— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for the ‘Fat Acceptance’ Category

Nothing to Lose (2006)

In a culture obsessed with fat, there are groups of “fat activists” who attempt to change what they see as a fat-phobic world into a size-accepting world. These fat activists span the political and religious spectrum, yet come together around their commitment to ending “size discrimination.” Nothing to Lose (2006) presents the activities of the local New York chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) as they advance their platform through engagements with mass-media, dissemination of information, and creative local actions. By adopting the provocative position that linking fat with ill-health is misguided and legitimizes prejudicial attitudes and behavior toward those with fat bodies, Nothing to Lose is a film that encourages its viewers to rethink the stereotypes and assumptions they hold about body size.[1]  The documentary was made by this man: ‘Robert Y. Chang is a PhD student in Anthropology and the Program in Culture & Media at NYU. He has worked for UNESCO, the Smithsonian Institution, and literacy education non-profits. Robert Y. Chang’s primary research is on religion and media in transnational contexts. Additionally, he is fascinated by the amount of energy and attention that some people expend in order to become thin, and conversely, seeks to explore cultural associations that exist regarding fat bodies. This is part of an abiding interest in the how bodily differences are culturally valued or de-valued’.[2]


Living in a country like Turkey where the power of appearances is paramount and conformity rules unopposed, the skinny brigade is all-powerful and it is very hard, if not impossible, to escape their censure and disapproval.

New Survey Finds 1/3 of World’s Population Overweight

As I indicated in my previous entry: “In more than one way, the world’s population is getting bigger and bigger”.[1]  And in timely fashion here is the VOA sounding the “alarm bell”: ‘Obesity is not just an American problem anymore. Nearly one third of the world’s population is overweight, according to a recent international survey by the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research institute in Washington DC. Researchers there say the trend is being driven, ironically, by rising personal income, and that is leading people to eat fattier foods and to exercise less. Producer Zulima Palacio has the story’.

But as obesity levels rise and overweight people continue to populate our world, it would stand to reason that perceptions will also have to change over time . . . “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence”.[2]  Or will societies develop new upper- and under-classes according to weight in future??? Will poor people be condemned to eat cheap yet fattening foods, while the rich will have easy access to weight surgery and more expensive but less fattening foods???

[i] “Fat, Beauty, and the Power of Images” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (09 August 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/fat-beauty-and-the-power-of-images/.

[ii] “Quotation  #3235 from Laura Moncur’s Motivational Quotations:” The Quotations Page. http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/3235.html.

Fat, Beauty, and the Power of Images

In more than one way, the world’s population is getting bigger and bigger; governments the world over are talking about ways to tackle the obesity epidemic; and all the while, the fashion industry and the ubiquitous media continue to propagate the message that FAT is a bad three-letter-word and that it is “in” to be “thin”. Still, in the face of this constant onslaught there are a few brave “voices” that speak out . . . voices belonging to people like Thibault Guerin, the creator of the below propaganda clip Plastik.

Below is another clip showcasing Guerin, propounding his message against the dictatorship of the beauty industry and its insistence upon thin as the norm for acceptable and desirable “objects of beauty” to be imitated and aspired to by one and all. Nevertheless, his above-featured piece of agitprop still seems to push the idea that blonde hair dye is a prerequisite for achieving wide and wider appeal. You win some, you lose some . . .


The BBW activist J. T. Marquis writes on The BBW Lifestyle Gazette blog that “it’s not just ‘thin’ that’s in, but more accurately, ‘ultra-thin.’ Such an ideal is understandably quite intimidating to a majority of women. They know instinctively that the image is unnatural. And yet it seems to remain compelling, for reasons that resist articulation. It’s like a magic spell, bidding women to embrace what they know to be insane for the promise of ultimate cultural acceptance. That’s the function of Image in the media. It is calculated to override logic”.[1]


And then, there are some artists who unashamedly depict big and bigger ladies for the delight of the few and the many in between. For example, the Italian photographer Yossi Loloi, who seems to have started working on his current project in 2006. Loloi hails from the northern Italian city of Milano. And this is his credo: “In my work I portray what larger women represent to me. I focus on their fullness and femininity, as a form of protest against discrimination set by media and by today’s society. What larger women embody to me is simply a different form of beauty. I believe we own ‘freedom of taste’ and one shouldn’t be reluctant of expressing his inclination towards it. Limiting this freedom is living in a dictatorship of esthetics”. His work is on display on his website the Full Beauty Project and here are some samples.[2]

ZOOM Magazine’s verbose Renato Corsini had this to say: Yossi Loloi’s “most recent work, “Full Beauty”, is powerful, provocative and ironic. It turns on its head the role of the female nude and its depiction made up of stereotypes tied to fashion and the cult of a sculpted and constructed body focused on glamour and eroticism to the point of being a fetish. And for Yossi, it offered the  opportunity of showing his ability to break the rules and to interpret a world – that of the nude – which seemed to have said all that it had to say. With irony, but also deep respect for his models, he places before us obese women who even go beyond what is commonly considered “fat”, individuals relegated to the daily existence of “clothes” and highlighted in the special context of the
“nude” that exaggeratedly accentuates the emotional impact through his choice to utilize large format photographs. All done with tremendous professionalism and supported by an impeccable technical knowledge of the photographic medium. It would have been easier, and perhaps sufficient, to exploit the concept and provocation by merely focusing on these bodies that, in their own right, attract attention, but Yossi went a step further: he set his models in elegant, inviting surroundings with chromatic compositions and furnishings the result of detailed study that leaves nothing to chance. The result is a gallery of unusual characters, proud of their extraordinariness and not at all willing to remain in the wings, here conspirators in a project of a photographer they know capable of immortalizing their bodies and turning them into icons that are destabilizing and consciously different. The colors and framing introduce us into a rigorously essential world; the objects become an integral part of the bodies and the source of light work towards highlighting the compositional symmetry. A stylistic study that is never an end in itself, but rather an attempt to attain that ‘harmony of opposites’ represented by the rotundity of the nude bodies against the angularness of the furnishings”.[3]


In addition, the interwebz have also opened up horizons for many people in the “movement”, the Fat Acceptance Movement. On YouTube for instance, there is Project Lifesize: Just Your Average-Sized Collaboration. This project was created by the singer-songwriter Meghan Tonjes,[4] whose angelic voice and delicious melodies are slowly conquering the world via the internet. With regard to Project Lifesize, she states the following: “I started Project Lifesize September 2008. It was a reaction to harassing comments and messages I was receiving on my Youtube videos, often centered around my weight and physical appearance. While I was rarely affected by these comments, I didn’t want my younger subscribers to see them. I knew many people avoided posting their own videos in fear of receiving the same hate. I initially put out a casting call, looking for 6 other women who could portray a more accurate and hopefully a more positive view of curvy women. The goal was always to create a dialogue,not about weight acceptance, but self love . . . Project Lifesize definitely opened a new world up to me. Until then I had never considered myself a part of a plus size community, mostly because there was no community around me. I was always the biggest girl and often felt alone because of it. The women and men who have been a part of the channel, on a regular basis or as Viewers of the Month, have really opened my eyes to different issues that we all are dealing with. It’s easier for me to tell my own story now, whether the stories are funny or sad, because I’ve interacted with the most supportive group of people. I’ve become more comfortable and confident with who I am inside and outside as I’ve seen all of the people who have dealt with the exact same issues. Beyond just men and women who struggle with weight, we’ve connected with people who have felt outcast in general”.[5]


(8 November 2008)

Nowadays a whole subculture has sprung up around the issue of big and bigger ladies (as well as gents), a subculture whose proponents make enthusiastic use of numerous acronyms to spread the word: BBW or Big Beautiful Woman. SSBBW or Super-Sized Big Beautiful Woman. The acronym BBBW then refers to Big Beautiful Black Woman. BHM or Big Handsome Man, or sometimes a BBM or Big Beautiful Man. Fat Admirer or FA and a Female Fat Admirer or FFA. Additionally, there are also such concepts as Feeder and Feedee: “Feedee: A person who fantasizes about being fed, or being fed for sexual pleasure. Feeder: A person who derives pleasure from feeding or feeds for sexual pleasure”. To each his or her own, and beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. In order to put an academic gloss on the subculture relating to the preference of big and bigger ladies (and/or gents), I would here like to quote a report published in Journal of Sex Research: “Related to the discussion of fat acceptance is the phenomenon of “fat admiration” (i.e., a sexual attraction to heavier partners) . . . Fat admiration is difficult to define precisely, but is usually used in relation to individuals (typically, heterosexual men) who find attractive someone considered clinically  overweight (a body mass index [BMI] higher than 25 kg or obese (BMI above 30kg). The issue is complicated by the fact that some fat acceptance authors reject terms such as “overweight” and “obese,” which are considered to stigmatize fat . . .  Moreover, the preferences of fat admirers (FAs) themselves can be wide ranging, and the targets of those preferences can range from being slightly overweight to morbidly obese. Even so, a consistent thread among FAs appears to be their rejection of the thin ideal as an unnecessarily prescriptive societal construct”.[6]

[1] J. T. Marquis, “Anorexia Wars: The Media’s Eternal Obsession With Emaciation” The BBW Lifestyle Gazette (22 December 2008). http://bbwgazette.blogspot.com/2008/12/anorexia-wars-medias-eternal-obsession.html.

[3] “Renato Corsini – “ZOOM Magazine” New Talent Special Issue – Spring 2011” Full Beauty Project. http://www.fullbeautyproject.com/index.php?/about/about/.

[4] To listen to Meghan Tonjes, visit her YouTube channels at  http://www.youtube.com/user/tonjesml.

[5] “End Fat Talk Follow-Up: Project Lifesize & Meghan Tonjes” 700stories (24 October 2009).  http://700stories.wordpress.com/2009/10/24/end-fat-talk-follow-up-project-lifesize-meghan-tonjes/.

[6] Viren Swami and Martin J. Tovee, “Big beautiful women: the body size preferences of male fat admirers.” The Journal of Sex Research (01 January 2009). http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Big+beautiful+women:+the+body+size+preferences+of+male+fat+admirers-a0196534094.