In the last year or so, there has been a (re)emergence of the term “thicc.” On social media, it has been almost impossible to scroll through your timeline without someone being referred to as “thicc,” “thick,” or some other variation of the word. As celebrities like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and others began to gain weight, headlines began to circulate where writers were celebrating the celebrities’ “thickness” and not their fatness. It is for this reason that I have grown a strong disdain for the term “thicc/k” and am adamant about being clear in the fact that using the term “thicc/k” as a compliment while still actively denying fat people our humanity, our right to love, and proper medical care, housing, and jobs is anti-fat.
Mainstream—whereby I mean hegemonic—powers have created a dichotomy between “thicc/k” and “fat.” Anti-fat domination determines who gets to be the former and who is always understood as the latter. This is how desirability/beauty politics show up in our language. The reality is that these two terms are the same; thicc/k is fat, fat is thicc/k. How one defines and understands beauty is what informs their language around other people’s weight and appearance. Said again, how someone’s fatness sits on their body determines whether they are read as “thicc/k” or “fat,” and I posit that this plays a major role in anti-fat discrimination/oppression.
thicc/k is fat, fat is thicc/k
When discussing anti-fatness, people oftentimes reduce this form of oppression to discriminatory, brutal language—most notably referred to as “fat shaming.” Language does, in fact, play a role in anti-fat oppression. It is why, for the most part, fat people prefer terms like “thicc/k,” “big,” “big-boned” because “fat” has always been weaponized against us. Many fat people have anecdotal tales about the times we’ve experienced anti-fatness in the workplace, in school, in the medical field. However, anti-fatness does not begin and end with anecdote. In fact, anti-fatness’s reach extends far beyond the language that reinforces its existence. It is systemic. According to North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO), in 1999, a 14-year-old girl by the name of Gina Score died due to anti-fat biases and prejudices. It is said that Gina, who had been part of a camp run and operated by military veterans, had been tasked with a 2.7-mile run. She fell on the ground, gasping for air. After four hours of her instructors laughing, drinking soda, and accusing Gina of faking, a doctor came and called for an ambulance immediately. Gina’s organs had failed. She had died. Just a few years prior, Canadian doctor and columnist, Kenneth Walker, wrote in a popular and well-cited newspaper column that “For their own good and for the good of the country, fat people should be locked up in prison camps.”
In a study performed by Steven L. Gortmaker and other scientists, it was proven that fat men were eleven percent (11%) less likely to marry and fat women were twenty percent (20%) less likely to marry. In 49 out of the 50 US states, it is legal to fire someone for no other reason than their fatness. In other words, unless a fat person is fired for being fat in Michigan—the only state with a law which protects people who are overweight—they can be fired and nothing can be done about it. Fat people—women and queer folks, specifically—are so often not given the space to discuss their histories with sexual abuse away from desire. We are met with “why would anyone want to rape you?” People read our bodies, be it consciously or not, as undesirable and, thus, do not understand what would compel someone to violate us sexually—even though rape is generally about engaging sex as an avenue through which one can maintain power over a person/place/thing. Herein is why we do not hear fat people’s #MeToo stories.
When Black Panther was released earlier this year, many people celebrated the casting of a “thicc/k” Winston Duke, who played leader of the Jabari Tribe, M’Baku. Folks wrote on the barriers someone of his stature would break in a film of Black Panther’s magnitude; many lusted after Duke on social media, noting his height and “massive thighs” as something they looked forward to seeing in the film. At one point, Winston Duke even went on record to thank Black women for helping him “heal” from the scars associated with his size. While I recognize that a Black man who towers at 6’4” with 250 pounds resting on his body likely does have a lot to heal from, I am more thoughtful of the many people whose weight does not rest so easily on their bodies. I am forced to think about the darkskin Black man who also towers at over 6’, but weighs 600 pounds, and how that leads to him being antagonized, and not celebrated, on social media. I am forced to think about Black women like Roxane Gay, who stands at 6’3” with over 400 pounds on her body. I am mindful of my own nonbinary body; a body that is 6’ and well over 250 pounds.
With our bodies in mind, I am unable to give as much thought to bodies like Winston Duke’s; the rest of the world will already do that. I am all-too-aware of the fact that this room which Winston Duke is given to discuss his insecurities with his size happens at the expense of fat people without his money, fame, or frame. It is this reality—a reality that dehumanizes and otherizes poor, darkskin, fat people—that would play a role in the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. For darkskin Black people with fat bodies that are undesirable, we live knowing that we are at a higher risk of experiencing violence at the hands of the state.To assign language like “thicc/k” to what can otherwise be understood as fat is to manipulate the pleasure-economy under capitalism—by which I mean the actualizing of new structures in which we find pleasure. Click To Tweet
There is a particular currency in thickness that is not found in fatness. To assign language like “thicc/k” to what can otherwise be understood as fat is to manipulate the pleasure-economy under capitalism—by which I mean the actualizing of new structures in which we find pleasure. This is, as it stands, a way to specifically remove any ability to locate desire in a body that is outright fat and place it solely in bodies with weight that is “proportionate.” For those of us who will never be seen as anything other than fat, we are being told through this use of “thicc/k” that our cages, as Roxane Gay calls the body, are not desirable; that only a particular type of fatness is capable of being beautiful/desired/whole. Not just desirable in the sense of beauty, love, and sex, but desirable as it affects and pertains to our health, our education, our livelihoods.
So, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and others assigned “thicc/k” as a label get to have others celebrate their weight gain—albeit, not void of misogynoir—while women and femmes like Roxane Gay, Jamal Lewis, and Ashleigh Shackelford continue to fight for bodies like theirs to be seen as valid. Winston Duke gets access to money and healing while boys and men like Mike Brown and Eric Garner meet death. This dichotomy is anti-fat. This is anti-fat violence, and it is this that makes the use of “thicc/k” anti-fat.
I am aware that, even after reading this, many people will not stop using the word “thicc/k.” Nevertheless, it is my hope that through this it is made clear that whatever desire someone locates in a body they deem “thicc/k,” what they find attractive really is fatness. We need to be honest about that to destigmatize fatness and fat people’s bodies. This is truly the difference between life and death.
To continue dissecting anti-fatness, both on a personal and structural basis, I suggest following these beautiful fat people with beautiful fat politics on Twitter:
ICE Raids Set Country on Edge
Donald Trump has recently tweeted ICE’s plans to carry out raids across the country. Aiming for the seizure of 2,000 immigrants who have court orders to be removed, ICE officers will flood 10 cities.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers plan includes the detainment of “immigrants who happened to be on the scene,” whether they are targets of the raid or not. Set to take place Sunday, the massive deportation effort has spurred politicians against the raid to encourage potential targets to educate themselves. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is reminding those at risk that without a judicial warrant, it is illegal for an officer to enter their home. As citizens watch from the sidelines, it is the surest sign that some Americans have forgotten our history.
Recalling the 10 Stages of Genocide, Americans against the forced removal of immigrants recognize we are at stage seven, preparation. For several years, the polarization of Muslims, Hispanic, and Latinx peoples between North Americans has mirrored the slow, but devastating vilification Jews faced in Germany. Mainstream news media outlets flood those susceptible to propaganda with lies regarding the theft of employment opportunities and skew crime rates statistics. Even now, as the mistreatment of detained immigrants is downplayed by government officials, it parallels the increase in violence against subject populations between 1933 and 1941.
“Those six years are a very particular phase of development of the Nazi project where a lot of steps were taken inside Germany to isolate German Jews from the rest of the population, to start measures sterilizing, isolating, and eventually even to start killing, to rearm Germany to prepare for the war of conquest, but also to cover up that rearmament by talking peaceful intentions publicly so that people elsewhere in the world wouldn’t be too alarmed.”Doris Bergen
As explained by Professor Doris Bergen, the attempt of Jewish extermination did not begin with gas chambers. So, Wednesday Trump delayed the action to see if Congress could work out a legislative solution. However, ICE director Ken Cuccinelli says the raids are “absolutely going to happen.” He continued, “There’s approximately a million people in this country with removal orders. And of course that isn’t what ICE will go after in this, but that’s the pool of people who have been all the way through the due process chain.”
If you are at risk of detainment, visit https://www.wehaverights.us/ to learn how to handle potential encounters in multiple languages.
Pose Has A Colorism Problem
Critically acclaimed FX series, Pose, drew attention last night to the vicious and dishearteningly overlooked murders of Black trans women and other women of color. While it’s important to highlight the stories, both real and fictional, of trans people that move through society with little protection, fans are calling out the show for missing the opportunity to discuss colorism as well.
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
Watchers of the FX series, Pose, are mourning the loss of the beloved character, Candy Johnson-Ferocity. But for Black viewers, Candy’s departure left them feeling slighted. As one of the only two dark skinned characters on the show, Candy’s experience was harsh. She was depicted as catty, a product of her mistreatment by those around her, and seemed to exist without a storyline. Candy was given every trope they refused to assign to Angel, another trans woman of color. However, Angel possesses lighter skin.
In the past, writers and showrunners have been careful to avoid depicting acts of violence against trans women of color in a predictable fashion. So, the choice to show Angel in a seemingly stable situationship with Stan was well received. But why couldn’t Candy have a moment in the sun? The experiences of trans women are not separated by skin color, making it entirely possible for her to be loved out loud by others and herself. Presenting her as a damaged trans woman who lived dangerously as a sex worker without the knowledge of what threats she faced makes her death incomplete. And to use a dark skin trans woman to convey the message in a world that does not value dark skin lives felt excessive.
Candy left us without definition, shapeless as a character whose story would never take form. Her moments of glory went uncelebrated as she was frequently the butt of the joke, spoken of highly only in her passing. And for many, her death felt like a forced but necessary reminder to protect Black trans women. Yet, as some have pointed out on Twitter, LuLu’s passing would have hit just as hard and the message would still have been received. But here we stand, with only one dark skin character left in a series promising representation for all. Let’s hope Elektra is used for more than tragedy.
How did you feel about the most recent episode of Pose? Will you continue to watch?
Do We Really Need Making The Band 5?
Feeling nostalgic, Wale requested Diddy resumes the MTV series Making the Band. But knowing Diddy’s problematic history regarding artist treatment and alleged lack of compensation, do we really need the show to return?
Harlem native Sean “Diddy” Combs got his start in the music industry in the early 90s as an intern at Uptown Records. Although he was fired from the company, Diddy went on to lay the foundation for Bad Boy Records in 1993. The label built itself on the shoulders of Biggie, securing other notable acts like 112, Mase, Total, and Faith Evans along the way. However, the untimely passing of Notorious B.I.G., following the East-West rap beef, came at an immeasurable cost. Along with losing a close friend, Diddy’s label struggled to maintain relevance. Then, came Making the Band.
Hardly remembered, the first three seasons of the series were not actually about Diddy’s unique requests and consistent studio shutdowns. It initially focused on the time-tested formula of boy bands. Looking to recreate the magical hold the Backstreet Boys or NSYNC had over our teenage years, Lou Pearlman spearheaded the first iteration of the show. Conducting a nationwide talent search, he selected 25 singers before dwindling down to the final five that would later become O-Town. The three-season run focused on the grooming of the boy band, initially signed to Transcontinental Records, their transfer to Clive Davis’ label J Records, and their subsequent split. All rising to and falling from stardom in the span of just three years, the series that birthed a boy band was pressured to continue. But how? In came Diddy.
“Bring Me Some Cheesecake”
Attempting to season the show, Making the Band 2 began airing October 2002 and suffered the same fate as it’s marshmallow version. The series focused on Diddy’s search for talented rappers and singers to form a hip-hop super group. But it all came crashing down in April 2004 by Diddy’s own hand. The first season of the new series centered on the selection process, but season 2 was where the content was. As we then laughed at the hilarious and over the top demands of his new artists, to see a man worth $820 million degrade lower class Black people for amusement now would be sick. Diddy subjected his artists to strange and arbitrary tasks, all to appease himself. As they dredged through the stop-start mud of production, Too Hot For TV, the debut album of Da Band would sell fewer than 1 million copies. Now, Da Band exists only in obscurity and memes, but that wouldn’t stop Diddy from continuing the show.
It would be fair to say Making the Band 3 was influenced by the popularity of Destiny’s Child, given the shift to creating a girl group in 2005. Diddy joined forces with Laurie Ann “Boom Kack” Gibson to form a successful group that would assume the name Danity Kane. However, problems plagued the members and were chronicled in a special titled “The Rise and Fall of Danity Kane”, which aired in 2009. As Diddy was working to form the girl group, his relationship with Cassie, who was also signed to Bad Boy, became public knowledge. He also had other artists whose careers he’d simply abandoned.
Diddy signed a rapper named Aasim in 2004, whose debut through Bad Boy was never released. He’d also picked up Yung Joc, who along with Cassie helped Bad Boy Records chart with top five singles. However, Joc only released two albums with Bad Boy before being relegated to self-released mixtapes for most of his career. In fact, Diddy has lost 47 artists over the 26 years of Bad Boy’s existence. At this moment, out of the nine acts currently signed to Bad Boy, only five of them have no familial relation. Several of the artists once signed to Bad Boy alleged that Diddy crafted contracts that made them glorified work horses, making him millions and leaving them destitute. Although he vehemently denies any wrongdoing, do we really need to risk another instance of Making the Band when Diddy has no recent history of successfully leading an artist to stardom?
At any rate, Diddy and MTV are testing the waters to see if you want your MTB. Do you want Making the Band 5?
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