Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wee Women: My Take on the post by Maura Kelly for Marie Claire

Skinny as a teen, I (on the right) endured criticism when I gained weight

I read the post by Maura Kelly for Marie Claire when the controversial post hit cyberspace on this past Monday on Oct. 25. Like Maura, I had not ever seen the television show, Mike & Molly, she was making a comment about. But, I was surprised with her unrelenting diatribe that she had written against those who are obese. I mean, she not only wrote how grossed out fat people made her, she also wrote a paragraph-long how-to guide on how to eat healthy and lose weight. Yeah, as if it were only that simple.

Though I am a plus-sized performer, my shock at the post was not because I was offended, however. Instead, my surprise really stemmed from the fact that her editor allowed it to be published. From jump, it sounded like Maura was a woman who had her own weight issues. I was surprised that her editor didn't see red flags when the copy was sent to her. For a magazine that had been amassing popularity with women of all shapes, sizes and colors, it was shocking that her editor didn't see this as being risky to their target audience. I've been a writer for years now, and my editors over the years have censored edited even minute phrasings that could possibly be deemed offensive to a potential audience group. I would see this being on her personal blog. Shoot, I'm sure many folks have written stuff like this on their own personal blogs. I was just really surprised Maura Kelly's piece made it to print with such a callous tone. I think this paragraph is what pissed most people off and it went downhill from here:

So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.

Folks were not having it. On Twitter, blogs and Facebook, post after post popped up to demonize Maura's post for its offending message that fat people are gross. What I think the post succeeded in showing, though, is that the people behind the scenes at magazines have opinions that have, over time, defined the media industry. Through Maura Kelly, we got a personal look at someone who is creating the opinions of what mainstream personal beauty is and, while doing so, we are met first-hand with their own personal struggles. In the later apology that Maura Kelly posted beneath her intial post, she admitted to having anorexia and all types of body issues.

UPDATE: I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I've said in this post. Believe it or not, I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much. A lot of what I said was unnecessary. It wasn't productive, either...To that point (and on a more personal level), a few commenters and one of my friends mentioned that my extreme reaction might have grown out of my own body issues, my history as an anorexic, and my life-long obsession with being thin. As I mentioned in the ongoing dialogue we’ve been carrying on in the comments section, I think that's an accurate insight.
 For me, this was obvious before the apology was even presented. Over the years, I've interacted with many women who have such low self-esteem that it bleeds into the way they speak about other women-- and Maura Kelly's post reeked of this positioning. This controversy, if anything, should encourage folks to stop getting their social cues, sense of self and personal choices from ideas advertised to them from fashion mags, television shows and films.  These industries would not thrive if people as a whole had a better sense of self. With great irony, my poem "Wee Women" which is featured in Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul was the poem that I performed in my recent trip to Chicago.

The poem, which you can read below,  is perfect response to the Marie Claire post which, in a whole, relegates the value of a person as a sensual being worthy of love based on their physical size. I wrote it while in my mid-20's when I was no longer slim and people had begun to make comments about my size. I didn't get it. I felt I was the same person and actually enjoyed my fuller figure. A late bloomer, it was like I had finally reached puberty. Always concerned about how women were mostly only commended for visual attributes, demure personality traits and parenting traits, I, after while, became conflicted between wanting to slim down and wanting to stay the same size to prove that my beauty is intangible. I still struggle with that now, as I gained even more weight during and after my child's birth and sedentary work positions. Ultimately, I keep at the helm the desire to have a holistic health regiment that is beneficial to me physically, mentally and spiritually.

Wee Women

Wee Women Struggling to shrink our girth
in sizes of 3 and 4
until the outside shape of our blossoming bodies
become to be
no more
We Women of stature
and majestic size
seek acceptance to be
model citizens
in our society`s stiff eyes
and in anorexic spoutings
magazines clamor day to day
to conform our images of
self and spirituality
into a slimmer
more concise way...
we are to believe that as our glorious bodies
shrink our esteem will gradually grow
but is this new psychology that is being fostered
one that only magazine editors and ad execs know?

Will our hearts and intelligence factor suddenly increase and
will we finally as women be respected as equals rightly
at least
or will our shameless
swallows of xenadrine cocktails
and obsessive calorie counting behavior
determine that we will become a motley assortment of blinded women
who inevitably need
a male saviour

regardless of our size
5`9 with heels or
petite, barely 5 feet tall
we are not truly recognized for the greatness we embody as women
at all

downsized to visual trophies
we forget Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Nzinga, and Ida B.
we scoff at Fannie Lou and Mary McLeod because Beyonce is all we see

Our minds are beginning to shrink to match our diminishing space and size
until We women flourish no more... left on to exist with downcast eyes
(and Wee Women take over with jubilant stares and, of course, a pair of slimmer thighs...what our destiny shall be
shall be a surprise...what our destiny shall be shall be a surprise...)

ee Women
by Khadijah Ali-Coleman© 2001

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