Fat Man Dancing and Misogyny.

I feel like I start each new blog post I write with ‘sorry it’s been so long!’ But. . .well. . .sorry it’s been so long. šŸ˜› Let’s jump right in!

In case you haven’t heard the story of the Fat Man Dancing, a fat man was spotted recently at a show, dancing his heart out and having a good time. That is, untilĀ people decided to start taking his picture and laugh at him, shaming him into stopping.

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That second picture. My heart breaks for him so much. The photos were uploaded to a site notorious for fat shaming folks. In case you can’t read the text, it says “Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing.”

In a stunning display of internet activism, the photo went viral on reddit, and then a writer named Cassandra Fairbanks put out a call to her followers to find this man and throw him a dance party. In an effort headed almost entirely by women, he was located, a GoFundMe account was set up to finance the party, and even celebrities like Pharrell Williams, Moby, and Ellie Goulding wanted to join in on the fun. The dance party hasn’t happened yet, but it sounds like it’ll be a blast!

But watching this story unfold as it happened, I became curious. And I wasn’t the only one. A friend of mine posted a facebook status and asked, if the situation had been reversed, would the results have been the same? What do you think?

Let’s say a very fat woman was at a concert, alone, dancing her heart out. Let’s say a group of people laughed at her until she stopped, took photos of her, and posted them on the same site with the same caption. Would a man start a call to his followers to try to find her? Would a bunch of men throw her a dance party to celebrate #fatwomandancing?

I’m sad to say it, but I don’t think so. We live in a time where there are multiple threads on multiple websites dedicated to the shaming and humiliation of fat people (mostly from pictures they find through trolling the body positive tags on sites like Tumblr and Instagram), and the majority of the fat people they find are women. (And while this certainly isn’t a fact, my hypothesis is that most of the people who submit these photos are men.) And when it comes to fat women, we get a double dose of hatred, for being fat, and for being female.

Like it or not, sexism is rampant in our society. While we’ve surely made progress, women are still not given the same opportunities as men. And when it comes to physical appearance? Well, it doesn’t matter if you’re talented, smart, or kind; whatever positive traits you possess are completely overshadowed if you happen to be fat or otherwise not conventionally attractive. A perfect example: a couple months ago, a very famous fantasy author by the name of Colleen McCullough died in Australia. In addition to being an author, she was also an accomplished neuroscientist.

This was her obituary:

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If I’d had so many accomplishments under my belt over the years and yet the second sentence of my obituary talked about how I was fat and homely, I’d be spinning in my grave. And you see this very often–the most important part about a woman is her appearance. You can see it:

  • From this male news reporter who wore the same suit for an entire year to see if anyone would notice (they didn’t) after he saw his female co-anchor get criticized multiple times for what she wore.
  • From the multiple celebrities who call out interviewers who care more about their fashion choices than their accomplishments.
  • From Hillary Clinton herself (love her or hate her!)
  • These aren’t so much looks based, but check out theĀ abuse folks like Anita Sarkeesian and Ashley Judd suffer simply for being women having interests in male-dominated fields.

More or less, a woman’s most important ‘job’ is to be attractive for men. So if a dancing fat woman (in this culture, fat = ‘fails at the job of being attractive for men’) was posted online and publicly shamed, would thousands of men come to her rescue and throw her a dance party?

I hate to say it, but my money is on ‘No.’ And this is due to the toxic combination of fatphobia and sexism suffered by most fat women. AndĀ it reminds me that we as a society have to do better.

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7 Responses to Fat Man Dancing and Misogyny.

  1. I thought a lot about this myself, but never spoke up. I absolutely agree with you. Had this been a fat woman, I’m betting that the shaming would have continued on. In fact, the reason I no longer dance is because I was told many, many times that fat women shouldn’t dance and that it’s disgusting. Nobody backed me up, nobody said anything against it; they all agreed I should stop, more or less.

  2. One of the reasons that bigotry towards fat people is one of the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination is that it benefits people who are not a member of the targeted class. I read this somewhere regarding racism: even though I am not racist, sometime during my life I have probably benefited from racism because I am a pink person: I have had some competitive advantage for jobs, housing, spouses, and so on, just because I am light skinned and racism exists, even though I have never participated in racism.

    Likewise, if you’re thin to average in size, fat phobia helps you, whether or not you actively participate in fat discrimination. In the same manner, misogyny benefits all men. This is terribly unfortunate, but important to understand. I think that social awareness is key to reducing superficiality in our culture, as is understanding the concept of privilege.

    Note that in Coleen McCullough’s obit she is quoted as saying that she never had any trouble with that “job” of attracting men!

    Barbara Deckert
    Instructor, “Plus Size Pattern Fitting and Design” on Craftsy.com

    http://www.craftsy.com/ext/BarbaraDeckert_133_D

    Author, “Sewing for Plus Sizes: Design, Fit and Construction for Ample Apparel” (Taunton 1999)

    • I often hear the rhetoric of fat being the last acceptable prejudice and it’s so so so not true so I encourage you to push back when you hear that. Here’s a great blog post about it.

      What you’re saying hits the nail on the head, though. THAT is the thing about privilege. It’s invisible to those of us who have it. You can see similar experiences throughout all types of oppression: let’s take your racism example. People believe ‘racism’ means actively hating people of color, but the truth is, that’s only one way of being racist: that is explicit racism. racism is systemic, it is implicit. It is built into the very foundation of our society. So white folks benefit from this without even realizing it. We get a free pass on things that people of color struggle with and we don’t even think about it. So just by participating in this system that places a higher value on white, thin, male, able bodied, cis, etc., those who ARE white, thin, male, able bodied, cis., etc. have it easier, and they don’t even know. That is what is so pervasive and so insidious about oppression. It’s sneaky as heck!

  3. I hear you: all kinds of bigotry are insidious, but in my humble opinion fat phobia is more popular than all the other phobias, often because of the generally unchallenged assertion that fatness is “unhealthy.” That’s a whole other issue. I do hear people speaking out in the media against misogyny, homophobia, racism and so on, but speaking out against fat phobia is far more rare. Age discrimination (I’m pushing 62) is also pretty well hidden: think of all those commercials for computers and cell phones that show “old people” as dithering and confused (guess who invented those devices?) In case you’re wondering, I try not to make bigoted assumptions about young people, too! It’s all so sneaky! Maybe it’s natural to be most aware of the kinds of discrimination that affect us as individuals.

    By the way, I love your blog.

    Keep dancing!
    Miss Barbara

  4. Stacy says:

    When I saw this got the attention it did, I have to admit, it did come into my thoughts that if this had been a woman no one would have really done much about it. There wouldn’t have been an outcry to find her, there wouldn’t even have been much in the way of people speaking up to defending her – not like the defense that this man got. How do I know this? Being the only fat woman in a family with several fat men – seeing the way the world treats me vs treats them when we are out in public together. Seeing the looks of shock when they happen to be around when I get the occasional stranger mooing at me or getting fat girl jokes thrown my way. I’ve long gone past the ability to be shocked by that kind of behavior, as, sadly, it happens too often to really be surprised by it anymore.

    The fat men in my life have asked “do you get that a lot” and are genuinely surprised when I just shrug and say “it happens”. And by their reactions, and what I’ve witnessed, I can tell that it’s not really a very common occurrence for them to be treated the same way. My fat uncle shows up with his thin blond wife and no one bats an eye. I show up with my thin attractive husband and people stare. It’s many small things like that, that remind me that Fat Woman and Fat Man are definitely not on the same level of social standing. And that one is more acceptable in our society than the other. Don’t get me wrong, I know fat men get a large amount of fat shaming and bullying too, but our society tends to be much more accepting and tolerant of fat men than fat women. Hell, I’ve even seen FAT MEN wearing “No Fat Chicks” t-shirts. Tell me that’s not a kick in the head?

    • This is definitely exacerbated through media, too. I mean, how many TV shows have a fat, average looking husband, and a thin, pretty wife? Everything from cartoons (Family Guy, the Flintstones) to sitcoms (The King of Queens, Parks and Rec, The Honeymooners) name me one tv show where there’s a fat, average looking woman with a trophy husband!

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