The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fat and Thin

The thing about opinion pieces is they will often induce a strong reaction in readers. Whether it’s Germaine Greer lambasting Steve Irwin in The Guardian or Jason Foster proffering his views on butch-femme gender roles in SX, some people are likely to take offence, even becoming incensed enough to contact as many magazines, newspapers, online media and other public forums as they possibly can to refute the writer’s comments.I’ve done this myself, especially on Fairfax or News.com blogs where the original blogger has waffled on about how they believe humans need to eat meat and why vivisection is nothing to get excited about. I’ve gone through the gamut of emotions from extremely upset, deeply disappointed, to utterly furious. I’ve forwarded the articles to my friends and networks so they can experience the same flood of strong feelings and add their own comments. But while I may disagree vehemently with the writer of the original article, I don’t dispute their right to publish their views.

Now before anyone thinks this is a precursor to me wading into the butch-femme debate that has now made it into every GLBTIQ magazine in Sydney and beyond, thanks to Jason Foster, it’s not. I’m going to take up the perhaps equally controversial fat/thin dichotomy and ask: Why is rock chick Beth Ditto being held up to be such a role model for lesbians and even women in general, simply because of her body size?

The Gossip frontwoman was named the coolest woman on the planet by British music magazine NME; dyke magazines across the world have either featured her on their cover or are chasing her for that purpose; even Greer praised Ditto: “Her intention is to force acceptance of her body type, 5ft tall and 15 stone, and by this strategy to challenge the conventional imagery of women,” Greer said.

It all sounds well and good, but quite frankly it stinks of hypocrisy. On the one hand, we denounce the media’s and society’s pushing of thin as the ideal body shape for a woman to be, on the grounds that it’s ‘unhealthy’. Fair enough. So why go to the other extreme and champion fat? Because fat is just as unhealthy as thin. And before the Fat Pride people take aim at me, I’m not saying anyone shouldn’t be fat and proud of it.

But it’s nothing short of hypocritical to wave the political-correctness banner around by denigrating thinness as a ‘dangerous’ model for women to aspire to, inducing all manner of eating disorders, while celebrating fat and claiming it as a feminist issue, when both extremes pose health risks. Ditto may be cool for many reasons – a great voice, an awareness of queer theory and gender roles – but watching clips of her perform, she looks like she’s about to have a heart attack on stage. Good on her for wanting to break the conventional imagery of women. But 5ft and 15 stone is no more cause for celebration than 5ft and 4 stone.

Well, someone had to say it.

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