The grotesque body is open, protruding, irregular, secreting, multiple, and changing; it is identified with non-official ‘‘low’’ culture or the carnivalesque, and with social transformation.

The ‘grotesque body’ exaggerates its processes, bulges, and orifices, whereas the static, monumental ‘‘classical (or bourgeois) body’’ conceals them. The grotesque body breaks down the boundaries between itself and the world outside it, while the classical body, consistent with the ideology of the bourgeois individual, shores them up.
-Mary Russo

Because women in our society are subjected to the overwhelming ‘tyranny of slenderness’ and are perceived as the primary bearers of class standing and/or class aspirations (Ortner, 1991: 172), any woman who openly flaunts her excessive corpulence is a potential political threat. That the modern female grotesque, those women who either fail or refuse to conform to the dominant physical ideal, can become an agent of ‘social transformation’.
-Jeffrey Brown



The obese, particularly those who claim to be happy although overweight, are perceived as not playing by the rules at all. If the rest of us are struggling to be acceptable and ‘‘normal’’, we cannot allow them to get away with it, they must be put in their place, be humiliated and defeated.
-Susan Bordo


The figure of the unruly woman contains much potential for feminist appropriation, for rethinking how women are constructed as gendered subjects in the language of spectacle and the visual. The parodic excesses of the unruly woman and the comedic conventions surrounding her provide a space to “act out” the “dilemmas of femininity,” in Mary Russo’s words, to make not only “fantastic” and “incredible” but also laughable those tropes of femininity valorized by melodrama. Russo asks in what sense women can produce and make spectacles of themselves for themselves.
-Kathleen Rowe


See all Steven Kline’s photos of Beth Ditto
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