Friday, December 01, 2006

Why Is This Video...

...so threatening to so many youtube viewers:



Would to God that it was because of the offensiveness of "Tip Drill." Or if some commenters decided they find "booty dancing" troublesome. Nah, what upsets the commenters at youtube is that these women

Are fat. FAT. And apparently having fun. And doing something as sensual as dancing. And by God, they have friends. Who the hell wants to be seen with a fat girl?

The comments are rife with "nasty," "disgusting," "gross," "wrong" and observations about vomiting and gouging out one's eyes. And then there is the ultimate: "You should be ashamed of yourselves." Because we know how shame works to immobilize and silence women. And I can tell you how it works to immobilize and silence fat women, how it makes all eyes turn upon you, how it makes your skin crawl, how it makes you wish you could just disappear.

That is exactly what these commenters are wishing on these women. Oh, a few of them are careful to disguise it in that "I'm so concerned for your health..." And, lately, my ultra-concerned brothers and sisters of color have added a new twist: they are concerned for our health because we're killing the black community.* You talk about a guilt inducer. Oh. My. God.

But come on, if we're really concerned about people's health, would we be turning up our noses and insulting them? Since we believe fat is solely the product of overeating*, if we wanted to encourage people to eat more healthfully, wouldn't we be asking our government officials why, since the mid-1990s, meat and dairy have received 3x the subsidies of grains and why "fats and oils [have] collected 20x more government handouts than fruits and vegetables"? Wouldn't we be demanding that the media curb the 70% of food advertising that is controlled by convenience and "junk" foods?* Wouldn't we ask food processors why they lie and say they're adding "value" to our food when what they're typically adding is sugar and fat?

So, nah. I don't think we're all that concerned with what people eat; what we're obsessed with is how they look and the connections we make between that appearance and food.

Over at Trash Talks Back, Elaina gave me another idea for why this video is so upsetting (please go read her whole post!):
I'm relearning that fat people are expected to be losers. People think that we are fumbly or we are lazy, or that we are afraid to do outrageous and energetic things.
The women in the video defy that assumption, and apparently it's creating a sort of dissonance that is unbearable. Elaina also said something that I think is another clue into the mindset of the commenters:
People constantly wave their own fears of becoming what you are in front of your face, without a thought as to how you will feel about it. Anti-fat thought is presumed to be correct thought.
Oh, and don't think fat people don't have fat phobic thoughts. My first reaction to this video was, "I can't believe they had enough nerve to..." 'Cause we're not supposed to, you know, have nerve or willingly display our bodies--I say willingly because whether we want them to or not, our fat bodies have been co-opted for the purpose of showing people what they want to avoid. My second thought was, "Ooh, I'm so glad they did."

It's a strange position fat people occupy, taking up more space than what society has decided is your right to have while simultaneously being invisible... until someone wants to point out what not to become. And apparently that concept is so sacred that youtube commenters believe that fat women should be excluded, invisible, on a site designed for anyone to share video. But fat women aren't anyone, of course. We're those pesky "others."

Elaina had a few tips I wish I could go post in the comments at youtube:
6. You have no right to presume that our fatness means anything more than we weigh a certain amount over what's been deemed by capitalist white supremacist patriarchy as the "norm."
7. Do not assume that we are lazy or unintelligent.
8. Do not assume that we are weak.
9. Do not assume that we are obsessive-compulsive about food.
10. Do not assume that we are desperate for your friendship and/or your sympathy.
11. Do not assume that we think that we are less attractive than you are, or that we hate our bodies, or that we strive to be like you.
And please, do not assume that we don't dance* and that we don't laugh and that we're not sensual. Keep your issues and your projections to yourself.

And, no, the commenters at youtube didn't get these women down, because they also posted this:

____________________

*I don't doubt that some people genuinely have health concerns and I don't discount medical evidence that links obesity to some illnesses. But this is often the most convenient excuse for fat phobes.
*And of course overeating is nothing more than a lack of willpower which "proves" how weak fat people are.
*All from the intro to
Steve Striffler's Chicken.
*Yes, in the company of supporive friends and family, ms. elle has been known to shake her moneymaker then drop it like it's hot.

14 comments:

Kate said...

Ugh. Glad to have your perspective on this. Your point about health concerns masking fat phobia was great -- yes, there are health concerns strongly related to obesity, but societal factors better explain obesity than "laziness" or any other stereotype hung on heavier people.

The reality of the situation is, the video is really sweet! I think these women are cool for being comfortable dancing, and for being good at it (I'm neither of these things).

Femi said...

you know what drives me crazy is that ok, being overweight is supposedly based on over eating and laziness--so women are doing some moving (aka excersize)--some sexy as HELL moving--and all people can do is disrespect that moving???? It's like fat people are expected to shivel up and just disappear off the face of the earth. Youre not to appear in public, you're not to dance and move and laugh with friends, you're not to do anything that indicates you're a human being with a human need to move your body and laugh with other humans.

(Brownfemipower)

elle said...

BfP, you're so right. BTW, I always know who you are--sorry about the femi thing!

elle said...

and kate, it is sweet... friends having a good time together

Kristian said...

Okay, I saw the cool points about being overweight, and I agree with them and all that. Fat people have lives. Le gasp. Haters wanna hate, but they can't stop the shinin'. You know, it's cool, cool, but now I'm mad because the awesome bootyshakin' gene skipped me and they're hogging it all on the YouTube.

So, umm, we need to fix this. :-p

TNTrash said...

What I like is that these women KEEP TAKING UP SPACE on the youtube. The more people piss and moan, the more they post.

Which is awesome, IMO.

JustMe said...

so yah, if these women are "concerning," why is no one "concerned" about the
a)racist stuff
b)skinny women
i mean presumably they have these 'problems' too. ok does not apply to racist but that stuff is there and pisses me off, anyway, why? b/c the women conform to society's cough patriarchy's cough norms.

but i know what i'm saying is trite. to us. i wish those narrowminded people felt it was trite too.

elle said...

I'm mad because the awesome bootyshakin' gene skipped me and they're hogging it all on the YouTube.

i know!

elaina, i love their defiance, too (too bad they have to be defiant to post a damn video!). thanks again for letting me excerpt.

justme, the faux concern is what irritates me to no end! if you're really concerned, are you spending your time expressing it in a condescending manner on a website?

Yolanda Carrington said...

The commenters at YouTube are misogynists, period. Fat phobia exposes one's misogyny like nothing else, I don't care how "progressive" that person pretends to be.

The shit that folks feel comfortable saying about fat women would be said about all women given half the chance---in fact folks do, all the time. All women need to get CLEAR on this, today!

Philip said...

Excellent commentary. It is quite amusing how people associate fat with shame or guilt. People hate what they fear, and what most people in America fear is rejection. They associate fatness with rejection and fear it. I don't trust rail thin cooks, and I damn sure don't trust rail thin people who associate the words "shame", "guilt", "problem", or "worried" with big people. To be sure, black America in general needs to get its act together on the health tip, but it's no reason why we all shouldn't be able to enjoy ourselves.

AradhanaD said...

Why strippercise and pole dancing are only for thin, white chicks with hawt bods!

elle said...

yolanda, spot-on. my experience has been that some progressives are too "polite" to say anything so they cut at you with their silence--treating you like you're invisible.

but it's no reason why we all shouldn't be able to enjoy ourselves we shouldn't be enjoying ourselves, philip, because we're supposed to be busy wallowing in that shame and guilt!

elle said...

thanks for the link, aradhana!

JULIE said...

OMG, I love it! I wish that I could dance like that. I agree with all - they are sexy and they can dance like no one's business. I can't believe that people are so rude to post such nasty nasty comments.

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