Kitty Fisher

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

Archive for the ‘inbetween’ Category

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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You’re Not Fat

Posted by Kitty on March 18, 2008

I get this a lot. I’ve always been a fairly blunt person, so from time to time I’ll have reason to make some reference to being a person slightly too large for the world. I see no reason to tiptoe around the issue, so I simply use the word “fat”. The reaction from my friends is usually a shocked, slightly hushed, “You’re not fat!”
I usually reply, “Medically, I’m obese!” with a big cheesy grin. But I’m aware that I’m treading in a minefield with this one.

I think, in most people’s minds, I classify as an “inbetweenie”, and pretty much always have. I see-saw back and forth from not quite fitting into a size 12 up to not quite filling out a size 16. (And we’re just not going to get into the complete and total fiasco that is sizing for my upper half.) I have the sort of shape that can sometimes “pass” for non-obese, with most of me in reasonable proportion to the rest (we’ll discuss the titties some other time), and a well-defined waist, and other markers people look for when judging whether someone’s “that fat” or not. (But pointing these out are classic hallmarks of denial! I can’t tell you how long I’ve spent on this paragraph trying not to sound like a delusional or judgmental asshole.)

I know I’m too fat for Society– I get plenty of feedback about that, thanks. But I’m not big enough to qualify to be Fat. People bigger than me think I’m mocking them when I try to squeeze into their group. People smaller than me are shocked, shocked when I call myself fat: either they don’t think of me that way, or sort of do and are rather frantic about denying it. One thing’s for sure, people are really, really awkward about the topic of Fatness. And the same women (universally much thinner than I) who exclaim, horrified, “You’re not fat!”, often then go on to remark upon their own problem areas and how they need to lose weight.

And, of course, we are always bombarded with examples in popular storytelling (ads, books, movies, sit-coms) of the Fat Girl In Denial. She is an archetypical character: a fat girl who just doesn’t realize that she’s outside the norm, and deludes herself into believing that she is completely acceptable the way she is. The normal kids string her along into thinking that they’re truly her friends, and that she’s really accepted, and that there’s nothing wrong with her. At first she may be hesitant, skeptical, but eventually she throws herself entirely into the fantasy the normal kids have created, whereupon they spring the trap and everyone points and laughs at the Fat Girl Who Thought She Was Normal. Ha ha!

When people trespass where they don’t belong, they deserve to get slapped back, and we must all laugh to prove we understand.

It’s hard on the fat kids, to be sure. But it’s hard on the inbetweenies, too. Because they don’t dare assume they’re safe, but if they at least attempt to take comfort in their outcast status, they get rejected from that side, too. There is nowhere they can go that is not a trespass.

You might think I’m talking about kids on the playground, here. But… I was probably 24 when this happened. I went to the mall. I had a job interview. I needed something to wear. I went into Express or some store like that with my fashionista sister, who was at that point a size 8 on the bottom and a size 10 on top. She knew, she assured me, alll about problem figures. So she led me through the store, and we tried on everything. Their largest size was some abominable hybrid called “13/14”. While the style flattered me, all the garments were too tight. “We need, ah, the next size up,” my sister said delicately.
“Um,” the saleslady said, apologetically, not looking at me. “There, um, well, isn’t one.”
We went from store to store. My size fluctuates, and some days I’ll find something, but on that day, the gods were frowning. Nothing fit me. Nothing interview-y, at any rate. Finally, I despaired, and dragged my sister with me into Lane Bryant, despite her protests that it was the fat lady store and I wouldn’t find anything there either. I grabbed a size 16 from the rack, in the first style I saw that seemed right. It fell off of me. OK, 14 then. It also fell off me. Bewildered, I stepped out of the fitting room. “Can I help you?” the saleslady said.
“Do you have this in 12?” I asked. “For some reason the 14 is too big, even though in all the other stores, the 14s are too…” I trailed off because the woman had started laughing.
“Get out of here,” she said. “You’re not fat enough to shop here.” The other sales lady joined in her laughter.

Normally it would be shockingly rude for a sales person to laugh at you when your clothes don’t fit. But I deserved it. I had trespassed, and as we all know, trespassers need to be slapped back. I had spent the whole day trespassing. The skinny people stores did not need to ridicule me; in their world, not being able to shop there was punishment enough. But shopping at the Fat Lady store is something reserved only for Fat Ladies; to go in there, somehow, is to seek refuge. If you seek refuge without having refugee status, then you are trespassing. It is assumed you will be delighted to find that you do not have this refugee status, and so they don’t really have to be nice about it.

I abandoned my sister to her reverie at the Gap sale rack and went to the bathroom and cried. You’re too fat to shop anywhere else, but you’re not fat enough to shop here. There is nothing here for you, you freak. Put your money away and go home.

So I did: I went home and my mother pinned up the hems of a pair of her pants so that they’d fit me. I wore an old blouse with a stain on it that I just wore a scarf over.

I didn’t get the job.

I was later fired from another job, and one of the reasons they gave was that I “just didn’t dress professionally enough” and didn’t fit in. At 28 I still sometimes overhear my coworkers giggling at what outfit I’ve cobbled together for that day, and getting dressed in the morning is my least favorite chore of the day.

I don’t know what credentials you really need to be a Fat Acceptance advocate. But all I want is to be allowed to be what I am, look how I look, and to not be considered a trespasser everywhere I go.

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