books

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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.

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.

IMG_0584
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.

Review – Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Love, Life and Fashion

Published November 26, 2012 by sleepydumpling

The kind folks at Seal Press sent me a copy of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Love, Life and Fashion edited by Virgie Tovar a few weeks ago for me to review, and I literally started reading it the minute I ripped open the envelope.  This is one book I was really excited to get into.

What can I say about this book other than… it’s fabulous!  You may know some of the contributors, amazing fierce fatties like Charlotte Cooper, Margritte Kristjanss0n, Tasha Fierce,  Golda Poretsky and of course Virgie Tovar amongst others, all of whom have been writing for awhile online.  There are also heaps of other brilliant pieces from other writers I had not heard of too.

This book made me laugh, think, cry, ask questions and pump my fist in the air in triumph.  Not just for baby fab fatties Hot & Heavy had me asking questions and stretching my thoughts about all kinds of topics, from my choices in clothes to fat sexuality.  But so much of it resonated with me I felt like I was having a conversation with friends, not just reading a book.

I would say that Hot & Heavy is the new must-have book for all fab fatties, whatever stage of their lives they happen to be in.  If you can’t buy it, urge your local library to get copies for you to borrow.  I wish I could buy each and all of you a copy, I know this one will have pride of place on my bookshelves.

Fat Activism In the Library

Published July 4, 2011 by sleepydumpling

It has been with some considerable delight that I have been following Cat Pausé posting a lovely long list of fat studies book titles to her Tumblr over the past few weeks.  I knew about a few titles, but at last count Cat was up to 30 titles.  Which, needless to say, has created a very long “to read” list for me.

Cat and I got talking about just how many titles there are and what their availability is like, when it dawned on me – “You’re a librarian Kath!  You know how to access books!”

Let’s face it, books are expensive to buy.  Plus they take up space, have environmental impact and it’s not always necessary to keep them or read them again.  So being able to borrow them from the library is a fantastic exercise in accessibility.  Now I don’t know about your local library, but mine is free to join, you can borrow up to 20 items at any given time, can request books from other branches of our library service for a small fee, can have most items for four weeks AND has over 3 million items in the collection.  Not to mention that there are multiple languages available, resources for people with disabilities and a whole bunch of other services you can take up.  That does vary from library service to library service, but whichever way you go, it’s still a budget way to read all these great titles.

One of the things Cat and I have been talking about is the concept of having fat studies titles in a library collection as an alternative voice to the usual diet books and “you can lose weight too” pop psychology/self help books.

Now I know we have Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon PhD in our collection.  If I take the Dweey number (Dewey is the classification by subject matter) of just that title alone, 613.25, and search our catalogue, I come up with 256 titles.  All of them, except Health at Every Size, are diet books.  So to one fat-friendly title, I get 255 weight loss/diet books, just in our collection alone.

When I search the Dewey of Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby’s book Screw Inner Beauty (US title: Lessons from the Fatosphere), 616.398, I bring up 19 titles, 17 of those are weight loss/diet help guides or titles about the “obesity epidemic”.  The other fat-friendly title is Prof. Paul Campos’ The Obesity Myth.

The next search I ran was a subject search for “eating disorders”.  I got 279 hits, only one of which could be considered fat-friendly, and that is Harriet Brown’s Brave Girl Eating.  A search on “body image” brings up 64 titles, almost all of these focus on “looking good” or “you’re not as fat as you think you are” subjects (which excludes anyone who actually is fat).  There is a very high focus under this subject heading on “flattering” clothing and “what not to wear”.

Next I decided to search the term “fat”.  Over 450 titles came up, and most of these were diet books, low-fat cookbooks and “weight loss journey” stories.  No fat acceptance/fat-friendly titles came up under “fat” at all.  And don’t get me started on what comes up under “obesity” as a subject search.  Aye! Aye! Aye!

So it goes to show that the prevailing message being sent is fat = bad/unhealthy.

But!  Just by having these titles by Linda Bacon, Paul Campos, Harriet Brown, Marianne Kirby and Kate Harding, there is at least some alternative perspective available in the public library.  Of course, read one and they refer you on to other titles.

The real magic though is these titles sitting on the shelves of libraries, quietly lurking in amongst the fat loathing titles.  Along comes the humble borrower, hunting that “Lose the Fat and be Rich for Life”* title, and there it is.  Health at Every Size.  Or The Obesity Myth, or any of the other titles.  So innocent looking but inside those covers… RADICAL AWESOMENESS!

If one person picks one of those titles up instead of the “Purple Food to Skinny Jeans!”** book, imagine the difference that could be made to their lives!

So, if you want to read any of the awesome books Cat has compiled in her list, get thee to your local library!  If they don’t have it, request it.  Many public libraries rely on customer requests to drive their collections.  Plus every one they add, thanks to your suggestion, gets borrowed by other people to discover the fat acceptance message too.  The same goes for fat positive fiction.  It doesn’t just have to be non-fiction.

You can also ask your library about Inter-Library Loans as well.  Many library services share their collections amongst each other, quite often for free, sometimes for a small fee.  Plus if you’re a member of a public library, you can often get access to academic papers and journals as well through the library’s subscription.

Besides, libraries are definitely fat friendly spaces.  Librarians care about your reading, not your body size.  And libraries are accessible, have comfortable, solid furniture and are free!

What are you waiting for?

*Yes, I made this book title up.
**Ok I made this one up too.

Mini Review: Fat! So? by Marilyn Wann

Published January 24, 2011 by sleepydumpling

So on my “un-post” the other day when I was feeling quite uninspired, I asked you what kind of subjects and posts you’d like to see.  I got some good suggestions (and if you have some more, please feel free to leave them) and I’ll start to have a go at some of them soon.

I thought that since Paponda suggested Marilyn Wann’s “Fat!  So?” to a new visitor to my blog, and I’ve not long finished reading it, I might give a bit of a mini review so that those of you who have yet to read it might feel inspired to do so.

I actually had a bit of trouble getting a copy of the book, because it’s a few years old now and my library service deemed it too old to add to the collection, and I couldn’t find it locally.  So I turned to The Book Depository and ordered a copy from there.

It’s taken me longer than it would normally take to read a book, mostly because life has been so chock full over the past few months, but I managed to finish it a few days ago and closed the book very happy that I’d read it.  I love the friendly, matter-of-fact tone, the anecdotes from fatties of all kinds, the little illustrations peppered throughout the book (I’ve picked one that I’d like to get tattooed on me one day in the future), and the poetry that pops up from time to time.

There is a lot of practical advice, from how to deal with medical professionals, family and strangers on the street, to how to find clothes and to rock them with confidence, how to face the dating world as a flabulous fatty, and how to negotiate your way through situations that generally just crop up for we fats that non-fats don’t really have to deal with.

One of my favourite things about the book is that at the bottom of each page there is a little tidbit of advice for the reader on a whole myriad of subjects relating to fat.  Plus in the top, right hand corner, there is one of those little flick cartoons of a very cute fat lady (the same as on the cover) dancing.

Plus the whole book is served up with a delicious sense of humour and fun, that makes it a breeze to read.

Fat! So?

Awesome Fatties Volume 1: Marilyn Wann

Published September 6, 2010 by sleepydumpling

I just have to share this video:

I am currently reading Marilyn’s book, Fat! So? and loving every single page.  What an amazing, inspirational woman.  Marilyn is a prime example of living with fattitude if I ever found one.

I will blog more about the book when I’ve finished reading it, but until then, check out her website www.fatso.com There are photos of butts as the icons to each section of the website people!!  BUTTS!!

Share Your Fat Acceptance Reading!

Published May 19, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Lightning post folks.

Discussion on Twitter about fat acceptance reference reading has got me thinking that as the librarian, I need to compile these into a handy reference list.

So, in the comments, please leave me any good fat acceptance reference books and I will compile them into a nice easy reference list with links for purchase and such.

Personally I have read or am reading:

  • Screw Inner Beauty/Lessons from the Fatosphere by Marianne Kirby and Kate Harding
  • The Fat Girls Guide to Life by Wendy Shanker
  • The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos
  • Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon

So these are all already on my list.

Go to it folks – share your FA reading!

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