Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

Why I say “fat” / Pourquoi je dis «grosse»

2017 . 04 . 17 - Comments / Commentaires (14)

Talking about fat people is often delicate.

Parler de personnes grosses est souvent délicat.

Empathetic Magic opens on June 10th at the MT Burton Gallery in New Jersey. I’m blogging about the series as I make it here.

La magie empathique commence le 10 juin à la MT Burton Gallery dans le New Jersey. Je parle de la réalisation de la collection sur mon blog ici.

fat woman

Gwenn Seemel
Superfat Crop Top Girl Gang (Rachele standing out) / Superfat Crop Top Girl Gang (Rachele qui se vante)
acrylic on bird’s eye piqué / acrylique sur coton piqué
18 inches in diameter / 46 centimètres de diamètre
(detail below / détail plus bas)

fat woman

I learned a lot about body positivity and what it means to be fat from Virgie Tovar’s Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion. An early experience with a fat nude model was the beginning of my reevaluating what I’d been taught about fat.

J’ai appris beaucoup à propos de la body positivity avec Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion de Virgie Tovar. Et pour comprendre comment ce mouvement se manifeste en France, j’ai regardé plein de blogs sur le sujet. Celui-ci en particulier m’a plu.

Rachele Cateyes

Rachele’s art / l’art de Rachele

Rachele makes art and my portrait of her is named for a coloring book she created.

Rachele fait de l’art et le titre de mon portrait vient d’un coloriage qu’elle a publié.

- Winning a battle
- Art as propaganda
- Repeater

- Free speech / La liberté d’expression
- The link between beauty and death / Le lien entre la beauté et la mort
- Grandmotherly / Comme une grand-mère

CATEGORIES: - English - Français - TOP POSTS - Empathetic Magic - Featuring artists - Feminism - Portraiture - Process images - Video -

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(14) Comments / Commentaires: Why I say “fat” / Pourquoi je dis «grosse»

-- Linda Ursin -- 2017 . 04 . 17 --

I use the term fat without problems. I am fat myself and I don’t see it as a terribly negative word anymore. We all choose how we interpret words. In my experience, those who usually have more of a problem with a certain word are those to whom that term doesn’t apply.

As an example, we’ve been reclaiming the words witch and heathen for the last 50 years smile

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-- Brie -- 2017 . 04 . 17 --

Yes! Thank you Gwenn!

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-- Gwenn -- 2017 . 04 . 18 --

@Linda: I had become comfortable using the word “fat” when I was living in a more liberal area. Recently though, I was using it where I live now—an area where a lot of people are what I call “aggressively normal”—and I realized that I might be offending people. It’s hard to shift the meanings of words! But you may be right, it may be because I’m not fat that I worry about the effect of the word “fat” on fat people.

@Brie: Hugs to you, friend!

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-- Linda Ursin -- 2017 . 04 . 18 --

@Gwenn I am so happy I was born, raised, and live in liberal countries

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-- Gwenn -- 2017 . 04 . 18 --

@Linda: Sometimes I feel like exposure to these other mindsets is good for me and my art. Sometimes it’s just exhausting, though. Then again, maybe that’s a reflection of how I feel about the general state of our world right now—which I’m pretty sure is the result of aggressively normal people being super duper aggressively normal. :(

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-- Linda Ursin -- 2017 . 04 . 18 --

I totally understand. That’s why I keep speaking up about things like that too

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-- Jenny -- 2017 . 04 . 21 --

Personnellement, je préfère dire que je suis ronde, je trouve ça plus doux. Après, le mot gros(se), ça dépend aussi pas mal de la façon dont on le dit!

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-- Gwenn -- 2017 . 04 . 21 --

@Jenny: C’est vrai que la personne peut facilement changer comment le mot est compris. Qu’est-ce que t’en penses de l’idée qu’il serait possible de dissocier le mot “gros” des insultes qui vont avec souvent? C’est un peu comme le mouvement par certaines femmes pour reprendre le mot “cunt” en anglais…

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-- Shannon -- 2017 . 04 . 24 --

I appreciate your Empathetic Magic project and can’t wait to see more of it. And you know that I always find your posts/vlogs thought provoking. However, as a “fat” person, I have personally cringed every time I hear you use that term. It may be descriptive, just as being a blonde or a brunette is, but as someone who has been anorexic and now battles my weight (gaining more weight back after each significant weight loss), it just feels hurtful to me.  You and your body-positive friend may mean nothing negative by it, but my experience has been that the majority of the population does, especially when it comes from someone who would not be described as fat. A quick look at the word “Fat” in a Thesaurus reveals what I would consider mostly negative words that I personally would find hurtful if directed at me.

I personally would much prefer curvy, voluptuous, zaftig or rubenesque, although I realize that those can also carry a meaning of sensuality/sexuality with them. I still find them more positive than “fat”; when used they tend to be used in a more complimentary manner.  Perhaps a better word might be “ample”, with synonyms that are much kinder yet also reflective of someone with a body type similar to mine. I realize they are only words, but words are powerful.  You have every right to use the word you feel most appropriate, but I think there are many people like me that are not ready to embrace the word the way that you have.

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-- Gwenn -- 2017 . 04 . 24 --

@Shannon: I hear you and I struggle with the discomfort I know I am causing many people, but I stand by the word, because the logic behind it is solid. And it’s not just me and Rachele who use the word. There’s a whole universe of body positivity out there, that may be of interest to you. Reading about how other women relate to their bodies has been very healing for me. I recommend Virgie Tovar’s Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion.

In the end, saying “fat” is a little like the reclaiming of the word “cunt” as not an insult but, instead, a part of the female anatomy. I know that the discomfort that “cunt” causes me comes from the way I’ve accepted that I’m supposed to hate women or think that women are lesser than men. And that discomfort is powerful! But every time I use the word correctly (referring to a body part) I feel like I’m sucking the power away from the misogynists—some of whom are definitely involved in the writing of the Thesaurus! smile

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-- Mary-Beth -- 2017 . 04 . 27 --

Great post, lots to think about. I could not agree more with the idea of reclamation of the power of words like fat. I believe in all humans’ right to label or describe themselves however it feels good to them, and our right to ask others to consider those labels. As a fat woman I say “thin may be in, but fat is where it’s at!” Let’s meet each other where we find ourselves on life’s journey, there’s so much to share and learn!

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-- Bonnie -- 2017 . 04 . 27 --

Wow!  I am fat.  Very fat compared to what I was 47 years ago on my wedding day.  Then I was 45 kg…now there are two of me!  I have learned to accept the word fat simply as an adjective.  Easy to understand, no question about the meaning.  My Mum was fat too…and my sisters.  But I am also happy and comfortable in my very stretchy skin!  And the happy part of me is much more important to me than the fat or skinny one.  I like your style….

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-- tv toes -- 2017 . 04 . 27 --

Empathetic Magic sounds great. I just wrote a paper on the history of objectification of the female body. Its hard to change peoples opinions on this topic because society has has been shaming fat people for so long. Body dysmorphia something people do not pay enough attention to. Its awful. Im glad you’re highlighting it in your work. This is why i love you, fuck the societal norms. Cant wait to see more.

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-- Gwenn -- 2017 . 04 . 28 --

@Mary-Beth: Yes to meeting each other where we are and to sharing and learning! smile

@Bonnie: I like how you talk about the happy part of you. So true that it is at the core of us, the most vital part of who we are, and yet we somehow forget it or put it aside.

@TVtoes: I can’t wait to see the finished work either. :p But more than that, I can’t wait to see you! (Maybe in July? I’ll text you.)

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