Performing Fatness and the Cultural Negotiations of Body Size

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In his thoroughly researched work, Transmen and FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities (1999), Jason Cromwell states for the communities of transmen and FTMs, "The limits on the uses of bodies, and on what types of bodies are considered legitimate, is regulated through the body politic (judicial, medical, and political systems) Furthermore, through the body, the body politic dictates what constitutes legitimate sex and gender, normal sexuality, and even what identities are considered appropriate" (32). Similarly, our cultural understandings about and personal relationships to fatness are informed by an intricate configuration of medical, legal, political, and visual messages that convey notions of "acceptable" and "unacceptable" body size. This dissertation will examine multiple instances wherein the negotiation of these messages produces complicated subject positions for bodies of size. It will investigate how the fat body operates to reveal both hegemonic as well as counter-hegemonic significance by drawing upon the authority of medical, legal, and political narratives produced about fatness and body size. By analyzing the performative texts of the film, Real Women Have Curves, the photography collection Women En Large, and a political performance group of fat cheerleaders, called F.A.T.A.S.S., this project will examine the representations of fat women to illustrate how fat subjectivities are neither merely accommodating nor simply resistive. Denying any construction of a one-dimensional story about resisting bodies or hegemonic narratives, this dissertation seeks to highlight the nuanced and complicated subjectivities produced by and for fat women within various contexts. And by analyzing the complexity of these moments, "Performing Fatness" will attempt to elevate body size as a major point of consideration within the analysis of all bodies. In so doing, body size will be revealed as interconnected and inseparable from our understandings of race, class, gender, sexuality, as well as, other points of identification, and ultimately transform the ways in which we theorize and understand bodies altogether.