By Tabias Olajuawon
When I started watching the preview above of No Fats, No Femmes I knew I was in for a humanistic treat. If you’re not already familiar with the work of Jamal T. Lewis (@fatfemme), you’ve been missing out and you should be ashamed of yourself. However, because you’re an avid reader of BlaQueerFlow, I’ll do the honors of filling you. Jamal is a humanizer. They are consistently doing the work of broadening our concepts of beauty, humanity and blackness while pushing for access to each for those often pushed into the liminal shadows of even the most queer of cultures. In the video below, they are joined by celebrated culture-worker, leader, activist and speaker Ms. Biko (@ChernoBiko), scholar-activist Maurice Lucas (@blaqueer) and one of my favorite people in the world, the trailblazing community organizer/Goddess Joshua Allen. Together they take the viewer by the hand and guide them through a process of unbecoming, unknowing and refocusing on the effects of our intersecting practices of dis-association, inhumanity and other violences while encouraging and empowering us all to be whole, demanding we see ourselves and forcing us to reckon with the fear of difference as a symptoms of internal disarray.
From the website:
No Fats, No Femmes interrogates and explores desire, the politics of desirability, and the ways in which they are informed and shaped by media, pop culture, and capitalism through interviews, archival research, and performance. The film engages the phrase “no fats, no femmes,” which is popularly used on queer social networking/dating sites, through the personal narrative(s) of 5 Black and Brown queer, trans, fat, femme, and disabled people.
Class connection of fatness/femmes
The conversation begins by tackling the class connection of fat and fem realities. Previous to this conversation, I had never thought about femme or fat existences as lives discretely and inherently framed by classism and corporeal capitalisms. However, the knowledge-producers illuminate how American notions and controlling images of femme and fat people frustrate their ability to find suitable employment. When folks see people that are fat or femme, especially those of us who identify as fit and masc, there is subconscious branding that occurs within us that transforms the human before us into a lazy, poor individual lacking drive, motivation and intellect. Because we deeply believe that our performance of self proves or authenticates or intelligence or socioeconomic and sociopolitical location in life; it follows that because they are our physiological opposites, their fortunes in life must also be oppositional to ours. If this is not true, our subconscious reasons, then we must be living a lie and perhaps dealing with another type of inferiority or absence of greatness within. This line of thinking is not only unacceptable, it is unconscionable. The panelists also note a socially constructed rupture that occurs when fat and femme occur in the same body. The stereotype of the impoverished, unhealthy fat person converges with that of the elitist, uppity, rude typecasting of the femme person and shit ton of uncertainty seems to follow. Flawed ideologies cannot deal with humanity that embraces freedom to be.
These are just a few ways that masculine anxiety and body-insecurity limit fat and femme access to the ideals of the American (Day)Dream. As one participant put it: no one thinks of fat and femme people as their ideal partner, as possessing beauty, as worthy of public sexual and loving desire. There are few images of fat and femme people as the loving husband, wife or partner standing behind the white picket fence or waiting in the bed in tight fitting lingere.
Fucking Your Ego
Another thing that stood out to me was the conversation around sex and desire for and by folks that live and thrive at the confluence of fat and femme. This is where I found my morality being check. This is where my queerness and radical politic were challenged. I’ve said it before, “sex, is perhaps the most honest form of politics” and my politics have been uncovered as fucked up and yours probably are too. Have you ever asked yourself the questions? What have your answers been? Would you be ashamed to say them out loud? Around femme and fat folks?
Do they deserve that much sex?
They get a lot of dick for a big/boy girl?
Do we know what “to do” with a sexualize fat and femme body.
Let that marinate for second and consider whether you are able to see fat and femme folks as sexual beings. As stated in the video, all too often fat people are desexualized as the community: big momma, mother or big sister. We look to them for guidance, nurturing, mother-work and rarely allow them to exist in shared spaces as publicly sexual and attractive people. The participants note this interesting axis between race/gender/gender performance where black fat and femme people are often remade into the earlier image of the black mammy, existing only to give and serve. These mammies often had children, but no one dare claim them as the object of their desire. Sex with a mammie was something to be ashamed of. She was there to be used, not loved. All too often we reproduced this sort of racial-sexual consumerism with our friends, our sex partners and our family members.
On Belonging & Desirability
“I didn’t want to become a meme”
-Maurice on taking shirtless selfies on social media
“I think we accept scraps..we put ourselves in situations that are not the best..because we..I..I was craving affection and love so I got that from places that weren’t good.”
“I went from..not wanting black men, to only liking light skin trade, “inching up”, to liking a masc/preppy butchqueen, to like a femme light skin fit dude…..”
“I don’t have a dating life. I’m just a lonely girl that gets what she needs. That loneliness is a loneliness of my creation…it did not come to from desiring another person..It’s not a second-hand lonely. It didn’t come to me from another person..It’s a lonely that that I walked in…I have to come to realize that the love I desired and wanted in other people, is a love that I had to give myself.”
“I spend a lot of time naked..because.. I think it’s one of the ways I politicize my own body..it’s like i’m saying ‘damn girl, like, the body that you are currently in is ok and you look good!”
White Gayness itself is uncovered by these modern griots situated on misogyny. This is clear when they often prove their gayness by stating their disgusts with the bodies of women, their reproductive organs and even controlling images and stereotypes of the nagging wife, or worse, the bitch that won’t ____. This attempt to differentiate gayness from womanhood isn’t about gay pride, it’s about a notation of a power differential that says “we too are men, we too deserve patriarchy and perhaps moreso, because we don’t desire something as inferior or troublesome as women.” We’d all be remiss by not noting how this often seeps into BlaQueer spaces but there is a backstop provided in the context of rearing. Loving relationships with black women have the potential, if not the propensity, to arrest the misogyny inherent in white gayness. When you’ve been in spaces where black women are the source of power, of love, of survival–when “This Bridge Called My Back” is a story you’ve felt–it requires a willful suspension of disbelief to engage in the types of misogyny inherent in white gayness. But while we may love black women, we have trouble accepting non-cis women, perhaps because there is a lurking misogyny within that–if accepted as authentic–would cause many of us to lose all sense of self (read: masculine anxiety, that shit is still sooo fragile).
Why is it inherent? Because white gayness–not queerness–is a direct product white supremacist, heteropatriarchal, capitalist, ableist imperialism. Got it? Good.
On Our FemmePhobia:
“If I wanted to date a woman, I’d date a woman. I don’t want no femme person. If I wanted to date a woman, I’d be straight.”
A Broken, Vulnerable, Fairweather-Union: Humanizing, Hearing & Holding Down The Undesirables (Michael Johson, Sex Workers & Folks Otherwised Invisibled Persons)
“Who would march for the sex workers?”
“My heart breaks that in 2015 that we are still criminalizing HIV because #1 as if they didn’t give it to us and #2 as if they didn’t have a occur and aren’t withholding that from us”
“In 2002 there was serial killer that killed dozens of sex workers and when they asked him why, he said ‘because I thought noone would care if they weren’t around.'”
“They feel like they bring the harm on themselves. These are different bodies that bring pleasure to other people. They are ashamed. So many people are ashamed from the pleasure they get from a sex worker, from a Michael Johnson, from a Maurice Tracy, from Jamaal from Josh…they are ashamed of that pleasure and…rather than reconciling that become like that boy who couldn’t be with me, because he told me I’m fat. That destroy that thing, because it brings them pleasure.”
Get Into It
If any of the pearls of truth from above stood out to you, or gave you pause, do yourself a favor and head on over to the website and donate, while also watching more movies. Your donations will go toward the completion of this project and will allow you to participate in bringing a practice, project and process of humanization and voice-giving to scale. Listening, giving, investing, soul-checking and sharing are the bedrocks of solidarity. Take a moment to get your stocks together. Meanwhile, get into the hashtag #nofatsnofems