Thinking a lot about “thin for Detroit.” I haven’t hit my dash yet, Lucas just told me about it as soon as I got up. And like, what is she even saying? ‘Cause Detroit isn’t even one of the fattest cities in the nation, right? So she’s just making presumptions about black women’s bodies, right?
But just think about all the shit that’s collateral for this woman. Nobody should have to be called fat because they are in the public eye, and no one deserves to lose autonomy over their body when their body becomes a “public issue,” obvs, and nobody likes Howard Stern. But this woman went from “I’M AN AVERAGE WOMAN” to “no, but I’m skinnier than
normal poor black women” the first second she could. And she’s gonna make some statement about how the media has no right to women’s bodies while she tramples all over other women’s bodies, on purpose.
And I don’t even think she was thinking about what it means to be “thin for Detroit,” I think the only thing she was thinking about was stereotypes of black women. But I am thinking, nonstop, about “thin for Detroit” because this is real to me. I’m thinking about how news outlets are all, “yep, Michigan is obese" while conveniently forgetting that "poor sad Detroit" angle they were pitching last week.
I know this is not about why poor people are fat, or whether they are fat, but I have a lot of wounds when it comes to this and they are opening. I don’t need to tell you about “nutrition” or ‘food deserts” or “junk foods” or “Faygo” or whatever other thing, but I might remind you of things like—when you have food sometimes and no food other times then you are less able to regulate your weight, and portions mean something different to you; or sometimes “free lunch” is “teddy grahams and agreeing to a corporate advertising contract”; or that whole “when I was working for a national literacy agency as a tutor in one of Michigan’s Schools in Poverty my teacher was the only one who had someone there to cut up apples so that she didn’t have to feed the kids cookies and cheese puffs because they need to be fed because hunger is the main obstacle in that district when it comes to performance and behavior but when the agents who ran my program found out I was cutting apples instead of organizing practice groups for state standardized tests for FIVE YEAR OLDS WHO DIDN’T HAVE BREAKFAST my job was put in jeopardy.” There is more to the link between poverty and obesity than “poor people don’t know any better than hot cheetos” or “poor people couldn’t possibly have local supermarkets” or “poor people don’t have time to cook or exercise” or even “did you consider maybe that poor people don’t have public transit or sidewalks.”
Did you know that the women in my family are fat because of: cancer; mobility-related disability; lupus; uneven access to medication because of uneven access to healthcare because of poverty, which leads to side-effects like inability to predict or manage weight gain and loss; my mom had a hysterectomy two decades ago but couldn’t follow it up with the proper hormone treatments to manage the loss which lead to massive weight gain and THREE DIFFERENT CANCERS; also their momma was from Alabama and they cook with a lot of fat and butter I WILL GIVE YOU THAT ONE YOU ASSHOLES.
Being a member of a community of poor fat disabled people is basically like the most fundamental part of my understanding of family and moms and place and history and I have learned more and more that while poverty might make my momma fat, it is her fatness that ties her to her poverty and it is her fatness binds her to Flint and Pontiac both through restriction and through identity, whether or not that is a good thing all the time. People where I come from are fat and, in general, have mobility issues. This is a thing that you absolutely cannot avoid in any public space in my hometown. This is the number one thing I think about when I travel. How do people get around in this area? How do disabled people get around in this area? How much access to public space are fat and disabled people given in this area? Are fat and disabled people welcomed in this area? Are there fat and disabled people moving into this area, or are they mostly leaving this area? (This includes the elderly.)
What is the relationship between technology and mobility in this area and what kinda capital or money do people need to navigate this system? (For example, you should know that in mid-Michigan people are “dependent” on auto systems but largely know how to fix and build cars more than anyone else and it’s like super easy to get cars for even less than rent in Flint, but this type of arrangement usually means that you are living car-to-car in the same way you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and your paycheck is 100% dependent on your car. But know also that this auto-capital, while more developed here (in the birthplace of General Motors) than anywhere else, is increasingly fragile, because we are moving farther and farther away from the auto jobs that created us and farther and farther away from the masculine socialization that taught every man in my family to change a tire by the time they were eight. My mother is good at cars, but that doesn’t mean this socialization isn’t masculine. It is so bound up with not just capitalist exploitation but masculinity, and men who are putting more and more distance between themselves and their fathers, who are so often addicts BECAUSE of General Motors, who can no longer fix cars because they lost the insurance they worked their whole lives for and they are disabled because some machinebuilding equipment fell on them and destroyed their legs and they lost their social security suit because GM lawyers are still for some reason powerful. Men who were car guys and all died before their wives did. We have car capital, Lucas can fix and build cars, but our children maybe won’t.)
And I am just thinking— this rich woman from New York wants to make money writing about a Michigan girl who moves to a Real Place (and god, don’t even get me started on that shit), so she goes to Michigan to do some poverty tourism shit and report back to the public that rich white New York women are not like those women. It freaks me out.
The way we map and segregate fatness. I’m always thinking about that. I know I’ve mentioned this before but it haunts me— When I was in New York and taking public transit, I asked p-strut how disabled people and fat people manage. I know that the answer is “don’t be stupid RGR there are way more accommodations in this city than there are in Detroit or Flint, are you kidding, this is a REAL CITY THAT HAS INFRASTRUCTURE AND MONEY don’t be an asshole.” That was the proper answer to my question, lol.
But what she said was “we don’t have those people here.”
So maybe that’s a little what this was about. More than anything it was about making a “feminist” trade in bodies that hinges on making poor black women’s bodies into a discursive tool, and erases some of them, and makes it harder for them to become “mobile” (literally or otherwise) across these geographies.
Anyway maybe I’ll finally start Girls today, lolololool. I pirated it.