Performance by Ana Paula Negrão, André Reis, Diego Leal and Bruno Sousa
Text by Danielle Cascaes
Is it possible a fat person to be happy? Can the fat person walk around without worrying about what they are thinking of them? Can a fat person feel good about himself or herself or is it mandatory to feel a problem? Mandatory or not that is what they try to make the fat person feel. It seems socially unacceptable for a fat person to be happy the way they are, which is perhaps why many people seem to take great pleasure in making life for fat people more difficult, just because they are fat.
This aggressive treatment aimed at fat people is a social stigma known as fatphobia: aversion to fat people that is effective due to prejudice, intolerance and exclusion of a group of overweight people considered socially “ideal”. The title Gordosangria is a reference to the word fatphobia, an act practiced by someone, and fatbleeding is how the target reacts when faced with it of this act has when faced with it. For any “phobia” practiced by someone, there is the “bleeding” consequently.
Fatphobia generated deep wounds in the performers who used them as raw material for the performance Gordosangria, idealized by Ana Paula Negrão. A woman, mother, fat, from Pará, spent her life tormented by the way her body was perceived by others even when she was thin. Thought she was too thin, then too fat. Ana Paula was the victim of several violence during her life, including the aesthetics, and found in performance a way to get that out. “When I was idealizing my performance, I looked for something that was not just performing for performing. I wanted to show something from within.” NEGRÃO (2020).
During her research, Ana Paula came across a performance by Spanish vegan activists from the Animal Equality group, made for World Meatless Day. In it, the performers put themselves half-naked in gigantic plastic trays, similar to those found in supermarkets, bathed in blood and with labels that indicated their monetary value. Despite not wanting to talk about vegan activism, Ana Paula used the reference from the Animal Equality group to talk about another type of meat that is also labeled: fatty meat.
The performer took this reference to some classmates, also fat, who decided to join her. The group formed by Ana Paula Negrão, André Reis, Diego Leal and Bruno Sousa formulated Gordosangria from the performance performed by the group of vegan activists, making the necessary adjustments.
In Gordosangria, the performers were not lying on plastic trays, but standing, with plastic covering their bloody body. Instead of monetary values, the labels that came glued to their bodies showed words that are constantly said to fat people with the intention of hurting them: “well stopper”, “lazy”, “shame on you”, “FAT”. Beside the fat performers, there were thin mannequins, representations of “ideal bodies”. On these models, the labels were different: “beautiful”, “perfect”, “SLIM”. Ironically, the mannequin’s thin body is not real. The fat one is.
The performance took place on the street, at the entrance to the ETDUFPA (School of Theater and Dance of the Federal University of Pará). The venue was chosen by the performers in order to reach as many people as possible. “Inside the School, everyone is used to performances, and I didn’t want to do it just for that audience. I wanted to do it for people on the street, for those who have never watched performance.” NEGRÃO (2020). The choice of the location changed the way it was identified, making it a special place. (SCHECHNER apud JANSEN, 2004).
Despite being overexposed, the performers remained static. They did not move, nor did they say anything to anyone passing by. The image they formed was sufficient. Passersby were intrigued by the performers, crowding around them, approaching to read the labels and observe the bodies exposed there. André Reis reports a situation where a lady approached and spent a long time looking at him, and he started to cry. In this case, the appeal to the public (SCHECHNER apud JANSEN, 2004) did not occur with words, but with a kind of energy exchanged between the public and performers, as in the case of André.
The performers used their own relationships with their fat bodies as signs. They carried these life experiences ingrained in their bodies. Diego Leal reports there was one word that hurt him more than the others, something he heard a lot during his life, because he was always fat. Fat men have bigger pectorals, which can look like breasts. Because of this Diego was constantly called “big tits”.
That was the word that came to my mind all the time during the performance process. It was a challenge. You want to move, shout, put it out, but you have to take that word, turn it into an inductor and stagnate the body. That is why I insisted that in my position, one of the things that was most visible, was my torso, to emphasize my breasts. I tried to cover myself with fake blood on my legs and face, leaving the trunk exposed. I wanted those bulky breasts to be on display, as it is natural for fat men. That was an inducer, this trauma that I carry with me. (LEAL, 2020)
Bruno Sousa’s inductor was the part of his body that bothered him the most: his belly. Therefore, his belly was used in the performance poster. André Reis’ inducer was the word “Fatbleeding”, which refers to an open and cancerous wound. He uses this metaphor to explain that he cannot close the wound caused by fatty phobia, as it is always inflaming, preventing him from turning it into a scar. The performance helped him to better understand what causes him pain, what inflames the wound and why it remains open. Now, instead of fighting a battle against himself, blaming himself for the feelings of guilt and shame for being fat, André fights against what made him feel this way: prejudice.
Each inductor used by the performers became something that strengthens them, giving the performance a self-assertive quality: “Quality of performance that structures qualities and values in which they participate, that is, the individual affirms in his performance.” (SCHECHNER apud JANSEN, 2004). That is, the performance helped artists to perceive the limits and potential of their bodies, realizing that the fat body has an infinite number of possibilities and limitations, just like any other body, fat or not. They understand this, but many people do not. For many, the fat body is not perceived as a powerful body, but only as a limited body and nothing more.
A custom that many people have (usually, non-fat people) is to relate fat to poor health. This equation is not directly proportional, as one thing does not depend on the other. Fat can affect health, of course, just as the lack of it affects it. This social custom of thinking that the thin person is healthy and the fat person does not cause fatphobic acts to be justified as concern acts for the health of fat people, when many times those critics does not care about the health of those being criticized at all. The important thing is to be above the fat people in the social hierarchy, perpetuating humiliating and destructive behavior.
It is worth mentioning that, according to studies by the North American National Institute of Health, obesity-related cardiac disorders have a much greater impact on males than on females. A study of obese women found that fat women can live longer and healthier lives than obese men. (WOLF, 1992, p. 247). In fact, obesity-related illnesses in women are more psychological than physical, as women suffer from fat-phobia in addition to sexism, and this is a directly proportional equation.
That said, in the case of Gordosangria performers, fat was a crucial factor in the health of male members over forty. After the performance, Bruno Sousa needed to follow a strict diet to improve his health and ended up losing 20 kg during the process. Bruno went from “obese” to “overweight”, but remains fat. He claims that his weight loss is not related to the aesthetic issue, but recognizes that today his image bothers him less. André Reis has a health problem caused by obesity and today he is waiting for the opportunity to perform bariatric surgery. Ana Paula also waits for bariatric, but in her case, fat has aggravated a pre-existing health condition, but it did not cause it. Diego Leal, the only one in the group under the age of twenty-five, is in perfect health, but performs tests more often than normal, fearing a diabetic or hypertensive condition caused by obesity.
Performers have several ways of dealing with obesity itself, understanding where it interferes in their lives and how. They take care of their health and do everything to improve it, just like anyone else, fat or thin. However, what still persists is the need to justify it. Because being fat is always justifying yourself, to apologize, to say “excuse me” all the time. You have to be constantly proving that you are happy, that you are healthy and even then, there are those who doubt it. The fact that we need to go into the health details of each performer to talk about their fat bodies makes us realize that the battle is still long, since fatophobia is intrinsic in each one, even in this text.
For many, it seems unrealistic that fat people can be happy the way they are. And with this thought, these same people continue to perpetuate fat-phobic attitudes, and are those attitudes that cause the fatty’s unhappiness. Words that were present on each label pasted on the bodies of the performers, often said with just one look, that perpetuate this feeling of “fat unhappiness”. The performers claim that the performance made them feel very good about themselves, and yet they still doubt it. After all, is it possible for fat people to be happy?
Yes. However, it is a happiness in the constant aim of disdain, pain and fatphobia. Meanwhile, what we have left is to fight for us to be recognized as powerful and plural individuals, much more than our bodies, but taking them with us to each space. Winning this fight, the cancerous wound heals, finally turning into a scar.
 TN: term invented by the author that could be “fatbleeding” in English to symbolize the act of bleeding because of fatphobia.
JANSEN, Karine. Belém Apaixonada: a construção do corpo devoto nos processos performáticos das Paixões de Cristo em Belém do Pará. 2004. Dissertação (Mestrado em Artes Cênicas) – Programa de Pós-Graduação em Artes Cênicas, UFBA, 2004.
SCHECHNER, Richard. Public domain: Essays on the theatre. Indianópolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1968.
WOLF, Naomi. O mito da beleza: Como as imagens de beleza são usadas contra as mulheres. Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 1992.
NEGRÃO, Ana Paula. Entrevista concedida a Danielle Cascaes em 12.06.2020. Não publicado.
REIS, André. Entrevista concedida a Danielle Cascaes em 12.06.2020. Não publicado.
LEAL, Diego. Entrevista concedida a Danielle Cascaes em 12.06.2020. Não publicado.
SOUSA, Bruno. Entrevista concedida a Danielle Cascaes em 13.06.2020. Não publicado.