After Karl Lagerfeld’s idiotic comments on Adele the other day, Margaret Cho wrote another really amazing rant that took him to task for his ridiculousness. There’s a lot in her post that I wholeheartedly echo and celebrate, not the least of which is her bravery for being so publicly unreserved and openhearted. That takes guts! I found myself, however, slightly disappointed at the bits of her article that seemed to implicitly accept the idea that fat is something we suffer in shame and hate to have acknowledged, and that fat bodies are problems we don’t have time or energy to fix. I wonder if that’s truly how she thinks. My guess is that it’s not – that her politics are actually better than this and that this was a moment of unchecked rage that sort of accepted the status quo. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stay mum. Here is my response, left on her blog.
Oh Margaret. You are fierce and brave and your rawness here is a thing of beauty to behold. You’re refusing to be careful, refusing to be complacent. You’ve absolutely ripped yourself open in the past few months and spilled your angry, fed-up guts–devoured by the hungry eyes of those of us aching for a belligerent badass to take on the status quo from a high enough purchase to be heard.
I celebrate your anger and I echo your sentiments in a thousand ways. There is one, however, that I’m struggling with. You said:
“…or anyone really, to be called fat is the gravest insult…”
I know this is the case for many. Many more, I fear, than not. And throughout your article there is a vein of apology, a thread of belief – that time, money, energy – that these things in short supply both create and sustain a fat body, and that, having more of any or all would shift a body down the scale naturally. That is the bit I disagree with. There have always been, there will always be, fat bodies. The trouble is not with the bodies themselves, but with the subjective and arbitrary assignments of value, with our shifting ideologies, with our moral panics and our mind-numbing need to belong.
It seems to me that the acknowledgment of fat is at issue here, that the explicit acknowledgment is the insult, that to name a thing is to call it to attention and that to call it to attention is to force all parties to acknowledge its inherent shamefulness. And it is this idea that I reject.
I will not feel shame when a bigot tries to bully me with simple adjectives. Fat holds no more power than human, than female, than young, old, tall, short, breathing, spitting, choking, fighting – all adjectives. All only containing the connotations we allow them to have, all social contracts that we may choose to break at any time. Fat does not rob me of my grace any more than the acknowledgment of it does and no single descriptor alone can rob me of all others save I let it. Save we all let it. Consensus, cohesion, to move it forward, to reject the idea that a narrow man who dresses hangers could contribute any greater value to the world than any of us with our thick thighs, our jiggling arms, our willful bellies that refuse to be anything but round. Consensus, cohesion, to move past the idea that correlation = causation, that fat bodies form from either too little (time, money, movement) or too much (food, idleness, shame) and that a shift in any would shift us all.
Please don’t ache for me, Margaret. I am not insulted. I am not harmed. I am, if anything, simply more determined to keep reminding us that we needn’t be shameful, that power is not something some have and others don’t, that it’s bubbling beneath the surface of everything, that we can shift it in a moment if only we’ve a mind to, if only we know that we can, if only we do it together.
Thank you for your ferocity, for your bravery and your voice.
With so much love,