Filmed during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, Sofie Hagen presents an online comedy talk about fat, gender, dating and sex called Fat Gender Dating Sex. We sent our writers to find out more about Hagen’s take on these big four topics, and see how they tie them all together.
I am a complete Sofie Hagen newbie and wasn’t entirely sure about to expect about their show. I guessed due to the title that there would be serious subject matters running throughout the show. To be honest, so far their humour is not my cup of tea though I chuckled at when they labelled Eton as cult and made snarky asides at the comedians they hooked up with. But I felt that comedy and humour was not the main takeaway of the show.
Sofie is non-binary and goes by the pronouns they/them. I thought it was interesting they thought that every woman wasn’t supposed to feel like a woman. Sofie made the point that when we think of labels such as “non-binary” “lesbian” etc. we often have a certain image or look which flashes in our minds. They brought up a stand up show they did in a pub were 4 burly, bald men sat at the front. Understandably, since they were going to talk about similar topics to this show including menstruation, Sofie was very uneasy having these men at the front of the audience (I would be as well!). However, after the show the men approached her saying the show was “refreshing”! Sofie then pondered what if these men were actually women, showing gender fluidity is complex and doesn’t have the so called “look” or stereotype we often think of.
Sofie gave book recommendations after each segment and one book which stood out to me was “Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen” by Amrou Al-Kadhi. They sound like a very interesting individual considering their intersectionality. Sofie brought up Eton because Amrou went there and their father was a CEO. Whilst of course Amrou must have experienced both racism (they have often gotten approached for playing terrorists, big yikes) and homophobia, they had a pretty privileged upbringing that could compare to most of our politicians, so I’m curious about whether that will come up in the memoir.
Dating, sex and being fat were the main topics of discussion of the show. A comment from an audience member noted that fatness is something which is very gendered. Whilst fat men are seen as jolly, Father Christmas figures, fat women can be reviled and seen as lazy. The way the world and men in particular treat fat women is gross and cruel.
Sofie brought up how fat women are often a secret for men to hide and there are men who are too embarrassed (note: cowardly and pathetic) to love fat women publicly. The snide asides Sofie made about the comedians they slept with were because the guys sheepishly asked to keep their hook-up secret and Sofie could tell it wasn’t to be professional. Sofie noted a comedian friend whose whole schtick was “ah I’m so awkward and nerdy I can’t talk to women”. Then Sofie came to a revelation as he very clearly was able to talk to some as a friend but he couldn’t talk to women who fit the “conventionally beautiful” category. This is why at times I can feel wary of the “beta, nice, geeky guys” because some of them whine and moan about getting zero female attention, but then they can coldly reject women who don’t fit that beauty ideal just like how “alpha” men do. Sofie mentioned it’s hard dating as a fat female presenting/feminine person as the bare minimum is finding a man who won’t be embarrassed dating a fat person or won’t be cruel.
Something Sofie brought up which I thought was interesting, was that they felt they had to be sexually aggressive because fat women in the media are often desexualised. It made me think of characters like Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect or Lauren from Glee. Whilst, yes in some ways it can be empowering to see fat women being sexually assertive, it very quickly became a tired trope in my opinion. And I believe that adopting male models of behaviour particularly when it comes to sex isn’t exactly empowering for women. Since Sofie is white they obviously couldn’t really go into depth about this due to the lack of lived experience, but I think it’s important to note that fatphobia is often rooted in racism particularly towards black women.
This was a fun and informative watch, do check it out!
Rarely are we as consumers of art offered something that discusses topics such as fat gender sex and dating, and the relationship between the four, so candidly. Sofie Hagan sits down with their viewers, almost as if we are on a zoom call, and recounts their own personal experiences within these aspects of modern-day life. From the set up to the way they speak and interact with the viewers, there was something very intimate about the show. It really did feel like I was on a zoom call chatting to a friend.
Sofie spoke to us honestly about their experience with being a fat woman who then realises they are gender non binary, and how fat and gender interact, which was something I personally had not really considered before. The main thing I found so refreshing about the entire talk, was the way they discussed fat. So often fat is an insult, and synonymous with bad. If people say they are fat, the usual response is ‘You’re not fat you’re beautiful’, why can’t we be both? What I appreciated most about the way Sofie uses the word fat, was the way it was used as a describing word for some of their friends and people they admire. Very clearly not an insult, just a fact. People are so quick to not talk about others this way out of fear of offending, when really it is just the truth. Now don’t get me wrong, there is so much more to a person than their weight, and most of the time discussing it in general is unnecessary. However, in this case especially it is about celebrating and normalising fatness in a world that mostly either shames or fetishizes it.
While I found the talk interesting at times, and could identify with specific points Sofie made, overall I found the pacing somewhat slow, and if I’m being honest I didn’t laugh once. That’s not to say there were not moments of humour, but it was the type of jokes to make you exhale slightly more aggressively out of your nose rather than actually laugh, or even crack a smile. I feel calling it a ‘talkedy’ is being a bit generous. A mildly interesting talk, absolutely, but it definitely lacked comedy for me.
The talk was open and honest, but in my opinion not particularly ground breaking. Maybe it is because I or my friends have lived some of the experience’s Sofie discusses, and therefore I am desensitised to them, but they just didn’t have that shock factor I felt was expected of me. I was almost waiting for that ‘Oh my gosh wow they’re right’ moment and instead all I felt throughout was ‘yeah…and?’
The point at which I felt most engaged with the talk was just towards the end when they recommend a book and talk about how one line in this book helped them realise that they are more than what they look like. When others interact with you, sight isn’t their only sense. How you feel, how you smell, how you sound, and in some cases how you taste, all contributes to other peoples perception of you. If I take away anything from this show it will be to remember this.
It seems only right to start by acknowledging the fact that Sofie Hagen’s Instagram feed has been an absolute highlight of my lockdown. Whether it’s their rescue puppy Hank, redecorating their bathroom on a tiny budget (an actually tiny one, not a lifestyle-blogger-spare-few-thousands budget), or realistic mental health representation, they’ve never failed to make me smile, over what has been a hell of a year. Despite all that and I suppose somewhat ironically, I had never actually seen their comedy, so was excited to dive into FAT GENDER DATING SEX.
Right from the upbeat opening credits of them getting ready for the show, I knew this was going to be perfect for me. Be it dancing around in their underwear, whipping the towel on their head around, cleaning their glasses or showcasing an impressive range of body positive paraphernalia on their shelves, the beginning of this show sets up a comfortable, cheerful atmosphere that carries all the way through to the closing credits.
FAT GENDER DATING SEX is a ‘talk-edy’, comedy-talk hybrid that at times was reminiscent of Simon Amstell or Hannah Gadsby shows, if a little more conversational. To me, this wasn’t laugh-out-loud comedy, and my assumption is that’s not what it was aiming for.
There is one way in which this is an odd watch; it is a snapshot of a clear moment in time. Filmed during the first lockdown, when Hagen jokes about the unattainable concept of a live comedy gig in person, it brings me right back to how that felt. Now, of course, that lockdown reminiscence has become reality again, and although I don’t think it detracted from the overall special’s effect, it did make me wonder if I’d have liked the show even more had I watched it live in a flat I could only leave for exercise once a day. As it is, particularly without a crowd around you, the one-on-one effect of FAT GENDER DATING SEX is not unlike having a long conversation with a very entertaining friend.
Content-wise, Hagen runs through the titular four topics skilfully, but also importantly shows that they are all intrinsically linked. For people in bodies like theirs, dating and sex and inherently tied to their experience of gender and being in a fat body, and I thought it took real guts to spell that out for an online audience. Their accounts of dating as a fat person were particularly horrific reminders of my privilege, where you’re not sure if a date was a dare or a sign of real interest.
At times, FAT GENDER DATING SEX definitely felt like it was aimed at a more clueless viewer than me. Hagen feels the need to explain terms that fit both mine and my friends’ lived experiences, which took up time I would have preferred to be spent elsewhere on deep diving into the issues raised. Maybe that makes this show a good introduction for others, but it was a slight takeaway for me.
On a personal note, FAT GENDER DATING SEX was incredibly validating for me as a nonbinary person. If I had been at an earlier point in discovering my own identity, I think that Hagen’s description of thinking discomfort at being perceived as female was part of womanhood would have been incredibly eye-opening for me. As it is, I can’t overemphasise how nice the reinforcement and kinship of someone else was, who shares my experiences and identities.
Sofie Hagen is damn funny, and I’d pay a lot more than a fiver to watch them be funny again in the future.
See Sofie Hagen’s full range of online shows available here, starting at £5.