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Rebecca Rabinowitz
One step in integrating fat politics into your life is refraining from imposing fatphobia on others, which means (among other things) refraining from urging weight loss on anyone. Much urging of weight loss hides behind the guise of concern for health when really it’s an insidious mix of aesthetic, moral, and cultural discomfort at fat people existing—and especially at fat people existing without trying to lose weight. Refraining from saying or hinting that fat people in general or a certain fat person should strive to be less fat—that’s big. Once folks are on board with fatpol, they pick up this important step pretty quickly.

Something that’s harder for folks learning fatpol to absorb is that making a statement about oneself is actually making a statement about other people. When a person talks about their own weight-loss diet—or some exercise that they hope will lead to weight loss or prevent weight gain, or the notion of calories being burned, or a diet food they purchased or ate—that’s feeding into cultural fatphobia. There’s no way to say those things without reinscribing the status quo fatphobia. Simply saying that you are trying to lose weight—or wish you could lose weight, or bought a Lean Cuisine, or burned some calories doing whatever—taps into the current of fatphobia. Fatphobia is a fierce and unforgiving current that never stops flowing. There’s no still pool into which your simple comment can go. When you mention weight loss stuff—unless you’re questioning or undermining the assumption that weight loss is good—you are invoking cultural fatphobia. You’re giving fatphobic oppression a tiny boost.

If you say that kind of thing near a fat person—if you mention joy at weight loss, wish for weight loss, sadness about weight gain, purchase of a diet food, the burning of calories—you are talking about that fat person. Even if you mean to be talking only about yourself, you’re not. You can’t. You don’t have that power. It’s not your fault that you don’t, but you don’t. Cultural fatphobia is that strong.

I don’t mean that it’s anti-fatpol to mention activities that happen to burn calories. But it is anti-fatpol to mention the calories. If you mention calories, you’re referring to weight loss and weight control. There are plenty of ways to talk about the jumping, dancing, running, swimming, sex that you just did or are about to do without tying it to weight control. Don’t mention the calories.

Or, you know, do. It’s your right to mention whatever you want. Maybe you are trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain. Maybe your cousin is, and you just toss that fact into the conversation. You and your cousin have the right to do whatever you want with your own bodies. But know that when you talk about it—even the quickest mention of calories or Slimfast—you’re not talking only about yourself. You’re talking about the fat person near you and all the fat people who aren’t near you. You can’t help but. There is no neutral. Cultural fatphobia is just that big.

It’s like individual book characters. A fat bully character in a book implies that fatness is connected to bullying—because our culture already has that stereotype entrenched. A fat bully character in an individual book invokes the culture in which it exists, and brings all that to bear. Can’t help but.

You know how I said there’s no neutral? There’s a good side to that. If you seem to be actually achieving neutral, you’re probably actively helping. If you refer to yourself or a book character as “fat” and you say it neutrally, without denigration and without symbolism? That’s helping. That’s activism. If you write a fat character whose fatness isn’t symbolic of anything? That’s helping. If you go through the world—no matter what your body size—as if fatness is a neutral trait, that’s helping. That’s magnificent.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
17 November 2014 @ 08:06 pm
Crazy by Linda Vigen Phillips has some interesting things about the treatment of mental illness in the 1960s. I have reservations about the ending regarding treatment of mental illness and would like to discuss the ending if any of you have read it.

Meanwhile, Crazy holds a stellar example of how white America uses the notion of Indian-ness as something for itself. There are no Indian people in the book. There are three mentions of a mountain range near the white protagonist's house. Here's the first one (slashes indicate a line break; the prose is free verse):

“my favorite mountains, / the ones that always remind me of an old Indian chief / lying on his back / with his hands across his chest / like he’s sleeping peacefully, / and I can smell the wild sage growing / in the field across the road / and the crisp air feels good / on my hot cheeks” [42].

Two later references to the "Indian chief" mountain shape [81, 163] are about the same. Indians aren't real breathing humans; they're a concept for a white character's metaphorical and emotional use. Indians connote nature and romanticized comfort for this white girl. Indian-ness is not about real Indian people; Indian-ness is a symbol, for white people to use for themselves.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
02 August 2014 @ 01:41 am
Via my dear friend Jess, here is a way you can wear an entire book on your shirt. An actual entire book.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
13 June 2014 @ 05:06 pm
It's posted at xojane, if you're curious.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
02 June 2014 @ 01:34 am
I had the opportunity to see the book Trans Bodies, Trans Selves tonight. For people new to my blog who haven't heard of it, "Trans Bodies, Trans Selves is a resource guide for transgender populations, covering health, legal issues, cultural and social questions, history, theory, and more. It is a place for transgender and gender-questioning people, their partners and families, students, professors, guidance counselors, and others to look for up-to-date information on transgender life."

I was at a party when I saw it, so I couldn't properly sit down and read, but I perused, and it looks pretty fantastic.

It was inspired by and modeled on Our Bodies, Ourselves, and my friend Wendy Sanford has written the afterword to TBTS on behalf of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective (the creators and writers of OBOS). TBTS is not written by the same group as OBOS, it's written by trans and genderqueer people.

It can be bought straight from the TBTS organization, "a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to education and empowerment of transgender communities. This will enable us to further our work of getting the book out to as many people as possible, regardless of their ability to pay." Two copies get discounted, and there's an opportunity to donate one copy to an organization if you want. It can also be bought from Oxford University Press (USA or UK) -- info here. Of course it can be bought through your local indie bookstore too.

If you can, please signalboost about this book -- and please request that your local library purchase it.

ETA: "An ebook should be available from major retailers shortly. We will update the website when more information is available."
Rebecca Rabinowitz
Recently I wrote a post about some things that I wish authors would keep in mind when writing about fat characters. This post is a companion to that one. Not a parallel -- a companion. Here are some things that I wish authors would think about when they're writing a character who is thin.

What are you hoping it says about a character, for them to be thin? What does their thinness symbolize about their actions, their ethics, their level of power?

What does this character's thinness imply about anyone in the book who is not thin?

What does the character's thinness imply about an alternate version of themself (past, present hypothetical, future projection) who is not thin?

Is the character explictly thin -- does the text say thin, slim, slender, or any other form of that -- or is the character thin by default?

Does the text assume that the character's thinness is a choice?

Are you using thinness as a form of wish fulfillment for readers? A form of making the character more attractive to readers? A way to encourage readers to root for this character?

Are you using thinness to show vulnerability?

Privilege likes to keep itself invisible. Thinness is no more blank or neutral than whiteness or ablebodiedness. Thinness is no more natural or average than whiteness or ablebodiedness.

It's no less important to think about literary constructions of thinness than literary constructions of fatness.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
Here are some things that I wish authors would keep in mind when they're writing a character who is fat. I'm making this list with various hats on: children's lit critic, person interested in social justice, book lover, and fat person. The "we" in the list refers to real, living, breathing fat people, which surely must be relevant to the creation of fat characters.

We aren’t symbols. We’re real people. We’re no less complex than anyone else.

Our bodies aren’t symbols of — well, of anything. Not of greed, not of bullying or being bullied, not of inner pain, not of eating habits, not of wellness or illness, not of moral character.

The fat on our bodies is not “extra.” It’s not any less a true part of our bodies than any other part. (Sure, a person can go on living if they lose some amount of fat. That doesn’t mean the fat was extraneous. A person can go on living if they lose many body parts or body tissues. Bodies are wondrous things and can survive and thrive across many types of change.)

We aren’t sad and tragic. We’re members of an oppressed group, and we’re harmed by that, but we’re also strong.

Our fights against fatphobia are not generally welcomed in social justice contexts. We’re an oppressed group whose liberation movement is not generally considered a liberation movement at all.

We’re not the “before” picture of an emotional, spiritual, or physical growth arc.

Fat bodies aren’t any more monolithic than any other category of bodies.

Fat people aren’t any more monolithic than any other category of people.

Fat stories aren’t any more monolithic than any other category of stories.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
05 May 2014 @ 12:02 am
Karen Sandler's Tankborn trilogy has just come to its conclusion. I recommend it. While the micro prose isn't the smoothest, the story's worth it. There's real depth there, especially at the end of book three.

Take a look at the series' three gorgeous covers.

There are two same-sex couples in the series. Until three-quarters of the way through the last book, there's not a jot, not a speck, of homophobia, not even to convey that it's wrong. If I remember correctly, the first same-sex couple shows up in book two, so that's over a book and half with same-sex love portrayed as if the notion of homophobia doesn't exist. I found this refreshing and valuable -- and rare. When the brief bit of homophobia shows up in book three, unequivocally condemned by the text, I found myself disappointed to see it there at all. I had liked its utter lack of existence.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
22 March 2014 @ 09:55 pm
A while ago I was asking some friends for a bit of advice, and my question to them was related to my identifying as somewhat genderqueer, and while my darling friends were extremely polite and supportive, I somehow realized halfway through the interaction that I'd never told them that in the first place. I was honestly really surprised -- these are some of my very best friends! I guess my realization/identification happened so slowly and felt so natural that somehow I forgot to tell even some of my closest people.

So if you know me, you might have known it or you might not. Identifying as genderqueer is a joyful and centering thing for me. It makes me grin and it makes my world fall into place. Beyond that, I'm not sure what to say. Oh -- female pronouns still, please. I'm a genderqueer girl, if you want a label.