Attendees: Timmy, Asy, Raj, Nicole, Olivia, Zoe, Mya, Daniel, Jess, Alex, Aaron, Vic, Fiona
We had super delicious homemade deep-fried Indian food and curry puffs, packed with aromatic spices (Thanks Raj!), as we discussed about the book. The book seems to present (mostly) cis-women’s perspectives on queer fat studies, very different from Peter Hennen’s Faeries, Bears, and Leathermen, which we did last year. We spoke about the cultural discourses around fat studies such as the terminology (fat VS obesity) but perhaps the authors could deal with topics of denial of ill health and obesity. We also discussed the paradox of fat pride yet wanting to lose weight: there is no win for fat people. If you lose weight, you hate your fat self but if you remain the same weight, you don’t love yourself.
This complication about fat manifests in many other ways such as the “Forgotten Women” chapter in which the author points out the contradiction that fat women are sexually voracious but also seen as sexually undesirable.
Perhaps it is also because that fat studies is so complicated that different authors assume different things about the gender of fat without substantiating their assumptions. Some claim that fat is feminine, and some say it is masculine. Furthermore, there is an easy assumption that because fat bodies do not belong in a heteronormative narrative, fat is seen as queer. Surely fat and queer overlap in some ways but some rigorous scholarship is required here, instead of blanketing them together by the editors. The third assumption that went unchallenged in the book is that fat is subversive; sure, maybe it is but nobody ever says, “I want to be subversive, so I got fat.” Some editorial explanation may be required here to deal with the three assumptions.
Besides some editorial explanations, we were also disappointed by the article on fat and internet. There is much potential to discuss the “disappearance” of a fat body in cyberspace yet much of the article pontificates on how the internet can help with the movement.
We talked a lot about the portrayal of fat people in media, especially in comedy, relating it to Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Queen Latifa, Modern Family (specifically Cam and Jay), Amy Schumer, Margaret Cho, Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson, Kevin James, and Louis C.K. While comedy embraces fat people, comedians are merely falling into stereotypes and not challenging any social structures. Perhaps other than This is Us, there are few body-positive depictions of fat people. Timmy brought up an excellent counter-example to the American shows, Under One Roof, a local sitcom where there are many fat people in the show but they are depicted as ordinary people who are not ashamed by their bodies.
Talking about performing fat, we wondered if it is so easy to transpose Butler’s theory of performativity onto fat studies. For one thing, while gender is a performance that creates one’s identity, a fat person cannot take off their fat like pants or skirts. A man can pass as a woman, and a woman can pass as a man, but a fat person can never pass as a thin person (unless they are in cyberspace, and that’s why we were disappointed about the article on internet and fat).
We also talked about the intersections of fat with race, with social class, with Asian culture (“You look healthy,” “You look prosperous,” and also fat can be considered beautiful in some Asian cultures), with consumerism, and with disabilities.
But perhaps most importantly, we celebrated Vicky’s birthday. Happy birthday!
By the way, if you’re counting, we noticed that, for the first time, there is finally some gender equality in the book club! 5 men, 6 women, and 2 genderqueer. Yay!