Trigger warning: body snarking, eating disorders, racism, fat shaming, skinny shaming, ableism, transphobia.
As every night before going to sleep, I was hooked on my mobile phone reading what my friends from back home had to say on twitter. Most of Mexico is six hours behind Britain, so while here it’s well past midnight, over there people have just got home from work/school/outdoors and there is more activity online. While the island sleeps, my timeline is rammed with funny jokes and wordplays, usual rants, and interesting links or news, all in Spanish. All using Mexican slang, mostly from the North. I don’t want to lose the connection between the people and me, between the land and me, between my roots and myself. So you will see me tweeting/retweeting/replying lots in Spanish.
Anyway, this night was different. It was Academy Awards night. And my friends were either excited and organising Oscar parties, or not giving a toss and just watching it for the lolz. Both groups of people were tweeting about the event, and reading them was like watching the stream, without actually having to witness such tedious ritual. While I despise the way the Academy only rewards post-colonialist, oppresive, privilege-denying fuckery, I was cheering for Bret McKenzie to win for his work for The Muppets. Waiting for the Best Song award was, in a few words, a torture.
One of the first awards was for Best Supporting Actress. As we know, among the nominated were Octavia Spencer for The Help and Melissa McCarthy for… something. Please don’t tell me Bridesmaids. Both movies problematic. ‘White people saving Black people’ vs ‘Heeheehee we’re gurlz’. Anyway, there was lots of snark about Octavia and McCarthy’s weight, and tons of referencing to them as ‘the fat ones’ not in a positive nor neutral way. When Octavia won, comments went from ‘and the winner is, PRECIOUS!’ (right, because all Black fatties are Gabby Sidibe), ‘Aunt Jemima won for her delicious pancakes’ (yes, one of my problems with The Help has to do with the portrayal of Black women as ‘mammies’, just like Aunt Jemima), to ‘I wanted the other fat one to win’ (you know, because all fat actresses are nothing but The Fat Ones, regardless of their individual talents or lack thereof). Plus, the usual fat shaming on non-fat actresses like Jennifer Lopez and even Maya fucking Rudolph.
Later into the night, and amidst usual comments about how boring the ceremony was getting, how the one they liked won or lost, pretty dresses and hideous oratory, came Angelina Jolie. In a matter of minutes, those who were dragging Octavia and Melissa to the treadmill were throwing sandwiches at Angelina. ‘Ugh, Skeletor’, they would comment. ‘Here comes the Reaper’, said a couple of ‘twitstars’. A highly retweeted/stolen one spat ‘she’s ready for the sequel of [viral video] Obedece a la Morsa [trigger warning for ableism and transphobia]‘.
Of course, I ended up being extremely upset, and ranting all over the place about such bodysnarking. I noted that the same people who were moaning about Octavia and McCarthy were now moaning about Angelina. I called them ‘fucking Goldilocks’, as they – just like the girl in the story – wanted everything to be ‘just right’. ‘Not too hot, not too cold’, easily translated into ‘not too fat, not too skinny’. A way of body snarking that Monique van der Berg calls ‘The Goldilocks Paradox’:
It seems like in the case of Geo Banks, or Star Jones, or possibly even people we know, we quietly decide there’s a perfect weight just for them—not too fat, not too skinny, but just right. Is this connected to health? To aspiration? To how attractive they are to us? To how hot or cold the porridge is? Is anyone entitled to determine what the “just right” point is for someone else? Is Star Jones entitled to look like a llama if she wants to, and are we obligated to keep our mouths shut about it? Personally, I’m confused, and I want to know. What do you think?
I think people should shut the fuck up. Just like we say ‘my body, my business’, it is also ‘their bodies, their business’. People are the shape and size they are due to diverse circumstances, natural or intentional, ‘healthy’ or ‘not’. It is rude to comment on someone’s aspect, specially concerning the things they cannot change permanently nor easily, such as colour (judging you right now if you wrote the Jemima/Precious tweets) or weight. Yes, Angelina has thin privilege and – different to McCarthy and Octavia – is still seen and accepted as a sex symbol in mainstream media. Nevertheless, she does not deserve the punishment of body snarking. She does not deserve any punishment at all. If, to you, she doesn’t look as ‘hot’ as she was before (or never has), just shut your mouth. People should not be attacked just because you don’t fancy them. It applies with fat people, and applies with skinny people too. It’s just not on.
You don’t know if they have an illness that makes them look that way, or are just going through rough times (you know, Angelina’s mum died), or they age in a different way. You don’t laugh at people with other illnesses or during horrible situations (if you do, you’re a dickhead), so don’t laugh at them now. And if they are the way they are because of eating disorders, they do not deserve your mockery either. They are disorders, hard to control without medical help, and not at all enjoyable experiences. Most of these disordered people hate themselves already. They don’t need you to hate them more.
And if they are the way they are because of genetics, shut up too. You know who else are the way they are because of genetics? People of colour. If you hate racism, you should also hate body snarking. Or, as I’ve said before, any kind of snarking against anything impossible or difficult to permanently change.
Perhaps, the more you love yourself, the more you love the others. As I said on the Elephant post, I used to be a body snarker too. When I hated myself and all fatness, I used to mock both fat and skinny people. Then, when I was starting to accept my body, but drinking the whole ‘real women have curves’ Kool Aid, I was still mocking skinny people horrendously (and still dieting/wearing frumpy stuff/etc.). ‘LOL IF U WANT 2 FUCK AN AZN 12 YR OLD BOY, FUCK AN AZN 12 YR OLD BOY THEN’. That was me. Those were my kind of horrible comments. Eventually, I discovered Health at Every Size and started reading more varied Fat Acceptance material. You know, from places where fat was known as ‘fat’ and not as ‘curvy’, ‘chubby’, ‘BBW’, ‘more to love’. The places that use euphemisms tend to be the worst at diet talking and body snarking, so I started to avoid them like the plague. The same time I realised you could be fat and healthy, I realised you could be skinny and healthy too. After all, HAES means Health at Every Size, not Health Starting from Size 14 Upwards. Then, through tumblr and intersectional blogs, I also got into disability politics. I realised that, while you can be healthy at every size, you can also be ill and disabled at every size, and it doesn’t make you subhuman. And, just like health, illness has nothing to do with size. You still deserve respect, and you can still be beautiful. Afterwards, through people like Mia Mingus and Natalie Perkins, I read about the politics of ugly. While Prince would say ‘you don’t have to be beautiful to turn me on’, I’d say ‘you don’t have to be beautiful NOR turn me on’ to deserve respect. One can have traits or moments when they don’t fulfill any beauty standards nor feel like doing it, and it’s alright. It’s alright if you don’t shave your legs, it’s alright if you have zits, it’s alright if you don’t wear high heels nor control your hair every day. Just like you can be fat and beautiful and skinny and beautiful, you can be fat and ugly and skinny and ugly. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You are still a worthy human being who has the right to take up space. As long as you don’t hurt others nor hurt yourself, everything is fine.
There are many bad things about Angelina Jolie, Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer. Many. Starting with their bloody movies and/or TV shows. Their weights are not only treated as negative, but are starting to become boring topics of conversation. I know people talk a lot about McCarthy, Octavia, Adele (urgh) precisely because they are fat women in the entertainment business and it’s really hard for us to succeed in this area. Nonetheless, what I truly wish is that all talented people succeeded regardless of appearances.
Somebody told me to leave the Angelina snarkers alone, as they were doing it to feel better about themselves. Cobblers, I say. It might give them a temporal and hollow sense of well being, as it is based on oppression against others. Soon, the feeling vanishes, and they go back to self-loathing and feeling poorly about their image. They should be fighting and complaining, yes: not against the people who fulfill rigid beauty standards, but against the system that imposes them. In a sentence, it’s not a fight of fat vs. thin, but a fight of people vs. tyranny.
On a positive note, Bret McKenzie won! I am quite happy about it. Coincidentally, we went to see The Muppets this very Sunday afternoon. We enjoyed it from start to finish, laughed at loud many times, and left the cinema with a smile on our faces. We were still talking about the film hours later, and I feel like I want to see it again.
I’ll just tell you the beginning: there are two brothers, one is a man and one is a muppet. The muppet feels like he doesn’t fit in society. He’s too small to ride the games, his human brother’s friends laugh at him, and while his sibling is his best friend, he still feels very isolated. One night, in front of the television, they watchThe Muppets Show, and a whole world opens up for the muppet brother. He becomes a big fan of the Muppets, dreams about them, dresses like them, and continues watching them year after year. He loves them because they showed him that he was not alone, that being a muppet was not wrong, and that muppets could do anything they wanted without their muppetness being an obstacle. Sounds familiar?
That’s the power of representation. That’s how important it is to see people like us in media. People like every one of us in media. A sociological and demographical representation of us. Fat people, skinny people, ‘average-sized’ people, all colours of the rainbow, all nationalities, people with disabilities, trans and cis and non-gender binary, tall, small, rich, poor, working class, middle class, left-handed, right-handed, no hands, many hands. ‘Man or Muppet?’ asks the winner for Best Song. Human and muppet, I reply, in media.