11 April 2009

Conference Report: Fat Studies at the PCA - 2

Fat Studies II: Fatness as It Informs Other Identities
Chair: Lesleigh Owen, Chaffey College

Elizabeth Young, Ball State University

Elizabeth presented a memoir of travel, turbulence, seatbelts not fitting and family ambivalence regarding her fatness. She talked about creative writing as a means of expressing fat experience and coined "Big Momma Owl" (complete with cooing) to describe what it is to scrunch up one's fat body to fit in a plane seat. Elizabeth remarked that her grandmother's description of her as zaftig was not a euphemism for fat, that it's meaning was understood, she said that her fatness reflected her juiciness, her passion for people and her lust for life.

Are We What We Eat?: The Representation of Fatness in Czech Media Contents from a Gender Perspective
Iva Baslarova, Masaryk University

This presentation, about the production of meanings in media discourse, was introduced with some comments about carrots in the Czech media, the way that they are used as symbols to denote healthy slenderness, or the desire for healthy slenderness, but that they do not simply represent a liking for carrots. Iva's discussion about fat representation considered gender; the way that the capitalist media needs fatness because, like sex, it can be used to sell products; and fat as sensationalist television spectacle. Media representations of fatness in the Czech Republic are problematic, and Iva concluded by asking if it is media production that needs to change or wider social structures.

In a later discussion, I remarked that Iva's analysis suggested that fat representation is generic across Europe, and possibly in the US too, that there are certain tropes that programmes continue to promote, with little regional differentiation.

Fat, Young Femininity and Other Slippery Identities
Lesleigh Owen, Chaffey College

Lesleigh's presentation stemmed from research that examines "the ways that fat people talk about fatness." She defined identity as relating to power relationships, including inequalities, belonging, and process and she presented a critical view of "Master Status," ie, the dominant parts of identity which often relate to experiences of stigma, by suggesting that it can be approached as fluid and contextual. Lesleigh offered some of the autoethnography she produced during her research process as an attendee at NAAFA conferences, specifically around her experiences of beauty and its related privilege. She talked about how privilege and oppression fit together, but that although she contested oppressive hierarchies at the conference, she also wanted to maintain her own beauty privilege. Lesleigh remarked on her background of internal validation as a fat woman, and how this contrasted with the new experiences of external validation she experienced within NAAFA.

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