Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pardon Me, My Head’s Exploding

Here’s another one from the “You Can’t Make This Shit Up” file: The Skinny Website (conveniently available at is described by its creator/moderator, Rian, as a site for “celebrity gossip and trends pertaining to weight, diet and exercise.” Rian says that for many folks, “celebrity weight-watching has become a hobby” and the site is “just for fun.” Uh-huh, a veritable measuring cup of malnourished monkeys.

In practice, catering to this hobby involves Rian providing a couple of dozen links to photos and commentary on Hollywood’s full roster of Ashleys, Britneys, Jessicas, Jennifers, Kates and Kellys et al, followed by the considered opinions of site faithfuls. There’s no learning curve to slow down newbies, since the pix, plugs and pans are also divided into such categories as celebrity diets, celebrity eating disorders, celebrity skeletons, celebrity cellulite, celebrity baby weight, celebrity flab and bulges and, my personal favorite, celebrities eating.

This last item leads to such shocking food porn as “Hayden Panettiere Eats a Sandwich,” “Kristen Kreuk Eats Ice Cream” and for especially heavy breathing, “Anna Kournikova Eats in a Bikini.” They comment on the celebs and they comment on the food, frequently wishing they could have some of it. I wish I was making this up.

Every day on The Skinny Website, those posting comments discuss such weighty issues as Lindsay Lohan’s ass (too big), Angelina Jolie’s “pencil-thin” arms (too small?; the vote’s not in) and Sophie Monk’s hip bones. I’ve never heard of Sophie Monk. Or her hip bones. As a public service, Rian points out celebs who are “scary skinny” and reminds readers that there is such a thing as too thin, and good health is what matters. Most of them don’t care; it’s all about thin, by any means necessary.

And these folks are harsh! They label numerous 23-year-old starlets as “old and tired,” call cute chubby chicks like Jennifer Hudson “disgusting fat pigs” and express concern that women who are a size 6 are becoming “overweight.” Indeed, it seems that anyone above a size 2 is deemed overweight and needs to stop “letting herself go.” Just yesterday, I read a post in which the writer said if she looked like Beyonce (a disgusting fat pig), she would kill herself. Understandable. Beyonce is not “toned.” She is not “buff.” She is not a “fat-free lady.”

For those in pursuit of self-help, there are handy reference categories, including Fat Loss 4 Idiots, Negative Calories, Master Cleanse and Pregnancy Without Pounds. By the way, pregnant celebs are watched closely so fans can see their “baby bump.” There was a picture of preggers Nicole Richie leaving a gym; her baby bump looked like a small, bad case of gas.

There are a few voices of quasi-reason who champion being fit and healthy instead of tin-rib skinny, who challenge the idea that anyone who is a size 4 can possibly be fat in any way, and suggest that a size 0 (yes, zero) may be a little too small. Radicals! But I did learn a new term I like: body fascism. Those who resist the anti-fat crazies call those fat police body fascists. I love that.

Needless to say, as a fat activist and firm believer in body autonomy, I am aghast at the tone and content of this site. Rian may say it’s all in fun, but this is the kind of crap that promotes fat hate and its attendant behaviors. More important, this site is emblematic of a large segment of public sentiment, not just about stars and size but everybody and size. Those posting on this site constantly spew forth all the standard anti-fat propaganda: fat is deadly, fat people are lazy/ugly/stupid, it’s easy to not be fat (just shut your big fat mouth), thin is the only form of beauty, health is a social responsibility. And on. And on.

I’ve given alot of thought to what I could say to this fat-hating audience that might encourage them to see things in a different light – even just a little. It’s not that I want the whole world to love fat, to approve of it, to praise it. I’d just like to help stop the meanness and the anger. It actually pisses these people off that anyone is fat, even people who aren’t really fat. But to them, anyone who isn’t scary-skinny and hard as a brick wall is fat and fat is about the worst thing you can be, just a notch above pedophiles and double-agents. What a lonely, difficult thing it must be to live and work as a young actress today. How hard it is to be an ordinary person more afraid of fat than a pandemic disease. How painful it is to be fat, even a little fat, in a culture that despises you for it. Why can’t the fat-haters see how much this harms us all?

How can anyone talk to these people about discrimination and false values and a shocking lack of human kindness? They’re on a completely different wavelength and their frequency is more closely attuned to the general public than it is to me. I’ve noticed recently that everything I see on TV, everything – movies and sitcoms from every era, talk shows, newscasts, cooking shows, stand-up comedy, commercials, shopping channels, even documentaries – includes some kind of anti-fat comment. How do you fight that?

When I think about what the fat acceptance movement wants to achieve juxtaposed against rabidly anti-fat public opinion, I’m winded with defeat. I don’t know where to begin. But I’m going to keep thinking about it and talking about it with other fat-friendly folks. Many entrenched social ideas have been changed; it isn’t necessarily hopeless. Maybe. Meanwhile, this whole unpleasant business has made me hungry. I’m going to make a sandwich.
I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

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