Society has created an empire from “obesity.” There are diet pills that claim “eat all you want & still lose weight,” Reality TV shows like The Biggest Loser (which has 7 seasons under it’s belt and has taken in $75 million in revenue with its product-line), and celebrities who have become icons of the “fat movement” and promote dieting programs (e.g. Mariah Cariah and Jenny Craig). It is obvious that our capitalist society has not only manufactured “obesity” but it has created ways in which it will benefit from it.
Mariah’s commercial for Jenny Craig is representative of the ideal transformation of the body.
We see her breaking out of confines, metaphorical of her breaking out of her fat layer, the unneeded layer, and stepping into a sexualized “normal” and “beautiful” body. Melissa Campbell, a fat activist blogger and SPARK contributor, explains that fat stomachs are considered “unrestrained consumption taking over the organism” and how fat is a “manifestation of societal pressures on women’s bodies and emotions.”
Because dieting and exercise is considered the morally correct way of losing weight, many people will chose it as their methods of losing weight. Through dieting and exercise, one should hope to obtain the “normal” idealized beauty image.
We are obsessed with what is “normal.” What is normal, anyway? We have BMIs that tell us if we are overweight, underweight, or average. But we shouldn’t strive for normal, we should strive for what is best for us. If a woman is thin she is not necessarily healthy and if a woman is obese she is not necessarily unhealthy.
Fat activism plays a role in redefining what is normal for the body not for society. In Karen Throsby’s Happy Re-Birthday: Weight-Loss Surgery and the New Me, she argues that “rather than referring directly to the visibly transformed body, the discourse of ‘re-birth’ instead signals the reconﬁguration of the self as a disciplined subject, who is able to exercise control and restraint over consumption, and who is willing (and able) to take responsibility for the body.”
Zoe C. Meleo-Erwin, in ‘A beautiful show of strength’: Weight loss and the fat activist self, follows two fat activist bloggers, Blank and Heidi, who challenge the norms. Heidi, “claims her decision” to pursue WLS (weight loss surgery) “as one that is fraught but nevertheless comes from a place of autonomy.” Blank wishes to become a “reduced-fat” version of herself and doesn’t strive for an idealized body. She champions that “unlike mainstream individuals, the fat activist grounded in an ethic of body autonomy loses weight from a place of empowerment rather than (solely) from a place of internalized fat-phobia.”
Fat activist communities, such as fat fashion blogs like Manfattan, seek to reestablish a room of their own, separate from the societal panopticon. Melissa Campbell explains that that this allows fat activists to establish their own rules and regulate their community to their standards. This can be problematic, because some people may not fall in line with the standards of the community. But, ultimately, fat fashion blogs provide a space for women who are deemed “obese” by society. Campbell says that since these women cannot “depoliticize,” they can “re-contextualize.”
The fat fashion community is a positive step for “obese” women who are stigmatized by a society obsessed with a certain image that only a few manage to maintain.