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Susan Stinson

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06:50 pm: Fat Studies in The New York Times, Librarything, and Side Show Press

  • Yay for this article about fat studies in today's New York Times. Sheana Director, Stefanie Snider, Sondra Solovay (whose hair, by the way, looks quite good), Esther Rothblum, Katie LeBesco... it's an honor roll of folks doing excellent work in the field (some of whom are on my friendslist -- yayyyy! go team! take a bow in comments, if you're in the mood and would like to do us that honor!), and, I think, a fine article.

    I don't mind that there are highly dismissive quotes from other academics -- at least the consensus on fat is presented as open to question, not as unassailable truth -- but the graphic with the Fat Studies anthology presented as bulging instead of being shaped like other books annoys me. It's symptomatic of a kind of visual smirking that the mainstream media regularly indulges in when the subject is fat (cute puns in headlines are also chronic) that I find gratuitous and insulting.

  • I started making a catalog of my books on Librarything, and I'm finding it weirdly fun and compelling. It's got great features, like an author gallery with pictures of some of the authors of my books, and it's really easy to use. I started with my own books -- the link takes you to a page about the elusive Belly Songs -- and a little pile of books my mom just sent me from Texas and childhood, which is why Anne of Green Gables and The Little Engine That Could are on there, and then I just started randomly thinking of books I have by people I know (not everybody! random!) and other books that those made me think of...

    I want to get systematic, though, and list and tag all of the books that I'm using to research Spider In A Tree, to help me keep track of that. And it's fun to see the people listing my books and to what else they have...


  • Hey! toniamato is starting Side Show Press, which has just published its first chapbook. He had some very cool things to say at a warm and bountiful dinner last night (hi folks! thanks! that was fun...) about trying to figure out how to create a small press that truly supports writers, which makes me want to cheer.



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Comments

[User Picture]
From:_epiphany_girl_
Date:November 27th, 2006 01:27 am (UTC)
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I was excited to see that story in the Times today. Actually, I'm bummed someone did it before me!
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From:susanstinson
Date:November 27th, 2006 12:13 pm (UTC)
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Well, yeah, but there are plenty of places that have yet to do a half-way decent article about fat -- it seems like kind of a closed shop, but The New Yorker leaps to mind -- and you could include work in the arts, like, you know fiction!

Love the icon.
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From:songquake
Date:November 27th, 2006 02:34 am (UTC)
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i've seen several postings of the times article, and finally wandered over to read it. i did groan, however, when i read this:

In 1973, a group of women formed the Fat Underground, a faction of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, which was founded four years earlier. In 1983, they published “Shadow on a Tightrope,” a collection of essays, articles and memoirs on fat liberation that’s viewed as the seminal work in this field.

now, usually, i let words like "seminal" go (i happen to attend a "seminary," and prefer using that term to using "divinity school" on account of the fact that it shakes it up more to think of feminists and dykes in seminary), but... it just seems ooky here.

otherwise, i found the article to be unusually balanced and positive.

the article about the american diabetes association (also from yesterday's nytimes, i think), was also interesting in its nod to the ways in which fat-bashing leads to folks w/diabetes experiencing diabetes-bashing and therefore shying away from the medical establishment (an overlap beccawrites explored on queeringdiabetes.org a couple of years ago).
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From:susanstinson
Date:November 27th, 2006 12:32 pm (UTC)
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"Seminal" seemed ooky because one of the meanings of that word is "related to semen"? I can see how going to a seminary/divinity school might make a person sensivity to those nuances, although, for me, "seminal work in the field" reads like a standard phrase of academic respect, and I like seeing Shadow on a Tightrope, which was and is a product of the women's press movement -- published by Aunt Lute Books, which was for a while merged with my first publisher as Spinsters/Aunt Lute -- and radical feminism, recognized and honored in this way.

The ways that fat-bashing leads to diabetes-bashing, and to intense experiences of shaming, humiliation and neglect around needing and seeking health care for fat people in general is such an enormous and rarely acknowledged cost of fat hatred, for sure.

[User Picture]
From:susanstinson
Date:November 27th, 2006 12:34 pm (UTC)
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From:queerbychoice
Date:November 27th, 2006 03:57 am (UTC)
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I think the article's use of the term "super-sized" to describe people rather than food is another instance of the same kind of smirking. It's a euphemism that so heavily implies "Fat people eat too much!" that I just cam't see any possible way that the writer could use such a term without meaning it in a snide and sarcastic sense.
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From:firecat
Date:November 27th, 2006 05:03 am (UTC)
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Fat activists have used supersize to describe ourselves, if we wear clothing sizes that are larger than is to be found in a typical plus-size mall store. This usage predates the use by fast food companies to refer to extra large portions.
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From:susanstinson
Date:November 27th, 2006 12:51 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I've heard Nancy Summer, who works with The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination given credit for coining the term. I don't use it much myself, but it meets a real need to be able to articulate how the experiences and intensity of discrimination varies by size. That is not to say, of course, that people of all sizes are not affected by fat hatred -- we are -- and it's not intended to establish a reverse hierarchy of oppression, either, but it is, I think, an imperfect attempt to find language that's not permeated with medical and/or social judgment for the existing range of human size.

Underlying my own uneasiness with the language of super-size is, I think, a desire for a widely understood and elegantly articulated fat liberation critique of the economic basis for the terrible discrepancies in the access to good food and water. Cultural critics from the left often make what feels to me to be a terribly painful mistake of reinforcing bigotry by using fat bodies as symbols of corporate greed. amamara, in a locked post, wrote something beautiful about sugar a week or two ago that was a powerful synthesis of personal experience and broader understanding that moved in a more complicated and powerful direction.
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From:firecat
Date:November 27th, 2006 07:39 pm (UTC)
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Cultural critics from the left often make what feels to me to be a terribly painful mistake of reinforcing bigotry by using fat bodies as symbols of corporate greed.

Ooh, yes.
From:leaqeman
Date:July 16th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
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  But if we let ourselves have them when we really want them, we begin to see/feel when we really don't want them.
From:juditawyvi
Date:July 16th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
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We don't care if they're legal or not, we don't want them here. Get lost you bigot and racist. ' Dot claimed his free speech rights have been violated, and Tom replies with the hate laws.
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From:susanstinson
Date:November 27th, 2006 12:55 pm (UTC)
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See my long reply under firecat's comment below.

Where -- oops! -- I mispelled amarama, who wrote something locked and beautiful related to these issues in the past week or two.
From:billienupeg
Date:July 16th, 2008 03:31 am (UTC)
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For the first week or two after my return, I really struggle to focus on my normal duties. All I can think of is my visit to Russia.
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From:mermeydele
Date:November 27th, 2006 05:31 am (UTC)
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overall i was happy with the article, though i do think abby ellin dug up some random people for the "anti-fat studies" side of things; their comments were fairly offensive as well, but i would like to think that the number of great people quoted and the span of the discussion of fat studies makes up for it.

thanks susan!
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From:susanstinson
Date:November 27th, 2006 01:03 pm (UTC)
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There's nothing like having your work dismissed as an institutionalization of victimhood to raise hackles, but, the thing is, since The New York Times is the newspaper of record in this country, the article -- roffensive, sweeping dismissals and all -- makes fat studies an acknowledge part of the culture in a way that my work, for instance, has never been because it has never been refered to there. That paper has an enormous influence on what gets remembered in a way that will be accessible in, say, ten years, and what gets forgotten, and so, lost (or all but lost...).

That's one of the great things about the work that you're doing -- its power to retrieve, to honor, and to bring new life to really interesting work that was happening among fat queers in the previous century. Thanks for doing it.
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From:susanstinson
Date:November 27th, 2006 01:31 pm (UTC)
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I don't know what's up with me and the typos today, but, clearly, this is an unedited forum and it's time for me to have breakfast!
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From:mermeydele
Date:November 27th, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC)
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thank you susan. for your kind words and for your work, which is exactly the work that inspires me to look at what was/ is happening among fat queers in the 20th and 21st centuries!
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From:susanstinson
Date:November 27th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
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Oh, this century, too! And, thanks.
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From:susanstinson
Date:November 27th, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
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It's so pervasive and corrosive that I actually feel grateful if I run across an article or broadcast that doesn't do it.
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From:susanstinson
Date:November 27th, 2006 06:36 pm (UTC)
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I know!
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