When Jenn Leyva was 16, her dad told her that he’d buy her a car if she lost weight. She cried, finished her calculus homework, and is now a New York-based fat activist and recent graduate of Columbia, where she studied biochemistry. She authors Fat Smart And Pretty, a fat blog about social justice, feminism, science, health, and fa(t)shion.
How did you arrive at the decision to not get married? How firm are you in this decision?
I decided to not get married after one too many late nights staring at my computer screen reading feminist, queer texts interrogating the heteropatriarchy. I don’t remember a particular moment of clarity or even a single text that convinced me. I began to see how marriage is about so much more than true love. It’s about capitalism, monogamy, privatizing the family, and being acceptable to society. It keeps people out of your family, out of your country, out of your money. I’m interested in creating a just world, a world without borders, without capitalism, without marriage.
I am very firm in my politics and beliefs, but I can’t speak to my future actions. I might get married as a survival tactic. It doesn’t invalidate my politics to say that. Our system is fucked, and it’s not any less fucked because we have to engage with it. Though I can promise that there will be no wedding, white dress, reception, gifts, or even facebook announcement of said contract should that be necessary.
Where did you get your thoughts about marriage?
I got my first thoughts about marriage from our cultural doxa. In elementary school I really wanted to get married in a church because that was formal and proper (despite the fact that I never went to church). As I grew up, I became less interested in marriage and romantic relationships probably because I was fat and not dating anyone. It was easier to not think about these things than to imagine myself an unlovable failure.
I started to think critically about marriage through queer politics. The first time I met Lena Chen we talked about how these gay marriage non profits are run by and for wealthy white men. Dean Spade is the co-creator of I Still Think Marriage Is The Wrong Goal, and he has an essay about polyandry that bites into the marriage. Mattilda is also a wonderful queer full of fantastic anti-marriage wisdom.
What do you say to folks who ask you when you’re getting married?
I tell them I’m trying to abolish marriage. The assume I’m talking about The Gay Marriage™, and wonder why I don’t support equality (or some other noun). If they’re interested, I’ll talk about radical politics, about capitalism, about chosen family, about state interventions, about racism, about patriarchy. I have reading lists ready to go at the drop of a hat, but normally we spend a minute or two talking about hospital visitation, immigration, and “why we can’t just love who we love!” I grow frustrated as they grow bored.
Why do you think there’s such a stigma against women who aren’t married/choose not to be married? How do you think this stigma has affected you?
I’m young, so I don’t think people expect me to be married at this point. I do feel like I’m looked down upon for being single sometimes. (Or maybe I’m projecting some internalized bullshit. It’s hard to say.) I also think people expect me to be alone because I’m fat. As a rad fatty, I resent that. I want to foil all of your fucked up stereotypes about fatties. But it’s not my job, and that’s neither effective nor fulfilling.
I know it’s going to get worse. I dream about not going to weddings. Not spending my time and money to show up at an event with average food so everyone can talk about the fat bridesmaid who couldn’t get a date. But I would get so much shit for being a stick in the mud. I also don’t know if pissing off your friends is the best way to fight the patriarchy.
What are your feelings on the word “spinster”?
I haven’t thought much about the word until you started this project. It makes me want to start a zine called SPINSTA’ about single women kicking ass and taking names. I want the cover to be a woman riding a Hi-wheel bicycle and some witty slogan. It’ll also be stickers and buttons.