jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that


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Jumbo Jets & Jumbo Problems

I’m flying soon, for the first time since 9/11, and I have concerns.  Yes, yes, I know I’m not supposed to be afraid, but I’m definitely going to be realistic.  And no, I’m not afraid of terrorism…I’m afraid of ridiculous airline policies for fat people, and the very real chance that I will be removed from the plane or forced to pay on the spot for another seat (at the going rate at that moment), which I cannot do.

But I’m not here to complain about complaint-worthy airline policies.  No, I’m here to talk about (and to) my friends.  You see, I mentioned the flying fat concerns on Facebook, and the overall reaction was along the lines of ‘Oh, you aren’t THAT fat, you’ll be fine’, or ‘But it’s not like you’re morbidly obese’, etc.  And I get that quite a lot, actually.  And it always stuns me.  Because yes, I am that fat.

‘Morbidly Obese’ is no longer a governmentally-approved category, and I feel like that’s a good thing, because not only does fat not actually slay people left and right like the headlines imply, but I’ve been alive and disease-free for decades as a supposedly morbidly obese person, which to my mind implies that the title is at best highly inaccurate.   Nowadays, the Good ol’ US of A declares me and my BMI of 42 to be Class III Obese.  I like to think that this is a nod to how we’re treated.

BMI is completely useless crap, but that’s also not what I’m here to talk about.

You see, this thing happens when people care about a fat person.  Because we’re programmed to believe that the word ‘fat’ is an insult, and synonymous with all manner of horrible things (icky, lazy, smelly, sick, rude, stupid, worthless, ugly, etc.), when we’re confronted with a lovable person who is also fat, many people cope by unconsciously re-categorizing the beloved fat person as ‘not that fat’ or even ‘not fat’ to avoid cognitive dissonance.

And this is a problem.  A huge problem, to make a pointed pun.  Because now when we talk about Horrible Things Done To Fat People, you think ‘Oh, but not people like [insert loved one], she means really fat people,’ and then it becomes Not Your Problem.  Fat can be relative, as we’ve seen recently with Amy Schumer.  On any given day, at any given moment, how fat you are is a matter of the opinions of those around you, or even the whim of the government, which has reclassified millions of us based on the lobbying efforts of those with financial interests in the weight-loss machine.  But trust me, horrible things are said and done to me, and to people much, much smaller than I, due to our fat.

Denying our fatness is not the solution.  What is needed is a shift in our understanding of fat and the feelings that the word, not to mention the bodies to which it applies, engender.  We need to stop using the word ‘fat’ as a stand-in for other things, and recognize it as meaning, well, having fat on one’s body.  I’m fat the same way I’m short and brown-haired, rosy-cheeked and, most days, blue-eyed.  I have no objection to the word or my fat body.  Society’s depressingly pervasive and persistent attitude about them, on the other hand, make me wish I breathed fire.

So here’s your chance to become part of the solution—every time you hear or use the word ‘fat’, examine the meaning behind it.  See if it’s referring only to size or if it’s implying something negative about the person.  Check your feelings about what was said, and why it makes you feel that way.  Recognize that mistreatment of a single person really is a problem for everyone, and start speaking up!

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On Batman v Superman, Men & Women

I came into this weekend with a long to-do list, and that list included going to the movies.  As I am a diligent person *cough* I dutifully went to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice yesterday afternoon.

I know this movie has taken a lot of flack, and I’ll admit to not having read any of it.  I wanted to see it for one reason, and one reason only: Wonder Woman.  Ever since I was old enough for Underoos, she’s been my hero, and I have wanted to be her.  And let’s face it, female superheroes are few and far between and the fact that she’s getting her own movie is amazing and I can hardly wait and…well, you get the point.  So perhaps I was easy to please, or my lack of expectations staved off disappointment, but I. loved. this. movie.  I very nearly went to see it again before writing this. In the interest of journalistic integrity, of course.  I’ll tread carefully to avoid spoiling the movie for you.

The thing I loved most?  BvS features women prominently.  Six of them, in fact!  This is practically unheard of in a movie of this genre.  More importantly, these women are not treated as accessories for the male characters (with one exception), nor do they have to use seduction as a strategy.  They are also diverse in character and motivation, and at no point did I want to scream ‘stop whimpering in the corner and DO something!’, because they are strong women.  Motherhood, and a son’s love for his mother, are also a theme, and it’s nice to see the power of motherhood recognized in this way (especially as it includes motherhood-by-adoption here).

Now, no movie is perfect, of course.  This one, for instance, has a serious lack of ethnic diversity.  But go watch this movie!  I hope you love it, too.

As a kid, my favorite TV moment was when the HBO behind the scenes features would air.  We didn’t have DVDs with special features back then, and we certainly didn’t have IMDb. I love IMDb, and I look up pretty much everything I watch and read through the trivia. So of course, that’s what I was doing yesterday afternoon, and I found these:

trivia 4trivia 3trivia 2trivia 1

Men are supposed to be big.  Congratulated for being big–so long as it’s muscle, of course.  Have you ever seen a woman congratulated for taking up more space, even due to muscle?  Me, either.  (Do we encourage little girls to ‘grow up big and strong’ like we do little boys?)  In contrast, the trivia relating to Gal Gadot’s body was this:

trivia 5.JPG

Hey, Wonder Woman, the world is concerned that your boobs aren’t big enough!  What are you going to do to fix that?  (Gal, I love your answer, btw)

In our society, women are not encouraged to take up space.  In fact, taking up space is bad, except for boobs, and sometimes butts, depending on what the man in your life wants.  But the rest of you?  Should be as tiny as possible.  Women internalize this, and our body language and movements show it.  So does the prevalence of dieting in our culture, Pinterest’s entire ‘Health and Fitness’ section, nearly every movie and television show ever made, the clothing industry, and so on.  Have you ever wondered why that is?  Because this is not an okay thing.