09 June 2009

Fatness First, fat activism appropriation and ambiguity

My partner saw someone wearing this t-shirt in our neighbourhood this week. Obviously it's a parody of the Fitness First gym trademark. The guy wearing it wasn't fat and I don't know why he was wearing the shirt, maybe he enjoyed the subversion of a globalised gym culture brand? Maybe he's a culture jammer? An Adbuster? Who knows!

Anyway, I did a little digging about the t-shirt because I was curious and I found out via 5 Non-Gringos that the tshirt project in the Philippines manufactures a load of spoof designs, including the Fatness First one.

I don't get some of the jokes in the designs, maybe they are in local slang or I'm not tuned in to the parodies that relate to sex and drinking. However, I love the idea that, in a country where a significant part of the population is employed/oppressed by these globalised brands and corporations, some people are exploiting those very same meaningless brands by parodying them, localising them and selling them on. Maybe this is a case of the sweatshop biting back.

At least four of the designs are about fat and I think they're pretty good! I doubt these have been produced as some kind of pro-fat statement, the shirt sizes are limited (xxl for men and only xl for women) so it's unlikely that they were made for fatties to wear, more likely for normative-sized people to wear as a fat joke of some kind. But I think the spoofs are ambiguous and could be read through a fat lib kind of lens, in fact I support the appropriation of fatphobic symbols by rad fatties, though I think we should be careful to avoid some kinds of cultural appropriation. I would love to see a big fat person mooching down the street with a shirt that proclaimed Tummy Illfigure, The Fat and The Furious, or especially Fatman.


wonderful woman said...

I can't decide if I love Fatman or Fast and Furious best. OK, I can. Has to be Fatman. Glorious.

Kristin said...


The Yummy Returns!


Charlotte Cooper said...

It's weird and annoying that the Fatman and Tommy Illfigure don't come in a woman's cut. Any sociologists in the house wanna explain that?