Saturday, June 8, 2013
Fat and the shawl
It's quite thick wool, which makes it grow fast and warm, and I quite like the colour. But it's not going to adorn a ball frock anytime soon or a work outfit. I see a great future for this shawl as I sit up in bed and read.
I spent much of the day practising for using the shawl by sitting up in bed and alternately reading my own book (Kate Atkinson Life after Life) and reading White Boots by Noel Streatfield to Brighid. Thyroid care, you understand. Preserving and nourishing my health so my children don't have to step forward into this world with an unwell mother.
Last night I attended a rather notorious organisation - the middle class ladies' literary league - and managed to consume beautiful cake and talk books without behaving too very badly. In passing, off topic but after a respectable interval since the completion of the discussion of the actual book, someone mentioned the plethora, dangerous and worrying plethora, of obese women walking into The Warehouse recently. And then on my facebook status feed the Child Poverty Action Group, a group I support wholeheartedly until today, posted a Herald article on tragic levels of childhood obesity. A friend also brought this one to my attention which makes the point so very well: Don't Panic Everyone, I already know from The Ladygarden.
I wish more people would read Paul Campos' book The Obesity Myth. Even if you disagree with the interpretation of the statistics, even if you are convinced that the world is going to hell in a handbasket if we don't all slim down at once, I think everyone should read the parts of his book which deal with the way fat is used as a code to stigmatise poor people. I've responded to Campos' book here before.
Something which I think I've written about before but I want to talk about again, is the way in which fat is so particularly visible on poor people, and the hideous ways in which we are invited to laugh at fat, poor people. I'm certainly not going to link to the youtube links I've been sent before of the apparently disgusting display of flesh by people wearing revealing clothes while fat. The subtext is hardly hidden: hide your gross body. Personally, I think it's time people hid their prejudices about fat and poverty.
So what do I mean about fat and visibility on poor people? I mean that it costs plenty of money to drape and blend and mask fatness. I started sewing because I was sick of so many of the RTW clothes I fitted being swampy polyester prints, and I have the relative privilege of being fat but still within the range of some cheap clothing chains. Could I just scream at this point, that I could make these points without being fat because it isn't about fat defence, it is about an industry which mostly doesn't cater to women above a size 16 because it wants to perpetuate norms which mean far too many women hate their bodies.
I mean that bras for larger breasted women which don't leave your tits down at your belly button cost a bomb. I mean that every time you look at a shop which specialises in larger sizes, the fashions and fabrics are ugly and the price is 2-3 times the equivalent quality in smaller sizes.
I'm by no means the first person to make these points. I'm probably not the 917th either. But understanding of this is still far too slow to go mainstream. Next time the NZ Listener goes shock! horror! new stats on obesity!, which undoubtedly they will again several times this year alone, I suggest we reinterpret that as shock! horror! advertising levels dropping! hate speech on fat and poor people disguised as 'health concern' needed!