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Fining fat people unless they exercise is a bad, offensive idea. Here are 10 reasons why.

"What's the key to tackling obesity? Fine fat people if they don't exercise, say experts," shouted a headline in The Daily Mail on Tuesday.

Photo by Anthony Hyatt/U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons.


"FINE fat people if they don't exercise," is actually what it said. With "FINE" in all caps. When The Daily Mail yells, you better believe it yells.

But, um. Fine people for being fat? Like, charge them actual money? Seriously? This is a thing? Why?

The righteous declaration was based on the results of a single study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which looked at 281 people who had BMIs over 27 (around 27 is considered "overweight" on the Body Mass Index scale, although the actual usefulness of BMI as a measure of how fat or not fat someone is has been a source of much controversy). The researchers rewarded people in one group with $1.40 per day if they met a set goal of 7,000 steps. They gave people in the other group $42 up front, but docked them $1.40 per day if they didn't meet the goal.

Sure enough, the people in the group that was being fined met their step goal more frequently.

As a fat person who likes keeping all my money as opposed to forking an arbitrary percentage of it over to judgmental scientists, this didn't really sit right with me. So I did some digging to prove this idea is, in fact, as ridiculous as it seems.

Spoiler alert: It didn't take much digging.

1. The whole premise of the study rests on a really shaky assumption.

A money fan. Photo by Steven Depolo/Flickr.

Researchers tested their monetary loss/reward hypothesis specifically on fat people. And it's not surprising it worked! It's pretty well-established in psychological research that people are typically more motivated by fear of loss than possibility of reward. And, fat people are, of course, people.

The problem is that this particular experimental setup assumes that "obesity" is the opposite of exercise. Which is a bit like saying that going to a French restaurant is the opposite of going to a Mexican restaurant, or that kayaking is the opposite snorkeling, or that watching "The Bachelor" is the opposite of hitting yourself repeatedly in the head with a small hammer. The things are kinda-sorta related, but actually not directly opposed. You can do/be both!

It's hard to blame the experts for framing the study that way. The assumption that fat people are people who don't exercise and that people who exercise aren't fat issuper-double-plus-infinity ingrained in our culture.

But that's not actually true.

2. Exercising doesn’t necessarily make people lose weight.

"With obesity levels reaching epidemic proportions. Global experts in the field are focused on one goal — reversing the trend. Key to the battle is encouraging people who are overweight or obese to exercise more." That's how The Daily Mail frames the study. Exercise more, shed pounds.

To that I say: This is Prince Fielder.

Prince Fielder. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

He's a professional baseball player. Not just any professional baseball player — a really, really good professional baseball player. One of the best, even. In order to be such a good baseball player, he has to exercise virtually every second of every day. He's constantly in the gym. He runs wind sprints after batting practice. He has to do that high knee thing.

If exercising reliably made people skinny, Prince Fielder's torso would look more like Trey Songz's torso.

Trey Songz x 2 = Prince Fielder. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.

But he doesn't. He's fat. Which is not surprising! And not a bad thing! Lots of researchers believe that exercise has little to nothing to do with weight loss.

"A lot of people probably think I'm not athletic or don't even try to work out or whatever, but I do," Fielder told ESPN in 2014. "Just because you're big doesn't mean you can't be an athlete. And just because you work out doesn't mean you're going to have a 12-pack."

"OK," you're probably yelling at your screen, "But that's just one guy! I am a casually professional statistician, and that is what we in the stats biz like to call an 'outlier.' Little statistics jargon for ya. Like what I did there? "

To which I say: Fine. Exhibit B, suckers.

Take a gander at Cecil Fielder.

Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images.

Back in the '90s, he was one of the best baseball players alive. He hit over 300 home runs in his career, including 51 in 1990. He can probably lift three of you. And he was also fat.

He also happens to bePrince Fielder's dad.

What are the odds? Two men in the same family — a father and son! — both athletes who, when at the top of their game, were better than basically any of their peers, who also happen to both be fat.

It's almost as if how fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes (and environmental factors) than with the fact that you're a lazy bum who just lacks willpower and doesn't deserve respect or even love.

3. You can be fat and in good shape.

The premise of the study presumes the need to force fat people to do more physical activity. But not only is it completely possible to be fat and not in bad shape, it's possible to be fat and actively in good shape. Really good shape, even.

Like Mirna Valerio.

Photo by Mirna Valerio, used with permission.

She's fat. She runs ultramarathons. Ultramarathons are like marathons, but longer, and for people who are so physically superior to the rest of humanity, they think regular marathons are too easy.

There are fat people who are amazing at yoga. Fat people who kill it in endurance events. Fat people who pole dance (That takes work! You try that shit). Fat people who could beat you in any contest of physical supremacy known to man while still being undeniably, incontrovertibly fat.

Also, remember Richard Simmons?

Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images.

He was in amazing shape. Dude was in such good shape he got paid millions of dollars to yell at other people to get in shape. And he was kind of fat.

(Side note: Remember when the mere fact of Richard Simmons' existence was a joke that people would laugh at? Just "Richard Simmons!" That was the whole joke. That was all the work you needed to do. Because he was sorta fat and seemed gay? People 25 years ago were so dark!)

4. Who’s going to enforce this fat person fine and how?

Sir, please step out of the vehicle. I need to jiggle your tummy. Photo by Lennart Preiss/Getty Images.

OK, so let's say we take the conclusion of the study at face value and we start fining fat people. Who serves the fat people fines in this scenario anyway? Doctors? Personal trainers? Will cops start pulling fat people over on the street? What if a fat person is driving a car instead of jogging? That's not physical activity! Can you be pulled over for driving while fat? What if the fat person is riding a Segway? A fat person on a Segway! Is that exercise? Are enough muscles engaged? Some poor state legislator will have to miss his daughter's T-ball game to stay late at the office in order to game out the precise policy and legal status of a fat person riding a Segway.

It would be chaos! Bureaucracy will explode! Your taxes will go up!

But I'll give the paper the benefit of the doubt. The Daily Mail is published in the U.K., and the laws are different over there. Maybe they've figured out an easy way to go about this. “We’ll just bobby the carriage on the loo!” the Nottingham North MP might be saying right now.

And that's great. Perfect, even. Perfect British solution. Don't understand it, but maybe they know what they're doing.

Next question, though:

5. Let's back up even a little further. Who decides who is fat and eligible for a fine in the first place?

Your Aunt Caroline. Photo via iStock.

Is it your Aunt Caroline? Because it doesn't matter how skinny you get, she still thinks you're fat. (Except when you're truly fat. Then she thinks you've lost weight.)

6. Is this another thing that's for "our own good?" 'Cause lots of people like being fat and/or really don’t give a shit about how much they weigh.

Barney Frank, patron saint of not giving a shit. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Former congressman Barney Frank once quipped, "The day I die, I will either be fat or hungry." It's a sentiment that a lot of fat people relate to. Which makes a lot of sense, as life is finite and food is delicious! So even if you do care about how much other people weigh or how much you weigh, there's a good chance that other people don't and they really aren't all that interested in inane policy solutions to their non-problems.

7. And by the say, that study the Daily Mail was citing? It wasn't as conclusive as the article makes it seem.

All studies, even psychology studies, happen in test tubes. Photo by National Cancer Institute/Wikimedia Commons.

The researchers were actually measuring two things with the study — whether participants in the "fine" group would achieve their step goal more frequently and whether the fines would lead to participants taking more steps. The group that was being fined did meet their goal on more of the days, but their average number of steps didn't increase by a statistically significant amount over the required baseline.

You'll also notice that participants weren't really "fined," per se. They were rewarded in advance and docked portions of their reward for not meeting the goal. Which is less like paying a fine, and more like ... paying taxes. Which everyone loves to do and is no problem at all. Ever. Right?

8. Why does anyone care how much other people weigh?

Undoubtedly, there are many people in this world who are both fat and don't exercise. You might think this is unjust. You might experience a surge of anger at this thought. You might have half a mind to burst into the apartment where the fat and lazy people live (we all room together) and shove a bag of celery down their throats. You're just so mad!

"You! Stop it you! Stop being fat!" Photo by PourquoiPas/Pixabay.

It's an interesting outlook, and it raises a critical question...

Why?

Why do you give a shit?

Don't you think it's weird to care about what another human being weighs. I mean, when you think about it? Are you trying to distract yourself from something? Are you bored? Do you need an activity? What about skiing? I went skiing last February with my old boss, and it was actually pretty fun!

Of course, I'm fat and don't exercise, so I was pretty much done after 90 minutes, but you'll definitely do better.

9. Really?

Just, like, really? Fining fat people? This is a serious suggestion?

GIF from "Saturday Night Live."

10. How about we all just STFU about how much other people weigh.

Basically, the best way to get fat people to lose weight is to STFU and mind your own business. It may or may not actually have your desired effect, but it will help you not lose friendships and/or get punched in the face by people who already know they are fat and don't need you telling them that's a bad thing (which is not only unbelievably annoying and rude, it actually does not work to make people not fat anymore).

In conclusion, regardless of whether or not they exercise, don't fine fat people.

In special extra conclusion, here are some fine fat people:

Ooh, 2010 Chris Pratt, you're fine! Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

Damn, Octavia Spencer! Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images.

William Howard Taft, you're not particularly fine, but you're so fat all the presidents after you stopped being even a little bit fat because why try? And that's just so much respect right there. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Rebel Wilson. Nice work! Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images.

And of course...

Richard Simmons in the '90s. OG. Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images.

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Marcos Alberti's "3 Glasses" project began with a joke and a few drinks with his friends.

The photo project originally depicted Alberti's friends drinking, first immediately after work and then after one, two, and three glasses of wine.

But after Imgur user minabear circulated the story, "3 Glasses" became more than just a joke. In fact, it went viral, garnering more than 1 million views and nearly 1,800 comments in its first week. So Alberti started taking more pictures and not just of his friends.



"The first picture was taken right away when our guests (had) just arrived at the studio in order to capture the stress and the fatigue after a full day after working all day long and from also facing rush hour traffic to get here," Alberti explained on his website. "Only then fun time and my project could begin. At the end of every glass of wine, a snapshot, nothing fancy, a face and a wall, 3 times."

Why was the series so popular? Anyone who has ever had a long day at work and needed to "wine" down will quickly see why.

Take a look:

Photos of person after drinking glasses of win

All photos by Marcos Alberti, used with permission.

assets.rebelmouse.io

Photos of person after drinking glasses of win

assets.rebelmouse.io

This article originally appeared on 11.19.16

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

True

Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

Kevin Olusola (far right) has a viral video that has nothing to do with music.

Even though the world has seemingly shrunk due to transportation and technology connecting people like never before, we still regularly encounter major barriers when it comes to language. There are around 7,000 officially known languages in the world, and most people don't speak more than one or two. If you've ever tried to communicate with someone when neither of you speak each other's language, you know how frustrating it can be.

But the reverse is also true. When you're in another country and unexpectedly encounter someone who speaks your language, it's a refreshing and delightful surprise. Americans are pretty familiar with that experience, as it's not uncommon to find people who speak English in other countries, but that's not the case for everyone.

It's especially not the case for Chinese people living in the U.S., where only around 1% of people speak Chinese at home, and those numbers are split between Mandarin, Cantonese and other dialects. Finding an American who comfortably speaks Mandarin is a rarity, which is why a video of employees of a Chinese restaurant reacting to a customer doing just that has gone viral.


That customer is musician Kevin Olusola, most well known as one of the vocalists in the a cappella group Pentatonix. Olusola was picking up some food at Okome Asian Grill in his home state of Kentucky when he surprised the crew by responding to them in Mandarin, and their reaction was sheer surprise and delight.

Watch:

Olusola shared in the comments that it meant a lot to him and filled his heart when the woman said, "You're one of us."

He joked in the video about being born and raised in Beijing, but he actually only lived there and studied Chinese for a year and a half. But as he said, he loved the language and put his "whole heart" into studying it. And apparently, however he learned it was incredibly effective.

"As a native Chinese speaker I need people to realize how amazing this is: not only is he speaking Chinese fluently and pretty quickly, he's also slurring certain words/speaking in a certain accent, using sentence patterns, and using phrases that's specific to Beijing: he is literally in every sense speaking like a Beijing locals, it's so cool to see 😍" shared one commenter.

Another commenter explained what he said after "The food is" in the video: "Se Xiang Wei Ju Quan, literally 'colour,' 'aroma,' 'taste,' 'complete,' the first three are the three basic requirements of well made food in the philosophy of Chinese cooking, so essentially it means 'Your food is amazing, it looks good, smells good and tastes good.'"

Another person wrote, "I’ve been watching videos like this on YouTube..it’s always so interesting. Once that language barrier comes down we are so much alike." That comment hit home for Olusola and he responded to it with another video.

"Once language barriers go down you realize that we're all alike—that statement resonates so deeply with me," he said. "I remember living in Beijing and hanging out with my Chinese friends, speaking to them in Chinese, and once the language barrier was down I realized that they had the same hopes, dreams and fears that I had…I think that's why empathy and understanding are so embedded in language learning."

Empathy and understanding really are the key to shared humanity. Ideally, one day we will have a universal language that we all learn to speak in addition to our native tongues, so that we won't have to navigate those language barriers that artificially separate us. But in the meantime, learning another culture's language can be a bridge that unites people in moments of delight like this one.

Pop Culture

Man's seemingly obvious 'dishwasher hack' is blowing everyone's minds

One man’s observation about his dishwasher may change the way you do dishes forever.

Mike McLoughlan realized something very important about his dishwasher.

No one likes doing the dishes, but the tedious chore is made much easier when using a dishwasher. However, an alarming amount of people have reported that their dishwashers can actually make the job harder because they don't properly fit their dishes.

And that's where Twitter user Mike McLoughlin (@zuroph) comes in.

Back in January, McLoughlin made an observation about his dishwasher that would change the way he does dishes forever. For a decade, the Irishman thought that the bottom rack of his washer simply was too small for his large dinner plates. Then he made an amazing discovery:


The tweet went totally viral, and was shared over 14,000 times. He even tweeted a picture to show just how much he could fit in the dishwasher now that he knows the racks are adjustable:

The "hack" (is it still called a hack if the appliance is doing what it is supposed to be doing?) blew people's minds:

But other people were basically like, "Seriously, dude?"

While a group of others tried to one-up McLoughlin with stories of their own:


Okay, go on and check your own dishwasher. You know you want to.


This article first appeared on 8.16.18.

A woman painting and Scott Galloway.

“Follow your passion” is a cliche you will hear in almost every graduation commencement speech. But we all accept it as a golden rule for life because we hear it so often and it feels right.

We tell ourselves that if we are passionate about something, we will be good at it and it will sustain us throughout our lives. However, Scott Galloway, a self-made millionaire and marketing professor at New York University Stern School of Business, thinks that telling people to follow their passions is bad advice.

In 2005, Galloway founded the digital intelligence firm L2 Inc., a venture that would go on to be acquired by Gartner for a staggering $155 million in March 2017.


″[Return on investment] and sex appeal are inversely correlated. What do we mean about that? Simply put: Don’t follow your passion,” Galloway told CNBC Make It. Instead, Galloway proposes a more practical approach. “Find out what you’re good at and then invest 10,000 hours in it — and become great at it,” Galloway says.

The 10,000-hour theory Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book “Outliers,” states that to become exceptionally good at something, you need about 10,000 hours of practice. In his book, he emphasizes that it's not just talent that matters; putting in the time and effort is key to mastering any skill or profession.

In “Outliers,” Gladwell notes that highly successful people, including Bill Gates, The Beatles, and Robert Oppenheimer, all put 10,000 hours into their particular skill sets before reaching incredible heights of success.

“People often come to NYU and say, ‘Follow your passion’ — which is total bulls***, especially because the individual telling you to follow your passion usually became magnificently wealthy selling software as a service for the scheduling of health care maintenance workers. And I refuse to believe that that was his or her passion,” Calloway continues.

Calloway adds that one of the benefits of focusing on our natural gifts is that it will eventually inspire passion. “What they were passionate about was being great at something, and then the accouterments of being great at something — the recognition from colleagues, the money, the status will make you passionate about whatever it is,” Galloway said.

Scott Galloway - The Four - What To Do
make action GIFs like this at MakeaGif

A 2018 report by Stanford researchers came to a similar conclusion. The researchers believe that following one’s passions isn’t a clear road to success for numerous reasons. The maxim assumes that we have only one passion in life and that it will not change over time. It also gives the impression that when we follow our passions, we’ll always magically fall into our dream jobs and become successful.

Finally, just because one is passionate about something doesn’t necessarily mean they are good at it.

While some may think Calloway’s advice is cynical and heartless, there's something extraordinary about nurturing our natural gifts and using them to achieve success in life. In a world where our talents and passions may not always align, embracing what makes you unique and sharing it with the world in your own special way is a beautiful gift that you can offer.

Identity

6 beautiful drawings by LGBTQ inmates that illustrate life in prison

Their artwork shows their strength, resilience, and talent.

"Acceptance" by Stevie S.


Tatiana von Furstenberg laid out more than 4,000 works of art on the floor of her apartment and was immediately struck by what she saw.

The pieces of artwork were submitted from various prisons across the country in hopes of being featured in "On the Inside," an exhibition of artwork by currently incarcerated LGBTQ inmates, curated by von Furstenberg and Black and Pink, a nonprofit organization that supports the LGBTQ community behind bars. The exhibit was held at the Abrons Arts Center in Manhattan toward the end of 2016.

"I put all the submissions on the floor and I saw that there were all these loving ones, these signs of affection, all of these two-spirit expressions of gender identity, and fairies and mermaids," von Furstenberg said.


She noticed the recurring topics throughout the works of different artists — eye contact, desire, fighting back, alienation, and longing — and these shared struggles became the themes of the art exhibition.

"These artists feel really forgotten. They really did not think that anybody cared for them. And so for them to have a show in New York and to hear what the responses have been is huge, it's very uplifting," she said.

Plenty of people turn to art as a means of escape. But for the artists involved in On the Inside, the act of making art also put them at risk.

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are incarcerated at twice the rate of heterosexuals, and trans people are three times as likely to end up behind bars than cisgender people. During incarceration, they're also much more vulnerable than non-LGBTQ inmates to violence, sexual assault, and unusual punishments such as solitary confinement.

Not every prison makes art supplies readily available, either, which means that some of the artists who submitted to "On the Inside" had to find ways to make their work from contraband materials, such as envelopes and ink tubes. And of course, by drawing provocative images about their identities, they also risked being outed and threatened by other inmates around them.

But sometimes, the act of self-expression is worth that risk. Here are some of the remarkable examples of that from the exhibition.

(Content warning: some of the images include nudity.)

1."A Self Portrait" by B. Tony.

inmates, jail, sketching

“A Self Portrait” by B. Tony

2. "Rihanna" by Gabriel S.

relationships, identity, rehabilitation

“Rihanna” by Gabriel S.

"Rihanna is who I got the most pictures of," von Furstenburg said. "I think it's because she is relatable in both her strength and her vulnerability. She's real.”

3. "Acceptance" by Stevie S.

body art, tattoo, mental health

"Acceptance" by Stevie S.

"This series is sexy and loving and domestic," von Furstenberg said about these two portraits by Stevie S. "A different look at family values/family portrait.”

4. "Michael Jackson" by Jeremy M.

celebrity, art, paintings

“Michael Jackson” by Jeremy M.

assets.rebelmouse.io

This was another one of von Furstenberg's favorites, because of the way it depicts a struggle with identity. "[MJ] was different, he was such a unique being that struggled so much with his identity and his body image the way a lot of our artists, especially our trans artists, are struggling behind bars," she said.

5. "Unknown" by Tiffany W.

pixies, fairie, fantasy

“Unknown” by Tiffany W.

6. "Genotype" and "Life Study," by J.S.

anatomy, Michaelangelo, nudes

“Genotype” and “Life Study” by J.S.

"This is the Michelangelo of the group," von Furstenberg said. "To be able to draw this with pencil and basic prison lighting is astounding. One of the best drawings I've ever seen in my life.”

When the exhibition opened to the public on Nov. 4, 2016, visitors even had the chance to share their thoughts with the artists.

The exhibit included an interactive feature that allowed people to text their comments and responses to the artist, which von Furstenberg then converted to physical paper and mailed to inmates.

Some of the messages included:

"I have had many long looks in the mirror like in your piece the beauty within us. I'm glad you can see your beautiful self smiling out. I see her too. Thank you."
"I am so wowed by your talent. You used paper, kool aid and an inhaler to draw a masterpiece. I feel lucky to have been able to see your work, and I know that other New Yorkers will feel the same. Keep creating."
"I've dreamed the same dreams. The barriers in your way are wrong. We will tear them down some day. Stay strong Dear."

Many people were also surprised at how good the artwork was — but they shouldn't have been.

Just because someone's spent time in prison doesn't mean they can't be a good person — or a talented artist. They're also being compensated for their artwork. While business transactions with incarcerated people are technically illegal, $50 donations have been made to each artist's commissary accounts to help them purchase food and other supplies.

"We're led to believe that people behind bars are dangerous, that we're safer without them, but it's not true," von Furstenberg said. "The fact that anybody would assume that [the art] would be anything less than phenomenal shows that there's this hierarchy: The artist is up on this pedestal, and other people marginalized people are looked down upon.”

Art has always been about connecting people. And for these incarcerated LGBTQ artists, that human connection is more important than ever.

Perhaps the only thing harder than being in prison is trying to integrate back into society — something that most LGBTQ people struggle with anyway. These are people who have already had difficulty expressing who they are on the inside and who are now hidden away from the world behind walls.

On the Inside's art show provided them a unique opportunity to have their voices heard — and hopefully, their individual messages are loud enough to resonate when they're on the outside too.


This article originally appeared on 11.14.16