Breaking: Beth Ditto Is Fat [and she sings, too]!

7 May

I like Beth Ditto. No, seriously! Because she has an awesome voice, and is loud and colorful and smart and funny. Because Gossip make quirky music. Because Gossip isn’t afraid to say they’re a feminist band. Because Ditto is from Arkansas and has had the courage and strength to still be Ditto [trust me, that’s a huge accomplishment – I am writing this post at Little Rock].

Also, and this might come as a bit of a shock to some of you, Beth Ditto is fat. Like, FAT. Not curvy, not chubby, not a little on the heavy side, but actually fat. What comes as no surprise in a culture of patriarchal fat-shaming and the enforcement of standardized beauty, Ditto is not known as that great voice from Gossip, or as that woman from Arkansas, or as that black-haired white lady who designs her own clothing, but mostly as that fat girl who sings quite well and wears tight clothing in public despite her weight. *pearl clutch*

You’d think that at some point the novelty would wear off, as I am quite sure that both Beth Ditto and everyone else already know that she is fat (if only because media outlets have been telling people for years now) – but nope. This is Gossip’s eighth album, and still the headlines of magazines’ supposed music reviews read like this one: “The Mega-Madonna“.

Looking on the bright side, one might have thought this could be an ode to the innovative mind or vocal strength of Ditto and not yet another hint at her weight, but: of course not. Andreas Borcholte, a man who has actually studied sociology and yet, seems to be unable to fathom the social dimension of the continuous and rather boring “FAAAAT!!!” puns in this article, cannot but write a “review” in which half of what he has to say about Gossip’s new record circles around Ditto’s weight.

Apparently going for the “How many fat-related word choices can I possibly include”-award [is that a thing? Someone nominate me!], Borcholte commingles Ditto’s music with her weight, calling the singer “weighty”, “opulent”, “Knutschkugel”, gives her height/weight stats, and, oh how very surprising, has to connect Ditto to Adele (because all fat chicks in public know each other or are somewhat alike, right?).  At certain points, he provides a couple of lines about the actual record (*gasp!*), some anecdotes about the band, their views on Madonna, “homosexuality” and subversion, and, finally, a whopping two sentences of actual music evaluation in this review; but: the so very peculiar event here remains Ditto’s fat.

The male* gaze is certainly rather unsubtle in this piece, and the constant exoticization of a fat female public figure whose work can eventually be condensed to her weight, is not less apparent. I guess it is too much to ask of a music critic to write a nuanced piece about the actual music when a non-standardized attraction like Ditto can be gawked at. Thankfully, “Spiegel” linked the entire album – so you can be your own judge. It’s certainly more productive and instructive than reading yet another article about that fat girl who also sings.

Did I mention she was FAT? No, seriously:

3 Responses to “Breaking: Beth Ditto Is Fat [and she sings, too]!”

  1. kiturak May 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    … WOW. Not even your article prepared me for the Spiegel rubbish. It’s not so much that Borcholte doesn’t manage to avoid the fat/sexist stereotypes – he really seems to be actively looking out for them. I guess that’s the way to go if you are really *that* uninspired, music-wise. It’s not as if he really has anything to say about the actual album – a bunch of the usual blasé commonplaces to hide the fact he doesn’t seem to know what the fuck the deal is about their music, and doesn’t care, either. I love The Gossip and would have completely missed the new album, so still thanks for linking!

    • fresheima May 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

      I havn’t read the article at Spiegel, but I just laughed to hard reading yours. You are so right and the worst I didn’t even really noticed before you said it, cause it felt so normal for me, that the media pointed that out so much….wow.
      Eyeopening, thank you!

      • accalmie May 8, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

        thanks to both of you! i just don’t understand why it is so difficult to get beyond the “omg, she’s fat!!1!”, after years and years of the same headline… well, no, actually, i do understand why that is – it just freaking annoys me…

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