Although fat-positive feminism has been around for quite a while, with the advent of the internet and popular blogging sites, the body positivity movement has made some serious strides. We can even see this reflected in some media: a plus-size designer, Ashley Tipton, won Project Runway in 2015, a plus-size model, Ashley Graham, is on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and fat acceptance blogs and speeches around the internet are helping people to become more confident in themselves and their self-image.
However, that doesn’t mean we’re free of fatphobia just yet. There’s a number of studies that show that the size of your body has nothing to do with its overall health, but unfortunately, the idea persists even today that if someone is fat, it means that they’re not taking care of their body and are unhealthy. This isn’t true, but many people believe it—even doctors. Enter today’s web crush, Fat Safe Medical.
Recently we got an email from a young fan which, among other things, told us about this petition for Disney to make a plus-size princess. Creator Jewel Moore, an American high school student, said on the petition, “I know many younger plus-size girls and women who struggle with confidence and need a positivie (sic) plus-size character in the media. I want there to be a character for those little girls to look up to.”
That’s certainly a laudable goal, and from even a cursory look at Disney movies, we can tell that they use a cartoonish, overly dramatic, white feminine form as a standard for their princesses (in Disney’s most recent movie, Frozen, the girls’ wrists are thinner than their huge eyes). Beyond the usual argument that Disney only makes stick-thin model princesses, though, it’s clear that Disney has a very exacting definition of feminine. All the princesses are thin, yes; all of them also come armed with varying virtues like determination, kindness, intelligence, and integrity. They even all have long hair. Disney has defined feminine in such a way that if a girl doesn’t squeeze herself within these narrow confines, she’s practically labeled “not a girl”.
And well beyond the iron fist of Disney, it seems that the rest of our media content has also adopted this definition of feminine. There are rarely fat characters on TV, and if they are, the characters are stereotypes obsessed with either eating or losing weight; they aren’t fully developed characters. Similarly, there may be female villains, but there aren’t female jerkwads on the side of good, as Dom recently pointed out. This fear of the so-called “unfeminine” only adds to continuing negative attitudes toward women, while doing nothing to advance the creation of more varied, interesting characters and plotlines.
A friend of mine who is a dancer posted this article on facebook and in light of Lady Saika’s post on ballet last week I thought it was particularly appropriate to share here:
New Artistic Director of English National Ballet Aims to “Stamp Out” Anorexia in Ballet
Tamara Rojo seems to have made it her mission to change the perception of beauty in the Ballet world and thereby make a safer environment in which dancers can carry out their profession. I think this is wonderful but even in reading the article and seeing what an apparently full-figured woman looks like in the ballet world it’s clear that what is considered thin by an audience’s perspective and what is considered thin by a dancer’s perspective are two vastly different conceptions.
The article mentions that Rojo has been compared to a famous dancer, Dame Margot Fonteyn:
It is in these images that we can really see the kind of pressure these dancers are under. Think about it, these two women are examples of “heavy” dancers. Imagine how great the pressure is to be thin when a woman of this size is the standard for overweight.
Dancing ballet is some of the most physically strenuous activity imaginable and the fact that dancers, particularly women but of course the men are affected too, have to go to such dramatic lengths to have what many consider to be the “right” body for the art form is not just sad, it’s dangerous.
I applaud Miss Rojo for her advocacy. I truly hope that she can help create a Ballet world where eating disorders are not the norm; where I won’t see status updates from my dancer friends along the lines of “Photoshoot coming up; no more eating for the next week”; and where young boys and girls can go to the Ballet and be inspired by powerful, healthy dancers rather than thin, frail waifs.