buy him things. In the other corner, we have a nice-guy, stocky, slightly awkward looking cop, who has tons in common with Kassner and seems to like her.

Now, as a viewer, I was rooting for the cop (Anthony), or really anyone *but* Luke. Not because I didn’t think a big girl like Robin deserved a “hot” guy, but because he played the part of the asshole (whether it was at the producer’s request is a legitimate question) and they literally had NULL in common. That said, I did think the cop was a bit of a under-reach — Patty says she think Robin needs to aim for a “5″ not a “10,” and the cop was just a bit… meh. Are we surprised that Robin chose a young guy with a full head of hair… while she was drunk? Yeah, me neither. Who is Patty to tell Robin who she has to be attracted to? Yes, it’s key to not be superficial when seeking out mates, but what is it with people forcing fatties to downgrade? Patty *says* there aren’t that many 10s falling from the sky for people at any size. I call bullshit — she finds 10s ALL THE TIME, especially for her aging, pervy male clients.

Here’s the problem, with Stanger, the show and Kassner. Stanger thinks that Robin’s a silly fat girl who needs to lower her body/physicality standards. The show loads her up with alcohol (on camera they say there’s a limit; in post-show interviews Kassner has said they “force fed” her booze), and Kassner is apparently a light-weight. And then Kassner, who does have elements of the shallow and ridiculous about her, a sad parody of a young New York woman desperate to live out her Sex in the City fantasy, opens her tipsy/drunk mouth and makes a complete fool of herself. She simpers to a circle of men about thinking they’re all hot whilst sipping her cocktail, and talking about Hello Kitty, her pink apartment and her two dogs, Bruiser and Paris Hilton (no, really).

(Jezebel has the only clips I could find of Patty’s comments & the mixer. I can’t seem to embed them, so click to watch. See the ridiculousness that is Patty’s fat hating + Robin making a fool of herself)

And the date is a TRAIN WRECK. Happily, Hulu has a high-res clip of it:

Pretty bad, no? According to Kassner, much of it is a work of fiction. From an interview with her after the show aired:

They told Luke to be nasty to me. They told him to be obnoxious, that it was his role. I never said I wanted to have sex with him, they dubbed that in. I never offered him sex or a hand job. Me and Patti were talking about sex, and they dubbed that in to the middle of my date.

Regardless of whether or not Kassner is a little shallow, more than a bit ridiculous and a horrible drunk, the picture we get from this episode of The Millionaire Matchmaker is the sad, fat single girl who thinks she can throw money at an attractive (out of her league) guy so he will love her. She’s “easy” because she is fat and desperate. And we are meant to laugh and ridicule her, through well-cut montages and editing.

Kassner herself said it best: “It was both misogynistic and against curvy women.”


The message is the same one we get everywhere else — that if you’re fat, let alone a “millionaire” that you should take what you get. You’re over-reaching for a “10″ — “5″ or lower is where you should be. Any attractive man who goes out with you doesn’t actually find you attractive, and in fact is laughing at you behind your back. Other women, especially formerly “plumpty dumpty” women like Stanger, will be the most cruel to you in this respect. To wit:

Silly fat girl; love is for thins!

You can’t help but feel bad for Kassner, who probably went into this experience thinking she’d get some nice PR for herself and a date, and came out a national laughing stock; the latest poster girl for the silly, stupid fat woman with a dream. She’s still trying to milk her moment, including appearing on The Soup and trying to make fun of herself, but as she says the funny lines, her eyes are dead and you can just feel her sense of disappointment, and that hysterical despair we all feel every once in a while — everyone is laughing at me, because I dare to be fat and want love?

Funnily enough, The Soup is filmed in my building. I wish I had known Kassner was going to be here, because I would have gone down and given her a hug. I think she needs one.

Resources: Robin Kassner interview BEFORE she saw the show | Robin Kassner interview AFTER she saw the show

Posted in Dating, Fat Identity, Fat in the Media, Featured, Gender Politics & Feminism, TVComments (26)

The Biggest Loser, and the culture of fat shaming

The Biggest Loser, and the culture of fat shaming

I’ve blogged about The Biggest Loser previously, at which point I was a casual viewer, having watched approximately five episodes of the current season (season 11). Since then, I’ve drunk the Biggest Loser Kool-Aid in massive quantities and have marathoned the entire 9th season, added all my favorite contestants on Twitter and am very actively engaged in the current season and its trajectory. The show has turned out to be an important part of my weight loss/fitness “regime” (as I joked in the original post), as it does serve as a positive reinforcement each week and a reminder that I need to stay on track, and get fit. I have to credit The Biggest Loser with inspiring me to sign up for my first 5K. To wit: begrudgingly, yes, I’m a fan. It’s inspirational, and tells some good stories.

However, one of the finer points of  my initial revulsion to the series sticks with me: fat shaming. And not just fat shaming. Fat people fat shaming fat people.

One of the most frustrating anti-fat (people) messages we get is that if you’re overweight, and especially obese, that you are lazy and have no will-power. Hey, sometimes it’s true (being sedentary does have a correlation with weight), but as we all know, losing weight and turning your life around often cannot be done based solely on so-called “will power” and “not being lazy.” Even if you get off your butt and work out or you resist that cheesecake nine times out of ten, a lifetime of learned, disordered and destructive behaviors can set you back, stand in your way, or lead to relapse. Or, you may have a medical condition or genetic predisposition that makes “getting skinny” improbable or impossible. Not being able to lose weight, or struggling to do so, is not an automatic product of being “lazy,” or “not working hard enough.”

So this season in particular, its rankled me every time contestants (like Arthur or Q) have been chastised by their fellow contestants (Justin and Rulon) for “not working hard enough.” The trainers do it, too, which I also find problematic, but you can’t blame a super thin and buff personal trainer for thinking that working out six hours a day is a magic bullet to weight loss. That’s their worldview and their job.

But fat people need to give other fat people a break. Anyone who has struggled with weight and/or obesity knows how difficult it is – thinking about food constantly, weighing your choices, sometimes making bad choices, food guilt, feeling gross in your body, fat rolls, sweaty fat rolls (the WORST), super fast weight loss, almost no weight loss, plateaus, working your butt off and not seeing it on the scale, etc. etc. The reality of being an overweight person trying to lose weight is that it’s HARD, it’s unpredictable, different for everybody and “eat less, exercise more” DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK. Sometimes your body gets really pissed at you for eating less and exercising more and your metabolism skids to a halt. Some weeks the scale doesn’t correlate to your effort.

Yet we get fat people on The Biggest Loser “calling out” their fellow contestants for not working hard enough. Ok, is it possible a contestant didn’t work as hard as they could have? Yes. But people have different health concerns, pain thresholds, bodies and metabolism. They react differently to exercise, particularly different types of exercise (Moses, as we saw, works better with boxing as opposed to straight cardio), and food.

This season has been a study in extreme opposites: Justin and Rulon losing massive amounts of weight in the beginning and fat shaming their fellow contestants who has slow or low weeks (notably Q and later Arthur), and then BOTH eating humble pie when they slowed down, lost zero or, as we saw this week, cheated on their diet. I’m sorry, the Olympic Gold metalist who can clearly just work his ass off and drop a shit-ton of weight is cheating on his diet, yet he has the gall to chastise fellow contestants who have been sedentary and obsese their entire lives, are new to exercise and have a slow week? Rulon needs to gain a bit more understanding of his fellow human beings, and step outside his own narrow worldview.

But the ray of sunshine this season is Courtney, who through all the fat shaming and “you didn’t work hard enough” rhetoric has had the right attitude and message: every pound lost is a pound lost, and more recently, plateaus happen. While she was uncharacteristically not happy with her three pound loss last night, she is acknowledging her plateau, which is a normal aspect of a weight loss journey. I don’t know if it’s because she’s still a bigger girl or because she’s such a rockstar who lost over 100lbs on her own before starting the show, but on the weeks where Courtney hasn’t “lost a lot” (cue eyeroll), her fellow contestants and trainers have NOT fat shamed her or indicated she wasn’t working hard enough. Compare this to season 9, when Stephanie hit a plateau, losing only 1 or 2 pounds a few weeks in a row (and one week zero) and her fellow contestants, particularly the women, accused her of cheating and playing the game. When someone hits a plateau? Fat shaming and accusations of cheating don’t help. It’s amazing how cruel the very people who should understand your struggle can be.

I hope that people will take away from this season Courtney’s message of positivity, hope and realism. However, fat people shaming other fat people has become pretty standard for The Biggest Loser, so I doubt her attitude will prevail. What is it about overweight people being the hardest, and often the most cruel, to other overweight people? We reinforce the same ugly stereotypes about fat people that society/culture/media thrusts upon us — we’re lazy, slobs, gluttons, unloveable and invisible — when we look at another overweight person and say “well, she/he is clearly just not working hard enough.” Sometimes it isn’t that simple. Be happy for your own success and, yes, be supportive of your fellow fat friends. But fat shaming is NOT being supportive. Be understanding, offer positivity (not negativity disguised as positivity, ie: you just didn’t work hard enough, but you can next week!) and keep an open mind.

And don’t get me started on the “all fat people are miserable; all thin people are super happy” motif of Biggest Loser an the fact that often contestants slim down far beyond where they need to be, all for the big reveal. Why do you need to slim down to a size 4 or 6? No. But that’s a topic for another day!

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Posted in Fat in the Media, Featured, TVComments (0)

Before & During

Weight & Inches