It took until my late 20s to admit to myself something I’d been trying to deny for years: I love pop music. Yes, it’s true. And I refuse to be ashamed any longer! When I was a teenager, I ran in the rock/indie crowd. We worshipped either male-fronted bands or manic pixie dream girls. It was patently not acceptable for me to admit that I was secretly grooving to whatever Lady Gaga hit was out at the time. Well, guess what? Lady Gaga is an Oscar winner now, and rock has—for the first time in history—fallen to the conquering hip hop superstars.
Since pop music is mainly associated with women, it’s never taken as seriously as traditionally male genres. It’s met at best with flippancy and at worst disdain. And for a long time, this was my attitude as well. But I realize now that pop can be all the things normally associated with the more “serious” genres: progressive, subversive, political, empowering. This really shouldn’t be a surprise to me. I mean, if we jump back in time 20 years you’ll see me making up Spice Girls routines in the living room, yelling “girl power!!” and exalting the power of female friendships. I didn’t know it at the time, but the seeds of feminism were being planted, and all through Top 40 smash hits. But it took years of undoing whatever damage internalized misogyny had done to me, to see pop music not just as some silly, fluffy nonsense but as an important addition to the music landscape.
There are just short of 128 pages of text that I’d like to quote in this post, but I’ll have to make do with a select few tidbits from the entire selection. It’s worth noting though, that in just over 100 small pages with You Have the Right to Remain Fat, Tovar has made what I felt to be quite a compelling argument against diet culture & fatphobia, arguing that its continued existence in the form of popular health guides (e.g. healthy is the new thin) seeps through every pore of our existence and submits every woman it touches to its unhealthy system of size discrimination, regardless of where along the spectrum you fit in (in fact every person, as it’s not just women participating in the propagation of and living with fatphobia). I would recommend You Have the Right to Remain Fat to any and everyone. Go read it. Now. We have two physical copies and one electronic book (available via hoopla), so there’s no excuse not to either borrow it or put yourself on hold immediately. So let’s get into some of what makes this slim volume such a pithy and convincing text on why we as a collective should stop judging people by the size of their bodies, including ourselves.
If I were to ask you whether you’ve been affected in any way throughout your life by fatphobia, what would your answer be? If you identify as, or have been categorized in some point in your life by other people as, belonging to the side of the spectrum that fatphobia puts down and shames – i.e. if you’re fat – you might have precious little difficulty coming up with instances when being anything more than what is deemed thin enough (is it ever enough?) has played a part in influencing your life in ways both obvious and more insidious. For those on the other side of the spectrum – thin or even just not-fat – would you say you’ve been touched by fatphobia? At first glance, it might not be immediately obvious, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that body size monitoring, whether it’s becoming thin or staying thin, affects everyone, not just those on the fat side side. Unless you’ve gotten to this point completely unaware of body size discrimination and the values we as a society ascribe to different body sizes (in which case… I don’t know whether to be happy for you because you’ve been so fortunate/live somewhere where body size discrimination doesn’t exist (also where you at?) or to ask if you’ve buried your head in the sand), and even if you’re unaware of how body discrimination has affected you throughout your life thus far (and will probably continue to do so in the future), this is a bias that is as pervasive in popular media and in lived realities as it is damaging for everyone involved.
Timely in the wake of diet culture, You Have the Right to Remain Fat will incense you and give you some hefty chunks of food for thought that will make you re-evaluate your existing biases and our societal norms.
I am writing today about a terrific actor who deserves special mention: Omar Sy. Having spent nearly 13 hours and 31 minutes researching (viewing his films) I feel confident saying that he is one of the greats. In 2012, he won France’s “most prestigious acting award, the Cesar” for his role in Intouchables. According to Information Cradle, “he is the first recipient of African descent to win the César Award” (I believe it is in the same league as winning an Oscar). Sy comes from a large family, the fourth of eight children born to West-African immigrants who settled in France. He grew up in low-income housing projects but made his way to the big time, forming a comedy duo with Fred Testot not long after graduating from high school. Intouchables was his break-out role.
All of these films are in Continue reading