Puff Piece

A dishonest melange of irrelevant and empty arguments

Monday, January 14, 2013

All change!

Just a bijou heads-up to anyone who stumbles upon this early attempt at blogging and wants to read a bit more.

I used to be BuffPuff. These days I go by Buttercup Rocks, and mostly blog about fatshion and personal style with a soupçon of Fat Politics on the side at:-


If that sounds like your thing, then see you over there. If not, c'est la vie and thanks for dropping by.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Wordy Rappinghood

Hey what do you know? It’s time for my customarily spleen-filled Annual Post! And this year I take Health Minister, Anne Milton, to task for advocating applying the word 'fat' in the spirit of

playground insult-hurling

as the latest cure-all to the UK’s collective weight problem. Because, after all, nothing benefits one’s wellbeing more than a double whammy feelgood dose of stigma and self-loathing.

According to Ms Milton, terms like 'overweight' and 'obese' are naught but polite, sugar-coated euphemisms for the F-Word. Instead, doctors should quit pussyfooting, bring out the big guns and call a spade a big, fat, dimwitted, socially irresponsible shovel. “Speaking personally,” Ms Milton opines, “If I look in the mirror and think I am obese I think I am less worried than if I think I am fat.”Seriously? ”Speaking personally”, as an enlightened individual with all the alleged and widely disseminated medical factoids at her fingertips, she’s more afraid of being called fat than dying of ZOMG cancer, heart disease and/or type 2 diabetes? Or schlepping her clapped-out, arthritic joints towards her guaranteed early death on a Zimmer frame? Gosh, I wonder why that is?

Much as I wish Ms Milton was sufficiently enlightened to realise BMI is a load of old cobblers wholly unreliable indicator of health, I’m more inclined to believe she thinks we fats are too thick to grasp its complexity – or even that we're universally reviled, despite regular reminders by the media, airlines, fashion industry, vast swathes of the medical profession, government think tanks and previous Health Ministers

. Beats me how I’m supposed to be the eejit though when she’s the one claiming she can determine the lifestyles of half the sodding country just by looking at them. I’m also similarly stumped by her belief that ‘overweight’ and 'obese' carry significantly less potential to make the recipient feel like shit than 'fat'. Read any anti-fat rant and the phrase 'morbid obesity' will be bandied about all over the shop, fondly imagined by journos and commenters alike to lend gravitas to the most egregious hate speech.

See, here’s the thing about words. Call a group who fall outside the remit of 'normal' anything you like and that word, no matter how innocuous or purely descriptive, is eventually guaranteed to carry the negative connotations certain portions of society project onto to it. To wit: “that's so gay”. No wonder so many elect to call themselves queer and be done with it – in the same way the more politically minded among us corpulent folk are choosing to call ourselves fat. (Some folks even refer to themselves as queer and fat; imagine!) As far as I'm concerned,

my doctor’s quite welcome to call me fat; as it happens he's pretty round himself. We don't tend to talk about it much. However, just because I’ve chosen to reclaim the word as a neutral descriptor doesn’t blind me to the fact that most of the world uses it as an insult. Nor does it persuade me that advocating the use – by figures of authority – of a word commonly conflated with stupidity,


sexual unattractiveness, slovenliness, shiftlessness, fecklessness, untrustworthiness, weakness of will, lack of motivation, self-delusion, sickness by default and dodgy moral character... will have anything but a profoundly negative effect on the nation's health. On the other hand, if you want to make society fatter, just carry on spouting simplistic, judgemental bullshit.

If government seriously wants to do something about this spurious epidemic that lowering BMI guidelines in1990 effectively created, I would suggest they look at the relationship between escalating fat-phobia and disordered eating. Or perhaps they’d like to give a thought to how being branded a worthless sack of shit on a daily, ongoing basis might affect a fat person’s psyche? Or how those who fear being similarly branded might express that fear in their attitude towards fat people? Then maybe they might care to direct their invasive, control-freak tendencies towards gagging the media instead – or at least ensuring that scientific research into obesity is reported in an accurate, non-partisan, non-alarmist and non-condemnatory manner.

I’m just saying.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Truth in advertising – or where I stand on a contentious issue.

I won't lie; in the not-so-distant past I've used the incendiary phrase, "the last socially acceptable prejudice" to describe fat discrimination as I perceived it at the time. Suffice to say I've done a fair bit of reading since then and my stance has shifted a tad - though, I suspect, not enough for those who most strenuously object to it.

So, what brought on this sudden urge to blog and probably make myself unpopular? Well, a post by definatalie from the fatshionista livejournal community concerning two spoof ads supposedly promoting Fat Acceptance for a kick-off. Commissioned for a segment on The Gruen Report, an Australian TV show examining advertising and its effect on the public, the brief was to come up with "a campaign for the idea of Fat Pride; to end shape discrimination and make overweight Australians feel less humiliated by the constant public disapproval of anyone who isn’t a size 10 or under". This hard-hitting ad produced by hot shot Oz agency, The Foundry, was deemed too offensive to air. (By all means take a gander but be warned it's not for the faint-hearted). In stark contrast, rival agency JWT came up with this ad in response to the brief. Branded a softer option it duly won the pitch and was aired.

While the Foundry commercial made me blanch, ultimately, it got the job done. (Frankly those gruesomely graphic ads about drunk driving with folk bouncing off and flying through windscreens upset me just as much, especially since I don’t drive, and I expect they achieve their objective too). The JWT ad, however, I found infinitely more offensive. It's bad, lazy advertising; condescending, dripping with insincerity and, crucially, doesn't answer the brief. Instead the entire concept hangs on exactly the kind of crass stereotyping that fuels fat discrimination in the first place – the most obvious being that we're all insatiable gutbuckets; metaphors for mass consumerism. But, lest you forget, Greed is Good! (Well, jumpsuits and bat-wing sleeves are back so why not Gordon Gekko). What's more, according to JWT, it's down to us that farmers grow more crops and airlines burn more fuel to get us off the ground. Sound familiar? It should do since these are the very same points fat bashers routinely use to shame us, right down to the blaming language. Throw in the gratuitous shot of stumbling headless fatties on the beach, (most likely suffering with fat related joint problems), and you've got the very reason an ad like the Foundry's is so desperately needed in the first place. The JWT ad is essentially a fat joke. Of course it won and wasn’t considered too offensive to run. After all, who is it going to upset? Only fat people with no sense of humour, who should really lighten up. Jeez, the irony, it burns.

Yes, the Foundry ad is shocking but, in my view, it needs to be. How else are you going to persuade bigots to wise up to themselves in a culture that not only refuses to recognise the bigotry you’re practicing but actively encourages it? Sizeism, as amply demonstrated by whole the JWT debacle is not taken seriously, at least not in Australia and not in the UK either – and that’s the perspective from which I rant. As a fat Jew brought up in London I can tell you that I've experienced infinitely more sizeism than anti-Semitism in my life. This doesn't mean I think it doesn't exist in other parts of the country or other parts of the world, or that it doesn't have an impact on other Jews’ lives, or that I think sizeism is worse than or equivalent to Nazi genocide, (how could I for pity's sake?) Rather that society has evolved sufficiently for it to be commonly understood that deliberately offending or publicly hating on Jews will cause one hell of an ugly fracas and there will be serious consequences if anyone in a position of power or influence tries it. As in it will make the national news and be discussed in Parliament. Likewise things are very far from perfect for POC or the LGBQ community but at least there is some kind of progress, (civil partnerships recognised by law), and discourse, (institutional racism in the army and the Metropolitan Police Force), springing up around these forms of discrimination. The same is not true of sizeism. When a UK member of Big Fat Blog attempted to get 200 signatures to mount a government petition concerning discrimination against fat people wishing to foster or adopt, he barely got 20. That is how little support for and awareness of FA there is here.

I'm not trying to infer that fat discrimination is worse than racism, anti-Semitism, ableism or homophobia nor am I trying to say it's exactly the same in nature. They're all different, they're all life blighting, they all still go on and they all stink. What I am saying is that here, in my experience, sizeism has yet to be acknowledged as a form of discrimination at all - by the media, the government, the medical profession or anybody else save a handful of those who experience it. There is no public discourse, no self-examination, no glimmer of change on the horizon, no protection enshrined in law which, given that we we make up half the UK population, is shameful. That doesn't make tackling sizeism more important than tackling any other type of discrimination, but it does mean there's an awful lot of work to be done before it's taken as seriously. Sizeism may not be the last acceptable form of prejudice but it is a younger one and it’s on the rise in the UK and manifesting itself in ways that would have been unimaginable twenty years ago.

One thing that's often noted in the fat-o-sphere is how often the most appalling anti-fat invective is spewed by those who would otherwise consider themselves liberal. These, in my opinion, are the very people most likely to benefit from seeing the Foundry Ad and the most likely to get it.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Amanda Platell: Officially on my shit list

Anyone else remember how the UK press used to make Sarah Ferguson's life a living hell? As soon as I saw a picture of her daughter, Princess Beatrice, heedlessly and happily flaunting the family hips in - horrors! – a bikini, I knew it would only be a matter of time before the Daily Mail et al got the knives out – and I wasn't disappointed.

Dear Ms Platell,

I am writing regarding the piece you wrote recently entitled
Bea, Beach Bodies and the Thorny Problem of the Mummy Gene. I’ll be frank; I found it less than entertaining. In fact it came across as little more than an exercise in thinly veiled envy and projected self-loathing and I feel it was irresponsible of the Daily Mail to run it. But then I usually react quite viscerally to journalism that encourages body hatred in women of any size. There are numerous points in your piece that I could take issue with but I’ll endeavour to keep this brief in the hope you will grant me the courtesy of hearing me out. In the comments posted after your piece on the Mail’s website, the following appears: -

Rubbish! Every female in my family is morbidly obese like Bea. I have stayed a size 4 at age 40 by exercising daily and NEVER eating junk food. While it may be true she inherited the body shape, her obesity is due to her poor habits of over eating and being inactive. 

Rebecca, Iowa, USA

Angry, isn’t she? Sanctimonious too; possibly orthorexic and/or eating-disordered – and almost certainly suffering with body dysmorphia if she feels the need to describe someone who, even by your own admission, isn’t even fat as “morbidly obese”. Perhaps you find me presumptuous in my analysis. But just because we live in a society that conflates fat with over indulgence and inactivity doesn’t make her any less so, nor does it make her – or you, with your self-righteous blatherings about needless bodyguards and first class travel – right. As someone with a lifetime’s experience, I can’t say suffering the vagaries of public transport and the discomfort of Economy Class has ever contributed to my overall fitness or made a lick of difference to my own inherited body shape.

In truth, I don’t give a rat’s patootie about Beatrice as an individual. What I care about is the effect your article will have on the psyches of the women who will read it in a climate where such pernicious, condemnatory tripe is commonplace. (In point of fact another Mail journalist had a pop at Beatrice in the same issue, entreating her to hide her offending hips from public view). I care about the many average-sized women who happen to be shaped like the princess, who will be damaged as a result of being told – for the umpteenth time – that their bodies are substandard and, furthermore, that they are under some kind of moral obligation to keep their natural curves in check. I care about genuinely fat women, whose self-esteem is ground to dust beneath a daily tirade of moralising, ridicule and vilification from the media and who know they are the thing that others fear to be. I even care about joyless neurotics like Becky and poor old Fergie, whose only means of making herself acceptable to society was to make dieting her career – still waging war on their bodies in middle age because people like you are telling them it’s their duty to society.

I am sicker than I can adequately convey of living in a fearful, vicious culture that equates aesthetics with health and health with morality. Publicly owning your hatred of your own “saddlebag thighs” does not make you the Femail reader’s ally or mate. Encouraging women to bitch about other women for daring to be more comfortable with their bodies than they are doesn’t make up for being part of the problem yourself. It’s ugly, mean-spirited and will never result in improving anyone’s physical or mental health. Instead it plays on insecurities you are helping to create and perpetuate, resulting in more self-hatred, of which yo-yo dieting and weight gain is a direct result. If you really give a damn I suggest you put your money where your mouth is and stop promoting a value system that, frankly, stinks.

Yours sincerely,

B. Puff (Ms)

I'll let you guys know if she has anything to say apart from the predictable, assuming she says anything at all.

Monday, October 15, 2007

True Colours (Cross-posted to The Rotund)

Some months ago someone from the fatshionista community said she’d always thought of yellow as a thin person’s colour, and that perplexed me. Did yellow simply not flatter her, I wondered? Had it been the absolute must-have colour one season and none of the plus-sized stores picked up on it? Or had the slenderising properties of navy and black been so thoroughly drummed into her by well-meaning relatives and fat phobic fashion mavens that the thought of draping her curves in any other hue gave her the screaming abdabs? To me, yellow conjures up adjectives like sunny and radiant. It’s cute fuzzy Easter chicks, Wordsworth’s daffodils and the yummy citrus tang of a freshly squeezed lemon. All in all it’s a pretty uplifting colour. Maybe she just couldn’t picture being fat and happy? Well, she’d hardly be the first, least of all where fashion’s concerned.

I think a lot about clothes and the myriad insidious, confidence-eroding messages we chubsters suck up daily in our quest for them.There are three dedicated plus-size clothing chains in the UK, but for decades there was only one: Evans The Outsize Shop, as it proudly proclaimed on its awnings and carrier bags. Not quite as snappy as Torrid, is it? Frankly, it’s no wonder women of my mum’s generation turned to amphetamines, inflatable rubber exercise pants and freaky fad diets to avoid the ignominy of having to shop there. Even now there are few UK department stores or high street chains offering much in the way of plus-sizes. Sure things have improved a tad for the inbetweenie lately, and you can buy attractive FF and G-cup bras pretty much anywhere now – but woe betide the bodacious of behind because those pretty matching knickers stop at size 16.

Traversing the mall in the knowledge you’re as welcome as the proverbial turd in the sangria in almost every store further compounds the sense of worthlessness that comes with a lifetime of being blanked by fashion magazines. Patently unworthy of beautification, our very absence imbues us with hitherto unimaginable power. In the land of the glossy where Scarlet Johansen is OMG!fat we, the actual fat, have achieved bogeyman status – seldom glimpsed and all the scarier for it. (I mean please, we don’t even have heads). That token fat-girl makeover feature they run every 18 months is fooling no one, least of all us. We’re the handcart everyone’s going to hell in if they don’t renew their gym membership/ embrace the latest diet/get that icky lard siphoned out of their arses pronto. Never mind our potential as consumers, as long as we keep the flames of self-hate roaring and the other suckers spending, who the hell cares what we want?

But the spirit bludgeoning doesn’t end there. Even those who do cater to our needs can still make us feel like crap. There’s the cost for a start. The handful of exclusive fat ladies boutiques peppered across the British Isles charge through the earhole for designer clothes they import from Germany, Scandinavia and the US. In these stores you can seriously look forward to paying three times as much for anything, no matter how basic, as our slender sisters would expect to pay in the high street. Then there’s the fact that, even if you’re willing and able to pay top dollar, the styles on offer may not necessarily fit or flatter your body-type, thus narrowing down a choice that was narrow enough to begin with. And no matter how steep the price tag it will still be polyester-a-go-go because, as everyone knows, all fat people have a pathological terror of ironing. But, by far the most injurious to the human spirit is the inability to truly express one’s personality through our dress.

Want to strut your stuff as a disco diva, corporate ball breaker or boobalicious Russ Meyer-style ultra-vixen? Dream on. Your choice will be limited by the eminently limited horizons of designers and buyers who, not being fat themselves, don’t have a clue what you want and don’t seem in much of a hurry to find out. And don’t look to the vintage market to help you out, at least not on these shores. The fatshionistas of yore held onto their clothes for grim death for fear of never finding anything that would fit them ever again. I know; as a desperate teen I completely worked my way through both my grandmothers’ wardrobes wearing styles that spanned four decades.

The sad fact is that even if you’re wise to your deliberate exclusion from the wild fashion-party everyone else seems to be having – even if you’re as righteously fuming about it as I’ve been for most of my adult life – the cumulative effect of that exclusion still gets to you. Back when Marianne first started The Rotund, she questioned whether she so often wore black out of deference to her Goth roots, or because she’d been conditioned to believe wearing bright colours would draw attention to her fatness – despite accepting her fatness. For years I was unable to buy anything that wasn’t black or some god-awful drab shade of blue. Deprived of the rich, vibrant jewel tones that make my heart sing, I started to use them on the walls of my flat instead. By the time I had access to brightly coloured clothes again I found, to my horror, I’d lost the confidence to wear them in the interim. Likewise I wore long, loose, body skimming layers for years; it’s a look that suits me but one nonetheless born out of a dearth of choice. Eventually, if we let them, these forced choices come to define us; become our choices over time. We lose heart, channel our creativity elsewhere and start thinking of yellow as a thin person’s colour.

Like women who have to work twice as hard as men in the workplace just to prove themselves equal; fat women have to work twice as hard as those with all the choice in the world to prove they can look just as good. (But, hey, at least there’s twice as much of us to look good when we do). Fortunately I got over my fleeting fear of colour, reclaimed my spirit and lived to fight another day sartorially speaking. I found alternative, fashion-forward, fat-positive websites, zines and communities to replace those that encourage us to bitch about celebrity zits and cellulite as some kind of twisted compensation for making us hate ourselves. It’s amazing how truly fucked-up the rest of the world starts to look by comparison after a while.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fleeing in the face of nature

Over the past couple of years I've come to believe that he who is tired of London is probably in the process of morphing into his parents, (assuming they weren’t native Londoners to begin with). Many of my closest friends have left the city I was born in and love fiercely, badmouthing it to hell and back while heading for rural idylls and one-horse dormitory towns. Maybe it's just part and parcel of becoming middle-aged, the responsibility that comes with having children, (on whom the Evil London Air must not, on any account, be permitted to blow), or simply forgetting how terminally bored they were growing up in Much-Piddling-In-The-Marsh that they couldn't wait to leave. But, whatever the reason, they're decamping in droves and I don't get to see them nearly as often as I'd like.

Am I bitter? You bet, but the fact is I’m tired of having my beloved city dissed. We might have a crumbling infrastructure and sky-high council tax but we have history and culture and beauty, damnit! We have civilised things like street lighting, (call me old fashioned but I like to see where I’m going of an evening. Light pollution, my arse). We’re surrounded by magnificent parks, glorious architecture and more museums, galleries, theatres, music venues, world-class restaurants and art-house cinemas than you can shake a mud-encrusted crook at. Which, of course, brings me back to the countryside again.

I effing hate it; always have.

I’m not speaking from unfounded prejudice, you understand; I have relatives who live there. I’ve endured numerous bracing country walks in my time, chockfull of mud, cowpats and endless clambering over rickety stiles, generally under an ominous, brooding sky. I tell you the only thing I looked forward to was wrenching off my cow-crap-encrusted wellies and murdering a cup of tea when the torture ceased. And don’t even get me started on the locals whose idea of a fun day out is terminating the local wildlife with the aid of 25 beagles and three dozen social-climbing arseholes on horseback. Dead right I don’t understand your noble country traditions, sunshine. And then there’s fields. I’m sorry but what precisely is the allure of a field? Forests I can understand; I like trees and streams and bluebell woods, but great sprawling swathes of green and yellow stuff as far as the eye can see, quite often without even a sheep or a cow to relieve the visual monotony? Oy, pass me the razor blades now. Give me life, for pity's sake! Shops and buskers and cafés and the buzz of urban living, even if I can't always afford to take advantage of everything my city has to offer. Give me the option of being able to order a cab after midnight or simply keeping my own private business to myself.

It’s been far from plain sailing for some of my friends. They’ve been faced with a rich/poor divide the like of which they never encountered in the London ‘burbs; while the only people who were outgoing and hospitable towards them, despite doing their utmost to immerse themselves in village life, were refugees from other big cities – thus putting the lie to the rumour we metropolitan types are cold and aloof. One couple had to move as they were flanked by a spooky woman who regularly threw hair clippings onto their lawn in the wee small hours, and a family that were forever having drunken, expletive-ridden domestics and visits from the local constabulary. My favourite anecdote about this particular shower involved my friend’s husband unearthing some slow worms in the garden after demolishing an old shed. Delighted, he called their two young daughters to come and check them out. Next door, however, were less than impressed when one made its way onto their side of the fence. “’it it wiv a spade, Lewis!” came an impassioned cry, “It’s gotta die!” Again with the killing. What is it with country folk?

When I retire it will be to the seaside, assuming I ever do retire; maybe Brighton – or as I prefer to think of it, London-on-Sea.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Oh, Ann Harvey, how I hate you

Dear Managing Director of Anne Harvey,

As a size 22 fashionista I was pleased to learn you had opened up a branch in my neighbourhood, having bought two fab linen dresses from you last summer. Imagine then my deep dismay when I arrived at your newest shop only to be met with a selection of clothes in dingy colours and styles best suited to a bunch of Saga-cruisin’ septuagenarians than my hip 48-year-old self. Where, pray, were the bold geometric prints; the vibrant colour combinations; the fat-girl-flattering smocks, sack dresses, tie-back Empire and A-line tunics picked up on by every, single, non-plus-sized retailer on the high street? Where was the 80s-retro vibe even Evans managed to get right this season? And in what parallel universe could French navy and congealed-blood red possibly be described as up-to-the-minute?

I realise there are few, if any, plus-sized movers and shakers in the fashion industry and, judging by the profoundly unimaginative frumpfest you’re offering your captive audience right now, I’m guessing Alexon is no exception. So here’s a novel idea: try asking some actual fat women what we want in our wardrobes, since you plainly haven’t a clue. While I can’t claim to speak for every ample consumer out there, I feel reasonably confident in saying most of us want to make the most of our assets in flattering clothes that reflect prevailing trends, just like thinner women do; as opposed to being compelled, through sheer lack of choice, to dress like a separate species.

Take, for instance, that perfectly wretched combo that prevails only in fat-lady shops – the long, sleeveless, shift or bias-cut dress with obligatory matching short-sleeved shirt. Boy, nothing says mother-of-the-bride like that cynical little exercise in greed and laziness. (Actually, I tell a lie; if there’s pattern involved, nothing says woman-masquerading-as-an-overstuffed-three-piece-suite). Given that most fat women – especially the older demographic I’m assuming you’re targeting, having discontinued your more youthful Anya range – detest showing off their upper arms, how’s about you stop charging us an extra forty quid for the privilege of covering the offending area and just put some sleeves on the sodding dresses? If it’s high summer, I don’t want to be wearing an extra layer thanks – and, while we’re on the subject, what genius came up with the notion of lining skirts and/or dresses intended to be cool with naff, sweat-inducing polyester? (Mmm, the feel of static on bare legs. Niiiice). And please don’t fob me off with some old guff about how vastly expensive it is to line plus-sized clothing with anything else. In the first instance, you’re hardly cheap and secondly, if Monsoon can manage to manufacture a cotton-lined voile dress that fits 47” 40” 48” me with room to spare and retails at £45, you haven’t got a leg to stand on.

Since you are one of precisely three dedicated plus-sized chain stores in the entire country I feel you owe it to UK plus-sized women to try considerably harder than you do. If I’m offended by the dowdiness younger plus-sized women must lose the will to live when they come into your shops Right now I’ve never been more grateful Monsoon have upped their size range. If you seriously want some of my hard-earned dosh, you need to drag your designers and marketing people off autopilot; start thinking just a little more Beth Ditto and a lot less Hyacinth Bucket. Above all you need to understand we’re not a breed apart; we’re simply bigger – and, believe it or not, we also read fashion magazines.

Yours sincerely,

B. Puff (Ms)