Size Matters: But You Have Such a Pretty Face

I found this interesting argument on sparked by comments blogger Tasha Fierce made about Grey’s Anatomy star Sara Ramirez when she called her fat. Here is her quote:
While there are endless examples of fat female characters portrayed in an unappealing light on television, fewer and farther between are positive portrayals of female fatness. When you come across one, even if it’s on an otherwise dull show, it’s refreshing to see. I’d like to take in a few of those breaths of fresh air here, for your reading pleasure.

Grey’s Anatomy: Dr. Callie Torres (see above picture)
Played deftly by Sara Ramirez, Callie is a strong, complicated, nuanced and gorgeous woman of color who happens to be fat—a characteristic that doesn’t hamper her ability to get it on with some of the hottest people on the show, from Dr. Mark “McSteamy” Sloan to her current love interest, an attractive, thin blonde woman by the name of Arizona. This relatively recent development in Callie’s love life earned her the adoration of legions of queer women (myself included). Her character proves that fat female sexuality can be portrayed in a tasteful, positive light without the partner of the fat woman being positioned as a “chubby chaser” or in some other way a fat fetishist.
read the complete post here

This pissed some reader off and sparked and interesting argument and observation about how we categorize people as “fat”.
Here is what it it sparked in response:
Size Matters: But You Have Such a Pretty Face
Social Commentary post by Tasha Fierce, Submitted by Tasha Fierce on August 9, 2010 – 10:52am

As there seems to be a basic lack of understanding of fat acceptance among many readers here, I think it’s appropriate to take some time out and illustrate some of what I consider the main lessons taught by the fat positivity and fat acceptance movements. I recognize that Bitch does not regularly deal with issues of size and fatness, so we’ll just discuss some key points and then we can go back to talking about fat in pop culture.

First off, the last post I did, “Size Matters: Small Screen, Big Women” ignited an angry firestorm of folks upset because I called Grey’s Anatomy’s Sara Ramirez “fat.” These comments included statements like:

I never thought of Sara Ramirez as fat. I however do agree that she is super hot.

It is sick you are calling Sara Ramirez fat! What is going on in this world when a woman who doesnt look like she is dying of starvation is called fat! Her stomach is flat!

Sara is BEAUTIFUL. unbelievably beautiful and NOT fat. if she’s fat then most of the world is freaking obese.

I believe that questioning whether Sara Ramirez is fat is a pertinent question. […] The truth is she has a healthy way and the fact that she is a plus sized woman shows how even sizes tend to consider a healthy weight and figure as plus sized. I believe she probably considers herself as plus sized because, amidst a Hollywood where ultra thin women are the rule, a healthy and beautiful voluptuous woman is an exception when she should be the rule.
(emphasis supplied)

I’d be very insulted and hurt if someone called me fat. And as I said above, I’m 5’5 and 190 lbs, and I’m sure people think I am, but I do not consider myself to be fat in any way.

There are many different layers and flavors of fatphobia in those comments. The first comment may not have been meant to imply that fat was bad, however it does illustrate that Sara Ramirez is considered beautiful, but not fat, to that commenter. Maybe the commenter feels fat is bigger than that, but is not upset by hearing Sara Ramirez called fat. I don’t know. The point is, fat and hot are not mutually exclusive.

What is also interested is that Tasha makes a salient point when she points out that on the same show there is another (as she would say) “Fat” actress Chandra Wilson:

Now, in the post there was a bit of a trick (unintended) that ended up bringing out the true reasoning behind many of the comments defensive of Ms. Ramirez. Chandra Wilson (pictured above), another fat actress on Grey’s Anatomy, is actually much smaller in all dimensions than Sara Ramirez. Yet no one took to her defense. She basically got thrown under the proverbial fat bus. Why is that? Well, Chandra Wilson is not conventionally attractive. She is also not portrayed as a sex symbol on the show. She’s a stout black woman who I happen to think is gorgeous, but she’s not part of the sex antics on the show.

Basically what these comments are saying is “Sara Ramirez is hot, and fat people are not hot. Ergo, Sara Ramirez is not fat.” They are also, by lack of inclusion, saying “Chandra Wilson is fat, even though she’s smaller than Sara Ramirez, because she is not hot (to me).” And finally, they’re saying what every fat woman who has a conventionally attractive face hears many times over their life as a fatty: “You have such a pretty face.”
Read the complete post here

This is a very interesting topic, if you are “beautiful” or “hot” does that somehow make you exempt from the stigma that “unattractive” heavy people are subjected to? does it make the “extra” poundage, sexy instead of sloppy? We all know that beauty has it’s privileges albeit seldom do we think of those privileges extending beyond the waif-like, blond, bee stung lipped model types. This made me think about how I perceive such prejudices. It reminds me of when there are incidents of children being harmed or killed and people say “Oh it’s so sad, she was such a pretty girl” which makes me ask, “If she were ugly would it then be more understandable?” Bad things shouldn’t happen to “pretty” people. Or if you say that a woman is gay and people say “Oh but she’s so beautiful” as if her sexual orientation hinged on her attractiveness (to men). There are a number of things in our society that act as exemptions: race, wealth, lineage and “breeding” talent, fame and yes beauty. I think it’s Darwinian, natural selection however in the human race there are far more social politics then in the lower animal kingdom. The t’ruth is that there is little that we can do about it other then to be personally aware of then it creeps into our own thinking and effects our own actions and behaviors. Either way we all know the code “She got a GREAT personality” means that she’s fat and so does “But she has a pretty face” .