The Fat Girl’s Best Revenge. ~ Charlotte Heckscher {mild nudity}

Via on Jan 27, 2012

Plus Model Magazine recently featured an article titled, “Plus Size Models, What Is Wrong With Them Anyway?”

The piece reflects efforts to change current marketing practices and shift the bias of popular culture that favors slim over round. Lots of persuasive statistics were included like,

did you know that the average model weighs 23 percent less than the average woman, or that 50 percent of women are a size 14 or larger, but the average clothing store carries only sizes 14 and smaller?

Actually, I could have told you that without doing the research, ’cause I’m a fat girl and there’s nowhere for me to shop—unless I go to a freak store that caters only to sizes 14 plus.

My shape has never remotely resembled that of a store mannequin or the girls I see in ads. God forbid, I should wander into Chico’s or Anthropologie–the staff would look the other way as I pretended to walk resolutely to the jewelry section, where their lovely bracelets, by the way, won’t go over my fists.

While I passionately support Plus Model Magazine’s campaign to “celebrate” the plus size fashion, beauty and plus size modeling industries, I can’t help but respectfully question the semiotics of their photo spread.

Excuse me, but why is a fashion magazine using nude models to justify its existence—or does asking make me a prude?

“The cat swallows the canary.”

Let’s start with this photo (left), in which a beautiful Russian model proudly displays her back rolls (the same rolls that cause most of us heavy women acute shame), while embracing a painfully thin girl. I like nudity and sapphic embrace as much as anyone, but where is the thin girl’s face? Why does the heavy girl seem to be devouring rather than embracing?

I’m not fooled by their caption:

“Changing society’s view will not happen overnight. We are all responsible for helping to make this change. Embrace the uniqueness of you and appreciate your body.”

Big Girl is not cuddling; Big Girl is just getting ready to eat Thin Girl for breakfast!

“She’s too thin–but there’s always red stiletto!”

I’ve observed this behavior in my cat Pablo, who often grooms his prey prior to striking.

I’m fat, I’m opinionated, I’m passionate, yes; but I’m not butch. Why do I have to lead the dance just cause I’m taller or fatter? Why is thin (or emaciated) considered feminine? Because Thin Girl looks fragile and in need of a pair of meaty arms just to hold her upright, and Big Girl looks healthy?

Let’s face it, Big Girl ain’t even that big—and where’s our trademark cellulite, aren’t we celebrating that?

The caption here reads, “Most runway models meet the body mass index physical criteria for anorexia.” A more honest caption might be, “Hump this, you skinny b*tch!”

It’s dishonest. Why do fat girls always have to point at thin girls and cry out, “Anorexic!”

Bitter, bitter fat girls, we are…

The girl in the picture looks ill, but many thin models look toned and beautiful.

I, for one, would have liked to see Adam Levine’s gorgeous Russian-supermodel girlfriend nude-wrestling with Big Girl (Adam could stay, if he liked). Then we’d level the playing field and show two different kinds of beauty. (Not so different, really. They’re both tall, blond and Russian—they could be twins—it’s just one’s skinny and one’s not.)

Aren’t these photos and the whole focus on health a little dishonest? Don’t they distract from the real point, which is that beauty comes in many different forms?

We must certainly allow each other our personal preferences, but while we’re at it, let the fashion industry generate beautiful clothing tailored to the vast number of more generously proportioned consumers—as if all of us are actually worthy of beauty! (Hmmm, I used the word “consumers.” What did I mean by that? Hungry, gluttonous, wanton, demanding fatties?)

And here’s another point. Fat jokes and teasing are painful in a way that a lot of other kinds of prejudiced remarks are not. When I’m Black or Asian, female or handicapped, that’s just how it is. But when I’m fat, I’m personally responsible for “the offense.” I have no willpower and I’m ugly because I have no willpower. I’m a lazy slob, I’m dumb, I don’t care how I look, my personal hygiene is questioned, my sexuality is an embarrassment and an affront, and I invite ridicule.

No, I’m not suggesting that discrimination against fatties is worse than racial or religious or any other discrimination, not playing who’s-the-bigger-victim (“bigger,” get it?). I’m just pointing out a unique dimension of the Fat Experience, which is the accusation that we’re responsible for bringing shame and dishonor on ourselves, a pox be upon us.

Hang on, I really don’t have willpower and I am kind of lazy–but I’m not dumb or unclean and I do care about my appearance. (Why else would I hide my extra chin in every profile pic?)

I know three morbidly obese women (and two men) who have opted for gastric bypass surgery.

As far as I know, all five are satisfied with the results. One of my best friends is obese and takes daily medication for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She won’t consider surgery because she understands the value of good nutrition, daily exercise, journaling and self-awareness–and consequently believes deep down that she should lose the weight on her own, powered by her intelligence and will. She believes that eventually her willpower will prevail—and if not, she deserves whatever she gets ’cause it’s her own fault.

I guess I feel the same way. But you do the math. We’re middle-aged and we’ve been fat for, give or take, most of our lives, so how likely is it that we’ll make ourselves slim and fit now?

Being a tall, voluptuous size 14 or 16 is fine, but I wonder if Plus Model Magazine has medium-height size 24s? It sounds nice to celebrate all shapes and sizes, but guess what? It hurts to be a medium-height size 24–joints ache, you can’t tie your shoes (unlike our ersatz Big Girl, above), you’re chronically out of breath and you sweat a lot.

Let’s be honest, we don’t want to be teased or unfairly judged, but we fat women and men want to look better—yes, thinner!—and feel better.

This fat girl’s revenge is not to have a curvier model (who’s not really fat) posing as a dominatrix engaged in softcore porn with an anorexic.

It’s not to say fat is beautiful or thin is ugly. This fat girl doesn’t happen to think that pretending obesity is beautiful with marketing strategies will convince anyone it’s true.

This fat girl’s revenge is to declare that most fat girls don’t, in fact, enjoy being fat and we don’t want to embrace obesity, nor do we want to be fat models, we just want to be seen for who we are, not merely as fat people.

Perhaps the sexiest characteristic a person can have isn’t a tight butt or a trim waistline, but confidence. Not arrogance, just that wickedly attractive sense of worthiness, as well as the humility to poke fun at oneself, and a loving, generous spirit.

But you can’t take a picture of that or weigh it on a scale.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Charlotte Heckscher studies yoga (but is not a yogini), meditation (but manages to practice mindfulness instead), and spiritual traditions (but claims none). Charlotte writes passionately, irreverently, and sometimes with unabashed reverence, about metaphysical topics on her blog, The Daily Procrastinator. She’s considering changing the name to Charlotte’s Voice, which isn’t as funny or neurotic, but is appealingly shameless.

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40 Responses to “The Fat Girl’s Best Revenge. ~ Charlotte Heckscher {mild nudity}”

  1. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I wish I could share this article on my blogsite, but they are run by the nudity police …
    Time to switch blogsites, even if the one I switch to is less size-acceptance-friendly … one thing we larger-than-life gals could do, given the right lighting, of course, is we can blend ….

    It seems that I may be more on the side of fat acceptance a la Kate Harding than you are, but not full-fledged …

    The fat girl's real revenge is to own that chip on her shoulder developed over a lifetime, but that probably takes being post-menopausal in most women …

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      Anger could be healing … and will get others to, at least, pay attention …

      Just don't hang on to it …

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  3. Jason Gan says:

    Body image. In all shapes and sizes. The mechanism of commercialism still grapples with the concept of how to package product for the best sale by creating the concept of many body images, which are still a fragmentation of who we are, because these images are external objects and labels (e.g. folds on body). In fact, any external conceptual image can be made to look beautiful. The problem is having to deal with the ugly internal unseen aspect of ourselves, the self that we have to live with, for better or for worse (You cannot divorce yourself).

  4. Dude says:

    It seems you are projecting your own feelings onto the intent of that article in assuming that fat girls want to be different. You answered your own question, but it's about self confidence.

  5. Gayle Hanson says:

    Amen sister! I jut pulled out my baby photo at 8 months…I had a double chin…and was so round I’m amazed I could even sit up. Fat then, fat now. Pretty cute then, pretty cute now.

    That said, I think our culture, in its desire to combat the ills of obesity, has inadvertently created an atmosphere in which people feel really comfortable insulting people who are overweight – particularly women. What is up with that? Go to Lululemon (What was I thinking?) and they won’t even acknowledge me as human. And, while they seem happy to carry men’s yoga clothes in XXL, do they have anything for my size 18 butt? NOOOOOOOO!

    Fat isn’t just a health issue. It’s a feminist issue. And could someone tell me why it is that overweight people live longer?

    GRRRRRRRR. So thanks for your words.

  6. Lorin Arnold Lorin says:

    Reading this took me to your blog, where I happily spent the last 30 minutes reading :) I love smart blogging. Thanks!

  7. Chris says:

    Check out http://www.healthygirlskitchen.blogspot.com

    Mind, body, soul…… one day at a time.

  8. Miss Season says:

    I agree with Melissa 100% and I cannot say it better myself, so I won't

  9. Melissa says:

    Firstly, I have to say you are a horrible advocate for fat girls everywhere. Much of this seemed self-deprecating and offensive to overweight women, and if it was meant to be funny, it wasn't.

    Secondly, I think it is sad that this magazine is trying to pass that woman off as plus-sized.

    • Vision_Quest2 says:

      There is a difference between being a "horrible advocate" as you say, and operating already from a position of insecurity. From what I read on her blog-site, the writer has been immersed in some sort of WASP culture from college and already feels one-down … so some of the self-deprecating could be protective coloration …

      When you feel you have nothing left to lose, that's the point at which you own your anger …

    • Kimmy says:

      The ability to laugh at one's self is the first step towards accepting self, loving self and loving others. If you lame fatties can't take a step back and chuckle, I feel you are sorely limited in your personal expression. Taking yourself too seriously is a disease and laughter is the cure. Get over they self.

      • Vision_Quest2 says:

        When skinny people and muscular people, and especially men of all sizes, are considered, jolly, awkward, funny, clownish just by dint of existing … THAT's when fat women might feel free to laugh at ourselves …

        What you are suggesting is performing in blackface …

        • Kimmy says:

          Blackface? A little overly dramatic, don't you think? Only a high level of self-absorption could keep you from realizing skinny people sometimes feel awkward, muscular people feel like a bull in a china shop, and most men are funny and clownish on some level most days of their lives, being the simplistic creatures we all love. I get tired of being in an intensely demanding clinical program where every other person is between 20 and 35 years younger than I am, and no one recognizes that 25 years of being in upper level management at a Fortune 100 company may have instilled me with some experience and life skills. They prefer to ridicule my reading glasses, so I take a step back and chuckle with them. Humility is good for the soul. Not one reader here has skipped a day where they felt like a buffoon for one reason or another, regardless of shape or size. Or are you perhaps making the same point as the author:

          "Fat jokes and teasing are painful in a way that a lot of other kinds of prejudiced remarks are not. When I’m Black or Asian, female or handicapped, that’s just how it is. But when I’m fat, I’m personally responsible for “the offense.”"

          I also think you may be missing the point that self-deprecating humor is practically an instilled culture on the east coast from whence the author hails – not necessarily a hallmark of crippling insincerity.

    • Ashley says:

      I think you need to read that article again . . . ? I'm not fat, but I think the author is advocating for ALL women to accept and celebrate themselves, let go of the comparisons . . . maybe I misread.

  10. Vanita says:

    I know one thing for sure. I could stop eating for a little while for an opportunity to have been the model in the cover shoot with Adam Levine. Just sayin'.

  11. stix says:

    I’ve always had the tall, thin frame that seems to run in my family. Because of this many people (mostly women) would make negative comments about my body. I got to the point where I absolutely hated my body. Now I have learned to love myself, although of course there are those bits you wish were thinner/perkier/more toned. Those negative thoughts can happen no matter what size you are. Fat or thin we should all love ourselves and each other, because I really think we are all battling the same body image monster!

  12. Kimmy says:

    Bottom line is this is not just an article for the overweight. It is a feisty, funny articulate statement for any human being who has felt discomfort with their body image.

  13. catnipkiss says:

    I know that this is a commentary on American women, mostly, right? (Which is what I am!) But in my travels I have noticed that I can't even find clothes to fit my ass, and it's about a size 12 (sometimes even 10) – when I was traveling in Europe I tried to find a pair of pants, jeans, anything!!!! to fit, and it was almost impossible. That's an ego blow! And people told me when I was packing, "Don't worry about clothes, just take a few things and buy what you need when you get there!" I know better! My body is hard enough to fit in the stores I know in the US, let alone while traveling… My best trick was to buy a pair of cargo capris at a thrift store that were a size too big, so I can wear them no matter what and leave them behind if I need to. Yeah, the world is easier – at least shopping must be – if you're skinny. – Alexa

  14. You won me over when you said "Charlotte Heckscher studies yoga (but is not a yogini)"….thank God for normal people :)))

  15. mbw says:

    Hey all you women who think you can't lose the weight – dumpt the wheat, all of it, including whole wheat.

  16. Marianne says:

    Hey all you women who think you can't lose the weight – dumpt the wheat, all of it, including whole wheat.

  17. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Troll. mbw/Marianne. This is or should be a diet-talk-free zone, particularly weight-loss-dieting. Wish there were a "block" button.

  18. Ruby says:

    Have tried all my life to lose weight – managed to stop smoking – & I hold down a pretty hectic job where I have to be organised, so I dont think I am an undisciplined slob – just seems really hard for me and I'm really tired of giving so much of my energy to weight issues. BUT whatever anyone says – I hear really hurtful things about fat people and get loads of unwanted advice coming from thinnies. Would be great if bigger bodies were praised and acccepted – we are all different.

  19. Tova Panias says:

    I believe that avoiding highly processed foods is the first step to be able to lose weight. They may taste great, but refined foods have got very little nutritional value, making you feed on more in order to have enough electricity to get with the day. When you are constantly consuming these foods, moving over to whole grain products and other complex carbohydrates will help you to have more electricity while consuming less. Interesting blog post. diet plans for men

  20. BeckyFarrar says:

    I REALLY enjoyed this post Charlotte! As a tall, skinny blonde I often feel judged for my eating habits. What I liked most about your thoughts were the confidence part…I feel consistently confused by how to create my own sense of value knowing it doesn’t come from the way I look. These lines reminded me of the type of attractive I want to be: “Perhaps the sexiest characteristic a person can have isn’t a tight butt or a trim waistline, but confidence. Not arrogance, just that wickedly attractive sense of worthiness, as well as the humility to poke fun at oneself, and a loving, generous spirit.”

    Thanks! Keep on doing what you do!

  21. Amy says:

    I think it is unhealthy to be overweight and we shouldn’t glorify it or make people think it is ok. Just like we shouldn’t glorify being too skinny. People don’t just come in all shapes and sizes they are made that way from excessive eating or not eating at all. We certainly shouldn’t justify being overweight by saying “oh, that’s just the way she is and she should embrace it. Love herself for who she is.” No, she should stop eating so much, get up off the sofa and start working out. I am not saying she needs to be a size 4 or a 6 for that matter, but anything over 15lb from your ideal size for your height is obesity and should be addressed. Most people’s problems stem from oversized portions and living stagnant lives.

    • Clem says:

      "Most people" have eating disorders and actual emotional eating problems that is not just about the act of eating. "Most people" have hormonal and metabolism problems. Patronizing them to "just eat less and get up off the sofa" (which is just an assumption made on their part because they're overweight) causes even more pshycological problems on their part. I know this personally because I was obese when I was a teenager even though I did "get up off the sofa" and continuosly did sports and ate normally, my family and everyone around me chose to patronize me rather than actually help me/take me to a doctor(psychologist to examine my body/my emotional health. And all their patronizing and humiliation (much like what you wrote above) caused me to stop eating all together because everyone assumed it would stop me from being fat. And because of that I lost weight along with my health.

  22. I have been obese (242 lbs.) and average weight (150) and have found a huge difference in the way I was treated in almost every aspect of life. It's been quite an eye opener. Since I have maintained my lower weight for 12 years, I get a whole round of attitude as I did NOT gain it back from overweight "friends", since most people do. I dislike the depiction of overweight women as slobs, lazy, etc. as much as I dislike Hollywood movies where every woman looks like a 1950s Barbie doll (12 year old boys' body with fake boobs). When will we start to look beneath the stereotypes? When will America show its soul, instead of the superficial?

    • Ashley says:

      Amen! I experienced the same thing just going from a size 6 to a size 2 (I'm little and I was taking a medication that made me lose weight, not on purpose) at the least healthy I had ever been, I looked gross really, I got more compliments and attention than ever! I had to just shut up and say 'thank you' because people seemed either offended or confused when I explained that I wasn't happy to be so tiny . . . absolutely sick! I've also had other times when I was fit and working out and then people would see me eating a salad and give me a hard time . . 'you don't need to be on a diet!' jeez! leave us alone already! I guess it's just proof that you must work on making YOU happy and let the others be! I guess that would be us showing our soul ;)

  23. BS TV says:

    Avoid Avoid Fat Girls Revenge its whats wrong with reality shows and is the quintessential example of low grade garbage tv. Dont watch it, please have it removed or write to Oxygen about the poor choice in programming.

  24. Ashley says:

    So brave and honest! I love you!!!!

  25. JZ says:

    The biggest mistake with this article is that you declare that all fat people want to be thinner, which completely destroys the rest of the entire article. Nice try, but when all media thinks fat people are disgusting, by saying that all fat people just want to be thinner, but accepted for who they are, you completely contradict yourself.

  26. liz says:

    this is an incredible article.

  27. Michelle says:

    I'm overweight and I have to say, you don't speak for me. I'm healthier than most people I know, eat well, and am extremely active. I have no body issues and I don't aspire to be skinny. I'm happy and comfortable with my body.

  28. Anne says:

    Perhaps I'm stupid but I can not perceive any of the models featured in the article as fat …..

  29. QuirkyJen says:

    Charlotte, Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! The timeliness is impeccable. In my "Critical Approach to Literature" course, we are currently discussing Feminist, Queer, and Disability Studies and this very topic (sizism) is on the table. As a 5'3" 215 lb. woman (size 18ish), I relate. I hide my "extra" chin, take photos from "certain" vantage points, and HATE how difficult–if nigh impossible–to find awesome, current, clothes that fit me. I've been size 24. It hurts. A LOT. Physically and emotionally. People are cruel. Enough about me. My point (rant) in this post is: The conversation is beginning to be about the point of the issue. My point is: Ethically, Morally, Prejudice and Discrimination are passé. Seriously bad form. Beauty includes the spectrums of everyone. Beauty includes all of the colors of the rainbow, the spectrum of ability, the spectrum of skinny, in the middle — we are all uniquely beautiful. Some may resist the idea of embracing beauty in all its various and splendered forms. Some may insist on reducing and ranking beauty based on a numerical formula. I do not buy into that way of thinking. There is beauty in everything and everyone. Beauty is not in the one story, but in the many stories. Listen to Adichie. Beauty is. Celebrate it. Thanks for breaking the silence. <3

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