Flat White

What’s woke this week?

18 February 2021

4:49 PM

18 February 2021

4:49 PM

Woke stories have come in from all parts of the globe this week including Pittsburgh, Auckland and England. Read on to find out the latest on racist lions (stuffed ones) and language (English, obviously) and fat studies aka the nascent field of fat pedagogy.  You can thank me later. 

Diorama drama 

This is not a new story but it came to light on Twitter this week. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh has hidden a diorama titled Lion Attacking a Dromedary behind a curtainWhy? 

The diorama was created for the Paris Exposition of 1867. It is the museum’s second most popular exhibit behind Dippy the dinosaur, and has attracted visitors for 120 yearsIt portrays a dramatic encounter between a man riding a camel and two lions, one of which is lying dead. Due to its popularity, iwas restored, ‘reinterpreted’ and relocated to a prime spot near the museum’s entrance in 2017.  

But three years is a long time in the world of postmodern museums, plus George Floyd and BLM, so last year the museum’s interim director, Stephen Tonsor, covered it up because ‘lions are attacking a person of color’. 

While criticism of the accuracy of the costume of the Arab riding the camel may be valid one wonders who else lions might have been attacking in Northern Africa in the late nineteenth century.  

But there are other problems apart from its inherent racism. In a game of intersectional poker Tonsor ‘saw your racism and raised you sexism’, commenting that the female lion is: 

[L]ying on the ground and the male is attacking the man and the dromedary. That’s pretty unusual. Among lions, it’s really the females who are the hunters. So, that’s one example in which the biases we have in Western culture about male dominance lead to misrepresentation of what happens in the natural world. 

Which seems just a tad ridiculous when the female lion in the diorama is dead. Maybe, just maybe, the male lion is continuing the attack to get his dinner now the little woman isn’t around to get it for him.  

My major concern is that no-one has mentioned the elephant in the room (trigger warning: segue to my next story):  

The curtain hiding the exhibit is white. 

Fat Cat and friends 

Note to readers: all puns are intended. 

The intersection of academia and activism is never more inflated than in the field of fat studies, which is really big in wokeademic circles these days. It’s largely about autoethnography i.e. social science ‘research’ that  ‘uses a researcher’s personal experience to describe and critique cultural beliefs, practices, and experiences’. Its critics, of whom there are many, see it as ‘self-indulgent, narcissistic, introspective and individualised’ rather than, you know, real, unbiased research. 

This week Cat Pausé (senior lecturer and fat studies researcher at New Zealand’s Massey University and co-editor of Queering Fat Embodiment) announced the imminent publication of the Routledge International Handbook of Fat Studies, which I’m sure means you’ll be adding to your burgeoning bedtime reading list.  

The delights of the weighty tome include: 

 My life is intersectional, so my coaching has to be: Here is why this is a good thing;

Fat and trans: Towards a new theorization of gender in Fat Studies;

Review of scholarship on fat-gay men;


Genealogies of excess: Towards a decolonial Fat Studies

Just for the record, the best pun of all comes from the official book description: 

[T]his volume reflects a range of critical perspectives vital to the expansion of Fat Studies…

Boom boom! 

Pausé’s announcement led me down the enormous rabbit hole that is fat activist Twitter (full of pronouns and rainbows) to the ultimate celebration of fat – FatFeb —  New Zealand’s grassroots neighbourhood arts festival dedicated to radical fat body sovereignty’.  Unfortunately, the festival was cut down because of a Covid outbreak in Auckland. 

They did manage to squeeze some events in before the lockdown including a fashion show from Infamy Apparel watched by a bumper crowd. But you’ll have to sign up for the big event online in MarchOnly I Can Name Me is a sensory journey through the importance of self-care as fat, indigenous queer women in 2021. 

Standards slipping 

Mr Decolonise the CurriculumPran Patel, has been tweeting up a storm this week. The British education consultant and TEDx speaker (TEDx’s byline, it is worth noting, is ‘ideas worth spreading’) began strongly with this pearl of wisdom: 

The more I think about it the more I believe teaching standard English is racist.    

What the… ? Teaching standard English in Britain is racist. Obvious, really. 

 Never mind that all languages have standard versions. Don’t worry about the kids who will be denied the benefits of being able to use English appropriately  – at least they’ll know all about systemic racism.  

And it’s not like you need clarity of communication in universities (well, probably not any more), business, engineering, medicine, the maritime and aviation industries, or any number of crucial areas. No sir. The Tower of Babel is what Patel’s aiming for.  

But it was a comment from a fellow traveller that really caught my attention: 

Is school really the place to dismantle this inequity? I’m wondering if we don’t need people who speak both languages in high places… to make the shift 

Both languages? I wonder which other language she’s talking about. 

The only language any of these people understand is wokespeak. 

Patel followed up later in the week with a list of ‘problematic words’ and the following statement: 

A week ago on Twitter, I asked for words which offend. Although many offered the roots and the etymology – I feel that if words offend that is enough to avoid their usage. 

Offend whom? Anyone at all, apparently when you consider that the list includes howlers like hysterical, pagan, beyond the pale, crazy, seminal, and my favourite, calling a spade a spade. This last is actually a sixteenth-century mistranslation of an Ancient Greek story, so it’s clearly ‘problematic’ for Ancient Greeks. 

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