10 November 2010
Representing fat and class
I saw this image today, I don't know who it's by, so can't credit it. It's an updated version of a much older Pyramid of Capitalist System illustration produced in 1911 in the Industrial Workers of the World's newspaper.
I was intrigued to see that the bourgeoisie is represented as entirely fat in the modern version, but not so much in the older illustration. There's a slightly portly stuffed shirt, but the rest of the older gang are normatively-sized.
Why do you think this is?
My suspicion is that fat stereotypes of laziness, greed, and corruption have more currency today than they did in the past. My friend Bird la Bird commented that if the more recent image was a truer depiction of class embodiment then it would be the proles who are fat rather than the middle class.
I'm annoyed by this image, to me it represents the failure of many people in the radical left to question pernicious stereotypes. By representing fat in this way they also fail to consider the ways that class (and other attributes) intersects with different kinds of struggle. I kind of feel that it's a self-hating image too, what is so wrong with depicting heroic class warriors as fat? They've tried to show women. Alas, analyses of race or disability or sexuality, to name but a few things, are also missing from this image, as though they never have anything to do with class. It's really limited.
There's another similar illustration worth remarking upon too. It's busier and more complex, but sure enough, one of the capitalists at the top is kind of chunky, the fattest person in the image. It's hard to see the detail clearly in this link but there doesn't seem to be much in the way of diversity represented. I love prole.info but you'd think they could represent some working class disabled people, for example. No fat people in their working class! Maybe they're just dependent on the available clipart and its limitations to make this image. Still, it sucks.