Thursday, April 22, 2010

MAN UP!! -- Bias, Hatred, and Prejudice, Oh My!!

Dr Puhl from Yale did a blog post about the study showing how political candidates are judged when the only variable is their weight. As most of us would expect, the women got the worse reaction for being heavy. The surprising data out of this research is that people have a more favorable opinion of heavy male politicians that thin male politicians.

This got me thinking again about how the male perspective is underrepresented on the sphere. It also got me thinking about how my perspective about this may be unique to me.

Having been around our online community for almost two years now, I am totally tuned into the fact about women having it harder on an overall basis than men do when it comes to weight bias and fat hatred. I get it. Heck, until I got involved in the community I had no understanding about privilege even though I possess it in many ways solely for being white, hetero, and male.

Yet, I cannot help feel that my experience is diminished because as a man I do not have it nearly as bad as a women do in terms of Fat Hate. It gets me asking myself questions like, "What's wrong with me." "Am I one of the only guys that feels the profound sense of oppression for being 400 pounds?"

On top of this I also feel that in terms of good vs. bad fatty, I land squarely in the bad column which I have posted about in the past and will post more about in the future.

I think that what it may boil down to is that I am still working through the powerful programming that taught me I was bad, lazy, unworthy, pitiful, disgusting etc, It still has a choke hold on me. I am just lucky to have two fingers between my neck and that choke hold thanks to the Fat Acceptance community. I am constantly questioning myself. Sadly, the foundation of my self doubt are all those years of the hateful, biased, moral panic induced blitzkrieg designed by a variety of forces all serving their own self interests. Worse yet, not being honest to themselves when they frame their greed based motives as genuine concern for my well being. ughh!

So I am the subject of a mindfuck so comprehensive, so intense, so huge that I struggle to not beat myself up all the time for not doing enough to move from the bad fatty column to the good fatty column.

the kicker is, that even if I found my way into the good fatty column, I'd still be living in a society that hates me.

I think that recognizing that this is a battle that I cannot win overnight. I have to take it a little at a time.

It feels really big to me and I am struggling with all of this right now. Part of me thinks that I am some sort of weakling, somehow too soft, too whiney, to defective because, heck, men don't have it as bad as women. I don't see any other guys on the sphere talking about how hard this stuff is.

I'm lucky in that I can open up about this stuff and seek out support, advice, and even just a hello when I need it. I have to say that with the exception of a little tough love in the beginning about my lack of understanding about privilege, I have got nothing but good luvin from the community for which I am very grateful.

I so sincerely wanna find my place, my peace with my Fat Acceptance. It has been a difficult journey for me. We all have it hard. the girls and the boys.


  1. "Am I one of the only guys that feels the profound sense of oppression for being 400 pounds?"

    Probably not, but keep in mind there are relatively few 400lb people out there at all. (Check out page 10 of the CDC's Anthropometric Reference Data PDF - 95% of men age 20 and above weigh 245lbs or less. No wonder people have no idea what 300 or 400lbs really looks like!

  2. Wow, I never thought about that fact. I just had the assumption there are a lot of 400 pounders out there as part of the community. You have me wondering now exactly how many folks out there weight as much or more than me. Wow my mind is racing with this comment.... If you have any posts or links on this subject, could you please send them to me, here or privately. Thanks.

  3. I'm not sure how comfortable you are with feminist theory and with feminist analysis, but... here's some.

    Though the threshold of acceptable fat is far higher for men than it is for women, and the penalties (especially economic) are less extreme for men than for women, misogyny actually negatively affects fat men as well as fat women.

    In a sense, one of the ways that fat hatred is a feminist issue isn't just that fat hate hurts women. Fat is a feminist issue because fatphobia hurts men in very specifically gendered ways that reflect the lower social status of women and all things associated with women.

    As "softness" and "curves" are considered and talked about as inherently feminine qualities--qualities that define what it means to be female--very fat men who have those qualities may be considered less manly and less deserving of respect if they're in any way seemingly "womanish." Hence there's the whole noxious meme of fat as obscuring male genitalia, since of course people still want constant visual evidence that men "have balls" in order to take them seriously. (Yeah, we really are so evolved, it's a wonder we aren't walking around bare-assed like gibbons.)

    Yet this mess of fat-hate is in constant tension with the ways in which large appetites and eating are considered manly things ("Hungry Man" dinners, for instance.)
    And space (and the taking up of space) is considered the right and privilege of men (with women earning the right to public space by virtue of being pretty.)

    That's why, I suspect, fat male politicians are held in higher regard than you might think given the virulent fatphobia in society right now. Their fatness means they take up space and that makes them seem like better men to those who might otherwise dismiss them. Guys like Chris Christie are taking up space and that's what men *do* (or what they're supposed to do), so we can respect him, right? (Corzine didn't realize this, of course.)

    And fat men's foray into politics (or another public field--see also Orson Welles) is an aggressive act that establishes fat men on the record as "manly men"--outspoken and full of entitlement--and that's often enough to offset the presumed feminizing effects of their fatness.

    Men who are both fat and have visible disabilities are similarly less privileged than men who are thinner and without visible disabilities, but being outspoken and taking a public role may well offset that, even for very fat men.

    It's not an accident that many fat men in comedy have been paired up with women who are physically smaller and yet "overbearing" (the Honeymooners and Roseanne and King of Queens and... well, a whole bunch of others.) That comedy dynamic plays into the "(Fat) Men have a right to take up space!/Who is that little woman to think she can dominate him and tell him what to do?!?" narrative. Those comedies buy into the idea that the fat man has lost his rightful place by being fat and has to "man up" and retake his rightful place as head of the household (King), which invariably means some form of silencing the smaller/shorter woman (sometimes by violence, as in "To the moon, Alice!")

    Okay, so I'm not sure if that helps any, but my point is that the relative success of fat men in politics is due to the same misogyny that hits women, and it means that fat men who aren't as comfortable with the mechanisms by which fat men can be seen as "more manly" have real problems--problems that, I hope, put them in solidarity with fat women in the fight against fatphobia.

  4. "Yeah, we really are so evolved, it's a wonder we aren't walking around bare-assed like gibbons."

    That made me laugh, Miriam!

    Ivan - I'm no expert in fat or feminist politics but I firmly believe that your experience is vital. If you feel oppressed, if you feel that you have been treated differently because of your weight, then you have experienced fatphobia (I'm not sure there's anyone over 300 lbs that hasn't). Maybe other people have it worse but the fact is, feeling the metaphorical weight of other people's disapproval of your physical weight is painful, no matter who you are.

    I have to fight the urge in myself to look at the size 14/16 women in Fatshionista and scream YOU AREN'T FAT! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE FAT! but I remember being a size 14/16 and perceiving myself as huge (and being made fun of at that size), so I try to remind myself that we each experience our individual sizes in different ways and we ALL are affected by fatphobia in our society. I have suffered only mild insults, really, in comparison with many other people on the fatosphere but they were no less painful or scarring to me for that.

    You are a valuable person, Ivan, and I, for one, value your presence here!

  5. The way I see this, men have been given the "out" of the beer gut. The image is of the hard-partier, former jock, who's too much of a man to care about getting a gut. Probably that applies to some men, and probably others just ride on the relatively cool image. Women don't have any positive character associated with their fat, so they all get shit for it.

    You are clearly a decent, honest person who is not willing to glom onto this opporunity to tell the world that your fat doesn't matter because it's MANfat, thereby removing yourself from the obesity issue and leaving it to the pathetic womenfolk who clearly have no excuse. The down side of this is that you allow yourself to feel the nastiness of society over obesity generally. The upside is that you get the respect of the fat community and you help in the fight to allow everyone to say "this fat doesn't matter because it's none of your business," and you can, should you choose to, feel damned good about yourself for it all.

    And I've said before how little I think of the good fattie/bad fattie distinction, because it's NOT about your health, it's about the fact that we all get one life and we should be free to live it however we choose as long as we don't hurt anyone.

  6. Ivan - Some communities are larger than others. The BBW Bash I went to in Vegas? I felt average-sized. Plenty of larger women and men, plenty of smaller, too. The usenet group I used to hang out in,, also was much more on the supersize end of things.

    A lot of the current "fatosphere" bloggers are "inbetweenies", which generally means they can shop in some "straight size" as well as "plus size" stores. So yeah, this skews things a bit on the smaller end, but this also reflects reality. I mean, when you see people talking about how "most Americans are overweight or obese"? Well, it's not the 400lbers or even the 300lbers who make up that "most"! If you look at just those the CDC labels "morbidly obese" (BMI >40) it's below 5% of American men and just over 5% of American women.

    Even so, some 300lb+ bloggers I think of immediately are you, me, Vesta (Big Fat Delicious), Lesley (Fatshionista) and Marianne (The Rotund).

    BTW, I did a poll of my readers in October, and there's certainly more folks who identified themselves as "deathfat" and "superfat" than in the general population. You may also like this post.

  7. Oh - I forgot to mention Bree at LifeOnFats! Eep!

  8. Privilege is about all about context which isn't talked about much. Although you are better off than a 400lb woman from a similar background you are at the same time much more disadvantaged than someone who is 150, 200 or 300lb. When looking at privilege it really is a matter of comparing apples to apples and not comparing them to oranges.
    As a large woman(considered mid-size by the size acceptance community) I am privileged in many ways over those who are supersize, and as a white woman I have many advantages available to me that are not shared by women who are the same size but black, latina, etc. And even as a large, white woman I have certain privileges that are not shared by even very small women of other minorities.
    In that way we must each make our own journey, but realize that many others are making their journey's as well, from wherever they began and some of us will cross paths along the way.

  9. Late to the party, as usual. Living400 and Miriam have already covered most of what I might have thought of. Both bring, just, too much sense and intelligence to any post / conversation they participate in (Much-MUCH Respect).

    I completely get the 'Outsider looking in' thing. Been there a long time and I guess I'm just too stubborn to get the message. But F/A is something I feel very strongly about so I just keep plugging.

    Anyway, as Living400 points out, it probably has less to do with actual weight / size than anything else. I've been over 400Lbs. but usually settle in @ around 350. On the interwebs, there really is no way someone can know what another person weighs though. Unless that person chooses to reveal or publicize it. Again, as L~400 points out, people even have a hard time figuring it out with pictures (From your photo? *I'd* have guessed 200 - MAYBE 300).

    There is no denying that the world holds body size, shape, image, attitude, and every other constraint imaginable, over women's heads. One of the things that F/A has taught me is an appreciation of the struggles women deal with just navigating through every day life. I'm convinced, if we could archive and condense the Fatosphere into a textbook, it should be made required reading for every Girl (It smacks MY gob how many supposed 'feminists' just don't get it ) AND Boy in grade school through high school. The psychologies of 'acceptable image' and 'male gaze' being such prevalent factors for women in this country -Really, the WORLD- it's easy to see how being and living fat effects them much more drastically than it does men. Yet, that doesn't mean we aren't effected.

    Good Fatty / Bad Fatty? Annoys the hell out of me. Even though I understand where it's coming from and how easy it is to slip into that kind of thinking. I see it as a phenomena that, with it's potential to create schisms within the community, is driven in part by the desire to be accepted. In and of itself, this isn't a BAD thing. Everyone wants to be accepted in one way or another. However. when garnering that acceptance starts to come at the expense of 'Othering' someone else, it's time to start examining your motives.

    As far as Men in F/A? My theory runs along the lines of our lack of comfort with body politics in general. It's the 1st Rule of Male Club; We laugh about them, we rail against them, we ignore, abuse, coax, command, defy, dismiss, and even sculpt or obsess over our bodies. We do not TALK about them. Yeah, stupid, but whatareyagonnado?
    Me? Keep talking. I HAVE a body. In fact, I happen to live in it and try to take care of it in a fashion that suits me and the life I'm trying to live. It's ok to talk about why my car is / isn't giving me peek performance. It's ok to talk about how the Jets are going to win the next Super Bowl (They are ya know) and what they need to do to get it done. So, I should NOT talk about what being fat in this society means to me. . . Why exactly? It's my body, I'm more than comfortable with it, what's the problem?

    For me, I guess that part if why I'm STILL blogging F/A. Well, that, and the possibility that, if I keep at it, maybe more guys WILL show up and stick around. Yah never know.

  10. Your voice is one, though not the only one, that I really value in the community. I love the way you write, and I love your self reflective, introspective nature.

    I also suspect that you are a trailblazer for your gender and we'll see more and more men joining FA.

  11. I believe that being in a position of privilege doesn't negate your voice on a subject, it just means that you have to have some sensitivity towards those who don't have privilege in the areas that you do. Does that make sense?

    Ivan your voice is as valid as anyone else's - it's just a matter of finding the way to express it that has understanding of the areas that you do have advantages that others don't, which I believe you already do.

    Don't feel guilty for having something that others don't, appreciate it.

  12. Hi, my name is Michaela A. Null, and I am a doctoral student at Purdue University doing a size-acceptance study. I would like to send you more information. If you are interested, please e-mail me at Thank you.