Friday, February 15, 2013

Does Fat Mean Being Stared At?

Overweight woman photographs strangers staring at her
An obese woman has captured the cruel looks and stares she attracts in public by photographing herself in different social settings. Haley Morris-Cafiero, 37, an artist from Memphis, Tennessee, is seen sitting in restaurants, out shopping and strolling around bustling tourist attractions such as Times Square while curious passers-by are captured in the background. 
Talking about the revealing collection of images she writes on her website: 'I have always been aware of people making faces, commenting and laughing at me about my size.' She admits that her weight has been a constant battle and growing up she often felt 'left out and awkward'. Instead of talking about her body she refers to 'my uncontrollable exterior'. 
On the subject of her eating habits she told MailOnline: 'My biggest temptation has to be donuts. They contain all of the caloric evils in one round, portable container: fried, bread and sugar,' Explaining what inspired her picture series titled Wait Watchers, she said: 'I decided to photograph myself sitting alone on the Times Square stairs to capture my solitude in a busy crowd.

I'm not so sure about this. What if the people were looking at her getting her picture taken? Was the camera even hidden? If it wasn't you are not going to get a fair look, people are going to wonder why the camera is there? In my area of the country, she is not that fat, she is not exceptional, she would blur into the background mostly. Even in the picture above, the woman in the plaid coat is near her size.

She does seem kind of awkward, that alone can attract people's attention. Don't take this wrong, I think fat people have the right to dress badly as everyone else and be left in peace, but I found myself thinking, if I was that size and with the wide variety of clothes in size 18-20, the size I am guessing she wears, I'd be dressed a whole lot better. Clothing comes near and dear for us super-sized folks. She seems to dress "young" for her age. Hope folks don't get upset with me for saying that, maybe I have this personal bugaboo about fat women who dress so down almost reinforcing the role they are expected to play. Rebel a bit, and allow yourself some style.

That may be more about "me", but I found myself thinking and feeling guilty about it, "Why are you dressed so badly, why are you wearing red shoes with the primary colors blue and green!- Fashion alert!" Remember I am poor myself and probably break endless fashion rules, but that one bugged me. She dresses like she is still a teen. Clinton and Stacy could have a field day on "What Not To Wear". I wish she would buy herself a pretty dress and a nice necklace to wear or even something that she is COMFORTABLE in wearing.

Anyhow, one other thing I thought, is "YOU ARE BARELY FAT!" Ok, she isn't svelte, but I could go to the local Wal-mart and find 10 people who outweigh her by at least 150lbs within 20 minutes. Does she expect people to stare being that weight? Isn't this setting one's self up as a victim? And how is someone like myself to feel who is 500lbs who this woman would be functional and "thin" in comparison to?

People stared at me. When I was near 700lbs, I lived in a big city, and well they looked, I was so unique, it was like the circus came to town as I bumbled down the sidewalk at a huge weight. I had to learn to get used to it, and had the attitude "Give them something to look at!" I know today if I am "new" somewhere, I can get the CURIOSITY looks and yes I even get the RUDE looks, every supersized fat person knows. Today I weigh less, but I am still hugely fat and I am tromping around with a hearing aid, a leg double the size of the other and either a cane or a walker. When I go without the walker, I trumble around from side to side with the cane, because my balance is gone so I do not have a normal gait. One thing being an artist myself, my dress style is different, and well I do stand out, and do not wear what people consider "average fashion", think "hippie art teacher" in long dresses. I dress for myself. Yes I sure do, I wear what is comfortable to me and what I LIKE.

She is young, well 7 years younger then me, one thing when you grow old enough, there is less gawking. There is a lot of older and fatter people out there. Past a certain age, it just doesn't matter. Once you enter "grandma" territory, even if you are childless, there does seem to be less judgment out there based on your looks. That said however why walk around in pain from people judging your looks?

My balding head, skin sores, and almost 700lb body was a trial by fire, that allowed me to bust open the locks on the beauty prison and escape for good. I wonder if I walk around now imparting the viewpoint it doesn't matter. Look all you want if you want. Some may say, hey you've left your mug off your own blog for over three years. I posted one picture of my body on here. But isn't that the point? Why should EVERYTHING be about our looks? I want my looks to take backseat to what I have to say. Now what would I say to this lady if I ever met her?  I would say, "you are healthy, you are only mildly overweight, you have a good career as an art professor, life's not that bad!"

Maybe life for me has been easier having spent my life living in two smaller towns, the last one quite small and this one just a bit larger. If a place is small enough, you do ebb into the background with time, everyone's seen you so you are no longer a "shock" or a "curiosity".

I went around my last town and this one, not really even thinking about anyone looking at me. The last time anyone made fun of me overtly, was two times in the last five years. I had this woman at the library give me this horrified look of disgust who turned giggling to her friend next to her, and this woman at a health class for the elderly and disabled say mean things to me for being fat. So it's going to happen. What do you do? Try and stand up for yourself and move to the nice people. There is always going to be someone who doesn't like someone for the way they look or even are.

I just don't buy this idea that a size 18 woman in American society is being stared at for being fat when the AVERAGE American woman is only 3 sizes off.  Take pictures of me walking around, let's see what happens, people in small towns smile at each other. I'd like to catch pictures of people SMILING at me. Am I crazy? The auto shop man smiled at me, the waitress did, the people at book club, when I last got out and around.

Could I make an art show of that? Look I know fat discrimination exists but looks aren't everything. Be someone beyond your looks. Does anyone understand what I mean here? Those other people in the crowd even if they are not fat they have troubles too.


  1. I also was drawn to look at her photo because of the combination of colors she was wearing. Goodness knows i don't know anything about fashion, but it was sort of jarring to me. She doesn't seem unusual to me in terms of her size, because although honestly i am probably as curious as anyone else in terms of noticing people that look really different she seems pretty average. Or at least not of a body type that is unusual enough to attract attention.

    If i see someone being photographed i guess i do look at them, so i'm with you, i think either her clothes or the camera attracted attention

  2. I agree people are looking at her because she's being photographed. I have pictures of myself when I was thin with people looking at me while I was being photographed in a public space. It's just natural for people to be momentarily distracted by a little commotion and look towards it. And no, she isn't large enough that people would stare.

  3. I agree with you - I thought a. She is not that fat as to stand out for her size alone, b. She is posing so strangely in the first pic that the woman walking past looks as if she is looking at her like 'what's going on?' and c. Her clothing is what I noticed first, before her size. Maybe she is trying to find a justification for how she perceives others see and treat her, but she may have just picked the most obvious aspect (to her) of herself...

  4. Hi ehill. I found her clothing rather jarring too, the color combinations especially wiht the red shoes. Physically except for the odd clothing choices, she'd blend in around here, she wouldn't even be noticed especially being middled aged. I probably wouldn't even notice her. I think the camera and clothes too attracted the attention, agree anon. I found myself thinking she is way too hung up on being a little large. What if she got a disfiguring condition? Like Psorasis, or burns or something?

  5. Anon, you are right people are going to look at those getting photographed. Especially even wondering if they would be in the photos.

  6. Wigtastic, thanks for your post too. I did find myself wondering is she getting "bad" reactions from other things. That actually could be her problem if those pictures are representative. I don't think people should be so judgmental about clothing either but perhaps that isn't even the core problem. She may have picked the WRONG aspect, she thinks it's because she is fat, but her being fat actually IMO takes a back seat to the possible poor fashion choices by the few who may notice, and the EXTREME social awkardness and just the UNCOMFORTABLENESS she shows. She radiates a SEVERE uncomfortableness. I am the queen of social awkwardness think female nerd on steroids with absent minded professor syndrome to the max, but even I do not radiate such extreme angst and pain on film as she shows. I wish someone would sit her down and say "LOOK, you are an ART PROFESSOR, and have achieved things in your life, get over this petty stuff, you are a little bit overweight, and that's it, you have your health etc. She needs to adjust her priorities. Even if she kept the same wardrobe, that would lift 90% of the cloud right off her back. She needs to free herself even of the false mind thing, that puts everyone on display and judges themselves entirely by the false societal "IDEAL". People, those who were really looking and not just startled by the cameras, probably can pick up on the pain.

  7. Now that you mention it, i do think the awkwardness is noticeable. It's a little odd to me because most artistic people i know sort of strive to look different. I think most people notice someones confidence and attitude before weight.

  8. I was an art teacher pre-disability life, so understand the art mode. She doesn't dress like an artist, usually artistic people do dress different. I always have. I even have my own developed style. Poverty keeps me from wearing all the clothes I really want to wear, but I have a long black fuzzy coat and wear these dresses that go down to my mid-calf or lower that are free flowing and black Birckenstocks and beaded necklaces. Even when I was at my ultra-super sized weights, I would got to a specialized boutique to get dresses and I was so poor, but I had to wear something you know? I see her and think even the thrift store could outfit her far better. [a portion of my coats and sweaters were bought by a friend at an estate sale] I think though people could be staring due to the extreme lack of confidence. But then when I found this video...I see a far different person at the art show...

    How much was this acting?

    Don't become the stereotype of what they want fat people to be.

    The thin hipsters at her art show, I wondered, did you become what they wanted you to be for "acceptance"?

    Ah you know what I think there.

    Come on fat people have some dignity.

    The outfit she had on at the art show is decent too.

  9. You know some of this "professional victim class" stuff is getting overdone in academia and other places.

    Hey I understand suffering, don't get me wrong on that and have compassion for everyone who suffers from a "difference".

    but then I felt like her photos were an ACTING job.

    Being the fat person stereotype, slovenly dressed, sad and scared in public, thinking everyone is staring at you even if you are just a little bit pudgy.....

    I guess that is what SELLS?

    Am I cynical to think so? Some of this does collide with my views of the mainstream art world and experiences within it.

  10. She needs to find clothes that fit her properly!

  11. Yes the clothes are tight and badly fitted. I find myself wondering if this was like performance art, where she dressed badly on purpose, after seeing her in a video at the art show of hers looking much better coiffed etc. I did think how did someone who dresses that way and carries herself like that get the job she has? I hate that society is so judgemental but its true. The clothing is too tight. Those are the discrepancies, I wonder about. If this was like performance art, and she dressed badly on purpose to carry off the "art" this would be deeply concerning to me.....

  12. Did anyone see the photo of her on a swing with a black man and his son looking at her? She looked really SAD to me, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were looking at her for that reason. The only people who ever showed concern for me on the street in NYC if I seemed depressed or upset were black men.

  13. Yeah I saw that, they looked more worried about her then anything. I think she looked so sad and depressed and sent off "I am very very depressed vibes" of course people would be noticing. Hmmm NYC, yeah that is a different place. I got more help from black men I worked with at one job then I did any of the women I worked with. One boss wanted to send me to a dangerous neighborhood in the middle of the night and a black male co-worker stepped forward and said NO WAY and took up for me!