‘My body is a cage’: On Fat Bodies

Try as you may to turn away from politics. Love is political. Friendship is political. Women’s bodies are political. Especially those who do not or cannot conform. “Woman is born free and everywhere she is in chains… and her body caged,” said I.

Hunger

Addressing the above and on my radar these days there has been, desperately, Roxane Gay’s new book Hunger: A Memoir of My Body in which she discusses her relationship with food and the events that triggered her eating disorder. While I have yet to get my hands on a copy, I am eager to read her measured, intimate, honest words on the way in which eating disorders relating to the hyper- rather than the hypo- are engaged with in Western societies. I’m curious about how different individuals utilize or perceive food, whether as: a way to fill the ellipses of love; a way to make fortresses out of their bodies; a way to chase an ephemeral high often followed by postprandial daze; a way to power through the day, just about.

Gay has been promoting her latest on various publications across formats including the highly unsettling exchange with Mamamia, who used the topic to turn the conversation into an intrusive and exoticising incision. In the podcast, discussing fans insisting on hugs (despite her overt dislike for being touched), Gay utters a sentence that stays with me. As someone who loves to write and read, this is perhaps what most attracts me to this memoir on food, trauma and the body. A perennial nonfiction writer’s dilemma of revealing themselves in their words and upholding a semblance of privacy:

 

‘You don’t know me. You know what I allow you to know of me’

Quote from the book:

I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere … I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.’

What It Means To Become The ‘Fat Friend’

I won’t overdo the cover note on this one. This is an excellent essay on the politics of friendship, and the ways in which our understanding and close readings of people who look one way or another deserve to be; of the space they ought to take up in others’ minds.

My favourite passages:

The fat women in comedies who only offered punchy one-liners and snappy comebacks, but rarely had lives of their own. The imagined fat women in Norbit and Road Trip, whose voracious desire made them a punchline, who taught me that no personal life at all was preferable to one that was ridiculed so openly. The empowered fat women in movies like Pitch Perfect, who made sharp jokes and showed so little vulnerability, so little reflection of anything human. The fat women on screen who only and always acted as ushers to thin people’s lives, feelings, needs — the realer stuff that was only afforded by smaller bodies. Movie after movie showed fat women written to be the background, our presence only justified by the glorious foregrounding of thin leads.

We’re supposed to be stylish, upbeat, have witty comebacks for the endless wave of hate that comes our way, regular as the tides. We’re also supposed to be empowered, confident, let criticism roll off our backs. We’re not supposed to give in to detractors, even if our harshest critics are family, friends, partners, doctors. Even when they are omnipresent. Even when we are entirely alone.

I am sorry that I kept so many thin friends comfortable in their own hatred of the little fat on their bodies, free to hate themselves, and free to make my body their collateral damage.

Published by Your Fat Friend READ IT HERE

 

Do What You Want: A zine about mental health and wellbeing

Here mind and body meet. Do What You Want is a zine put together by Ruby Tandoh and Leah Pritchard. The list of contributors is dazzling and the approach is fantastic.

With vivid art, illustrations, essays, poetry, recipes and more,  this little number is a charity fundraising effort with a kick. Discussing body image, sexual and gender identities, anxiety and depression, neurodiversity, race and ethnicity, sex work, substance abuse, and more, it covers all the essential topics mainstream publications still ignore or misrepresent.

Read up on the project and get a copy HERE.

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