The Duality of Visibility
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The past couple of months have been busy for me. The last couple of weeks have been downright hectic. I’ve been active with the two meetup groups that I run, as well as others that I’m a part of; I’ve been out and about in the dating scene; I’ve been trying to wrangle new models for my Fat Naked Art Project; I’m working with the brand new local LGBT center on creating a queer fat positive space; I’m working on a talk for Ragen Chastain’s Fat Activism Conference that I’ll be a part of in August; and I’ve just generally enjoying the holiday with my partners and family.
On the Fourth of July, I rocked a bikini at the lake, did something horrible to my foot, which has me basically unable to walk right now, and enjoyed the fireworks (despite one building obscuring them. Grrr.). So yeah, a busy bee I have been. I’ve barely had time to think about fat activism or fat politics, although I’ve continued talking to people about fat issues.
So, you’ll understand if I tell you that I’ve had a difficult time coming up with something to write about this week. Fat issues surround me all the time, and maybe they’ve become so common place, and that thinking about them, analyzing them, and doing something, anything to fight back is so common place now that I have trouble singling out one specific thing to talk about. So maybe I’ll talk about that. How fat issues simple surround us.
Tiny acts of rebellion, moments of defeat, the word fat here or there. There are constantly stories in the news about being fat, we’re faced with our reflections every day, as well as seeing other fat people everywhere. Then there are the bullies who call us names when we try to walk down the street so that sometimes we even get to think about it when buying furniture or walking through the malls when we realize none of the stores carry clothing that fits us. Fat is everywhere. So why are we, as human beings, erased?
Okay, stick with me because I know I’m rambling a little. Or a lot. Whatever. Being an activist for the LGBT community (but especially the “B” in there), I often talk a lot about bi erasure and bi invisibility, but we’re so surrounded by fat that I’ve never really thought about fat invisibility because it’s also majorly hyper-visible. I’ve talked a bit before about the intersection of oversexualization and desexualization of fat women (and, in fact, this is going to be a major talking point for my talk at the fat activism conference), so maybe you can envision a world where fat people are both hyper-visible and invisible.
That is to say we’re the subject on everyone’s lips. We’re the newest fad diet and the latest health scare, the latest revolution and the oldest problem. We’re there. Always. But when’s the last time these people took a step back and stopped objectifying us? That’s right, objectification isn’t just sexual. it’s any time you reduce someone or a group of someones to just their bodies and treat those bodies as objects to be exploited. So when’s the last time that someone, god forbid, treated us like human beings? We’re at the forefront of people’s minds, enough to be hated and threatened and stalked and attacked, but so invisible as the individual people that we barely exist as a part of society.
So should fat erasure be a new thing? If so, I think it should come with a pretty specific understanding of the complexities that go along with this issue, but it’s something that maybe should catch on. We talk so much about the objectification of women (which is a hugely important topic, by the way) that I think we should expand on that and talk about the objectification of various peoples and bodies. Because it’s going to be much harder to deal with this fatphobia bullshit if we can’t acknowledge that a chunk of that is people erasing us and putting us in our places, which is often in line at the diet drug companies.
The fact that fat is in so many places, surrounding us, sits in stark contrast to the invisibility and erasure that I have come to feel as a fat person. Fat people will never be treated better or as equals if other people can’t come to recognize us as a part of everyday life, as people who deserve basic human respect, basic kindness and, above all, the right to live happily.