Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Mama Cass

It was a Sunday morning, Mr Freakum Dress was still in bed, hungover, and I decided to pop on The Mamas and The Papas for some California Dreamin'. I love The Mamas and the Papas. Their songs have the ability to make me both happy and sad and the voice of Mama Cass is just amazing.

My mum always used to call me Mama Cass- you know, because I had long hair and was fat and all fat people look the same? When I had a bob she said I looked like Dawn French- all fat people with bobs look like Dawn French (sigh). I'm making her sound like a monster, but she's just a skinny. Anyway, back to the Cass.

I was reading about Mama Cass recently. I'm not going to lie, it was a depressing read. In her short life she was hounded by everyone about her weight, and then even after her death. It really made me sad and I thought about how fat (or overweight) stereotypes really haven't changed. Below are a few that stood out to me:

1. Being fat is something to be ashamed of: Mama Cass always told the same story about how she first came to be in The Mamas and the Papas; that she was outside one day and some copper piping fell on her head, knocking her out and giving her concussion. When she woke up she could sing three tones higher and it was at that point that she was asked to join The Mamas and The Papas. While no one has proved that this was a lie, others said that the real reason she hadn't been asked to join previously was because she was too overweight. Fat is something to hide away, deep in the closet. 

2. Being fat is a part of your identity: When most people think of Mama Cass they usually think of two things; she had a wonderful voice and she was a big woman. When did being overweight become part of someone's identity? When did someone's weight or size define anything about their personality? And when did everyone decide that it was something they could comment on? I wait with baited breath for the day someone writes an article about Adele without mentioning her weight. 

3. Being fat makes you sad: People talk about Mama Cass being depressed and a rumoured drug addict (apparently she used heroin before her infamously bad gig in Las Vegas), but no one ever thinks 'oh actually maybe the weight itself wasn't the cause, maybe it was the media and public constantly fat shaming that led to her feeling sad and insecure'. 

3. Being fat is funny: Mama Cass died in her sleep of heart failure at the age of 32, leaving behind a 7 year old daughter. So far so unfunny. Of course the public assumed that her weight had led to her heart attack- surely you're a ticking time bomb being that overweight? In fact, Cass had been on a crash diet in the months leading up to her death (she had crash dieted many times over the years), fasting 4 days a week which had severely weakened her heart. The story that Cass died choking on a ham sandwich still persists. Even in death her weight defined the world's perception of who she was.

I'm sorry if this has been a depressing post- I feel depressed writing it, frankly. I also know I'm preaching to the converted here, but if you have ever judged someone who is overweight before just stop and think again. They are a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a friend, a professional. They are a human being. Don't let a physical trait form part of someone's identity.

So this is for Mama Cass: mother who tried, beautiful singer, huge personality and gone too soon.