Thursday, 20 October 2016

Being Bi and Maybe Having Some Straight Privilege(s)

Expect a lot more posts about bisexuality around here.  So, one of the reasons that I hesitated a little bit to apply the label of “bisexual” to myself, even when it was obvious that I’m attracted to both men and women, was that I haven’t really suffered from homophobia or biphobia, and I worried about being “attention seeking.” And when there are lots of people ready to say that you’re not “really bi” if you haven’t suffered enough, like the article Miri rebuts beautifully here, it’s not surprising.

What sparked me thinking about being bi and still having a lot of privileges that a straight person gets was a Twitter thread. @elielcruz was pointing out that a freaking LGBT magazine erased bi people, calling them gay, and pointed out that being bi is really stigmatized in the same ways being gay is.  In some ways, more so, because spaces that are safe for the LG part of LGBT reject, ignore, or mistrust the B. (The T too, but that’s not my experience, so I can’t really speak to it.)

And I totally agreed with that but also couldn’t reconcile it with my own experience. That may be just because my experience is outside of the norm, even for a bisexual person.  Until  some time in my twenties, I thought of myself as straight. In college, I had fairly intense  feelings toward female friends that felt platonic at the time, but may, looking back, have been crushes. They were similar to the intense crushes I had on guys, but without any (conscious) thinking about sex. I had internalized so much shame and guilt about sex at all, particularly sex outside of an opposite-sex marriage, that I think my whole sexuality was really repressed as a teenager and into college. Any kind of sexual thoughts, it all felt sinful and shameful. (Thanks, evangelical purity culture!)

Because of that guilt and repression, I’m not really sure if I used to be straight and my sexuality shifted, or I was just in complete denial. I kind of think that it was repression, a subconscious way  of protecting myself from something I wasn’t ready to deal with. It’s probably academic anyway, because I thought of myself as straight, and didn’t experience attraction to women that seemed sexual at the time.

During and after college, I went through a lot of religious angst and soul searching, rejected most of what I’d been taught in evangelical churches, and went from being someone who thought “love the sinner, hate the sin” was actually an acceptable way to relate to gay people to someone who was fully convinced that being gay or bi is totally normal, no better or worse than being straight, and that what makes a relationship pleasing or displeasing to God is whether the people in it love and respect each other, not their genitals, their gender identity, or their signatures on a marriage license. But, I didn’t think of myself as bi at the time, and I think that process would’ve been harder if I had, because I would’ve had to ask if I was just justifying what I wanted to do or be, rather than looking for honest answers.

What that meant is that actually discovering that I was bi didn’t have much angst to it at all. All the emotional work had already happened, at a safe distance. What to call my sexuality, and how to talk about it, and to whom, were still hard, but I was past the point where the lie that that sexuality is broken or dirty could take root in my mind.

And, when I realized I was bi, I was already married to an awesome guy. So, I’ve never been in the position of having to come out to my parents if I want them to meet the person I’m dating, or of having to plan my wedding guest list based on who would “approve” of the relationship. We got married in Pennsylvania, nearly a decade before a same-sex couple could do the same. I’m not out at work, but I’ve got photos of my husband on my desk. So I feel like I have privileges that most LGB people don’t.

At the same time, it seems misleading to call that straight privilege, because I’m not straight. I still wince when people think being bi means orgies, or that bi people are greedy or indecisive. And when people assume I’m straight, I still do this weird mental calculus. Would it be weird or attention-seeking to correct them? How would they react? Do I even want to go there?

But I feel like getting to pick whether to go there or not is a privilege. It’s awfully convenient to be able to tell only people I trust (and the whole internet, quasi-anonymously), without having to hide my marriage or my dating history. Really, the only way you’d know I’m bi is 1) I told you, or 2) You saw the amount of femslash in my browser history.

I don’t know if you’d call it passing privilege, or if “heteronormative relationship privilege” is a thing. But I definitely feel like I’ve had it easier than the women I know who are dating or married to women, whether they’re bi or lesbian or identify some other way. Maybe that’s a combination of several privileges, intersectionality, and the fact that privilege isn’t really binary.

And yet bi women have the highest rates of intimate partner violence. Higher than lesbians, and *much* higher than straight women.  A lot of the stereotypes about bi women feed directly into that—we’re viewed as more likely to cheat, or incapable of being satisfied by a single partner, and toxic masculinity often interprets having a woman cheat with another woman as emasculating. So it’s not really safer to be bi when that’s taken into account. It feels safer to me, but statistically, not so much.

I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that bi people as a whole group experience straight privilege, but I think there’s some nuance and some weird intersections that confuse the issue. I like having labels for things, but I’m not really sure how to neatly categorize and compartmentalize any of this.


via Kelly Thinks Too Much

Anti-Healthism in a Nutshell

If anti-healthism is confusing to understand or difficult to explain, here are a couple of things to keep in mind. Well-being is weight neutral. Don’t think living well is about being skinny, or make your health goals center around weight loss. Health, like happiness, is not a destination but a means of travel. Anyone can […]

via Dead of Winter

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Some Seriously WTF? Fashion Advice

Biscuit doesn't care about flatteringSeveral readers let me know about this truly ridiculous article from called “Seven Mistakes We Make When Choosing Clothes that stop us looking our best ” Their advice is indented, followed by my responses.  To read the article in full, you can click the link above.

Clothes that have a large checkered pattern can completely kill your figure. They look stylish, but they give the impression that you’re several inches wider at the hips. Instead, go for designs with neutral prints or just plain colors. If you really love checkered designs and can’t imagine your wardrobe without them, select items with small rather than large squares.

Looking several inches wider at the hips will “kill your figure?”  Spare me. Let’s try this again.  If you really love checkered designs and can’t imagine your wardrobe without them, then wear them happily and fuck whoever wrote this.

Horizontal prints give the impression of a much larger figure than you actually have. But if you love striped clothing, don’t despair. All you need to do is change their direction: vertical stripes achieve the opposite, making you look taller and slimmer. Alternatively, you can always opt for a classic combination of different colored items.

If you love striped clothing don’t despair, because you can wear it whenever the hell you want.   You are under no obligation to buy into a stereotype of beauty that suggests that your clothes should be used to create an optical illusion magic trick.  You look just as fabulous with a “much larger figure” so rock those stripes.

Endless ruffles, folds, and frills add at least a couple of sizes to your appearance. Try to choose clothing with the minimal amount of decorations, such as a zip-up skirt which will lengthen your figure or vertically striped clothing as described above.

We are only three tips in and already I’m sick to death of this tired fat-shaming bullshit advice.

Large prints make you look heavier and wider, whilst sandals with long laces going up your legs make you appear shorter. On the other hand, a sharp neckline and a slit in your skirt can make you look taller. Take care to select things made with just one color, and choose shoes that are close to your skin tone. This will also help you look taller and slimmer.

Say it with me – There’s nothing wrong with being short and fat! (Or tall and fat, or short and thin, or average height and kind of medium size, or whatever.) There’s nothing wrong with being tall and thin, but it’s not any better than any other height weight combination and there is something wrong with the idea that we should all try to look as tall and thin as possible.

A boat neckline on a dress can give the impression that you’re a lot heavier than you really are, whereas a V-shaped neckline with cleavage can make you look truly elegant.

This just in – being heavy is not the opposite of looking truly elegant.  GTFO with this nonsense.

The only thing worse than horizontal stripes on clothing is wide and bright horizontal stripes.

Beg to differ.  I think that there are far worse things on clothing that wide and bright horizontal stripes – like spilled spaghetti sauce right before a date, baby spit up when you are running out to an important meeting, or a swarm of angry wasps at any time.  A little perspective, please.

Bright colors make you look larger to a much greater extent than more subtle tones do.

At this point I’d like to suggest an alternate title for this piece “Seven Ways That Women Can Dress To Look As Small As They Can And, If Possible, Disappear Completely.”

This is just ridiculous.  I’m a proud member of the Fuck Flattering Club, but others don’t have to be. People of all sizes are allowed to dress however they want for whatever reasons they want (and should have the same options for design, quality, and pricepoint to do so) but can we please stop suggesting that smaller and taller are better than bigger and shorter?  Can we stop tolerating  articles like this one – that do nothing but promote fat shaming under the guise of fashion advice? Can we celebrate our right to choose clothes based on our own criteria, including not giving a flying frick whether they make us look bigger, smaller, shorter, or taller?  Instead of trying to make all bodies look tall and thin, let’s celebrate the diversity of body sizes and all the ways we choose to dress them.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

via Dances With Fat

Monday, 17 October 2016

Roundup: The Music Box of Horrors 2016

The Music Box’s 24 hour horror movie marathon is always a delight.  There is something intoxicating about the temporary community that forms for one weekend every October. This is a place for the unabashed horror lover, and even if you normally wouldn’t consider yourself one, you will get swept up in the tsunami of a few hundred other audience members cheering when Christopher Lee appears for a cameo, or  groaning at a particularly gory death scene.

That being said, I unfortunately only stayed for the first half, but a handful of the movies I did get to see had fat characters:

Seven Footprints to Satan (1929, dir. Benjamin Christensen)

The link goes to a full version on YouTube, thanks public domain!  Jim (Creighton Hale) is a wealthy young man who wants to go on an expedition to Africa, but gets caught up trying to help his fiancee Eve (Thelma Todd) catch a thief… which leads them to a bizarre mansion filled with trap doors and sadistic Satan-worshipping cultists.  A few of the nefarious cultists are fat, but given the spectacle that this film makes of other kinds of transgressive bodies (including a little person and other actors some very grotesque special effects makeup), it seems merely incidental.  It just gets weirder as it goes along, definitely give it a shot.

Street Trash (1987, dir. J. Michael Munro)

Only caught the last half of this one, about a group of homeless people living in a junk yard who drink tainted booze that causes them to melt.  This one gets compared to/mistaken for Troma Studios’ work pretty often, in that it’s unapologetically trashy and cartoonishly vile.  In true “this offends everyone!” style, a lot of the jokes and characterizations are based on stereotypes, including two fat characters who are included for a grotesque factor.  While most of the victims of the killer liquor melt into colorful puddles, the fat bum who drinks it swells up and explodes, burping and farting the whole time.  The other fat character is the owner of the junkyard; maybe he has a nuanced plotline in the first half of the film that I missed, but in the second half he rapes a woman’s corpse. So there’s that.  Most of the exploding man can be seen in the trailer, here.  (As you might have guessed by now, it’s very cartoonishly gory.)

Another Evil (2016, dir. Carson D. Mell)

I was quite taken with this horror-comedy about a haunted house situation where things get even weirder once mild-mannered homeowner Dan (Steve Zissis) hires “ghost assassin” Os (Mark Proksch) to get rid of the ghosts.  The film becomes a bromance of sorts set within a horror film, and the film has a charming down-to-earthy quality that has a lot to do with the ghost hunters being two paunchy average Joes.

I didn’t stick around after that, but the last film of the festival this year was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, which I wrote about two Halloweens ago.





via Consistent Panda Bear Shape

Saturday, 15 October 2016

A Required Uniform Should Fit

Second Class CitizenA feminist-identified group put out a shirt for sale on Facebook in response to Trump’s horrific comments glorifying sexual assault. It was a great shirt that they referred to as a “REQUIRED UNIFORM FOR NOV. 8 VOTING” I clicked to buy the shirt only to find that they only had sizes from XS to XL.  So I guess it’s only a “required uniform” for those people who wear size XL and lower.

I commented to let them know that I don’t think “No Fat Chicks” is a feminist ideal.  (I was not the first, several people had commented before me, none of us received a reply.) I also posted about it on my Facebook page, and a number of other people also took the time to point out the company’s mistake.

As often happens in situations like this there were those who jumped in with attempts to justify the exclusion of fat people – they are a small group, maybe they just took the stock that was available, and hey, once a whole bunch of people complained they said that they would work on it, why isn’t that good enough?

Ultimately, they added a 2XL option and called it a day. Immediately people suggested that I should be happy with that.  And yet my joy is less than full – far less. First because they could have added many more sizes and made their feminist work much more inclusive (as a 3X I’m still not able to wear this “required uniform.”)

Also because I’m not willing to celebrate being an afterthought, a second class citizen, the inspiration for  V8 moment wherein people slap their foreheads and say “I coulda included fat people!”  Fuck that.

They knew that fat people existed when they decided to create and market this shirt, and there are plenty of vendors that would have provided a wider range of shirts had they actually made their feminism inclusive of fat people.  But they didn’t.  And the way I know that is that fat people had to do the work of reminding them that we exist and that we would like to be included in feminist work. And after we did, they added exactly one size.

So just a reminder that you deserve to have organizations consider you in their primary planning – whether it’s shirts, or chairs, or something else – and not just as an afterthought following a bunch of complaints.  Speaking of complaints, you can always choose to do the work (and the courtesy) of letting people know that they’ve failed at inclusion and that they can do better.  You are, of course, never obligated to do this, and any response you choose is valid.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

via Dances With Fat

Thursday, 13 October 2016

the HAES® files: HAES and Naturopathic Medicine: Using HAES Principles to Facilitate Healing

by Caitlin O’Connor, ND

Practicing medicine, especially naturopathic medicine, in a weight-obsessed culture can be tricky. Food and movement are two of the most powerful tools I have to help my patients feel better, but how do I apply those tools in a culture so obsessed with diet and exercise as a means to an end (get skinnier) rather than a foundation for health? Oftentimes, my patients come to me having been traumatized by not only the weight loss industry, but also by medical professionals who have blown off their medical needs and/or focused solely on weight loss as a singular approach to anything that ails them. Figuring out how to work with women of all sizes – in a society that desperately sells the idea of small and slender as the only markers for health – has been a huge challenge in my practice.

First things first, when I work with patients, I ask them to define their goals. I would guess that at least 50%, if not more, of the women in my practice list weight loss as one of their primary concerns. This opens the door for conversation. Why is weight loss important? What has their relationship with weight been over the life span? Is there any history of disordered eating?

Next, we talk about the reasons behind the goal. What does she think will change in her life if she loses weight? Are those reasonable expectations? Do those goals truly hinge on weight-loss, or has she accepted the myth that weight loss will make them happy.

We address the images in media, social and otherwise, that might be driving her desire – we talk about photo-shop, and starvation diets, and a laser-focused obsession with food and exercise. I try to point out areas of diet culture that might not actually be health promoting. Weight loss is not a promise of health. And the tools used to promote it might actually be a detriment.

Then, I try to reframe. Is there a movement goal she would like to achieve? Walk more, dance more, lift heavier things? These are the types of goals I can get behind and will very likely result in enhanced health – I would love to help those goals become a reality.

These conversations are difficult and I do not always navigate them gracefully. However, I think this discussion brings into focus what is truly going on and also gives me the insight to create a plan that is respectful of past experiences. Some guidelines that I have put into place include:

Don’t refer to food in moralistic terms. There are no good foods or bad foods. I will often point this language out to patients and, together, we figure out new terms. As I like to say, there are good people who eat brownies and bad people who eat kale. The food we put in our mouths does not define our moral character. The wording is often tricky, but I have settled on “health supporting” vs. “not- health supporting” choices. For example, if you know skipping breakfast and drinking coffee makes you grouchy, that is not a supportive choice. But making that choice doesn’t make you a bad person.

Define non-scale goals. I almost never track progress in pounds. In fact, I rarely, record a patient’s weight. Instead, we might pick a physical goal –feeling stronger, trying a new dance class, walking with more ease. Often, blood lab results can help us track progress – better blood sugar control, decreased inflammation, more balanced cholesterol – all attainable without drastic weight loss. Many people feel like a battle against the scale is one they can not win. They have fought and fought. I want people to get free from this battle and realize that there are other pathways to feeling better in their bodies.

Focus on pleasure. This is often a tough one because everyone knows that a healthy person must sacrifice all earthly pleasures, right? Nope. If your revolution doesn’t include joy, community and sensual delights – count me out. Exploring and experimenting with the types of food and movement that result in feeling good is a critical component of creating a long-term approach that is nurturing and nourishing. The same goes for how we choose to move. This does not have to include punishing regimens and feelings of deprivation. Instead it could involve movement that is fun and fulfilling, meals that focus on flavor. For health supporting habits to be sustainable, they must be enjoyable.

As a naturopathic doctor, I have had to actively observe and critique my training when it comes to embracing the principles of Health At Every Size® (HAES). Naturopathic medicine is a distinct health care profession that emphasizes prevention, treatment, and optimal health through a variety of tools including, but not limited to, nutrition, mind-body practices, botanical medicine, supplementation, pharmaceuticals, and minor surgeries. In some states we practice as primary care, while in other states we offer more specialized services. In this way, I think we sometimes are exposed to the worst of both worlds – the fat-phobic teachings of conventional medicine and the fat-shaming world of holistic health.

It is a work in progress, but I strive daily to meet the principles put forth by HAES.
I invite my fellow holistic doctors to observe how they talk about and use weight as a motivating tool in their professional practices. Observe your biases and feelings about weight – how has your journey been? If we are truly working with the whole person, we need to accept people for who they are and not try to move them to where we think they need to be. Often, patients who come to us are desperate and vulnerable, convinced that maybe we have the secret weight loss tool they need to crack the code. Don’t perpetuate the myth. Partner with your patients to figure out what can be done to truly enhance health and well-being. Focus on parameters and outcomes beyond the scale. Be the (potentially first) health care provider to ensure folks that their bodies are not broken and that health is truly achievable at any size.


Dr. Caitlin O’Connor provides Naturopathic care with a focus on women’s and children’s health. She pairs a philosophy of patient-centered, whole body, individualized care with an emphasis on nutrition, botanical medicine and a balanced approach to healthy living. She practices in Denver, Colorado, where she has been active in the political process regulating naturopathic doctors. She graduated from Bastyr University in 2008 with a Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine and a certificate in Naturopathic Midwifery. In addition to teaching at the Nutrition Therapy Institute, she has presented for both lay and professional audiences including the Colorado Midwifery Association and the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Doctors. In the clinic, she strives to provide skilled, compassionate guidance with a focus on optimal patient outcomes. At home, she tries to be a centered and present mother, a caring partner and good friend to both herself and others.

via healthateverysizeblog

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Ghosts of Roundups Past, Present, and Future

Hi folks, I know it’s been a while since my last article.  I’ve been stretched a bit thin lately, but I have managed to do a bit of film writing.  Check out my recent article for BitchFlicks on bisexuality in Jennifer’s Body.  I’ve also recorded a small audio essay that is going to be included on FilmJive‘s upcoming episode on music in horror films, also on Jennifer’s Body.  Why was I so invested in examining a film where Megan Fox makes out with a bespectacled geeky chick with messy hair?  The world may never know.

I also wanted to talk a bit about my Monthly Roundup feature.  I just started doing it last year without really explaining why.  At my most prolific (read: unemployed), I write two articles a month for this blog, usually tackling one or two films per article.   However, I see way more films than what I write about, usually at least two a week.  Not all of them have fat characters, not all have fat characters worth writing about, and not all of them can fit in the amount of time I devote to writing CPBS.  But while my articles take a close look at one or two films, I also want this blog to function as a reminder of the overall experience of what it’s like to be a fat person with a deep emotional investment in movies, how I see myself reflected in that respect on a macro level.  So if the Roundup articles seem like weird, arbitrary inventories, I ask that you think of them more like month-sized montages of my personal cinephilic journey as is chronicled here, a condensed onslaught of trite physical jokes, incompetent flunkies, ‘Murrikans, and characters who are coded as fat but who you probably wouldn’t think of as such if you saw them on the checkout line at Target.  (And if you’re at all interested in my hot takes on all of the movies that I see, you can check me out on Letterboxd).

This October, I’m very excited to have two spectacular movie binges on my schedule.  This upcoming weekend, I’ll be at the Music Box of Horrors with my partner Patrick, a 24-hour horror movie marathon hosted by Chicago’s own Music Box Theater.  In addition to my annual write-up of fat characters at the Music Box of Horrors, I’ll be doing the same for the selections I see at the Chicago International Film Festival the following weekend.  One film at the Music Box of Horror this year has already been featured on CPBS:  Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.  As far as #ChiFilmFest, I’m mostly not sure what I’m getting into, but Middle Man does star Jim O’Heir, aka Jerry Gergich from Parks and Recreation.

That being said, I did see several films in September and August that featured fat characters:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016, dir. Taika Waititi)

I saw this film at the Chicago Critics Film Fest earlier this year, and I liked it so damn much that I took advantage of its theatrical release coinciding with my birthday to see it on the big screen a second time.  Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a great fat character, and he deserves his own article.  Just watch the damn movie.

hunt for the wilderpeople.gif

Amadeus (1984, dir. Milos Forman)

A fictionalized account of Mozart’s (Tom Hulce) life and death in Vienna from the perspective of his rival Salieri (F. Murray Abraham).  Like any good period drama, the social scheming is as intricate as the music.  The court of powerful Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones) includes the syncophantic, and fat, Kappelmeister (Patrick Hines).

Miller’s Crossing (1990, dir. Joel Coen)

While a more serious neo-noir from the Coen brothers about chaos breaking out between two organized crime syndicates over a sleazy bookie (John Tuturro), the film does of course include some outlandish supporting characters.  In this case, it’s Johnny Caspar (the late, great Joe Polito), a fat mob boss with a comparably fat wife (Jeanette Kontomitras) and bratty son (Louis Charles Mounicou III).

Burke & Hare (2010, dir. John Landis)

This dark comedy is loosely based on the careers of real-life Victorian grave robbers William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis), who begin to murder people when their natural supply of corpses that they sell to medical schools runs low.  One murder includes the stalking of a fat man (Tom Urie) through the foggy night streets of Edinburgh.  Burke and Hare manage to frighten him into having a heart attack.  Shortly after, on an exam table in a medical school lecture hall, the professor grabs the man’s belly and dramatically declares his cause of death to be gluttony.

The Big Lebowski (1998, dir. Joel Coen)

It feels downright patronizing to summarize The Big Lebowski on a blog aimed at film geeks.  But to summarize: Joe Polito has a small part as a private eye, the wealthy and short-tempered Mr. Lebowski (David Huddleston) is also a fat character, as is potential car-thief Larry (Jesse Flanagan).  And, of course: Walter Sobchak.  John Goodman’s magnum opus?  Only history will tell.




via Consistent Panda Bear Shape