mainstream?
May 30, 2003 03:47 PM

There was this brilliant rant I wrote, but then I clicked on some link and stupidly lost what I typed in the MT window. Will I ever learn to type elsewhere first?

So. Tish linked one of the very cute postcards from Fatcities.com earlier this week and was rebuffed for her relatively balanced treatment of the site. I’m glad she posted what essentially served as a disclaimer, because otherwise the site would have been too disappointing.

One of the site’s main functions seems to be hooking up the “undateable” with each other. I’m fine with that. So, the pictures and such get a little slutty, but I’m not as averse to random porn as others are. I would like a little warning that material might be “adult”, but I’d deal if the rest of the site were compelling.

It’s clear that Fatcities’s goal is to be a “mainstream” sales- and advertising-oriented site, much like Yahoo or its ilk. And okay, I accept that. What I don’t accept is its definition of mainstream fat acceptance as non-existent (that is, the mainstream interpretation of fat acceptance, if you follow the subtext, is that fat people are kinda sad victims who need to be helped out of their fatness).

Here are some of the news items cited as “Fat Issues & Fat Acceptance” on the site:

Could you be thinner if you moved to another city?
Too Heavy, Too Young -what parents can do for fat children (it’s all about how to make them un-fat)
Fattest US Cities 2003
Are your height & weight proportionate? Find out here! (BMI calculator)

When you say you want to balance “mainstream” with fat-friendly and you proceed to fixate on dieting and talk about the reasons for obesity, you don’t challenge anyone’s perception. Any of those articles in the right context could be a call to arms, but instead they just spread the message that fat people aren’t okay. Aren’t, to be blunt, mainstream.

I get a little squirrelly about taking women stuff and fat stuff and movement stuff and placing it in an environment that’s about selling stuff. Take the message, water it down a little, add some sugar – and you have messageade! Now with 10% real message!

And you have to wonder: is 10% message worth it? If 80% of the people get 10% of the message, is that progress? In theory, I believe it is. I believe little girls in twenty-dollar t-shirts (now in size XXXL) that read “gurls rawk!” in pink glitter glue are advancing appreciation of feminism. It might not be real political action, but it is, at least, taking that action to the mall – to the mainstream.

It’s just. When I actually see this in practice, it’s a little creepy.

Dru is talking a bit about the mainstream today, and pointed out Pink Prickly Pear’s brilliant rant on the same.

I don’t, as many liberals seem to, think that mainstream American/Western culture is completely banal. There is depth everywhere, and in everyone. So there’s a place for messageade – the place where you introduce the concept in a safe, no-one’s-skin’s-in-this way, the place where the real message trickles down through what we buy because yo, that’s what capitalism is all about.

But. That’s the mainstream co-opting a small part of radicalism. That’s people selling things using what they hear the kids are buying these days.

I think the right way changes when the seller belongs, or at least claims to belong, to the radicalized group.

When you’re part of something that isn’t considered mainstream, you risk not making any progress when you try to package your thing as Yahoo, or as Barbie. You risk “fat acceptance” meaning “feel bad for fat people but don’t hurt them”, you risk “gurls rawk” t-shirts becoming yet another thing girls must have to be pretty, popular, normal.

Do you risk more by not doing anything? Probably. I guess I just want more.

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