Still a Long Way to Go

Published August 9, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

I want to talk a bit about body image and body confidence tonight. I’ve been following a lot of fat acceptance blogs and Tumblr accounts over the past few months, and it’s great to see so many positive representations of fat women. The fellas aren’t getting that much representation much, but isn’t it always the way when it comes to pictures of bodies?

Some of the good ones I regularly read are The Adipositivity Project, Fuck Yeah Fat Bitch and Hey Fat Chick. There are others out there.
One thing I am noticing though, is that the only fat bodies that seem to be acceptable to post, are those with seemingly flawless, soft, white, creamy skin, no trace of body hair, stretch marks, scars or other flaws. Occasionally you might get a gorgeous fat black woman, but again, miles and miles of perfect skin. And often it’s quite obviously through snazzy lighting, flattering photography and post camera editing that we’re being presented these images.
Photobucket
While I do think it is amazing that we have come this far, I do think we have some while to go before we’re really getting the message ourselves, let alone sending the message out further to the rest of the world.
I think perhaps these arty, flawless shots, sometimes contribute to some of the body image problems we have. While it’s good to see these gorgeous fat bodies, and we feel like we’re closer to being something to admire, I wonder does the fact that EVERYBODY has flaws and blemishes somehow get missed with the message?
I know the guys are used to seeing their porn retouched for many years so that women are flawless or some image of flawless, and then the fashion mags picked up on it and have run like crazy with it too. But I’m wondering what the point is having “body positive” blogs and such, but still filtering out things that are labelled as “unsightly” or “unattractive” in the content?
The reality is though, that human beings are big old lumpy creatures, and they have hair, scars, stretchmarks, zits, pores, freckles, scratches, bruises, moles, pigmentation and all kinds of other marks all over them. It’s all part of the complex system that the human body is. And despite all of these blemishes, the human body is still beautiful. Even because of these blemishes in a lot of cases.
How many other women look at photos like the one above and say “But she’s gorgeous, I couldn’t be seen in just my underwear, I look nothing like that.”? How many men think that all women are as flawless as the young lady above? Are we striving even now for an unrealistic perfection, even though we’re allowing fat bodies to be seen?
I wonder is it time we need to start being even more honest and realistic about human bodies?

24 comments on “Still a Long Way to Go

  • I was just thinking about this lately. We see women of all sizes in advertisements now, but most of them are still retouched to look like the smooth, even toned, flawless skin you are talking about. This is done to better sell whatever it is they are trying to sell in the photo. They do that because society will pay more attention to a garment in a flawless looking photo, therefor, being more likely to buy it. It makes sense to me, however I find it a bit unfortunate.

    How can we help get people to pay equal attention to those not only bigger, but with freckles, moles, scars, birthmarks, etc? Great post!

    xoxo Ashley
    http://loveashley.net

  • Count me. I saw that pic, and thought, if my body looked like that, I'd have no complaints, ever. The self-critique dies hard.

  • I totally agree… I mean, I have rolls, not a perfectly smooth, round tummy and none of the women I see ever have rolls. And I have little pink blemishes on my tummy. It doesn't make me less beautiful. Just different.

    But I also think that this is a stepping stone. We have almost fat, but not quite really fat bodies shown in Dove ads. We have shows about, but still not beyond the stereotype around fat people. We're on one of the first few steps of a long, winding, and probably shaky staircase to equality. I mean, the whole freaking American government is against fat people being fat. We've got a ways to go.

    For now, I will bask in the glow that is Slightly More Acceptance and dream, and pray, and most importantly, fight for the day when I can say I'm accepted. Even if that day never comes for me personally.

  • My artist ex-boyfriend was surprised that fat models get photoshopped the hell out of just as much as thin models, since fat models are allowed to have rolls and bulges, but not stretch marks (ie. he told me that a model had about the same body as I do, but was obviously more fit because she didn't have stretch marks.)

    these are big steps though.

  • Hey, Fat Chick is my tumblr! Yay.

    I know what you mean. I'd love to be posting more realistic pictures of women, cellulite dimples and all, but they are seriously hard to find. This is why art projects like Adipositivity.com and Leonard Nimoy's Full Body Project (both of which I've blogged about) are so brilliant.

    Frances @ Corpulent

  • Frances I love your Tumblr, only I wish there were more "normal" fatties out there for you to post. For all of us to post! I find even the Adipositivity Project only uses arty shots that hide things like stretchmarks and zits and hair etc.

    I will have to look more into the Leonard Nimoy project, as the few pieces I've seen are much more realistic.

    Ishieboo – I think you are right, while we've not got all the way, we've taken some steps forward, which I do think we need to celebrate… but keep pushing!

    Thank you all for commenting!

  • I look forward to the day when we are having this kind of conversation about positive images of fat men in the media. I do not ever, ever, see positive fat images of men ( even in the catalogues from the big and tall retailers.)

    I am shaped like a 380 pound pear. It takes a lot of inner self talk to get to a place where I like the way I look. Lucky for me I really do like a lot about myself. (there is really a lot to like actually) I get to the place of liking what I am wearing more since I found the FA community, but I still have to work at it. The work is tough especially when there is basically zero positive media about Fat guys.

    I think this reality is sometimes lost in the FA movement since there really aren't a lot of guys in it with the exception of the Fat Admirers.

    When I am in a good mood I like to say my charm outweighs my weight. And most of the time it does.

    Cheers,

    Ivan
    http://fatinnyc.blogspot.com/

  • I actually disagree with you there Ivan.

    While I do think there is a ways to go with representations of both male and female bodies in the media, I think we're a lot more used to seeing the big and husky bloke on TV and in movies than we are women. Look at how many big guys there are in sitcoms and movies with tiny wee wives. King of Queens, Drew Carey Show, Life According to Jim, in the movies Jack Black, Nick Frost, John Goodman, Danny Devito, Mark Addy… the list goes on and on.

    Even Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble were chunky guys with teeny tiny wives.

    But when you think of fat actresses, how many can you name in comparison, and are they fat, or just "normal" (which is fat compared to the teensy Size 0 that is usually expected.

    That doesn't mean to say we haven't got a ways to go with the guys as well, it's just that we've got even further with the ladies.

  • Sleepydumpling said: "I find even the Adipositivity Project only uses arty shots that hide things like stretchmarks and zits and hair etc."

    Hi, Sleepydumpling. I'm the creator/photographer/financier/chief doughnut fetcher for the Adipositivity Project. I appreciate the mention, but your above statement baffles me. I don't edit out stretchmarks, and haven't the vaguest how one would edit out body hair. I'd assumed that was apparent by the presence of, well, stretchmarks and body hair in the images of women with same. But a big, pulsating, 'bout-to-burst whitehead? Yeah. I'm gonna try to avoid showing you that. Same way I'm not gonna show you a model on the commode. Doesn't mean I'm trying to convince anyone fat women don't poop.

    I'll cop to the "arty," though. With a curtsy and a blushing thanks.

    Substantia Jones

  • Hi Substantia,

    Please don't see that as a criticism, it's simply an observation that most of the photos on the Adipositivity site are shot in the most flattering light, and the subjects are almost always women who are of the clear, smooth skinned variety.

    However the reality is though, those women are a tiny minority of human beings. We are lumpy, flawed creatures, very few enjoy the luxury of smooth, clear skin, without vast amounts of work.

    There was no implication that you employ editing techniques other than lighting and creative photography. But how often is a shot rejected for publication by yourself or the subject because "oh my God my skin looks awful" or "it's not very flattering".

    I love what you do, and hope you always do it. However I would like to see more acceptance of human beings AS THEY ARE as beautiful, warts and all.

  • Thank you Sleepydumpling for directing me to the images you mentioned. It has helped me to see the I was not clearly expressing my thoughts. This is a nice opportunity to develop my limited writing skills.

    I said "I look forward to the day when we are having this kind of conversation about positive images of fat men in the media. I do not ever, ever, see positive fat images of men ( even in the catalogues from the big and tall retailers.)"

    What I should have said is that I look forward to the day when we are having this kind of conversation (within the FA community) about positive images of extremely fat men in the media. I do not ever, ever, see positive images of extremely fat men (even in the catalogues from the big and tall retailers.)

    When see images of King of Queens, Drew Carey Show, Life According to Jim, in the movies Jack Black, Nick Frost, John Goodman I say to myself the masculine equivalent of "But she's gorgeous, I couldn't be seen in just my underwear, I look nothing like that."? Inside my head this sounds like, "But these guys are handsome and fit. I look nothing like the fat men portrayed in the media (except the headless bodies of the death fatties used to scare people during news reports about obesity or the occasional news story like the one here in the states last week where a 600lb man was arrested and smuggled a gun into the jail cell in his fat folds.) Clearly not positive images. If I'm having a less than good day, the next thoughts are ones that tell me I am undeserving of acceptance and other assorted bad thoughts that I don't want to think anymore.

    Hip Hop Rap Artist Heavy D was the only positive image of a guy who was as fat as me. He lost 160 pounds "the old fashioned way" according to this article http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_19_108/ai_n15893318/

    When I read, "One thing I am noticing though, is that the only fat bodies that seem to be acceptable to post, …" and "But I'm wondering what the point is having "body positive" blogs and such, but still filtering out things that are labelled as "unsightly" or "unattractive" in the content?", I related this to my experience of my male body type never being being represented in a positive way, not just in the media, but on the fat-o-sphere also! (the exception being the site http://chubarama.net/ which sexualizes the photos of fat men with a homosexual perspective. I glad that my Fat Gay brothers are having fun with this, however, as a straight very fat man, I look forward to more on the issue of FA for men of my type of Fat.

    I enjoy male privilege, however, my degree of fatness on many levels cancels out that privilege. The labels of unsightly or unattractive are assigned to me from many fronts. On the fat acceptance front I do my best to not buy into those and more hateful labels.

    So I think we are in total agreement about the lack of accurate representation of the kind of fat bodies that accurately represent us in the media.

    I, however, respectfully allow that we might not be in agreement.

    Cheers,

    Ivan

  • Thanks for clarifying Ivan.

    I do agree, there seems to be a "cap" on what level of fatness will be shown as "body positive", doesn't there? That goes for both men and women.

    However I do sincerely believe that the attitudes towards fat men are a lot gentler than towards fat women. That isn't saying that fat men don't cop abuse and discrimination, I'm just saying that it's far more prevalent for women, and the standards are far higher. As I said, you see far more fat men in the media than you do fat women, and the media is also far harsher on women than it is the jolly fat man.

  • Hi Sleepydumpling

    All tThe fat male stars that you mention are all on the smaller side of Fat Men. I think that even those guys would get more negative feedback than they do if they showed more skin than they do. I think that the gossip media have a field day with any of those stars caught wearing speedos on some beach.

    Fat stars like Ralphie May and Louie Anerson were treated worse than many fat female stars. Even Jackie Geason was depressed about his lot as a fat male star.

    I know many Fat Men who have not taken their shirts off in public since elementary school, that was not a result of gentle treatment.

    William

  • Hi William,

    If you read back through my comments, I'm not saying that men don't also cop a hard time for being fat. I'm saying that there is a far higher expectation of women than of men. If you can name me as many fat female stars as fat male ones, I'll revise that. And I mean properly fat, not just "curvy" or "normal sized".

    And take note that all of the fat guy characters on our TV and movie screens have thin wives. Name a fat female character with a thin husband.

    Cheers
    Kath

  • Hi Kath

    I disagree with your statement

    ……."However I do sincerely believe that the attitudes towards fat men are a lot gentler than towards fat women. That isn't saying that fat men don't cop abuse and discrimination, I'm just saying that it's far more prevalent for women, and the standards are far higher……..

    I know that Fat Women get more comments than Fat Men, but I do not think that this is a direct relation to the attitudes or what society thinks of Fat Men. Women of all sizes face more beauty standards than men, an good example is how Male Newscasters have a longer shelflife than Female Newscasters.

    As for the midsized Fat Male Stars you can have them, most of them play buffoons with a thin wives to act as a foils for fat jokes.

    As guy who has been fat all my life, I never got any many public comments, still I know where I stand in society.

    Researchers are just starting to comment on how writers like Chernin, Orbach and Bordo
    helped ruin Fat Acceptance for Fat Men with their apathy toward Fat Male Fat Issues. In this area Fat Acceptance still has a long way to go.

    William

  • I think you're missing the point.

    But anyway, this is not a blog about politics (please read my disclaimer), I'm talking about MY experience which is that there are far, far more fat men portrayed positively in the media than fat women.

    Let me say it again – I don't believe that fat men are any less discriminated against than fat women, but I do believe that there are far more positive images of fat men than there are of fat women. They are two very different points.

  • Hi Kath

    Your first post that was replying to Ivan seemed to be more about Fat Men in general than just Fat Actors on TV. That was what I answered

    I would not count most of the examples that you gave as positive media images. Fat Guys on TV never seem to have things "together" as their thin friends. An example on the King of Queens Doug and more so Spence "The Fat Guys" were most often the butt of the jokes while Deacon the "thin guy" was the straight man.

    William

  • Whatever. I'm not here to argue semantics, semantics bore me shitless, I'm here to talk about the issues fat women face.

    Again, read my disclaimer. PLEASE.

  • HI

    We will have to agree to disagree. Your disclaimer says exactly what Fat Men need from Fat Acceptance….support.

    ……..If it helps one fat heffalump like me hold his or her head high, walk with confidence and self esteem, to no longer feel alone and to get past the pain and self loathing, then that's what I'm here for…..

    The way the experiences/issues of Fat Men are defined in Fat Acceptance is a Key Issue for Fat Men. I do not think that many of the Fat Men active in Fat Acceptance would agree with a lot of what Fat Acceptance has to say about the experiences of Fat Men. Until more of the Fat Male experience is told by Fat Men these debates will continue.

    Thanks for letting me have a say!!

    William

  • Perhaps you should start your own blog up instead of spamming mine with comments?

    Any further comments on this subject from you will be deleted.

    Thank you

  • William – please goto my blog at http://fatinnyc.blogspot.com/

    SleepyDumpling – You are right about women having it harder than men. This statement is true about many areas in life and I agree it is especially pronounced when it comes to Fat Hatred.

    I appreciate you acknowledging my point and I look forward to more thoughtful discussions on this issue.

    One of the things I like about your blog is your disclaimer. First and foremost I too am looking "to hold my head high, walk with confidence and self esteem, to no longer feel alone and to get past the pain and self loathing."

    In fact I went out to dinner tonight in beautiful NYC during the evening after work rush hour with my walker and my big 380 pound ass which looks pretty cool all dressed up in black. I had a great time tonight partly due to our exchange here.

    I also agree that there are more appropriate places for debate. This exchange for me was about support.

    Your disclaimer doesn't indicate an exclusive focus on the issues fat women face. I look forward to following you and when appropriate commenting on your work here if it is welcome.

    Cheers,

    Ivan

  • I feel the same sort of way. I'm at peace with my stretch marks, partially because of a realization that even thin women can get them. I don't mind my moles; I don't mind my fat rolls. But I still feel embarrassed that I don't have the smooth, unblemished skin that is seen everywhere.

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