Fat and lit

deborah deborah at suberic.net
Wed Feb 5 00:17:30 EST 2003

(Ooh!  Positive fat fantasy character: Peter Beagle's Sia, the enourmous
and sensual [spoiler] from Folk of the Air!  And she's great.)

Melissa, you remember what I said about how we meld together our
registers of what "fat" means, and so end up saying oddly inconsistent
things that don't make sense?  Well:

|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.

And she can't think she's fat and also think she's pretty?  ;)  (Not
pretty *even though* she's fat, but pretty *and* fat, or even pretty
*because* she's fat?)

I know, I know, that's not what you meant.  But it's what you wrote, and
therefore -- at some level -- probably what you thought, and that's my

|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.

Many serial dieters are extremely proud of their physical habits, which
are appalling for their bodies.  Moreover, society rewards them, while
it punishes people who are fat, who -- as pointed out in the article I
linked -- may well be perfectly healthy.

|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.

Yes, Melissa, you thoughtless, insensitive cad.  ;)  Thin people are
allowed to talk about weight, by special dispensation of the
list-mistress, as long as you sacrifice a goat to me, first.

I think what we're doing is all about creating the ability to read and
write about people without fretting too much.  First of all, we're all
reading DWJ, and we've already come up with a plethora of cases in which
she breaks the stereotypes -- which allow her to occasionally fall into
the sterotypes.  After all, if you break stereotypes all the time, then
your characters are *characters*, not types.  But secondly, we're all
thoughtful readers, which means that we may occasionally come away from
books like Holes or Hatchet or Folk of the Fringe feeling mildly
shortchanged that the writers used weight loss and muscle tone as
shorthand for showing character growth.  And we have people like
Charlie, who let characters be successful without losing weight!  Which
isn't overcompensating ...  it's simply allowing.  Surely some fat
characters (Shine?) should be allowed to be evil, but others (Nan?)
should be allowed to be happy, successful heroes.  Otherwise it's a
sadly lacking diversity of characters we get.

deborah at suberic.net
Always remember to demand more of yourself than anyone else.  Otherwise you
become merely a tiresome rebellious young girl who wants that the whole
world should change to suit her whim.  The world is full of such as these;
most of them grow up at last, but they are not particularly admirable,
enfin.  They are against everything, for nothing. -- _Jade_

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