Sunday, 26 June 2022

Dear Emma Thompson,

Dear Emma,

I have loved you and your work since I was a teenager. If I remember correctly, it was The Young Ones that brought you to my attention. Then I remember you in The Tall Guy. My bookshelves are full of your movies on DVD; Sense & Sensibility, Love Actually (you’re the best part in that movie!) Peter’s Friends, Dead Again, Late Night, Brave, the Men in Black films, Howard’s End, Much Ado About Nothing, and my favourite movie of all time, Stranger Than Fiction (nobody ever talks about what a brilliant movie this is.)

I’ve also loved your work for women’s rights over the years. Campaigns you have done for sexual trafficking, domestic abuse, women’s health, body image and so many more. I’ve loved how honest, passionate and full of common sense you have always been. I have loved your sense of humour and willingness to laugh at yourself.

Recently I heard you in the media talking about how you struggle to see your own body in the mirror, and how women are not used to seeing “untreated” bodies on screen, how we are indoctrinated to hate our bodies. Which made my dismay all that more sharp when I saw that you are wearing a fat suit to play the role of Trunchbull in the new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. The ultimate in a “treated body” for film.

Emma, do you not see how your wearing a fat suit to play the baddie is demonising other women’s bodies? I gave you a pass on Nanny McPhee, because I saw the moral of that story as being that people you don’t really know can look scary, but as you get to know them and love them, you see their beauty shining from within. But there’s nothing I can find in this portrayal of Trunchbull that gives any indication of there being a better message about women’s bodies. All I see is “It’s not enough for me to act mean and scary, I have to use a fat body to demonstrate that I’m the bad guy.”

I’m a librarian. I’ve read Matilda to children for many years. Trunchbull, in the book is described as:

“above all a most formidable female. She had once been a famous athlete, and even now the muscles were still clearly in evidence. You could see them in the bull-neck, in the big shoulders, in the thick arms, in the sinewy wrists and in the powerful legs. Looking at her, you got the feeling that this was someone who could bend iron bars and tear telephone directories in half. Her face, I’m afraid, was neither a thing of beauty nor a joy for ever. She had an obstinate chin, a cruel mouth and small arrogant eyes.”

Nowhere is she described as fat, or having an enormous bosom, or a fat face. But looking at your costume for the film, all I see is your face and body with a lot of prosthetics on them to make you look fat.

Admittedly, Quentin Blake’s original illustrations did make Trunchbull somewhat blockier than muscular (but she doesn’t really have “small arrogant eyes” in his drawings either), and the original movie and subsequent stage plays have taken their look from those drawings, and used fat actresses. But you Emma, you’re the one in the media talking about how women’s bodies are scrutinised and ridiculed and made to feel unworthy if they’re anything but perfect. I expected you would understand. I expected that you, a woman I consider one of the finest actors alive, would be able to portray Trunchbull without using fake fatness to make her horrifying.

I am a very fat woman. I also work with children. They don’t see me as scary or mean. I’m like Miss Honey to them, only I’m almost 50, very fat and not in any way pretty. But I’m colourful and smiley and cuddly. They want to crawl on to my lap when I read to them, or hug my leg as they talk to me in the book stacks. Or lay their heads on my enormous bosom when they’re tired or grumpy or sad.

When I look in the mirror at the body that does look quite like the fat suit you’re wearing in those photos, at my face that is round like the embellished one you have as that character, I hear your voice in my head about how women can’t look in the mirror without hating their bodies. Then I am reminded that famous actresses put on fake versions of my body to portray women who are mean, scary bullies, because who could believe a slim woman is a mean, scary bully? Can it not be imagined that someone who was slim could ever be a horrible person? I mean, a thin person never made anyone feel bad about themselves, did they?

One of the reasons I always loved Roald Dahl is because when I was a little, chubby girl in primary school I read The Twits, and this quote spoke to me:

“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

We know now that Roald Dahl was problematic, and we adapt around them. No-one knows how to adapt writing from the past like you do! You’ve literally won an Oscar for it! In this case, he wasn’t the one that made the character hurtful to fat people, but you can definitely be one to start to undo that, to make a real difference.

Look it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see this. But other people will. Perhaps someone who thought they might take their kids to see this film might think again, or take the time to explain to their kids why your wearing a fat suit in the movie is not OK. A fat person might read this and realise that they’re not alone in being hurt and angry that you’ve chosen to do this.

But just on the off chance that you or one of the people you work with sees this, I want you to know this. Slim actors wearing fat suits hurts us. It makes us hate our own bodies, and it contributes to other people hating us for our bodies. Not to mention that it denies fat actors work. When there is a fat character in a film, at least hire a fat actor, but interrogate what you are saying with that character.

I know the film has been completed and it’s unlikely any changes can be made now. I know you’re probably not able to say anything about wearing that fat suit even if you do now understand why it was the wrong thing to do. What I would like you to do, is from this point on, think about what prosthetics say when you’re asked to wear them in a movie. You can also use your considerable platform to speak up for ALL women’s bodies, not just those that fit into a narrow window of “acceptable”. I’d also like you to advocate for fat actresses as well. You’ve produced some pretty big movies so far, there’s your opportunity to ask “Can we just get an actress with the body type, rather than using prosthetics?” and “Does this character really need to be fat?”

Because after having watched you for so many years, I believe that you are not someone who has ugly thoughts, I believe that you have good thoughts that shine out of your face.

Yours sincerely

An Actual Fat Woman.

via Fat Heffalump

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Weight loss as the desire to reinhabit a past self.

I wrote this over a year ago, but didn’t publish it. Today I figured, why not?

Hi, I haven’t written. Everything sucks and I’m constantly angry. Not only do I (we) live in a never-ending pandemic and attendant state of chronic incompetence, but at the beginning of all this, one of my cats died, and my other cat has required daily medical care to survive. So far, she has. [Update, 2022: she hasn’t.]

Everything is on fire, everything is terrible, my work schedule has exploded (if you’ve emailed me and I haven’t responded, this is why and I’m sorry), yet there is a deep sense of boredom and monotony, occasionally interrupted by spluttering rage or outright terror at world events.

I’m not writing about all of that. I’m writing about this: I’m in my 40s and having some kind of midlife…thing. Two years ago, I started ice skating (proto-figure skating?), and I wrote about that here. [Update, 2022: I’ve now also taken up kick scootering and cycling because I’m a small-time adrenaline junkie.]

And, 25 years ago, I weighed exactly 100 lbs. less than I do now. Here’s a photo someone sent me that I hadn’t seen before:

My handsome boyfriend repping the early Raptors in rural Ontario, and Jane Russell except it’s the 90s and she hates herself.

People have a lot of feelings about old photos, and I’m no different. My first impression was of how intensely young we look, and of my then-boyfriend/now-husband’s adorable Luke Perry-esque sideburns. My second impression was: who’s that girl/oh shit, it’s me.

My third impression, which took a few days to identify: unutterable sadness. People had been so desperately cruel to me by this point in my life, specifically about my appearance. As a result, I was completely alienated from my (apparently dangerous/disgusting) body and attempting to live solely in the jar of my brain.

At the time this photo was taken, I was just barely starting to find my way out of constant despair, because one person in the world (pictured left) had chosen to be kind to me.

It should not have required that. I should’ve been allowed to feel human without the redemption of my boyfriend’s gaze reassuring me that I was okay, that I was pretty and smart and funny and angry and ridiculous and lovable all at once. In a just world, it would not take a boy loving me and treating me like a human to make me real, like a velveteen rabbit.

I was human the whole time: when boys groped me at school, when I was excluded by my peers for an undefined yet unforgivable weirdness, when grown men stalked and threatened me on the street, when I was told how ugly and stupid, ugly and stupid, ugly and stupid, ugly and stupid and fat and stupid and ugly and fat and stupid I was over and over and over again, for a decade (plus occasional surprise encores in adulthood, bravo!)

My fourth and final impression: a strong and completely irrational wish to go back. This is not unusual for people seeing themselves in old photos. The desire to lose weight and re-inhabit a former body is, I suspect, the desire to use a scale to travel back in time. But time is not a place; it is a process of annihilation.

I live in an older, larger body now. Even if I weighed what I weighed back then, I would not have that body back; I would have the body I do now, just smaller, with more skin and more wrinkles.

Maybe the desire to go back, itself, is not even really a wish to be who I was (because I was miserable), but a wish to tell my former self the truth: The people around you are messed up. Your body is not a punching bag. You deserve to live.

Since that former self no longer exists, I can only tell it to myself, and you, now.

via The Fat Nutritionist

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Queen Latifah – Red Table Talk – Novo Nordisk

I have loved Queen Latifah since the 80’s! I have loved her and so many other female MC’s from that era and after. I just super love female MC’s as a general rule, but Queen Latifah was always a favorite. I followed her career over the years as she went from MC to starring on our television screens on Living Single and even the big screen in Set it Off, Chicago, Bessie, and so many other wonderful films. I never saw her as a fat icon in the fat liberation sense, but always appreciated her ability to stand out while truly shining in her spotlight. 

When I happened across a post in my feed that mentioned Queen Latifah by The Curvy Fashionis last night I clicked immediately! As I read their post I got excited, Queen Latifah was on The Red Table Talk…talking about being plus size?! I got so excited, and I don’t usually watch that show. And honestly, I was so full of hope as I watched the intro and even as she began talking about her current passion for “destigmatizing ob*sity”. My hopes were soon dashed, however, as she also talked about ob*sity as a disease and focused hella hard on health and all of the usual things. I watched it to the end and was glad to see some familiar faces from Instagram as they took questions and opened the dialogue, and it did end on a positive note. But damn! What a letdown.

“Often people connect being overweight with not working hard enough to keep the weight off, being lazy, or eating too much, without realizing that it may be genetic. It may be hormonal,” she said. “If people knew that, they might not look at it in the same way.”

I’m not at all implying that Queen Latifah has an obligation to be a full on fat liberation activist or anything. I was surprised she was even talking about this stuff at all because she’s always been private about her life and struggles. I think I was slightly misled by the post by The Curvy Fashionista when they said towards the end of the post, “Queen Latifah, welcome to the plus size community. You’ve been a honorary board member and it is nice to have you celebrate your membership.” I hope they got some money from that post because I never would have known or watched without it.

And then this morning I found out it’s all because she’s partnered with fucking Novo Nordisk (a diabetes drug)! OF COURSE! Because no one actually gives a flying fuck about destigmatizing or improving the lives and treatment of fat people. UGH! I wish this shit wasn’t so damned predictable. Lke, it’s actually laughably boringly predictable at this point. But they fooled me because I never would have thought Queen Latifah would be on this kick. I mean, her overall message was that of knowing and loving yourself and doing right by you whatever that means for you. 

She did get into how clothing is purposefully inaccessible for fat folks (she doesn’t use the word fat in this interview) and that almost felt radical to hear. Almost. I wish she had gotten into medical fatphobia and how it kills us every day, but she didn’t really go there and I’m sure that is part of her partnership to not mention that part. Looking at the Novo Nordisk community guidelines has me laughing my ass off! It’s a classic case of we will do what we want but you don’t get to say shit. (My opinion and summation.)
A Twitter friend in the fat community, @blackqueeriroh (follow them, they are brilliant!) responded to The Root’s post about Queen Latifah’s “It’s Bigger Than Me” live tour, “I don’t even know what to say. This is so gross, especially considering fat Black women are one of the most marginalized groups of fat people. To see Queen Latifah do this is a profound betrayal, and I don’t think I’ll get over it soon.” 

I don’t expect my heroes or role models or any celebrity entity to be some perfect moral compass or anything, but it really felt like she was throwing fat folks under the bus in this talk, and I’m guessing on her whole damned tour. It’s too bad. I loved hearing that someone wants to help remove stigmas associated with larger bodies. I loved hearing how she felt that Lizzo brought a new language and a new way to talk about and live in larger bodies. But we all know there’s a limit with these campaigns or endorsements/partnerships, and it always hurts the fat community. They will get more eyes and ears on a subject but still turn it back on us. 

It just really felt to me that she was framing this whole thing on how she was personally upset and offended to have her celebrity fitness trainer explain to her that according to the BMI she was in the ob*se category. Like her feelings were really hurt and I do get that. But when Jada Pinket Smith said, “Not La!” like, not my friend, they can’t be ob*se, like it’s the worst thing a person can be. And to then lean so hard on the health shit just pissed me off. Saying things like, “It could be due to hormones or genetics” again bringing it back to the good fatty versus bad fatty shit we are all sick of!

No one owes anyone health! And health won’t look the same on everybody. Often what we perceive as health is simply white Euro-centric beauty standards crammed down our throats every day. Not everyone can achieve health. Not everyone has access to health care or the things they need to support their own health. It’s such a cop out to play that health card again and again. Who cares why someone has a certain sized body?! It doesn’t matter and it’s no one else’s business. Yes, take the stigma out of the equation, please! But how is that even possible when they are propped up with pharma monies and you lean so hard on the health shit?! 

It hurts to hear great ideas mixed in with outdated ones when it’s applied to our very personhood. It hurts on a personal and systemic level because these are big names with big platforms. Those messages get further reach, plain and simple. It makes our work as fat liberation activists, and as just regular fat people trying to live our lives, that much harder. We were already fighting this fight, we won’t be stopping now or anything, but money does have a way of making even the best of intentions sour.

I hope that Queen Latifah can hear our messages and take them to heart. We are not going away, we live here and will  continue to speak up and take up the space we need to be heard. We may not get those big pharma dollars, but I for one don’t want them anyway. 


I’m here for realness and sincerity, honesty and vulnerability, I’m here for the good and juicy bits of life that shine for me when I know I’m heading in the right direction.

Rad Fatty Love to ALL,

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via I'm Not Blue at All