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Manolo for the Big Girl | Archive | June, 2012
Archive - June, 2012

Fatties With Heads! Doing Awesome Things!

We’ve all seen the photos that go with scary screeds about ZOMGOBEESITEEEEE! They tend to look like this:

… or like this:

No heads. No human expressions. According to media standards all we are is bellies… and an occasional pair of buttocks. It’s propaganda that dehumanizes us and makes the world fear us.

But the fact is that we have heads, we have hands, we have feet, we have interests and friends and lovers and spouses and jobs and all the same things thin people have. I, for one, am sick and tired of being portrayed as a stomach or a pair of nether cheeks.

Enter Stocky Bodies.

It’s a fabulous collection of stock photos of fat people doing things like exercising, hanging out with friends and lovers, shopping, getting tattoos, making jewelry, and just generally having lives.

As the creators state on their site:

Our images challenge oversimplified and demeaning representations of weight prejudice by showing subjects engaged in everyday activities, such as bike riding, shopping for fashionable clothes and performing their jobs. The documentary imagery to be shown through the library is a non-stigmatising view of what it is to be fat and live an affirmative life.

You have to sign up and agree to terms of use if you want to use the pictures, but the process is painless and free… as are the pictures.

The brainchild of Dr. Lauren Gurrieri and Mr. Isaac Brown, they gathered together Australian FA activists to act as the subjects of their photos. In fact, you may have recognized the ever-awesome Kath of Fat Heffalump up there riding her bike.

So far the only thing I can think of that would make it better is more photos!

What a (Big) Girl Wants

Yesterday, superfantastic reader ChaChaHeels commented:

I think a lot of dress manufacturers for plus sizes are producing under the delusion that “the big girls want to dress the same way the smaller girls do”. […]

It’s not true that plus size girls “want the same clothes” that “regular” sized women can wear. Plus sized women want clothes that flatter the curves and shapes they alone have, so that they don’t feel uncomfortable or look like their clothing is unsuitable. I think we want the opportunity to look great, like other women can and do, but the clothes have to be designed around our actual bodies, not some one’s idea of what we should look like. There are plenty of ways to cut fabric and create designs that do just that.

First of all, may I once again express my appreciation for my readers, who –unlike commenters on many blogs out there– are erudite, thoughtful and gracefully manage to rise above the “boobies! poop! my dad can beat up your dad!” standard set for internet discourse.

(heh, boobies)

That being said, while I am inclined to agree with La ChaCha for my  personal choices, it’s tricky to talk about plus-size women in general as wanting any one thing. Except for licking Nutella off Mario Balotelli’s midsection, and even then, some people might not like Nutella.

The sensitive Italian striker got a yellow card for this display after scoring his second goal against Germany in the Euro semi-finals. Worth. It.

Some big girls really do want plus-size fashion that’s the exact same as straight-sized clothes, and I think most of us would at least like to have the option of making the same sartorial blunders as our thinner pals.

It’s not that straight-sized clothes are designed so much better, it’s that there’s so much more OF it.

While a size 6 can walk into virtually any clothing store and find something that fits, be it good, bad or ugly, a size 16 has a harder time of it and a size 26 harder still. Size 36? You might as well bring your own Sherpa and a hip flask: You’re gonna be looking for a while.

That being said: It’s so much better than it used to be.

Maybe the clothes themselves aren’t better –Lane Bryant has been slouching towards Old Navy for at least five years now– but instead of one or two stores we now have…ok, still pretty much those two brick and mortars, but online shopping has exploded.

That’s why I can’t bust too hard on Monif C. or any designer cutting and styling exclusively for the plus size market, even if their clothes don’t ring my bell.

I mean, whatever your opinion on orgiastically fringed teal maillots, when it comes to shopping options it’s difficult to argue this:

is better than this:

The black swimsuit photo also illustrates one of the difficulties of designing tailored clothes for the big girl: These women all wear more or less the same size, but are VASTLY different body shapes. You’ve got your standard –if you can call anything a standard– pear, apple, rectangle, hourglass and ice-cream cone shapes and because they’re plus-sized, the differences are more extreme from a pattern-drafting point of view.

Obviously ChaChaHeels is right: there are plenty of ways to cut and design clothes to flatter plus size bodies, and it’s not even that hard. The problem is, which of those women do you pick as a fit model for clothes “designed around our actual bodies”?

My theory is it’s a numbers game.

The more clothes available, even the tragic messes, the more likely you are to find something that fits both your body and your taste. Forever 21 isn’t my idea of a good time, but once I found a fantastic blue and white striped dress very reminiscent of Lacroix-on-the-Costa-Brava-Circa-1986 in their plus size collection. Plus there will always be women who choose fashion over flattering (and good for them. There are enough safe dressers in the world).

What do you think plus-size women want, and if you were queen of the forest, how would you give it to them?

 

 

It’s a Look

but, to quote our dear friend Thombeau, is it for you?

This Monif C creation (truly, could it be anyone else?) reminds one a bit of the sadly fallen Galliano’s brilliant final Spring Couture show for Dior, itself a reference to the house’s 1953 Tulip Line collection. Except not.

You Better Recognize! Privilege

Privilege is a funny old dog, and few of us don’t enjoy it in one form or another, even if we’re not afforded that mystical “thin privilege” I’ve read so much about.

Talking about it is a sticky wicket too. I’d like to think I do fairly well recognizing my own privilege, especially as I’ve been confronted with it in a way most Americans who never live outside their native borders don’t have a chance see. I accept it, I use it to my advantage but I don’t pretend for one second it’s earned. It’s like talent. It’s undeserved and only gets you so far, but you’d be a fool to waste it, especially if it could help you and other people, too.

Watching a gap-toothed six year-old with an admirable tangle of hair peddle her basket of technicolor chicle to border town beachcombers a few months ago, I wondered how different her life would’ve been if she’d been born in a country she could see but probably never visit.

What was I doing when I was six?

Probably wandering around with tangled hair annoying the hell out of someone, too.  But I was doing it in a seven-bedroom ranch house inside the Beltway with food on the table, money in the bank and –when my grandmother could catch me– shoes on my feet. At six my job was to go to school, get smart and try not to cause trouble. It was lather, rinse, repeat until after college, where “earn lots of money and marry a Republican” were added to the list. Two out of five ain’t bad.

It’s pointless, not to mention plight-porny, to debate our respective happiness. I don’t subscribe to the idea that poverty necessarily equals misery any more than wealth equals happiness, but I was certainly the more privileged than the chewing gum girl and I’m pretty sure it was luck, not Outstanding Performance by an Embryo that landed me with the socio-economic brass ring.

But the question is, if you’re afforded a privilege you don’t find exactly morally upright, is it immoral to take advantage of it?

Eh, tough call.

Here in Mexico advantage seems to be very much tied in to skin color.

Race is a whole other kettle of fish and my part of Mexico isn’t especially ethnically diverse. I’d say 90% mestizo, 8% Anglo, 2% Other (mostly Asian). There doesn’t seem to me to be a whole lot of day to day thought on race, but of course I could be wrong. When I first played Lotería, a type of picture bingo that’s gone relatively unchanged since its advent in the 1880s,  no one understood why I thought the illustration of a dapper gentleman of color labeled El Negrito, “the little black man” –incidentally the name Liverpool Football Club’s Luis Suarez was given an astounding eight game ban for using in reference to the  diminutive Senegal-born Patrice Evra–  was more than a little offside.

These were the same friends whose collective minds were blown when they, never having been exposed to the real-life cultures of the African diaspora, breezily dropped the N-bomb in the middle of an English practice session, completely unaware that Kanye West should probably not be their personal Henry Higgins. It’s just different down here.

A few weeks ago I mentioned dressing for a meeting and purposefully drawing attention to my fair skin and it caused a bit of a kerfuffle on some other website.

I can see it both ways.

Yes, it’s messed up that fairer skinned people are looked upon as more affluent, because to many of us, the implication is a racial bias, BUT in a country where the working classes often do labor under the sun all day, a light complexion conveys the same message now that it did in most of the Western world before Coco Chanel single-handedly replaced the alabaster brow with a golden tan as the social signifier of the luxuriating class.

I’m a lot more okay with the idea that fair skin means I’m wealthy enough not to have to work outside (which is true) than the idea my blinding honkeydom has some sort of innate magickal white person virtue (which is false, unless you count the ability to freckle on command as a virtue).

In a perfect world, of course, the externals wouldn’t matter.

We’d be judged on the quality of our character, not our shoes, our accent, our social signifiers and our size. But that’s not the world we live in, so I put on flats if my height is going to hurt me, dust off my Birkin if a ridiculously expensive bag that weighs as much as a Labrador is going to help me, and do my best to control the way people interpret my image. Ideally in a way that can be monetized and turned into shoes.

That’s what a lot of fashion and style is about. Controlling your appearance to project a certain image. Does it ever become immoral to manipulate your own image to gain more privilege? I don’t know. What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Suck It, Weight of Nations Authors

So I’m guessing that most of you have seen, read, or heard vicious rumors of various articles based on the study The Weight of Nations: an Estimation of Adult Human Biomass. You know, articles with titles like ‘Armaglutton’ and ‘Obesity Could Lead to the End of the Human Race.’

The thing is, the entire study is based on guesswork via estimation with a dash of delicious fear mongering on the side.

First, the authors assume that fat people eat more, use more, and are harder to move around than thin people. They also assume that height is not a factor that has any significant effect on BMI when it is actually one of the factors used in calculating BMI. Then they fill in the blanks in various statistics from various countries using rough guesstimates based on other countries’ statistics in those same areas.

Then they compare what the world would be like if every country had the same rough BMI distribution as Japan… and then if the distribution were like the US.

Guess what? If the average world BMI distribution resembles the USA more than Japan, there are more larger people… and that means we’re going to use up everything much, much faster than if we would all just turn Japanese and get smaller.

Of course this also ignores the fact that Japan has a far less ethnically diverse population than the US, and that different ethnic groups are more or less generally inclined to higher BMIs. It also ignores dozens of scientifically reputable studies that have entirely failed to show any predictable difference between what and how fat and thin people eat. It assumes that fat people are using up the fossil fuels faster than thin people. I know the plural of anecdote isn’t data, but I walk most places and I know a lot of other fat people who ride bikes, take public transport, or use really energy-efficient cars. Has anyone ever looked seriously into how many fat people don’t own or rarely use cars? Because if they did, then I missed the study. My guess, the one I am readily admitting I’m making a random stab in the dark about, is that fat people are using fossil fuels at a roughly equal rate overall as thin people.

I’m not even a scientist and I know that my guess is at best a hypothesis. I learned that big ol’ word in about fourth grade science when they taught me that guesstimates based on rounding up some things, rounding down others, and taking a stab in the dark do not add up to scientific conclusions.

Oh, and while we’re at it, suck it news organizations that took this study, calculated out the most dire possibilities that could be teased from the least substantiated aspects of it, and ran the results as hard news.

Because you know what isn’t news? The fact that someone else has a random theory that fat people are destroying the earth.

Faulkner for Friday

Yesterday I introduced Hot Latin Boy to one of my three favorite Williams: William Faulkner.

He’ll have to wait for the other two: my brother is in Texas and my grandfather is in Heaven –places easily confused, though rarely in summer– but Faulkner was ready and able, sitting nestled between James Thurber and E.B. White in a oddly assembled short story anthology that serves as the only decent volume in an otherwise abysmal collection of forgotten books I found tucked among the spiders in Plumcake Cottage’s ornately carved linen cupboard.

Waiting for my wrist to heal has kept me off sweet lady internet and back to the loving arms of actual printed books. I’ve been crabby at the internet anyway. I understand the shift to new media, but I have a hard time accepting well-written editorials and investigative reporting are essentially being replaced by pictures of kittens and we, as educated, thoughtful citizens of the world are letting it.

The Faulkner in question was the quietly terrifying That Evening Sun. Narrated by 9 year-old Quentin Compson–one of Faulkner’s most frequent characters– it tells the story of Nancy, a black washerwoman in the service of the white Compson family. Nancy, having been accused by her violent common-law husband Jesus of becoming pregnant by a white man, pleads for protection from the Compsons, eventually using Quentin and his two young siblings as a sort of human shield against Jesus, who she was convinced was lying in wait for her, razor in hand.

It was a little dark for a bedtime story –HLB and I alternate reading short stories aloud each night– so I wanted to end on a happier note.

Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, delivered December 10, 1950 has long been a favorite. While my fellow Deeply Misunderstood Youth were building altars to the golden god of all insufferable teenagers, Holden Caulfield, I was holed up reading the news from Yoknapatawpha County. ( it gives me great pleasure to see Google spell check recognizes Yoknapatawpha but puts the red squiggle of doom under Caulfield. Suck it, Salinger. -ed)

If you’ve never read it, do yourself an existential solid and click over to the Nobel Prize website to read five short paragraphs that might inspire, challenge and provoke you. After that, the pictures of kittens are up to you.

 

 

 

 

Blog Recs!

Hey gang! You can’t keep a good girl down (or a bad one to shut up) so I’m back with a quick link. I know many of you are gnashing your teeth, rending your garments and pulling out hanks of healthy, manageable hair from the knowledge you’re going to be deprived of your beloved Miss Plumcake for a few days, so if you want some actual insightful, meaningful, high-quality journalism to tide you over until I can provide you with the my trademark overwrought vapidity in the quantities you know and love, might I suggest you follow my squealing fangirl path over to Bitch Media to read J. Victoria Sanders’ Lady Business series.

You can read her latest entry here. Yes, the opening line is slightly ticklish since I’m not entirely sure the gender revolution can happen as long as a feminine hygiene product is an insult. Other equal-opportunity cleansers don’t get the same bad rap, neither do masculine products, so there must be something about that particular product that implies undesirability and I’m going to step out on a rather sturdy branch and guess it has less to do with its fundamental dangers for your personal flora and fauna and a whole lot to do with its association with those scary, scary pay grade differentiators, the original hearts of darkness: vaginas. (There’s a sentence I bet Joseph Conrad never envisioned).

She also has a blog, Single and Happy, that is #3 on my daily reading list, right after Dirty Tackle and right before the Anglican news wire. But hey, being nestled between David Beckham and The Archbishop of Canterbury isn’t too bad a place to be, right?

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