Kitty Fisher

Size-positivity, feminism, self-esteem crises, ginormous tits.

Archive for May, 2008

Passing

Posted by Kitty on May 29, 2008

Yes. This is the sort of thing I’ve been trying to say.

Here’s the thing, and it’s not a thing I’ve ever been comfortable with: I pass. I have a profound amount of privilege for what I am. I’m thin, my disability is invisible, my appearance is white, and it is very very easy for me not to appear queer or genderqueer, whether I mean this to be the case or not.
It is strange to be both lucky and ashamed of that luck. It is strange to be a chameleon who never got a choice in the matter of all her choice.
[…]
Our world is filled with the tyranies of the flesh. And the discussion of that extends well into the online sphere.

“Internet bullshit” is not just on the Internet. People say things online that they’d be too polite to say in person, but that doesn’t mean they don’t think them.
I experience this quite a lot because I, like the poster I just linked to, “pass” in a lot of people’s eyes. So co-workers and acquaintances and even people I’ve come to think of as friends will occasionally let slip things that insult me, marginalize or belittle me, for things that they don’t realize I am, or things they don’t realize will hurt me.

I am queer, in that my primary determining factor in a sexual partner is not his or her genitalia, but rather the personality: I have loved women, I have loved men. But I am also monogamous, and in a long-term relationship with a man. So I am identified, by others, as “straight”. And because, while my relationship with this female body is a little ambivalent at times, and my brain is really not very female at all, I do not do anything to identify as other than female, I am easily pigeonholed as a straight female.
So people make jokes about lesbians around me (yes, really), and people make jokes about transsexuals and women trapped in men’s bodies, and people say really cruel and hurtful things about the “bi-curious”.

I am fat, in that my BMI is over 30 and I can’t fit into normal clothing. But I am hourglassy, busty, small-waisted, with the extra flesh stuffed into the Womanly Ideal parts of me. There are outfits I can’t pull off, but I have a reasonably conventional figure, slightly scaled up from the acceptable norms. Friends have become quite vehement in denying me the ‘fat’ label.

I try to use this to the advantage of my beliefs. I try to say, don’t I seem normal to you? But I am queer too, I am fat too, I don’t think someone’s genitals entirely determine their gender, and I am not a bad person. Often it is too easily dismissed– no, you’re not like them, you’re not what I was talking about. I didn’t mean you.
More often it just shuts conversation down.

Online it’s a bit different. Of course. But it’s real here, too. I am growing tired of using the word ‘privilege’ but how else to explain my odd viewpoints? Sometimes I slide by on privilege, and sometimes it is denied me– this is an odd state, this in-between. I am thoroughly aware of it. I try to use this, try to move into the circles denied those whose “unacceptable” characteristics are more obvious than mine, and try to use that to widen these circles. Am I doing more harm than good? Am I helping?
I don’t know.

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Average Size

Posted by Kitty on May 23, 2008

I have been trying to nail down where the statistics come from in all those magazine articles that say things about the average American woman’s size. Most of the sources simply state the statistic, which is usually “Fifty percent of American women wear a size 12 or larger”, but occasionally it says “size 14” instead, with no citation given.
This SFgate article has more detailed claims than normal, and a citation of its source, so I’m going to take that and run with it: “Sixty-eight percent wear a size 12 or larger, and 52 percent wear size 14 or larger, according to Grace magazine”.

That’s my nod toward statistical accuracy. Now I’m going to dive right off into anecdotes.

I think of myself as being bigger than average. Gradually I’ve begun to realize that really, I’m not. I’m a 14/16, hourglassy, Rack of Doom balanced out by Super Ass (it only grew in recently, I’m rather proud of it after having been top-heavy for a long time), fairly heavy for my height because of speed skating muscles, pretty happy (finally!) with my appearance. And only as I’ve achieved that last thing have I been able to look rationally at my chronic fashion woes: I am not a terribly huge person. In fact, I may be… Average.
Average.

I know that every time the topic of clothes shopping comes up at roller derby practice, about half to a third of us complain that we can’t find anything that fits us in stores. Another girl and I spent all of last season looking for frilly panties to wear over our tights. (Shorts are too constricting, but skirts fly up, and if one’s ass is going to show, one should clothe it in something that makes it obvious that one expected one’s ass to show. In addition, more layers is better, and padding is double plus bonus.) She’s probably got 50 to 55-inch hips, so we’re in a similar size situation. We couldn’t find anything, and wound up trading tips on making our own. (Find men’s athletic underwear– the black spandex kind– and sew lace on using a zig-zag stitch. Then you get some thigh coverage too, which is good if you’re trying to avoid rink rash. The other girl actually sewed on rick-rack with pom-poms and made continuous cracks about her “Mexican Taxi Ass”. She rocks really hard, in case you didn’t figure that out.)

Applying statistics, that means that between 50 and 33% of the members of a group of women between 18 and 50 who spend 10 or more hours a week, for eight to ten months at a stretch (we have a brief off-season), in extremely intense physical activity, cannot find clothing to fit themselves.
A few of us are big enough to shop at the plus size stores.
But most of us aren’t, and yet… can’t shop at the regular stores either.

DOES ANYONE ELSE NOTICE A MARKET SEGMENT THAT IS NOT BEING SERVED?

I am AVERAGE SIZED. Statistics and anecdotes both seem to bear this out. AVERAGE.

So what’s my point?
“Plus size” is a bit of a misnomer, as it just means “larger than smaller than average”.
There is a gigantic collection of women for whom plus size is too big, but misses’ is too small. Because they are AVERAGE.

What is WRONG with this picture?
I don’t know, I’m not a scientist.

I’ve started making my own clothes. I’ll let you know how that works out. At the moment I’m stumped with the ‘threading the sewing machine’ part of it, but at least I’ve got the sewing machine.

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size doesn’t matter

Posted by Kitty on May 14, 2008

My boyfriend is a little sarcastic about my dinner-table discussion of size positivity and fat acceptance and all that.
He’s a sarcastic bastard in general, but he’s right about this.
I make fun of him for his size all the damn time.

Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about his waist size.
He weighs 135 pounds. He can’t buy pants that fit, so he goes to specialty shops for the next best thing: 29 inch waist, 36-inch inseam. (He can also wear 30x34s in some brands, which you can occasionally get in straight shops, but it means he needs a belt and they ride lower than his underwear, which he dislikes.) The one pair of tailored pants he owns are tailored to a 28 and a half inch waist, with a thirty-seven inch inseam. He has very long legs and a high waist, and his lack of spare flesh means that, unusually for a man, his hipbones protrude beyond the width of his waist. His arms are likewise too long for his little body. His collarbones protrude. His knees are larger in circumference than his thighs.
People who are not used to him think he is starving. He had stomach problems in high school, and was referred to a gastroenterologist. I should explain, he had no problems with digestion, he just had mysterious tummyaches. He was eating normally, like a teenage boy– unable to sleep through the night during growth spurts, he would wake up and clean out the fridge– his mother would deliberately make too much at dinner so he’d have leftovers to eat at midnight. He ate probably three or four thousand calories a day– just like a normal teenager. But he was having stomach pains.
He walked into the gastroenterologist and the doctor actually gasped, “You shouldn’t have waited so long!” Assuming that this emaciated young man was having digestive issues and had starved for lack of medical attention. It took a few minutes to sort it out.

He isn’t starving. He isn’t anorexic. There’s nothing wrong with his intestines. But he’s six feet three, and 135 pounds. He eats more than me, most days, though I like sweet snacks more than he does, and am more cranky if I skip a meal. (He, on the other hand, likes to sit and munch through most of a bag of Chee-Tos while staring at the computer in the evening after dinner.) According to his BMI, he is one pound away from being hospitalized for anorexia. (He meets none of the other criteria, of course, but by the criteria that make me Obese with a capital O, he is Underweight, and Scarily So. He would not be allowed on a catwalk in Spain.)

I make fun of him for this all the time. I joke about his hollow leg where he puts all the food. I pinch his protruding hip-bones. I make noises like a xylophone and pretend to play songs on his protruding ribs.
I am wrong to do this. But I feel defensive, so I do it.
He is perfectly healthy. He beat me at arm wrestling last time we tried, and at regular wrestling too when that didn’t ‘take’, though I outweighed him by 70 pounds and got hours more exercise a week than him. When we move house (we’ve done this several times together) I do all the heavy lifting and he gets the door. He is stronger, for his size, than I am, but I am simply bigger than him, and 200 pounds of woman is going to be much more effective at leg-pressing a giant sofa up three flights of stairs than 135 pounds of man.

I grew up in a family with a big mother and a small father. My mother was always an impressive figure of a woman, five feet eleven inches with size eleven feet and broad shoulders and hips. My father was a small man, just six feet, narrow shoulders, narrow hips, small waist; he has never weighed more than 147 pounds. (Normally he’s 145. You can use him to calibrate your scale, most days, and his weight has been unchanged since 1965.) Several years ago my mother, through strict calorie restriction and a heightened exercise regimen, lost over 100 pounds. But even now, she still outweighs my father by at least thirty pounds. (She looks like a little old woman now, much older and frailer, but is overjoyed to finally not be “that fat woman” anymore, so I am glad for her at least. But she now has osteopenia, and I wonder how related it is to a crash diet at menopause.)

It shouldn’t bother me that my boyfriend is so much thinner than I am. That has always been normal, in my personal experience. I admit I’ve always found it a little odd when very large men take up with very small women; not that I don’t think it should happen, but that I’ve found it strange that the woman’s smallness is seen as normal or even desireable as a characteristic in itself.

But there– yesterday, it was a lovely sunny day. I did the laundry, and then went to hang it up outdoors. I have a little yard, finally, and a little clothesline, and these are things that make me happy. I grew up with clothes smelling of sunshine and grass, and in my young adult years city life has made that impossible. Now I can have it again, because I have a good living situation and a good life in general. I do count these blessings and am grateful for them. (I also have a dozen new strawberry plants. Life is joy, especially in the springtime.)

So I hung out the clothes yesterday. And there were the boxer shorts I sleep in sometimes, size XXL, white, with little penguins on them, my sister bought them for me when she worked at Old Navy. I hung them up: they’re probably twenty-two inches wide. Then I bent down and picked up the next item of clothing from the basket. A pair of the boyfriend’s boxer shorts. I hung them beside mine. Approximately half the width, but the same length, they made my shorts look comically gigantic, like cartoon bloomers. I could sail a boat with them.

I stood a moment, poleaxed by my unexpected reaction to the juxtaposition. I am a huge person. I am gigantic. How can I have been feeling so good about myself? (I was, in fact, wearing only a sports bra and a pair of jeans because I’d thrown my t-shirt into the washing machine because it was muddy from gardening, and had been inwardly smug at how nice it felt not to be worried that the neighbors might see the vast expanse of my snow-white belly which is, incidentally, more solid than normal what with all the workouts of late.) Whammo, self-esteem gone.

It took me a moment to bring myself back from it. I know I’m twice his size. I know that. I know it would kill me to weigh what he does. I also know he would look awful at my size, and the things he would have to do to reach, let alone maintain, my weight would make him miserable. We both eat a healthy diet– together. Now that I don’t care anymore, I may eat more than him, but not by much, and not most of the time (I seem to have a smaller stomach, and get full faster, despite the relative sizes of our midsections). He doesn’t make fun of me for being fat. I’m learning not to let my defensiveness make me make fun of him for being thin.

Of course his god-damned underpants are going to be smaller than mine. That is perhaps not how most people’s worlds look, but that’s how my world looks. And I like my world, I’m happier in my world. The only way this little fact of life is going to change, given that both of us are at healthy stable weights, is if I go and find myself a bigger man. And to do that, I’d have to get rid of the one I have.

Hah. Unlikely.

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reduction

Posted by Kitty on May 4, 2008

A post is brewing on what happened while I was in London (which is why there was no post last week), but in the meantime I wanted to address something that comes up almost ridiculously often.
Breast reductions.

Last night my team hosted a roller derby match between two other themes. Since we weren’t skating, we didn’t wear our uniforms– ‘hosting’ means that we worked the door, manned the merch table, sold raffle tickets, laid out the track, set up the chairs, and all that. Roller derby leagues are volunteer organizations, and rely heavily on the unpaid labor of their members and their members’ most devoted fans (skaters’ husbands and boyfriends, and sometimes girlfriends/partners [though girlfriends/partners tend more often to get sucked in as skaters…] are known as Derby Widows, and are the backbone of the behind-the-scenes work it takes to run an organization like this.
I know I’ve digressed. But I have a point here. Since we weren’t skating, we wore costumes instead of uniforms. We decided to dress up as ‘biker chicks’, but that means different things to different people.
I showed up in a corset I bought at a Renn Faire, and a pleather miniskirt. This corset used to fit me properly, but now when I lace it all the way closed, my boobs pretty much pop out the top.
So I wore a halter top underneath– a halter top with an integral bra. No more flesh than normal was showing, it was just in a different place.

I did get a lot of stares. I’m used to that. Our team captain wore leather chaps and underneath, spandex booty shorts with her name screenprinted; I wasn’t alone in drawing stares. (Her name also wiggled when she walked, I don’t know if she realized that. It’s unimaginably hot. I felt rather tame beside her, though I couldn’t bend over because my skirt was so short. Another tangent: one of the many phrases that used to fill me with fear which roller derby has completely stripped of terror is “Your undies might show.” Might! I bought these cute ones on purpose because I figured they WOULD!)

One of my teammates, standing next to me, surveyed the acreage of my cleavage. “So what’s your bra size now?” she asked. I had complained earlier how it had gone up, and now this corset, and all my favorite bras, now fit.
“Thirty-two J,” I said a bit glumly. “The specialty lingerie shops don’t even carry that one.”
“And you haven’t had a reduction why?” she asked.
I was shocked. I get that question sometimes, but this particular teammate is a fellow in size-positivity, a die-hard feminist of both the new and old schools, etc.
She went on in my shocked silence to mention two skaters on the league who’d had breast reductions and were happy with them.
“Because,” I said finally, working very hard not to be snippy, “while it’s inconvenient that I can’t find bras my size off the rack, I see no need to have cosmetic surgery just so I can shop in the mall. I’m not changing my body for fashion. I’ll just have to learn to sew.”
“Oh, oh,” she said, “oh no, I’d never– I’d never suggest– screw fashion! I just…. doesn’t that hurt your back?”
I’ve been skating with this woman for nearly a year now. “No more than anybody else’s,” I said. “My back is the first part to get really fatigued when I skate, but I’ve noticed a lot of smaller girls with the same problem.” The speed-skating crossover relies heavily on the muscles of your lower back to move the legs, and since you’re bent over, you have to sort of cantilever your upper body’s weight through these muscles. “It never hurts otherwise. I have great posture.”
“Huh,” she said.

It’s just assumed that if you have boobs like this, you’re going to have problems with them. Mine have grown more or less steadily since I was 12, but gradually. Being reasonably active ensures that I have no problem with the weight of them. But this blows people’s minds, and I get asked all the damn time by other women why I don’t have a reduction. I know I’ve just got to be less sensitive to the question, but it hurts every time: people see them as a problem, instead of as part of my body.

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