FAT is a four letter word
January 22, 2008
Today’s New York Times has a really interesting article on the emergence of self-love blogs for people who do not fit the current cultural body definitions. As a blogger it is really nice to see people using this forum to be positive and supportive. I have spent quite a bit of time investigating pro-ana, plastic surgery and beauty sites, and they usually leave me depressed about the state of the world. These sites, at least are making an attempt to force people to confront self-hatred. It is easy to argue that, FAT is a health issue, but if you have ever struggled with your weight, you will understand that emotions are so much more powerful than our thinking minds. The true road to weight loss, is to confront why we use food to fill in the empty spaces. The worst thing that can happen to someone struggling with their weight is criticism. So I am happy to see these sites. They are worth a look.
The Rotund If only for the wonderful tagline, Thin People Die Too.
What becomes more complex is portraying the naked large female body. I have to say, that the only images I have ever seen that made me think that the photographer really found a ‘fat body’ beautiful are Irving Penn’s. But part of me still feels like they are fetishistic. I am not sure naked pictures are empowering, for any sized woman. Not because there is anything wrong with nudity, but because of how woman’s bodies are used and portrayed in our cultural visual language. One of my original goals, was to find a way to photograph women, subverting the male gaze and allowing them bypass the legacy of Western Art. I have not solved it yet. But I do think it is a very important endeavour. When we feel that it is acceptable to question why a celebrity would stay with his wife after she has gained weight, how does that affect the thought process of all women. How visual culture ‘position’s’ the female body has enormous impact on the daily lives of women.
A recent post on TMZ.com
Pierce Brosnan and his wife, Keely Shaye Smith, had a whale of a time on the island of Kauai on Wednesday.
It is now commonplace for the on-line and paper rags to ‘out’ celebrity fat, just think of the Tyra, Love-Hewitt, Cindy Crawford bathing scandals of late. Now a lot of women live in terror and shame over wearing a bathing suit on the beach, I doubt these types of posts help them to overcome their fears. But I also don’t think this type of art helps either.
I have not seen the the who body of work (by Laurie Toby Edison,) but I am not sure how this empower women to accept their bodies. Or make other people question how they judge FAT.
Again, I thought Penn’s show at the Met was really amazing. He photographed them as sexual objects, the same way thin women are captured, but he cut off their heads. I could not help thinking that there was still some sort of shame attached to them, or that all they were giant sex vessels. Or that there bodies had been reduced to sculptural forms. All of which is all troubling.
I do quite like Jen Davis’s self-portraiture. Her images are very quiet, but they capture her as a human being that happens to be bigger than average. But she presents the reality, which is that she is like everyone else, and I think it makes her work operate on multiple levels. Yes she is exploring her feelings about her weight, but there is something empowering in her willingness to share that struggle. She is one of the young photographer’s out there doing really good work.