You got your gender in my fat! Part 1

Fatness wreaks havoc with gender, no matter how you identify. This here is part one of a multi-part conversation about fatness and gender identity, and consists mostly of personal anecdotes from Marianne and I speaking as cisgendered laydees.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Homecoming, by Cynthia Voight.

As Nature Made Him, by John Colapinto.

The music heard in this episode is by Alo Django.

29 Responses to “You got your gender in my fat! Part 1”

  1. rr Says:

    is there any way people can participate in fatcast conversation to have there little say in . cause i have a lot to say , that i may can’t write it in words. just asking

  2. meerkat Says:

    Woo Florida! We shopped at Publix a lot.

  3. maggiemunkee Says:

    i listen to these podcasts and find myself saying (out loud! thankfully i listen when i’m at home alone), “uh-huh” and “i remember those pants/shirt/etc,” or recognizing the same feeling of inadequacy that you talked about in this episode.

    even now with my husband i still sometimes get a sniggling feeling in the back of my brain that it’s all just a really elaborate ruse with the sole purpose of laughing at me. and that is ridiculous because he has never once even hinted at feeling anything other than love and admiration for me. and yet… everything can potentially be a big ol’ joke with me as the punchline.

    the biggest headtrip for me is the sense of self-hating narcissism that comes with growing up a fat kid and then a fat chick. there’s the sense that “i’m fat, i’m invisible” that is in direct conflict with the sense of “i’m fat, i’m an easy target.” no one likes fat chicks but everyone loves to laugh at them.

    such a disconnect.

    anyways, i’m rambling. thank you for doing this podcast. it’s one of my favorite parts of the week (other than true blood. i’ve got a bit of a problem there…).

  4. JayVon Says:

    I haven’t listened to this yet, but I was so damn happy when I saw it was up. Thank you for this podcast, making long bus journeys something to look forward to!

  5. Imbrium Says:

    I’m another girl who developed very early, and received a lot of inappropriate attention at a very young age – especially since, at the time, I was quite thin. These pictures (http://www.siliconashes.net/~imbrium/wp-images/Zed%20Card.jpg) were taken when I was TWELVE. Twelve years old is way, way too young to have 40 year old men trying to pick you up. (Twelve is also too young to be working on a career as an adult model. Twelve is too young for a lot of things that I experienced.) The thing that blows my mind about the whole thing is how permissive my parents were – not just the modeling thing, but the things they let me wear, the way they let me behave in public…my parents are/were not bad, uninvolved, or oblivious people! And yet…and yet….

    For all the ways that looking like that at 12 messed me up, the one benefit is that I’ve always managed to maintain a sense of being an attractive, sexual creature, even 100+ pounds later. I certainly have had my moments of body shame and hatred, but most days I can walk down the street and think “I look awesome, and of course people are attracted to me!” Even on the days I don’t really believe it, I can pull that confidence on like another article of clothing. And as cheeseball as it sounds, the confidence really does make a difference.

    (As a corollary, I think it might be interesting to have a conversation about the differences in experience for fat adults who grew up fat and fat adults who grew up thin. I think it makes for some interesting differences in the ways we experience and interact with fatness.)

  6. CTJen Says:

    I am sad there is no link to the picture Lesley had done in France. QQ

    Thanks for the always-awesome podcast!

  7. Lesley Says:

    @CTJen — I’m not sure where it is! I should look around for it and scan it.

  8. Laruchka Says:

    Very interesting–in the comments, “self-hating narcissism” is a direct hit, @maggiemunkee! And the whole devloping early thing…
    Anyway, I love the podcasts, and you! Y’all! And your activism, humor, pop culture commentary, and the model of confidence and getting on with real and valuable LIFE. Thanks.

  9. rr Says:

    am i supposed to ask my question on formspirng or wait for a reply ? anyway awesome cast guys .i can so relate to some of the experiences you guys talked about . keep it up ! the post you make are the best of best . and i’ll come back later to see if lesley or marianne reply

  10. Bree Says:

    *sniffle sniffle* I really thought it was just me who felt like that… I remember distinctly in grade 7, Jason M would sit and eat lunch with me every day, and we would go down to the creek at lunch and get weird stuff to look at under the microscope we had in class. Jason was the new boy, that year. I went to a small school where grade 7 was 35 kids. And being the new boy, he had the new boy middle school hotness about him. One day he asked me to a movie. I litterally thought in my head, omg hes just asking me so I can show up and him and his friends can laugh at me. He asked when we were alone which made it even more suspicious, cuz it HAD TO BE AN ELEABORATE ROUSE! I kinda stood there for a long moment. And then ran away. The next day, the other Jason and the two Jeffs (popular names much?) Left horrible notes on my desk, one was drawing of a butt with a car on the it? And it was titled bionic butt. I was CONVINCED that Jason M was enacting his rouse and I proceeded to turn beet red. Jason M at lunch tried sitting with me and I left and quickly ate my lunch in the nurses office, and Im pretty sure I got picked up by my mom.

    Similar thing was repeated over and over and over again thought high school, and early college… until the relationship of that wasnt a relationship of doom happened. And then I just freaking hid from the world for long long time.

    I can fake it better now, but secretly I am convinced boys dont like me. And any boy that likes me if just trying to embarrass me…

    ok Im going to go have a beer on my porch and look at the rainy Boston Skyline. And pull my shit together.

  11. William Says:

    Hi

    A very nice podcast that covered a lot of things seldom discussed in Fat Acceptance. You took a realistic look at how culture views the fat female body and that compliments the honesty that Fat Acceptance has always had toward the fat male body.

    Having worked many years in drug rehabs for men I can truthfully say that men feel inhibitions over fat far before the appearance of man-boobs or excess fat around their penis. Most of the my leaner clients after getting of their diet of heroin and cocaine begin to put on weight and as soon as they see some fat in the lower torso they cut back on food intake. Funny that many fat guys do not seem to have lost much weight no matter what combination of narcotics they have been using.

    The man boob epidemic strikes men of all sizes but with some fat men similar to some fat women the breast size can go wild with the existence of extra fat.

    I think that every negative thing that Fat Men experience exists outside of the feminist paradigm. The series of thought that you laid out just did not exist for me. As a fat guy I had to deal with the clothing issues, the Doctor Issue, well meaning family members and friends with advice and comments from strangers. I read somewhere that Fat Men are about 10% more likely to experience violence because of their fat that never happened to me.

    My man boob issues did not come from a negative view of femininity; I just wanted a flatter chest. Similarly I do not think that women with full beards are bothered because they think that masculinity is the worst thing in the world, they just want a relatively hairless face.

    William

  12. Heather Says:

    When we’ve been told that our bodies are ugly and unacceptable, it’s hard to trust the motives of anyone who seems to admire or desire them.

    Remember “Silence of the Lambs”? The serial killer targets “big girls” (size 14-16-18). There’s a moment where he says to a woman, in a kind of husky-excited voice, “Are you about a 14?” — my size then! — right before he chloroforms and kidnaps her. When I saw that movie something clicked in my mind – how I believed men only notice or “admire” me in a hostile/mocking/perverse way. That a man who admired my body was a pervert or fetishist. It was deeply disturbing (it’s stayed with me for almost 20 years!)

    In a future conversation I’d love to hear you talk about the differences between “fat love,” “fat acceptance,” “fat admirers,” and “fat fetishism.”

  13. maggiemunkee Says:

    bree and laruchka – i’ve had a very difficult time accepting that sometimes people, especially guys, can like me. explaining it to my hubs and he just doesn’t get it, tells me to get over myself (in a nice way). well it’s hard when there have been multiple instances throughout my life when people actually DID go out of their way to make my life hell. :P

    i’m glad i haven’t had to deal with those people for almost a decade now.

  14. Mermama3 Says:

    My new favorite phrase is “crotchular region.” :) lol

    I can also significantly relate to the fear of teenage and young adult men. I’m beginning to wonder if there are any plus size women left who have not been victims of the drive-by “fat bitch” incident. It’s interesting to me that, as my weight/size has increased, I have also been more inclined to label “positive” attention from men as either teasing in disguise or the danger sign of a crazy guy who wants to rape me. I totally appreciate Heather’s comment!

  15. Bree Says:

    I had a weird fat girl experience I think… maybe.. you guys can let me know if its weird or not.
    I was a chubby girl. Right from the start. I was always the biggest kid in class, I wouldn’t have called myself fat, but I was definitly chubby and always the tallest person until I was 11-12 and the only non completely white kid and the youngest… I was athletic too.

    I was a total tomboy, I took pride in being able to lift heavier, run longer (never faster I was never a fast kid but I could go forever), thow harder and basically do everything the boys could do, and about 3/4 of the time do better. Even though I was the chubby kid.

    Then puberty hit. I got even taller, hips got wider, and my boobs kinda showed up. I was still able to throw harder, and run longer and a good chunk of the boys. But suddenly that wasn’t cool any longer to anyone but me.

    On my twelth birthday I enrolled into the Canadian version of Jr. ROTC because I wanted to be a fighter pilot or a helicopter pilot. I got taller. I kept up with the P.T. but I was still described as the big girl. I was wearing a size 16 at the time. I got even taller. And in the summer I was 15 I was at summer camp with the Jr. ROTC and we where all measured on physical stuff. I was able to meet all the requirements for the PT, running time just barely (I was never fast dammit). And on top of it I discovered that my legs where too long to be a fighter pilot. I was depressed but still wanted to be a pilot anyway so I stayed. the next 2 summers I was on scholarship for my glider pilots and private pilots lisences. This is only important becasue there was a weight MAX. And I was over it. I was wearing a 18-20. I had 6 months to go from 250 to 215 lbs. I was 5’9. I managed to do it. I lost my period and I had a six pack for the only time in my life. And I was still wearing a size 16. I squeaked by on the regs. I was still known as the fat girl.

    By the time I got my licenses, and a year had passed my weight went back up to 245, and I was still flying.

    College started a few years later and I was wearing a 20-22 and I weighed 285. I still had the top part of my six pack, and what my sister called BUNSOFSTEEL.

    Now I weight 300 ish wear a size 24-26, and still mostly ass. I smoke so i can no longer run like I used to … I know I know I need to quit… but I still can lift heavy things and throw a ball really hard.

    I have forgotten the point … but on dark days, I wallow that even when I was skinny enough for my period to stop, and I had a six pack, I had to shop in “big girl stores” and was constantly called fat. :(

  16. Bree Says:

    …. Sorry, I am totally rambling here but I remembered my orginal point….

    As a teenager, the super scary have to make weight incident was headed off at the pass afterwards, by three diffrent people. The first was my pilots licence instructor: He was 6’5 and “average” build. He commiserated on not being able to be a fighter pilot. This might seem insignificant, but it was helpful to 17 year old me becasue he was awesome and he gave me a book about women pilots who flew the first ww2 bombers as test pilots to prove to men that they could fly them… horribly sexist idea but what do you want from 1941 military. And he told me you dont have to be a fighter jock to be a bad ass natural pilot. The second was an actual fighter pilot. He was 5’6. And he told me he had to use blocks on the rudder pedals of most planes because he was too short. The third was the most helpful and awesome doctor ever: I went in for my flying physical. being seen by a flight surgeon is required for your licence, he took one look at me and my probably annorexic self and threatened to ground me unless I ate and put on weight. His exact words where, “Big fucking deal if you cant fit in tiny planes. They make bigger ones and they go faster. Eat something.” He was also the same doctor who is the only person to give me helpful advice about my painful periods. “orgasm more.” God I miss that doctor.

    As a teenager, I noticed that it was women who shamed me for being big “just because” more than men did. And it was the awesome men that I hung around with that where in the military that never shamed me becasue of my size, they didnt care as long as I could accomplish the physical requirements. While I never got much romantic attention from men as a teen, or hell until I was in my early 20′s, I was always more comfortable around them because they didn’t seem to care what I looked like. This background is also why it was only really recently that I had more female friends then male.

  17. Lesley Says:

    @rr — You can ask whereever you’d like! Here or on formspring — your choice.

  18. We’re All Mad Here (and it’s okay!) « Living ~400lbs Says:

    [...] it’s not just that which makes me different.  I’m fat.  I’ve dated women.  I work in a male-dominated profession.  All these things label me as [...]

  19. Susan Says:

    So much of this podcast reverberated down to my toes.
    Forgive me if I am misquoting, but Leslie mentioned that as a fat kid, of course she liked cookies and this label struck me. I have a thin, 15 year old daughter and a (oh problematic putting a word to her- sturdy, chubby? She has fat on her for sure, but she’s stocky, not jiggly. My issues with fat are really showing here) fat, 13 year old daughter. They both like sweets, but it is the _thin_ daughter that has the sweet tooth and will eat sugar straight.
    Marianne mentioned that as a fat 13 year old she was mistaken for a sexually available adult; recently my 13 year old daughter was mistaken for a college student. She is often mistaken as older than her years.
    The discussion about “You’re too sensitive”, maybe because we have a “lifetime of conditioning” struck home. I distinctly remember my yoga teacher telling me I had too much armor/ shielding in my personality and I should work on being more open. This really distressed me and I was talking to my friends about this. My fat, male neighbor looked at me and said, indignant on my behalf , “Well, there’s probably a reason for that”. It seems he could relate to the trauma that can be inflicted on fat kids, fancy that.
    This isn’t as cogent as I would like it to be and I have few conclusions to draw, but I wanted to let you know how much your words (spoken and written) are helping me dredge the well of my past.
    Susan

  20. Lillian Behrendt Says:

    So good!

    The “real women” discussion reminded me of a blog I wrote a few months ago: http://lillianbehrendt.com/?p=17

  21. clownremover Says:

    Funny story involving cookies (in a similar vein to Lesley’s):
    I was about 10-11 years old and selling girl scout cookies in front of the local market in my hometown. I was dressed in street clothes (t-shirt, pants, tennis shoes) and not in my uniform, and I sold a couple boxes to an older woman. The next day I was back in front of the market in my uniform, and the same lady came by and remarked “Oh, I bought some cookies from your brother yesterday. He looks just like you.” Ouch. :-P

    I was always very boyish growing up. Although I am grateful for the experiences that I had, to this day I have awkward moments where femininity feels like a costume that I wear. My Dad treated me in a masculine manner: taking me fishing, teaching me how to shoot, etc, (we lived in a rural area). As I transitioned into puberty I went from being a tomboy to being a scuzzy punk-goth, creating my own perverse version of femme that felt comfortable to me while still having body issues. Needless to say it wasn’t until recently that I’ve been able to accept compliments and romantic overtures with any kind of ease.

  22. Sarah Says:

    Can I just say a big huge “werd” to the freedom that is the invisibility that comes with age. As a kid and teen, I was always picked last in gym class (with good reason, no doubt there). Later in life, I started running, relieved that it was nothing like gym class.

    I now live in Europe. All sidewalks are cobblestone. They are uneven and bumpy and poorly maintained and slippery when dry and slippery when wet. I am already a liability on foot in the US of A (see “picked last in gym class” above) where the sidewalks are level and pretty and made of concrete. The only reasonably viable jogging route I have here takes me directly through and then around the school yard of a local high school. The only free time I have to run is during the three-hour window when at least one grade is out in the yard having lunch.

    If I want to run, I need to run through, and then around a crowd of many many many teenagers. Willowy Euro teens with jaunty scarves and chain smoking and techno music. If there is a need for a fat acceptance movement in a country where 65% of the population is allegedly fat, imagine here, where that number must be less than 25%.

    I am 32-years-old and someone’s mother.

    They take more interest in watching the grass grow in their schoolyard than the sight of me running past them.

    I have found this to be true in all equivalent situations. Either that or I am too distracted by ravenously devouring my precious free-of-responsibilities-as-wife-mother-or-employee time to give a shit.

    Whatever the case, I love it.

  23. ari Says:

    The story from Lesley about being mistaken for a boy totally hit home for me.

    I had cancer when I was 15-16 and obviously I lost all my hair. Due to medication, steroids in particular, I ballooned up to my heaviest ever, around 230 lbs at 5’5″, and also experienced an unpleasant side-effect known as “moon-face”, which basically stripped my face of it’s normal “delicate” bone structure by covering it with a thick layer of fluid, making my face round and puffy.

    I vividly remember sitting in a wheelchair, covered in my mom’s huge fleece coat, waiting for radiation after chemotherapy, feeling like absolute shit on wheels, and my mom struck up a conversation with a couple next to us. They were an elderly couple and the man was undergoing radiation for a relatively minor skin cancer. They all were talking about me as if I wasn’t there, which was fine, because I was in the midst of wishing I was dead, and at one point, the man said to my mother, “Well, don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

    The woman immediately said, “That’s a girl! Oh, don’t listen to him, he can’t see, really, he’s got such bad eyes, he can’t see, he can’t see, we all know you’re a girl, honey…” and my mom was chiming in, “Oh, we understand, she’s all covered up, you can’t really see her, it’s fine, don’t worry…”

    The woman and her husband were called back and I just remember crying quietly. I knew I looked like a boy, I knew I looked nothing like “me”. It’s so interesting how much our gender identities and our body image tie so much into how we feel about our identity in general.

    The fact that I had gotten fat(ter) and didn’t look like a girl anymore, meant I was no longer “Arianna”. Even though I’ve gotten so past that, and come to accept that who I am as a person isn’t intrinsically tied to what I look like or how I present, that memory still clings to me.

    Ever want to go into the past and hug yourself and tell yourself that you’re okay and everything will be fine? That’s one of my moments.

    Arianna

  24. ari Says:

    By the way, oh my god, I had those jeans!

    Super light wash, wide leg, button fly, I swear to god, I owned them and I loved them so much I actually bought 3 pairs. (You know the obsession of ‘these jeans fit and there will never be any more clothes that fit!!!’)

  25. Jackie Says:

    I really enjoyed hearing your personal stories in this–that’s always my favorite part of your podcasts! I too had an artist draw my picture in Europe as a teenager–except he made me look 90 years old :) The picture story did remind me though, of a time I was traveling in Ireland and I was 19 and thought I was hideous. This guy, who was a painter hit on me, and I was so confused and offended that I started making jokes about how maybe he’d been sniffing the paint fumes a little too much. You know, cause he was attracted to me. I remember that and think whoa. But to me, the knowledge that I was not worthy of a man (and that this was very very important) was as normal and as true as any other fact. It took a very long time for me to believe otherwise.

  26. Jenny Says:

    Excellent episode. Lesley, your story about the artist in France was amazing and spooky! I loved it.

    I think it was Marianne who mentioned how some men who are, to our eyes, fat, do not see themselves as such (something that would be near impossible for a woman to do!). This made me think of a specific friend I have whom I have always thought of as part of the fat club but realized last year that he did not feel the same. It has to do with the Mad Men avatar-maker, which we fatties love because there is an actual fat option so we can make images that actually look like us!

    It was really confusing to me, though, when this male friend made his Mad Men avatar and posted it on Facebook and it was using the “thin” template, when to my eyes, the “fat”template would’ve replicated his appearance much more accurately. And then I realized — he doesn’t think he’s fat. And I guess in his life, he doesn’t have to think of himself that way, the way that I, as a woman, do.

  27. Savannah Says:

    This was great! I’m kind of tripping balls over the revelation that fat men are seen as feminized and women as masculinized. It’s just so fucking true. And the dichotomy of the fat girl who is sexually aggressive (hungry, if you will) but repulsive to everyone. I remember feeling really familiar with that kind of character as a kid– the character who exists only to be repulsive and make unwanted advances. “Big Ethel” from Archie is the only one I can think of right now. From what I recall she wasn’t fat but exemplified some tangentially related other things girls should never be: tall, ungainly, masculine. The very fact that she showed sexual desire and agency, I guess, made her masculine. I’m trying to think of more characters who fit this trope because I feel like it really influenced the way my view of sexuality was shaped.

  28. molly bot Says:

    First I have to say, I have really been loving this podcast series. I’ve been learning a lot and I really appreciate the time you both put into this!

    When I saw that this gender episode went up I got really excited, but came out a little disappointed after listening to it. Maybe part two will change my mind. I feel like you ladies spend so much time defining yourselves and explaining that “I am straight-femme-cisgendered” to the point where I as a gay-notveryfemme-cisgendered person felt pretty excluded. And if I’m feeling excluded at only 1.5 differences I wonder what others are feeling at more points of difference. I think what bothered me the most is that you both seem to seemed to explain, ‘well I’m this way, so I don’t really know much about that’ so often where I ended up feeling “Well if they don’t want to talk about it, why don’t they reference someone who will?” I kind of finished the podcast feeling like you two are too scared of backlash to talk about issues outside of your own experience.

    All of that said, I do relate with so many of the stories, before I listened to this I never thought about how being fat stole the gender expression away from my mother. I always ‘blamed’ my being a tomboy on my 2 older brothers, but I must have also picked up on fat and gender from her as well. And in any case, no one needs to directly relate to a story to learn from it. I just wanted to let you two know that I left the podcast kind of feeling a little excluded.

  29. Lesley Says:

    Hi Molly bot!

    Just to clarify — I am not straight, though I am monogamously partnered with a cisgendered guy. I think the fact that this didn’t really get discussed is good evidence that we need to do further episodes on this subject. :)

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