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January 19, 2010

In “Why I’m an Adiposer” a women shares her experience of deciding to pose for the Adipositivity Project, which if you haven’t checked out your should. The project promotes size acceptance through photography of fat bodies. As the mission says: “The hope is to widen definitions of physical beauty. Literally.”

The bodies are purposefully headless, and she has often gotten criticism for this objectification:

When people tell me that my participation in The Project is reinforcing objectification of women’s bodies, they take away my agency to make a conscious decision to share my body through art and in ways that are consensual and healing. Who gets to tell me that my healing is wrong? That the ways I choose to heal, that the ways my community heals, is problematic because they disagree with it, I find disappointing.

And I think she makes an intresing point about why not including faces can be particularly empowering for fat women.

You see, there is this argument about objectification and omitting our heads from the images (i.e. disembodiment and dehumanizing), and I think this is exactly this approach that Substantia is using to challenge viewers. So many of us have heard the “you have such a pretty face” phrase. Ironically people think this is supposed to help us, find hope in our lives because clearly we can’t be hopeful if we are outside any standard of beauty, or ridged beliefs of “health.” In her approach, Substantia is offering artwork that allows people, including the AdiPosers, to recognize that our entire bodies are beautiful, not just our faces.

Fat women face two separate but connected depictions of their bodies. One, as she mentioned, is “you have such a pretty face!” It’s a backhanded compliment that tries to make the body invisible, but instead makes the woman in it hyper aware of her body as a “problem”; something that should not be viewed, that should be covered. The second is the “headless fatties” we seen on the news in any story reporting on ZOMG TEH FATZ. These define the body, and the person within it, as illuminating of larger problem just in its physical size. These bodies are used as visual metaphors for societies ills, further asserting to any women who identifies with those bodies, that their body is a “problem”. That they are a problem.

I like Adipositivity’s plays on both these stereotypes “headless fattie” and “such a pretty face.” Making fat bodies hyper visible again, in a way that illuminates the beauty and celebrates the diversity. These bodies are no longer problems, but solutions. Women now can look and recognize their body, not as one of the headless fatties on the news, but as beautiful entities on their own. Women who have all their life have been “consoled” by the knowledge that they have a beautiful face, can identify their whole bodies as sites of beauty.

And the project doesn’t have to be empowering for all women. Some women may feel objectified when posing naked or showing their photography. The key is that all women should have the choice about how their bodies are treated, and have that choice respected. Fat women, even when living sexual and personally satisfying lives, aren’t often given the choice to be viewed as sexual in more public arenas. The Adipositivity Project gives fat women the choice to present themselves as the sexual, beautiful bodies that they are.

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