BY ALEXIA JAMES
Most people get fat at some point in their lives.
Many women get fat during and after pregnancy (yup, me too) and it takes one hell of a lot of hours on the cross trainer to shed those pounds, lose those jowls, tighten that butt and somehow squeeze back into your pre-pregnancy clothes.
Some people are happy living with fat. Others hate it. Few in Britain ever celebrate it.
Most, secretly or not, would love to get rid of all their fat and look like the women in Vogue (or the men in Men’s Health for guys) but just don’t have the time to waste many hours a day at the gym or have the motivation on a cold November lunchtime to choose the salad bar over the hot meal replete with its reassuring carbs.
Of course, for us Britons, fat is made out by the media to be a bad thing. In some cultures – in parts of South America and in West Africa – a big butt is desirable on a woman. Our Victorian ancestors used to worship at the altar of podge.
52% of Kuwaiti women over 15 are obese – as a nomadic desert people Kuwaitis came to prize fatness as a sign of health and wealth and the trend clearly continues to this day in Kuwait. Places like Tonga, Fiji and Mauritania (left of Algeria and above Senegal in West Africa) also find a bit of human blubber helps them get down and jiggy with it.
Personally, I hate fat. Not that I’d consider for one minute becoming a preacher of thin. I’d tell my kids to stop popping Penguin biscuits if they developed a quintuple chin but I’d not tell anyone else to lose weight (except my husband perhaps, who, annoyingly, can eat a kebab a night and still has about as much fat as Mo Farah).
If fat people want to be fat then be fat. I don’t care (as long as they’re not sitting on me in a plane or landing on me at the Lido).
So, when I read this week that the US now has a well-organised and aggressive Fat Movement full of fat activists bringing awareness to themselves as a marginalised group I was intrigued. (I’m not sure why I am intrigued, as there seems to be a movement for everything these days). They build awareness through protest, media and art.
There was an art exhibition which happened this month in Brooklyn, curated by artist and writer Rose Budz called Fatter IRL. Their spiel explains what the Fat Movement encapsulates:
Fatter IRL, “presents an eclectic range of mediums, as can be seen through Rochelle Brock’s Nan Goldin-esque photography, kitsch monochrome illustrations by Rachele Cateyes, Jinhee Kwak’s bodily sculpture, and many other works in the show. The vast majority of the works on display feature fat bodies as prominent elements, appropriately taking advantage of this opportunity to bring awareness to forms traditionally disregarded in contemporary art.”
Some of Fatter IRL’s art is great stuff including this work by Jacqueline Mary of two naked women eating cake and jelly off each other. I mean, who doesn’t love cake and jelly?
There’s a huge nude black lady showing off her enormous breasts and a work by Jinhee Kwak which, unless my mind is permanently in the gutter, appears to show a collection of vagina lips ranging from small to, well, capacious. The show has been put together by 12 artists in all –who declare themselves all to be fat.
The curator argues that “for fat people, visibility is a double-edged sword. Seeing other fat people loving or being okay with their bodies, being loved by others and thriving is validating and inspiring. However, visibility for fat people can often take the form of vicious bullying and critique, especially on the Internet,” declares Budz. “This issue isn’t discussed because the idea of fat people living without shame, or that someone could actively desire fat bodies, is uncomfortable and in some cases enraging to people.”
While I love some of the art, some of it shocks me like this piece by Shoog McDaniel showing layer upon layer of fat. Then again, that was no doubt her intention – to shock people like me who are pre-programmed by their societies to dislike fat.
I say good luck to the fat artists of Fatter IRL and the Fat Movement of the USA. Maybe they have a point. Maybe we need to shatter our preconceptions about large people. Certainly we need to stop bullying fat people, who could be fat for a variety of reasons we have no idea about.
I say let the fat be fat if they want to be fat and let the thin be thin if they want to be thin. The extremes of both size are dangerous. We are not likely to ever convert each other.
What really matters is health and happiness.
I won’t be taking the cross-trainer to the dump just yet.