Weight has NOTHING and EVERYTHING to Do with Beauty
Humans are entities presiding within fragile shells, shells that are made up to be as some kind of armor to protect and secure the tiny soul within. Each armor is made differently as to meet the needs of the unique individual and protect what needs protecting. This armor has been molded by great fires and great pressures to fit the person it is meant to safeguard. Armor is supposed to be badass and impermeable to all attack, right? We think of armor as an unbreakable and unmalleable force; armor is steadfast to defend the innocent child within all of us, but what if society has made it so that the attack is not against the tiny child; the bullseye is directly and pointedly on the armor instead. What if what was supposed to protect us, is getting us attacked in the first place? How do we defend against such attacks and should we even have to at all? Does our armor need a shield as to not be penetrated by societal norms that will try to crush us? Will we continue to let this attack on our armors continue until it reaches the tiny soul? Nomy Lamm would say absolutely not! Through my research of humanmade perceptions of fat/body image discrimination, disabilities/fat and health, the marginalization of fat individuals in society, Nomy Lamm’s work, and the fight against the fat shame stigma, I have come to the conclusion that Nomy Lamm’s work and the open and honest discussion about fat and body image should be studied all across the board in academia instead of being silenced.
We don’t talk about bodies. When I say talk, I don’t mean those of us who make snide remarks about people’s weight through gossip or those who try to make a profit off of other individuals’ bodies by trying to sell weight loss plans on televised talk shows, I mean really communicating with others on a topic that has been silenced for reasons that make us uncomfortable. We have come to a point in our society where it is now acceptable to talk about race, gender, sexual orientation and others in the academy, but when it comes to bodies and our perceptions of bodies, we grow silent and silence the conversation as a whole. We don’t talk about bodies in the academy and it’s about time that changes. Body image is something that affects our mental image of ourselves and how we live each day, starting from very young, impressionable ages. Given that our perceptions of ourselves shapes who we become, the conversation of bodies really needs to be included in the curriculum starting from perhaps first grade and continuing through the rest of one’s academic career. We have classes that teach about health and reproduction, but we never discuss man’s perception on bodies and how, how we treat people and ourselves can negatively impact our society as a whole. We even have dress codes to bring attention to the sexual nature of our bodies, for example, girls having to cover their shoulders because they are too distracting to the boys (which by the way is another conversation about changing the way we allow bodies to be overtly sexualized instead of having everyone learn to treat people as individuals first), but we don’t converse about what our bodies mean on more than a sexual level. What does it mean to have a body and what does it mean to have a fat body versus a slender one? Discussing this in a classroom setting at an early age can perhaps act as a barrier or deconstruction of fat discrimination for future generations.
Considering that our bodies are crucial to everyday living, it is important to recognize them for what they are, and they are beautifully and wonderfully made. Not everyone treats them as such however and that is because some bodies do not fit the normal standards. Our society likes to put some human standards in a bubble of grandeur, of excellence, the one, the all, the perfect, and whatever is not that, becomes marginalized and discriminated upon because of it. Throughout time we have instances of discrimination on individuals because of their race, gender, social class, sexual orientation and much much more. Most of these aspects that are looked down upon are things that individuals don’t even have any power over. There is another type of discrimination that is not on the top of the fight back for list and that is fat discrimination. One woman who does have this subject on the top of her fight list is Nomy Lamm. In Available Means, the authors not only discuss how Nomy Lamm describes herself “as a fat, Jewish, disabled, anarchist dyke” (Ritchie 454), which by the way exposes Lamm’s many possible open doors for discrimination upon herself, but they also mention that with her “punk style” (Ritchie 454) writing, she is able to confront “cultural constructions of beauty, femininity and desirability” (Ritchie 454), which has been in many respects, been denied for individuals who are considered “fat” and therefore undesirable. These authors discuss how Lamm uniquely fights back against societal norms, especially when it comes to fat and body image. With Lamm’s rebellious writing about body image and the overall mistreatment of fat bodies, she is able “to confront and deconstruct cultural myths and contradictions about “woman’s body”, starting with her own” (Ritchie 454). Without even having to go into depth about the discrimination of fat bodies and the issues of body image in society yet, I know you already know what it is, because it has been brainwashed into all of our minds and informs every decision we make and every first millisecond snap judgement we make about a person when we first set eyes on them or even ourselves. I am now going to go into depth about this issue because as Nomy Lamm, a revolutionist for the fat bodies, said in her piece, “Fat Is Your Problem”, “If I’m not calling it to people’s attention constantly, then they’ll just just sit there and think “she’s fat”” and those people will continue to operate “under the assumption that fat is bad” (Lamm). Nomy Lamm uses her writings; she uses her own personal life as an example of what is wrong in our society, and that is our perceptions of body image.
Body image is one’s own beliefs about themselves, or rather their bodies, and when you dig deeper, it is a twisted, malformed mindset driven in by society in order to do what exactly? It is to hurt people and drive the market. Nomy Lamm said in her piece It’s a “Big Fat Revolution”, that starting as a five-year-old, especially young and impressionable, she started living out her journey in dealing with fat oppression (Lamm 457). Lamm discussed her transitioning years from being five years old and being on her first diet, to being called overweight to being fat and therefore at age fifteen, to being unattractive (Lamm 457). What caused this mindset in others? In “The Stigma of Obesity: Does Perceived Weight Discrimination Affect Identity and Physical Health”, the author discusses the fact that “perceived discrimination shapes the way people evaluate themselves in relation to a stigmatized condition” (Schafer). So, the way others perceive fat bodies does transfer to the mindsets of those who are being oppressed. Schafer also said that since weight is something most people believe to be something one has power over, people with obesity are “frequently considered lazy, self-indulgent, and gluttonous” (Schafer), even though Nomy Lamm suggests something to contradict what others believe. In “Fat Is Your Problem”, Lamm said that there is “this whole double standard when it comes to fat people and exercise, because it’s like “Well, no wonder she’s fat, she never exercises.” But at the same time, people totally make fun of fat people who exercise”. (Lamm). There is this negative view and double standard on bodies and these negative viewpoints of people are very dangerous and can cause some real harm to the health of bodies in general.
Society believes and acts on many wrong, negative perceptions about weight, whether being skinny or fat, and people misconstrue and twist those views to fit their own wanted beliefs about life, and heath is one of those beliefs when it concerns the physical body. I know from experience that when it comes to weight, health is not so black and white. Almost my entire family has gone through bouts of either obesity or anorexia and I can tell you now, that those of us in the middle of that spectrum, those who happen to have fast metabolisms, who are at a “good weight”, are not as healthy as our perceived bodies appear. Despite what people generally believe, weight is not the end all be all of health. In fact, according to “Disparate But Disabled Fat Embodiment and Disability Studies”, the author states that “while the majority of people in the United States believe that fat is unhealthy, immoral, and often down-right disgusting, medical opinions on weight are actually quite mixed” (Herndon). There is no absolute proof that being fat is unhealthier than anyone else. It is often the case that those who are skinnier, because of starvation are actually worse off for wear. The author from “Disparate But Disabled Fat Embodiment and Disability Studies” said that she for example, has been reminded “that despite the fact that my blood pressure, cholesterol, and pulse are within acceptable ranges- I am unhealthy for no other reason than my weight” (Herndon). There is no actual scientific study that backs up this claim that fat people are unhealthier than thinner people. It makes one wonder what all this hubbub is all really about. It makes one wonder about whether it’s not just society making up the rules but something going deeper into our governmental lifeblood. Nomy Lamm discussed in “It’s a Big Fat Revolution” on how she spoke about how mass media promotes the body of grandeur, of excellence, the one, the all, the perfect. Lamm said that the media makes it seem like “only thin people are lovable, healthy, beautiful, talented, fun” (Lamm 457). She also said that “the media and everyone around me have told me that fat is ugly”, which is most likely why she spoke on this terrible moment she had with herself, on probably more than one occasion. Lamm spoke of a time when “I caught a glimpse of myself in the window and thought, “Hey, I don’t look that fat!” And I immediately realized how fucked up that was, but that didn’t stop me from feeling more attractive because of it” (Lamm 457). Also, there is something up with society in promoting thinner bodies over fat ones, yet all these fast food industries mostly serve seriously unhealthy food with hardly, if at all, any healthy choices. In the article “Coming Out as Fat”, the authors said that “the food industry seems to have an economic interest in promoting fatness” (Saguy). There is something wrong here. This discrimination of fat individuals and the discussion of health also delves into an even more marginalized spectrum.
Not only do fat individuals get practically ostracized from society’s standards of good, normal and right living, but they get marginalized far more than that. When how you look affects your ability to get or keep a job and it interferes with you making an honest living to support yourself and your family, there is definitely a problem with the perceptions people choose to act on and promote. In “Representations of Fatness and Personhood: Pro-fat Advocacy and the Limits and Uses of Law”, the author discusses issues of discrimination amongst fat individuals in the work place (Kirkland 1). There are instances where people weren’t hired or even fired for being overweight. Now there is probably more to those exact situations, however, there does seem to be a pattern. The author said that “fat people are the victims of incorrect and hateful stereotypes” (Kirkland 2). Nomy Lamm even discussed how television always seems to represent fat people as “a food-obsessed slob” (Lamm 460). There is also a danger when the marginalization ends up threatening ones very existence. Nomy Lamm expressed in her article, “This Disability Justice”, that along with “racial profiling and violence against black people with disabilities… a black woman with a mental health disability… was murdered by Berkely police in 2013, and whose death was partially blamed on “obesity”” (Lamm). Now this isn’t very scholarly of me, but that’s just ridiculous. How have we gotten this far with such misunderstandings, hatred and discriminations of people? If good people stand up and fight for what they believe in, whether others choose to listen or not, change can happen.
There are many such people who are fighting against the stigmas of our society, one of which is Nomy Lamm, a person who is fighting for the very right of the marginalization of fat people to be diminished and she is doing this through her writing. Her work needs to be studied deeper and thoroughly by students and others alike. Her style of writing towards fat discrimination is unique and quite profound if one thinks about it. From the collection of women’s rhetoric’s, Available Means, the authors discuss her unruly and rebellious writing style with terms like “irreverent, and profane” (Ritchie 454). She does seem to go against the norms of traditional writing and rhetoric, so for most, it’s difficult for people to take her writing seriously, or maybe that’s the whole point of her style. While Nomy Lamm in “It’s a Big Fat Revolution”, says in the very beginning that her writing will be “clear, concise and well thought-out, and will be laid out in the basic thesis paper, college essay format” (Lamm 455), I believe the only part of that sentence that she was honest about was the fact that she had her writing, or rather overall goal planned out, despite what many readers think. The authors of Available Means talk about how Lamm says she’s going to be traditional but then immediately changes and “places her writing in a complex relationship both within and in opposition to conventional rhetoric” (Ritchie 454) and I believe that that was a personal choice to represent her body armor beautiful in a written form instead of a physical one.
Nomy Lamm’s work is writing that is marginalized and not taken seriously because of her “punk style” (Ritchie 454) and because of the reasons for which her very own personhood is marginalized. Nomy Lamm has been labeled “Fatkikecripplecuntqueer” (Lamm 456), which is a whole lot of stigmas smashed together in one person, a person who is discriminated for most, if not all of it. Her very existence is one that is going against the social norms and being criticized for it, so why should her writing be any different? Lamm even says that she knows “that a hell of a lot of what I say is totally contradictory, my contradictions can coexist, cuz they exist inside of me, and I’m not gonna simplify them so that they fit into the linear, analytical pattern that I know they’re supposed to” (Lamm 455). Lamm’s very being is one that defies societal norms, and yes, she could try to change to fit into that neat little bubble, but instead she embraces her body for who she is. While she is always ready for the harassment that comes from being different from cultural expectations, she recognizes that this “unhappiness is not a result of my fat. It’s a result of society that tells me I’m bad” (Lamm 485) and that at the end of the day, though while sometimes life makes it difficult, “I can honestly say that I love my body and I’m happy being fat” (Lamm 456). Nomy Lamm’s work needs to be studied across academia because if society is to change one day to be more accepting of others but also more importantly, accepting of oneself, they need to know at a young age that differences are not only beautiful, but that those differences are what makes them themselves, unique, individual and special. For Nomy Lamm, one individual who does not see being fat as a problem, but society as the problem, she recognizes that “Fat does not equal ugly, don’t give me that. My body is me” (Lamm 458). And her body armor is beautiful. Now that we’ve established that Nomy Lamm, who is focusing on one of her many stigmas, her being fat, and that fat is not a problem and that her body is actually powerful armor, it’s now time for war against the social norms that discriminates against fat people.
There is a revolution going on, can you hear the people? The people shouting have been silenced and have mostly gone unheard. They have been discriminated upon and marginalized for terrible reasons, reasons that make no sense. There are voices however that are seeping through the cracks and they will be heard. There is a revolution that is fighting the stigma of being fat and what fat means. In the article “Coming Out as Fat: Rethinking Stigma”, the authors speak about these voices, the voices emerging out from the dark and shame that has been forced upon them (Saguy). These individuals are considered “fat acceptance activists” (Saguy). These individuals are fighting the stigma of fat by taking back the term fat and by accepting it. The authors of “Coming Out as Fat: Rethinking Stigma” said that “they are reclaiming the term fat, commonly used as an insult as a neutral or positive descriptor” (Saguy). They are no longer going to be ashamed for these so-called undesirable traits that they possess. Nomy Lamm in “It’s a Big Fat Revolution” said that “my words are the most effective tool I have” for challenging these stigmas and she’s right. These voices have been silenced for too long and by using one’s words, like Nomy Lamm in her rebellious rhetorical writings, or by reclaiming words that have only been used to hurt, like the activists reclaiming the term fat, the revolution will be well on its way. Nomy Lamm expressed that “The revolution will be incited through my voice, my words” and that she will, with her words, “deconstruct all the myths that propagate fat-hate” (Lamm 459). The revolution starts when we fight against the stigmas which our society has forced down upon us; we must change the way we see others and ourselves. In the article “Coming Out as Fat: Rethinking Stigma”, the authors said that “In proudly coming out as fat, one rejects cultural attitudes that fatness is unhealthy, immoral, ugly, or otherwise undesirable” (Saguy). The revolution starts when we continue to let these voices and these words be spread, which is why it is so crucially important to have Nomy Lamm, and voices like hers, be studied in our academia. We must, we must, we must silence the stigmas and let voices like Nomy Lamm continue to be heard because like she said, “Now I’m talking. Now I’m talking, I’m talking all the time, and people listen to me. I have support” (Lamm 461). If we continue to give her this support, we will win the day!
Human beings are entities that preside inside a shell of armor, all forged differently yet all share the same responsibility of protecting the soul within. While all armors have the same job of protecting, some get judged on the way they look and get targeted upon for no other reason than how it looks differently from others. There is a problem in our society where fat individuals are being discriminated upon for no other reason than because they are fat, and what’s worse is that fat is given this negative connotation and everyone believes it, including those who are fat. There are those individuals however, that are fighting the stigma that says fat is bad and are trying to teach others the truth. Studying bodies in the academy makes us face the consequences of our false/negative perceptions we’ve made. Just like in history class, when we are forced to learn how we wrongly/ disgustingly treated people based on race or gender, learning about bodies in school will hopefully make us see the error in our ways and thinking. Talking about bodies in school will make us question what we thought we knew and therefore acted on. Most importantly, it will force us to talk about bodies and no longer avoid the issue. It will give voice and opinion that rises against a larger scale issue, which is that society and mass media dictate how we are supposed to perceive human bodies as acceptable or not. Body image is a very important concept in our culture. It shouldn’t be, or rather it should be celebrated for the beautiful differences of different individuals instead of trying to make this one representation of what is acceptable or beautiful in the public’s eyes. There is this cultural belief that fat equals ugly, and most people believe it and that is utter garbage. Nomy Lamm and other revolutionists are striving to fix this issue by having their voices heard and spread the truth about body image and fat discrimination. They are fighting to show the world what fat really is, and the truth is this: Weight has NOTHING and EVERYTHING to do with beauty.
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