activism

All posts in the activism category

I Stand With Shakesville

Published July 29, 2014 by sleepydumpling

It’s time for us all to break the silence.  It’s time for us to stand up together.

If you haven’t already heard about the harassment and abuse that Liss over at Shakesville is constantly under, please take the time to read her latest post.  Probably best to have read it before you continue reading here.

I am so angry about this.  Both for Liss, because I know how horrible it is to be subjected to abuse and harassment like this, but also because this shit happens time and time and time again to women online and nothing is ever done about it.  I could list hundreds of women I know who have gone through this.  Some of them I like and agree with, some of them I don’t.  It doesn’t matter – women online of all backgrounds and experiences are harassed and bullied and abused simply because they are women and are active online.

Firstly, let me state clearly that I fully stand with Melissa McEwan and Shakesville.  Shakesville has been incredibly important to me for some years now.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything over there, nor am I interested in every single post.  Because despite the abusers portraying people who read/follow/participate on Shakesville as some kind of clueless fool or victim, I’m a grown adult with a brain who can read and decide which posts are of value to me, and which I leave to other people who get something out of them.  Liss’s work at Shakesville, and that of her contributors and moderators, has been integral in both educating me and giving me food for thought to be able to make up my own mind on so many topics.  It has also been vital in building my self esteem as a fat woman, to hear Liss and others talk about their experiences, many of which I can truly identify with.  I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for years of reading Shakesville.  Not to mention that I have been directed to and met many other amazing writers and activists via Shakesville, be it by links in posts, guest posts or other commenters.

I have always felt safe when commenting on Shakesville.  Even when I disagree with something.  I know that over there, there is a dedicated team who keep the space free of bullying and work very hard to keep threads on topic and respectful.  That is a very rare environment for a woman online, believe me.

But I’ve also felt challenged by the writing over on Shakesville.  It makes me think.  Makes me ask questions of myself and others.  It’s good to be intellectually challenged about things.  It’s good to have your ideology tested regularly.  Sometimes I disagree with someone on a topic, and that’s OK.  I can choose to not read it at any time, to skip posts or give up altogether.  Mind you, nothing about Shakesville has made me feel like I needed to walk away from reading it, even when I have disagreed or been disinterested.  I like the mature, passionate, intelligent voices I am presented there.  I like that I can rely on the comments not to descend into hatred, attacks and insults.  It has inspired how I try to keep my comment policy.

Personally speaking, I am glad to have met Liss online.  She is whip-smart, funny, passionate and articulate.  She is also kind and thoughtful.  She shows she cares so often when others remain silent.  She has cute pets that make me smile and I enjoy her selfies and other photos she shares.  Even though we’ve never met in person, and we don’t talk as often as I might with other folk I know and am closer to online, I consider her a friend.  And I’m angry that a friend has been subjected to the abuse that she has.

I know this is going to draw me more harassment and abuse, because this is the way these people operate – they attempt to silence anyone who supports their target so that they isolate her further.  That is their objective – our silence.  They’re not going to get it from me.  I’m already harassed daily by those who want my silence, and even when I am not active online they come after me.  I long for people to stand with me and support me in the face of the harassment and abuse I receive, and it’s the right thing to do to stand by Liss in the face of hers.

I am no stranger to online abuse and harassment myself.

A couple of years ago I attempted to start an online magazine for marginalised women in the wake of yet another horrible example of “women’s media” being harmful to marginalised women.  Within 48 hours I was harassed, abused and bullied relentlessly, as were those who supported the project, until I had to pull the plug on it because I could not protect the very women I was aiming to give space to.  Most of it over a typo.

Daily I open my email to find hate mail telling me to kill myself, that I’m disgusting, that I am dirty, smelly, diseased and dying.  Emails describing how they’re going to rape me, beat me or murder me.  Another favourite method is to describe how someone horrible is going to rape/murder me – they delight in either creating fictional creeps/murderers/rapists or describing known ones.  Alternatively they love to describe how not even the most disgusting, creepy man on earth would touch me.

Someone was ringing my home phone regularly and laughing down the line at me or on to my voice mail, or calling me a cunt/fat slut/bitch/etc until I unplugged my phone since I wasn’t using it anyway.  I have come home to find notes stuck in my mailbox that simply point out that they know I where I live.  I have received my own address emailed to me by fake email addresses.  I have had my employer contacted by someone who demanded they demote me because they believed I wasn’t qualified enough.  I have had my work contact numbers and addresses given to hundreds of weight loss businesses, diabetes clinics and gyms/personal trainers, so that I was inundated with these businesses contacting me at work following up on what they thought was my genuine interest in their business, wasting their time, my employers and mine.

They’ve created fake social media profiles of me.  They create social media profiles just to harass me, so that no matter how many I block, they just create another one.  They leave anonymous hate on all of my social media profiles.  They email or message me gross pornography and gore.

There are pages and pages and pages of hate filled screed online about me.  I see them linked to this blog, and people sometimes send them to me out of wanting to help (it doesn’t), and sometimes the authors of this bullshit send it to me themselves, just to goad me.  There are pages discussing my hair, dissecting every little thing about it to ridicule me.  They speculate over how often I wash it and what with, what brand colour I use on it and what technique I use to colour it.  There are people who keep dossiers my online mentions of food.  Others save/download every photograph of me that is online and then deface them.  There are pages discussing my health, and dissecting photographs of me to try to find outward evidence of Type 2 Diabetes (I have it, have never hidden that).  They discuss whether or not I have pain or illnesses, rubbing their hands in glee when they think I do.

They look for mentions of my family and friends and colleagues, and try to make me believe that nobody likes me, that everyone is laughing at me behind my back, that I am alone and unloved.

Generally they just find every way to try to abuse or harass me they can.  The saddest thing is that I am just one of multitudes of women online, some of whom suffer far, far more disgusting abuse.  The objective is to drive us off the internet.  There is even a fucking website devoted to driving people off the internet, with users referring to it as “my internet”, as though they have some right to it that they can decide others don’t.  Silencing people with abuse and harassment is not criticism or disagreement.  It’s bullying.  Instead of behaving like a decent human being and just turning their back on the person they’ve decided they hate and not reading their work or visiting their website, they make it their mission to drive them away altogether.  Not content with making them unwelcome in their spaces online, they are determined to drive them out of ALL spaces online.

The truth of it is that as strong and courageous as any woman is, this constant abuse and harassment DOES cost us.  It costs us our freedom, our voice, our peace of mind and our emotional wellbeing.  It costs us relationships with people who cannot understand what it is like to be constantly abused and harassed, and with those afraid to be subjected to that abuse and harassment by association with us.  It costs us actual money to mitigate the very real dangers we face.  It costs us money in security for our homes, safe transport when we feel we cannot use public transport or travel alone safely, in software and services to block and filter and screen the abuse and attacks.  For some it costs their careers and access to education. But worst of all it costs us our physical safety.

I know exactly what is going to happen.  People are going to make excuses for the behaviour of these abusers and harassers.  They will suggest that women just ignore it, or don’t go online.  There will be those that suggest that Liss and I and other women bring it upon ourselves because we are so “opinionated”.  Others will say that we cannot take criticism – as though these things are not at all abuse and harassment. Criticism is “I disagree with you because…” or “I find the way you handled this problematic because…”  It’s not rape and death threats, stalking, harassment, name-calling, keeping dossiers and trying to silence someone.

They’ll say “Oh these are just sad losers on the internet.” as though they do no harm, or only harm themselves.  Or those around us will just stay silent.   They’ll read this or Liss’s piece, or any of the other examples of it that are written by the incredible strong, courageous women who put themselves online and they’ll just shrug their shoulders and say, “What can I do?”

The truth is, there are lots of things you can do.  Start by believing women who talk about this abuse and harassment.  Help by saying clearly and publicly “This is wrong. This has to stop.”  Signal boost when women write about the abuse and harassment they face.  When other people make excuses about the abuse and harassment women deal with, challenge them.  Tell them it is not acceptable to minimise or excuse the abuse and harassment.  Campaign online platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and any others to put in adequate security for their users – proper block functions, well moderated abuse reporting systems, clear anti-abuse terms of service requirements and strong anti-hacking/spam systems.  If you know a woman who is being harassed/abused online, listen to her when she needs to vent.  Ask her if she’s OK and if there are any ways you can help.  Often just knowing someone cares and is listening is the thing that is least expressed.  Support her if she goes to the authorities to report it.  Document anything you receive by being associated with her.

If you stumble across abuse and harassment of a woman online, think carefully before you approach her about it.  It is likely she already knows, and is finding it difficult to deal with already.  Be sensitive about it if you do feel you need to raise it.  Stay away from hate sites, use DoNotLink if you must link to it anywhere so the perpetrators don’t get the clicks/revenue.  Report abusive social media accounts.  Don’t blame the victim for the abuse, blame the perpetrators.  Point out the difference between abuse and criticism – sadly it seems a lot of people can’t discern that for themselves.

It has to stop.  Whether you agree with or like a particular woman online is irrelevant.  This is not criticism, this is abuse and harassment.  It is violence.  We know what domestic abuse is, we know what emotional abuse is, we know what sexual abuse is.  This culture of bullying, silencing and harassing women online is just another form of abuse.  And online abuse is no more acceptable than any other kind.

It’s time for everyone to stand up and clearly state that the abuse of women online is unacceptable in any form.  Not just to make it clear to the perpetrators that their time is coming to an end and that they will not be permitted to continue this behaviour, but to show support to those who suffer at the hands of these abusers.

Queering Fat Embodiment

Published July 6, 2014 by sleepydumpling

As part of the launch of the new anthology “Queering Fat Embodiment” edited by Cat Pausé, Jackie Wykes and Samantha Murray, a social media book tour is travelling around the fatosphere and other key online spaces.  I was lucky enough to be asked to participate in the tour myself.

I was honoured to discover that I had been mentioned in the anthology, so Cat sent me an excerpt to share with you all here…

**@**

The Activist

Kath Read is an Australian fat activist who has a large presence in the Fat-o-sphere. Found on her blog The Fat Heffalump (and related Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter platforms), Kath writes about her own experiences as a fat woman living in a less than friendly environment (Read 2013a). The tagline for The Fat Heffalump is ‘Living with Fattitude’, and Kath invites others to be observers to her doing just that.

Kath writes about her fat identity, her fat embodiment, her fat fashion, and her fat life. She shares stories of triumph, and stories of harassment. She posts pictures of herself in her outfit of the day (otherwise known in cyberspace as OOTD), and often addresses the fat hate and fat shame she observes in the mainstream media, news, and her everyday life.

Occasionally Kath will write a piece like ‘You’re not the first person to tell a fat person’, in which she addresses common myths about fatness, and provides answers to some comments that she frequently receives when she has an influx of new readers (Read 2013b). In these posts, Kath is providing the opportunity for those who are reading to educate themselves a bit more about the assumptions they hold and beliefs they forget to unpack. She assumes the role of a teacher, answering the questions of her students in thoughtful and reflective ways.

Kath also speaks to her frustration about having to always educate the ignorant; it isn’t her job, she tells the readers, to highlight their bigotry, suggest they do their homework, or point out when they are being oppressive.

Simply through living her life online, Kath Read queers what it is to be fat. Her lack of shame, her love of fashion, and her brightly coloured hair, all contradict what fatness is supposed to be. She may invite others to join her, but it is the testimony of her life she is sharing with the web. She refuses to live her life according to other people’s standards, and she has long since forgotten that she is supposed to wait to live her dreams until she’s achieved the state of thinness.

Used by permission of the Publishers from ‘Causing a commotion: Queering fat in cyberspace’, in Queering Fat Embodiment eds. Cat Pausé, Jackie Wykes and Samantha Murray (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), pp. 79-80.  Copyright © 2014

I Can’t Say it Any Better…

Published April 18, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Beautifully simple piece by xkcd.  So many people do not understand the concept of free speech.  Sometimes, you don’t get to march into a space and say whatever you like.

This is very important in fat activism community, regardless of the form it takes.  The rules may vary from space to space, but the owner of the space gets to decide what is hosted in that space, and what is not.  There is a whole internet out there for people to say what they like, they can create their own space or go to spaces that are open to their opinion.

But as a general rule, in fat activist spaces, steer clear, unless explicitly stated that it is ok, from the following topics:

  • diets
  • intentional weight loss/weight loss proselytising
  • moralising food (look for descriptors like good, bad, sinful, junk, healthy, clean, wholesome, naughty etc)
  • suggesting health is mandatory or anyone’s business but a person themselves.
  • “the last acceptable prejudice” (it’s not)
  • suggestions of “real women are/have…”
  • the “O” words – obese, overweight.
  • twee euphemisms for fat like curvy/big/chubby/voluptuous etc.  If the host refers to themselves as fat, you should too. (unless describing yourself, it is understandable that not everyone is comfortable with referring to themselves as fat.)
  • justifying your body/food choices/physical activity
  • suggesting the author should “just ignore them” or questioning their perception.  Trust people to know how they feel and how they read a situation.
  • Confusing YOUR experiences for those had by the author.

That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with someone.  I think a lot of people don’t know how to disagree with people without being a jerk about it.  If you’re in someone else’s space, remember your “I/Me/My” statements.  Don’t march in and say “You’re wrong/full of shit/you suck.” because then you’re being an asshole.  It doesn’t hurt to say “I disagree because I feel/believe…” or “It has been my experience that…”  Or you can go and disagree in YOUR space, where you can say whatever you damn well like.

Generally it’s just a good idea when you’re on someone else’s website/blog/social media page to remember that you’re on their turf.  That’s their house online.  I don’t go marching onto your turf and start lecturing you, I’m as sure as shit not going to take anyone coming in to mine to do that.  If I go to your space online, I am going to follow your rules.  If I don’t like them, then I will make the decision to leave and not come back.  I’m not going to hang around and be an arsehole.

It’s important to remember that while you are entitled to your opinion, you’re not entitled to that opinion with out responsibility and repercussions for your behaviour.

Fear and Loathing (and Jealousy) in BrisVegas

Published April 9, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Well… for all of you who have yet to see it, Jasmin Lill has done another excellent interview for News.com.au.  I’m going to link to The Australian version, because there are only two comments and they are a WHOLE lot less shitty than those on the Courier Mail (one of my colleagues tried to read them and he got so angry and upset I had to make him stop reading) and nobody needs to be subjected to that.

But speaking of being subjected to things… boy, have I had a lot of hate in my inbox over the past 8-10 hours.  No doubt there will be more, the bullies and abusers always come out of the woodwork whenever one of us has something in the mainstream media.  It was like fat hate bingo on steroids all day.

I know why.  Two reasons.  Firstly, they’re afraid, because they’re being called out on their shitty behaviour publicly – it makes them nervous that someone in their own lives is going to tell them what douchebags they are.  It’s only a matter of time before it happens.  Secondly, they are unbelievably jealous.  They’re so dirty that they’re not the ones being listened to, being asked their opinions, being sought after to tell their story.  It drives them wild with jealousy that the people that they believe are beneath them, that they believe they are better than, are the ones being taken seriously.  Man, that’s got to sting.  Good.

However, the reason I’m posting tonight is that while I was on the train home tonight, feeling tired after an intense day, frustrated that The Courier Mail don’t have a better commenting policy, and fed up with being told to go die in a fire or that I am disgusting, a song shuffled into play on my iTunes and just reminded me of the important message.

So for all of you who’ve ever had to deal with pathetic people who have nothing better to do than say hateful things, here’s a song for you…

Hashtag Activism – A Sign of Strength

Published April 5, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Something awesome is happening on Twitter right now.  Born of a conversation between @fatbodypolitics and @mazzie, the hashtag #notyourgoodfatty was born, and it has been picked up by fat women (and a sprinkling of men) all over the world.  I know yesterday it was trending in the US, but I’m sure it has been trending elsewhere and is probably trending as I write this, because it’s right in the middle of another run now.

Hashtag campaigns always get a lot of criticism that they are pointless and don’t change anything.  I call bullshit on that attitude.  As a fat woman who is so fucking fed up with both the general shit that fat women have to deal with, but also with the constant measuring of whether some fat people are “better” than others, just reading through the thousands of tweets from other fat people venting their frustrations and smashing down that “good fatty” lie gives me strength.  It also expresses things I have not been able to myself.

I’ll keep this short and sweet because it is taking off right now, but I’ll share some more favourites later.

So get yourself over to Twitter, and search for #notyourgoodfatty

But do ignore the trolls.  They’re showing their arse over there too.  How embarrassing for them.

Care of Magical Creatures

Published March 24, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Boy oh boy, what a busy few days it has been since the magazine piece came out in That’s Life!  My inbox has been chockas, I’ve had all these new people wanting to friend me on Facebook, I’ve had several media requests and all my other social media platforms have taken off too.  Mostly it has been awesome, lots of new folks interested in what I do with my fat activism, which is always a good thing.  Unfortunately it comes with a serving of abuse from the arseholes of the world, which is both annoying and exhausting.  Self care has been really important this past few days, so that I can have the energy to deal with the bullshit, and appreciate the good stuff.  Particularly as I’m sporting an injury at the moment that is really wearing me down.

Today I wanted to talk about how you, dear readers, can support the fat activists that you dig.  Because just a little bit of support goes a long way in helping us keep plugging away with the work that we do.  Not to mention that most of us do this work for free, putting in hours and hours of our own time and resources to fight the good fight for fatties of all kinds.  If I were paid for the work I do in fat activism at the same rate I am for my day job, which I believe is the minimum that I am worth financially, I would almost double my wage.  Yup, I put THAT many hours into fat activism every week.

So here’s a list of things that you can do (or not do) to support your favourite fat activist.

1. Let us know you’re out there listening.  Either a comment, a “like” on the blog or on Facebook, or a retweet/reblog on Twitter/Tumblr will do.  We can see how many hits we get on the blog, but who knows what percentage of those are dickwads from reddit or creepers?  Giving us an accurate idea of who is actually reading for the right reasons keeps us going when we’re dealing with the jerks.

2. Signal boost/share our stuff.  WITH CREDIT.  I can’t stress the credit part enough.  Imagine if you spent hours on something and then someone showed it off without acknowledging you.  That would suck, wouldn’t it?

3. Don’t try to use us as your own personal bullhorn.  I get so pissed off at people who email and ask “Why haven’t you talked about X yet?”  Because I don’t want to.  Or I didn’t know about it.  Or because it’s triggering.  Or a million other reasons.  If you want someone to talk about a particular subject, fire up a blog (they’re free you know!) and talk about it yourself.  Many of us spend a lot of time doing research, reading blog posts, going through Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook for links about the topic of fat.  We see this stuff, we don’t need it brought to our attention (unless we specifically ask for it) and if we want to talk about it, we will.  Which leads me to the next point…

4. Do not send us unsolicited links to articles/examples of fat hate.  When you see fat hate, how does it make you feel?  Bad right?  It makes you angry/upset/sad/depressed/shitty.  So why would you send that to another fat person?  We fat activists are not made of steel – we feel the same things you do when we see fat hate.  It hurts.  We’re quite capable of finding our own horrible examples of fat hate.

5. GOOGLE.  Use it.  It’s your best friend.  If you don’t understand a term or you’re not sure about something, copy and paste those words over to Google and hit the search button.  We’ve likely spent a lot of time thinking about and carefully wording something, the least you can do is take the time to explore it further yourself.

6. Following on from that, please don’t use us as your own personal reference librarian.  I get SO many emails and asks from people saying “What does [insert word or activist concept] mean?”  or “I once saw this article about [insert fat related topic], I was wondering if you could give me the link?”  Come on now.  You’re already on the internet, you know where to find Google, why are you asking someone who has already given you loads of their time for free to do it for you?  And don’t ask us to source plus-size clothing for you.  We have enough trouble sourcing our own.  Feel free to ask us where we got something, but don’t ask us to source that perfect bra for you, or where you can buy wedding dresses in your town or whatever.

7. Don’t use our photos without credit.  I found out thanks to the art department of That’s Life! that people have been ganking my photos off this blog and posting them on their blogs and Tumblr’s and stuff without linking them back to me.  That wasn’t cool.  I love when people share my outfit photos in fatshion posts and stuff, but please always link them back to me either here or wherever else you got them.  It’s never pleasant to find out your face and body have been posted somewhere without your knowledge.

8. If you have thin privilege over us, there is no need to declare “I’m not as big as you.” or “I’m not a fat person.” or “I’m a slim person.”  That always feels like you’re adding the disclaimer that you’re not as “bad” as us.  It’s ok to acknowledge your thin privilege (and yes, even fat people can have thin privilege – someone who is smaller than my size 26AU but is still fat is going to have privileges that I don’t have) but leave the declarations of your size or lack of fat out of it.  A simple “I realise/acknowledge that I have privilege over those who are larger than I am.” will do the trick if you must bring it up at all.

9. Realise that not being able to get clothes that fit is not the same as not having clothing options AT ALL or having very minimal clothing options.  I really get the shits with people complaining that things at any size less than a 20 aren’t cut to fit them when my size is routinely excluded all together.  Yes, clothes that don’t fit quite right suck.  But if you can size up and still be clothed, you’re in a better position than many of us are.

10. Ask us how we are occasionally.  Don’t expect us to be “on” all the time.  Sometimes it feels like we have to perform all the time, a bit “Dance monkey, dance!”  We do this because it’s important to us and we want to make a change in the world, but it isn’t easy and often you’re left feeling that you’re the cannon fodder pushed out to the front lines while everyone cowers behind you.  Knowing that people care about your welfare and that they are willing to support you while you be the one putting your face and name out there really does help.

11. Most importantly, realise that we are human beings.  We have shit days, we have stuff going on in our lives, we work regular jobs, we have friends and family and all the things all of you do.  Sometimes our brain is not in a space to be able to respond to comments, or we’re really busy with work and don’t get time to respond to emails.  Sometimes we make mistakes, or we respond to things emotionally.  That’s because we’re human beings!  We’re not really magical creatures that are impervious to fat hate, or have 100% confidence and strong self esteem all the time.

I’m Not Making This Shit Up!

Published February 26, 2014 by sleepydumpling

One of the best things about being a fat activist is the community that you get to be part of.  Thanks to my work in fat activism I’ve been able to meet (both online and off), some of the most amazing people, a number of whom I now call good friends.  Of course, there are those who treat fat activists like we are some kind of giant hive mind that all think the same things and have had exactly the same experiences in life, but that’s not true.  I’ve met fat activists from all walks of life, some of us get along really well, some of us disagree vehemently and some of us simply don’t like one another as people.  That’s good in a way – it shows we’re have a good balance of people, approaching fat activism from all angles.  It means we have robust discussions that nut out all the thorny bits of activism.

Another great thing is that we share resources.  Recently I was lucky enough to have bestowed upon me a fantastic collection of fat studies reference books by a fellow fat activist who was moving house at the time and needing to downsize her library.  It was an absolute joy to have parcel after parcel arrive in my PO Box full of books about fat.  Check these glorious piles of literary goodness out:

One of the things that struck me as I catalogued these into my own collection (yes, ever the librarian) was that people have been talking about fat politics, and particularly fat stigma and fat hatred, for a very long time.  This collection alone spans about thirty years, and it is by no means a complete collection of fat studies works.  These titles approach fat politics from almost every angle imaginable – sexuality, health, feminism, fiction, media, sociology, childhood development, eating disorders, psychology, food, exercise… you name it and someone has raised the topic in relation to fat politics in one of these books.

To put it bluntly, people have been talking about this shit for a long time and from a lot of perspectives.

However, listen to any of the many (and boy are there many) critics of fat activism, they will have it that we’re just making this stuff up as we go along.  It usually falls into two categories – either that we’re in some kind of denial about how horrible fat is, or that we’re just trying to find ways to “justify” being fat.  Let’s put aside the fact that I personally don’t focus on justification of my fatness – I am fat, the reasons are irrelevant  – but am focusing on fat people’s right to live their life with dignity and respect, and without discrimination or persecution, no matter what in their life led them to be fat.  We’ll also put aside that I’m in no denial that there are negative issues that correlate with being fat, but are not caused BY being fat, and don’t forget to include those issues that are caused by society’s loathing of fat.

But here in these books, and the many more out there, you have evidence that people have been examining fatness and society’s attitude towards fatness for a very long time.  I’m not the first person to discuss the subjects I do here on this blog, I’m certainly not the most formally educated person to examine the subjects I do here on this blog, and I’m definitely not making this shit up as I go along.  Unlike the majority of those who criticise fat activism, I spend an awful lot of time researching fatness, it’s effect on people and how society responds to it.  I certainly have not yet read all of these books, but I’ve spent almost 5 years reading an awful lot of them, along with an incredible amount of material online from all perspectives, which is a lot more than can be said from the average fat hating commenter who turns up with “But! But! But!  EVERYBODY KNOWS fat is bad!!”  Despite the fact that there is an incredible amount of material published from all over the world that disputes that supposed “everybody knows” knowledge.

The one thing I do know – fat haters do not present us with any new information or perspectives and have not done so for a very, very long time.  The very same arguments that the earliest of fat studies literature responds to are the same arguments that we are presented with today.  One would think, considering the amount of information we have presented over the past 30+ years as to why fat stigma and fat loathing are so damaging and erroneous, that a new perspective or new information would have come into play from the anti-fat brigade.  But alas, no.

What I do know is that there are people who have far more qualifications after their name than myself, and certainly more than the majority of the anti-fat brigade, listed amongst the authors of these books.   These are a learned bunch, and they’ve got very important things to say, and the evidence to back it up.

Something you will hear often in fat activism is “Educate yourself.”  Because it’s not our job to educate you in our oppression and how it affects us.  Many of us have spent years educating ourselves in the subject, we’ve spent our own time, money and energy to learn what we have learnt as fat activists.  If you wish to engage in the subject and dispute us, the least you can do is educate yourself.  Of course, there are always those that have excuses, saying they don’t know where to start or can’t find resources (Google is your friend people!)

However, I’m going to do something very generous.  I’ve created a resources page here on this blog, where I’ve listed all of the books in this collection, and others that I have read.  Now I know not everyone can afford all of these books, but you see, I’m a librarian, so I’m more than happy to encourage you to go and get a library card to get your hands on these resources.  If your library doesn’t have them, talk to your local librarians and ask them if they can add them to their collection, or organise an inter-library loan for you.  Librarians LOVE help with collection development, it’s a big job, any help we can get is always welcome.

For those of you who genuinely want to broaden your horizons and hear about the experiences of fat people, especially for those of you who are fat yourselves and need to know you’re not alone, this is a good place to start.

If you know of any other great resources, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will add them to my “to read” list.

Reflections of the Self

Published November 23, 2013 by sleepydumpling

So y’all probably heard the hullaballoo yesterday about the anti-selfie post on that bastion of white-lady fauxmenism, Jezebel.  No, I’m not going to link to it, it’s a big stinky pile of poo poo written by a privileged thin, white, able-bodied, cis-het woman who seems to think it’s only acceptable to post pics of yourself online if you’re flashing how you’ve bought new shit (not that I have a problem with people sharing pics of stuff they’ve bought – I do it myself, it was just her attitude, ya know?)  and that if you do post pics of yourself online, it’s a “cry for help”.  Yeah I know, puke-city right?  If you really must see it, you can go find it on Jezebel.

So born from the backlash to that awful Jezzie piece was a Twitter hashtag #FeministSelfie born of this twitter conversation between @convergecollide and @thewayoftheid:

Not only did the hashtag inspire a plethora of awesome selfies by women all over the world, from all walks of life (most notably a lot of marginalised women awesomely self representing – PROPER diversity!) but there have been some very good posts about how selfies are important and how women should not be shamed for sharing selfies.  I’ll post some links at the bottom of this post, and please share any others that you know of.

I wrote about the power of selfies back in June (what can I say, I’m a visionary :-P) but I was thinking about how I’ve grown since I started posting selfies, and I got to wondering what my first selfie was.  I went back through all of my digital photos this morning to see what I could find.  The first thing I discovered is that I have digital photos going back to my first digital camera, which was 2001.  My first phone camera kicks in about 2003.  However, my first selfie doesn’t happen until December 2009!  Which tells you just how long it took me to be comfortable with a) willingly having my photograph taken, and b) posting a self portrait of myself online.

Here’s my first ever selfie:

36443953

December 2009

I remember just why I took this photograph.  I was trying to capture in my camera how my hair looked at the back with my awesome new colour (thus the mirror behind me) and I snapped this photo.  For the first time ever, I liked a photo of myself.  My hair was an awesome colour.  I looked comfortable and happy.  I was learning to be comfortable in my fat body (I had started blogging about being fat about six months before) and I wanted to share this photo to show my friends my new hair colour, especially my friends overseas.

Forward through to last week, and a countless number of selfies since, and here one of my most recent selfies:

IMG_1506

November 2013

Snapped while I was sitting up the back of a meeting room, waiting for my turn to give a presentation to a bunch of my colleagues.  I see something very different in myself and in my expression in comparison to the first sefie.  My confidence is stronger.  I gaze into the lens far more relaxed than in the first photograph, and I didn’t bother to try to make the angle “flattering”, just tried to get the shot composed with good light and not chop half my face off.  Even in my choice of hair style and glasses tells me how I’ve changed over the years.  My style is now for me, not to appease others.  I scrape my hair back off my face to keep me cool and comfortable instead of using it to try to “hide” my fatness.  My glasses say “We’re here!” not “I want to disappear.”  I let my double chin be seen.

This didn’t happen by magic.  It happened because I took selfies and got used to seeing myself from all different angles, and more importantly, I saw other women’s selfies.  I saw women represented by themselves who are NEVER represented in the media.  I saw women of different ages, races, sizes, ability, gender presentation, level of income and sexuality.  I saw some women who looked like me, and many who didn’t.  I saw women who didn’t look like those I saw in magazines and on television or at the movies.  I saw women who are fat, or had wrinkles, scars, or pimples, or are hairy.  I saw women who had no makeup on, and those who use their makeup as expressionist art.

I still love seeing selfies and I love taking them.  I love capturing my moods and moments in selfies.  I like seeing selfies of all the people around the world I talk to but have never met, so I can get to know them a little better.  I even like stranger’s selfies, because I get to see lots of different types of people, and how they choose to present themselves to the world.  Best of all, I love seeing my friends change and grow in their selfies.   I love watching them grow into themselves and into confidence.

The idea that selfies are a “cry for help” or purely attention seeking behaviour is complete bullshit.  Yes, sometimes they might be.  But the overwhelming majority of them are self reflection and self representation.  They are pictorial questions to ourselves, asking “Who am I right now?”  They are snippets of communication about who we are, and how we want the world to see us.

And there is absolutely no shame in that.

Other selfie posts:

Stuff I Dig Volume 1

Published October 13, 2013 by sleepydumpling

As part of trying to get back into the swing of things, I’ve decided to attempt to do a semi-regular post of things that I find online that I really dig.  Be it interesting articles, fatshion, artworks, things that make me laugh.  A kind of potted view of the things I post all over the internet, be it Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or anywhere else I lurk about.  It gives me a chance to signal boost some cool stuff, and to talk about the things I dig with you all.  Sometimes it might have a method or layout, other times it might just be a hotch potch of stuff.

I really encourage  you to share stuff in the comments that you’ve been interested in, but please keep it to positive stuff – no posting some shitty journalist hating on fat people, or any other douchenozzle behaving badly.  Let’s not give those people the signal boost.  Though thoughtful and kick arse responses to douchecanoes are welcome!

So, let me see, what have I been into lately…

Fat Activism

Gradient Lair on Thin Privilege and Intersectionality

A powerful piece from Rebecca Shaw on coming out as fat.

Kyla the Great’s tips on dealing with haters and harassers.

My favourite piece of the past few days, Elizabeth Tamny on the visibility of fat people and THAT Elle cover with Melissa McCarthy.

Caitlin Seida writes about how her photograph was stolen online and set upon by Reddit trolls.

Fatshion Inspiration

My lovely friend Bek, she of Colourful Curves, wrote an excellent guest post on Suger Coat It on how to do fatshion on a budget.

Check out these amazing paua shell look nails by karengnails:

paua nails

Here’s Jodie of Fat Additives looking as fierce as fuck in Autograph:

fat additives

I made such a noise of awe when I saw this photograph of Leah from Sweet Tea Kisses:

sweet tea kisses

I loved this post from Maiya Mayhem on fashion rules for fat girls:

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 1.33.41 PM

Feminism

I love this piece by Laurie Penny on the idea that feminism needs re-branding.

Skepchick on why she doesn’t go to the police when she is on the receiving end of online threats and harassment.

A Good Cause

You know how hard it is to find a decent bra?  Well, some women have it way, way harder than we do.  And we can help them by sending them bras in pretty much any condition (yep, they need them that bad!)   So you know those bras you have kicking around that have a broken underwire, or don’t fit you?  Send them along to the Uplift Project.

Cuteness

Hear the mighty lion roar!

If you follow me on Tumblr at all, you know that I am totally besotted with Tom Hiddleston.  I mean look at how pretty he is:

hiddles 1

hiddles 2

No really, he’s delicious.  Look, here he is practicing swordplay for the upcoming production of Coriolanus (which I have tickets to a broadcast of!)

Nipples!

Nipples!

Food

Look at how gorgeous this polka dotted cake is!

polka dotted cake

Laughs

Read the reviews on these sugar free gummi bears.  Maybe don’t read them in public (or at the office lunch table like I did – I got stares!)

Jess of Ghost of Enid has done this brilliant set of Tony Abbott: Minister for Women posters.  Political statements are so effective when infused with humour.  Here’s an example:

minister for women

And here’s Kermit the Frog doing his take on Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”:

wrecking ball

Other Fab Stuff

Does anyone want to buy me a house?  I mean look at this library:

dream library

Music

Let me finish with the most kick arse girl band you will see in a long, long time.  You need to watch to at least 2 minutes in to get the full benefit.

Broken…

Published October 9, 2013 by sleepydumpling

I was feeling like crud.  Stomping my way in to work this morning, really fighting with the black dog of depression, feeling like dirt.  And there she was.  An angel in a floral skirt and cream top.  The young woman I had been standing beside at the lights about 10 minutes before – I had been staring at the print of her skirt trying to grasp the one thing that was nice in my brain at just that moment – a pretty pink floral.  I was walking back towards my office having stopped off in the markets to pick up some breakfast, when  she stopped me on the street and told me that she really loved my blog, and that even though I hadn’t posted in a while she still hoped I would.  She complimented my taste in clothes, mentioned that we had the same dress (the hot pink one from Autograph) and that she loved my fatshion reviews.  I was a bit flabbergasted and I forgot to ask her name, which I always do, because it always takes me by surprise.  She made me smile, she thanked me and touch my arm, and we parted.

Five minutes later I was sobbing in the ladies room at work, finally able to feel something.  That’s what depression does to you, it robs your ability to feel.   You might walk around talking and even smiling and laughing, but you don’t really feel it, instead you’re kind of just going through the motions, performing as yourself instead of being yourself.  At least that’s what it does to me.  I wasn’t crying because something had upset me, I was crying because I’d finally felt something (surprise, pleasure, even a glimmer of joy) and that caused the floodgates of all the feelings I haven’t been able to feel for weeks to open and let them all out.  The crying was a good thing.  Embarrassing and uncomfortable, but ultimately good for me.

The past months have been hellish for me with my depression creeping up stronger than it has for some time.  It isn’t just the usual chemical stuff either, usually brought on by hormones and stress, I began to recognise it a few weeks ago.  It was emotional burnout.  It had all got too much for me.  My job is a bigger workload than it has ever been (it’s that way for everyone at my work these days) and I feel like Sisyphus, having to roll the same boulder up the hill every day only to have it roll down again.  (If only it was like Loki, burdened with glorious purpose.)

Add to that the fact that I’d been doing fat activism for over four years, 95% of it for free, out of my own time, pocket, talent and energy only to be constantly bombarded both by general hate as a random fat person on this earth, and deeply targeted hate from really fucked up people out there who cannot bear the thought of an unapologetic and even proud fat woman existing on the planet.  Even still, even though I haven’t posted in months, there are days when I get over 4000 hits via a Reddit hate forum alone, filled with people who spend hours and hours of their lives hating on me and other visible fat people for a hobby.  They dig up old posts, they steal the photos from this blog (and my Tumblr or Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook), they spend hours and hours and hours discussing my life in minutiae… as a hobby.

One nutter even keeps a dossier on every food post I ever make online and keeps tabs on what I eat (or at least the bits I post online) and then crops up on old articles about me, or anything I comment on online to try to “discredit” me by “proving” that I’m a “liar” because of how “unhealthy” I am using the posts about food as “evidence”.  They send me long, rambling emails detailing how many calories are in every item of food I post, and how each morsel is hardening my arteries and sending me to my grave.   Who has time in their life to do this shit?

As much as I block, spam and filter all of that hate, it still gets through.  I still see bits of it.  I still see the referring links on my dashboard of my blog posts, all coming from a Reddit fat hate forum.  I still see old blog posts targeted by thousands and thousands of people in one day.  I still see the hate comments that I have to delete, block as spam, report as abuse.  As much as I rationally know that their hate is not about me, it’s no reflection of me and my worth, it’s still toxic.  I’m still being bathed in this venom all the time.  Some of it has got to sink through my skin.  I am a human being, I do have feelings and I’m not made of steel.  People can hurt me.  This shit eventually does hurt me.  There is no shame in my being human, and vulnerable.

However, that wasn’t the worst of it.  The worst of it was that all that hate and harassment robbed me of the one thing that is most precious to me – my ability to write.  It did EXACTLY what they wanted it to do, it silenced me.  I was so battle scarred by all of that shit that the minute I started to write anything, instinctively I shut down, as a protection mode.  My brain would simply block any flow of thought, any language out of sheer self-protection against the rightly anticipated onslaught of hate and harassment.  I had the worst case of writers block I have ever had, because it wasn’t just fatigue or lack of creativity, it was like a great big door slamming shut in my brain and locking all the good stuff in to where I could not reach it, and to further the torture, I knew it was still in there but it was out of my grasp.  This is what caused me to spiral further and further into depression.  The more I couldn’t write, the more depressed I got, and the more I felt like I had abandoned my activism, and the more it made me depressed, which then blocked me from writing… and so on.

Yet today, a living angel pops into my life and reminds me just why I became a fat activist.  Who reminded me that what I do matters to more than just me.   Who jolted me out of the bleak headspace and reminded me that by letting all the shit that the haters heap on me STAY on me, they don’t win – nobody with that much hate in themselves actually wins anything, but WE lose.  We lose community, we lose our voice, we lose visibility and we lose strength.   This is how they wear us down, by attacking and attacking individually until we individually can’t bear it any more, which breaks our collective strength.  They can’t break us as a collective, so they work on breaking each us one by one.  You are my strength, my fellow fat community.  You folk are why I stand up and say “I’m not taking this shit any more.”

Individually, it’s really hard being strong in the face of all that hatred spewing in our direction.  But collectively, I believe we are unstoppable.  I believe we are all heroes for each other, even if it is only in tiny ways.  A friendly smile, a kind word, a gesture of support.

By giving a spontaneous moment of kindness, this lovely woman jolted me back from a dark, painful place.  It let me get out all the anger and hurt and frustration.  It’s like her kindness broke the crust of hate that had formed from all of the abuse I’d received over the years.  Which means I sit here in my morning tea break (and again in my lunch break) with all of this stuff pouring out of me at last, onto the page, finally able to write again. I can’t say I’m back to my old standards, but I have taken that first step, and it feels like a huge one.

So thank you to the lovely young woman on George Street (do leave a comment and identify yourself, I won’t publish it if you don’t want me to!) in the floral skirt and cream top – you can’t know just how important you are right now!

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