Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Should "Fatties" Get a Voice?

The entire blogosphere is in an uproar over the recent article by Maura Kelly on Marie Claires website.

If you have not read it already, please take a few moments to do so.

A lot of people are quite upset with Ms. Kelly right now. I've read a number of blog entries, and subsequent comments, revealing her home address and phone number because people are so angry with her for voicing her opinion.

I will say right now that vilifying someone for their personal opinion is NOT okay. I'm not saying that I'm completely innocent in that regard, I've had my own moments of knee jerk reactions to certain topics and have lambasted someone for their opinion, but I will say that publicizing someones home address, and/or phone number, is not okay with me and if by some chance it is done via my blog, I will immediately delete your comment.

Now, on to my own personal diatribe....

I have never hidden the fact that I am overweight. By any standard I would be considered morbidly obese. I recognize this and I offer zero apologies for it. However, I do not expect every person on this planet to find my physical appearance to be "aesthetically pleasing." I have struggled with my own weight. When I've battled it, I've literally starved myself to get to a size 12 - and when I've accepted it, I've worked as a plus sized model in a size 14.

A persons weight is a personal issue. I may be the size that I am because of genetics, because of poor personal choices, or because of physical limitations. Does it really matter what the reason is? If I am the size I am because of a genetic disorder rather than poor personal choices does that have an affect upon how aesthetically pleasing someone finds me to be? No.

I want to clarify, in case I haven't already, that I feel no ill will towards Ms. Kelly. She has been open about her own issues of body dysmorphia, her own struggles with anorexia, her own challenges regarding her weight and body issues. While it may sound like she has her personal issue under control, and I say that with very little certainty since I don't know her, I believe that she is at least still projecting her feelings regarding weight onto others.

Where I feel contempt is towards the editors of Marie Claire magazine.

Many years ago I was the news editor for my college newspaper. I never went into that position jockeying for it, eyeing for a career in journalism. I simply turned in my assignments, unbiased, pre-edited, and was given the position because of my performance. However, I assumed the position of news editor and exercised it to the best of my ability. I edited the articles submitted by other writers. I corrected typos and blatant grammatical errors, and when an article came my way that was blatantly biased and prejudiced, I returned it to the writer and told them that it was unacceptable.

Editors hold a position of responsibility; not only of ensuring that their writers are completing their assignments, but also of ensuring that the articles published are of an acceptable material for their audience. Editors are in the position they are in because they, supposedly, have proven that they know their audience and what is expected of a writer of their genre. Ms Kelly's editor fell short of their duties. While Ms Kelly is entitled to her opinion, her editor is in the position to go back to her and say "The average American woman is at least overweight, if not obese. We can not alienate our market. Please rewrite."
This should have been an especially obvious revelation considering the public reaction to the nude photo of Lizzi Miller in Glamour magazine in 2009.

For those who do not know, Lizzi Miller was featured, practically nude!, in the September 2009 issue of Glamour magazine. Upon publication, Glamours editor-in-chief received emails saying things such as "I am gasping with delight...I love the woman on p 194!"

Lizzi Millers photo IS beautiful. Yes, she wears a size 12-14, BUT Glamours audience found her to be "Gorgeous!" and I agree. Lizzi IS gorgeous. Looking at her photo, she has what you could describe as "rolls," she has a stomach - a "pooch," she has stretch marks, and most importantly, she has a beautiful smile and a radiance about her.

Todays woman is many sizes. She is thin and waif like. She is athletic. She is curvy. She is voluptuous. And, yes, she can be obese; even morbidly so.
BUT, todays woman is also many other things. She is a mother. She is a professional. She is a homemaker. She is girlfriend, a wife, a lover. She is a sister. She is a cousin. She is an aunt. She is a reader and a consumer. She may very well be a subscriber to Marie Claire magazine.
It is because of this that the editors of Marie Claire hold the responsibility that their articles do not offend their audience.
Their audience is a that of a growingly large population - both literally, and figuratively. As we increasingly become a nation of diversity, products which depend upon us for success hold the responsibility of not alienating us - whether we're waif like, athletic, curvy, voluptuous, or obese.

To get back to Ms Kelly.
In short, I feel sorry for her. She projected her bias onto the general public, and now she will most likely feel the professional ramifications. I feel sorry for her because while it sounds like her personal demons regarding weight have been reigned in, it does not sound as though they have been silenced.
I feel sorry for her because she will, most likely, constantly feel the pull to go to the gym rather than to go for a night out with her girlfriends. I doubt that Ms Kelly will ever feel the freedom of enjoying who she is, regardless of those few extra pounds. I doubt that she will ever be nude with a man for the first time and not feel ashamed of that fold at her hip. I doubt that she will ever not be aware of the crease of her breast. I doubt that she will ever accept that dimple of cellulite on the back of her thigh.

It is because of that that I feel sorry for her.

There is a freedom that comes with accepting who you are, and who every woman is,... every single god forsaking pound of it.

When you accept that last pound, that last roll, that last fold, that last crease, and that last dimple, there is a liberation. A liberation that allows you to enjoy life. A liberation that allows you to take off for Italy rather than join a gym. A liberation that allows you to have another glass of wine with your friends instead of running around a track for an hour. A liberation that allows you to love yourself, and others, because of your flaws rather than in spite of them.

I hope that Ms Kelly is able to, one day, find that peace, acceptance, and love within herself. It took a LONG time, but I was eventually able to find it, and I have never ever ever been happier.



Deirdre Reid said...

Wow, you have such a powerful message here. It's personal but needs to be shared with others, not just young women. I've sat across the table from way too many older women who obsess about calories and fat. It's so tiresome and, like you say, sad. We only go around once in life, as far as we know, I don't want to look back and think, damn, I should have had that slice of pizza.

Jennifer Evans said...

When I read Ms. Kelly's article I was amazed at the things she said. I felt a lot of her hate and pain with weight come out onto others. The picture of Lizzi Miller dropped my jaw. Wow. She's BEAUTIFUL! I think that since everyone loves her photo, if more magazines showed girls like her that a large amount of weight issues and bad perceptions girls have would diminish. I know that if I saw more models in a size 12, I would feel better about myself, and society. I think its ridiculous that you should conform to a size ZERO. How is zero a size if it's not even a number? Girls have such bad feelings about themselves because they see this image on TV and in magazines. It makes girls think "Is there something wrong with me? Why don't I look like that? Am I the only one that looks like I do? I think that women should feel empowered to love there curves, there rolls, there pouch. I think that women should feel happy and free to be so diverse in body types. The one thing I like most is that Lizzi had a big smile on her face. To see someone so happy and confident to be in her own skin makes me feel happy and confident about myself. I hope that one day Ms.Kelly finds happiness with herself. Or at least learn to put her feelings in a more healthy manner.

Shauna said...

Well, I do think that the author of that article came off as sounding kind of stupid. But I think it's valid to say that it's not necessarily in America's best interest to portray obesity as being perfectly fine. It's not actually. It's not DISGUSTING and I think it's weird for someone to say that they are disgusted watching fat people kiss, but who am I to say anything... I couldn't stand The Notebook because I shudder every time the old people kiss. Bottom line is if we have to watch people kiss, we want them to be attractive.

And while everyone's getting their panties in a bunch about size zero models, there's a HUGE (pun intended) difference between a size zero model and someone that weighs upwards of 300 lbs. It'd be nice if society realized that most of us are somewhere in between.

I think it was dumb for them to attempt the article, but if they really felt the subject should be talked about, the article should have focused a little more on presenting the different sides of the issue and a little less on the authors own personal feelings about fat people. But the fact that the article was published and that she got away with referring to overweight people as "fatties" makes me think Marie Claire was looking for the controversy. Mission accomplished.

I say if people are able to live full, well rounded (pun intended) lives while being obese... more power to you. I know that in my own life, I feel my weight has kept me from living life to the fullest due to poor health, low energy, etc. So I'm trying to do something about it. So while it's hard and I occasionally have to pass up a piece of pizza or whatever, I think that if I can run and wrestle around with my son, I'll consider that a life well lived and not dwell on all the slices of pizza I gave up at the end of my life.

stacy said...

This is a very well written piece Vanessa. I have noticed in the last couple of years it has become very "vogue" to bash on people with weight problems. I don't know of one other group of people in this country that is forced to buy two airplane tickets other than obese people. I believe the obese to be one of the most discriminated against groups today. There is never an uproar or a wearing of ribbons or colors when a "fat" kid is called names or is the victim of bullying-how is this different? Many can argue fat people are born that way. I think also there is political pressure for the media to push the sin of obesity on society. This ranges from San Francisco banning soft drinks to legislation to tax junk food. In this country people have the right to live anyway they want. No one has the right to tell anyone else to put their cheeseburger down! The most recent arguments I have heard from Washington is that obese people are a burden on the healthcare system. While I understand that obesity can cause diabetis and heart problems, doesn't anorexia come with it's own set of issues? Last I checked thin people have heart attacks, high cholesterol, cancer...the list goes on and on. As someone that has been overweight almost my entire life, I can say that I have never experienced any of the typical weight related health issues. There is such a thing as a healthy fat person.

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