- TECHNICAL PROJECTS CONSULTING
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- Confessing Excess: Women And The Politics Of Body Reduction pdf document
Thus, I contend that uncritically eschewing the formation of self through intersubjective relations, and relying on a problematic commitment to a cultivation of the self negates the space allowed for bodily ambiguity and ambivalence in pride politics. These narratives encompass medico-scientific pathology, morality both religious and secular and, as I will go on to discuss in more detail, normative gender aesthetics.
Rather than simply labelling bodies that are already abject, these discourses actually abject bodies. I am interested in mounting a critique of the humanist principles on which this model of subjectivity is founded, and, moreover, the difficulties with liberationist politics. Firstly, it is interesting to note that Size Acceptance is primarily a move- ment engendered by women for women, and is informed by a particular understanding of feminism. The program is set up as an odd kind of game show with the winner garner- ing a sizeable cash prize, where success is strangely measured by loss.
At the close of each week, during the twelve-week program, the contestants attend a public weigh-in, and if they do not lose the requisite amount of weight, they face being elim- inated from the contest by the fellow team members. For the women, they feel their bodies always already position them as either worthy or unworthy of a heterosexual male gaze, which in turn bestows on them a relative value within a framework of ideal feminine bodily aesthetics. The rhetoric of The Biggest Loser is such that the program claims to present the contestants with the opportunity to take control of their lives, to choose to remake themselves as normative, ethical and responsible citizens.
Rather, their desire to lose weight, and the imperatives that inform this desire, are necessarily under- pinned by an involuntary, or tacit investment in dominant aesthetics. Another interesting aspect of the lived embodiment of gender identity that emerges from the responses of the female contestants on The Biggest Loser is the implicit sense of distance that is instituted between their selves and their bodies. Orbach posits that we are taught from a very young age that our female bodies are coveted as hetero sexual commodities and that we must be aesthetically pleas- ing in order to fulfill our roles as women.
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To do this she must look appealing, earthy, sensual, sexual, virginal, innocent, reliable, daring, mysterious, coquettish and thin. In other words, she offers her self-image on the marriage marketplace , p. In other words, Orbach foregrounds a form of resistance albeit an ambiguous one which, whilst it may in most cases operate unconsciously, nevertheless could be regarded as a form of feminist political practice.
She cannot relinquish this notion precisely because this would mean she would have to relinquish her understanding of, and investment in, heterosexuality. The most obvious problem with this is that Orbach presupposes that female pleasure can only ever be experienced in and through heterosexual relations. This model is one of disconnectedness between the self, the body, and the world.
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- Images speak louder than words.
However, as I have argued throughout, subjectivity is always already bodily, and can only ever exist in and through relations with others and a world. Feminists have tried to advocate different modes of bodily being for years as an empowering practice that necessarily challenges patriarchal ideals of feminine beauty. Ironically, while Orbach rails against patriarchy and details its destructive effects on the female psyche, she relies on a liberal humanist and heteronormative ontology that nec- essarily and inevitably reproduces the kinds of inequalities that she tries albeit unsuccessfully to counter.
Sexual lawlessness is so mainstream that we are selling it to teenyboppers. Think of how radical Girl Power would have been if the Spice Girls had all been fifty pounds heavier, ate grilled cheese sandwiches and French fries and still wore skimpy outfits — stomachs and cottage cheese thighs akimbo. Maybe that is what we need to break down the isolation of fat women. The picture that Walton presents us with is a graphic depiction of living large in all its glory and power.
I was dubious about whether they would have any clothes that would be big enough for me, but a saleswoman said they did, adding that rather than being marked by size numbers, each size-group of clothes was gathered under a graphic symbol: over here, she said, were the clothes that would fit me. The graphic symbol that sur- mounted them was a pink triangle.
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I woke up feeling extremely cheerful , p. However, in later years this symbol was reclaimed by gay activists, and became a symbol of pride, and a sign of refusal, defiance and resist- ance. Without taking this stance, what happens instead is that those kinds of normative knowledges take precedence over any notion of self one might have. The logic of representation is that one simply names what already exists.
Sedgwick also takes up the notion that rationality can be a tool of body politics, which then tacitly reproduces a privileging of mind over the body.
Like Sedgwick, Sullivan claims that it is possible to compare the political motivations of the Gay Pride move- ment to Size Acceptance, whereby the key goal of the enterprise is overturning negative public attitudes towards particular bodies and identities. What emerges here tacitly is the complete impossibility of an unambiguous identity.
Get used to it! What happens instead is: the politicised insistence on a willed agnosticism about individual causes, the anti-ontogenic crux moment in fat liberation, rhymes so closely with the analogous moment in gay liberation, records a profound and unacknowledged historical debt.
Confessing Excess: Women And The Politics Of Body Reduction pdf document
Moon is interested in an anti-essentialist philogenics of size, that is, in the way that community identities are formed in ways that are not biologically determined, but discursively produced in historically specific ways. This, in fact, is what my own project here aims to achieve. However, before I interrogate the kinds of politics Size Acceptance espouses and the assumptions it is founded on, let me first briefly discuss the genesis of the movement.
He writes: The fat are, by nature, an eminently peaceful, unorganized lot. Fat Power, then, would be peace- ful. Its stance, though militant, would be one of appeal. While rec- ognizing that anti-fat prejudice — like racial, sexual, and religious bias — will never be wiped out entirely, the fat would nevertheless cry out against the more obvious injustices that have been visited upon them , p.
It has been argued, for example, that NAAFA is too conservative an organisation to ade- quately represent a political movement that, some have argued, must necessarily be radical. Consequently, since , a number of factions and splinter groups have emerged, one of these being a radical collec- tive called the Fat Underground. As Hernandez explains: ….
In an unpre- cedented speech about institutional fat oppression, one of the members took to the main stage and publicly denounced the medical system for murdering the singer, who had been on a severe diet and had just lost 80 pounds at the time of her death n. It was at this event that members of F. Fat Liberation Manifesto signalled an alliance with radical leftist politics Fishman, n. The Fat Liberation Manifesto marked a shift, then, to a new radical militancy in the fight against fat prejudice.
As Charlotte Cooper points out in Fat and Proud: The Politics of Size , the fat liberation movement is largely a white, middle-class political project, which does not actively consider ethnicity and racial issues. Since the establishment of these various foundational radical organ- isations, many different and diverse groups have joined the movement. The conflict that precipitated the breakaway of the group that came to be known as the Fat Underground from NAAFA has con- tinued to the present day. They have exploited our bodies as objects of ridicule, thereby creating an immensely profitable market selling the false promise of avoidance of, or relief from, that ridicule.
Finally, and of greatest interest to me, the Manifesto expresses a model of politics which presupposes a voluntarist subject. The strategic, but problematic emergence of the centrality of the voluntarist subject in identity politics here in the fat pride movement will be the focus of my discussion in the fol- lowing chapter. You turn fat hatred back on itself. As a fatso, you possess the ultimate weapon against weight worries, body prejudice, and size-related discrimination: fat pride Wann, , p. In , Marilyn Wann published a book called Fat!
Using the rhetoric of pride move- ments of the past, Wann makes demands on society in the same way as the Civil Rights Movement and Gay Pride. However, at the heart of her politics, are changes we can make as individuals. Wann launched the FAT! In the wake of these humiliations, Wann discovered the Size Acceptance movement in the United States, and has gone on to successfully lobby for legislation against size-related discrimination in her home city of San Francisco.
The FAT! At the centre of her Manifesto is the exhortation with which this section opened. Here, boxes of size 26 g-strings are ripped open with glee; lacy negligees guaranteed to slide effortlessly over ample hips are offered up, bellies hang over new bikini bottoms with impunity. Similarly, her FAT! She insists: You can face your fears. You can dispel that cloud.
You just have to change your attitude.
However, this strategic resignification, while having positive effects for activism, also has complex lived effects: and of course, political and lived experience cannot be separated. Playfulness aside, if jettisoning fat shame were as simple as Wann seems to suggest, none of us would feel bad about ourselves: pathologisation would be totally ineffective, and practices of normalisation would not exist, nor could they. Let me elaborate. Do you want to feel good about yourself? Silence your tormen- tors?
Look better in miniskirts? Use the F-word. Say it loud, say it proud: Fat! However, on the other hand, I was faced with the impossibility of the task of simply changing my mind about my body. Again, the logic of liberal humanism is mobilised here, neglecting the irrevocable corpore- ality of subjectivity.