Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I've Moved My Lovelies

Hey lovelies:

I'm moved my blog over to Wordpress here. Come check me out. I'm working on moving my other stuff there too.

Fat Hijabi

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

craving a doppleganger /deconstructing me

We often overestimate the degree to which exploitative behavior has been normalized and the degree to which we’ve internalized these norms. It takes, then, a commitment to an acutely self-conscious practice to be able to think and behave better than we’ve been taught.
Toni Cade Bambara quoted in bell hooks’s Rock My Soul: Black People and Self-Esteem
My mother has repeatedly said the following to me:
We are subject to an enormous amount of prejudice and discrimination in this society. We are fat, black, women and Muslim. Girl we got it bad.

She typically ends this statement with a boisterous laughter. A laughter that cuts through the enormity and profundity of her statement. We usually continue on with whatever activity we are engaged in- walking the park or preparing a meal. My mother speaks the truth.
I have spent most of my life fighting a simultaneous battle against a gross hypervisibility and a painful invisibility. In the case of the former, I struggle to not let my fat blackness be reduced to the banal, the painful, the stereotype. As for the latter, I struggle to find a coherent voice even if no one will listen.
I assert that I am not mammy. Large bossomed and only built to absorb and reflect the hopes and passions of those deemed more desirable. A bellow of deep throated chuckles that mask and evade. Never really speaking. Never really heard, either.
Yet, I do tend to nurture those around me -sometimes compulsively. I do often retreat behind my laughter. Sometimes I hide so much I cannot locate myself.
I assert that I am not asexual. Even when I am wearing a scarf that hides my hair, long sleeves down to my wrist or a skirt hem that falls to the ankle. I breathe sex. I make love with so much intensity that walls shake. I can imagine things that would make you blush. I can do things that “nice girls” shouldn’t do.
Yet, sometimes I loathe my belly swinging like a pendulum-even as it is caressed. And I confess I have only shared this part of myself with one man. And I question if chastity wasn’t enforced by the fat phobic zombies that policed my youth or dictated by religious code would I have played it this safe?
What daring choice have I made after all?
What bravery is there in such contradictions?
It is sometimes lonely standing here. It is sometimes liberating touching all of these contours of a self-always becoming.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

a short musing on Ramadan, fat & Depression

Ramadan Mubarak (The blessings of Ramadan upon you)!

We, Muslims, will shortly be completing our first week of fasting. In Islam Ramadan is a holy month believed to be when the first revelations of the Qur'an began. During this month, from sunrise (well actually before sunrise) to sundown, we abstain from food, water, sex (only during the daylight hours!) and vain/undesirable talk. We increase our charity to the disenfranchised and needy.

You will find many Muslims during this month offering long night prayers at their mosque; attempting to complete a full reading of the entire Qur'an (in addition to other religious materials); and generally ceasing habits that distract you from getting the full benefits of the month (for example television, movies, hanging out with friends and all that good stuff!)

So what does Ramadan look like for the Fat Hijabi?

I rise about an hour and half before the morning prayer comes in (fajr) around 3:00 am, I eat a breakfasty meal with my husband, read Qur'an, pray fajr and try to get some exta sleep.

Then I go about the work of my day pretty normally except for the dry mouth and empty stomach. Until I return home and break the fast with dates, water, prayer and then an evening meal.

Right now I am preparing for the approaching semester (I teach composition at two local community colleges). I also am trying to continue my research on a dissertation in English literature.

Finally, I am battling depression while attempting to maintain the requirements of my faith. It ain't easy.

My depression began in February of this year due to some intense revelations (more on this later perhaps). It ebbed and flowed as time moved on but I approached Ramadan with anxiety and trepidation. I can't do it, I just can't was the refrain I cried to those close to me who would listen-those aware of my depression, its causes and its crippling hold on my spirit.

Well, I am doing it. Or trying my best. But I am still in that depressive space. Some of you may know it. That narrow corner whose close walls are cramped but also the only area where you feel that you can breath or exist-at least for the time being.

I am staying close to home- not yet able to be in large gatherings. Oh, those large gatherings are mainstays of the Ramadan season. These spaces also are the areas where I feel most aware of my fatness-in the most malignant of ways.

What I have found during this time of depression is the way in which the default setting is always to blame fat for things it has nothing to do with. It is an easy culprit to explain why things go wrong.

In our popular culture-losing the fat has become almost synonymous with breaking free of sadness-of entering into bliss.

I have found that my body anxiety has increased. I have dreams of stepping on the scale and finding that I have magically gained 100 pounds although within the dream my physical form has not altered.

In this time of fasting and body anxiety, I cringe at soapbox moments where Muslims disparage other Muslims for being gluttonous in the breaking of their fast for I hear lurking behind these comments unsaid remarks about fatness and its immorality.

So right now I seek solitude. And I find that I do feel spiritual joy if a little quieter than years before.

I also-in this sometimes emotional abyss- understand more and more why I cling to the tiniest morsels of fat and size acceptance. I have never had a strong sense of belonging to anything-yet in this space of acceptance I find a home-albeit fragile and shifting.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

She's a Big & Pretty Mother

I'm working on a post on what it means to cover my fat as a hijabi (especially among the politic of revealing the body as fat & feminist liberation) but until then one of my fave
fat lovin' songs by The Sugarcubes. Shout out to my teen years : )

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Morality of Fighting Fat

Many bloggers in the fatosphere have eloquently described how the war against fat is often framed in the language of morality. Yet, as a fat woman whose religion is a living breathing aspect of her identity the moral arguments about fighting fat are quite pertinent to my experiences of fat-phobia within my own religious community.

While other bloggers have examined the rhetoric surrounding the obesity moral panic I would like to offer some anecdotal evidence to further flesh out the extent to which individuals feel that they have a moral obligation to comment on my fatness.

A few years ago I was at another masjid (mosque) for a community picnic. I had just finished offering salat (prayer) but before I was even able to leave the prayer space another woman approached me trying to sell me diet pills. She initiated her hustle by explaining that she had been thinking about me and had something for me. Innocent little me expected a wonderful gift-instead I was offered some herbal supplement to help me conquer my fatness.

Now most people outside of Muslim circles have seen the ubiquitous shots of Muslims bowing and praying. These images usually have the effect of making Muslims look like an army of zombies. Bowing like robots-devoid of emotion. Yet, the experience of prayer is quite different. For me it is a quiet, sacred moment of communion with God. A space away from everything.

So picture me emerging from this peace and being reminded by this woman that I was unacceptably fat.

In another subsequent incident-this time right after Friday prayer service- I was told by another sister that I "really, really, should" consider taking a women only aerobic class offered at my masjid. This time I promptly told her that my fatness did not allow her to give me advice, it was not a solicitation. She was in shock and quite offended. Her response was that she cared about everyone and just wanted to help. Oh Brother!

After I explained to her that I already exercised regularly (I had been practicing HAES *Health at Every Size* at this time for about a year) she continued to express sentiments that she was just offering her loving advice to me as a fellow Muslim sister.

I think her words of protest against my offense exemplify the type of fat concern/advice/harassment that can take place within religious communities (although I want to offer that this a common theme within other communities that I identify with -for instance the black community). As fellow Muslims, fat-phobia gets expressed as love or care. It is insisted upon as a obligation to take care of your sister or brother, and is deeply connected with protecting the community from destruction or damage.

It is sometimes justified through evoking foundational religious ideas. For instance there is a Qur'anic injunction that we should eat what is good of the earth. From certain ahadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh) Muslims are told to avoid overeating or eating until one assumes a pot belly. Thus the Muslims instructing me to declare a war on my fat feel as if they are performing a religious duty. It represents a mentality that equates thinness with righteousness or religious discipline. My body seems unruly within this paradigm (I will write more about the racialized/gendered dimensions of this within Muslim culture in future posts).

Of course this paradigm that sees thinness as moral is nestled within the very contemporary debates surrounding the war on obesity. The rhetoric of the war on obesity offers it scientific and social ammunition. It refuses to accept that fatness can also co-exist within a religiously disciplined life. It denies that one can eat what is good of this earth and not fit into an idealized normative body. In my mind it is symptomatic of a discriminatory hierarchy that is buttressed by ideologies of group uplift that attempt to exorcise or police other members of the group.

Another increasingly popular trend in some Muslim circles is the merging of "the hijabi lifestyle" with the exercise industry. As a hijabi who has soaked up many of her hijabs with sweat from exercise I have no problem with encouraging an often misunderstood group to both maintain their choice to cover and be physically active. Yet, I have been deeply troubled by the sexist rhetoric that surrounds the Muslimah exercise experience. The same body hating rhetoric that plagues the mainstream culture unsurprisingly gets reproduced here. If you are a Muslimah who covers you are told that you don't want to scare off your husband when you disrobe, that you should have a "bikini body" even if you cover. Great. Not only are we supposed to worry about the discrimination we face as Muslim women in the workplace we have to contend with it in our bedrooms! Forget about exercising for general emotional and physical health- girls you better do it to keep your man.

The bottom line is that the policing of women's bodies is pervasive. Our fat-phobia infiltrates every aspect of our lives to the extent that we find it acceptable to be rude and judgmental of other human beings based on our own biased stereotypes and ideals. While I understand that many people will always equate thinness with health, or even morality, I hope that people will begin to to work harder to expand their understanding of the hurt and shame that they perpetuate when they body shame and scapegoat other human beings.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Allow me to Introduce Myself

So this is how it all started with this post from my now deleted "weight-loss" blog:

"Sooo much is changing and I am trying to catch up. I’ve been doing a lot of critical thinking about so many things from a) the way that I am thinking about weight loss and b) the way that I am thinking about my relationship to my body and c) the way that I am thinking about the life path that I am on.

For the past month I have been eating pretty much normally and enjoying exercise very, very much and not weighing myself.So why did I just stop weighing myself? Because I have a really fucked up relationship with the scale. It darkens my mood. It makes me feel like I’m not trying hard enough even when I lose weight. I just can’t take it. But yesterday I weighed myself.

But before I talk about that I want to explain why I weighed myself. So I am on this thing called Facebook which is indeed my frenemy. I don’t enjoy much television because I try to get into a clean space in my mind- Where I am not bombarded with advertisements and the world’s hang-ups or nuerosis.
Facebook screws this clean space. I find myself talking to a few people I really dig and then bombarded with past acquaintances that I care little for or about except on the spiritual level where I respect their humanity.
So, my ex sis-in-law posted this announcement about how she is done her diet, and lost x amount of weight, and now fits into this size. Yay! And it makes me want to puke. Because I know for a fact that she has only been exercising for a month. And now she is accomplished and bragging about fitting into some junior size. And I know being a recent divorcee this is just a coping mechanism but I get so sick of people (already “Normal”) size folks acting like they freaking cured cancer when they lose 5 pounds.

So somehow I decided to weigh myself and realized that hey I had lost- not gained weight but I really didn’t care. Let me be clear- what I care about is getting scary biceps for a girl. Working out so that the stress and anxiety leave me. Eating good food. Challenging my body. Praying and meditating.

So I have made the decision to exit the dominant weight loss blogging paradigm and enter a new one. I am on the borders. I consider myself a “believer” of fat acceptance but also a free thinker. I believe that I have my individual body and I know what it needs. I will not shun my investment in body alteration through exercise or weight modification but I will not hold thinness up as some false diety. I will accept myself and others.

I will talk about how/what I eat. I will talk about exercising and my goals. I hope that there is a space for a fat, Muslim, black woman finding her own voice. "

So with those final words I bid adieu to the world of weight loss blogging and jumped feet first into the world of fat acceptance blogging. So here I am yall. The Fat Hijabi. What does that mean?

I am a fat Muslim lady who wears a head scarf (and long sleeves even in the summer!) I have lurked on the borders of the fat o'sphere reading favorites like The Well Rounded Mama, Fatshionista, The Rotund, The Fat Nutritionist like a lurking spy. I have gobbled up the life-affirming prose and then retreated back to my own world at the intersections of multiple identities.

Yet, now I step forward ready to speak as a fat accepting progressive lady. Hello.