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Fat Actress brings out the Fat Hate

November 6, 2009

Shorter Alicia Villarosa at this website I’ve never heard of before:

Sure Gabourey Sidibe is a great actress, but could she please stop being FAT at me?

Really, that’s pretty much what she says. And the whole post is loaded down with the usual everyone knows fat people die b.s. She even uses the phrases “GAG!” and “SUPER Fat” (sic) to make sure everyone knows just how really really fat Gabourney Sidibe is. (And how totally NOT okay with it the writer is.)
I think my favorite bit has to be this:

As well adjusted as Sidibe purports to be, there’s got to be an emotional disconnect between the mind and body.

So, even though she SAYS she has no issues with her body, she obviously DOES. Don’t you know that we know everything about someone just by seeing how fat or too thin they are?
She follows this up with :

Finding comfort eating one’s way to morbid obesity is not healthy, nor is it self-affirming.

I THINK she’s trying to say that not only does Miss Sidibe have to be miserable about being fat that she also MUST be a comfort eater because how else would she get to be so fat?

Her ridiculous rant about Sidibe’s weight and anyone who would try to say that maybe obese people are I don’t know, people,  is inexplicably followed up with something along the lines of …But we’re also pressured to be really thin too and that sux too OMG.  As though by pointing out that being pressured to be super thin is also bad too, yeah, totally, it’s bad too and stuff, she can balance out the giant plate of steaming hot fat hate that was served up as the first half of the article.

It’s funny because she kindof almost sort of gets to a point about accepting yourself the way you are:

So how do we reconcile the bizarre extremes; the pressure to be painfully thin and the backlash that glorifies obesity? Is there a middle ground? Hopefully and tentatively, yes. Real women can, and do, have curves; people do come in all different shapes and sizes. So the message is to be the healthiest you. That means not hauling around a mountain of excess of weight that limits activities and invites health problems. Nor does it mean starving yourself or over-exercising to the brink of cardiovascular failure.

Accept yourself, you’re a real woman, that is unless you’re “SUPER fat”, and then exercising yourself to the brink of cardiovascular failure is probably a good idea fatty, don’t you know that being fat is going to kill you, stop it already.

Villarosa employs everyone’s favorite line of logic. She must be mentally unhealthy and have a poor diet, because she’s fat. Since we’re drawing unfounded conclusions about people based on very little information today, I’m going to assume this writer is miserable about her body and has decided that everyone should be too (omg especially if they are SUPER fat.) Sorry lady, you’re out of luck here.

Late update from TheRoot247’s twitter feed:

DISCUSS—-> “Fat people: thin people :: domestic violence victims:non-victims” — A Colleague

Anyone who writes for this website is clearly an idiot.  I mean it.  It’s not like there aren’t resources out there for people who want to research obesity or domestic violence victims.  There are tons of articles and commentary which might provide some enlightening information.  (Y’know based on research and facts instead of what someone thought up over their after lunch smoke break.)  Instead they publish the uneducated ramblings of some obviously privileged morons with no exposure to social justice issues.   Way to really raise the bar for online content. So I clearly flew off the handle after reading this tweet.  They apparently attempted to clarify it and it wasn’t intended to be quite as bad as how it came off at first glance.  I still am not impressed, but that is no reason for me to malign a group of writers.

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  1. lifeonfats permalink

    You know, I’m not surprised by the fat hate and I expect it to grow if this movie and Gabourey Sidibe garners award nominations. But it is baffling. I see ladies that look like her almost everyday; hell I’m one of them, except my skin is lighter.

    If people are so offended and repulsed by a deathfat (not to mentioned dark-skinned black) young actress, then they have a choice not to watch the movie or look at her, as well as play doctor and diagnose her health just by looking at her.

  2. littlem permalink

    The Root’s been up for awhile … a couple of years now

    It’s … interesting.

  3. littlem permalink

    “Anyone who writes for this website is clearly an idiot.”

    I wouldn’t go that far. Ta’Nehisi Coates – whom you may know since he also writes for The Atlantic – writes for The Root, and though I certainly don’t agree with everything he says, he’s a sufficiently provocative writer to make me think when he comments, a lot of the time.

    (Although the obverse argument is that The Root is attached to Slate.)

    Also, Villarosa’s commentary is loaded from another angle. The Root is a site with a predominantly African American target audience. African American women are going through a lot of crap right now with racialized fat hate (all too frequently connected to the image of the ‘welfare queen’), and the yaka-yaka about whether the First Lady’s body is “acceptably feminine” (though no writer I’ve ever seen has the nerve to come out and say that verbatim, though I’d watch with joy if one did and Michelle decided to elegantly rip them a new one with her own special brand of icy silence in the face of ignorance), and upwardly economically mobile AA women sometimes struggle with the class connotations of body shape in the face of bombastic press insistence that AA men prefer any other race of women to them, and it’s just starting to occur to mainstream press that some AA women might have had anorexic and bulimic eating disorders too all this time, it’s just that mainstream press didn’t happen to notice, because that particular spectrum of disorders were always characterized as ‘white womens’ diseases’, and, and, and …

    So there’s a lot of subtext loaded into Villarosa’s rant. And it wouldn’t be the first time (I generally hate what she writes, but that’s a matter of personal taste). However, her writing isn’t necessarily emblematic of anything else that shows up on the site.

  4. Shinobi permalink

    It’s not so much Villarosa’s commentary that bothers me as their tweet about domestic violence. Perhaps I go to far, but… yeah, not so smart.

    The fact that this website is affiliated with Slate helps me understand why I have not heard of it. heh.

    • littlem permalink

      “…their tweet about domestic violence.”


      Interestingly, you didn’t mention that in the article that you just criticized. Most of your remarks were about Villarosa, unless I misread something.

      But you know what? Never mind. I’m not going to get into it about intersectionality here, when there’s already some defensiveness and deflecting, because I usually really enjoy your writing.

      Also, I know how you statisticians love to argue, and my attention’s a little divided IRL right now.

      • I’m glad you did get into it a bit, littlem — thank you.

        Shinobi, fwiw, the Root twitterer clarified that tweet when Jill from Feministe went WTF? “@TheRoot247 @JillFilipovic the (failed) analogy was b/w how the thin & non-battered regard the overweight & battered.”

        That makes a lot more sense to me, although… yeah, “failed” is right.

        Villarosa’s article was a hundred kinds of wrong, but I think The Root is basically just like Slate and Double X in that they attract some terrific writers who say smart things, but a great deal of what goes up there is deliberately “provocative” — i.e., offensive. Publishing outrageous shit for page views is apparently the whole organization’s bread and butter these days. (Which is why I usually don’t read any of them anymore, unless someone sends me a link.)

        I think littlem’s points are really important in this discussion. The obesity rate in the African American community is presented as a reinforcement of existing racist (and classist) stereotypes — laziness, ignorance, etc. — which makes it a lot more complicated than fat hate directed at white people. For us, fatness is evidence that we’re not living up to expectations; for African-Americans (and Latinos), especially poor ones, it’s seen as evidence that they ARE living down to expectations. Add that to the health panic, the fact that poor POC’s health care needs always come last in this country, and the reality that access to fresh food and exercise opportunities is incredibly unequal, I can easily see how higher rates of fatness and fat-related illnesses among poor people and POC can look like a huge problem no one’s addressing because nobody cares, which only serves to further marginalize already marginalized groups. Because to some extent, all that’s true.

        The problem is, the automatic assumption is that the solution to those problems is education about weight loss — and too often, calls to “do something” are full of fat hate and ignorance, and the basic strategy is, as always, to shame people into trying to change their bodies. This article is a particularly egregious example of all that shit, and it absolutely deserves to be called out. But as middle-class white people, we have to remember that there’s a very different context for the hate here than there is when it’s directed at us, and if we don’t acknowledge that context, then we’re missing the big picture just as much as Villarosa is.

      • Littlem,
        Perhaps I should have kept my commentary to the particular article that I was criticizing. I am not familiar with the whole website, it’s just that their tweet was particularly offensive and it was on their site wide twitter account, so it is hard not to draw conclusions about who writes for the site. (Though now that Kate has clarified what they meant, I guess I kindof… maybe…. see what they were getting at?) I will update my post accordingly.

        I can definitely see how attitudes towards fat people are different for different groups and that that would change things. I actually think that a lot of the points that you and Kate made about how race and class and weight come together are really interesting. But she didn’t talk about that at all in the article. Maybe because I’m not familiar with the site and the issues I’m missing a lot of context the necessary context, but I still don’t think that her article was much beyond “hey, quit being fat fatties.” I just don’t know if that really excuses an article that seems to be dripping with hate for fat people in general and one fat person in particular.

  5. I read the article earlier today and was just disgusted at her language surrounding fatness and hypocrisy about “acceptable” body size. I’m sorry, I totally didn’t realize she knows how healthy Gaby Sidibe is!

    The comments are not as headache inducing as they could be, though. She gets a fair amount of criticism from readers.

  6. Risha permalink

    People have been criticizing Michelle Obama’s body? Seriously? Wow, I guess it really is true that no woman is safe from that…

  7. Elizabeth permalink

    What backlash is that, exactly, that’s “glorifying obesity”? ‘Cause I sure as hell haven’t found it. I don’t know how it’s happened, but somehow people now have this trope of, “we’re not allowed to say bad things about fat people, it’s not politically correct, etc.” while, at the same time, people everywhere are saying MORE AND MORE bad shit about fat people. This drives me absolutely crazy.

  8. This woman is an absolute jerk.

    I actually feel a little sullied by reading her absurd witterings. Having said that, it yet again illustrates something that has bothered me for a while and that is middle weight women/people, who think that a) that is the acme of perfection in weight terms b) that this give them the supremacy to bash every other weight category on the head.

    At the same time, these types are almost bent double with rage and envy against those who are thinner than them-who they choose to fetishize freely of their own accord and equally hateful of us ‘inferior’ fatties. These people get away with way too much and thin and fat people ought to join together and tell them to STFU.

    Incidentally, I’m so glad she said this;

    Real women can, and do, have curves;

    It made me sick that fat women have had to carry the can for this rubbish, this kind of body type + this mentality, is exactly where this trope originated.

  9. silentbeep permalink

    I am so glad someone wrote about this in the fatosphere. I clicked on over to that Villarosa article through the Atlantic Monthly site and was promptly horrified by the article and the comments. I will say this: I will defend the root as a web magazine dedicated to publishing nuanced, complexed commentary on a variety of issues relevant to the African-American community, most of the time. Unfortunately, this artilces shows, this is not one of those times that they have chosen to publish a well-thought out essay devoid of stereoytpical thinking on fatness. Also I cannot wrap my brain around the depiction of a fat, hiv-postive, sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused teen, as somehow glorifying f her fatness. Can this person’s life get any more painful? i cannot believe that this writter is suggesting that because Precious is occasionally treated with a modicum of respect and caring, an finds a few moments of peace and love here and there, that this is somewhow “glorification” I suppose her life should be shown as 100% hellish as opposed to the 95% hellish it is portrayed as. Total complete suffering would not be glorification according to Villarosa, I guess.

    I am a woman of color, not black, I am Latina (of mixed spanish and indegenous heritage, Mexican descent). The reactions to the intersectionality of weightism and racism is fascinating to see throughout that article, the “weight” of both and how both body size, and body ‘race’ and or perhaps even dark skin interplay.

    I read Ta-Nehisi Coates everyday. He is the one of the best damn bloggers I have ever read. He writes regularly for the Atlantic Monthly on his daily blog. His views on obestiy are problematic to say the least, and as a fat person, are painful to read. You see, he was once 300 lbs. and has recently lost quite a bit of weight in the past year, and his posts on fatness are definitely not FA. I was heartbroken when I read this comment left by one of his readers on one of his obestiy posts: “i do not want to be another fat black woman.” He writes primarily on AA issues and most of his readers are AA too.

    I will not comment here on what fatness means in the AA community. I have no idea. All I can say is that i think fatness, color, sex and class are so interwoven in our culture, sometimes they are hard to tease apart. i don’t think Villarose has begun to tease apart those elements for herself either.

  10. silentbeep permalink

    re: wriggles on “real woman have curves”

    Yeah that pissed me off too. As if women who are thin or skinny with supposedly “boyish” figures aren’t “real.” What total crap. I guess if you don’t have a typical hourglass figure you aren’t “real” either. This is complete b.s.

  11. Look, a Diversion! permalink

    Are you an adult? Do you identify as a woman? Are you, as far as you can tell, not a fictional or imaginary character? Congratulations, you’re a real woman. End of story.

  12. poetess permalink

    She’s too fat, period. Morbid obesity is not healthy for 99.9% of people. Black women especially have adverse health problems with excess weight. I also disagree with vitriole aimed at people who don’t fit the norm, but to pretned that morbidly obese people are healthy is ridiculous when there’s so much evidence to the contrary.

    And to pretend also that a morbidly obese person has no issues with their body or that they eat like everyone else (in the absence of some glandular condition) is also retarded. It takes lots and lots and lots of calories to maintain 200, 300, 400 or more lbs. of body mass. You’re not kidding anyone.

  13. Poetess,
    No one questions thin people who eat large amounts of food. Everyone knows someone who can eat whatever they want and never gain a pound. Why should the reverse not be true?

    Additionally all research indicates that extreme thinness is worse for people than extreme fatness, and yet we idolize underweight models. This is a fat acceptance blog. You are in the wrong place if you expect us to agree with you.

  14. poetess permalink

    Thin people who eat like ravenous animals and don’t gain weight are relatively rare, as rare a I would imagine the morbidly obese person who eats like a bird.

    And you’re right, no one judges thin people who eat a lot because they’re thin and presumably their metabolism burns it off so the food is not endangering their health by turning into excessive girth.

    I also recognize that extreme thiness is bad and it is glorified but that does not make extreme fatness good in comparison. Extremes in general are not good. A healthy weight and a fit body – and I’m not talking extremes here, I’m talking about being able to move freely take a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing, being able to fit into a standard size chair – is something everyone should shoot for.

    You don’t have to agree with me. But your acceptance of fatness is dangerous. Just like the fashion industry and the movie industry’s acceptance and encouragement of extreme thiness is dangerous. It’s all the same to me.

    What should be accepted is that you’re a worthy human being even if you are fat. But fat is something you can and should do something about. To tell people to give up on a condition that can lead to disease and an early death is a disservice. Gabourey should lose weight. Nobody is saying she has to be Victoria Beckem skinny (that lady needs to eat a burger) but she would be better off if she dropped 100 lbs.

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