confidence

All posts in the confidence category

No Fat Chicks

Published July 24, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Hey lovelies.  I’ve been quiet for a bit haven’t I?  Well something has brought me out of the woodwork today and steaming from the ears.  The lovely Em aka Boombands from Oh The Places You’ll Go drew my attention via her Twitter to a project this morning called Stop Dating Like a Fat Chick.  Em quite rightfully pointed out just how problematic the project was, and the author of it directed her to this page Who You Callin’ A Fat Chick?  When I read it, I can tell you, I felt kind of sick.

Firstly, most of you already know, I’m a fat chick.  I’m also a single fat chick.  Apparently, being a fat chick is a BAD THING.  The author of the blog/book, Adrienne Santos-Longhurst says that she is offering “the no BS guide to dating with confidence for the plus size girl” – so let me just get this right.  Being a plus size girl is ok, but being a fat chick is not.  Indeed, that is what she says at the top of the page… “If you let your size dictate how and who you date then YOU, my dear, are a Fat Chick.”

Sounds like Ms Santos-Longhurst is buying into the old “No Fat Chicks” bullshit that plenty of douchecanoes have been labelling women that they think they’re superior to for a long, long time.  We’re getting into some good fatty/bad fatty territory with this stuff.

Now that we’ve established that being a fat chick is a VERY BAD THING, and that to become a fat chick you only have to identify as fat and choose people to date and how you date them with relevence to your fatness.  So, that means that because I identify as a fat chick, and because I only date people who accept (and appreciate) my fatness and understand my self-identifying as fat, I “date like a fat chick”.  And that is a VERY BAD THING.

To be fair, I do everything like a fat chick.  I breathe like a fat chick.  I sleep like a fat chick.  I dress like a fat chick.  Because… I AM a fat chick!

According to Ms Santos-Longhurst, dating like a fat chick is a bad thing.  On her page, she outlines why this is a bad thing, because apparently fat chicks do the following:

always the best friend who chums around with a guy and even gives him advice about other women all while pining after him.

-the easy lay who has sex with any and everyone because they feel it’s the only way to get the affection and attention they crave.

- the needy and desperate woman who gets walked all over and jumps through hoops to keep a man in fear that no one else will want her.

-women who limit their dating to fat-friendly sites or even limit themselves to specific races who are said to prefer fat women because they fear they’ll be rejected by dating the “regular” way.

That’s a whole lot of assumptions to make about how fat chicks behave when dating.  Not to mention a whole lot of very negative assumptions.  Now, speaking for myself, that’s not really my method in the dating world, so it’s a pretty rich assumption to make about how we fat chicks date.  But hey, some fat chicks do date like that (so do a lot of thin chicks) and it’s a pretty hostile attitude to hold towards the way some women choose to date.  I’ll come back to that a bit later.

I understand that some of the underlying message Ms Santos-Longhurst is trying to get at is that many fat women suffer from confidence and self-esteem issues.  That no doubt comes from a genuine, good place of wanting to help.  But… this doesn’t help.  Shaming women, particularly fat women who are already shamed at every turn, for having low self-esteem and lacking confidence, is not going to help them.  Saying “Men treat you badly because you act like a doormat.” lays the blame at the feet of the victim, not the perpetrator.  It’s not anyone’s fault that someone treats them badly – ever.  If someone is treating you  like a doormat, then they are the one who are behaving badly and should be shamed, not you.  This is a very victim-blaming methodology that Ms Santos-Longhurst has adopted.

I also have a problem with the whole desperate/needy cliché.  Have you ever noticed how often the concept of desperate/needy are applied mostly to women?  That somehow, women when they have feelings for someone and want them reciprocated are desperate and needy, but when men do the same it’s coded as romantic, devoted, determined.  With a caveat – thin, pretty women are sometimes allowed to be romantic/devoted/determined.  But fat chicks – if we have feelings and want them reciprocated, ew gross, don’t be so needy!  Don’t be so desperate!

Unrequited feelings are messy.  We’ve all been there.  But the answer is not deciding that you’re pathetic for having unrequited feelings.  The answer is realising that we’ve all been there, and that it is possible to get past those feelings and move on with your life.  The answer is going “Well, if you don’t like me, that’s your loss.” and not letting it smash your self-esteem even further.  It’s not hating yourself for those feelings.

The next thing that brings me to is the idea of women who limit their dating to fat-friendly sites or people who prefer fat women.  Let’s just note the inherent racism in the way Ms Santos-Longhurst has framed it too – she hasn’t named any particular race but most of us already know that very racist stereotype.  Some fat women do indeed stick to fat-friendly dating environments.  And that is perfectly acceptable.  There is nothing wrong with choosing to involve yourself in community and environments that accept you and understand you and are tailored for you.  I’m not saying that those environments aren’t fraught with issues, but let’s face it, who hasn’t been objectified or fetishised while walking down the street, or on some non-fat-focused website?   I also find it deeply problematic that she seems to exclude these environments from what she calls “dating the regular way”.  What is dating the regular way?  He comes over and is interrogated by your father first?  Writes in your dance card?  Takes you to for coffee the first date, dinner the second date, movies the third?  The assumption that there actually is some “regular” way to date in 2014 is pretty crappy.  People meet one another and date all kinds of different ways.  Sometimes they meet at work, or through friends, or on a dating site, through a kink club, or sometimes they fuck outside a nightclub and then realise that they’re meant for each other.  All of them are valid ways to date.  There is no “regular” way that is more acceptable than any other.

Which brings me to the thing that REALLY made me go “Oh hell no!”  Yes, that big old stinking pile of slut shaming there on point two.  That silly fat girl who is an “easy lay” – the dirty slut!  Here’s the thing folks.  Fuck any consenting adult you want to fuck, as many times as you want to fuck them.  Whether you think they’re the love of your life, or you just want to come and a cuddle.  Fuck a bunch of consenting adults if you want to.  So long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, fuck away to your heart’s content.  That doesn’t make you an “easy lay” and there’s nothing at all wrong with having a whole bunch of sex if that’s what you want to do.  There’s nothing wrong with having NO sex if that’s what you want.  There’s nothing wrong with having a bit of sex if that works for you too.  Darlings, you get to decide that.  Anyone who shames you for your sexuality when it is between consenting adults is a jerk.

Again, I get the underlying thing Ms Santos-Longhurst is getting at is about confidence and self-esteem, but unfortunately the way she is going about it is damaging to a whole lot of people’s confidence and self-esteem.  Instead of telling “fat chicks” that “you’re doing it wrong and it’s all your fault”, I believe the way to build women’s confidence is to point out just how valid their feelings are, to establish that we are the ones who have final say over our own lives and our own bodies, and the biggie – show them that other people’s shitty behaviour is not their fault.

If you’re a fat chick, and are finding the whole dating thing awkward and painful and embarrassing… guess what?  That’s normal!  Dating and relationships are weird and awkward and sometimes painful for everybody.  They’re also wonderful and rewarding and delicious sometimes too.  But they’re not perfect.  They’re work.  The fairytale is just that… a fairytale.

But here’s to all the fat chicks who live their lives like fat chicks.  Don’t let anyone shame you for being a fat chick.

It Sucks to be a Fat Woman

Published May 17, 2014 by sleepydumpling

I don’t know if you’ve all seen this snippet from the TV show Louie, but it has done the rounds of the fatosphere quite a bit over the past few days.  Just in case you haven’t seen it, or want to refresh your memory, here it is again.

I’m not a watcher of Louie, and I have mixed feelings about Louis CK, and his show as a vehicle for social politics, but I want to move away from that aspect just now.  That’s a conversation for another time.

This clip has garnered a lot of criticism within fat activism circles.  Some of it is valid criticism, some of it I disagree with because I think it is viewed through a lens of privilege and internalised misogyny as well.  I’m going to do more than one post about it, so please hang in there ok, and we’ll hit the issues up one by one.

But for me, well, I connected with it very deeply.  Not only because Sarah Baker gives one hell of a performance, but because she voices a lot of things I feel and think.  I have a lot of thoughts on being a fat woman and dating, but I think those are for another time.  I will actually have a post on that coming up soon.

What I want us all to focus on here is the statement that seems to have got the most criticism.  “It sucks being a fat girl.”

So many people have complained about this, saying that it doesn’t suck to be a fat girl and that her saying it sends a “bad message” to the rest of the world, that it’s “so negative, we can’t see it as a win.”

Well I’m going to be the one to say it as a real life fat woman.

It sucks to be a fat woman.

It really does.  But not because of physically being fat.  It doesn’t suck having a fat body, that doesn’t bother me in the slightest.  It sucks to be a fat woman in a world that treats us as second-class citizens.

It sucks to be treated with contempt, derision, ridicule and outright hatred.

It sucks to have a lot of men act like their dick is going to fall off if they are seen with you in public.

It sucks to be sneered and tutted at on public transport as though you don’t have the right to be there.

It sucks to go to the doctor for a cold or a sore toe and be lectured on your weight instead of being given treatment.

It sucks that retailers who know they could make very good money off you refuse to stock reasonable quality, fashionable clothing at a reasonable price because they don’t want to lose their thin customers who wouldn’t be seen dead in the same outfit as a fat woman.

It sucks to have random men scream abuse at you in the street.

It sucks to get hate mail and trolling because you dare to be a visible fat woman.

It sucks that furniture often isn’t made to include your body.

It sucks that you can’t turn on the television or open a magazine without being shamed for your body.

It sucks that strangers take your photo in public without your consent.

It sucks to be a fat woman.

I find the whole idea that we must be positive at all times, and only represent the good things about being fat at all times really damaging.  It’s not helping anyone to expect that fat women are always depicted as everything being perfect and rosy.  Or that we’re 100% arse kicking, take no prisoners, school every nasty dude that crosses our path at every moment of our lives.  Not only does it provide a false sense of “Everything’s fine!” to not fat people, but it doesn’t help we fatties.  It doesn’t help we fatties to think that so long as you’ve got good self esteem and don’t hate your body, suddenly the world gets all sunshine and roses.  It doesn’t.  People told me back in my self hating days that when I learned to build my self esteem and be confident, people wouldn’t be as horrible to me as they were when I hated myself.  That’s a blatant lie.  It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t get better.

What does change when you find self esteem and confidence is YOU.  You get better.  Not better as a person – you were already perfectly fine even before you found self esteem and confidence.  But better at dealing with the crap.  Better at valuing yourself.  Better at realising that other people’s crappy behaviour is no reflection on you.  Better at self care to deal with other people’s horrible attitudes.  Better at advocating for yourself.  Better at saying no.  Better at shrugging off the haters and living your life anyway.

I also don’t want us to have to deny any vulnerability.  You know what, people are shitty to and about fat people, and it’s hurtful and bloody stressful!  We’re dealing with a constant level of stress that thin people generally don’t have to think about.  Will I physically fit in that furniture?  Will people be rude to me for taking up too much space?  Is the doctor going to take me give me treatment or are they just going to prescribe a diet?  Can I take a walk without someone mooing at me and calling me a fat bitch?  Will I be able to find a suitable outfit in my size for a job interview?

But most importantly, the answer to “Being a fat woman sucks.” is not “Well become a thin woman then.”  Firstly because there is no proven way to do that and secondly because our bodies are not the problem – our culture is.

Note: Please keep to topic in the comments and any “But thin people have it hard too!” denial of privilege will be sent to the spam bin and banned from commenting permanently.

Strengthening Self Esteem

Published February 4, 2014 by sleepydumpling

After a recent conversation, I’ve been mulling the concepts of confidence and self-esteem over in my head.   One of the constant criticisms women get when we talk about having confidence or good self-esteem is that we’re vain, we have tickets on ourselves, we’re narcissistic or arrogant.  Since I’m thinking more about how we feel about ourselves, our bodies and our worth, I’m going to stick to just using the term self-esteem for now, but confidence is something that comes as part of good self-esteem.

For example, recently I had a day where I was feeling really great.  I had an outfit on I loved, my hair was doing what I wanted it to do (and has been really soft lately), and I just felt awesome.  I said something about feeling really cute today.  Well, the open hostility and ridicule that I got in response from acquaintances was a bit of a shock to the system.  One woman rolled her eyes.  Another spat under her breath “Talk about tickets on yourself!”  Once I would have got upset at their negative reactions and let it ruin my day, but I just responded in a cheeky tone that my cuteness was completely wasted on them, they don’t appreciate how adorable I am.  It didn’t go down well, but it made me feel better.  It wasn’t about other people judging me as cute, it was about me FEELING cute.  However a little later a business acquaintance popped in to visit and he mentioned that he thought I was “looking particularly sunshiney today” – so my feeling cute was clearly showing in my demeanor.

Part of that is sheer sexism, women aren’t allowed to feel positive about ourselves – our culture is designed to keep us in our place by making us feel insecure, unworthy and doubting ourselves.  But I think part of it is misunderstanding about what good self-esteem actually is.  I think a lot of people see it as some kind of black and white territory, where people either have good self-esteem, or they have bad self-esteem.  I also think that people see good self-esteem as someone feeling perfect, or invincible.

Which is not really what I believe it’s about.

Self-esteem is about seeing your own value.  Good self-esteem isn’t about believing you are perfect, that you never make mistakes or don’t have flaws, or that you are invincible.  Good self-esteem doesn’t mean that you are never vulnerable, or unhappy, or feel bad about yourself.

I think so often when we think about good self-esteem in ourselves, we see it as this massive mountain that we have to climb, and once we’ve reached the top, then we’re there and we never have negative self thoughts ever again.  Which makes good self-esteem seem totally unattainable to so many of us.  We can’t see ourselves ever feeling perfect or invincible, which is a completely normal and healthy way to think, so we think that we can never have good self-esteem.

Good self-esteem not a mountain to climb.  It’s a road we travel.  With twists and turns and bumps and dips.  Sometimes we run out of fuel and have to top up the tank.  Sometimes we’re running like a dream and travelling smoothly.  Sometimes we get a bit out of control and crash.  But if we learn to value and take care of the vehicle (ourselves – physically, mentally, emotionally) and navigate with attention and care, then we mitigate the risks on the road.

The other thing I think holds us back from good self-esteem is the rhetoric around “loving” yourself.  While I think it’s a good thing for people to learn to love themselves, not everyone can do it nor should they be expected to do it.  When you’ve been taught your whole life that your fat body makes you dirty, diseased, faulty, disgusting, it’s not just a matter of deciding to love yourself and wahey-hey, off you go, everything fixed.  Particularly when those messages are constantly re-enforced every single day, every single time you engage with any form of media, and often, by the people in your life.

What has worked better for me, has been learning to value myself for who I am, flaws and all.  There are things I do love about myself, but other things I’m not ready or able to love yet.  Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t.  But learning to value myself and see my worth in general has been instrumental in improving my self-esteem.  Mostly it’s about learning to cut yourself some slack.  Not one of us can be Wonder Woman or Superman.  We are always going to make mistakes, or the wrong decision or get hurt.  That doesn’t diminish our value – in fact I think it increases it, because despite our human frailty we still contribute so much to the world around us.

It doesn’t matter what area of life you look at, if we are constantly expecting ourselves to be the absolute pinnacle of human possibility at all times, with no failure, no mistakes, no vulnerability, then of course we’re doomed to fail.  Why do we expect ourselves to be the next Bill Gates in the workplace, the next Mother Theresa in volunteer work, the next Beyoncé in well… everything… and so on, when only those people can be those people.  The only person we need to be is ourselves.

That doesn’t mean we don’t strive to do bigger and better things, and be a better person.  It just means that in the process, we cut ourselves some slack and realise that life takes practice, and that there are always going to be times when things don’t go the way we want them to.  There will be times that we will be hurt, worried, nervous.  Confidence is not about being fearless and invincible, it’s about telling yourself “Ok, I can have a go at this, and give it my best shot.”  It’s about dealing with our mistakes and continuing on with the business of life.

Striving to do better and be better is good for you.  But writing yourself off as worthless because you don’t reach the absolute pinnacle, or measuring your success against other people is going to do you more harm than good.

Another important thing to remember is that other people don’t get to measure your worth, or your success.  You do.  It’s nice to have our worth and success recognised, but that’s like the icing on the cake.  Not to mention that we don’t all measure worth and success the same way.  Only a complete jerk would expect their values and standards to apply to everyone.  We see that one a lot in appearance – ie my aforementioned tale of finding myself cute.  A lot of people believe that if they don’t find someone attractive, no-one else will, nor have they ever.  Which is a load of bollocks – everyone’s taste and values are different.  What I find attractive in a person is not universal to everyone.  Imagine how boring it would be if everyone found the same type of person attractive?  I can’t think of anything worse than if every woman on the planet was attracted to tall skinny white boys like I am!   Though I think an awful lot of us are attracted to Tom Hiddleston (you knew I had to work him in there somewhere!)

What I guess I’m trying to get at in a long and winding way, is that good self-esteem isn’t about being flawless, it’s about valuing who you are, flaws and all.

Because you are a worthy human being.  YOU are.

How to… Lose the Body Judgement

Published April 11, 2013 by sleepydumpling

I don’t know if you have seen it yet, but Bethany over at My Arched Eyebrow has written an excellent piece on the amount of body snark, judgement and fashion/wardrobe policing that goes on in the comment threads of plus-size clothing Facebook pages.

I’m sure you’ve seen it yourself, all those comments about what fat women “should” and “should not” wear, exclamations over garments not being “flattering” and that “fatties don’t want to expose their [insert body part here]“. Not to mention whenever there is a non-model shot (either a customer photo or a staff member usually), all this judgement comes out of so many commenters about their bodies, or what bits of their bodies aren’t “flattered” enough. Yet the same commenters usually whinge and complain whenever model shots ARE posted that they want to see the clothes on “real women”. Gah!

I was thinking a lot about the self hatred that so many women project on to others on these comment threads, either individually or fat women in general, and what really strikes me is that we’re never actually taught how to NOT judge people. From the minute we are born, we are taught how to judge others. Our parents and family, the media, school, our friends… everywhere we look from our earliest connections with the outside world, we’re conditioned to make judgements about people.

Sometimes judgement is useful. Sometimes it’s your subconscious giving you useful messages about situations – telling you when you are safe or not, letting you know whether someone is familiar to you or not, or generally just helping you communicate in the world, after all, up to 60% of communications are non-verbal. But when it is negative and based on arbitrary measures like someone’s body shape or size, it is actually of no use to you and is usually just deeply ingrained cultural conditioning, rather than actual learnt information.

One of the most liberating things I have ever learned is to undo that cultural conditioning and let go of judging people based on their appearance (among other things). Walking around the world without that mist of negative judgement on people’s appearances has meant that I’m not carrying that negative judgement on myself. It has also meant that I can approach life unfettered by all of that useless negativity and focus on the things that really matter, like how people behave, how they treat me and who they actually are. And in no way has it left me open or vulnerable to harm – it is something that is really unnecessary and has no real benefit to us.

It’s not easy. Every where we turn someone is telling us, particularly we fat women, what we should do, what we should wear, how we should eat, what to do with our bodies. So generally we naturally reflect that on to the world around us. It takes a definite, conscious disconnect at the beginning to undo the bombardment of messages we are hearing, to learn to filter out the garbage and focus on what is actually of use to us.

I have a few exercises I do when I find myself getting judgey in my head and I’d like to offer them up here for all of you to try and work on.

  • Start by setting yourself a goal. Tell yourself you are going to try to go one month without judging anyone negatively by their appearance. If you don’t think you can do a month, try a week. If you can’t do that, try a day. If even that is a stretch, try the time you walk to work or are in a shop or any measure that you think you can work with. When you master that timeframe, expand it.
  • Consciously try to find one positive thing about every single person you encounter’s outfit. Maybe they are wearing cute shoes. Or you like their earrings. Or the way they’ve styled their hair. Pick any one thing that is NOT part of their body, it only works if it is part of their outfit, and acknowledge it to yourself.
  • When you’ve mastered that, pay them a compliment. Remember, you’re not to comment on their body, it has to be something they are wearing. And keep the compliment simple. Smile and say “I like your earrings.” or “Cute shoes!” Try doing this for more and more people throughout the day. Start with people you are comfortable with – friends, family, colleagues. Expand upon the number of people you compliment every day. Try it with staff in shops, or the waiter in a restaurant, someone in the lift (elevator). As often as possible, pay people compliments on things they are wearing.
  • By this stage, you’re probably noticing things you like about people’s outfits more and more often. The more time you consciously spend doing this, the less time you spend passing negative judgement.
  • Something else starts to happen when you do this… the people you are regularly around start to return the compliments. Usually they don’t know they’re even doing it, they just tend to reciprocate. I’ve actually discovered that I’ve unconsciously trained a huge chunk of people in my workplace to notice positive things about each other. I’ve got people whose only interaction with me is that we bump in to each other in the lift complimenting me now before I get to them. People who I would never have interacted with before now smile and say hello, and we usually trade compliments!
  • You can even practice on the photos on plus-size clothing Facebook pages! Look at each photo and find something you like about the outfit. Even if it is just the colour, or the hemline, or the accessories the person is wearing.  Leave a comment saying so.  Remember, no body judgement!
  • Important caveat though – you don’t have to compliment anyone who is rude to you, who you don’t like or you can’t find anything you like about them. It’s good to try, even just in your own head, but it’s not going to ruin the experiment if you just let those people go.
  • If you do find yourself thinking “They shouldn’t be wearing that.” or something along those lines, ask yourself why. Is it hurting anyone? I mean REALLY hurting anyone, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it is “offending” you because you don’t like it. Ask yourself if anything is taken away from you by someone wearing something you don’t like, or in a way you wouldn’t wear.
  • When you are next out shopping for yourself, and you see something that you like but you’ve always considered it something that you “couldn’t” or “shouldn’t” wear, go try it on anyway. Grab a couple of things that you would wear and mix and match it in the fitting rooms. If you decide that you really don’t like it, put it back. But give it a try.
  • Wear one thing a week in a different way to how you would usually wear it. Wear a top tucked in or with a knot in it. Wear that sleeveless top/dress without a wrap or cardie (you can take one with you if you are really worried). Pull the waist of a skirt up higher (under a top) to make it shorter. If you can’t bring yourself to be in public, at least practice at home.
  • If you genuinely don’t like something on a plus-size retailer’s FB page (or similar), then say so, but try doing it without placing judgement on what other people “should” wear or on bodies.  State what you don’t like about it, acknowledge that others might like it, and tell them clearly what you would prefer.  Eg: “I really don’t like waterfall cardigans at all, even if they are popular.  It would be great to see you have a line of plain block colour cardigans with round necklines and elbow length sleeves.”  See… no commentary on anyone’s body, and constructive criticism.  Easy!

I would like to offer you all up the challenge to try the things above and see how you go. Even if you’re well seasoned at avoiding being judgemental about people’s appearances, you can still have a go. It can’t hurt and I find it makes me feel good. Not just about myself but about the people around me. Once you notice the changes that it brings, challenge other people to do it. Don’t allow people to spread their negative judgement on appearance around you.

Have a go… you may just find you like it.

We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

Published November 28, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Looking out my window this evening there is no mistake that summer is here.  There is a storm brewing, it’s hot and it’s sticky.  I’m sitting here in a camisole top and a sarong, the fan blowing on me and my balcony door open to get the evening sea breezes until the storm hits and I have to run around and shut everything to keep the rain out.

It has now been about 5 years since I first started hearing about this thing called “fat acceptance” (my first foray into fat activism of any kind), and started entertaining the notion that I wasn’t worthless because there was more of me than there is of many other people.  In those years, my life has radically changed.  I’m a different person than I was 5 years ago.  I no longer put my life on hold, waiting to do things “when I lose weight”.  I no longer apologise for being the size I am.  I no longer allow people to treat me as sub-human because of my fat.  And I no longer hide myself away behind baggy, shapeless, dark clothing because others suggest it is “flattering”.

I realised the other morning as I was getting dressed for work, the me of 2012 really resents having to wear sleeves and cover my body in this hot weather.  That astonished me.  Was it really only a couple of years ago that I would never have dreamed of being seen without my arms covered?  There was once a time, that even in the hottest of summers, I would not leave the house without my arms covered past the elbow, my legs covered past the knees and a full face of makeup.  Now I often roll out of bed, shower, throw on a sun-dress and sandals and I’m out the door.  If I’m working and I have to have my arm tattoo covered, I find tops with the barest minimum length to cover the bits I need to, and then leave the rest free.  On the weekends I will chuck on a cami or tank top, a pair of shorts (sometimes plain shorts, sometimes bike-pants) and go for a walk along the waterfront with the sea air blowing on my skin.

As the weather heats up, I’m currently looking for a new swim suit, preferably a tankini or halter neck top with boy-leg shorts (so they don’t creep up my bum!) to go swimming at my local pool in.  No more wearing a huge t-shirt over the top to cover my body, no more dropping the sarong off my bottom half at the side of the pool and slipping quickly into the water.  Where my arms and legs were once pale white and untouched by sun, never seen by anyone, they are now gently ripening to brown and are adorned with magnificent ink.

I only wear makeup now when I want to dress up a bit, or have fun with some colour.  I no longer feel that I have to have a “face” on to be acceptable to be seen.  I once wore glasses that were plain and unobtrusive, now they are bold and make a statement.  Where I once wore my hair long, thick and heavy because I was told it was flattering to my round face, slowly cooking my own head under it’s weight, I now crop it uber-short with clippers, cool and light, and dye it bright hues as it grows back to a short back & sides.

Once I would hunt the sparse racks of plus-size clothes looking for black, navy, burgundy and forest green, now I am drawn to red, turquoise, magenta, mint, peach and cobalt.  From plain dark colours of my past wardrobe to the now busy prints, bold patterns and clashing colours.  I embellish them with big, fabulous accessories, shiny, colourful and jangly.  I like accessories that move and make noise, they stimulate my senses.  I look for shapes that skim my body, not blouse over it like I’m trying to hide it.  Where my legs once were always covered in plain pants, they now are bare under skirts and dresses.  When I did wear skirts before they were always with heavy black tights to hide my legs.  Now they are bare, or if it’s cold enough to need cover, have bright tights and leggings that draw attention to the shape of my legs.

In the past I walked with my head bowed, looking at my own feet, avoiding eye contact with anyone, trying to disappear.  Now I walk with my head held high, my shoulders back, surveying the world around me, smiling at the things that make me happy, meeting the eye of anyone who dares stare at me.  I would never, ever eat in public, always uncomfortable in restaurants or cafes, preferring to drink vast quantities of alcohol instead of being seen eating.  Now I don’t touch alcohol at all (I figure I drank all my share at once) and I love to dine out, to socialise with friends over brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee and cake.  I enjoy the food that I eat, and eat what I want, stopping when I’ve had enough, even if there is still food on my plate.  I know the foods that make me feel good, and those that make me feel cruddy.  I refuse to allow anyone to shame me for my food choices.

When I am home alone, I am comfortable with my naked body.  My new flat has a large mirror level with the plain glass shower stall.  The past me would never have been able to shower in this bathroom without covering the mirror, lest I catch a glimpse of my large, round, naked body.  Now I see it and value it, for being strong and capable, and for carrying me through my life.  I admire the roundness, the curves and bumps, the thickness and the marks of my life – stretchmarks, scars, moles and freckles, adorned with the ink that documents my life.  I am not bothered by the hairy bits or the saggy bits.  They are part of the road map of my life, signs of my maturing body.  Nor am I bothered by my natural hair, greying at the temples.  I feel no need to cover it as I grow it back ready to colour it something bright and fun.

This is the first phase of fat liberation for me.  I am free, I have been liberated from the prison I lived in for the first 35 years of my life.  A prison that I was both forced into, yet for many years was too afraid to leave.  My choices are mine.  My body is mine.  My life is mine.  I may never see fat bodies truly valued and celebrated by society in my lifetime, but my body is valued and celebrated by me.

I wish that for each and every one of you.

Dear You, Volume 3

Published March 11, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Dear You,

Yes, you.  I know you’re reading all of this fat positive stuff, all this self esteem stuff and the general concept seems really wise and kind.  It makes sense to you on the surface, after all, generally speaking, that’s how you approach the world right?  You see everyone has value and is important in the world, and you don’t care about the size or shape of people in the world around you.  What matters is their mind, their heart.  How they treat people and how they behave right?

The problem is, I think you’re struggling with feeling that way about yourself.  You feel the need to be perfect, to be beautiful, to be confident and awesome and amazing right?  But you just don’t feel that way.  You’re feeling things like scared, lonely, unworthy, stupid, ugly, not good enough.  You just can’t seem to get those old recordings in your head to stop playing, all the times that you’ve screwed up, or someone has told you you’re not good enough, or that they think you’re ugly, stupid, worthless.  No matter how much you “get” self esteem on paper, you just can’t seem to grow your own.

Am I right?

Let me tell you a little secret.  All those confident people you see around you that you admire but think you could never be like them?  You are already like them.  Not only because you are taking that step out into the great world of self acceptance and positive self esteem (which is awesome!) but because they feel just the same way as you do.    They feel scared, they feel like screw ups, they feel like imposters, they feel ugly, stupid, not good enough.  The difference is, they know that those feelings are normal to have, and that they’re not always accurate depictions of themselves.  They acknowledge those feelings first, and then they examine why they are feeling them.  They realise they’re usually because of stress, because of carrying around other people’s behaviour and attitudes, because of tiredness, because of worry.  Sometimes they’re chemical – lots of us suffer depression and anxiety.

There are lots of things that you can do to help work through these feelings of inadequacy.  Surround yourself with positive people who value you for who you are in your heart and mind.  Engage in self care – be it a good night’s sleep, a swim or some yoga, a night out with friends, or a long hot bath.  Whatever it is that makes you feel good.  Fill your life with the things that inflate you, not those that crush you down.  Throw away those magazines.  Stop watching TV shows and movies that engage in fat hate or criticism of women over their appearance.  Don’t give media that engages in bullying your time and attention.  There are plenty of other fantastic things out there you can read, watch and do that build you up, rather than tear you down.

But most of all, you need to know this: You don’t need to be perfect.  Or beautiful.  Or pretty.  Or even confident.  You are valuable right now, as you are, with all your flaws and imperfections.  Because we ALL have flaws and imperfections.  Every single one of us.  Perfection isn’t compulsory, nor is it possible.

Start to see yourself as other people see you.  When they tell you they love you, for whatever reason they love you, there is your evidence of your value. Turn off those old recordings from the past.  They are just that – the past.  They no longer matter.  What matters is who you are here and now.  Learn from and fix those mistakes as best you can, and value who you are now.  It’s never too late – whether you are 16 or 96.

Something starts to happen when you do this.  It takes a long time, but you start to see those qualities in yourself.  You may not recognise it when it starts to happen, but you will feel it.  You’ll feel brighter and lighter.  You start to see yourself as the amazing human being that you are.

And you are an amazing human being.  I can see it already.

Lots of Love

Kath

Thoughts on Being “Othered”.

Published February 28, 2012 by sleepydumpling

A few days ago I was writing an email to a friend of mine about fat, fashion and marginalisation, and while I was doing so, quite a few things kind of went “Ping!” in my head, and I realised I wanted to expand upon the subject in a general sense here on my blog.  We were talking about how many fat women feel about clothing and fashion, and the desperation so many of us feel when trying to find clothes that fit us, suit our lives, we like, make us feel good, and that are fashionable.

Those of us who engage in fatshion, the act of dressing/styling ourselves with pride and personal expression as fat women are outside of the acceptable cultural meme for fat women.  Fat women are expected to constantly be expressing their shame at having a fat body and doing everything they can to hide those fat bodies.  Regardless of whether or not that suits our lives, our needs or our personalities.

That’s the thing with inhabiting a fat body.  People see you as just that – a fat body.  They don’t attribute anything else to you, like a career or family, hobbies or convictions, let alone sense of humour, or intellect, or talent, or kindness and caring, or passion, or dedication… the list goes on.  The world sees you as FAT.  It’s the first thing people use to describe you, even if you have other more noticeable traits.  In my own personal case, my fat even trumps my candy coloured hair and tattoos as the most noticeable thing about me.  People notice that I am fat, before they notice a single other thing about me.

But of course, if you identify as fat and actually own this quality about yourself that the world constantly reminds you of, then the vitriol intensifies.  How DARE any woman not be ashamed of being fat.  She must be reminded that she is of lesser value, she must be brought down to the level that she belongs.

Clothing, indeed fashion, is one of the ways that society does that.  By restricting the options to fat women, it is another reminder that we are other.  That we don’t deserve the same things as “normal” people.  It serves to make us look even more different to general society, and then of course it is very effective in making us FEEL different to general society.

Having access to clothes that are fashionable and on a par with general society is both empowering and deeply emotional.  Because it takes away that demarcation of being socially other, and brings fat women to a point of being able to not just dress like, but BE peers to others in society.

I’m old enough to span a few decades of awareness of clothing and fashion.  I remember what it was like in the 80’s to try to find clothes to fit my fat body.  It was agonising.  So as a consequence, I spent most of my teens through to my early 30’s hiding.  Hiding in black, navy, burgundy.  Hiding in shapeless boxes.  No personal expression, no style, no fashion.  I never got to engage in fashion as a social event, so I was distanced from other girls/young women.  Therefore I never felt I could be friends with girls/women – and consequently only had male friends until my 30’s.  Of course, I didn’t know back then that this was institutionalised misogyny – teaching me that if I couldn’t “compete” with my peers, I couldn’t participate with them.

See how this shit works to push fat women further and further down the cultural hierarchy?

Then it came to work, and I couldn’t find clothes that matched those that my professional peers were wearing.  Instead, more shapeless, sloppy, dark sacks – which in turn made others (and myself) believe that I was less capable, less committed, less able than my thin peers.  After all, if you can’t dress yourself confidently, surely you can’t do anything else confidently right?

It just keeps going on and on and on.

I’ve also been the fattest person at the lunch table while everyone else talks about how disgusting their own, much thinner bodies are.  That’s always a special feeling.  I’ve been the one that the person with the fucked up food obsession uses for thinspiration.  I can’t tell you how it feels to have someone in a position of power use you as their metaphorical piggy-on-the-refrigerator, stalking your every move around food… and because they’re in a position of power, you can’t say “Fuck off.” or if you say anything to anyone else you get told you’re imagining it or over-sensitive.

I understand.  I know how it feels.  I live it every day of my damn life.

My only way of coping is to take it on and try to change the world.  I did 35 years of trying to change me to fit the world, and it didn’t work – it almost killed me.  Now I intend to devote the rest of my life to changing the world to fit everyone.  After all, the world is a big diverse place, there is room in it for all of us, no matter who we are, what we look like or what our lives are.  And we fat people have as much right to it as anyone else.

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