The Last Acceptable Prejudice

Sasha Trabane in her badass TARDIS dress at Arisia this year! Photo by jere7my (Flicker).

Sasha Trabane in her badass TARDIS dress at Arisia this year! Photo by jere7my (Flicker).

First of all, can we just talk about how AMAZING this TARDIS dress is?! This photo has been making the rounds on BoingBoing, Facebook, and Tumblr, and with good reason. This dress is awesome, and its model/creator, Sasha Trabane, should be SO PROUD. I wish I could make things…

Sadly, it appears no woman can cosplay without some sort of backlash. I saw this composite on my friend Andrea’s FB feed. She got it from Tumblr:

Bullshit indeed!

Bullshit indeed!

Apparently, a woman cosplaying at ALL, no matter what she looks like, is risking some kind of backlash. If she’s thin (and thus, “hot”), she’s criticized for being “fake.” If she’s overweight, she’s criticized for not being “hot” enough. It seems that women in the geek community just can’t win.

This started as a feminist post, and I could go on and on about the double-standards that women face when it comes to appearance.  I could also talk about how hypocritical it is for geeks to tear down other geeks when all we do is complain about how we were torn down in our youths by bullies. But there’s something else I want to talk about.

It’s generally deemed unacceptable to be racist, sexist, or homophobic. Sure, there are plenty of racists, sexists, and homophobes out there, but these days they are more likely to espouse their hateful views in hushed tones, knowing that there might be social repercussions from Society at Large. Religious intolerance runs rampant, from the way Americans see “those people” in the Middle East to the way we fight amongst each other, whether it’s Christians Vs. Other Religions or Believers Vs. Atheists. But again, people that espouse those views know that they’ll have to deal with a powerful backlash. Yet for some reason, it’s totally OK to make fun of fat people. It’s the last acceptable prejudice.

In fact, just yesterday this 82 year old “bioethicist” (is that an actual job?) came out and said that fat-shaming should be used to combat obesity. Like, as a serious medical solution. What’s disturbing is that so many people in the comments at the post I link to agree with him.

Because fat people are fat because they’re lazy. If they would just stop eating so much and exercise more they wouldn’t have this problem. Never mind that overeating can have to do with any number of things, from thyroid conditions, to emotional/psychological issues, to the powerful food industry/lobby providing unhealthy food cheap while driving up prices on food that’s actually good for us. (I’ll never forget the day I saw the list of WIC-accepted food at a supermarket I went to – a person on food stamps can easily purchase potato chips, but not vegetables) According to the World Health Organization:

The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been:

  • an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat, salt and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients; and
  • a decrease in physical activity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.

Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing and education.


Individual responsibility can only have its full effect where people have access to a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, at the societal level it is important to:

  • support individuals in following the recommendations above, through sustained political commitment and the collaboration of many public and private stakeholders;
  • make regular physical activity and healthier dietary patterns affordable and easily accessible too all – especially the poorest individuals.

The food industry can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by:

  • reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods;
  • ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers;
  • practicing responsible marketing;
  • ensuring the availability of healthy food choices and supporting regular physical activity practice in the workplace.
McDonald's in South Africa. Photo credit unknown.

McDonald’s in South Africa. Photo credit unknown.

Hear that, everyone? It’s not about this person or that person being “lazy” or having “no will-power” or “self-control.” It’s about high-income and middle-income countries  “improving” our lives so much that we can be sedentary, because we have the technology that allows us all to sit on our asses all day. It’s about those same nations foisting their “energy-dense foods that are high in fat, salt and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients” on other countries in the name of global commerce.

You folks have seen Wall-E, right?

And then there are the people who are going through emotional hardships or suffering from depression who, rather than turning to alcohol or drugs for comfort and escape, turn to food. Yet people who abuse food get treated with less sympathy than do those who abuse drugs. Even in the world of eating disorders, people who starve themselves get treated with more seriousness than those who overeat. Why? Why is it easier to see anorexia as an eating disorder, whereas most people see overeating as a matter of personal responsibility? Why is it so easy to take an anorexic seriously, but laugh at the expense of someone who is overweight? Is it because, at least in the case of someone who is anorexic, they are “closer” to a societal ideal than is a fat person? What kind of messed up thinking is that?

I am technically obese. There has never been a point in my life where I haven’t been overweight. I’ve spent the better part of the past year dealing with my issues with food. I know that I’ve overeaten for many reasons, often right after someone would tell me I eat too much. As a big Fuck You. As an exertion of control. You can’t tell me what I can’t or can’t eat! I’ll do what I want! I’m not going to get into it here (at least not now), but if you know anything about me and the things I’ve accomplished in the course of my life, you’ll know that “laziness” has nothing to do with it. I still have a long way to go, but I’m working on it – being more conscious of not just what I eat, but why. Exercising more. Trying to live a life that’s healthier not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, and valuing myself enough to actually deal with the problems and emotions I used to ignore by eating a pint of ice cream a day. Yeah – I used to do that. I don’t anymore.

The point of this rambly post? 🙂 The next time you feel yourself about to comment on someone’s size, ask yourself why. Why is it that the very sight of someone who is overweight brings out your worst self? What is it about that person that prompts your need to comment? What is there to be gained? Why is it so important to you to vocalize your feelings about someone’s size, a propos of nothing, just because that person has the audacity to exist?

They say that the best way to get what we want is to help others get what they want. Realize that we all have a part to play in each other’s health and well-being, and that we are all best served not by berating each other, but by ensuring that each of us has access to a healthier, happier life.

15 thoughts on “The Last Acceptable Prejudice

  1. scarletloser says:

    I think that part of the reason people have more sympathy and empathy for anorexics is because they partly admire the amount of “self-discipline” that it takes to become anorexic. Fat people clearly lack discipline, and should be shamed for it. Anyone that really understands both eating disorders knows that it’s really just two sides of the same coin.

    And I don’t care what anybody says – Sasha is working the hell outta that dress!

    • Teresa Jusino says:

      Yes, exactly! That’s why I mentioned some of my own issues with food. A lot of why I eat has to do with wanting to maintain control in my life for various reasons. For example, I notice that I eat more the more financially unstable I feel. As if “this might be the last time I get to eat, so I’d better live it up!” I’ve realized that food and finances have a lot to do with each other in my brain, and that’s something that goes way back to when I was a kid.

      Anyway, those control issues are often exactly the thing that will prompt an anorexic to do what they do. They feel out of control in their lives, but they can control what does or doesn’t go into their bodies. You’re exactly on the nose – two sides of the same coin.

      And yes, I agree – she DOES work that dress! Her FB cosplay page is here should you choose to follow her:

      • Onyx Nightshade says:

        It’s interesting that you mention the link between food and finances because it’s often the same with me, except the opposite of what you stated. I found that I’m MORE likely to let my eating go out of control when I have extra cash on hand (I also find myself eating out more often as well).

        And I third the notion about homegirl and that dress. She is giving me EVERYTHING!

  2. Ian Johnson says:

    When did our society somehow get the idea that thinness is synonymous with healthy? People who are “average” weight, according to their BMI, have about the same amount of health problems as people who are obese. And people who are overweight have the best health records overall.

    There are as many different body types as there are bodies, and we still cling to this idea that being thin is the ideal body shape for everyone. It’s not. Based on my height and weight, my BMI qualifies as “obese”, but based on my physical structure, in order to get to the “recommended” weight for someone of my height, I would have to be severely malnourished to the point of organ failure.

    Commenting on the picture that was the genesis of this post: it’s a gorgeous dress, and she looks beautiful and sexy in it. Who cares if she’s fat? Why does that matter?

    • alex hend says:

      the bullshit meter is over 9000. Obesity increases the likelihood of various diseases, particularly heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. But I do agree it is a gorgeous dress but in my opinion I don’t see a lack of self control as sexy.

      • Teresa says:

        “in my opinion I don’t see a lack of self control as sexy.”

        And that’s exactly what it is. Your opinion. You have no idea what makes anyone fat and whether or not it is, for whoever you’re looking at, a “lack of self control.” Obesity can be caused by many things, and the fact that someone would look at another person and make assumptions about their self-control or any other aspect of their personality based on what they look like is the problem.

        Also, I think it’s interesting that you can look at the facts I’m quoting from the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, and talk about a “bullshit meter.” SCIENCE says that obesity is caused by several factors, and also that OTHER things can also contribute to the diseases you mention. I’m not saying obesity is NEVER a factor in those things, but whether or not they are, weight shouldn’t affect how you treat people, and it’s never your job to tell someone how to live their life.

  3. Adam says:

    I wonder if the reason people are less accepting of fat isn’t an example of externalizing an internal struggle. You don’t have to be overweight to have some of the same issues with food — everyone struggles with their own particular standard of body image, and no one is a beautiful as they want to be.

    In our culture of fatty, sugary, fatty, salty foods, eating healthy is a constant struggle even for people who do manage to eat healthy. In our sedentary lifestyle, even people who exercise relatively often are conscious of the fact that they probably aren’t exercising enough, compared to the amount of physical activity the human body evolved to need. Add to that the unrealistic body image the culture promotes for both women AND men, and the issue of weight is always on everyone’s mind — fat people, thin people, in-between people, EVERYONE.

    Things that are always on people’s minds have a way of always get blurted out, and putting down other people makes you feel better when you’re insecure. We all learned that in kindergarten, literally. That’s what I see when people make fun of other people for being fat — insecurity.

    PS — That dress is awesome.

  4. Lin D says:

    I’m overweight due to medications. I can diet till Hell freezes over, and I don’t lose weight. period. My physicians know this. Exercising makes the muscles underneath all healthy and toned, but I’m still overweight.
    My response these days to people who put me down for being fat-and-lazy is “Oh, that’s right. You haven’t *had* serious medical issues…yet. Get back to me in a few years and let me know how that’s going.”

  5. daisy Ware-Jarrett says:

    Reblogged this on Daisy Ware-Jarrett and commented:
    I’ve been hearing a lot about this issue lately… fan girls being put down and judged by the communities they are part of. I’ve also been hearing (first hand at conventions in particular) how attractive slimmer girls are being labelled “sluts” for doing the same. Great post…

  6. Lola says:

    Well into our past, if you were overweight, that meant you were wealthy! If you were skinny, you were poor commoner peasants. When it came to finding a wife to bare children, they went straight to the well fed, “big boned” girls. As our civilization grew and progressed, it flipped. Now if you are skinny, you are more desirable than a girl who’s bigger. And what really hurts and is revolting, is some of these men making these comments are “big boned” themselves. Great post and amazing dress! Imitation is a form a flattery right? 😉

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