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Fierce, Freethinking Fatty Feminists

January 28, 2014

Fat PoliticsMy Boring-Ass LifeFat NewsDickweed

I had my first encounter with feminism when I was 15 years old and attending Woodmere Junior High School South in New York. Ninth grade was a complicated year for me in a multitude of ways; the most significant perhaps being my mother’s death the previous year. As an adolescent it was difficult enough going through all of the hormonal angst and rebelling against my parents and the establishment, but when you have to rebel against someone you loved deeply and who just died, it is hard to go through separation/individuation without feeling more than a tad guilty.

Add to that the fact that my mom was light years ahead of her time when it came to being a feminist. She spurned makeup, wore overalls way before they were hippy chic, didn’t shave her legs, and worked full time even when our financial situation became comfortable enough via my father’s job. Had my mom lived, it would have been very difficult to rebel against her because I resonated with her choices and politics. My fantasy is that had she lived, we would have made a great and unusual intergenerational team, spreading enlightenment and challenging one of the slogans at the time that you couldn’t trust anyone over 30. But she did pass when I was young, impressionable, ripe for the picking and in the market for a role model and community to fill the cavernous void that was now a part of my life.

Enter The Feminist Movement.

They say timing is everything, and I would have to agree that it sure is up there at the top of the list of factors that Yes We Cancan make or break success and life choices. So with my body not conforming to the models in Seventeen magazine and everyone telling me that I needed to lose weight or no one would find me attractive, not to mention questioning my own femininity because I was such a tomboy, I threw myself into The Feminist Movement with complete abandon. And I am not exaggerating when I say it may have saved my life during those years of trying to make peace with the self-esteem war that was waging inside of me.

What I received from The Feminist Movement above all was permission:

  • I was insecure about my body; The Movement gave me permission to accept my body.
  • I was embarrassed about my hairy legs; The Movement gave me permission to accept all that was natural about my body.
  • I played drums; that was just fine with The Movement.
  • I hated Seventeen magazine; the Movement gave me Ms. magazine.
  • I wanted to fuck; The Movement gave me The Pill.
  • I was fiercely independent and didn’t want to define myself based on whether or not I had a boyfriend at the time; The Movement gave me permission to define myself with MYSELF.

Decades have passed since that time, and The Feminist Movement has gone through many changes and has been the brunt of hate campaigns, misinformation and misinterpretation. The messages we receive about feminism today are more complex than they were back in my days of awakening, especially when it comes to sexualization of the female body. Fashion trends, all in the name of pro-choice have been most confusing. From burning our bras to Madonna’s pointed corset bra to Pink’s line of lingerie at Victoria’s Secret, it is confusing to figure out whether we are supposed to cover or flaunt our bodies as sexual participants. Sexploitation persists (BOO!), yet when we choose to be sex workers we speak out for the right to unionize (YAY!). Beyoncé can wear next to nothing at the Grammy’s, but the Go Daddy ads are repulsive.

As an old crone now (yes, feminists took back the word crone but only a crone can call another crone a crone), I wonder what it would have been like for me to come of age after the 2000, a time when the definition of feminism seems so much more complicated than it was. Would I find it the same sanctuary and oracle of sanity, or dismiss it as something those suffragettes did way back when?

Some aspects of The Movement still seem to be  in tact and, fortunately, are compelling enough to recruit new activists. One of these aspects is calling out corporations and companies that blatantly use women’s bodies as a platform for selling products. In the old print copies of Ms. magazine, subscribers would send in pictures of print ads and billboards and call on readers to boycott the products that were exploiting girls and women in order to make a buck. There was no internet back then and all we could rely on was the power of word of mouth to share these boycotting opportunities.

Today we have a powerful tool at our feminist fingertips: social media. Using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and more, we are able to spread the word about some of the most egregious offenders and reach a huge audience of soon-to-be billboardAPPactivists. The Representation Project (TRP), formerly known as Miss Representation, is one non-profit organization that has done a magnificent job in this arena.

TRP is currently waging a terrific campaign called Not Buying It which they hope will ignite legions of people to boycott products being advertised during the Super Bowl on this Sunday, and beyond. With a clear and to-the-point slogan (“Sexism won’t sell”), TRP has made an app available to download for free and is encouraging people to use it to let others know that friends don’t let friends reinforce vendors who are using women to line their pockets.

They are asking us to download the #NotBuyingIt app and use #NotBuyingIt on Twitter during the big game to call out sexist commercials and brands in real time.We are hoping to spark a national conversation around gender stereotypes. They also have a Facebook page where you can alert people to ads that you have seen, either in magazines, billboards, or on TV with the hope that as more people hear about it, more people will join the boycott against offensive products. It’s like the old Ms. magazine feature, but turbo charged. We’ve come a long way baby!

There are so many facets of The Feminist Movement, and just as many opinions about feminism as there are people. However, I’m confident that there is still a majority of women and men who believe that senseless, blatant exploitation of women is not the way we want to treat our sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and women we’ve never even met.  I for one relish the opportunity to have my voice heard and am proud to be part of something that is giving me permission to speak out. And if my mom were alive, she’d be tweeting right along with me!

Til next time,
Dr. Deah

31 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2014 12:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience! Ironically, I’m a bit later to feminism, even though my mother was active in the women’s rights movement in its early years. She was involved in several movements in the 60s and 70s, but has since gone to the other end of the spectrum and become quite conservative in her thinking. Despite most of my childhood and teen years being spent in a conservative church, I now understand that I am definitely the flower child of a flower child. I might not have had as much early exposure to everything because she started changing her mindset, but my mother has taught me a lot more about equality than she may realize. I’m proud to be the product of her protests and activism. ♥

    • Deah Schwartz permalink
      January 28, 2014 1:48 pm

      Thank you first and foremost for taking the time to comment. Every blog I write is an act of activism and every time someone takes time out of their daily routine to comment on or share a blog, they too are being an activist…adding their voice to the tapestry of change! Warmly, Dr. Deah

      Sent from my iPhone Warmly, Dr. Deah


  2. January 28, 2014 12:58 pm

    I have basically always been indifferent about Feminism.

    Many in Fat Acceptance use Feminism as part of their Fat Acceptance. I will admit that Feminism does a lot to help women accept their bodies and the issue of fat, but the path that Feminism uses emasculates the image of fat men. For Feminist theories to work they have to reinforce Society’s attacks on fat male bodies to combat Society’s attacks on the femininity of fat women.

    • January 29, 2014 2:16 am


      Citation Needed.

      • January 29, 2014 4:26 am

        Will a Citation be attached to every that post after this reply?

        Most Fat Activists that use the Patriarchy as a means of describing why “Fat Men are a Feminist Issue” are the major source of this problem.

        Virgie Tovar is the latest and one of the worse abuser of this tactic:

        I am not saying that a person can’t say that fat can possibly emasculate a fat male body in the eyes of Society, but I am saying that it is unethical to ignore that Society holds similar views about fat female bodies being unfeminine. By using this gender biased approach toward fat people’s bodies, Fat Acceptance is little more than a BBW Admiration/Fetish Community in regards to supporting both genders.

        A good source of information about Feminist fallacies about fat men is

        Feminism and the Invisible Fat Man

        Kirsten Bell
        Anthropology Department at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia
        Darlene McNaughton
        Centre for Resource and Environment Studies at the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

        I hope that more people will expand on the work of these two women.

        • January 29, 2014 10:36 am

          Thank you for sharing this info. Really it’s the best thing about blogging for me is how much new info comes my way that I may otherwise be unaware of. I will definitely read more about this!

          • January 29, 2014 10:40 am

            These do look like interesting articles, but I get the feeling just from reading the bod intro that William’s analysis is more about William and his dislike of Feminism than anything that might actually be in the articles themselves.

            • January 29, 2014 10:51 am

              Yeah I totally hear what u r saying. @ the same time it’s a challenge for me sometimes to have deep idealogical and personally charged dialogues via text without the luxury of tone of voice, eye contact, body language. What’s left after weeding out all of what may be attitudinal bias is new info and exchange of opinions that I didn’t have yesterday. I love that!

            • January 29, 2014 11:48 am

              Understood, Dr. FWIW, I liked your article and look forward to any follow-ups you might do about those bod links.

      • January 29, 2014 10:37 am

        Uh, I’ve seen Tovar’s piece before. How you get from it that Feminism is somehow responsible for robbing men of their manhood (whatever the hell that means) is beyond me.

        You sound like somebody with a deep-seated grudge against Feminism who is ready to pin every unpleasant thing in the world solely on it. These women writers are not “emasculating” anyone by writing what they do. If anything, they are expressing concern for fat men and pointing out the fallacy of treating “manhood” or “womanhood” as something determined solely by the size of one’s ass.

        I typed out a longer response and then deleted it, as the above seems sufficient in retrospect. Your comments, in addition to their grudgy heads-I-win-tails-women-lose tone are borderline word salad that don’t even make logical sense.

  3. January 28, 2014 1:16 pm

    Note: Bra burning is a myth that never happened.

    • January 29, 2014 10:44 am

      The snopes article was a fascinating read. I did experience a bit of cognitive dissonance reading about something that I had done telling me it wasn’t done but I can see that perhaps it wasn’t as iconic of an event as we thought it was at our little Bon fire. Thanks for writing!

  4. Leila Haddad permalink
    January 28, 2014 5:07 pm

    re Monica: oh yes it did. The 70’s were definitely a time when you saw many women take the route of going bra-less. The extreme sexist Victoria’s secret ad campaigns didn’t start until the 80’s. But that aside, my mom was a feminist way ahead of her time and I am very grateful to have been raised to believe that I could achieve anything I set my mind to regardless of what my gender. I clearly remember marching in many a demonstration with her chanting “What do we want? ERA When do want it? NOW!! I also remember stuffing envelopes for Planned Parenthood. Never in my wildest dreams did it occur to me that, 40 yrs later, Women’s reproductive rights would be in such danger.

    • January 28, 2014 7:24 pm

      Moniqa, I have to agree with Leila. Having received a misdemeanor in Long Island, NY in 1971 for a public burning of bras demonstration without a permit, I can attest to the reality of the experience. And as in any other form of activism, William, it is the responsibility of any civil rights movement not to “identify with the aggressor” by becoming an oppressor. If the feminist movement as a whole emasculates fat men as part of their tenets that is wrong and examples of that happening should be called out in the same way that the notbuyingit campaign is calling out misogynist and sexist advertising. If any one group is oppressed then any one group can be next on the list to be oppressed and in turn we are all oppressed. Thanks for engaging in the discussion! Warmly, Dr. Deah
      P.S. re: how tenuous reproductive rights have become again is indeed frightening and means that we must remain vigilant in our involvement.

  5. January 29, 2014 10:15 am

    Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    This is not an original statement on my part, but it bears repeating. Sex does not sell, misogyny sells. If sex sold, there would be equally as many men as women in suggestive poses, using their bodies to “sell” whatever the object may be.
    “Sex sells” means humiliating young, conventionally pretty women for the sake of the sacred 18-32 year old male gaze sells. And it’s a very good idea not to buy into that tired and harmful trope.

  6. January 29, 2014 1:43 pm

    I am taking time to answer your questions, it would be nice if you answered mine.

    I am not Anti-Feminism, but I am Pro-Fat Acceptance and my Fat Acceptance includes the welfare of fat people of all genders. I make this charge against Feminism because Fat Feminist who want to make the point that “Fat Men are a Feminist issue” use the Patriarchy logic that Fat Hatred comes from a bias toward Femininity. They go on to say that fat emasculate men’s bodies and that is the source of their fat bias.

    Excuse me but when did it become Fat Acceptance’s job to reinforce the views of Society about fat bodies? I can’t remember reading any fat activist listing fat female body parts and describing how each body part makes them less feminine. Virgie Tovar seems to have no problem doing this to fat men instead offering them support and empowerment.

    If Fat Acceptance is going to be real then it has to support fat people of all genders.


    I just saw a great article on the types of people that comment on Feminism. Take a look at #3.

    Instead of attacking the person who disagrees with you, start a discussion.

    • January 29, 2014 3:04 pm

      There is nothing in Tovar’s article in which SHE accepts the notion of fat making men less than “real” men. She is pointing out the misconceptions of other people who mock and belittle fat men. She is clearly not endorsing this behavior merely by dint of pointing out that others do think and behave that way. Seriously.

      By your logic, this entire board must be crawling with fat-phobes because the various and sundry writers point out that fat-phobia exists and that it negatively impacts their lives.

      I am not going to waste my time defending Tovar or anyone else against wrongs they’ve only perpetrated in your imagination.

    • January 29, 2014 3:09 pm

      P.S. – About your “No. 3”: I’ve been dealing with male trolls in Feminist spaces for longer than you can possibly imagine. They are not “Thoughtful Critics” deserving of beaming smiles and gold stars. Neither are you.

      • January 29, 2014 3:32 pm

        You still have not answered the simple questions that I asked. Try being proactive instead of reactive. I am going out, but will answer you later

        • January 29, 2014 3:52 pm

          You call me a Troll, yet it is you who are diverting all the questions and it is you who is hostile in this conversation?

  7. January 29, 2014 3:23 pm

    Please quote me at least one statement where Tovar disagrees with the statements that she says Society has about fat men. She is using them as fact to prove her point that the source of fat male bias stems from their femininity. Tovar is agreeing with Society if she is using them as proof in her primary statement about fat men being a Feminist Issue.

    In the case of fat women Fat Acceptance not only ignored the unfeminine statements held by Society about fat women’s bodies and they created a whole new positive paradigm to view fat female bodies.

    A few fat activists have documented how fat messes with the gender image of both fat men and women, but their articles never got much response from the rest of Fat Acceptance.

    Again I ask you to show me where fat activists have ever dissected fat female bodies to highlight all the body parts that Society views as unfeminine?

    This internal gender bias of Fat Acceptance is not ethical or moral.

  8. January 29, 2014 5:24 pm

    I think that if Ms xeno have any thing to say that would answer my questions or prove her point of view, she would have already shared it.

    Statements like what Virgie Tovar about fat men or fat people that does not contain any support, empowerment or compassion are not Fat/Size Acceptance in action. It is that simple

    • January 29, 2014 8:45 pm

      LOL. I don’t sit in front of the screen 24/7, Dude. Like most people, I am required to get up and do other things during the course of an average day. Besides, I already told you that I don’t feel any need to defend Tovar from something she never said or did. Poor reading comprehension on your part =/= high priority on my part.

      Perhaps later, others will chime in here to back your assertions up. I mean, if Tovar really claims what you say she claims, surely others will chime in to say you’re right and I’m wrong.

      [studies clock] Yep. Any second now. I’m sure of it.

      Meanwhile, here’s one last link from me to you, with love: PLONK!

      • January 30, 2014 2:16 pm

        The primary points and questions that I have asked were:

        1. Society has plenty of unfeminine views about fat female bodies. Fat Acceptance’s response was to reject Society’s opinion about fat women and femininity and to create new standards to appreciate fat female bodies.
        2. Many Fat Feminists via the Patriarchy Theory agree with the Society in regards to the emasculation of fat men because of their fat. I say this because if a Feminist is going to use fat men as a argument that fat men are a Feminist Issue then they have to agree that fat men are emasculated, that is the only way that section of the Patriarchy Theory will work.
        3. Why is it Ok for Fat Acceptance to give such different levels of support to fat people of different genders? Is the Fat Acceptance Hierarchy based that fat women get 100% support and other fat people get less?

        People can Troll or Ignore my message, but the questions are valid.

  9. Elizabeth permalink
    January 30, 2014 2:07 pm

    Dr Deah, I appreciate this post and have a question and a comment. First, why did you think it was necessary to rebel? I think children who respect their parents’ values and ethics have no need to rebel. Rebellion comes in relation to parents’ trying to control every aspect of their maturing children’s lives and from arbitrary and irrational values.

    There was a distinction made in the 1970s between radical feminism and advocates of equal rights. Today the term for the latter is liberal feminism. Liberal feminism thinks it is important for women to become like men are raised to be — aggressive, self-centered, to possess the right to exploit and oppress other people in the name of equal rights. This is a philosophy I do not share and I think it is important to distinguish it from radical feminism.

    There are some mighty weird people out there calling themselves radical feminists these days, but in my youth it meant envisioning an entirely different world. A world without oppression and exploitation, a world without hierarchy, a world without rigid gender roles, certainly a world where no one is judged by what is between their legs or the size of their thighs.

    • January 30, 2014 4:07 pm

      Great clarification! My comment about the need to rebel is definitely a generalization based on child development theory that believes that one of the “jobs” of an adolescent is to individuate in order to begin figuring out who they are. This is most commonly done via rebelling against their parents which in the best case scenarios is a safe way to test those waters. But it certainly isn’t the only way to do this. In my case, rebelling against the establishment was about challenging some of the expectations I was getting from my parents. I appreciate your comment! Dr. Deah

  10. February 24, 2014 12:43 pm

    What kind of Fat Acceptance would we have if we used Thin Women’s bodies as a baseline and then defined Fat Women’s bodies as being less feminine as we counted each variance between thin/fat female bodies?

  11. February 24, 2014 2:52 pm

    That’s one of the reasons why I have issues with slogans such as “real women have curves” or any other catch phrase that labels any one body type with any generalized characteristic. Feminine and Masculine labels in this day and age where gender identity is broadening are exceedingly tricky and challenge all of us to reexamine our suppositions and definitions. Thanks for writing! Dr. Deah

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