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National Women's Studies Association: Panel on Fatness, Sexuality, and Gender

NWSA CONFERENCE 2007
"PAST DEBATES, PRESENT POSSIBILITIES, FUTURE FEMINISMS: A WOMEN’S AND GENDER STUDIES CONFERENCE"
CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF NWSA

June 28-July 1, 2007 St. Charles, IL

http://www.nwsaconference.org/

Please join me and 3 other fabulous grad student scholars - all sociologists, btw - at our panel entitled
"Intersections of Bodily Subjects: Fatness, Sexuality, and Gender"

at the 2007 NWSA Annual conference in St. Charles, IL (45 min outside of Chicago) on
Saturday June 30 from 330pm - 445pm
.

Panel and paper descriptions below the cut. for more info about the conference itself, please see the nwsa website at http://www.nwsaconference.org/

Feminist and Gender studies have established themselves as interdisciplinary fields in which concepts of gender and sexuality are seen as essential to the understanding of how individuals and groups are identified and examined within socio-political power structures. Building upon such important considerations, the incipient field of Fat Studies is one that is cross-disciplinary in scope and confronts and critiques cultural constraints against notions of “fatness” and “the fat body.” Fat Studies explores fat bodies as they live in, are shaped by, and remake the world, creating paradigms for the development of fat acceptance or celebration within mass culture.

This panel works to highlight the relationships between fatness, sexuality, and gender in contemporary society while making note of the variety of subjects and methodologies available to scholars doing such work. All three presenters are sociologists who demonstrate the necessity for interdisciplinary knowledge and strategies in examining varied cultural conditions of fatness.

“Fat Oppression and Violence Against Women,”
explores how fat and gender oppression come together in sites of domestic and public violence against women. Feminist literature on violence against women suggests that aspects of women’s social location (e.g. ethnicity, sexuality) affect not only the commission of violence, but also the societal and institutional response to their victimization. She argues that violence against women affects fat women in ways specific to their size, and that sometimes fat women are specifically targeted for violence. She establishes an inventory of the ways in which fat women are abused verbally, physically, and sexually, in both private and public arenas. Implications for pro-feminist research in fat women’s diversity are discussed, as is the necessity of sensitivity to size within organizations that address violence against women.

“Knocked Up: Homosexuality and Images of Male Pregnancy,” explores the types of cultural work that homoerotic representations of male pregnancy perform. The source materials for this paper, include self-portraits and appropriated and/or computer-generated images from fat-friendly internet groups organized by gay men. In interrogating such issues as prosthetic pregnancy, emphasis on analogous physical changes such as weight gain and abdominal swelling, and imitational posturing, Whitesel notes how such imagery reveals one way that a subculture of gay men pays attention to the fat male body and reworks the signifying systems that surround it. He asserts that deviant masculinity also serves to clarify relationship status for unmarried men and repositions stigmatized individuals back into a relational world.

“Consuming Bodies: Fatness, Sexuality, and the Protestant Ethic,”
explores the deeply ambivalent representations of fat individuals and fatness in popular culture. She argues that American fatphobia stems in part from the resentment of fat folks for eliciting these ambivalences, as well as personal envy and desire for them as symbols of sexuality, by linking representations of fatness and sexuality to religious discourses by way of the Protestant Ethic. Using Weber’s model, she shows how fat persons embody religious, sexual, and capitalist dualities and contradictions, concluding with a postmodern discussion of fat bodies as symbols of consumerism.


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