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What Would Your Body Say If It Could Talk?

February 9, 2012

Some of you have expressed that you’d like to see more about what I’m doing when I’m mixing fat acceptance and fat bodies with my academic work, and it feels like the natural progression to make since I’m already letting my blogging affect my academics. Right now I’m taking a class about writing, rhetoric, and identity. Basically it’s focused on the way we use language to construct our identity across various spaces. Right now, I’m a blogger. A blogger who talks about fashion but also fat bodies. And there are other times where I present myself as a writing tutor, and completely cut off my blogger identity, my fat acceptance identity (at least in terms of the language I use).

But before I get down the rabbit hole too much about how identities shift, I thought I’d share a project I’m currently working on (it may be changing every time you click the link–it’s in the early stages!).

My professor gave us an assignment to explore a certain aspect of our identity, and I, of course, chose to look at my “fat girl” identity. I wanted to explore the different ways OTHERS constructed me as a fat girl across different contexts, so I wanted to think about things said in my home, said amongst peers and friends, things that were important to me as I grew up, and things that are said here in this community. You might recognize yourself in some of your words (and if you don’t like that I’m using them then I’m totally willing to remove it).

I’d love to hear some honest feedback on the piece, like if it’s too polarizing of the “good” and “bad” (although I tried to just lay everything out there without saying how it made me feel).

Most importantly, after seeing my presentation, what do you think your body would say if it could talk? What identities, characteristics, or assumptions are written on to you (about your body, race, job, socio-economic class, etc)? Do you see the possibilities of your self differently when your surrounded by different sets of people?

Here’s the link to my Prezi: click here You can choose to click in and out on whatever you like or you can choose to follow the narrative path I set by clicking the arrow button at the bottom right of the presentation.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. Cyndi permalink
    February 9, 2012 12:34 pm

    Your presentation is inspiring. I’ve been overweight all my life, in various stages, and I could relate to many of your messages. The one about someone yelling Snorlax at you reminded me of something I still feel guilty about- I was at a party with friends, and a girl showed up- probably like a size 22/24. I thought she looked lovely, but my one friend was like, “wow, look I didn’t realize cows were invited”. I know she heard him, she looked mortified- and I, just passing for his standards of thin at a size 14/16, decided not to defend her. I wish I had- I’ve identified with that girl so many times. Anyway, I think you’ve created an excellent piece and I’m excited to see what else you can do with fat identity in the future. Thanks for sharing!

    • February 9, 2012 7:39 pm

      Thank you so much, Cyndi. That’s interesting that you mention you can both relate on ahving these things said to you (or at least thinking them), but also engaging in them. Even as I wrote them.. experience I have had.. I can see that in certain points of my life I acted or said the same thing. We are all capable of taking up the role that society says we should, such as you keeping quiet. We are all also capable of changing that through becoming aware of it. Thank you for sharing your experience and commenting with so much thoughtfulness!

  2. February 9, 2012 12:39 pm

    Wow. I just went through your prezi and it literally made me want to cry. People don’t pay enough attention to the power of words, how they get internalized, shape what we think about ourselves, how we treat ourselves and how that gets perpetuated into how we treat others. As I was going through it I thought about different identities I have had through my life and what a wonderful journaling exercise it would be to examine those through the words I remember hearing from powerful people in my life (my father, people at school, my first husband). I’ve done some of that in therapy in the past, but having it all together like you have illustrated would be very powerful. I remember as a young person wanting to totally detach myself from my body. I have literally hated my body most of my life because of the things people have said to me that marginalized my body from everyone else’s. I would love to talk to my kids about these issues when they get older just to make them aware of the things people say to them about their bodies and how that affects how they think about themselves. Had someone done that with me years ago I could have avoided a lot of pain. This is very powerful stuff and as always, inspiring.

    • February 9, 2012 7:44 pm

      Thank you, Greta! I totally think you should explore it. I had been wanting to do this for awhile, but I needed the push of the assignment to do it. So here’s my push for you to do something that explores how you have come to feel about yourself too. I almost wrote a post about where I thought I’d be when I was 24, and the story I told myself as a high schooler was that by 24 I would definitely be thin! I went on the whole trying to eat less than 500 cals a day train and had such an awful relationship with my body. I’m still not all the way in love with it, but I’m getting there one post at a time :). I really do hope that you have that conversation with you kids. No one ever did for me.. basically I just wasn’t talked to about it in high school and then later had their support through various weight loss meds etc. I WANTED those things because I had never even heard of an alternative relationship with my body. It’s important to hear it from someone that loves you. Thank YOU for the inspiring comment :).

  3. February 9, 2012 1:16 pm

    Oh yes, plenty of these things just sound too familiar… starting from “you’d be really beautiful, IF…” to being thought of as dumb, lazy, depressed (which at least for me was partially true as a result of the former…). And its so easy to judge the negative comments as more important than the positive ones and eventually slip down the road to no self-worth at all… I guess many people need to learn to actually accept compliments and internalize them. I once tried to reply to each compliment I received instead of with “don’t say that”, “so not true at all” just with “thank you”. It made me feel incredibly selfish at first but it was pretty liberating actually : )

    • February 9, 2012 7:48 pm

      Satchirel, I think you hit it on the head! I noticed that I A)felt more comfortable with the negative and B)could come up with examples of them much easier. Those negative comments have such a way of imbedding themselves in a person, even when the positive comments can, at times, out weigh them. Like you said, internalizing the positive is hard.. it’s something I still struggle with today. Also loved that you said it made you feel selfish but liberated. We are taught that we have to be humble, but we need to, NEED TO internalize and accept the good. Thank you for your comment!!

  4. February 9, 2012 1:20 pm

    Your Prezi gave me shivers– people say things like this to me too. I especially hate the “you carry your weight well” comments because its like they’re separating good fatties from bad fatties or throwing you a bone or something. Also, I’m really glad you pointed out the evolution of Jennifer Hudson’s weight loss crusade. I found her so inspiring before, and it hurt a lot when she started the weight watchers thing.

    I wish I were strong enough to confront people’s fat hate in an assignment like this. Currently, I’m taking an evolutionary psychology seminar (and the maladaptiveness of obesity and preferences for fatty food comes up all the time) and an advanced social psych class, and in that class we were given an assignment to give a presentation on a societal issue (from a list the prof. gave us) and how topics from social psychology tie in with the issue. I was hurt, and angered, that the obesity epidemic was on the list as a societal problem (but body image concerns and eating disorders were not) and I wanted to confront this bias, but I just couldn’t bring myself to think about exposing myself to my entire class as a fat person. Even though they are obviously aware already.

    Wow, I just kind of made that all about me, but your presentation really is great, and inspiring!

    • February 9, 2012 7:54 pm

      Hey Erin, I totally agree with your first comment. They are trying to show that their comment isn’t affecting you, but it does really. The damage is already done. As for Jennifer, what she does with her body is her own business, but it does hurt that she (and what she represents) can be thrown in fat people’s faces, like if she can do it then what’s your excuse? Also, every time someone says she looks beautiful now, I’m can’t help but want to scream “She was beautiful always!”

      I feel for you on your hesitation to confront bias in your field. I think the fact that my department is located in the humanities, which has taken a strong curve towards researching and respecting marginalized groups, has created a safe place for me to do this. It’s scary, but I also know that I am not going to be shunned or completely at odds with my classmates and professor. It’s a hard thing to openly “expose” yourself as a fat person. I’m still struggling with it too. I haven’t shared this site or what I’m doing with anyone by my current school, family, and close friends. My facebook, which has friends from high school and undergrad, is completely out of the loop with it. I still have to work on allowing myself to expose myself as a fat person there too. It’s scary as hell.

      Thank you for your sincere comment. I really enjoyed it.

  5. February 9, 2012 1:26 pm

    First, you rock at Prezi. 🙂

    It is a very good presentation and I’m sure all of us plus-size girls can relate to the things said there. I feel strange about telling you things like ‘I’m glad you can live with your body’ because, well, it’s just a body, I don’t think thin people are told things like this, you know. Like having a best ‘gay’ friend when you don’t say you have a best straight friend. What is it with the labels?

    You are beautiful. I really think so. The whole you.

    In the overall it’s sad to live in a world where a person’s size counts more than his/her amazingness at anything other than that, and that people who are mean and insensitive and empty will play the size card because they have nothing else.

    I’m glad with the commitment to change people’s view of overweight people because doing so we’re fighting intolerance and this is the only fight I find worth getting into.

    I’m not feeling very ‘clear’ today. Hope you can still understand what I meant. 😛

    Kisses Rebecca!

    • February 10, 2012 8:24 am

      Thank you, Kenia, for the thoughtful post and overall amazingness :). The labels we use really are odd. We are creatures that classify all of the time, draw boundaries and distinctions. I’m wondering about what boundaries I draw that “other” myself from various groups. I agree with you about people seeing size and not being able to see beyond it. One person in my life constantly talks about what I’m eating, what I’m doing excercise wise, etc. I sometimes want to scream out “Don’t you want to know what I’m thinking? What I’m doing with my life?” Eventually I’ll feel comforable doing that, but it takes time. Thank you for your post, Kenia, and also for your wonderful compliment.

  6. February 9, 2012 5:32 pm

    I agree with everyone here that your PREZI was AMAZING, I’ve never seen anything like that. I have to say you are a incredible person not because you love your body but because you are such a person with passion ❤ I truly believe in everything that you do; even though we've never met. I enjoy reading all your blog post and tweets ❤
    -Ileana

    • February 10, 2012 8:25 am

      Thank you so much Ileana! I must admit that I never felt like a passionate person a few years ago. I felt like a nobody who had very passionate friends! It feels good to find something that clicks for you. I appreciate you continuing to read and being so supportive, and for being such a nice friend :).

  7. February 9, 2012 6:02 pm

    What identities, characteristics, or assumptions are written on to you (about your body, race, job, socio-economic class, etc)
    I’m black so a lot of people assume I’m uneducated or that I’m not eloquent. I often get comments like, “You speak so well” as if black people cannot form grammatically correct sentence.
    My sexual orientation is not readily available because people constantly tell me (once I come out to them) that they never would have thought I was a lesbian.
    As for my body, people might think I may not have to worry about what I eat or maybe they assume I DO watch what I eat. (I’m a thin person, btw).

    I think just about every person has some sort of bias or prejudice they face.
    I have lost about 20-30 pounds over the last year and I’ve gotten all sorts of comments from people. It’s definitely made me more sensitive to the issues fat people face. I was sensitive to their issues already but now I definitely experience some of the body policing they face.

    Your presentation was so powerful and I wish more people had the opportunity to learn about body policing, fat acceptance, etc.

    • February 10, 2012 8:34 am

      Thank you for your thoughtful post! The examples you pointed out show so deeply how people read onto others about their possibilities (such as speech, sexual orientation). I hate to admit that it was only about a year ago that a friend told me that she has heard the “You are so articulate” line a lot of times in her life, and it wasn’t until then that I realized how nuanced racism could be. As for the comment about being a lesbian, it’s interesting that people expect you to act, look, “be” a certain way to be recognizable by your sexual orientation. Thank YOU for helping me become more sensitive into how others write onto you. These things can raise awareness about how others move through the world.

  8. Jacki Anderson permalink
    February 9, 2012 7:25 pm

    Well I don’t know if “Prezi” is a new term or just an abbreviation for “Presentation”, and has to do with using the computer, but I liked it.

    I could probably do the exact same thing but the comments wouldn’t all necessarily have to do with my weight, but affected/affect my self-worth. One remark, after a haircut, at a very emotional time in my life, was “well now you look like a wife” (not a good thing in their eyes), Also, a sibling that says looks and weight shouldn’t matter, but then when she sees an attractive man with a “less than perfect” woman, she wonders how she got him. Another comment is a bit more personal and I will have to tell you privately if you care to hear.

    I’m afraid one of those comments utilized in your “prezi” is one I may have said and I cringe that it was a discouragement rather than what I had hoped was an indication of my admiration. But again, this just goes to show how how our experinences and sense of self affect/effect(?) or influence what and how we say something, and how and what we interpret from others’ comments.

    You give me a lot to think about. Great job.

    • February 10, 2012 8:42 am

      Jacki,
      Prezi is the software I used to make the presentation. It’s from Prezi.com, and it works differently than a PowerPoint and all of that. I hear you on those comments that may not be directed to hurt you but still do. The ones about who a man is dating always make me feel odd about myself, as do ones where men are rating women or women are rating other women. The important thing is to understand that sometimes social narratives speak through us (we allow them to) such as believing that a couple must have similar levels of “attractiveness” (whatever that is), but we can also work to rewrite those narratives. I see myself in both sides of my presentation too. I know I have said these things at one point in my life. The question now is, “Why?” As for seeing yourself in my prezi, I’m sure you do, but I actually did not take anything knowingly from a conversation we had (if that brings you some solace). We can’t take back things we have said from our past, but we can think about the way we put words into the world in the future. You being here and having this discussion with me is more than most people have given me, and I appreciate it and you. Thank you!

  9. February 9, 2012 9:47 pm

    The prezi actually reminded me of the work I did my senior year of undergrad in a feminism class. We talked about all kinds of things but I remember talking about how society puts pressures on us to think, do and be a certain way. As a young girl, I always wanted to be “normal” (rich, thin, blonde) and fit in with everyone else. We are always taught to change and be better than we are and that leads to us feeling worthless about ourselves no matter what we are.

    Basically, thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront of your followers minds. I respect you work and admire you. It’s a small step towards teaching people to love themselves, and everything else will follow.

    • February 10, 2012 8:46 am

      Thank you, April! I wish I had taken a feminism class in undergrad. I wish I had taken this stuff in high school! I feel like it would have eased a lot of pain. “We are always taught to change and be better” So true! If we begin to stop and enjoy life as it is, we are seen as being complacent. “There’s always room to improve” is a saying I’ve heard over and over again, which I somewhat believe in (in a way different than dominant ideas), but society seems to think that our “improvment” should be measureable, and like you said, if we feel like we don’t achieve it then it goes down a slippery slope.

  10. Denisa Dellinger permalink
    February 9, 2012 11:46 pm

    Fat. I’m fat. I don’t think that anything anyone says to you compares to what you say to yourself when you are fat. However, you mirror other peoples opinions of fat to become your own opinion about yourself. Body image is everything. Everyone says that if you just lose weight you would be so pretty and your problems would disappear. Now that I think about it, that is not necessarily true. Look at anerexic (?) people. Everything has to do with a screwed up body image and control. Even skinny people I chat with talk about being fat. I want to laugh. They have their own problems with body image. Your presentation is wonderful. Those quotes you used made me think of how people act towards fat people. I use the word fat because you are not afraid of it. Other people would say overweight or some other politically correct description, but just using the word “fat” is liberating. The prejudice and hate of fat people is so widespread that it is palipable. Skinny people don fatsuits and go under a camera to see what it is like for an overweight person for just one day. Let them live it for life. We are just like anyone else. People look at us and say to themselves, “why are they eating ‘that'”? I guess we aren’t supposed to eat or something like that. We have all the feelings everyone else has. We want to be loved and feel sexy, We love to dress up and go dancing. We like to hang out with friends and we certainly don’t want to be judged by someone who doesn’t know us. The first time I saw you and read your blog, I thought you are a person who is not afraid. Your love for beautiful clothes and design is wonderful. You put yourself out there so others like yourself can find a voice. I looked at your body, I looked at your face. I looked at how you put your wardrobe together and I saw the smiles on your face. The eyes and smile had me. They are the window to your soul and no matter what your size is, you are beautiful. It really doesn’t matter how other people view you, it is how you view yourself that is the most important. If you feel like you would like to loose weight, I think you could do it. If you want to stay the way your are, it would be ok as well. If you are comfortable in your body and present yourself with comfidence and are able to have humor and patience with others, you have it licked. I think in your presentation, you are giving a voice to all the men and women who are afraid to even go out of the house. I think you have a real calling. You know the saying about how God has a plan for your life and he gives you talents and abilities as well as wanting to use your gifts for a higher purpose, I think this just may be your calling. I see you on the lecture circuit talking to women about self acceptance. You have a community of support in here and we will always be on your side.

    • February 10, 2012 8:53 am

      Denisa, thank you for your beautiful post and for the support you’ve been giving me through my other posts. I’ll admit that I teared up reading your response. Sometimes I feel scared and sometimes I do feel brave, but it’s always easier to do this stuff and to bring it to my school life and other areas when I have supportive people on here. Thank you for being on my side. There was a moment in class when I was sharing this with my fellow classmates, and it hit me that I was changing them in some way. It’s an odd feeling I’ve never had before, but I could tell that for many of them this was their first experience being confronted with how society treats fat people and what assumptions cause that. They were beginning to have those thoughts that you expressed so well in your post. I think you are completely right that I need to continue doing this. It feels more right than anything else I’ve ever encountered in my life before. I look forward to your continued self acceptance too.

  11. February 10, 2012 4:03 pm

    I am an education student in Alberta, so good on you for the engaging “prezi”! I need to start incorporating that website into my planning!
    I have been following your blog for about 6 months and even though we live far apart I have been able to make parallels between your experiences and my own.
    Overall women are judged by their appearance, even more so for women who are fat. I have heard everything under the sun about the way I look; some are extremely positive like “your smile lights up a room” to the down right nasty “shut up, you are nothing but a fat b*tch”. Living life is all about embracing the positive, rejecting the negative and working towards the “ideal you” which should be defined by you. I have learned that I cannot let anyone define me, the expectations that you live up to should be the ones you have for yourself!!
    Thanks for your blog, I will keep reading as long as you keep writing!

    • March 2, 2012 10:53 am

      Thank you for commenting Miranda! It really is a great education tool :). I agree that we have to choose definitions that feel right by us. It’s hard sometimes, though, when you are in spaces that out right say things about fat bodies. As impervious as I like to think of myself, their words still affect how my body is used as a sign in that setting. I guess that’s what I’m teasing out here :).

  12. Molly permalink
    February 12, 2012 8:54 am

    I’ve been a follower of your blog for several months now. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had never really realized that there was this whole world of plus-sized fashion bloggers out there. I stumbled across your blog when I was searching for different looks to wear to my friends’ wedding. Typically, I’m not much of a blog reader — and I’m definitely not a blog commenter! Nonetheless, your blog has grabbed ahold of me because not only do you have a great sense of style but you also offer a great deal in encouraging me to think of my body in a positive way.

    When I did my undergrad and Master’s degrees, I studied feminist theory and have always been interested in body image studies. Of course, I was too afraid then (and probably would be now) to really dive in as much as I wanted. There’s something about studying “fat studies” that felt too personal — like if I admitted to studying it and being interested in it, it opened up the door to other people talking to me about my body and being critical of it. My body is the same (and how people see it is the same) no matter if I study it or not, but the fear of having others attach academic discourse to my flaws posed too much of an emotional risk. Your blog has helped me to to really pay attention to my own internal discourse about my body and that it’s a perfectly good body as it is — RIGHT NOW…. not 50, 75, 100 lbs. from now.

    Also, I wanted to say how proud I am to see younger women who are interested in feminism AND fashion and aren’t afraid to admit it. I’m 29, so probably not too much older than you, but there’s a big difference generationally. I finished my MA in 2006 and essentially let old-school first wave feminists chase me away from teaching in the field because I have a serious love affair with fashion, make up, etc. I presented at NWSA when I was a graduate student and received so many snippy comments and dirty looks because I was rocking a floral dress and a whole lot of MAC Russian Red on my lips. I felt confident and fabulous and then allowed all that to be crushed by some others who defined how I chose to perform my femininity as “selling out.” After that, Women’s Studies just was never the same for me. It was so disheartening to have heard for all those years that feminism was about choice only to have the underlying message be that if I chose the stereotypically feminine choice, I was wrong. Your blog has helped me to reconnect with that part of me that feels passionately about female empowerment and body acceptance. And also, you’re absolutely lovely and have great style! I’ve found so many great new pieces that I’ve purchased as a result of you (and am now obsessed with giant rings, thank you very much!).

    Keep up the great work!

    XOXO,
    Molly

    PS. What are your plans after MA?

    • March 2, 2012 11:04 am

      Thank you, Molly, for the really thoughtful comment. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to sit down and reply! It was really scary to start incorporating fatness into my academics, and I don’t think I would have been able to do if I didn’t have a couple instructors that once hearing about my ideas encouraged me to explore it further. I admit that it’s STILL much easier for me to talk with my instructors than it is to talk with my fellow students, but I’m starting to do both. I haven’t had the opportunity to take women studies courses (besides one film course focused on gender). I still feel like I lack the ability to think about fat in gendered ways. I’ve even thought about going to back to school to take women’s studies courses, but I doubt I’ll be able to do that. Maybe because I don’t know that much about feminist movements I don’t feel pressured to be a “good feminist”. I’m glad you are thinking about that stuff though and getting back to that passionate place. I feel like I’m getting “there” too! I’m trying to keep my mind open about life after MA, but for now I’m actively seeking out teaching positions. I don’t think I’ll be terribly sad if I end up not teaching, but I want to do something with writing, so that must be a part. We’ll see where I go. Thanks for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it!

  13. February 14, 2012 9:36 am

    I read your presentation & it brought tears to my eyes. Ive always been plus size but I was brought up in a community that accepted me for who I was. Not until I got to HS did I feel like there was something “wrong” with me. I noticed that the skinnier girls got asked out and drew attention from guys. I learned then I wasnt attractive and turned on myself. I began to think if I were skinnier I would be happier. Its sad to admit I felt this way until I was 39 years old. I battled poor self esteem and worth for my entire adult life until November 2, 2011. I had to have major surgery and while not life threatening, it changed my life drastically. Being surrounded by family and friends who loved me for ME made me stop the hateful thoughts and negative self talk. I was blessed and I didnt even know it. I forgave myself for my past and learned to embrace me…ALL OF ME. Its hard loving yourself but Im on the road. Its sad I needed major surgery to learn to embrace myself.

    I love your blog because its clear you love yourself. Youre a FAB writer (sometimes I think I need to take writing lessons from you!!!) and are so talented. Your presentation was wonderful and if I were your professor, I would give you an A+++++!!!

    • March 2, 2012 11:06 am

      Aw, thank you so much! I’m happy that you found that message. Like you said, you can’t change the past so you have to just take what you have now and move forward. I’m really glad you are moving forward along with me! Much love!

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