activism

All posts in the activism category

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!

Fatropolis – A Review

Published August 10, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Hey all!  Been a while, hasn’t it?  Rest assured, I am still alive and kicking, still being fat all over the place.  In fact I’m being fat at you all right now.  But I am aware that I have been very quiet here on Fat Heffalump compared to in the past.  This is mostly because my paid job is so much more intense than it has ever been before, with so many projects going at once, that I just don’t have the free time outside of work that I used to have.  I was just lamenting yesterday that I really miss having a life outside of my job.  I need to get better at finding that work/life balance – it’s not good for anyone to lose their recreation time and the time they give over to the things that they are passionate about.

I am however, changing in my activism.  Don’t worry, I’m not going soft on fat hate, or misogyny, or racism or any other form of prejudice.  It’s just that I’m finding myself really over being expected to educate people in how to be decent human beings.  I’m tired of being expected to justify our existence, our validity as human beings.  I’m tired of the same 101 conversations over and over and over again.  Instead, I want to promote visibility of fat people as part of society, not for those who hate fat people, but to benefit US… we fat people ourselves.  I want to create and promote people who are living large so to speak, getting on with their lives and being fabulous, in whatever way.  Which means the way I engage with fat activism is changing.

Which leads me nicely to the next topic – the fab fatty zine.  It’s almost finished!  I have been picking away at it as best I can in limited time, and I’m just about to run off the first copies.  I am just finessing the last bits of it and writing up the credits etc  and I’m still not 100% happy with the cover, then I’ll be good to launch it.  I have enough  material for future editions already, it has been SO difficult to choose which ones to use this issue and which to hold off on.  Watch this space for further news.

But what I’m really here to do today is review a book!  A couple of months ago author Tracey L. Thompson contacted me asking if I would be willing to read her novel, Fatropolis.  A novel about a world where fat people are considered “normal”?  Bring it ON!  She arranged for a review copy to be sent to me and I got stuck into it as soon as it arrived.

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Fatropolis is a fantasy/sci-fi story about a Jenny, fat woman from New York City, who falls through a portal into an alternate universe, one where fat is considered the norm for society, and thin people are pressured to gain weight to meet that norm.  An opposite world in fact, where fat is considered attractive/healthy/normal.  Jenny is used to the way our world treats fat people, and is suffering with her own low self esteem from internalised fat phobia, so Fatropolis (which is in fact New York City in the alternative universe) is a massive cultural shock for her.

She quickly makes friends and has a lot of questions about the portals, why this world is so radically different from her own, and about herself as a fat woman, questioning her assumptions and the dominant paradigm around fat and health and attractiveness.  Jenny goes on many adventures with her new friends, both in Fatropolis and back in our own world, and embarks on a relationship with an acquaintance who has his own connections to Fatropolis, while also dealing with a young man named Argus who makes it clear from the moment he sees her that he has feelings for her.

Fatropolis is about discovering that fat is not a dirty word, and asking questions of the dominant cultural paradigm we live in today.

I enjoyed Fatropolis.  I will have to admit, at the beginning I really didn’t like Jenny, but as I read further, I realised the reason I didn’t like Jenny was that I used to be Jenny.  Judgemental, fixated on being acceptable/attractive to men, jealous of anyone who she perceived as having something that she didn’t, and mostly just rock bottom self esteem.  It shows how far I have come that I no longer identify with a character like that, but find them really unpleasant.

The story is well paced, the characters identifiable and the descriptions of sights, sounds and smells are vivid.  The only thing I can really find to kind of criticise (or more that it made me uncomfortable rather than true criticism) is the fixation on food in Fatropolis because it did feel a little like the “fatties all eat lots” thing a bit much, which we know is patently not true.  But when I thought about it more, we are so obsessed with NOT eating here in our world, it makes sense for Fatropolis, which is the opposite world, to be fixated on eating.

Tracey Thompson manages to weave in a whole lot of fat activism 101 in to this story and does so without it being preachy or pushy.  Instead she has the knack of having her characters question things that the reader then questions themselves.

I say get out there and give it a read, regardless where you are on your fat liberation journey.  You can buy it direct from Pearlsong Press here, or Aussies can buy it via Bookworld.

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