Corpulent

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Breaking Open the Beauty Paradigm

Published March 31, 2011 by sleepydumpling

The only way I can describe the feeling I have had this week after publishing this post in response to Leslie Cannold’s piece suggesting that Fat Acceptance activists (or “fativists”, as Ms Cannold decided to label us) were being too harsh on Mia Freedman for her repeated offenses of fat stigmatisation, is overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed at just how many of you the post touched a chord with.  Overwhelmed at just how widely that post was linked and tweeted and shared.  And overwhelmed at the amount of frustration I felt, pouring out of me when I not only wrote that piece, but also on reading so many of your comments and feedback.   Thank you.

But I’m not done with that article.  I want to address something else Ms Cannold said.  Let’s repeat it here:

It is good that those objecting to our culture’s equation of thin and beautiful also question why older, non-white, gay and disabled folk are excluded from the beauty standard. But the sincerity of such interrogation is undercut by fat acceptance articles illustrated with photos of heavily made-up obese women posing like models. Such illustrations don’t seem to say ”no way”, but express the less radical sentiment of ”me too”.

Hmm, this really sits unpleasantly with me, no matter how long I try to digest it.  Firstly, because I have a problem with the phrase “heavily made-up obese women posing like models”.  To me it smacks of slut-shaming, and in particular fat slut-shaming.  It has undertones of “how dare obese women gussy themselves up like tarts”.  Ms Cannold may not have intended for it to sound like that, but alas, to me, that’s just how it sounds.  It also rings a little of “look at those pathetic fatties, trying to make themselves beautiful”.

But what I really want to address as a follow up post to my last, is the notion that by engaging in fashion, make-up and modelling, fat activists are somehow negating our challenge of the beauty ideal.

Au contraire Ms Cannold.  In fact, we are turning the beauty ideal on it’s head.  The beauty ideal says that you must be thin, young, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered and usually affluent, among other things, to be beautiful.  That should you wish to engage in dressing up, fashion and make-up, to represent your look in a particular way, you need to fit this ideal. Yet here we are, fat and accepting of that fact, still engaging in these activities.  With no attempt at hiding our fatness with clothing, accessories and make-up that flatters, disguises or distracts, the statement is “I am here, I wish to be seen, and I am proud of who I am.”

Being visible as a fat woman is one of the most radical acts of fat acceptance I can think of.  It is accepting myself as a fat woman, and it forces others to accept me as I am.  Suddenly I am visible, like it or lump it.   And I have experienced that first hand, after 20-odd years of trying to make myself invisible, or blend into one group or another, to be just rocking whatever makes me happy, particularly if it involves make-up, costumery or anything that others would consider outlandish, as well as allowing myself to be photographed at all, let alone posing is possibly the most radical thing I have ever done.  It draws me the most accolades and the most criticism, far more than anything else I do.  Indeed, how I look seems to be far more important to many people than anything else about me.

Ms Cannold seems to imply that women in particular, only engage in fashion, make-up and being photographed in the quest to become the beauty ideal.  But what we really are on a quest to do is change the beauty ideal.  That doesn’t mean we have to all give up shaving our legs, wearing-make up and don bland, practical clothing.  What it does mean is that we create our own beauty, in all the diversity that we are.

But you don’t need to just take my word for it.  I decided to throw out a request to fatshionistas to define what participating in fatshion (which is fashion – clothing, make-up and accessories, as well as posing for photographs as fat women) means to them.

First we have Nicola, from 2 Many Cupcakes:

 

Nicola says: I am proud of the way I look and the things that I wear. I am not blogging to make myself thin and beautiful. I don’t need too. I don’t want to be thin and I already am beautiful. I enjoy clothing. I enjoy accessories. I enjoy chronicling my outfits because I think I have a good sense of fashion.

What is wrong with ‘obese women posing like models?’ The Oxford dictionary defines model as  “a person employed to pose for an artist, photographer, or sculptor.” Nowhere in that definition does it refer to a model needing to be a certain age, figure, race or sexuality. I am a fat woman modelling for my blog because it’s my hobby and I enjoy it. I will wear what I want and pose how I want for my blog.

 

 

And then we have Anna from Bargain Fatshionista:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anna says: For me, as a fat woman, fashion means rebellion. It’s telling every person who has ever told me that I should lose some weight to screw off. It means being happy where I am now and not caring what others think. It means acceptance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is Frances from Corpulent:

Frances says: I’m not a fashionable person. I don’t know much about designers, I don’t follow trends and I will never ever wear stilettos. That said, I do think fashion is important and can be quite political. The way we present ourselves through our clothes/accessories/hairstyles tells the world a story about us before we even open our mouths. The limited options available to fat people mean that the messages we are able to send with our fashion are, in a way, censored. By refusing to cater to us, fashion labels are controlling the way we can present ourselves. (The idea that all fat women are sexless and sloppy is that much easier to perpetuate when the clothes available are sexless and sloppy.) To send an accurate message of ourselves, fat people must try harder; we have to be adventurous, resourceful and inventive.

Though I am not a fashionable person, I do have style that’s all my own. Posting photos of my outfits, and looking at the outfits posted by others, has not only solidified my sense of style but my sense of self. My clothes make me feel more me than I ever have. Through fatshion, I am not proving my style credentials to others, but building up my own sense of value.

 

And from Bloomie, who blogs at 30 Dresses in 30 Days:

Bloomie says: Sometimes I get on the subway in the morning, look around at everyone on the train and think about how in a sea of black, I am the fat woman wearing multiple fluorescent colors and a faux fur jacket.  And then I laugh to myself and think about how far I’ve come from the days when I didn’t even know where to buy jeans that fit me.

To me fatshion is about loving my body and dressing it up and showing it off to the world.  It’s about expressing who I am through my clothing and it’s about taking risks and being unashamed and unembarrassed in my body.  It’s about challenging stereotypes of how I’m expected to dress or look or behave because of my size.  It’s about upending stereotypes.  It’s about strutting myself, highlighting my beautifully enormous ass and making people stop, turn and stare when I pass them on the street.

 

On to Sonya from Australian Fatshion:

 

 

 

 

 

Sonya says: Before discovering fatshion, there is no way I would have worn white or allowed a side-on photograph of my body to exist. I think increasing visibility of the fat body by taking outfit pictures will help to normalise those bodies and maybe make people question their prejudices and beliefs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is Georgina from Cupcake’s Clothes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgina says: Fatshion for me means being able to embrace fashion without worrying about size.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as Jessica from Tangled Up In Lace:

 

 

 

 

 

Jessica says: Blogging about fatshion is one of my many tools in the fight for body acceptance because beyond the visibility aspects, it gives me a chance to help other fat bodies get inspired to decorate and proudly present themselves to a society that tells them otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nor is fatshion restricted to women.  For example, Bruce from Chubstr:

Bruce says: I feel like fatshion and fashion are the same thing. The goal of Chubstr is to show big guys that they can wear the things they love and that they aren’t any different from their thinner counterparts. We spend a lot of time thinking that we don’t have options when that’s not really the case, and I want to do my best to show men of all sizes that it’s okay to be stylish no matter what your size.

 

 

These are just some of the examples of fatshion bloggers, a handful of fabulous fatshion folk who volunteered to share their definitions and pictures here to illustrate what engaging in fashion as a fat person embodies.  Over and over the message is repeated that engaging in fashion as a fat person means challenging the status quo, being both accepting and proud of oneself as a fat person, and being visible as a fat person, rather than conforming to the beauty ideal.

Fat fashion, fat visibility, fat acceptance smashes the beauty ideal doors down and invites everyone to participate, no matter who they are, even if they are not fat.  It is the veritable open house of fashion, appearance and style.  As the great Cole Porter once wrote:

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
Anything Goes.

So… We Just “Sit”?

Published February 11, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Yeah I know, I shouldn’t bite.  But I did.  On Facebook of all places.  I jumped on into the debate about “Obesity in Australia” set up by the Triple J Hack programme.  Frances from Corpulent/Hey Fat Chick and Dr Samantha Thomas (love you two!) were both on the radio programme yesterday afternoon (did an amazing job, go listen) talking about the stigmatisation of fat people.

So I won’t go into all the deets about the discussion, it’s mostly the same “But what about your health!!??” malarkey that we always get.  However, I do want to talk about a repeat message or sterotype that I kept seeing from those who were vehemently anti-fat.

That repeat message?  That fat people just sit around all day eating.

It seems that is the exact image that many people have of fat people.  We just sit around all the time, doing nothing but eating, and usually eating something laden with sugar or fat.  There is also an assumption that fat people have never ever heard of dieting, have no knowledge of nutrition, and don’t know anything about exercising.

It’s not just in this particular case either.  I see it come up over and over and over.  It came up during the John Birmingham thing.  I was reading an article on ABC the Drum some months back about “obesity stigma” and a commenter said “I feel sorry for fat people, their lives must be so boring, all they do is just SIT.”

Where on earth to these people get these ideas about fat people?  Well, television and movies mostly.  The fat character is almost always portrayed as some lonely fatty, at home shoving food in their face.  Then there’s the headless fatty footage of fatties sitting on park benches or in fast food joints.  The print media sell that image too.

I don’t know about you, but getting the luxury of time to “just sit” is pretty bloody rare in my life.  Even while I’m on holiday at the moment, I’m keeping pretty busy, when I really should be spending time “just sitting” a little more.

So how do we go about changing this perception of fat people?  How do we get the message out that fat people are no different to anyone else?  That we live our lives the same as anyone else?  We work, we go to school, we care for families, we spend time with friends, we shop, we laugh, we have hobbies, we play sports, we dance, we actually live full lives that are the same as non-fat people live.  The only difference is that our bodies are fat.

 

Australian Fat Studies Conference: Thank You

Published September 12, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Here I sit, home from Sydney and the Australian Fat Studies conference, and there is just so much buzzing around in my head that I want to share with you all, but I’m still processing it all and dealing with some emotional stuff of my own that has been borne of thinking about all of this stuff in detail for a few days.  So I’ll let a lot of it burble until it’s ready to be shared with everyone.

What I want to do tonight is thank the amazing, incredible women who enrich my lives immensely, that I was able to meet this weekend.  So I’m going to thank you all individually right here.  Let’s try the order that I met each of you (except one I’m going to save until last).

Bri of Fat Lot of Good – Thank you Bri for being a strong, intelligent woman with a massive heart.  Thank you for standing up as a proud fat woman and speaking out against fat hate.  Thank you for sharing your story with us in your conference paper, for moving us all to tears as we ached for you, and ached for ourselves with the similarities in our own stories.  Thank you for welcoming me with a hug.   Thank you for making me laugh, for making me think, for making me strong.  You are such a beautiful person.

Dr Samantha Thomas (her blog, The Discourse) – Thank you for your empathy and your heart.  Thank you for caring about the quality of life of fat people.  Thank you for fighting for us in the face of so much opposition, so much aggression, so much bullshit.  Thank you for feeling as deeply as you do.  Thank you for your passion and energy.  Thank you for bringing a voice of reason and intelligence to a field so full of bias, disrespect and dehumanisation.  Thank you for envying my boobs.  Thank you for treating me as an equal even though I don’t have a jot of the education you have.  Thank you for your encouragement and support.  Thank you for just being the delightful person you are.

Frances of Corpulent – you are pure sunshine.  You are so full of joy that it radiates out of you and shines on everyone around you.  Thank you for that joy.  Thank you for your sweetness.  Thank you for being the first person to show me that bodies that looked like mine were beautiful.   Thank you for being bold and colourful and vibrant.  Thank you for your humour and magnificent smile.  Thank you for just being the joyous, beautiful woman you are.

Dr Cat Pausé of Massey University in New Zealand – we have only just met, but thank you for coming out as a proud, fat feminist, and giving me the courage to do the same.  Thank you for your warmth this weekend, I was drawn to your company immediately.

Scarlett O Claire – another woman I have just met – thank you so much for sharing your story, it hit so many common points for me.  Thank you for putting yourself out there as a beautiful performer, for bravely sharing things that still hit emotional buttons for you, and simply for being present in the world, just as you are.

Kelli Jean Drinkwater – we also just met, but thank you for being fucking amazing!  Thank you for being proud of your body, the first body that looks anything remotely like mine that I have seen portrayed positively.  Thank you for being visible as a fat woman.  Thank you for your sense of humour, your friendliness and your fabulous style.

Charlotte Cooper (view Charlotte’s blog, Obesity Timebomb here) – I know you are deeply embarrassed by the fangirl thing Charlotte, and it’s not really like that (we’re not the FA equivalent of Bieber Fever).  But what you do, your words, your art, your ideas, are so significant to me and I know many others.  What you do in fat activism is so very important to me, and has changed my life in so many positive ways, that I can’t help but be thrilled to have the opportunity to meet you and hear you speak.  Thank you so much for the work that you do, thank you for coming here to participate in this conference and thank you for kicking out the jams.

Finally, last but in no way least, thank you so much to the amazing, incredible, awesome Dr Sam Murray.  I do not have enough words to tell you what this conference, the space you created there and the dialogues that you are creating and encouraging mean to me.  I literally don’t have the words, I’m still processing!  This weekend has been a life changing event for me.  You did that.  With your dedication, with your passion and a whole lot of damn hard work.  And what a delightful soul you are.  You are utterly adorable in so many ways.  You have made me laugh, cry, think, and most of all, believe.  The only words I can find right now for you are simply: Thank you so very, very much.

And to all who attended and participated, thank all of you too, for being part of an event that has meant so much to me.  For those of you who couldn’t come, check out the companion site, Fat Dialogue

WTF?! Xenical Mindfuck

Published July 27, 2010 by sleepydumpling

A few days ago, the Awesome Frances from Corpulent shared this video on Twitter:

Have you picked your jaw up off the ground yet?  I watched it several days ago and I’m still completely perplexed by it.

Okay, okay… she wants to be a nun/nurse who holds a bleeding man in her arms but has to be thin to do that?  And be in front of a firing squad with a pencilled on moustache… but can’t unless she’s thin?  And to be a lamb in a den of wolves… but as a fat woman she can’t?

And why has the fat woman got bad teeth?

W?

T?

F?

In case you’ve never heard of it, Xenical is a drug that prevents your body from absorbing fat.  It has side effects like:

  • Oily spotting (uncontrolled anal oil seepage) — in up to 26.6 percent of people
  • Abdominal pain (stomach pain) or discomfort — up to 25.5 percent
  • Gas with a small amount of oil or stool — up to 23.9 percent
  • Fecal urgency (an urgent but controlled need to have a bowel movement) — up to 22.1 percent
  • Fatty or oily stool — up to 20 percent
  • Oily evacuation (bowel movements of just oil, without stool) — up to 11.9 percent
  • Increased frequency of bowel movements — up to 10.8 percent
  • Nausea — up to 8.1 percent
  • Uncontrolled, spontaneous bowel movements (known as fecal incontinence) — up to 7.7 percent.

Now I don’t know about you, but there is NO amount of weight loss that would be worth my suffering anal oil seepage.  Let alone any of the other possible side effects.  I did a Google search on Xenical and came across this page of patient reviews of the drug, and it simply terrifies me.  Orange, foul smelling shit?  One poster actually says “Don’t wear white!”  Take some time to read a few, your jaw will drop even further than it has from watching the above advert.

I really have no words for the medical/pharmacy industry expecting people to actually subject themselves to these side effects in the name of weight loss.  In several of the cases listed in the patient reviews, not only did they suffer terrible bloating, but there are others who have been diagnosed with blood clots, liver damage and colitis… but they didn’t lose a pound.

But back to that advertisement.  What on earth is it supposed to be selling us?  That you can live some kind of exotic avant garde life if only you get thin?

Here’s the thing, take the weird shit out of it.  What does it mention?

Walking naked in the winter snow (though you’re unlikely to see summer snow).  You can do that while you’re fat.

Know real love, and real fear.  You can do that while you’re fat.

In the summer time, to play like a child.  You can do that while you’re fat.

To make love to strangers.  You can do that while you’re fat.

And guess what?  You can even tie your own shoes while you’re fat.  I do it every morning and I’m fatter than the woman in the end of the advert.

Even the slogan at the end “Lose weight.  Gain life.” is a crock – what, you’re dead when you’re a fat person?  Guess what?  If you’re fat, and you’re not dead… you already have a life, you don’t need to gain another one.  Unless perhaps you’re playing Mario Kart or something.

I get the distinct feeling that the makers of adverts like these think that fat people are stupid, that we’ll just buy that horrible product because of some weird arse advert that “inspires us to feel”… well what?

I know what I feel.  I feel like I want to go scrub my brain from the sight of that advert and be glad that I don’t have orange, foul smelling, oily anal seepage.

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