Ursula and Hans: unrecognizable mermaids

It’s two years too late to consider the reductionist make-over of the Ursula doll in the Disney Villains collection “news”. But it was news to me. I learned about it from a fat-abulous performance poem by Melissa May. The poem “Dear Ursula” is an open letter to the character from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. You can watch the clip below of May performing it at the 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam.


You can read the outrage when the news was fresh (though the concept of thin as beautiful was still old and cliche then) in articles like this one at Tor. In the July 2012 article, Poor Unfortunate Souls: Why Does “Fashionable” Equal “Thin” to Disney?, author Emily Asher-Perrin asks the right questions. In response to the official statement

“The Disney Villains Designer Collection is a unique, stylized and fashion-forward take on these iconic characters.” – John Balen, Disney Store director.

Asher-Perrin asks

By “stylized,” you mean “unrecognizable,” right Disney?

Unrecognizable is the only word for her/not her. That is not Ursula. It just isn’t. As irritated and angry and sad and unsurprising as the erasure of women of size is in general, this one hit me particularly. Not because I’m a Little Mermaid fan. I’m not.

I like mermaids and I like redheads and I have nothing against singing crustaceans. I’m not big on the one true love and you’re nothing without your man stories and I really hate them as propaganda um, entertainment, for children. But what bugged me about this one was the happy ending slapped over the original.

In case the only version you know is the one with the date-rapey fish singing “kiss the girl”, in the original story by Hans Christian Anderson the mermaid did not get her man. And the deal was if she couldn’t make him love her, she would die. But he fell in love with someone else and the mermaid’s sisters made a pact with the sea-witch for a magic knife and  if “Ariel” killed her prince instead she’d live and could return to the sea. But she decided she’d rather die, and let him live happily without her, even though he’d know nothing of her sacrifice.

Put a little salsa music behind that punchline.

More than a sad little story about a sad little mermaid, this was a story about Anderson. Hans Christian Anderson was the little mermaid. He was an unhappy gay man who loved men who didn’t love him back and he wrote passionate letters to those men saying “she will never love you like I do”. His stories are fiercely bleak and full of noble, young women who are constantly dying. But nobly. Those stories have lasted generations. To me they are a strange patchwork of writing and queerness and surviving or not.

Which brings me back to Ursula. That simple fat beautiful drawing of an octopus-woman-sea-witch-goddess is based on a real complex fat beautiful person. A drag queen called “Divine”. He died in 1988 before the movie was finished but Ursula is Divine. An extra wrinkle in the historical queer tapestry of this mermaid’s tale.


So Disney, we love Ursula. Big and bad and unapologetic. Disney, can you capitalize on that love and sell us back something smaller, straighter, thinner and tell us it’s prettier? Tell us it’s fashionable. One lie at a time. One more erasure. Thin out the truth. Change a little. Change a lot. Tell us it’s what we really want. All the same figure, the same doll, the same story. Put a chorus line behind it. Maybe some singing mice.


Dancing on Air: Emma Haslam wins and keeps winning

Emma Haslam wows Britain's Got Talent. photo credit: ITV/PA Wire

Emma Haslam wows Britain’s Got Talent.
photo credit: ITV/PA Wire

“I see a pole. I see a skimpy outfit…” Simon Cowell lets his sentence trail off. Emma Haslam responds to his unanswered question with “I’m trying to prove that pole fitness is not just for the usual sizes. Obviously I’m a bigger lady.”

Whatever fitness instructor, pole dancer and aerialist Emma Haslam set out to prove on Britain’s Got Talen, she proved. She won over the audience and the judges with her routine. She got unanimous approval of the judges (4 YESes) to move on to the next round of competition.

Since then, Haslam has appeared on British television and Newspapers promoting size-positive fitness and sex appeal.

“Producers begged me to go on the show after seeing a video of me, it was crazy. I was more nervous about speaking to the judges than anything else,” Emma said in an interview.

“For you to get up there and have such good body confidence is a massive example for girls all over this country,” said Amanda Holden; actress, singer and one of the judges of Britain’s Got Talent.


Her confidence and skill attracted the attention of Yours Clothing (a fashion brand who specializes in stylish dresses and casual clothes sizes 14-32); they offered Haslam a modeling contract.

“When we saw Emma we thought it was great to see her promoting such a positive body image,” a spokesperson for Yours Clothing said.

I’ve included pics from her recent Yours Clothing photoshoot for your enjoyment.



What I chose not to include in this article was Haslam’s age, marital status, weight or dress size. The last two have been featured heavily in every article about her (The Sun, The Mirror, Huffington Post, etc) usually in the headline. While I’m delighted she’s not obscuring her size or apologizing for it, I think it’s tedious that snips, snails, events and accomplishments are what little boys are made of but measurements, wedding rings and mothering are what little girls are made of. Not on my blog.

This is Emma Haslam's facebook profile pic. Follow her on Facebook. You know you want to.

This is Emma Haslam’s facebook profile pic. Follow her on Facebook. You know you want to.

You can follow Emma Haslam at all the usual social media suspects.
Twitter: @emmaspoledancin
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/emmaspoledancing
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/emmaspoledancing%20
official website: http://emmaspoledancing.co.uk/

Fattitude the movie and me

If you’re on the fat-positive mailing lists or following blogs like this one, you probably already know there is a terrific new  movie that WILL come out called FATTITUDE. And no, it has nothing to do with me. (Or this blog.) Other than in the way it has something to do with all women of size and body-positive activists everywhere.

The filmmakers, Lindsey Averill and Viridiana Lieberman, currently have a kickstarter campaign. You have 29 days to get in on the fun.

Fun: a documentary filled with interviews with fat historians, activists and artists like Marilyn Wann and Substantia Jones.

Not fun:  death threats and stalking and harassment Averill and Lieberman received after challenging a hate-baiting troll over misuse of their movie trailer. You can read more about the harassment in an editorial Averill wrote for XOJane.com.

A complimentary article at Huffpo praised the film but couldn’t resist going for the slightly jokey headline:

‘Fattitude’ Will Stop You From Making Fat People The Butt Of Your Jokes

Troll-baiting? Or just Sir Mix-a-lot stuck in writer’s head? Oh My God, Becky.

CDC wages war on BBW via WWW etc

Clearly there aren’t any real problems needing money in this country. As evidence: a government sponsored multimedia hatefest going by the name “Weight of the Nation”. If you want to read all about it there’s a complete and brilliant article by the magnificent Marilyn Wann.



Here are the some great requoteables from the article.



I attended the first, government-sponsored Weight of the Nation conference in 2009. I didn’t pay or anything self-defeating like that. I just walked in (with a brave friend or two) and delivered plastic-wrapped fortune cookies to the fancy luncheon tables where major stakeholders were about to chew on the alleged “obesity” problem. If the professional food scolds took a cookie, they got messages like these:

  • The war on “obesity” is a war on PEOPLE!
  • The No. 1 threat to fat people? Your unexamined prejudice.
  • What’s the word for science that serves bigotry? Hint: It starts with “you.”
  • If you can’t imagine fat people being healthy…that’s YOUR pathology!
  • Tell people to lose weight if you want to endanger public health AND civil rights!
  • How many fat people must you starve, poison, slice up? Celebrate weight diversity now!

And the Orwellian:

  • Weight ≠ Health. Diversity ≠ Disease. Hate ≠ Help.

…and more

When the initial frenzy of Weight of the Nation has calmed down — after everyone has enjoyed this round of hating fat people and there’s been a healthy boost to budgets, profits, viewership, and ad revenue — I predict we’ll hit the same wall that every dieter encounters: the return to reality.

I suggest that reality is not so bad. To keep a grip, ask yourself:

  1. Would you question the motives behind any other national PR campaign designed “for your own good” by major media, corporations, and the government?
  2. If it were any topic other than weight (where you might feel vulnerable), would you be so quick to believe the numbers they cite to justify a “War on [Whatever]“? (Most egregious exaggerations: “Fat people cost ‘us’ billions!” “Everyone’s going to be really fat!” “Our children won’t live as long!”)
  3. Would you rather trust your own judgment about what’s good for you or get swept along by the latest fruitless panic?
  4. Do you want to connect with other people who are saying, “WTF” about Weight of the Nation?

Here are some:

Debate the Weight is a suite of data-supported arguments from the Association for Size Diversity and Health that controvert what they call “one of the most misleading and misguided public health campaigns — ever.”

Nutrition professor Linda Bacon compares Weight of the Nation to bear-baiting in ancient Rome’s coliseum in HuffPo. She writes, “Proponents may think they mean well by deploring the size of roughly half our nation, but it’s easier to rail about fat than examine the commercial and class motives that create the real health and wellness divides we live (and die) with.”

Jezebel editor Lindy West says “being mean to fat people is pointless.” And elaborates: “The assumption that you have a right to legislate another person’s body ‘for their own good,’ or ‘for the children,’ or even ‘because they’re gross,’ is its own kind of crazy — but to inflate that assumption to apocalyptic proportions, railing against the nation-obliterating medical bills of nebulous future straw-fatties, is fucking bonkers.”

Michele Simon, public health lawyer, gives great reasons why she is not attending or watching Weight of the Nation Including this one: “Scientific evidence shows that fat people have enough problems dealing with discrimination, bullying, etc., and the last thing they need is more fearmongering brought to you by the federal government and cable television.”

Slink magazine calls out weight-shaming as wholly unhelpful to health. Its rallying cry: “Because obesity, BMI, and all the other fad words you throw at plus-size women don’t stick or mean anything, and the moment we manage to hold off ridiculing women and our bodies long enough and alter the way we talk about plus size, fat, and our bodies to talking about healthy diet and exercise, the better off we will be.”

Fat Positive Vid

Brilliant mini-documentary of fat activism including footage of my Fat Sheroes, Marilyn Wann and Linda Bacon. Kudos to filmmaker Sara Zendehnam.

A Big Big Reading of Big Big Love

the big big deal (and details) about big big love

A Big Big Reading of Big Big Love

Thursday, October 13 · 8:00pm – 11:00pm

Re/Dress NYC

109 Boerum Place
Brooklyn, NY

Created By

More Info
Author Hanne Blank will be presenting her new book, Big Big Love: A Sex and Relationships Guide for People of Size (and Those Who Love Them) Thursday October 13th – 8PM at Re/Dress NYC 109 Boerum Place Brooklyn, NY 11201.The reading is free and open to the public.
Bring yourself and your burning questions about sex, relationships & size.

… Big Big Love is the only one-stop-shopping handbook on relationships, sexuality, and big sexy confidence for people of all genders, sizes, and sexual orientations who know that a fantastic love life doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the number on the bathroom scale. Covering everything from dating to sex toys to getting on top, this guide also features tips on navigating tricky topics like making peace with your belly, coping with weight-related prejudice, and creating a happy, satisfying sex life in a culture where no body is ever perfect enough.

This freshly illustrated update of the 2000 cult classic features new interviews with body-acceptance activists, health coaches, psychologists, and more, plus hundreds of quotes from fat folks and those who love them selected from a survey conducted exclusively for the book. From taking your clothes off to BDSM to fat admiration to tips for successful long-term relationships, Big Big Love’s savvy, sane advice can help you tackle every hot-button issue you may confront in the bedroom and in love.

Hanne Blank is a historian and author of Unruly Appetites (Seal Press), Virgin: The Untouched History (Bloomsbury), Big Big Love, and the forthcoming Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality (Beacon Press), which will be out just in time for Valentine’s Day 2012.

Press contact:
Alysia Angel
(919) 695-3419

Fattitude and big body love

Shrug off old tired shrinking negative bullshit and show your positive fattitudes.

Femme FATales and FATshionistas. Take up space, baby. Big women. Big ideas and the big fat world we live in.

Put your fat lips together and wolf whistle for the big beauties, past and present.