Fat and lit

Ian W. Riddell iwriddell at charter.net
Tue Feb 4 18:44:15 EST 2003


As a "fat" person who is trying to both live comfortably in the body 
that I have (which is no one's definition of only "slightly" 
overweight) and treat that body better by eating more healthfully and 
excercising more I appreciate your well-though-out message.

It truly is a trickly road to walk between disparaging people for 
their body type and encouraging heavy (very) people to stay that way.

As to your Card example. I agree that that trek would cause anyone to 
lose weight, but was the weight loss also symbolic of a 
transformation into a stronger, "better" person? That's where the 
trickiness lies.

I am not personally offended by changes in weight used as metaphors 
for changes in character as long as this isn't the only portrayal of 
"heavy" people around.



>I don't want to get into this topic, because it's something skinny people
>like me are never able to talk to fat people about without being (usually
>unintentionally) offensive.  Also because fatness as it's defined nowadays
>is taken to ridiculous extremes.  Jacob and I went to see a play that had
>been written as a result of an online discussion about body type and
>attractiveness.  The main character was supposed to be someone who was
>overweight and yet became the main love interest of the male lead--without
>losing weight.  The play was wonderful, but the female lead was...well, she
>was definitely not slender, but not what I'd call fat.  (The play's author
>is a very hefty guy himself, and I suppose I used him as a baseline for
>'overweight.')  So we nagged him about it afterward, because what we REALLY
>wanted to see was a VERY large woman who was also clearly an attractive
>woman.  One of the things the playwright said about it, aside from other
>casting issues, was that this actress did think she was fat.  That made me
>just sick inside, because she was a very pretty young woman.  So I think the
>stereotype of the chunky person losing weight and therefore becoming
>attractive, saving the world, etc., is stupid and unnecessary.
>It's where the issue of body type, weight, and attractiveness meet reality
>that I feel inclined to protest.  As I said, the line at which someone is
>considered "fat" is drawn really really low these days.  But there is a
>point at which too much fat becomes extremely unhealthy.  And this is what
>disturbs me.  It's one thing to divorce your feelings of self-worth from
>what your body type is.  It's another to be proud of being unhealthy--and by
>this I mean that you have evidence that your personal body type and weight
>are causing health problems, and yet you're proud of your body and refuse to
>change it.  My family learned this last year when my father, chronically
>obese, became diabetic.  He was told straight out by his doctor that this
>was a result of his weight.  Before that, his weight had been affecting his
>breathing, his sleep patterns, and his energy.  Now that he's started
>exercising he's lost about fifty pounds already, and I hope he does lose the
>next 150, because he's going to be happier and healthier.
>The thing is, I don't like the assumption that *every* time a character
>loses weight it's some kind of comment on how overweight people are immoral
>and lazy and you have to be thin to be happy.  I remember one of Orson Scott
>Card's stories from _Folk of the Fringe_, in which a very large lady is
>forced to cross the country on foot from North Carolina to Utah.  She sheds
>a lot of weight and ends up rail-thin and tough.  I don't see this as
>anything other than a reflection of reality that almost everyone, given this
>kind of strenuous exercise, will have a marked change in their physique.
>I don't know.  This is probably all still unintentionally offensive and I'm
>an insensitive cad.  I can't presume to know why people weigh what they do.
>I don't know why I'm at a supposedly normal weight for someone my height,
>and yet my butt is still the size of Kansas.  I would just like to be able
>to write about--and read about--people of different weights without having
>to overcompensate for the stereotype.
>Melissa Proffitt
>(An addendum:  One of my favorite "overweight" characters from literature is
>in Charlotte McLeod's Peter Shandy series.  In the second book, we meet
>Iduna Bjorklund, who is an amazingly beautiful woman and is also very large.
>The descriptions of her are just lovely.  She's introduced in _The Luck Runs
>Out_ and then has appearances in most of the later books.  And she never
>gets thin.)
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Fairy tales are not true--fairy tales are important, and they are not 
true, they are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons 
exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated.
G.K. Chesterton

Ian W. Riddell
iwriddell at charter.net
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