Fatphobics Anonymous

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I used to be fatphobic. I’ll even go so far as to qualify that with a very. I live in a town/city that has always been up-to-date with all of the recent diet fads, and when you grow up with that kind of weight-based health obsession, it’s bloody impossible not to internalize it. My best friend, who is stick thin and lanky, was fatshamed by her mother throughout her childhood. So when she complained about her looks or fatness, I thought–as the fat and ugly friend– “Jeez, what must they think of me?”

These microaggressions and self-hating thoughts continued and inevitably clouded my own ideas of what healthy and unhealthy meant. Fat = unhealthy; skinny = healthy. I’m surprised that I didn’t come out of my childhood with BDD or an eating disorder, although I very nearly did. Needless to say, those attitudes toward fat and fat people kept with me until well after I left college. 

That being said, there is one woman who has been the game changer. She’s on facebook a lot, and she posts Health At Every Size and body positive articles all the time. When I started reading those, and asking the hard questions about myself and my attitudes, I had to come out as fatphobic. That’s the trick, isn’t it? You have to admit to being fatphobic, having racist attitudes, having privileges, etc. before you can even begin to change. So I came out by posting a status claiming my fatphobia, but at this point I definitely wasn’t ready or willing to let go of ideas I’d held my entire life. Letting go of your bigotry is hard. It serves as this sick little protective blanket, but once you’re aware of how wrong you are, it’s impossible NOT to start letting go. 

I kept reading and reading, until finally, someone cracked a fat joke and I spat out, “Hey, man, that is NOT COOL of you!” A few weeks before that moment, I’d have laughed, too. It wasn’t even a practiced or thought-out negative reaction; I had unwittingly crossed the line. 

I look back now, and I can’t even believe some of the things that came out of my mouth. I am sorry to those people who have been hurt by things I’ve said or actions I’ve condoned; and I’m sorry to my past self, to be quite honest. My self-worth was directly related to how much I weighed for a long time. WHAT A WASTE OF BAD FEELINGS. I may not be happy-go-lucky about my body, and I don’t think I ever will be, but at least I have shattered the idea many times over that a person’s worth has anything at all to do with weight or body size.

Korra: Socially Privileged

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Major spoiler alert for the upcoming series Avatar: The Legend of Korra.

Today I watched two episodes of Korra, and oh my god, I was so impressed. The graphics are gorgeous, but more importantly, the cast of characters is incredible.

Korra is, in a word, impressive. Unlike Aang, who we saw grow up over the series both as a bender and emotionally, the new Avatar is in her teen years and is learning her final element. This show is originally intended for children, so it is really important that she be a strong role model.

I also see this as a big learning opportunity for audiences, because the fight this season is not as simple as good and evil. The Legend of Korra is much more complex. This season is about social privilege and ignorance. Korra, having grown up isolated from non-benders and their status as second-class citizens, is entirely ignorant of the reason for the Equalizers revolution. In fact, when I was watching the scene with the Equalizer protest, I had to laugh at Korra for her retort and her reasoning against the demonstrators. The commentary that the protest organizer was making, that the obvious reason for her love of bending is because she is a bender herself was so apt.

Korra’s development and education regarding the Equalizers claim is surely going to be a major component of the series. She just got to Republic City, and if she intends to bring balance to the world, she needs to understand the conflict. In doing so, she will be forced to confront her own privilege and higher social status. How she deals with that is my concern, as a woman of color, feminist, and fan of the show. Her personality signals to me that it will take awhile for her to accept her privilege and duties, but that once she does understand, she’s going to have some major guilt about it. She might even stop using her bending altogether for awhile, before she realizes that she can be privileged but use her platform as the avatar to advocate equal rights and speak with Equalizers.

What makes her ignorance easier to stomach is that she’s so well-meaning. It’s pretty obvious she wants to help the world and fulfill her obligations as avatar. But in her efforts, she will (like many privileged whites) need to check herself before she speaks.

The creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender birthed one of my favorite animated series with their 3-dimensional lead characters, humor, and plot. I have faith that they’ll approach social privilege in Avatar-universe from an enlightened angle. I cannot wait for the official airing of The Legend of Korra.

FIFA Lifts Ban on Hijab!

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It seems a bit strange that my first post on “Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed!” should be positive (in a sense).

Football (soccer) has plenty of racism issues on the men’s side, and the women’s side is no different. Instead of incidents of overt racism, however, women’s football is a bit more subtle. In 2007, FIFA banned the hijab from international play, regarding it as a choking hazard. It is this regulation that banned Iran’s national team from going to the London Olympics this summer. Naturally there’s been a huge controversy as a result, from supporters of the rule, to vocal dissent who understand it as a thinly veiled Islamophobia.

Certainly, the choking hazard argument has merit, but the Iranian national team already solved that problem beforehand by making specially designed headscarves secured with velcro instead of pins. Ta-da! Choking hazard problem gone, and yet it took FIFA until 2012 to lift the ban.

However, this is totally a reason to celebrate! And then sit and wait for mainstream feminists to rain on the parade by arguing that this is just giving in to an oppressive cultural symbol. This argument reeks of white exceptionalism, that only our way is the right way. It completely discredits women for choosing to wear hijab, sometimes hinting, most times saying explicitly that women who wear hijab don’t know any better.*

Regardless of whether or not anyone actually agrees with that idea (insulting as it is to hijabis), it is undeniable that this ban lift is good for women. In the very least that it will allow more women to play football. This gives hijabi cultures more leverage to develop their women’s football programs and thus, the potential to compete internationally. As we’ve seen from the Women’s World Cup 2011, people care about international women’s football.

Women’s football has slowly and gradually become more popular and more recognized since 1999, particularly in the US. USA’s quality, and Western Europe’s quality had been uncontested until last summer. Japan is THE FIRST non-European to win the Cup, but it won’t be the last. We’ve seen, I argue, faster and more exponential growth in quality from women’s football than we have seen from men’s. This past summer was the first I saw where it wasn’t immediately clear who would win. It was more interesting, more passionate, more suspenseful than any men’s World Cup tournament I have ever watched. And I am willing to bet money that now that women can wear the specially-designed hijab, we will see another jump in quality and in international tournament participation.

*/ more on WOC feminism another time

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