Last month I attended a couple workshops that were presented by Virgie Tovar, a body image expert and coach. Virgie has also edited the book Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love, and Fashion.
The workshops were awesome and inspiring, leaving me feeling great about myself and wanting to spread the word about how rad Virgie is. I recently interviewed Virgie about fatphobia, the media, and her Hate Loss campaign.
About-Face: Can you talk a little about fatphobia and the secret ingredients to it?
Virgie Tovar: Fatphobia is a complex cultural system that affects even its seeming beneficiaries and is mediated by race, color, class, ability, and gender. Let me break this down:
• Overt fatphobia is the obvious fat shame and fat hate that is all over the place in our culture; think: Melissa McCarthy recently being called a “female hippo” by NY Observer‘s Rex Reed.
• Covert fatphobia is often masked as concerns about health; think: that aunt who is always food-policing you and says that it’s only because she loves you and is worried you’ll die miserable and alone while cats eat your diabetes-ridden body on the kitchen floor of your apartment.
• Internalized fatphobia is made up of the opinions and beliefs inside our heads that tell us that rich food is bad, that fat people are bad, and that we will be ugly if we become fat or are ugly because we are fat; think: that feeling of shame or disgust you get when you eat two cupcakes or maybe the way you just “aren’t attracted to” fat people.
A-F: How does Fatphobia happen/come through in the media?
VT: The first thought that popped into my head was The Little Mermaid. When I was a little girl I wanted to be Ariel SO BAD, but I knew I couldn’t be because I was a fat girl. I recall distinctly feeling like a failure because there was no way I would ever show my belly off in a mermaid costume with a seashell bra (not that they’d ever make that in my size anyway).
However, I didn’t consciously register that I also felt like a failure because Ariel is a white girl and I wasn’t. I knew how to hate my body because it was fat, but I didn’t know that I was learning to hate my body because it was brown, too.
Media serve many purposes:
1. To show a culture what it wants to believe about itself and its future. For example, even though the U.S. has enormous populations of non-white and mixed people, poor and working class people, fat people, and queer/non-heterosexual people, the prevalent image of the U.S. is still that of a white, upper middle class, able-bodied, heterosexual person.
Why? Lots of reasons like racism, sexism, homophobia and the usual suspects. These are the images of the U.S. that exist in many parts of our imagination and the Western imagining of itself.
2. To sell products. Because a lot of money for TV, radio, movies, and magazines comes from advertisers, the content that TV, radio, movies, and magazines are putting out have to corroborate the lifestyle (not just the products) that advertisers want to convey. So, yes, there are actual commercials during shows (which most of us hate), but in fact the entire show is kind of the commercial.
As branding becomes more of a normal part of advertising and marketing, you see that advertisers aren’t just pushing a product; they’re pushing the lifestyle of which the product becomes a part.
A-F: Can you talk about your “hate loss” campaign?
VT: Yes! Hate Loss is the guiding principle in my teaching/coaching practice and in my life. Hate Loss started as a campaign developed in response to the hate-based relationship that our culture encourages us to develop with our body and ourselves.
Most people are taught to spend their life pursuing weight loss by any means. This belief slowly demoralizes us, erodes our mental, spiritual, and (often) physical health, and is based on the principles of inadequacy and self-loathing. I wondered what life would look like if we dedicated our energy and time to hate loss instead of weight loss.
The Hate Loss philosophy is:
• All bodies are good bodies
• Health is holistic: mental, spiritual, and physical
• Self-hate is an ideology that can be managed and eradicated
• Self-love is a skill that can be learned and practiced for a full, luscious life
Check out Virgie’s site for more information and events.
Fat phobia? Really? Phobia means a fear of something. So if someone criticises fat people, that means they are afraid of them? Seriously? What a whole load of utter bollocks.
I am so sick and tired of fat people crying that they are discriminated against. It’s ok for you to tell me that I am too thin, but I cannot say you’re too fat? What a load of rubbish. I’m sorry, but noone i know cares about how fat fat people are… except themselves. I’m sick of overweight people crying discrimination and fatphobia and fattism and whatnot, and sick of this world’s obsession with discrimination where the “minority” or “disadvantaged” groups are only being discriminated against POSITIVELY.
Once again, if I say to someone next to the coffee machine that “Dani, you’re too fat”, I get taken to HR for discrimination and “fattism”. If she says to me “oh Ells, you’re too thin”, the most I can do is an annoyed grin and everyone will repeat it and pretend that they are worried that I don’t eat. Well, sorry, but fat people can fuck off. *End of angry post, going back to my chocolate cake*.
I think if you refer back to Virgie’s definition of fatphobia, you might understand the term a little more:
â€¢ Overt fatphobia is the obvious fat shame and fat hate that is all over the place in our culture; think: Melissa McCarthy recently being called a â€œfemale hippoâ€ by NY Observerâ€˜s Rex Reed.
â€¢ Covert fatphobia is often masked as concerns about health; think: that aunt who is always food-policing you and says that itâ€™s only because she loves you and is worried youâ€™ll die miserable and alone while cats eat your diabetes-ridden body on the kitchen floor of your apartment.
â€¢ Internalized fatphobia is made up of the opinions and beliefs inside our heads that tell us that rich food is bad, that fat people are bad, and that we will be ugly if we become fat or are ugly because we are fat; think: that feeling of shame or disgust you get when you eat two cupcakes or maybe the way you just â€œarenâ€™t attracted toâ€ fat people.
I believe that there is no room for body-shaming in any form, calling out people for their body, big and small, is not acceptable in my mind.
Just because one person defines a word one way, it doesn’t mean that that is actually the meaning of the word. Fat + phobia = fear of fat.
I’m sorry, but the rest just sounds like a made-up problem and made-up issue to me, in order to alienate people from eachother and create divides. Who cares if my aunt thinks I am fat and picks on my food? Or thin for that matter. Why is this a real problem for anyone??
Maybe some people think fat is ugly. Maybe some people think thin is ugly. Maybe some people think gothic people are ugly. Or old people. LEt them. Who cares? What others think of you is none of your business. I am a brunette – when watching the little mermaid, I never thought that “oh waah wah I can never be arielle, because I am not a redhead” (and at the time , dying your hair was an unknown concept to me).
This is probably the place where everyone will disagree with me and call me names and think that I am the worst fat hater in the world, but I’m going to say it anyway: People who are overly obese, ie need carers to take them to the loo and have to be cut out of their house, are ugly and unhealthy. You’d be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t think this way. Also, someone of 35 kilos who is much of a skeleton is also ugly and unhealthy. The vast majority of people in the world are somewhere in between and everyone can think what they want. Why do we have to wage a war on a madeup problem?
And final thing: Virgie in the article looks terrible. And no, not because she is fat. But because in her desperate need to “stand out” yet “be accepted” and also “be fat proud”, she dresses absolutely horribly. 3 different patterns, three different materials, 3 clashing colours and a very unflattering cut and this is just the top and the bottom. Add to that the not-opaque-enough-nor-sheer-enough bad quality tights and the whole thing, I am sorry, is a horrible mess. And it has nothing, nothing, NOTHING to do with her weight. But by dressing so badly, people take in the overall visual, and without dissecting what’s wrong with this person’s appearance, they focus on the first thing they see : “Its ugly” (the clothes) ” She’s fat” —> Fat ugly. See what I mean?
Similar size, different style: noone would call THIS GiRL ugly.
There is a lot going on in your vitriolic attack, so it’s a bit hard to unpack, but here I go. I don’t expect you to be able to comprehend what I will write, because your brain is one large slab of concrete, and I doubt anything gets in there that you haven’t already decided you believe, as fed to you by the media or your parents or your no doubt equally as vapid peer group. What you’ve written, and the way you write it, comes from a place of self appointed authority. This tells us a lot about you. First, you write yourself that you are thin and feel insulted when fat people say things to you about your body, so we know you are thin. In our society, thin=privilege. Second, you dismiss Virgie’s feelings of isolation at the image of Disney’s Ariel completely, which makes it safe to assume that you are most likely Caucasian. Again, privilege. The fact that you feel entitled to dictate to someone else how they should interpret their own experience is oppression at its worst. If you have never been in the shoes of a fat, brown person, where do you get off telling someone that the feelings they have about their situation aren’t valid? That is complete and utter fascistic arrogance, and blatant unchecked privilege at it’s worst. The reason you are outraged? Again, privilege. You think that only people who look a certain way are allowed to have the floor, or the universal talking stick. Well, I am here to tell you, those days are over. The genie is out of the bottle, and people of color, LGBTQ folks, people of size, poor folks, we now have ways of being heard and we will not be shut down by the likes of Nazis like you. Going forward in your vacant life, you can expect to be this outraged on a daily basis, because Virgie and people like her are the future. Either up your game and get on board by sitting down and shutting up and listening, or continue to rant like the sad, small person you have proven yourself to be.
“Truth Hurtz” You shouldn’t have wasted your keyboard strokes. Having read two insults in your first 5 words, I automatically blocked out the rest. Grow up.
Well said, Truth Hurtz. And don’t worry, I read the whole thing.
I think the difference lies in the fact that in our society, thin people are not discriminated against (and no, someone whining about how thin you are in not discrimination). In our culture, a thin person is not typically denied a job because of their weight. A thin person is not automatically thought of as “unhealthy”, even if they are. A thin person is not ascribed negative traits like “lack of self control” or “poor hygiene” by people who don’t know them. But fat people face all of the above problems and more. A thin person (i.e. a fashion model) who is dressed in mismatching, odd clothing is labeled as “eccentric” and “edgy”, whereas a fat person wearing the same clothes is labeled as “ugly” and “looks terrible” (I guess they’re supposed to be so ashamed of their bodies that they dress to hide themselves?)
Perhaps you don’t notice a problem because you don’t treat people differently because of their weight. If that is the case, then good for you (though you did make an offhand comment about telling your coworker that she’s “too fat”, so it seems that it is not). But that doesn’t mean that fat shaming and weight discrimination is not real. It is real, it is a problem, and you are the one who needs to “stop whining”.
I don’t agree with discrimination of any kind, including against fat people, but they seriously should think about their health and lifespan and lose some weight. obesity is unhealthy. You shouldn’t use the term fat-pride.
I’m very grateful for this wonderful website. People have been so unbelievably hateful towards me, and so very often! I went through about 18 diets and some of them harmed me a lot. I think an adipositivity website is very necessary. Owing to the fat-positive pictures, I’m happy again now.