What fatphobia tells us about our fear of death

You can’t go two steps in London without seeing Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) controversial, ubiquitous and hypocritical ‘Obesity is a cause of cancer too’ cigarette comparison campaign. Apparently, we all have collectively forgotten this message from the last time they ran a similar campaign and were heavily criticised for it.

Rather than focusing on all of the reasons why this campaign is a horrible idea, because that has been covered at length by multiple experts in the METRO, on Medium, and on Twitter — instead, I want to highlight the reasons why these types of campaigns and everything the diet industry throws at us sometimes sticks so well — it’s our fear of death.

Obviously a charity that devotes it’s time to ending deaths by cancer is going to be motivated to… well, not talk about death in a positive way and seek to prevent it. Breaking the taboo around talking about death, being more comfortable discussing it, and actively planning for death doesn’t mean thinking cancer is a good thing.

Continue reading “What fatphobia tells us about our fear of death”

Inside the Eccentric World of Ethical Taxidermy Art

When looking at something like a taxidermied Janus kitten—that is, a tiny feline with two faces—one might assume that its maker had a rather dark view of animal life. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Being able to give something another life, elevating it into something beyond death—that gives me chills,” said Divya Anantharaman, one of New York’s best-known practitioners in the modern taxidermy movement and the maker of the taxidermied Janus kitten, which was a special commission for the person who cared for the animal during its short life. “[Taxidermy] is very emotional and humbling,” Anantharaman added. “The thing I think the most often is: Don’t mess it up.”

This reverence for the deceased is common among a contemporary breed of taxidermists. Far from the traditional profile of gruff men in rural areas mounting animals they hunted to display as trophies, today’s innovative taxidermists are younger and more diverse, and they tend to live in urban environments and skew heavily female. They often work with small creatures like birds and rodents rather than hulking deer or bears, and they’re pursuing their craft ethically—acquiring animals that have died naturally, and thus distancing the art of taxidermy from the pursuit of hunting. And while they’re often trained in traditional practices, many favor turning out artistic creations that depart from the way the animals looked while alive. They’re breathing new life into a centuries-old discipline, pursuing it with joy, respect, humor, and heart.

Read More – Inside the Eccentric World of Ethical Taxidermy Art – Artsy

The Funeral Directors Deployed to America’s Deadliest Disasters

Last November, as wildfires ravaged the town of Paradise, California, Robert Vigil received an urgent call from the Department of Health and Human services (HHS). Local officials were racing to identify the remains of fire victims, and Vigil, who has spent 26 years as a funeral director in Yuma County, Arizona, was needed on the scene.

From the news, Vigil already knew the fires had killed dozens of people and that hundreds more were missing. Under orders from HHS, he hopped on a plane to Butte County, California, where he advised local coroners about how to deal with the influx of fatalities.

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The Great Equalizer: Barbara Ehrenreich and the ethics of dying.

There’s no surer sign that life has become too comfortable for the rich than when they try to buy immortality. The first Chinese emperor enlisted scholars in his search for the elixir of eternal life and, after none was discovered, had them buried alive, figuring that if any of them was a true alchemist, he would return from the dead to share his secrets. (None ever did, but the emperor’s penchant for drinking mercury—which he believed also had life-giving properties—probably didn’t end up helping him live a long life.)

Continue reading “The Great Equalizer: Barbara Ehrenreich and the ethics of dying.”

The Death Positive Roots of Halloween

Halloween was once intricately tied to a day when we actively engaged with death; and facing our own mortality was at the heart of the celebration.

Americans have a strange relationship with death. We love our death wrapped up and packaged for us in the guise of entertainment – dedicating hours of our lives to killing others and subsequently dying ourselves in video games, our film and television choices feature death as a constant theme in popular shows like The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and Game of Thrones. Even our most celebrated universal cultural observance, Halloween, is one that delights in death. We create cemeteries on our lawns, hang skeletons around the house, and snack on cookies made to look like severed fingers.

In spite of this, to speak of death and dying outside of these safe boundaries we’ve created, typically elicits a negative reaction. We surround ourselves with death and yet, we are painfully uncomfortable actually talking about it. Perhaps this is precisely why we love Halloween so much, as it allows for an acceptable place and time to explore and sate some of our curiosity and fear, surrounding the subject.

There was once a time when this uniquely American holiday was intricately tied to a day when we actively engaged with death; and facing our own mortality was at the heart of the celebration.

Many different cultures, religious beliefs, marketing and even historical events throughout the centuries have contributed to the traditions of Halloween. Most notable among them are the Roman festival of Pomona, and the church appointed observances of All Saints’  and All Souls’ Day, but none more than the Celtic festival of Samhain.

Read More – The Death Positive Roots of Halloween – Order of the Good Death

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