Archive for Body Image

A letter to The Avenue

Dear Avenue:

I am your ideal customer: A plus-sized woman (22) who loves clothes and loves to shop. Today I left your store unable to buy anything, frustrated, and a little humiliated.

You have been advertising a big selection of fall boots. I was excited! As a big woman, I am unable to fit my legs into standard boots, so boots at The Avenue, made with me in mind, sounded like just what I wanted!

Your boots are not made with me in mind. Your boots are not wide-calf. They fit a larger, wide shoe-size, but a standard calf. I tried on 3 pairs before I figured it out, and then the people in the store didn’t believe me.

Plus-size women ALMOST NEVER have standard-sized calves. We have PLUS-SIZED calves. Go figure.

The store manager told me that wide-calf boots are a “specialty” item. Guess what? Plus-sized clothing is a specialty item. You are a specialty store with a specialty clientele, and you should be servicing that clientele.

The floor clerk suggested I try on ankle boots. Really? I have a CLOSET FULL of ankle boots because I can’t buy the full-height boots I crave.

You didn’t have a single pair of full-height boots in the store I could buy. Not one. Because I’M TOO FAT. I come to stores like The Avenue because I don’t want to feel excluded for being too fat. I could go *anywhere* and feel excluded for being fat; I don’t come to *you* for that.

You messed up, Avenue. I’m disappointed.

So You Think You Can Dance & The FAT Guy


…is basically the attitude, right? Scary to even think of a fat person on a dance show. And this guy actually lifted his shirt to show his big fat belly during his dance, so of course that clip made the “coming up” segment before every commercial. Let’s laugh at the fat person!

But I happen to love So You Think You Can Dance so I decided to set aside my strong misgivings about the way fat people are treated and watch the season premiere last night. Overall, it wasn’t a great premiere; a lot more focus on gawking at the losers than at showcasing dance, but let’s get back to Fat Guy.

First, we are gawking at a fat guy. And not just any fat guy, a weird fat guy with a fur hat. Lookie! Fat people can’t dance, they can only do shtick. And that’s a choice. Hundreds upon hundreds of people auditioned; a dozen got shown on TV; fur hat guy was not the only big person who auditioned, so the choice was, let’s show someone laughable.

Second, the judges leap right into OMG FAT WILL KILL YOU. It’s unhealthy. We’re telling you this for your own good.

But there were a couple of things that I actually liked. Crazy, right?

First of all, these judges are choreographers and former dancers, so I have a certain sympathy for any anti-fat prejudice they may have; they are from a world where it is so much the norm, I kind of doubt they’ve been exposed to any alternate views. What Nigel ultimately said to the guy was this: ‘Every dancer’s heart rate goes up when they dance; health is measured by how quickly your heart rate comes back down. And look, you’re still panting. That’s not okay.’

That’s great advise, because it’s not about weight; if he’s fat and not panting that’s healthy, and if he’s thin and panting that’s unhealthy. So yay Nigel.

Finally, Mia pointed out that the guy’s written bio said he didn’t want to be a thin dancer, and she asked him about it, and the conversation got to that he didn’t think he was a good enough dancer to compete with “real” dancers, he just thought his size and costume made him amusing to watch. And Mia engaged that directly, telling him to learn to love himself and not to pigeonhole himself, and that perhaps he could be a great dancer but he needed to let go his own preconceptions and find out. And after the initial question about his size, she never added “and lose weight,” which I thought was miraculous.

Maybe it’s the tyranny of soft expectations. Maybe it’s like being so happy that a woman is allowed to get a job in a traditionally male field that you tolerate the lower pay. But after that offensive promo spot, there was something lovely about engaging with the guy as if he was a real human being. Fancy that.

Ten Things I Love About My Body

Pagan author Dianne Sylvan asks us to list ten things we love about our bodies. Great idea.

1. I love my beautiful long neck. I can wear super-long earrings that would thwack most people in the shoulders, but on me they dangle above the shoulders. It is truly swan-like and I love it.

2. I love my big brown eyes. The neck and the eyes are typical Taurean traits, although surely I might have ended up with the fat bull-neck that Taurus sometimes has, and sleepy-brown rather than deep-brown eyes.

3. I love being busty. I don’t think these are necessarily the two best large breasts ever, but I love having an ample chest, overflowing the bra, all that. I feel stupidly proud of it (as if I had something to do with it!).

4. I have great teeth. My gums don’t recede or bleed, I’ve never had a root canal, I can eat ice cream without pain, they’re fairly white, and in excellent working order. Thank you, Mom, for drinking plenty of milk during pregnancy.

5. I have always gotten compliments on my skin. This one is kind of harder, because I notice the flaws, I notice when a pimple shows up, whereas others notice a generally flawless complexion with tiny pores. But I love the compliments, and I also adore the way my skin looks with some makeup on. (Man, do I love foundation!)

6. When I was in the hospital with a broken knee, the nurse praised me for having terrific upper body strength. I was able to use the overheard bar to move myself without any difficulty, and this was a huge help throughout my recovery. I was never complimented on my strength before. It made me feel good about myself; I’d previously thought I was so wimpy. So I love my upper body strength.

7. Speaking of being in the hospital, I really do love my scars. They’re awful and horrific and I love them. I love their strangeness and their inherent storytelling. I love the way they stop and say, my body is not just a picture of a body, it’s lived experience and it shows change.

8. And speaking of change, I love my tattoos. I have been changing my body consciously with tattooing for 25 years. I have no intention of ever stopping. My artwork is a part of me that is beautiful, special, unique, creative, and interacts with the world.

9. I love my full lips. Someone once told me I had the lips of a Victoria’s Secret model. That was cool.

10. I love my immune system. This has been a kickass season for me with getting sick, but generally I don’t get sick much, and when I do, I don’t get it as badly as other people with the same cold or flu or whatever. I feel fully capable of fighting off whatever hits me. That’s a good feeling.

Your turn.

Apparently Women Don’t Know Anything About Dieting

I listen to news radio in the morning. Traffic, weather, you know. So from time to time I hear some outrageously stupid reporting.

Like this story on younger women dying of heart disease.

Heart experts aren’t sure what went wrong, but they think increasing rates of obesity and other risk factors are to blame.

The doctor interviewed on the radio suggested that perhaps women weren’t as aware of the risks, and weren’t paying as much attention to their diets.

Women. Weren’t paying as much attention. To their diets.


Raise your hand if you think that could possibly be true. Anyone? Bueller?

Women pay constant attention to their diet. It’s unusual and remarkable for a woman not to pay attention to her diet.

Waaaaaay at the bottom of the article, there’s one smart statement:

The fact the male rate didn’t worsen may indicate doctors are more likely to suspect heart disease in men that age than in women, said the CDC’s Dr. Earl Ford, a study co-author.

Ya think? Ya think that maybe the fact that most women don’t even know that heart attack symptoms are different for women than for men. Because we aren’t educated. Because male symptoms are “person” symptoms. Because men are the default person. You know.

Or, it might be that too much dieting is causing the problem. There are cardiovascular risks to yo-yo dieting. Or it might be, um…anything other than women aren’t paying enough attention to their diets. Because really, that’s the stupidest thing I will hear today.