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09 June 2007 @ 09:28 am
[feminism] Fat, Ugly, and Pissed  
There's a cycle in superhero comics(1) which I am violently tired of seeing.

Step One: Someone (in this case, Misty Lee(2) in a podcast) says something along these lines, "usually, the strongest and loudest protest over sexy things come from ugly fat girls." Which is problematic and enfuriating for so many reasons.

Step Two: Someone (in this case, Tamora Pierce(4) in her blog(6)) responds in an articulate and often angry manner. Which is wonderful.

Step Three: Fans everywhere come out of the woodwork to prove that they are not "ugly fat girls" by showing pictures or mentioning their physical stats or whatever.

Hold up a minute.

How is that response any better than the original person calling them "ugly fat girls" in the first place?

Often people start calling for picture posts to prove they are not "ugly fat girls". This not only derails the argument into a discussion on whether or not the women in the pictures are ugly or fat or neither or both, but it also feeds into the idea that being ugly or fat is a bad thing.

Let me repeat that, because that's the point to this rant: When people make it a point to prove they are not "ugly fat girls" they are exacerbating the idea that being fat makes a woman ugly, or that being an ugly woman or a fat woman is bad.

Here are some of the responses I've seen to the statement that only "ugly fat girls" complain about the treatment and presentation of women in superhero comics. Yes, these are out of context and I haven't kept any names with them, for a reason. (Also, often they are paraphrased in order to keep the anonymity intact.)

+ post pictures so we can be our own "ugly fat girls" club (with deep and obvious sarcasm)
+ I'm (insert stats for socially acceptable beauty) and I'm a feminist
+ I'm no size four but my health stats are perfectly normal
+ so many pictures posted with some sort of statement like "See? I care and I'm not an ugly fat girl."
+ I get tired of being told that I'm ugly and fat just because I care.

So on and so forth.

Most of the time, I don't think people actually intend to come across like they must defend their true non-fat, non-ugly appearance, but that's how it does come across, especially when it happens so often and so close together. It just builds up and the overall statement I come away with is "So-and-so is wrong, we're not ugly fat girls, look at how beautiful we really are."

That's not the point, on so many different levels.

What does that say to the feminist fans who are "ugly fat girls"?(5) Are our opinions unwelcome because we can be used as proof in these smoke-screen arguments which detract from the actual problems?

Sometimes that's how it feels.

So while we're talking about how superhero comics (among other things) present a false image of female beauty, if we could stop buying into the idea that being fat and ugly, or even just being called fat and ugly, is a bad thing, that would be great. It would certainly do wonders for my temper.

Because damn it, I am fat, and I am ugly, and I am pissed.

---

(1) And in other areas of fandom, but this is one I'm seeing over and over again lately, so this is the one I mention.

(2) No relation. Sometimes I dislike having such a common last name.(3)

(3) Yes, okay, all you Smiths can tell me I have no idea.

(4) As a young, impressionable child, I fell in love with her Song of the Lioness Quartet and then The Protector of the Small and then, practically everything she's ever written. Finding her blog online has just cemented how much I hero worship her.

(5) Do not step in here and try to tell me how non-fat or non-ugly I am. Obviously ugly/non-ugly is a completely subjective argument, and I am fully aware that people look at me and see ugly and non-ugly, depending. There is no saying I'm not fat. I am fat. I'm happy to be fat. Most important, rushing to tell me I'm non-fat and non-ugly actually fits right into the problem here, which is, by telling me I'm not those things, it makes being those things something bad, something to avoid.

(6) Seriously, though, go read what Ms. Pierce has to say. I love her response.
 
 
 
Troubled Tribbleshilohmm on June 9th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)
While I do get tired of being told I'm ugly or fat because I get ticked at the sexification of female characters once it gets to the point it invalidates their characterization (I wouldn't have minded the HfH cover half so much if Misty and Colleen had looked irritated or angry or ready to take on the bad guys instead of scared and pathetic), I think you've got a legitimate point here that taking on these insults "on their own terms" tends to (a) deflect the conversation and (b) make it sound like being fat or ugly are bad things.

To some extent, fat and ugly are genetically determined (two people may have identical lifestyles in terms of food consumed and amount of exercise; one can be fat and the other skinny), and to say they are bad things is to treat them as chosen characteristics, which is silly. Sometimes they are, sort of (sexually attacked women often gain or lose weight after, just as they often change their appearance in other ways), but even when chosen it's not a choice like the choice to do good or evil. Fat and ugly are aesthetic issues, not moral qualities.

But mostly the whole argument burns me because it's a classic example of an Ad Hominem - where someone who attacks their oppenent as a person instead of grappling with the opponent's position. Me, I see the "fat and ugly" argument and I point and laugh. People who use the ad hominem argument are either (a) lazy, (b) uneducated (because anyone with the least background in logic knows what they're doing and why it is a Bad Plan), or (c) convinced their position can't be logically defended so they'll throw anything they can think of out there in order to deflect attention from that uncomfortable fact.

In other words, using the ad hominem advertises the fact that you're lazy, stupid, or losing the argument. It's a dodge, and not a good one.

The ad hominem argument works because people react to personal attacks emotionally, and I understand why people take it personally and act to defend themselves against it, because the natural response to a personal insult is personal defense. The ad hominem exists because it works, at least initially, but it's not going to impress any thinking being in the long run because when the emotions fade logic reminds us that calling someone names is not actually proving your point. ;)

I'm irritated by the "fat and ugly" ad hominem because it is an ad hominem, but I also get frustrated by people falling for it for all the reasons you present. It's allowing the person playing the ad hominem card to dictate terms of discussion, and essentially accepting those terms - particularly ugly terms, in this case. So thanks for pointing that out. :)