The fitting room of a thrift store is a magical place for me. I wanted to welcome you into the private confines of a recent trip to the Outer Sunset Goodwill. All outfits/items pictured were found at Goodwill.
The Outer Sunset, to many San Franciscans, is too foggy and too far. But to me it’s home! It’s also home to one of my favorite Goodwill stores. I’m a plus-sized, frugal fashionista so it’s important to have some fab thrift hunting nearby. Right there on 25th and Irving stands the small shop best known for its extensive collection of cashmere. Cashmere is the kind of thing people from the Outer Sunset can appreciate. This outfit illustrates the art of layering, which is essential to any SF day that’s going to last from sun-up to sun-down. The day starts with a walk on the beach with an oversized white hat, pink tank top, and black and white striped pencil skirt. As the day begins to cool, I pull this red cashmere turtleneck out of my bag, throw it on and add a white skinny belt to dress up the look. I keep the hat because it’s fabulous!
Ocean Beach is one of my favorite destinations, and I can’t resist a nautical themed piece. I matched a white and yellow striped top with over sized nautical buttons with an eggplant A-line. I had to get a close-up of those buttons!
My prize find was this cheetah print halter romper. I even found a furry cheetah print purse to match! Animal print on animal print is tres timeless. This will look amazing with a cardigan and some boots (if it’s chilly) or some strappy sandals (if it’s not!).
After a long day in SF and a mini vacation in the Goodwill fitting room I was exhausted. Hope you enjoyed my fitting room diary!
Today on Jezebel, Dodai Smith posted a video of Jennifer Livingston, a news anchor in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In the video she addresses an email entitled "Community Responsibility" from someone who wrote that she shouldn't consider herself a "suitable example for this community's young people, girls in particular" because her "obesity" is a terrible personal choice. Jennifer's words to the author of this email are personal and poignant. She talks about this email - and fatphobia - as a political issue and a reprehensible act that affects many. She talks about the outpouring of support she received. She ends the video by saying that the "cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many."
I love that Livingston took a stand on public television, and I love her analysis of this email. And I want to interrogate it one step further. Yes, this email is absolutely a personal attack on a person's body. However, the author of the email is deploying the same kind of rhetoric that is supported by the nationally known, federally-funded War on Obesity. This War on Obesity takes the stand that fat/obesity is a public issue and a personal responsibility. Just last week while in Los Angeles I saw dozens of ads that toted sentiments like "eat less, weigh less," displaying images of super sized fast food meals next to meals with a medium drink and medium fries. These ads simplistically cast fatness as a matter of personal choice, and they were no doubt at least partially subsidized by federal/state public health money.
While Livingston's friends, family and viewers were sending in words of support, I wondered if they were angry at the act of bullying (as a display of interpersonal aggression) or at the fatphobia (system-wide oppression) itself. If some of the responses to the video are any indication, they were angry at the display of aggression more than the sentiment that Livingston is setting a bad example. "JasperApollonia" wrote, "Obesity is an epidemic in this country... I don't agree with the wording of this man's letter and I think it was poorly done, but I agree with his overall point. It is not ok to be fat unless you have a legitimate medical condition that prevents you from losing weight."
Personal sentiments of fatphobia that are publicly expressed are often met with quick censure, but the seemingly innocuous rhetoric of anti-obesity that pervades our public health conversation - what I read as the actual "shouts of many" - parades around as common sense. We are still mired in a frenzied politic that casts fat people as taxes on the economy who should just "cover up" and "eat less"
I see a man who sends a vitriolic email to an anchorwoman as part of the same continuum that hosts the current fatphobic US discussion of fat people. I see this personal act of bullying as a manifestation of a nationwide belief that fat people deserve to be the target of a war.
It's happened. I've begun to see my thigh fat as sexy. I've begun to refer to my cellulite and ripply fat - internally - as FCC: Freedom Cottage Cheese. It started out with casual and perhaps somewhat accidental displays of thigh fat: a pair of tights that weren't as opaque as had been originally surmised or a chunky belt that had subtracted a couple unexpected inches from the hemline. But nowadays I'm sporting first-degree Radical Displays of Cellulite. The other night I had an FCC moment because I was in LA, it was sweaty-hot and Joy and I had a one-way pass to all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ. I had a super short, sleeveless black body-con dress that had the ventilation and expansion capabilities one needs at an all-you-can-eat kind of dining experience. There was arm fat, thigh fat, belly fat, double chin ... ghurl, it was like a kimchi and cellulite party up in K-town. And not only did I feel comfortable. I felt cute: cute enough to tell the waiter he was cute and cute enough to go back for 3 servings of glass noodles.
Every time I bare my thigh jiggle I offer a peak into the secret world of my ever-unfolding body liberation. And I offer the world a specimen in visual re-education. We've spent a lot of time being inundated by images that tell us what a "good" or a "hot" body is supposed to look like. This process is on-going and is called "visual education." I believe in subverting our racist, fatphobic, ableist visual education by introducing images - on the street, on tv, on the interwebz - of our fat selves all over the place. As we re-educate ourselves, we re-educate the people around us. We educate them/us in the guerilla art of occupation: occupying space, occupying daisy dukes. We do this with our body con dresses, our fat shorts, our VBO and our FCC.
Yeah, it's jiggling. And, yeah, it's kind of amazing and (oh! dare-I-say...) hot! Because it's usually covered by any means necessary it has the secret-hot or vulnerability-hot thing going for it too. So, if you haven't already, let that cellulite breathe and while you're at it... put a bird on it 'cause, ghurl, you and your FCC are in the limelight.
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.