The moment you mention “fat” and anything positive in the same sentence you get a response that’s meant to put you in your place. It will usually go something like, “I don’t believe in encouraging unhealthy behaviour” or “I’m all for self-acceptance, but…”.
I certainly do understand this sentiment. I think social stigma can be a powerful way to discourage bad behaviour. Just look at MADD’s entire campaign against drunk driving, for example.
However, I do think there is an unnecessarily strong reaction against Fat Positivity. Below I’ve outlined 3 reasons why I think that reaction is unfair.
1) We overlook healthy individuals with large bodies because they don’t fit our cultural beauty standards
The number one criticism of fat acceptance is that it encourages unhealthy behaviour. However, there are more and more examples that prove body size doesn’t always dictate health. Olympic hammer-thrower Amanda Bingson encountered this type of assumption when she was kicked off her high school volleyball team for not losing weight. Years later and she has been able to prove that a large body is just as capable of amazing things as a small body. It’s been encouraging to see her featured in this year’s ESPN Body Issue, the magazine’s “annual celebration of athletes’ amazing bodies”.
Another large and healthy individual who has come to my attention is yogi Jessamyn Stanley. I try (emphasis on try) to practice yoga every week, and yoga is, for me, one of the few physical activities I’m actually kind of okay at. That’s why I was stunned to see Stanley doing moves I am still far away from accomplishing. It’s clear to me that Stanley has the kind of core strength that most of the slender yogis in my classes still haven’t managed to build.
I cannot do this pose without assistance. I can maybe do a headstand on a good day, but just on my arms like this? No way.
Believe it or not, I drafted this post over a month ago because I just assumed 2 Broke Girls was going to air alongside all of the other fall sitcoms. That was also when I put together the banner above, which I ended up using because CBS decided not to release any promo images. And heck, I was going to embed it somewhere anyway because I put way too long photoshopping Kim Noel Kardashian into that screenshot.
Here’s about the extent of what I know about the “American television and social media personality, socialite, fashion designer, businesswoman, model, and actress” [thanks for giving me her exact occupation, Wikipedia!]:
That’s about as provocative title as I could have given this post, so let’s move along posthaste so that we can get to the bottom of it. Yesterday the image below appeared in r/pics with the title “I think this is a pretty disrespectful fashion “trend”. Found on hipster clothing site.”
I’ve taken the liberties of adding our Shame Day mascot, Dr. Zoidberg, there at the bottom.
I wish that was more straightforward, but this is the internet so everything is complicated. Let me explain the background of the above image and the source of the hat in question. Continue reading →
Dumpster diving has become a pretty trendy thing. So trendy, that the hipster-mocking TV show Portlandia even did a sketch about it.
After moving to Victoria last fall John and I decided to attempt our first dumpster dive. We aren’t freegans and we don’t wear your grandpa’s clothes but we sure were excited about having a way to save on grocery money.
We may not dress like Macklemore and his crew, but we sure do love a thrifty alternative.
EVAN: To start this off by ignoring our readership and addressing you, this week’s topic is a weird sort of continuation of the various posts on culture you’ve written, such as “manly culture,”“science culture,” etc. And similar to these other groups of people, “nerd culture” is a pretty nebulous sort of thing to define.
GORDON: No argument there. After all, even the “nerds” insist on calling out “fake nerds”- especially in regards to women/girls. But what is a nerd anyways?
EVAN: See, now I’m torn, because we do need to define it, but you’ve also directly referenced an issue I wanted to discuss in depth this week.
GORDON: How about we abandon our previous track record, and just plunge recklessly ahead and hope the issue resolves itself?
EVAN: Well, let me throw this image out there:
And then hope that suffices for now.
GORDON: Works for me. So what was it that you wanted to address specifically?
To break it down further, these are women who dress up as superheroes and what have you without knowing about the actual characters themselves. He is upset because, to quote him:
BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SH-T ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER.
Also that they attend to essentially just tease the regular con-goers and are actually not even hot, just “con-hot.” So yeah, he said a lot.
GORDON: Ah yes, I recall reading about this. And while I think we can all agree Harris went too far, is a bit hypocritical (seeing how most comic women ain’t exactly average looking), and probably getting too emotional, I can’t help but wonder if he has, somewhere in there, a point.
I mean, imagine if all of a sudden, something that you had been stigmatized for became popular, and people started trying to co-opt your identity knowing nearly nothing about it. I’d be ticked off too.
EVAN: That’s definitely something I’ve read people write about, that this used to be an exclusive club and that it took years to build up this knowledge and become, well, a nerd, and here are these noobs and they want in and it’s not that easy.
And I can see where they’re coming from as well.
But if you really love something, shouldn’t you want others to as well? The Avengers has an enormous following on tumblr these days [because of the movie], and these are people who are actually going out and starting to buy comics. They are helping sales, aiding the industry, etc.
GORDON: That’s true, and something I’ve considered, but there’s probably also an argument to be made for the other side. That something precious to you is being watered down and diluted for profit. I don’t believe that nerds (comic book nerds, anyways) can necessarily make this argument, but the line of logic is there.
Let’s try to come up with an example of this happening somewhere else, especially in regards to persecution.
EVAN: Mmk, go ahead-
GORDON: “Black culture” (or what was passed off as black culture) might be an example. Can you state that you’re not driven nuts by wealthy, comfortable suburban kids fronting like they’re from the streets of Oakland?
EVAN: Yeah, people are upset about it, sure, but there’s not this immense outcry over it. There are comic-con enthusiasts that are genuinely incensed that all of this is happening-
I doubt that an actual thug or gangbanger or whatever these rich White kids are playing at imitating is going to start freaking out that he’s getting ripped off. He’s going to laugh or shrug it off, because it hardly matters.
GORDON: I’d argue that the reason for this has more to do with the change in venue. It’s easy for the major players of the comic book industry to voice their opinions than, say, a Wu-Tang Clan fan in the late 90s. But maybe I’m wrong.
EVAN: For the most part, I see this as a mindset that is the foundation or core of hipsterism, and that we all feel to some extent, however minor. That we found something and we love it and there is a pride in joy in being one of the original fans.
And this outpouring of others somehow cheapens things. And all of a sudden we’re trying to assert how we’re better than them in some way.
“You chose to dress up as Spider-Woman? Do you even know who her alter-ego is, or what her powers are? Etc.”
GORDON: Again, do we not sympathize? Do we not feel frustrated with people who have more or less jumped on the bandwagon now that it’s all safe and socially acceptable to do so? Heck, just imagine if someone tried listing themselves as a fan of fine cooking, having only eaten sushi once- would you be ticked?
EVAN: If I equated sushi with fine cooking I guess I would, yeah. But just because we can understand someone’s anger and frustration doesn’t make it logical.
GORDON: I wouldn’t say that there’s not a logic to it. I mean, a major part of being a nerd is, and always has been, the social pariah element. All of the sudden you have these people trying to claim to be on the fringes of society? It’s condescending and insulting.
EVAN: I think that’s the issue- They’re not trying to “claim to be on the fringes of society.”
GORDON: I disagree- I feel this is a coward’s way of feigning rebelliousness and all that.
EVAN: Sometimes people who haven’t been exposed to comics for much of their lives see a movie, or read a trade, and go to a con. Maybe they wear a costume. That doesn’t mean they’re going into this thinking, in any way, that they’re suddenly a part of this group of outcasts.
Comics are popular now. I mean, more than they’ve ever been. To say “I like comics” is no longer the sort of thing that’s going to get you shunned. People are going to raise their eyebrows and wonder why you think that’s a big deal.
GORDON: Comics yes, no one is gonna argue that. The title of “nerd” however, that’s different. And after all, “nerd” is a much larger term. It applies to gamers, to film, and so on.
EVAN: So how does one become a “fake nerd”?
GORDON: Therein lies the rub- there’s always gonna be more obsessive nerds out there. People higher up and lower down the hierarchy. But for the most part, I think we can agree that a “false” nerd is one who does not meet the criteria in that diagram you posted.
The “social ineptitude”, the “obsessiveness”- if it’s not actually there (no matter how much the person or persons might insist otherwise) then that person is a “fake” nerd.
EVAN: So am I a “fake nerd”?
GORDON: Do you call yourself a nerd?
EVAN: I don’t really call myself anything. But I’d also say that many of the girls who go to cons and find themselves attacked by Harris don’t refer to themselves as anything in particular either.
GORDON: Then no, I wouldn’t define you or them as fitting this category. Like I said- Harris went overboard.
EVAN: I just don’t think social ineptitude needs to be a requirement in this. I think you could be a nerd and still have friends, and achieve some level of popularity. The diagram above really shoehorns the definition. I mean, what if I did call myself a nerd?
I’m fairly smart, about 80% of the time I’m thinking about comics, or comics-related media. At the same time, I’m a fairly social guy. What does that mean?
GORDON: You think about comics 80% of the time?
EVAN: I think about comics a lot.
GORDON: 80% of your waking thoughts is a craaaaaazy lot, though I’d say your self-identification as a nerd is flawed. Serial-killer in the making would be more accurate. But we begin to split hairs at this point.
GORDON: Hugh Laurie can do whatever the **** he wants. As does anyone. With everything he does, can he identify himself first and foremost as a blues musician? Not really. At least, that ain’t how we’re all gonna think of him, or remember him.
EVAN: Does it matter that it’s what you identify as first and foremost? I am positive that at some level, yes, he does identify as a blues musician.
GORDON: It does matter how you identify yourself first and foremost. I’ve eaten bugs on multiple occasions- I don’t declare myself “Gordon Brown: Bug Eater.” The rest of the stuff I do outweighs it by far.
EVAN: You’re missing my point. You’ve eaten bugs, so on some level you can identify as a bug-eater.
If he identifies as a blues artist less than he does as an actor, that doesn’t negate the fact that he identifies as a blues artist, and what we’re talking about is people being able to say that they can and do relate to a culture, and that doesn’t make them fake adherents of that.
GORDON: Let me offer another example: I’ve been camping, and I occasionally read survivalist pamphlets. For me to call myself a “survivalist” would nevertheless be inaccurate and misleading. That’s the crux of the matter, I believe.
A nerd is someone who is in this for the long haul- a person who enjoys The Avengers or Nolan’s Batman trilogy isn’t. At least, not necessarily.
EVAN: I’m not saying that a person who enjoyed The Avengers equates being a nerd. That’s like, half the Earth’s population, if the box office is any indicator.
I’m saying that a person who saw The Avengers, and then heads over to their local comics store to check some out, and gets really into it, has the potential to become a “comics nerd” of sorts. And people who see them and scorn them for not being there from the beginning should be ashamed of themselves.
If we’re sticking with the example of film and comics and so-on.
GORDON: And I agree- those people should not be viewed with derision. But that’s not who we’re talking about here.
We’re talking about ****ing hipsters, about people who have just enough knowledge of a culture to give themselves the veneer or adopting it. People who wear glasses as a ****ing fashion statement. You know the kind.
It’s about motives. The noob who is just now getting into the culture isn’t a “false” nerd- just a young one. The person who call himself or herself a nerd to co-opt the social stigma (now that it’s all but gone) deserves contempt.
EVAN: I honestly don’t think that what these people are trying to co-opt is the social stigma.
GORDON: My poor choice of words. I mean the false sense of rebellion. Like people who post pro-gay Facebook statements simply to draw attention and applause to themselves. Fake-rebels. Fair-weather activists.
EVAN: That’s fine, and I agree that these people are not to be applauded.
I just think that for the most part, people are realizing that there is a lot in the “nerd culture” that they find interesting and accessible, and are gravitating towards it. Not out of some misguided attempt to be on the edge of society, but because they legitimately enjoy whatever it is they’re trying to engage with.
GORDON: I agree- I simply don’t think it’s these people most old-guard nerds are angry at.
EVAN: But how can they differentiate? That’s a huge issue. It’s this reaction of the community against anyone that’s not legit, but without any way of truly being able to tell how people feel-
GORDON:That in and of itself is another issue. If I showed up to the social justice convention dressed as Che Guevara you’d best believe I’d better know a thing or two about the guy who I’m completely dressed up as- but we’re moving off track.
EVAN: But the point of social justice conventions isn’t to dress up as your favourite revolutionary- that’s entirely besides the point. I bring it up because it’s completely cogent to our topic, because it’s exactly what Tony Harris was railing against.
GORDON: Tony Harris ran his mouth and made a fool of himself, I ain’t trying to defend a word of what he said or wrote, only the general perspective he seems to be coming from.
EVAN: What I’m saying, without negating your points is this, and I’m going to try to wrap up since we’re 15 minutes past our cut-off, is this:
I’m someone says “LOL im such a nerd” and they wear glasses with big frames and have a Green Lantern patch on their backpack, yeah, I’d say that’s not okay. But a large issue is being able to, as a community, acknowledge when “outsiders” try to access what it is that we love so dearly.
We like comic books and Star Trek and Dungeons and Dragons, and if other people might as well, that’s fine. Just because others weren’t always welcoming of us in the past doesn’t mean we should do the same to others. Especially when there’s some likelihood, even a little, that they could one day be as big a fan as you [as hard as that may be to believe].
GORDON: Well put. Be sure to stop by next time for our discussion of . . .
EVAN: Of . . . uh . . . I threw out this topic last week, what’ve you got?
GORDON: Let’s address the portrayal of drugs- weed in particular- in media and popular culture.
EVAN: That’s a pretty contemporary topic too, because of the legalization in Washington and all that. Sounds good to me.
GORDON: Let it be so then. Merry Wednesday to all, and to all a good night!
““Do we want to be good, or do we just want to look good?”
GORDON: I’m not entirely sure I can come up with any swift dismissal of this possibility, I mean- look at the world we live in. Do we believe in being environmentally and socially conscious? Absolutely. But to what extent? I mean, we’ll chuck our soda cans in the recycling, but are we gonna picket Monsanto?
Are we really just observing these “little” things because they’re expected of us? Do we actually care one way or another?
EVAN: As far as recycling goes, we do that in Canada because it’s the law. Looking good only has so much to do with it.
If we want to go with the example of, say, giving a few dollars towards an environmental organization [or maybe because the fundraiser was cute], that works a little more maybe. It at least contrasts with picketing/protesting. I think we care, but maybe not enough? That’s if we’re quantifying “care” now by the actions that it results in.
GORDON: Is it, perhaps, that we’re cynical? Do we as a generation ultimately despair of the effectiveness of any method of change? Is the reason we’re unable to really go the distance when it comes to our causes because we think it’s all just in vain?
EVAN: Do we think it’s all futile? I mean, we’re certainly led to believe that to some extent. To focus on environmentalism, the extent of the destruction to this earth is growing ever closer to irreversible, and we’re made aware of this.
As far as documentaries and the like go, however, we are told over and over that what we do does indeed matter. Being conscious about how we spend our money and that sort of thing.
GORDON: That’s what we’re told, but then again, the creators of such documentaries are overwhelmingly members of older generations.
Look at the Occupy Movement, for example.
People were there from all demographics, but more than anyone else it was the youth- our generation. Despite massive popularity, that venture ultimately met its death under the boot heels of riot cops and a fog of pepper spray.
It’s been about a year since it all started, and the situation is the same, yet there’s really no push for any resurrection of the movement or even for any major protest at all. Have we given up? We’re all the same people- we have all the same drives and values- have we simply despaired of peaceful protest?
That aside, maybe you can explain what exactly happened as the movement petered out. It’s somewhat well-known that the weather was a large contributor to those occupying various streets and cities, but what else led to its collapse. Was it simply fatigue?
GORDON: I’d blame massive crackdowns on the part of the mayors of the occupied cities- let’s not forget that mayor Jean Quan pretty much turned Oakland into a warzone. Injured a protesting war vet so badly most folks thought he was going to become the first casualty of the movement (he pulled through, fortunately).
EVAN: This sort of all falls back to a point I made in relation to apathy our first attempt at this topic. That people care, but simply don’t feel like stepping outside their comfort zones. I realize that this may seem like a ludicrous thing to say in the face of the Occupy Movement, but I feel that the vast majority of youth, our generation, don’t want to do what it takes.
They, we, value comfort too much.
GORDON: I’m gonna have to second that theory.
I remember back when I was in college, going door-to-door trying to get students to boycott various unethical companies [Coca-Cola, Nike] doing business on campus. I was amazed at how many people would nod their heads and smile and agree with each and every word out of my mouth until I called on ’em to stop buying those companies’ products.
Guts. We got none. Difficulty with the concept of actual sacrifice, you know?
EVAN: And the refreshing taste of Coca-Cola is the very basest of comforts. If we can’t part with a caffeinated beverage we’re into, then what can we do?
I’ve joined in your personal boycott of the company, and although it can be a little difficult, it’s certainly nothing compared to being beaten by batons as I march on Parliament.
GORDON: Is that it then? Are our values just skewed ever so slightly in favor of immediate gratification? Do we prefer keeping our skulls in once piece over bread and freedom?
EVAN: History would say: yes. At least until things reach a certain point. Until we realize that being comfortable doesn’t outweigh what we put up with to get that comfort.
GORDON: So what’s the word for this?
EVAN: To put it simply would be “laziness,” and we both know it’s more than that.
GORDON: “Over-Attachment,” perhaps?
GORDON: “Hesitation”? “Looking back towards Sodom”?
EVAN: Looking back towards Sodom assumes that they’re actually doing something.
GORDON: It’s a fear- a very specific kind of fear. The kind where you “choke” just before doing something major.
EVAN: I’m going to say there’s probably something in French or German for that, but since we’re writing this in English we’re pretty limited in our options.
GORDON: Can we make one up?
EVAN: Heh. I don’t see why not.
How about . . . “Statusquophilia.”
EVAN: Haha, I like how we went different directions with our Greek roots.
GORDON: As do I. Shall we have the readers vote?
EVAN: Sounds good to me, and we should be wrapping things up anyway. Want to summarize how we got here?
GORDON: Ultimately, o readers, it all comes down to this. The great and terrible flaw of our generation- from what we’ve discussed- is not a sin of commission. We are not entitled, we are not lazy, we are not without our values. Our fault is in what we lack the guts to be good, the balls to be bad. In short, the unwillingness to part with what we have for the chance to attain something more. We’re trapped in a dance with the devil we know.
EVAN: Vote for the terminology you like more. “Statusquophilia,” meaning a love for things as they are, or “Fluxophobia,” meaning, in this case, a fear of sacrifice.
GORDON: For next week’s topic, we’ve got: Zombies- Are We Beating a Dead Horse At This Point?
EVAN: Or what is going on with all the wars on television? I’m referring to programs like “Storage Wars” and the like. Real wars are happening, I realize this.
GORDON: And with that, people of the interwebs, we are out of time- make sure to vote for your preferred word as well as the topic for next week, and be sure to check out our new “Fame/Shame Day” feature!