The magnificence of a body that shakes, spills out, takes up space, needs help, moseys, slinks, limps, drools, rocks, curls over on itself. The magnificence of a body that doesn’t get to choose when to go to the bathroom, let alone which bathroom to use. A body that doesn’t get to choose what to wear in the morning, what hairstyle to sport, how they’re going to move or stand, or what time they’re going to bed. The magnificence of bodies that have been coded, not just undesirable and ugly, but un-human. The magnificence of bodies that are understanding gender in far more complex ways than I could explain in an hour. Moving beyond a politic of desirability to loving the ugly. Respecting Ugly for how it has shaped us and been exiled. Seeing its power and magic, seeing the reasons it has been feared. Seeing it for what it is: some of our greatest strength.
Because we all do it. We all run from the ugly. And the farther we run from it, the more we stigmatize it and the more power we give beauty. Our communities are obsessed with being beautiful and gorgeous and hot. What would it mean if we were ugly? What would it mean if we didn’t run from our own ugliness or each other’s? How do we take the sting out of “ugly?” What would it mean to acknowledge our ugliness for all it has given us, how it has shaped our brilliance and taught us about how we never want to make anyone else feel? What would it take for us to be able to risk being ugly, in whatever that means for us. What would happen if we stopped apologizing for our ugly, stopped being ashamed of it? What if we let go of being beautiful, stopped chasing “pretty,” stopped sucking in and shrinking and spending enormous amounts of money and time on things that don’t make us magnificent?
Where is the Ugly in you? What is it trying to teach you?
July 5, 2012
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by Mia McKenzie
I have often made the argument that white folks ought to talk to other white folks about racism and white privilege. As people of color, we get tired of having to always be the ones to talk about these things, always having to be responsible for other people’s education and understanding, when these issues are not our issues, but the issues of a whole country and a whole world. It is important for white people to educate themselves about race, racism, white privilege, and white supremacy. It is necessary. In the same way, it is necessary, and in fact ideal, for men to talk to other men about misogyny and rape-culture. That should not always be the job of women. These things are everyone’s problems.
Yesterday I watched this great video by Meghan Tonjes and was reminded how little I have been talking to other skinny (or just not fat) women about fat phobia lately. And I thought it was time to write a lil blog about it.
I have often had the experience of hanging with women who are thin like myself, or bigger than me, but not fat, and hearing fat-phobic comments. Once, I was chatting with a co-worker who was flipping through an entertainment magazine, and she was going on and on about how good all these thin women looked, from their bodies to their hair and their clothes. Then she got to a photo of a fat woman. And her face got all twisted up. “Ugh. She needs to lose some weight,” she said.
I was like, “Dude. That’s not cool. You’re being fat phobic.”
And she was like, “No, I’m not! I just think it’s bad to be that fat. I mean, it’s just so UNHEALTHY!”
And you know I had to call bullshit. You just sat here worshiping ten different women who probably barely weigh a hundred pounds apiece soaking wet with a million dollars worth of jewelry on, and now all of a sudden you are worried about women’s health? I’m not buying it.
As a skinny woman, and at times an under-weight woman, I can say there is nothing automatically healthy about being thin. Being underweight is a health risk. Not eating properly, not getting enough fat, is a serious problem. Some of the risks of not being fat enough:
- weakened immune system
- fragile bones
- vitamin-deficient anemia
I rarely hear anyone talking about these health risks. Skinny women are plastered everywhere, held up as an ideal, and nobody ever says, “Oh my God, Reese Witherspoon probably has a seriously weakened immune system!” Yet when talking about a fat person, everyone assumes they know everything about that person’s health, just because they are fat.
Can you be thin and be healthy? Sure. Of course. I am thin and I think I am pretty healthy. I have friends who are not thin, and friends who are fat, who are as healthy as I am. I have friends who are fat who are much healthier than I am. Our weight does not automatically determine how healthy we are.
And, really, let’s be honest, little of this is about health anyway. Talking about it in terms of health is just a convenient way to make fat people, especially fat women, wrong. We live in a society that takes great pains to control women’s bodies, to make sure that women have as little say over their own bodies as possible, and this is no different. If a woman is fat, and God-forbid, happy with her fat self, we are deeply offended. How dare she not let us control her?? Who the hell does this fat bitch think she is??
Maybe she thinks she is a human being with a brain and a soul and myriad experiences that make up a three-dimensional life. Maybe that’s who the hell she thinks she is.
Mia McKenzie is a writer and a smart, scrappy Philadelphian with a deep love of vegan pomegranate ice cream and fake fur collars. She is a black feminist and a freaking queer, facts that are often reflected in her writings, which have won her some awards and grants, such as the Astraea Foundation’s Writers Fund Award and the Leeway Foundation’s Transformation Award. She just finished a novel and has a short story forthcoming in The Kenyon Review. Her work has been published at Jezebel.com, and recommended by The Root, Colorlines, Feministing, Angry Asian Man, and Crunk Feminist Collective. She is a nerd, and the creator of Black Girl Dangerous, a revolutionary blog.