Fat Matters events aim to change conversation about fatness in Vancouver

Simon Fraser University to host film screenings and lecture on downtown campus

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      Most people can’t imagine what it’s like for fat people to go out in public, according to Lucas Crawford.

      “Just walking down the street as a fat person in most places in Canada—and I think Vancouver is a bit extra intense in this way—you just get tons, tons of public attention,” Crawford told the Georgia Straight by phone. “From stares and comments and leers and exclusions of various kinds—just real public disrespect.”

      Crawford is the Ruth Wynn Woodward lecturer in the department of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies at Simon Fraser University. He’s organizing a series of free events called Fat Matters, which will take place on SFU’s Vancouver campus.

      Fat Matters will begin with a screening of the CBC documentary My Big Fat Diet on Monday (March 3) in Harbour Centre Room 7000. The film follows Namgis First Nation members as they return to a more traditional diet as part of a study. One of the filmmakers as well as experts in First Nations and fat studies will be on hand to provide commentary.

      The series will continue with screenings of The Machinist, starring Christian Bale, on March 13 and Fat, Bald, Short Man, an animated feature, on April 2. On March 13, Janis Ledwell-Hunt of Vancouver Island University will give a public lecture titled “Re-mapping Anorexia: Trans-ordered Eating and Affect”.

      Crawford noted the events are designed to encourage dialogue about “how fat bodies have come to mean so many negative things in our culture”. He also wants to introduce to the public the work of academics in the small but vibrant field of fat studies.

      “So much of the public conversation about fatness is mired in fat-shaming and a lot of violence toward fat people,” Crawford said. “While the fat acceptance movement has changed life for a lot of people, I think we need to start a new conversation that takes a wider approach—pun intended, I guess—and aims for a bit of a wider audience.”

      Everyone is welcome to attend, according to Crawford. He hopes to get people talking about how conceptions of fatness are shaped by culture, class, and race, and to think about how we speak about fat and food and why we do so.

      Crawford is critical of terms such as “obesity epidemic” and “war on obesity”, which are often employed by politicians, health authorities, and media commentators.

      “It really turns fatness into a one-dimensional moral issue,” Crawford said. “I think even if the policy goal is to create thinner people, I don’t think the rhetoric of war and destruction and shame is actually a way to do it. So, I see it as hurtful, but also as ineffective.”

      In October 2013, Twitter was flooded with offensive tweets—and responses from fat activists and allies—during #FatShamingWeek, promoted by a U.S.-based website that describes itself as a “blog for heterosexual, masculine men”.

      A few months earlier, Geoffrey Miller, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, was widely criticized for tweeting: “Dear obese PhD applicants: If you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation #truth”.

      Although there was an outcry, many people think along these lines, Crawford noted. He said that fat people, even if they have a doctorate, continually deal with others’ assumptions that they are intellectually or morally weak.

      Indeed, while many people are aware of sexism and homophobia, sizeism and fatphobia still haven’t entered mainstream consciousness.

      “People don’t even know those words, I don’t think,” Crawford said. “So, we want to get out there and use them, so people hear them and have access to the ideas that underlie those words.”




      Feb 25, 2014 at 5:17pm

      Considering only a minority of people are fat due to reasons beyond their control, I can't understand why there would be a push to normalize such unhealthy behaviour. Those who are overweight and obese present a huge drain on society over their lifetimes. The inability to exercise and use self control trickles down to us all when we have to subsidize health costs (heart disease, diabetes, asthma etc.)


      Feb 25, 2014 at 6:02pm

      It is really time to widen the conversation about fatness? Aren't we already bursting at the seams with terms such as BBW (big, beautiful woman) and the rhetoric of loving yourself as you are that together serve to remind us that loving anyone but the grossly obese is, in fact, morally reprehensible?

      Honestly, how many of don't know the answer to the question "Do these pants make me look fat?"
      How many of us haven't been bombarded with the notion that our beauty ideals are out of whack and what we should all be pining for and worshiping are people with thunder thighs?

      Eh tu Beetus

      Feb 25, 2014 at 8:14pm

      While i don't condone bullying people or disrespecting anyone that doesn't go out of their way to bring it upon themselves, I really do not think that the fat acceptance movement is healthy, and if anything is pretty dangerous in the lifestyles that it enables, being just as bad as those that promote anorexic behavior.

      Now i don't think everyone has to be in awesome shape, and having a little extra weight probably isn't going to be too bad, but when you can't cross a room without sweating, have more folds than a laundry pile, and are overflowing over each side of a supermarket scooter, THAT IS NOT HEALTHY, THAT IS NOT ATTRACTIVE, THAT IS NOT NORMAL.

      In addition to not being healthy, it should not be enabled and self reinforced with a bunch of feel good platitudes that encourages the practitioner of that ideology to eschew any and all responsibility for themselves, their helath, and how they got there, and put the blame on society for not admiring their (or their parents) lack of self control.

      Side note. Genetics can account for how fat is distributed, and bone structure, and such, but it is primarily diet that determines how fat or slim you end up, you cannot defy the laws of thermodynamics. The morbidly obese are not born, they are made, and we should look at ways to address that instead of just giving up and accepting excessive sweaty folds of flab as the new normal.

      signed, a proud shitlord who decided to stop being fat and lazy


      Feb 25, 2014 at 10:31pm

      I have a "if it quacks like a duck" view of identity: if you feel that you are a special group, then you are.

      If fat people feel that they are a picked on group, then they are. And...aren't they?



      Feb 25, 2014 at 11:47pm

      I won't justify any of the predictably awful comments with attention, except to make it clear that they are just a few more examples of the kinds of crap that fat folks have to put up with just to get through the day. I don't kid myself that it'd make any difference to you, but shame on each of you for adding to that hatefulness. However embarrassingly trollish, commentary like that simply highlights the importance of such opportunities to gather in spaces which celebrate our big, fat, fabulous lives. Lives which -too bad for you!- you miss out on.

      I'm glad there are more events happening in this notoriously fatphobic city, giving space for folks to talk about our lives, with dignity, respect, community, solidarity; and I applaud the efforts of the Fat Matters organizers for bringing fat-positive, and increasingly accessible, events together.


      Feb 26, 2014 at 1:18am

      Excessive political correctness will be the death of our society.

      FACT: most people who are fat have no illness to blame. Poor lifestyle choices, education and lack of self-control are responsible. Proof: 1000's of years of civilisation which FAR LOWER obesity rates, as well as 100's of scientific papers.

      Do I believe INDIVIDUALS should be judged, bullied or segregated for their physical appearance? No of course not. But I refuse to pander to every bullshit demand to 'normalise' being fat. Ah - NO!


      Feb 26, 2014 at 2:16am

      this was linked on reddit, watch out for any vile comments


      Feb 26, 2014 at 5:12am

      "However embarrassingly trollish, commentary like that simply highlights the importance of such opportunities to gather in spaces which celebrate our big, fat, fabulous lives. Lives which -too bad for you!- you miss out on."

      You're right, and to think that I'll have to suffer one hour of mind refreshing( I mean horrible and excruciating) gym session just to have a body that I'm not ashamed of. Oh! the fatty foods that I've missed just to have the useless ability of being able to run more than 10 miles without losing my breath. How much time wasted that could be best spent eating cheetos or just stuffing myself with mcdonalds food ( which I happen to don't like).

      And FYI I've been there, I've been fat, I've struggled with running a goddamn bus for half a block, I've watched at my mirror with the disgust at my face disfigured by excess fat and there is nothing in that life that is "fabulous" as you describe it. You are just deluding yourself.

      El chapo

      Feb 26, 2014 at 5:42am

      Women especially seem to have a problem with fat shaming, but seem to think stuff like this... https://twitter.com/heightismwatch is just harmless fun.

      Juan Carlos

      Feb 26, 2014 at 6:08am

      I'm no expert on fatness, but if I had to guess at why people are staring at Lucas, it'd be because of the multiple earrings, eyebrow piercing and nose ring, accompanied by the loud colours he dresses in. I bet people hardly notice he's fat, to be honest.