I have a new hero:

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy.

I admit, I’ve always liked him.  I’ve thought he was a good actor and a good director.  I’m not sure if you could really call me a “true” Trekkie, but I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek and its various spin-offs, with Mr. Nimoy being one of my favorite actors in the whole franchise.

But now I have an even bigger reason to admire him: The Full Body Project.  Those of you already well into the whole Fat Acceptance Movement have most likely already heard of this.  I, however, am just learning of it, so please excuse my enthusiasm.

And it’s not simply because he takes pictures of naked fat women.  It’s because of his attitude when he does so.  As he told the Jewish Chronicle:

“The press constantly deals with this issue and there is an enormous industry built up around selling things to women to make them feel better about themselves, essentially telling them: ‘You don’t look right’. It’s a cruel message, because being that slim is an unattainable goal for most people.”

Although Nimoy, who at 76 now regards himself as a full-time photographer, is exercised by the issues around perceptions of weight, this is not why he decided to take on the project. “While I was at a seminar in northern California,” he recalls, “a lady approached me. She said to me: ‘I notice that all the women you photograph are of a particular body type. I am a model and I am a different body type.Would you be interested in looking at me?’

“She was a very large lady. I’m not that good at guessing weight, but I would estimate she was 300 pounds. She came to my house at Lake Tahoe and, with my wife’s help, I photographed her in the nude. It was a new experience, a different experience. I was not used to looking at that type of body. I realised when I was done that she had the appearance of a Brancusi sculpture.

And he didn’t just stop there.  As the New York Times reported:

“You see what I have here, about the health guidelines for models?” he asked, pointing a long, tapered finger toward the file. …  “They now have to have at least a certain weight to qualify,” Mr. Nimoy added. He looked pleased. This is a subject that speaks to him.

“The nudity wasn’t the problem,” he said, “but I’d never worked with that kind of a figure before. I didn’t quite know how to treat her. I didn’t want to do her some kind of injustice. I was concerned that I would present this person within the envelope of an art form.”

He decided to pursue the subject further and was led to Heather MacAllister, the founder and artistic director of Big Burlesque and the Fat Bottom Revue, a troupe of plus-size female performers in San Francisco. Ms. MacAllister died in February of ovarian cancer, but something she said to Mr. Nimoy in one of their first meetings struck a chord. “ ‘Any time a fat person gets on a stage to perform and is not the butt of a joke — that’s a political statement,’ ” he recalled. “I thought that was profound.”

And what of his own attitude toward fat women?

“I do think they’re beautiful,” he said. “They’re full-bodied, full-blooded human beings.”

He doesn’t necessarily find them sexually attractive. “But I do think they’re beautiful.”

That is exactly the kind of attitude that Fat People want.  We don’t want to be sexually attractive to every single member of the human race.  But we do want our own beauty – beauty that comes from simply being a human being – to be acknowledged.  To be told that we’re ugly simply because of the fact that we have more pounds than the “average” person (which is actually huge steaming crock of shit, the “average” person is somewhere between a size 14 and a size 16) dehumanizes us.  It says to us that we can’t be beautiful simply because of the amount of poundage we carry around with us.  It tells us we’re not people – we’re freaks.

But with people like Leonard Nimoy out there, maybe there is hope for the human race after all.  If he can see a fat woman in all her naked glory and see the beauty in her, maybe there is reason to believe that not everybody is a sizeist, misogynistic pig.

And we really need to hold on to that hope.  After all, if we lose hope, what else is there?