Friday, August 2, 2013

Fat Princess's Disturbing "Feeder" Resonance

In Anita Sarkeesian's excellent Tropes Vs Women in Video Games series, she discusses different, problematic portrayals of women in video games.  The latest episode focused, in particular, on ways in which the princess/damsel motif can be subverted, both in destructive and constructive ways.

One of the games she talked about was Fat Princess, a capture the flag + tower defense game which uses the two team's "princesses" as the flags.  That is bad enough for obvious reasons; women aren't objects, and using them as prizes or game balls is inherently misogynistic.

However, that wasn't enough for this gaming company; they wanted to fat shame too, so decided that they'd make the princess fat, and thus undesirable and difficult to carry.

Again, this would be enough for me to hate this game, to think it should be boycotted and possibly burned, to want to personally punch the game designer.

That wasn't enough for them though.  To make the game more difficult, they decided that you could make the princess even fatter, and thus harder to carry (think ten little players carrying one huge princess) by feeding her cake.

I hopefully don't have to tell anyone that showing a fat woman indiscriminately eating cake and getting bigger and bigger, and using her body as an obstacle is a grotesque combination of misogyny and fat shaming.
That's not why it gave me the feeling I have just before an anxiety attack, though, the feeling like I have needles under my skin and if I don't run away I'm going to completely lose it.

I had that feeling because I've had a partner who was a feeder.

A feeder is a man who exerts his control over a fat woman by fetishizing her eating, and by pressuring her to eat more and more unhealthy food in the hopes that she grows.  Feeders often use coercive levels of pressure to achieve this goal.  A feeder may try to convince the woman in question that she'll never find anyone else who will love her body as he does.  He may also fetishize her stomach, upper arms, or other generally non-erogenous but adipose heavy tissue.  His objectification is particularly pernicious because it isn't accompanied by positive feedback elsewhere; the world thinks fat women are gross and horrible, so it can be hard to recognize that a man who claims to "like your fat" isn't necessarily a loving and supportive partner.

Feeder erotica (and yes, I've read some; my ex had a lot of it) is focused on coercive feeding.  In their "erotic" fiction, women are tricked into gaining weight or sometimes literally force fed.  Their bodies are objects that the men who fetishize this want to possess and control.  Their ultimate fantasy is often to render a woman immobile.

Feeding also can amount to physical and economic abuse.  It is difficult for fat women to get jobs, and a woman who is immobilized or nearly so to support her partner's fetish is then completely at his mercy for everyday needs like food, toilet usage, water, shelter, etc.

 Feeders would tell you that the women who they feed consent to this, but as a woman who once "consented" to it, I can tell you that such consent is problematical.  Consent to feeding often involves elements of coercion (if you won't eat for me you don't love me), gaslighting (why wouldn't you want me to feed you; that's crazy), and other emotional abuse (If I leave you, no one else will ever want you, so you should please me).  I would argue that most women who "consent" to be fed are bullied or coerced into it, or are trying to find some way to please an unpleasable partner in an abusive relationship.

That a video game company has decided to use this abusive behavior as a mechanic is disgusting beyond belief.  Women die because of this.  Women have their lives ruined because of it.  Women take years to recover their self esteem, and longer to feel safe in a relationship, confident that they're loved for themselves and not their fat.

Some people will say "well they didn't know", but if the company couldn't manage a basic Google search, that's on them.  This game is abhorrent.  Not only will I not play it, I really don't want any contact with anyone who will.  It's that important to me.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Yes, Virginia, Fat Shaming IS Prejudice: For Denis and Everyone Else

I was going to write a nice, measured, thoughtful post about weight, privilege and intersectionality today. To use the colloquial, this ain't it.

This one is not going to be nice.
It's not going to be measured or polite.
It's not going to cite studies and logically weigh the value of different points of view.
You've been warned.

Today my brother-in-law posted an article.  He posted it with the comment "I know the F word is offensive and there may be better language to get her point across. I also know this is a painful subject. Most importantly I know I don't want to lose people I care about because I was too uncomfortable with the conversation." as his qualifier.  This is my response, not just to him, but to all the people out there who feel like they have a right to treat me as different or lesser because of how much I weigh.
I've read this article, and ones like it, a thousand fucking times.  I suspect my readers have too, although if you feel a need to read this one as well, here you go.  Trigger warnings: fat shaming, cherry-picked scientific studies, acclamation of thinness as morally valuable, patronizing health care industry crap, an ill-informed doctor with a heavy dose of confirmation bias.

Its thesis is "Fat people are weak willed creatures who would lose weight if they just ate less junk food, and who are morally inferior to thin people, who are that way because of willpower".  It was written by a doctor in the condescending fashion of someone who considers what they're saying to be simple, self-evident truth.  Her evidence was mostly anecdotal; as a doctor she'd seen lots of unhealthy fat people.  You know, because healthy fat people love going to see doctors, who will inevitably fat shame us and treat us like crap.  Where she quoted studies, she failed to mention the portions of them that directly disputed her conclusions.

She spends plenty of time letting us know what a saint she is for being involved with a bariatric clinic, all the while talking about how dirty, sweaty, weak-willed, and dishonest her fat patients are.  She then bemoans how terribly miserable all her fat patients are, obviously because they're fat.

Here's the thing: fat people aren't miserable because we're fat.  Being fat is inconvenient, uncomfortable, and sometimes awkward, but the size of my body is not the thing that contributes to my depression, that makes me want to kill myself some nights, that makes going out in public an exhausting, demoralizing experience.  It's not my body that makes making new friends hard.  It's not my body that makes potential employers turn me away.  It's not my body that makes people decide at a glance that I am worthless, useless, lazy, stupid, and ugly.

It is not my body.

It is your prejudice.


Your prejudice and the prejudice of people like you.  People who think they're good people.  People who go to bed at night convinced that they make the world a better place.  People who are tolerant, giving and kind most of the time.

Your prejudice.

Here's a quote from the article.

Is homesexuality inherently wrong? Ask Aristotle, Susie Orbach, Naomi Wolf. Their answers are different, their 

arguments from different places. It is not an empirical question although it reads as one. Today when we look at 

those who are straight, part of what we see is a triumph of will over desire, so the beauty is a moral beauty

Oh, by the way, I did you the favor of replacing references to "fat" with references to "homosexuality".  Does it still ring true?  No?  That's hideously bigoted?  Gee, you know what, I think so too.

When you look at me and make assumptions about my intelligence, my competence, my kindness or my will based on the size of my waistline, you are being a bigot.

Your prejudice, and that of others like you, is the worst thing I experience every day.  It makes my life hell.  It is a major factor in why I stayed in an abusive relationship for twelve years.  It does me material harm.

You say you are concerned about my health.  One of my most damaging health problems is major depression.  You know what's the single biggest factor in that?  Living in a world where every person I meet treats me like crap until I've proven to them that I'm a "good" fat person, one who is clean and smart and mostly smells okay, and whose fat "isn't really her fault".  Even then, they don't want to be too close to me or touch me; after all, it might be contagious.

I have to deal with this any time I leave my home.  I see the prejudice in the faces of many of my friends, although they are mostly kind and brave enough to fight it.  I hear it in the voices of people I interact with casually, see it in the way people studiously don't look at me on the sidewalk, or the way they stare. When I apply for a job, my biggest concern isn't whether I'm qualified, or able; it's whether some bigoted asshole is going to reject me simply because of my waistline.  I don't wonder if I'm going to experience prejudice when I walk out my front door; my only question is how much there will be, and whether it will be blatant enough that I can't ignore it.

My body does not do this, any more than a rape victim's dress causes her rape, a gay child's sexuality causes his suicide, or a black teen's hoodie justifies his murder.  My body is not at fault.

Your prejudice is.  

Your prejudice makes my life hell and it is going to STOP.

I'm not asking nicely; I've done that.  I'm demanding it.

You WILL stop treating me as if I am worthless, stupid, mean, smelly, lazy, ugly, disgusting, weak-willed and valueless.

You WILL stop creating media that portrays me and all women like me this way.

You WILL stop discriminating against me when I apply for a job or walk into a hospital.

You WILL stop ignoring the fact that modern scientific data does not support your views.

You WILL stop telling me that I can't be beautiful, special, sexy or wonderful.

You will stop doing this because I and millions like me are done being "nice".  We are done being patient. We are done being quiet. We are done hating ourselves for your benefit.  We are done taking whatever scraps of acceptance you choose to throw our way and pretending they're as much as we need or want or deserve.

We are done.
I am done.

You can keep thinking what you think, behaving as you behave, but not if you want to be in my life.  If you want to be my friend, my family member, my acquaintance, you have to be better than that.  I don't tolerate bigots.