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i have been marinating a paper that i plan to submit as a chapter in a upcoming book on matchmaking practices in the 21st century. but, as you well know, i am inordinately obsessed with fat of late. it is all i can see. think about. write about. this fact has been exacerbated by the new year’s new you weight-loss resolution advertising and the general cultural obsession with fat on any given sunday. i have been reading about what it means for fat women to inhabit socio-culturally constructed “unfit” bodies and hear how their narratives are imbued with pain, rejection, and despair. it seems that fat sucks. yet it is part of life that non-normative bodies exist. and these women prevail despite slurs and fear-mongering. despite rejection and abjection. they survive.

all things considered, this chapter has to be about how the visuality of fat further mediates the online dating process. seeing fat. inspecting for jiggly bits. coming to terms with disordered BMIs. this is part and parcel of the process for men. they assume the responsibility of policing the bodily boundaries of the women they consider potential dates. they visually inspect. evaluate. decide. but this is not to say that women are agency-less in the expression and inhabitation of their larger-sized selves. the fact remains that women, even in their individual understandings of their embodied appraisals by others, do not hesitate to be who they are. they do not hide in shame, nor “inauthenticate” their profiles. they are upfront and above all else, honest. can we say the same of men who reject, deny, and displace based on a hip-to-waist ratios? not that this is a judgment. rather, it is an analysis. of what matters in matters of online love.

one central paradox that continuously puzzles me is how normalizing discourses elide the actuality of differently-sized individuals. similar to the certainty we feel about fundamental, genetic, inherent differences between men and women, we as cultural producers seem to think that denial of differently positioned bodies is appropriate. that by holding on to ideals of thin fitness, we can compel them. will them. through sheer shame alone. one of the very basic ideas i continuously try to present to my students is that critical sociology provides us with ways of thinking that allow for alternate discourses to be heard. that allow us to reject, or at least critique, discourses of oppression. one such discourse, pervasive in contemporary Canadian society, is the obesity morality tale. the individualizing, isolating, shaming discourse of “it is all your fault.”

so perhaps i’m wrong. perhaps it is not such a paradox after all. non-normative bodies are acknowledged.

if only to say, its thinness or death.


i’ve been thinking a lot about fat lately. not in the “i want to lose five pounds” kinda way but more in the “fat phobia is a pervasive theme in my research that i eventually have to turn into a dissertation” kinda way. i have never thought so much about fat. other people’s, my own, my cats’. i had an msn conversation yesterday with my friend A. who lives in far off korea at the moment and we discussed, well, what else? fat. we discussed how fat is that last bastion of overt oppression. where one can say discriminatory things about another’s weight in a group and not be reprimanded because that person just happens to be fat. as though it is a moral weakness. an all too obvious display of livin’ the good life.

fat phobia seems to represent a number of different things. it is reviled as a blatant example of being being off the mark of some kind of ideal, some kind of normative standard. yet the phobia produced and displayed is much more visceral than simply the result of some kind of non-conformity or failure to fit into an ideal (which A. and I also problematized for being too simplistic – is there but one ideal? how can we all live within our awkwardness, our large feet and noses, our stretch marks and pocked faces if we are all striving toward one, someone’s, version of what’s id/r/eal). no. fat phobia is about fear. it is born from within and spit out like venom in hopes it will shield us. protect us. from that which is other. out there. in its largesse.

i have become enchanted by this blog here called the 101 Reasons I Hate Being Fat. it is an introspective and honest account of living with fat in a culture of fear and loathing around fat. similarly, i watched an episode of oprah who paraded individuals who had lost massive amount of fat about for her ew-ing and ah-ing audience. such an achievement that we even had to see a man pull the skin that formerly stretched over his large stomach from inside the very large pants he used to wear. interesting.

i don’t have any answers as yet (not with regard to my own work anyway) but one notion keeps occurring to me. fat phobia, like other phobias, or fears based around difference from sameness, is just that: about difference. it seems to me that in a society that greets/treats difference as subversion, fat fits the bill. because overweight people (according to medicalized discourses of proper BMIs, that is) are targeted as “different,” they must pay the price. become marginalized. stigmatized. fat is less about health in these instances than about rightness. moral turpitude. fiber.

fat simply isn’t (th)in.

i have been effectively blogging for over a month now (such a huge commitment i’ve made to the internets, i must say) and recently realized that i haven’t actually said what it is that i am studying that makes this blog necessary in its: a) capacity to familiarize me with the exciting world of web 2.0 and, b) to offer me a place of solace, of peace, of genuine procrastinate-y goodness. drum-roll: i study online dating. now at parties, this makes me unbelievably popular. similar to my master’s work when i did an “intensive” two month stint on a nude beach and got: 1) the best tan of my life, and 2) a master’s degree out of the ethnographic account of it i gave in my thesis, this project is of widespread interest because of the amount that is not known about such an everyday activity. like nude beaches, online dating sites are places people might have stumbled upon or clandestinely ventured into for a “sneak a peak.” but the folks i am interested in are the ones who stay and bask a while in what can become a lifestyle. online dating, as i am compelled to understand and research it, can become a lifestyle as well – or more pointedly, can alter the course of one’s lifestyle if indulged in seriously. and i gotta say folks – people are serious about online dating. and why shouldn’t they be. it is a wonder that popular culture references online dating as though it is for the desperate, defective, or depraved. my research, perhaps unsurprisingly, demonstrates that online daters are really just people that are committed, diligent individuals trying to meet people in a city that is infamous for its inhospitality to singles. online dating of course has a sexy side, a fetish side, a dissenting side, and a niche market side but what interests me most are those people simply and unabashedly looking for love. i mean theoretically i am interested in all of the online daters many-faceted motivations, expectations, and struggles to (be)come and show who they “really are.” i have always been fascinated, since i was a child, with difference and what difference means in a world of the similar. online dating in some ways demands to be seen as a “different” way to meet people. but what is more fascinating is what that difference means to the lives of online daters and the ways that they understand themselves in the world. not only can you life, location, and love-life change, but your understandings of yourself and the effect you have on the other can also change. not that i am suggesting that engaging in online dating necessarily evokes change and wonderment at oneself. but it does offer a opportunity to reflect, on oneself and one’s desires and thus a fertile valley of publicly accessible and vastly engaging accounts of the self. we must make ourselves intelligible in this world if we are to attract (an)other(s). being compelled to seriously look for those others in a forum such as online dating is interesting in its difference but also in its sameness. to oneself intelligible, one sometimes has to put themselves into boxes that don’t quite fit, shade in areas of alien importance, and deign to answer those requests, behests, of those just not quite “right.” i will have more to say about areas of the intelligible but for now i enjoy having intriguing dinner party talk and a memory of a summer on a hot canadian beach.

there is a trend that bloggers i admire sometimes subscribe to and i have decided to take the plunge and braindump about the random (and no so) thoughts (that the everest survivor i read about in maclean’s eloquently equates with bats zipping in and out at dusk), by considering what i consider to be some not-so-random-thoughts albeit written and presented as unconsidered randomness of the most randomly random. yeah. sometimes it feels good to talk shit. here goes:

* shockingly, a four-year phd seems impossible. or that is what everyone who has their phd tells me. who knew?

* the old adage that says that life happens when you are making other plans was impressively de-corny-fied by my lovely friend M who has deep insight into not only human behaviour but jacks anxiety as well. i believe she said something, characteristically simple-but-always-shockingly-profound about how life is surprising and ultimately the surprises are always good because they result from (and in) choices that you make/have made. she is an old sage dressed in cute pixie skin i tells you.

* i am not always as funny as i think i am. again: who knew?

* housewifedom, not matter how diametrically opposed to what i am doing (and really, how different is it? i once met a guy at a party who asked me what i did and, during my long graduate student pause, offered that there is no shame to being a housewife to which i promptly replied, “i’m basically a housewife who reads a lot.” see how i think that i’m funny?), will not save me or deliver me from my dissertation. no matter how many bonbons i eat. seriously.

* i think britney spear’s new songs are danceable. and this makes me a fundamentally bad person.

* everyone deserves a warm-weather destination vacation fully paid by their work or the government

* i have no idea what actually goes on at american thanksgiving (nor how it is different from american christmas) (nor how american and canadian christmas differs) (nor why the fact that austrians apparently have a baby jesus that flies to and fro on christmas eve (?) kinda scares the crap outta me).

* i am puzzled as to why my brain refuses any kind of systematic inquiry. like math, coding, making lists (and actually checking them), writing in an agenda, playing risk, strategizing of any kind, really, making plans over a week away, and editing. the word editing seriously makes me shiver. i won’t mention it again. just for my own safety.

That, my friends, was an attempt at brain-dumping randomness. which is actually impossible for me because even randomness requires some kind of systematicity which i have only badly approximated here. i know you want to read a blog that is better at random thoughts. well here it is: here . so there.

i know what you are thinking. hate is such a strong word. therefore we need some clarity in this endeavour. i don’t actually HATE this blog but i’ll let you in on a little secret: i hated my last blog. it was painful and “professional” and horrible. i needed to get rid of it. so i dumped it for this sweet new glossy one. all pretty and easy to use. so hate is a misnomer. so there. on my last blog i felt compelled to be confessional, professional, and…well, that was just boring. but this is a whole new story. as someone who has always loved to write and who now studies new media technologies, i decided that i NEEDED a blog. what makes me so needful of a blog? i guess the advice of another recently morphed phd student come doctor who recommended a blog for procrastination purposes (find her fabulous blog here). and a conference where another phd student tracks the pedagogical importance of blogging for other phd students (find her personal blog here – it links to her phd research blog). so i’m putting a lot of eggs in this basket. i am hoping for catharsis for sure. so maybe hate isn’t really a misnomer. i hate the compulsion to narcissistically write about oneself. but hate stills sounds so harsh. i also hate the compulsion i feel to outline the uses and abuses of my blogging. like an outline for an essay, i feel i need a plan. i have been watching way too much of the Showtime series Dexter and feel that this prefatory blog entry is inspired by the painful articulation of his innermost thoughts which acts as the narration of the show. maybe that is what this blog will be: a narration of my writing-up “process.” a friend recently encouraged me to join his ten-year plan for the (un)completion of his phd process. wittily, he explained that people immediately stop listening as soon as you tell them that you are writing your dissertation. he has been effectively hedging people off and doing his phd swimmingly for ten years now. as envious of his procrastination as i am, i still want to be finished in a year. so while the time starts ticking, the hate stops here. until, of course, i begin to hate my dissertation which is TOTALLY gonna happen. fer sure. it’s coming. wait for it…