Home' LOTL : November 2004 Contents ISSUES20
In the 1970s and 80s feminists
argued that being fat was an attempt
by women to break free of society's
stereotypes and to defy the demand to
shape ourselves in a fashion attractive
to men. Suzie Orbach in Fat is a
Feminist Issue argued "Fat is a response
to the many oppressive manifestations
of a sexist culture."
Also popular was 'radical fat
feminism' and feminists, many lesbian,
became 'fat activists'. Lesbians and fat
people, they suggested, were both valued
negatively and stigmatised in patriarchal
culture. In fact, the union of these
characteristics in 'fat dyke' is one of the
ultimate put downs for women. Add 'old'
or 'ugly' or both and it becomes hateful.
But in the 90s we began talking
more about body image. Much of the
debate in the mainstream focussed on
women in general and the alarming
increase in eating disorders, particularly
amongst teenage girls, but also in men.
The prevalence of eating disorders,
coupled with the emergence of gym
culture, shifted the focus of discussion from body size and weight to the image of the body,
pathologising unrealistic perceptions of it. Should I be more worried about getting fat, or thinking
I'm fat, or is it worse to go to the gym too frequently? Are lesbians fatter than heterosexual
women? Do we deliberately increase our body size as a subversive political response to the
heteronormative patriarchy we live in? Is being fat a health issue for some lesbians?
Time for some FAT facts (from Dr Ruth McNair, Australian Lesbian Medical Association,
and What's the Difference? research paper from Victoria's Ministerial Advisory Committee on
Gay and Lesbian Health, 2002).
Medical Fact #1: Obesity is measured by a formula of weight (kg)/height (metres) squared.
This is called a body mass index (BMI) and if you score over 30, you are considered obese.
If you score 25--30 you are over weight. 22--25 is considered normal. But BMI is criticised
because the ranges are calculated according to Anglo-Saxon averages and it does not
account for fat versus muscle.
NEWTOWN -- 9519 4111 OPEN 7AM -- 11PM
MATRAVILLE -- 93111444 INNER WEST -- 9516 1466
Sydney Animal Hospitals
FAT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE BUT
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO
LESBIANS? JACKIE BRAW
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