Monday, May 16, 2011

Formspring question of the week

Yikes- I'm behind.. I started this post on Friday.. it was Formspring Friday- The day that I invite everyone to ask me anything and I always answer. Usually it's fun, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes thought provoking. I got a question today that I really wanted to talk about further. The question came in anonymously and was

do you feel that posing nude and using a banana as a phallic symbol is something your young son will someday be proud of?

They are referring to a photo which I used in my last post "Vegans.. we need to talk" where I talked about sizism and fatphobia in the vegetarian and vegan community. This was the photo:

by Dan Owens

This photo was one from a set of photos that I got after posing for a boudoir workshop for a photography class. Let's, first, touch on the fact that the person who asked the question lumped nude posing in with the obviously sexual themed boudoir photos- the impression is that they seem to think nudity=sexual. A lot of people think this actually and many of them even boil it down to "if it's a woman". Not that the poster specified sexist biases, but they both amount to both disrespect to the human body and to sexuality itself. Above- that's sexual. Now here's an example of the nude photography I've posed for:

"Basic Kindness" by Allen Studios
The fact that anyone can think of nude art like this as no different from pornography is mind blowing. (What's wrong with pornography? Nothing, for the most part, but there's certainly a difference, especially when you're bringing children into it). Maybe I'm just a nudist at heart, or I've befriended too many of them.. but I don't think the human form is inherently sexual. Sure it's capable of sex.. even built for it.. and damn it sure it fun.. but to pretend that that's all there is to a body? That it isn't beautiful in it's own right? Away from the sex and the lust and the hormones? The human body is just beautiful, inspiring and each one is so different from the next and nude art can sometimes say something that a clothed model just can't. This photo above, for instance, wouldn't make nearly the same impact (a statement about body hate and the need for basic kindness) if I were clothed. If someone looks at that and finds it sexual-  that's on them, not on me. I am not the arbiter of their lust. Mostly, it seems that these people have very little appreciation for the human body which is just plain sad because every body is amazing.

For any Parks and Recreation fans out there, the last episode was actually extremely relevant. Leslie Nopes, an employee for the Department of Parks and Recreation attended an art show featuring local artists.. one of whom was her coworker and had painted her as a centaur- a goddess, with naked breasts. It was bought and hung in the government building where she works, sparking outrage from some of the local prudes (really just one). She was interviewed on the local news about the difference between art and pornography- with a surprise guest porn star. The newsman asked the porn actress "To you, what defines pornography?" which she answered "Well, for me, it's the part where the penis goes in".

On to the second issue- that being sexy or sexual is a bad thing. Part of the point of doing the boudoir photos to begin with was to show that fat people, especially fat women, are sexual beings as much as anyone else. Fat people are dehumanized and desexualized. Not only are fat people not supposed to be sexy, we're not even supposed to be having sex. Ask most of society what they think about fat sex and they disgust will show up in there somewhere. For some people, even the sight of fatties kissing is disgusting and offensive.

By Chris Goette
However, the subject of desexualization goes further.. in this case, to all parents.. and that's a hell of a lot of people. You hear that parents? You must be asexual and devoid of lust or sexiness, else your kids or future kids find it icky. That's right.. even you future parents out there must avoid sexy photos at all costs! Oh, but my photos are out there. Out on the internet where just anyone can see them! Because I'm fairly positive my son is going to go browsing through my decade or more old photos. Kids have nothing better to do, right? And if he did it wouldn't be horribly traumatizing.. because I will never  (Are you hearing me on this?), never teach my son to be ashamed of sex, sexuality, nudity, the human body, or expression. The fact that it comes in the form of activism should only add to the ridiculousness of such a notion that my son would be ashamed.

What it comes down to is sex shaming. Sex is bad, sex is immoral and sex should be kept out of public and away from all of the "decent" people- you know, for the children. How dare people like me not be properly ashamed of our public sexiness or sexuality. I don't think my child will be traumatized, even if he does come across that photo-. If you're not aware that your parents do and have done far worse (yes, even when they're older) then you have a few things to learn. Probably more than a few if I'm being honest.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vegans.. I need to talk to you..

I don't talk about being vegan on here.. there's nothing to talk about really in the context of body acceptance or fat pride, but the rest of you guys and gals.. well, you're giving me something to talk about and it's not good. I want to talk about the fatphobia and sizism that goes on in a lot of vegan communities. Now, I realize that this post is going to piss off a lot of people for various reasons, but this is serious and it needs to be mentioned. I want to go on record as saying that I know that not every vegan or vegetarian is sizist, but I've noticed a very obvious pattern in groups and forums over and over. I even wrote a blog about it quite a while ago. In that blog, I talked about how Dr. McDougall, a doctor who pushes a vegan diet as a way to reverse heart disease, said, "Fat vegans, however, have failed one important animal: themselves. Furthermore, their audiences of meat-eaters and animal-abusers may be so distracted by their appearance that they cannot hear the vital issues of animal rights and the environment; resulting in an unacknowledged setback for a fat vegan’s hard work for change." which basically means- sorry, but if you're fat nothing you say really matters. 

So, now that we've established that I'm not talking about all vegans, I think it's fairly clear that vegans (and many vegetarians) hate fat people. Now.. I get it. I do. Vegans tend to get lots of hate, even if they're keeping quietly to themselves. Their very existence tends to offend people so they feel like they have to have the very best image possible. People assume that vegans are malnourished, nutrient deficient, sick, and basically every sneeze, sniffle, or bad day is blamed on their lack of animal products. Because fat comes with the stigma of unhealthy and vegans want to present the epitome of health then fat vegans are bad for business. So I want to say that I understand the psychology behind all of the fat hate. But that being said I have to also say that it's fucking unacceptable.

So here's your strategy, right? Animal products are full of fat and calories and, therefore, if you stop eating them you'll lose weight.. so, market veganism as a diet or "lifestyle change" will bring more people to the movement by preying on their low self esteem and body hatred. While the strategy may work initially what do you intend to do when all the newbie veg's don't lose weight? Or when they lose it but then gain it back? As a diet, it fails, just like any other, and you've lost your pull. More so, you've become part of an industry which is cruel to animals.. specifically the human animal. Yeah.. maybe only beautiful, thin, tanned girls and buff, handsome, wavy haired guys will make you look good on the surface, but do you really want to be that shallow? More so, do you want to alienate over half of the population?

I asked some vegans over at reddit to give me their opinions on fat people. Over and over I was told that vegans are thinner than omnivores, but when asked for evidence I was given studies which, again, only showed a very slight difference in BMI (which we all know is what? That's right.. inaccurate and horribly flawed to begin with), which amount to 30 lbs or so. In addition, 25 vegans were turned down for weight that wasn't near enough to the ideal, likely skewing the results. Otherwise the results were pretty typical. The same fat hate and social beliefs were present in the vegan community as any other- fat people were lazy, gluttonous, unhealthy. They're fat because they over eat and under exercise. I tried not to correct anyone because I just wanted to see the honest answers. And honestly what I saw was that people believed veganism makes people thin "if they're doing it right" and, if they're still fat then they're gorging on fries and cakes all day. Fat vegans are the "bad" vegans and there were definitely some people who said fat people should be hushed to the back of the line so that veganism can appear as awesome as possible (because we all know that doesn't include fat). More so, the same people who said they were against bullying of fat people also tended to say that they should hate themselves and their bodies. The same people who said that bullying and shaming hurt more people than it helped qualified it with "but it does help some people".

One girl, a vegetarian, said that she wanted to go vegan, but isn't because she's afraid of facing judgement (user solutions were for her to go vegan and not tell anyone- like that 'friend' you always hang out with in secret but pick on in front of your other buddies). Another said that she's vegan but doesn't tell anyone because she's afraid of the same. She said that she even stopped protesting or talking to others about it because she felt that she didn't represent veganism very well because she was fat. A non veg friend said that vegans were both ableist and sizist. A vegan from twitter said that the fat hate in vegan circles kept her from attending vegan events. 

It's no wonder so many fatties are afraid to go near veganism or vegetarianism with ads like this from PETA: 

"Obesity is a sign of a societal problem. We didn't used to be fat. Our children did not use to waddle. And we need to stop being so sensitive about pointing out that people are overweight."
- Ingrid Newkirk to the Washington Times.

But we know that PETA is sexist and sizist- after all, their spokeswoman, Ingrid Newkirk, has said that she believes that it's impossible to get fat on a vegan diet and that people are only fat because of animal products, but what about your average vegan? I follow a lot of vegans- in my blog reader, on facebook, on twitter.. and I'll tell you that it's pretty common for me to de-friend someone for photos like these: 

Meat eaters are more often unhealthy, unfit, fat, and morbidly overweight. You'd never praise an anorexic. Obesity is worse: diabetes, heart attacks & death. Chicken meat contains arsenic: put "arsenic chicken" in google & go look! Chicken meat contains phytic acid which can hurt men & the genitals of your child.
"Live fat Die young" vegetarian T shirt

Keep in mind that these are all photos that have been posted by actual vegan advocates in the name of veganism.. one facebook vegan advocate had an entire album of nothing but these types of photos with sizist, fatphobic, captions. Vegans that I spoke with seemed caught in limbo between fact and prejudices and their own experiences. Many claimed that you didn't have to be thin to be healthy while turning around and insisting that fat was unhealthy. I can't say that I saw anyone really respond in a body positive way. 

I spoke to one vegan fat activist, Kreeli, or, ZaftiVegan, whom i follow on twitter. She said, "I'm fat, and i've been vegan (really) since 1998. i got sick of being told i "wasn't doing it right" or i was lying about my veganism within the first year. enough is enough. there is room in the veg' movement for ALL animals - why not ALL people?" in one reply talking about sizism in the vegan community. Kreeli went vegan in '98 back before the explosion of online forums and vegan meetups.. in response to an email I sent her about fatphobia in the vegan community she said, "I didn't even know there *was* a vegan "community", at least not as it exists today. There were a few websites and a couple of message boards that I joined........I did find on those sites that fatphobia was rampant." 

Not a lot of fat people come to veganism already loving their bodies (as Kreeli pointed out to me, neither did she- she had the same problems many fat people face in terms of body image and disordered eating/eating disorders) and many vegan communities like it that way. A lot of, though, of course not all, vegans and vegetarians use "the obesity epidemic" and people's fears about weight and health. They prey on people's weakness and insist that going vegan will make you thinner and healthier and happier and the world will be made of rainbows and and unicorns! In other words, they're about like every other part of the diet industry- seeking to gain something from your misery. And I hate that.. because I'm vegan and I love veganism and it does make me happy and when I think of the animals my little heart just swells with love and hope and I do think it's a great thing, but what they're doing isn't. 

Kreeli told me, "I feel that there is a percentage of the vegan community that actively engages in fat- and health- shaming... I have been told I must be "cheating" at my veganism because no "real" vegan could be as fat as I am. I have been made to feel liek I am an object of curiosity and revulsion at local vegan events and restaurants because of my size. I have been offered tons of unsolicited advice from other vegans about how I shouldn't eat this or that vegan items because they are what are making me fat- everything from tofu, to sugar, to potatoes, to fruit." 

Seems awfully familiar- oh yes.. it's the "bad vegan" theory from earlier. You remember.. the one that says if you were a "good" vegan who ate all of the "good" foods then you'd be super thin and happy by now. Still.. there's some hope. People like Kreeli and myself who do what we can to spread the word of fat acceptance and body acceptance in the vegan circles that we do come into contact with. "I...have the immense pleasure of knowing several fat-positive vegans who make the connection between oppressions and understand you can't liberate animals by grinding fat folks (or people of colour or women, or disabled people) into the dirt." 

It's obvious that the message is that veganism is only for thin and healthy people. Thin unhealthy people and fat people are unwelcome. So if 64% of the US is supposedly "overweight" or "obese" then you're alienating the majority of people and, very likely, keeping them far far away from veganism or vegetarianism. More so, the hypocrisy is obvious and ridiculous in a community that's supposed to be about compassion and understanding.  You need to get it together.. fat vegans aren't the ones hurting the movement, fat haters are. You have an obligation to all animals- even the human ones. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Summer Days

Okay- so it's not summer yet, but I was feeling the summer groove for sure. Maybe because this is the first year in 13 years that I'm wearing shorts. Cold front? HA! That's not going to stop me! The next town over, Durham, also had it's annual strawberry festival.. and you can't have strawberries without feeling the need for summer. You can thank my husband for this set of photos.

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