Weight Stigma Awareness Week Almost Goes Unnoticed By Busy Lady Wearing Pajamas

Fierce, Freethinking Fatties


While some writers have spent the entire week meticulously researching and formulating thought-provoking pieces to appear in their respective publications in honor of (or perhaps in response to) Weight Stigma Awareness Week, I had to be reminded and hit with the cattle prod several times by Shannon to even get me started.

You see, it’s not that I don’t care about these things, it’s just that I am the kind of idiot who remains forever blinded by the inborn refusal to deny my own awesomeness in a crisis.

Me? Stigmatized? No.

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Installing Diet Detour February 2013 at Whitdel Arts Detroit!!!

One of the great accomplishments of this year was getting accepting into the Anywhere Else But Here Installation Exhibition at Whitdel Arts in Detroit.

Diet Detour was the test run of the diet maze build concept and idea…we used both audio and smell components in the install and I have to say it was hugely successful. And to be completely honest, I’m not sure I would have had the guts to do it without my super D duper everyone should have their own…Amanda Nicole Rogers (nee Moyer) This is a short little video she put together of the incredible day long building process. And of course I need to thank all my little angel helpers, Luda and Vadim, Brett, Jeremy, Theresa, Amanda…all the staff, crew and volunteers at the gallery. Too much fun was had by all!

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What’s with the flurry of activity???

You are probably wondering why I’m posting like a mad woman today…well I’m at home sick with a cold, and figured I would try to catch up with some of my stuff.  I just got back from Chicago where I was delivering the Venus of Fonda, 2010 to the Koehnline Museum of Art, at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, IL for their upcoming women’s exhibition Bodies by Design: Modification, Coercion, and Resistance.

Not sure if it was lack of sleep or too much driving but somewhere along the line I managed to catch a cold.  So instead of sleeping…I thought I must update this blog…so much has happened and I haven’t written about any of it.

Anyways…This will be my second year in a row participating in the Women’s International Juried Exhibition at Koehnline.  I have to say that of all the shows I have been in there is something about this college and the museum that really makes this show one of my all time favorites…number 1.) they do not charge an admission fee for entry 2.) It’s not too far for someone in Michigan or St. Louis, Minnesota, or Wisconsin to drop off their work.  3.) It’s a beautiful exhibition space and a Museum to boot.  4.) They always put together a lovely catalogue and postcard.  Finally 5.) The school suggests that all artists in the show come to the opening…which is huge…students are required to look at the work and talk to the artists and it really makes for an exciting event.

Granted I don’t expect the same reception I got last year….this year I only have one of the Venus Sculptures in it…and sure she’s funny with the leg warmers and pictures and text…ADVANCED ABDOMINALS…meaning advanced exercises for those who bought the book for it’s intended purpose but in my piece…in a bit of a pun…it becomes…ADVANCED as in coming forward, bulging…or protruding….as in FAT ABS…It’s still not as dynamic an installation as Falling Out All Over which I entered last year.

I was inundated with student questions and interviews…I felt like a movie star…it was pretty awesome.  None of my fellow artists friends from the Chicago Chapter for the Women’s Caucus for Art could even get near me.  I was gloating….it’s really special when people especially young people feel enthusiastically about your work.  They are of course the people I hope to influence with my body positive message.  Anyways…back to posting some old but still relevant news and videos.

If you should find yourself in the area…please do come and see the show.  Opening on Thursday October 3rd and running until October 25th, 2013Image

Falling Out All Over 2012 Install at the Koehnline Museum of Art


The Venus of Fonda: photo credit Patricia Izzo

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Panel Discussion at “Corpo”Realities March 22-23, 2013 Negotiating Normalcy

Negotiating Normalcy:

Krystal Cleary, PhD Student Gender Studies, IU
Jess Drew, MA Student Theatre&Drama, IU
Brenda Oelbaum, Independent Artist and MI Rep. TFAP

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“Corpo”ral Punishment I performance at The “Corpo”realities performance conference at IU in Bloomington Indiana

Art@IU (Corpo)Realities March 22-23, 2013 Lee Norvelle Theatre&Drama Center

Society and the medical communities are obsessed with fear and panic over the so-called “Obesity Epidemic.” The reality is that the majority of American Women are overweight, yet we have become marginalized and invisible. As a fat activist and performance artist, I aim to change public awareness and opinion about what it means to be a fat woman living in a society that discriminates against the fat body. “Corpo”ral Punishment is a live feminist protest performance based on my short film entitled Results May Vary– a visceral, visual metaphor illustrating the futility of dieting. The piece features three players. Fat Woman, ( Brenda Oelbaum), Dresser (Amanda Nicole Rogers nee Moyer) and Mirror ( Gabriela Sincich) Dresser assists Fat Woman in applying pages of a Diet Book to her body using paper-mache, in a literal and physical attempt to transform herself. The Dresser is always positive, the mirror reflects back the Fat Woman’s emotions and that of society. As the Fat Woman is being covered with the paper-mache, each player will take turns approaching the Audience: Fat Woman for outside opinions, The Dresser for agreement, and finally the Mirror allowing the viewers to see themselves. Do they judge themselves? Are they judging others and how they look? How does it feel to have their own critical eyes turned back on themselves?

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Oh The Horror! The Horror! Crime Scene Becomes Crime Scene

Not even a Break In to the sacred Venus of Willendorf Project Temple/Studio can get me to blog.  Two days ago my precious assistant Amanda Moyer came in to tend the studio cats, Richard Scarry, Dr Jeff Katz, and Daisy May before making her way to my house to do some office work.

As she went back to empty the litter box in the garage/storage portion of the space…she noticed an opening to the back wall that had not existed before…Well it actually had been there all along only it had been covered by a piece of chip board.  Now the board was gone leaving a 2 foot by 2 foot hole in the wall looking out into the jungle of weeds that separates the studio from the train tracks. My mountain of neatly stacked and stowed book boxes labeled soft and hard were now littered with windows crudely cut into at least a dozen of the boxes.  Stuff from the corners of the room were roughly scattered towards the center, in what looked like a half-assed attempt to find something of value in a space that on a regular basis could be described as a crime scene.

Officer Trudy of the Ann Arbor Police Department checking out the point of entry.

Officer Trudy of the Ann Arbor Police Department checking out the point of entry.

In fear for her life and in shock at finding the space violated, Amanda called me from the front entry way of the building, scared that what ever had broken in might still be in there.  Fear had blinded her to the fact that whom ever had done this had opposable thumbs and the knowledge of how to use a box cutter.  Not that that isn’t scary enough…but she was thinking rabid raccoon or something wilder( Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My”). On closer inspection it was clear the intruder had used a knife, and indeed a very fancy cooking knife was found on the floor by what must have been the last box he broke into.   Clearly he/they were losing it by this point…they could not believe that a whole storage space was filled with boxes containing only diet books.  At this point they started to pull out the books figuring this must be a trick and the booty was just hiding behind the books.  The only booty they would find here I’m afraid..would be my big fat one, and I’m happy to say it was not here at the same time they were.

Although the studio was filled with every different size and brand of box cutter our villainous friend brought his own tool.  Anybody missing a nice kitchen knife? Check it out someone had their kitchen robbed!

Although the studio was filled with every different size and brand of box cutter our villainous fiend brought his own tool. Anybody missing a nice kitchen knife? Someone has been stealing from Hell’s Kitchen!

Seriously there is nothing in these boxes but diet books!

Seriously there is nothing in these boxes but diet books!

Thankfully everyone, cats and people are safe and no one appears to have been injured.   At first I wanted to put the furball gang on double secret probation, for not doing a better job at securing the place.  But after closer inspection…I think that our thief or thieves may have actually been spooked by the motley crew.  Dr Jeff loves to roost on the top of the boxes and because the cats are in a pretty busy space they are used to people coming in and out, they probably were rubbing up against our burglar and asking him to change their litter and trying to tell him where I hide the fish flakes cause they were thinking it was a good time for a snack.  I can just see Dr Katz looking down at him from above as he struggled to understand how every box could contain only diet books, all the while having this huge Black Cat with searing yellow eyes leering at him in the dark from above would creep anyone out.  So for this I thank my lovely friendly felines.

Dr. Jeff Katz being his bad ass creepy in your face self.  On top of the mountain of book boxes

Dr. Jeff Katz being his bad ass creepy in your face self. On top of the mountain of book boxes

Bad news however is we now have to spend the week cleaning up instead of finishing the Somersize Me Venus… that beauty will have to wait. Honest to Betsy besides the Venus of Phil…which did not survive it’s own treelike thickness has taken the longest ever to make.  Probably because I have not been any help at all to Amanda…after two summers of Paper Mache every day…I just have really lost my love for it.  Hopefully the next few Venus Sculptures will be fast and fun…so we can make some head way.  Just like dieting itself this work is boring and tedious and you just don’t seem to be getting anywhere most of the time.

Word to the wise if you are collecting things as an investment?Diet Books clearly do not rate. I find it ironic that Officer Trudy L Sahr of the Ann Arbor Police Department thought perhaps they were looking for food, and all that was found were books that teach you how to live without it.

I keep wondering what the heck was going through their minds as they found diet book after diet book…it must have been like that reality TV show Storage Wars…”There must be something good in this box…”  Or ” this one”  “OMG MORE DIET BOOKS???”  Well…it serves them right.  If it wasn’t such a jungle back there I would love to graffiti the side of the building to say…JUST DIET BOOKS!

So the long and short of it is I blame my landlord…and his lazy ass super for never securing the window properly and of course leaving two ladders at the back of the building making the break in even easier.  Thankfully the ladders are now moved and the hole has been boarded up again, but this time from both the inside and the outside.  To bad I didn’t think of it sooner…I would have loved to have filled the thickness of the wall with shards of glass, pointy side up cemented to the wall so that anything thing that tried to climb through there again would get cut to ribbons.

I have such a richly violent fantasy life and even you Mr. Thief In The Night can’t wrestle that out of my cold dead hands!

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The Results Are In!

Indiegogo Campaign Results

Indiegogo Campaign Results

Thank you all for the support throughout the Indiegogo campaign. Please keep sending me your diet books!

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18 more hours Http:bit.ly/dietersunite

Photo Credit: Amanda Moyer

Detail image of the Carlton Fredericks Nutrition: Your Key to Good Health Venus

Well I really have to go to the Antique Fair….but there are only 18 hours left to go on my Indiegogo Campaign to collect funds to buy more ad space for my anti-diet “Send Me Your Diet Books” ads. So far they have rendered one diet book, and one love letter with a diet attached. Sob…I think it’s such a new concept that readers did not know what to do with it. The Women who sent me her diet book is going to get a Cover Girl Doll made from the book she sent…just for being brilliant and being the first to respond. The Love Letter Guy just made me want to cry. I will scan and post when I have more time. It’s amazing when you say…I’m sick and tired and I’m not going to take it any more…that someone thinks that more is the answer.

Enough!!! I need restaurant spikes for my Cover Girls!

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My Response to Why I Don’t Diet – An Ode to My Father

Why I Don’t Diet – An Ode to My Father.

This says so  much to me, I’m teary just reading it.  Of course this is not my experience and even though both sets of my Parents, (yes I was adoption and had two mothers and two fathers) Everyone of them had food issues and would diet…When I found my birth mother’s food journals I saw that we dieted the exact same way even though I had not been with her since the age of six.  Our numbers and diets always started in at around the same weight, 175 lbs was the weight we had both decided was unacceptable and our fasting would begin.

Some days when I’m feeling weak and down I wish to be that number again, but it’s been years since I was that slender.  Yes you read correctly 175 was “Slender.”  Now at 290 pounds for the most part I accept myself where I am.  FAT, Obese?  Morbidly Obese? to some…This is where 40 years of dieting got me.

Someone once said to me that I was the kind of person they would want to have in their cave.  And who knows…perhaps my ability to fast and binge would have helped in prehistoric times.  But that is not going to send me out to follow the Paleo Diet now…or what ever BS they are selling ( thin trend du jour )  My disordered eating gave me years of crazy eating rules to undo in my head about foods…perfectly delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables became intolerable.

This is who I am today and I strive to be healthy at this size, and move joyfully… (sadly even movement has been effected by my dieting and disordered body image history.)  I cry in yoga class because my body remembers how flexible it was years ago when all I did in a day was run from karate, dance, spinning, yoga, weight training….But I couldn’t live like that…I am more then just my body, I am more then my physical appearance.  I have things to say and places to go and things to create.  Focusing on my exterior 24/7 was not enough.  So I put that aside.  I wear clothes that feel good, sizes that fit, I may not look like I did when I was dieting and eating disordered but for the most part my thinking is clear, I am doing something with my life and I have family and friends who love and support me in the here and now.

This is not an easy journey, but I fight everyday so that my son and other people’s children will not have to deal with the body image issues and negative physical side effects that dieting and diet culture has created in our current world.

Everyone is so concerned that we are fatter then we ever were before, and that this is effecting our health and the health of our children.  Frankly I think doctors and the government are looking at the wrong source of this “Epidemic”

DIETING IS THE CAUSE OF THE OBESITY CRISIS ( if there is even such a thing )….




Love and respect yourself as you are….move joyfully and eat yummy food without judgments like “this a good choice” or “this a bad choice”  If you like pineapple eat it….if you like potatoes eat it….eating things because you think they will make you thin or healthy strips the food of the pleasure and often destroys it’s nutritional value.  ( especially when you can no longer even put it in your mouth, because just the smell of it sends you back to the time that was all you ate. )

Sorry for the rant and tears, I was supposed to be antiquing today having fun and I find myself here blogging.  I’m not even going to reread what I wrote….I just had to get it out.

Thank you Tiffany for your Post it really triggered something in me this morning.

My Son was hurt yesterday when a relative saw a picture of me back when “I was sick” as he likes to say.  She commented on how good I looked and it made him angry.  He knows how hard I work to be who I am today, and I had to admit that yes I did look lovely then, but I didn’t feel lovely…I felt crazy, and I might have well been the weight I am now for all I knew.  I thought I was….Man Mountain Dean as my adopted mother used to call me.  A little girl probably no more then 12 or 14 who had not even reached that 175 pound mark yet on the scale was “MAD Mountain Dean” as I thought she was calling me….it was only after getting involved with fat activism did I google him and find out his real name… a wrestler from the 1930’s did I realize what his real name was.

Yes I am a fighter, and yes I am fat, I don’t diet any more and I will fight to my death against this way of life which is destructive and a construct to weaken women and to get them to shut their mouths…both physically, behaviorally, and physiologically.  I’m hungry and I’m big and I’m loud and I’m proud!  Delicate little Flower??? I eat those on my salads!!!

Response to : Why I Don't Diet - An Ode to My Father

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Some Beautiful Press About My Indiegogo Campaign!!!

The Willendorf Project: Brenda Oelbaum Goes National with the Goddess at Her Back

Lynne Murray says:

In August of 2010, I posted here about feminist artist Brenda Oelbaum’s work turning diet books into papier mâché models of the Venus of Willendorf.

Postcard Image by Daphne Doerr

Now Brenda is bringing her vision to the larger stage with “a national ad campaign to take down $66 BILLION Diet Industry.” She calls her project “DUMP THE DIETS! a Fight for Freedom from self-loathing.”

Venuses Left to Right: Fonda, Last Chance, Scarsdale, Stop the Insanity, Simmons

As Brenda puts it:

Think about how many diet ads you see on a daily basis, and see for yourself how much the diet industry is really spending on making you feel bad about yourself.

It’s time to invest in some positive messages!

We are tired of measuring our worth on a bathroom scale! We are not a number and neither are our children. We are beautiful and can be healthy at our current size.

We are all unique and valuable.



Brenda plans to post her message by purchasing ads in national publications right beside the ads and articles with product placement to sell the diets.

She can’t do it on her own, of course, one artist versus a billion dollar propaganda machine is too much of an unequal contest. But Brenda is now mobilizing crowdsourcing to help fund her Dump the Diet ads where the general public can see them. She reports:

I have already placed ads in several magazines that will appear the first two weeks on May in honor of “No Diet Day,” May 6th. Now I need you to turn this grass roots effort into a movement.

Part of what resonates with me and many others about Brenda’s work is her brilliant use of the physical substance– the paper that composes diet books–to build a mental structure to help us heal the deep hole diet books have carved in our souls.

My wounds from years of diet go so deep and are so constantly vulnerable to re-infection that they need to heal from the inside, one layer of healthy tissue at a time, in a process remarkably similar to ripping out the pages of the diet book and pasting them onto a paper-mâché sculpture.

The cult surrounding diet books, ads and programs builds its strength upon the American dream of changing oneself through hard work. The desire for success via self-improvement strikes such a chord in our national consciousness that it can be easily echoed and then evoked to twist personal goals into impossible dreams of magical physical transformation.

But no matter how much money we spend chasing the dream, change can only work if it is based on actual possibility. Dieting does change our bodies, but not the way we wish and dream for. Instead the result is the opposite! Weight cycling and eating disorders are the predictable and proven results for the vast majority of those who follow any and every diet plan. Ragen at Dances with Fat defines it well:

[L]et’s talk about what “dieting” means (so that we can avoid the “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!” discussion.)  Dieting occurs when someone gives their body less food than it needs to survive in the hope that it will eat itself, thereby becoming smaller.  Call it a diet, call it a lifestyle change, if you are starving your body hoping that it will eat itself resulting in intentional weight loss, congratulations you are on a diet.  (You are completely and totally allowed to diet, I’m just saying let’s call it what it is.)

Turning a fat person into a permanently thin person is essentially impossible, which makes it the perfect scam for the con artist–a gold mine. Once the hook is set, the infinitely exploitable sucker will buy variations on one useless diet or another for decades if not for the rest of her/his lifetime. Those who engage in this Long Conhave sold billions of copies of such “Create Your Own Eating Disorder” books, not to mention all the diet-oriented paraphernalia that accompany them.

Brenda’s use of the Venus of Willendorf as the sculpture made from diet books strikes at the very heart of fear and prejudice toward larger bodies. These statues once represented goddesses–abundance, fertility and largesse. Now they are objects of ridicule. And by extension, those of us whose bodies resemble the goddess have also become targets for abuse, commands that we starve ourselves (seriously, “just stop eating” is a popular insult often yelled at fat women), and sometimes even violence.

One of the beautiful subtexts and ironies in Brenda’s work is using the pages of diet books to create a fat figure, just as the dieting process itself is now proven to stimulate long-term weight gain–creating a fat or fatter figure.

Brenda’s work shows bravery worthy of a goddess–I adore the picture of her, resolute, nude, surrounded by towering walls of diet books. Passionate, committed individuals banding together can have a profound effect.

The Willendorf Project is a wise investment toward growing a wiser future.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 6th, 2013 at 6:31 am and is filed under Art,Body imagefatfeminismHAEShealthLaurie and Debbie’s blogSize Acceptance. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “The Willendorf Project: Brenda Oelbaum Goes National with the Goddess at Her Back”

  1. Livre d’Or Says: 
    May 6th, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Thank you for posting about Oelbaum’s Willendorf project and your own response to it. I like the idea, but I am afraid to say I have some quibbles. I realized as I was drafting my comment that it was more like a response post than a comment, especially as I’m just a random lurker.

    If you are interested in a critique from what I hope is a size-accepting and feminist perspective, here is a manual pingback:http://liv.dreamwidth.org/401033.html

  2. Debbie Says: 
    May 6th, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Readers of the blog may want to know that I answered Livre d’Or in their own thread: http://liv.dreamwidth.org/401033.html?thread=4839817#cmt4839817

  3. Lynne Murray Says: 
    May 7th, 2013 at 12:00 am

    I’m new to Dreamwidth, but I think this is the link to my answer on the same thread

  4. Brenda Oelbaum Says: 
    May 7th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Thank you so much for all your comments, there is no doubt that what I’m doing is flawed in some ways…just like there is always a nugget of real and maybe valuable information in the books I destroy. But something something has to be done! And I am grateful and proud of my efforts and all the other Fat Activist Artists and Bloggers. If I touch one other person with my art then I have done a great thing.

    Thanks so much for spreading the word and writing such a wonderful piece about my project! I know there are people all over the world receiving your mailing and it just helps get these size positive HAES messages out into the universe faster and further…Warmly, Brenda O.

  5. Livre d’Or Says: 
    May 8th, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Thank you, Brenda, for putting yourself on the line to fight this fight. I’m a words person, not a visual art person, so I nitpicked about the words, but I really admire you for getting size positive messages out.

  6. brenda oelbaum Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation. 
    May 14th, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks Livre d’Or…I have a serious problem with my words lol, I find it much easy to say what I feel in my art. That is why collaborations and movements filled with diverse energies are so important in our efforts. Someone eventually will hit the magic nerve, or just the right blend of word, imagery, or sensory assault, that gets our point across.

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