By Ophira Edut
Summer’s about over. The red carpets are rolling out (hello, MTV Video Music Awards), which means sucking, tucking and plucking season has begun again. The new fall shows, with a fresh crop of homogenous stars, will be premiering. (Oh, how I’m counting the minutes until Glee’s third season.) New York City, where I live, is gearing up for Fashion Week and the stampede that is Fashion’s Night Out. While I enjoy style and creativity, I admit that my first wry thought was: Fat Girls’ Night In, is more like it. Or maybe Fat-Shun’s Night Out. Hide your kids, hide your wife!
Extreme? Yeah. But I’m issuing a back-to-school rallying cry: will any celebrities step out this fall and represent for the F-word? Not the expletive that got bleeped out of so many VMA acceptance speeches. I mean F-A-T.
Look, I’m not asking for 300 pounds, but that would be awesome. A girl can dream. Gabby Sidibe is available for hire, you producers out there. And I’m not talking about casting for The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Fit Club, or any other fat-bashing show designed to “correct” (read: shame and vilify) people whose size ticks into the double digits. I don’t want to see cameras panning through a weeping fat woman’s apartment as she talks about her out-of-control emotional eating, then is “saved” by some heartless celebrity trainer.
Unless, of course, we level the playing field. Here’s an idea: let’s bring a camera crew into the home of skinny stars secretly wolfing down carbs or binge drinking, smoking, and exercising for hours a day. (Training for a role, my ass. And half my Hebrew School class got nose jobs because of deviated septums, too.) Watch the poor things weep as they forage for cigarette butts in the bushes, or do their third week of a kettle-ball workout and pretend to love it. Perhaps a psychiatrist from the fat acceptance movement can come save this person from the life-threatening dangers of addiction and yo-yo dieting (which can lead to heart attack), or the psychological perils of body dysmorphia. And please, keep those damn calipers away from me, o’ commission-earning trainer stalking the gym floor. The whole BMI measuring system is so out of wack that even Brad Pitt would be considered overweight by its standards. (Seriously? Has anyone else seen Fight Club?)
Nowadays, if I dare say this kind of stuff, I’m accused of a) being a clueless hothead, and b) ignoring the “big O”: obesity. Which may be real, but it’s been co-opted and corrupted by so many money-making industries, that a lot of the hype is pure bull-shizzle.
There. I said it. Slap on my scarlet F (for fat acceptance), please! I hear that red is big on the Fall 2011 runways, speaking of fashion…
Fighting obesity has given us something to do with our money instead of oh, saving it or investing in a sinking stock or housing market. We have an enemy! It has a name! Of course, soda machines don’t belong in schools (duh) and kids could use more exercise. Sure, we should all ride bikes, take hikes and eat fresh produce. But do we all have equal access to these things? Hell no. So let’s shame the poor a little more and blame them for not being able to find a decent piece of fruit for miles, find affordable health care or power-walk safely through crime-riddled neighborhoods. Thumbs up for urban farming and all the eco-friendly efforts that bring health and sustainability to under-served communities. Healthy living without the shaming and judgment, I’m all for.
Then, there’s the simple, unacknowledged truth: food is fun. At my stepdaughter’s upstate New York elementary school, sweets are banned from the cafeteria, even on cupcake-friendly holidays like Valentine’s Day. So now we’re teaching kids that sugar is bad, something to fear and avoid. THAT should keep the candy stores in business on allowance day.
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I’m keeping a scrapbook of celebrities who dare to embrace their non-conforming bods. Much like the stars in Hollywood, it’s perilously thin.
There’s Tyra Banks from a few years ago, who went out in a bikini after putting on some weight. Jennifer Love Hewitt, who always wears bikinis, even when her weight fluctuates and the bloggers publicly stone her with cruel posts. This week, Disney Channel star Demi Lovato scores the F for going “curvy” to the VMAS (whatevs, she’s still tiny) and Tweeting “I’ve gained weight. Get over it. That’s what happens when you get out of treatment for an EATING DISORDER.”
The Kardashians get an honorable mention, though I keep taking them out of the book. Fat that’s distributed to body parts sexualized by mass culture (the Hottentot Venus ass, namely) doesn’t count. There’s no risk involved, otherwise Kim wouldn’t flaunt hers in every bandage dress she can find. Oh, and 50 points off for the QuickTrim sponsorship. Mixed messages are the enemy of healthy body image.
People are visual. Thanks to reality TV, we’re officially desensitized to the surgical fat-sucking and anti-aging procedures that so many millions undergo. So, how about we apply the same treatment to love handles, belly rolls, cellulite, sags and all the body “issues” we’ve declared war upon? Let’s see that being normalized. Because, frankly, that’s what NORMAL looks like. We’ve largely forgotten. With CGI, Photoshop and all the latest digital retouching wonders, our minds are being trained to erase normalcy, SPAM filtering it out into a big global junk file.
Self-acceptance is not defeat. I’ve been saying it for years, and I stand by it. That doesn’t mean you don’t make changes for your health, happiness and well-being. But please, make them from a place of self-love, not shame. And truly question: if you didn’t feel shamed by the culture, would you really make these changes? Look deep. We all want the goodies of acceptance, and social anxiety is not easy to navigate. But the long-term effects of body hatred are worse.
[Author’s note: if you’re a fashion-loving girl who doesn’t fit a size 2, The Curvy Fashionista has listed a handful of Fashion’s Night Out events for the plus-size crowd here. But ugh, Lane Bryant is debuting a new line of “slimming jeans” featuring their “exclusive T3 Tighter Tummy Technology.” Soooo, invite us to your store so we can spend to look skinnier? Enough already! But the Cupcakes, Curves and Cleavage Event at Viva La Femme in Chicago sounds rad. More, please!]
I do smell the opportunity for a revolution here, though. Fashion’s Night Out COULD be respun as Fat’s Night Out. (Fat being used loosely, to encompass anyone that doesn’t fit the ever-narrowing standard, that is.) If anyone wants to do some impromptu fashion activism, by all means, do! (I’m imagining a picket line chanting “F-no, we won’t go!” But picket lines aren’t all that fashionable anymore.) Whatever your creative version of resistance looks like, go to town. Fashion IS supposedly all about art and free expression, or so they say. So hit the streets with your own Fat-shion’s Night Out parade. Tell them we sent you.