fat acceptance

All posts in the fat acceptance category

On the Telly!

Published May 29, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Just a quickie for those who haven’t seen it, I did a piece for news and pop culture show “The Feed” on SBS which aired on Monday night.  They kindly put it on YouTube, so I can share it with you here!

Enjoy!  It’s my first ever telly appearance! (Well, except for the time that news crew filmed me outside my work and used me as a headless fatty.)

You’re Not The First to Tell a Fat Person…

Published June 25, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Look, I know I have a lot of new readers.  I understand that many of you are totally new to the concept of fat activism and fat liberation.  I know that when you turn on the telly or open a newspaper, you are told, over and over again, fat = unhealthy and unhealthy = bad therefore fat = bad.  So what I’m saying here on this blog is a radical concept to a lot of you.  The idea that someone might refuse to believe that dominant rhetoric of fat = bad and actually be happy in their fat body is possibly confronting and confusing for many of you.  But it’s not a new concept.  Go back to my first post… July 2009.  I’ve been banging on about this for four years.  In fact, I just noticed that this is my 400th post.  So for four years, and with an average of 100 posts per year, I’ve been talking about this stuff for a long time now.  And believe it or not, a lot of people have been talking about it for a lot longer than me.  In fact, fat activism has its roots in the SIXTIES.  Yes, this stuff has been around for 50 years.  It’s not new.

So we need to talk about the sudden influx of you leaving comments on this blog that are never going to see the light of day.  Because yes, I know for you these things are radical and new… but to we fatties in the fatosphere, we’ve heard the same old same old our whole lives.  So not only do they not need to be published here to beat us over the head again and again with the same stuff that we’ve debunked time and time again, but you really don’t need to say them in the first place.  WE’VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE!  SERIOUSLY, YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST PERSON TO TELL US THE THINGS BELOW!

Today I’m going to address a few of the most commonly deleted/spammed comments (other than the usual troll bullshit) that I just refuse to allow space on this blog any more, because I do know there are a lot of you newbies out there who have just started reading my blog recently and perhaps think you’re presenting some new idea to myself and other fatties in your comments.  This is for you, so that you don’t make a dick of yourself any more in comment threads on fat activist blogs and other sites saying things that every fat person has heard a bajillion times already.

But fat is unhealthy!?

There is a plethora of evidence out there that debunks this myth, I’m not going to go into that here and now.  It’s not my job to educate you – I’ve given you lists of resources, off you go to educate yourself.  What I am going to say are the following things:

  • health is not a moral obligation.
  • Health is not a measure of human worth.
  • Health is arbitrary – what is “healthy” for one person, is not necessarily the same for the next.
  • Thin people suffer health issues too
  • People with illness/injury/disability are just as deserving of dignity and respect as anyone else, no matter what that illness/injury/disability may be or how it is “caused”.

But you’re driving up taxes/health insurance!!

So are people who drive cars, drink alcohol, play sport, have unprotected sex, get pregnant or get old.  Among many other things.  Fat people pay taxes and for health insurance too, and their taxes and health insurance dollars go into the same pool that yours do.  Fat costs on public health are a false cost – if you medicalise something, then it is going to “cost” to “treat” it.  If the medical profession focused on treating actual health issues and not trying to make fat people thin, those costs would all but disappear.

Well I’m all for loving your body, but within limits/not for super-obese people!

Firstly, I’m actually not interested in “body love”.  Sure, it’s probably good for us to reach a place of love and acceptance of our bodies.  But in the face of a world that sends us constant messages that our bodies should be something completely unattainable, I reckon if we can just get to a point where we respect our bodies as remarkable and complex systems that propel us through life, we’re doing well.  If someone does love their body, then that’s a bonus and I believe that anyone is allowed to love their body, be they thin, fat or in between.

As for the “limits” to which people are included in fat activism/liberation, it has to be all of us.  Not some, not to a certain point, not just the “healthy” ones, not just the ones who are cute/attractive, not just the young, white, straight, able-bodied ones.  Every single one of us deserves to live our lives in dignity and peace, without fear of discrimination or vilification based on our weight and size.  Every single fat person deserves positive representation.  EVERY. SINGLE. FAT. PERSON.

But I’m just concerned about your health/ wellbeing!

No you’re not.  If you were, you would be standing beside me fighting fat stigma and advocating for equitable health treatment for all.  You don’t give a damn about the health and wellbeing of fat people.  You don’t care that fat people can’t get treatment for everything from the common cold through to cancer because they are all blamed on their fatness and they’re just given a diet, not actual treatment.  You don’t care that the public vilification of fat people causes depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.  You don’t care that fat people are dying because they are so shamed by the medical profession that they can’t bring themselves to go back to the doctor when they are ill.  Claiming you care about our wellbeing is a lie.

But you need help!  Making  “obesity” a disease will get you help and cheap treatment!

We do not need “help” that is against our will or counter-productive to our actual health.  We don’t need “treatments” that fail and make us gain even more weight in the long term (diets and other weight loss methods), that butcher our bodies (gastric mutilation surgeries) or deplete our quality of life (weight loss medications that give us heart conditions, make us sick, give us “oily anal discharge” or a plethora of other side effects that are far worse than simply being fat).   Many of us don’t need help or treatment at all.  Many of us are happy just as we are and are doing fine.  What we need is to be treated as human beings, and to have agency over our lives.

But don’t you want to live longer?

Since when has anyone been able to control when they die?  We don’t know how long we’ll be here for.  We only get one shot at it.  So we best fill our lives as best we can, and not put them on hold because we don’t meet some kind of cultural measure of acceptable appearance.

You just want everyone to be fat like you!

Unlike the anti-fat camp, I believe that human bodies are naturally diverse and that some of us are meant to be fat, some are meant to be thin, and the rest are meant to range in between.  I don’t want to make other people fat any more than I want to make myself thin.  Unlike the anti-fat camp, I believe that all human beings are valid and equal regardless of their size or weight.  I like diversity, it keeps things from getting boring.

But… everyone KNOWS [insert anti-fat trope here]

Everyone used to know the earth was flat.  Everyone used to know that the sun revolved around the earth.  Everyone used to know that smoking tobacco was good for you.  We as human beings don’t know everything, and sometimes when we think we know things we’re wrong.  Emergent science is showing us already that our pre-conceived notions of fatness have been wrong on many counts (again, off you go to do your own research, you’ve got access to all the same online tools I’ve got access to, I’m not here to do it for you), I’ve spent the past four years learning, reading expanding my world view with these facts, I’m not just making this shit up myself.  Don’t make a fool of yourself by hanging on to ignorance.

You’re just making excuses to sit around on your fat ass all day and eat donuts!

If I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t need an excuse to do so.  I’d just do it.  I’m a grown adult and my life is mine to choose how I spend it.  That said, I actually wish I had a little more time to relax and wasn’t so busy all the time.  If I COULD find a way to do that, I WOULD take more time to relax, you’d better believe it!

It’s just calories in, calories out, you just need to put down the fork and move your fat ass!

Humans are not bomb calorimeters.  Nor are we lawnmowers.  Incidentally, do you think that no fat person ever has thought to try diet and exercise to get thin?  That at almost 41 years of age it never occurred to me to try “calories in/calories out”?  Do you REALLY think you’re the first person to make that suggestion to a fat person?  I can guarantee you, it’s highly unlikely you’re even the first person TODAY to make that suggestion to me.

You just lack willpower!

Oh really?  I engaged in a full blown restriction and purging eating disorder for twenty years, don’t talk to me about willpower.   If willpower actually amounted to anything, I would be thin, ridiculously wealthy and married to Hugh Jackman by now.  And put it this way, if you think I don’t have willpower, consider the fact that I haven’t smacked one of the dozens of fat hating douchecanoes I deal with every day in the mouth yet.  THAT takes willpower!

But I’ve lost weight and kept it off – you can too!

Define “kept it off”.  Have you passed the 5 year mark yet?  No?  Well since SCIENCE says that 95% of people who lose weight through dieting will regain it and more within 5 years, you need to go away and come back once you’ve kept it off for 5 years.  And that’s 5 years solid, not regained it after a year or so, lost it again, regained it again, lost it again, regained, lost (which most of us can do and have done).  If you have kept it off for 5 years or more, congratulations for being one of the 5% statistical anomalies.  Hopefully you can understand basic percentages and realise that most of us are likely to fall into the 95% bracket.

Not to mention that what you choose to do with your body has no bearing on what I choose to do with mine.  You focus on your body and life, I’ll focus on mine.

So there you have it.  I’ve taken the time to address the common tropes I find in comments about, and this should save us all a lot of time.  Hopefully those of you who want to tell/ask me (or any other fat people) any of the above things can save your breath and not embarrass yourselves publicly, and I shouldn’t have to deal with the same old same old in my inbox every day.

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.

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.

I Want to Break Free

Published June 28, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I came to a realisation last night.  Thanks to discussions on Twitter and Facebook, I realised that I no longer consider myself aligned to either fat acceptance or body acceptance.

Don’t be too alarmed, I’m still the same rad fat feminist I was before yesterday, I’m not about to start pushing diets and fat hate at you and change the direction of this blog.  I’m still a fat activist, and a proud one at that.  I just no longer wish to be aligned with the concepts of fat acceptance or body acceptance.

The epiphany was twofold.  Firstly, I came to the realisation that I have a problem with the concept of mere acceptance of fat people.  I think we deserve more than to be merely accepted into society.  We should be valued members of society, not merely accepted ones.  In the discussion we had on Twitter, someone mentioned that in some queer communities, the word “tolerance” is considered the weakest form of homophobia, and suggested that in fat communities, perhaps “acceptance” is the weakest form of fat phobia.

I tend to agree.  I think acceptance implies a begrudging kind of acknowledgement that we exist.  It says to me “Yes, ok, fat people exist, I accept that.” and no more.  I think as activists for fat rights, we need to demand more than that.  We need to realise that just being acknowledged as existing is not meeting our rights as human beings.

It is my belief that we more than simply exist on this planet.  We have value.  We contribute.  We are as worthy of our place on the planet as any other human being.  Fat people are as precious and worthy as any other human being.  We are not damaged goods that need repair.  Nor are we “too big” and need to be made smaller to “fit in”.  The world is big enough for all of us, from the very largest person down to the tiniest.  We are not vermin to be eradicated, diseases to be cured or crimes to be prevented.  We are people who hold as much value as any other human being on the planet.

The word “acceptance” makes me feel like I have to compromise my value, because as a fat person I am devalued.  And I want no part of that.

The second reason I realised that I no longer identify with fat/body acceptance are the constant calls for us to accommodate reductionism.  By reductionism, I mean the practice of forcing ones body to lose weight.  I’m not referring to the incidental weight loss that comes due to illness, environmental change or through the changes ones body goes through with age.  I’m referring to reductive weight loss – diets (including diet products, diet foods, diet camps or clubs, diet books or any other tools of dieting), “lifestyle changes”, medications, appetite suppressants, weight loss gadgets, weight loss companies, “medical interventions” and surgical procedures.  This also includes eating and exercise disorders.

Every time I speak out against any of these damaging practices (many of which I partook in myself in my past), someone crops up and says “But what if people choose/chose to do these things, is there space for them in fat acceptance?”  My answer is usually “yes”, with the caveat that they not promote or advocate these practices in FA spaces.  Of course, then comes the argument that I am somehow “excluding” or “silencing” them because they’re fat people too and they deserve to be heard.

However, this to me, is a derailment – in that the whole world is a space for diet promotion and weight loss advocacy.  Reductionism is the dominant paradigm – and FA should not have to “make space” for something that already takes up ALL of the space.  I had believed fat/body acceptance to be about breaking down dominant paradigms and being a space where fat people could have some respite from that constant harassment to lose weight, but more and more often I feel that I’m being pushed into being accommodating to a world that has refused to accommodate me.  I want no part of that either.

Some will call this absolutist, some will label it “militant”.  Others will suggest that “it’s not black and white, there are shades of grey”.  No.  Not in my fight there is not.  Perhaps there is in your fight, perhaps there is in fat/body acceptance.  There is no grey of “acceptable” weight reductionism for me.  You get the rest of the world to celebrate/promote/advocate/have pride in your weight loss agenda.  I get this tiny space to say no, and to make clear my stance on forced weight loss.  One only has to look at just how vast the chasm is between the amount of Google mentions/information on the terms “weight loss” and “fat acceptance” to see how loud the voice is for weight loss, and how fat acceptance is a mere whisper against that tide.  Try doing the same for “weight loss” and terms like fat liberation, anti-diet, fat pride – the latter terms don’t even register.  How dare anyone suggest we have to “make room” for weight loss talk?

I know we talk a lot about body autonomy in fat/body acceptance, but I feel that there is rarely a voice that declares that they are against reductionism that isn’t shouted down by how we “must be accommodating” to the dominant paradigm, which in doing so immediately removes my body autonomy.  To me, if Fat/Body Acceptance must be a space that includes the dominant paradigm, then now is the time for me to distance myself from it.  I want more than to have to be accommodating to people who already have the lion’s share of the space in the world.  I want to be able to completely and utterly reject reductionism from my life.  If I cannot do that within Fat Acceptance, then I am happy to walk away from it.

Part of me felt bereft at this realisation.   I felt a sense of loss in discovering that there is yet another space that I cannot find respite from the dominant paradigm around fatness.  But then I remembered the Fat Liberation Manifesto, authored almost 40 years ago by Judy Freespirit and Aldebaran as part of The Fat Underground, and I found solace.  This manifesto sums up exactly how I feel about my fat activism and what I want from the world with regard to how fat people are treated.

I want liberation from the dominant paradigm, not to “make room” for it.  Somewhere I heard the saying “We don’t want a piece of the pie, we want a new pie.” which is a brilliant way to express it.

So I share the Fat Liberation Manifesto with you all here, and I honour the foremothers/sisters of The Fat Underground for paving the way for me to claim my own liberation.

FAT LIBERATION MANIFESTO

1. WE believe that fat people are fully entitled to human respect and recognition.

2. WE are angry at mistreatment by commercial and sexist interests. These have exploited our bodies as objects of ridicule, thereby creating an immensely profitable market selling the false promise of avoidance of, or relief from, that ridicule.

3. WE see our struggle as allied with the struggles of other oppressed groups against classism, racism, sexism, ageism, financial exploitation, imperialism and the like.

4. WE demand equal rights for fat people in all aspects of life, as promised in the Constitution of the United States. We demand equal access to goods and services in the public domain, and an end to discrimination against us in the areas of employment, education, public facilities and health services.

5. WE single out as our special enemies the so-called “reducing” industries. These include diet clubs, reducing salons, fat farms, diet doctors, diet books, diet foods and food supplements, surgical procedures, appetite suppressants, drugs and gadgetry such as wraps and “reducing machines”.

WE demand that they take responsibility for their false claims, acknowledge that their products are harmful to the public health, and publish long-term studies proving any statistical efficacy of their products. We make this demand knowing that over 99% of all weight loss programs, when evaluated over a five-year period, fail utterly, and also knowing the extreme proven harmfulness of frequent large changes in weight.

6. WE repudiate the mystified “science” which falsely claims that we are unfit. It has both caused and upheld discrimination against us, in collusion with the financial interests of insurance companies, the fashion and garment industries, reducing industries, the food and drug industries, and the medical and psychiatric establishment.

7. WE refuse to be subjugated to the interests of our enemies. We fully intend to reclaim power over our bodies and our lives. We commit ourselves to pursue these goals together.

FAT PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, UNITE! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE ….

By Judy Freespirit and Aldebaran
November, 1973
Copyright The Fat Underground

(Unfortunately I was unable to find anywhere I could link back to for The Fat Liberation Manifesto, but if someone knows of one please let me know and I will amend this post.)

Guest Post: Sarah – Getting to the Point

Published April 18, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I’d like to introduce you to the lovely Sarah, a fab fatty I was fortunate enough to meet in Sydney in 2010 at the Australian Fat Studies Conference.  She was wearing the CUTEST dress (she wore cute outfits the whole conference) and Bri from Fat Lot of Good and I contemplated raiding her suitcases while she was busy at the conference.

Sarah posted a version of this post on her Facebook page as a status update a few days ago and I punched the air and yelled “YES!!” several times in response to it, because I think she really hits the nail on the head.  So I asked her to put it together as a post and if I could host it here on Fat Heffalump as a guest post.

So without further ado, here is Sarah’s post:

Getting to the Point

The point is not whether or not fat people can “help” being fat. There are some fat people who are lettuce-eating gym junkies and some fat people who sit in bed eating nothing but donuts all day. The point is that fat people are human beings who should not be vilified regardless of “why” they are fat, or how much control they have over their fatness, or whatever other excuse people are giving for insulting and dehumanising fat people these days. The point is that even if you think what other people eat is your business, and even if the fat person you’re looking at *might* sit in bed eating nothing but donuts all day, you can’t possibly know that by looking at them.

I approve of public health campaigns and preventative measures when it comes to disease. I just think they should be focusing on things – like eating as healthily as possible and being active in enjoyable ways when and how you can – that everyone can work towards to improve their health, regardless of whether they are poor or have a disability or are genetically predisposed to be fat or *whatever*. I believe they should support people in doing these things by helping poorer people get access to fresh food and helping stigmatised people be active without shame. But most of all I believe you can’t hate someone for their own good, and you most certainly can’t shame someone healthy. If “a healthy lifestyle” (whatever that may mean) is not an individual’s personal priority, or prioritising it in the way you would like isn’t possible for them for whatever reason, be it disability or finances or mental health triggers or anything, then it’s actually none of your business.

Yes, even if they get medicare rebates for treating ailments that you think are “caused” by their choices. All women *could* lessen their
chances of breast cancer by having radical mastectomies as soon as they hit puberty. But whether they do or not is not your decision to
make, just as whether or not a person tries to lose weight or adopts “healthy lifestyle changes” is not your decision to make. For some it
might be easy. For you it might have been easy. For me, losing a significant amount of weight means being constantly obsessed with my
weight, with everything I eat, with everything I do with my body or food. I know, I’ve done it. And if I don’t think being thinner is worth dedicating my *entire existence* to weight loss and weight maintenance – regardless of what health benefits it may or may not entail – then that is up to me, and I don’t deserve to be hated for it.

Bio: Sarah is a 20-something feminist fatshionista with a degree in sociology and a background in fashion design.  She has been a sad fat
kid and an eating disordered fat teenager and young adult, and now she is a happy fat grown up and her blossoming self respect is all Fat
Acceptance’s fault.  Nowadays she likes cupcakes, clothes and talking your ear off about social justice, and every now and then she enjoys sitting in bed all day eating nothing but donuts.  She doesn’t have a blog yet, but she’s working on it.

The Gift of Our Stories

Published December 14, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Up until a few years ago, I thought I was the most worthless creature on the planet.

I believed that I had no right to speak, have an opinion, share my beliefs, ask questions, or  talk to people without a being prompted directly.  Even then, I often held back, or made jokes about the situation, rather than actually sharing my thoughts or feelings.  I was full of guilt and shame.

But then I found fat acceptance.

I don’t remember exactly where I first encountered the concept, but I guess someone shared a link on Twitter or Facebook, and something piqued my interest, and I had a look.

Fat acceptance opened up a whole new world for me.  It changed my life so much that I can’t express fully just where I was and where I am now.

Where I am now, literally now, as I type this, is sitting in one of my favourite blogging spots, a little tabled area not far from my office, writing this blog post on a laptop as I’m photographed and filmed by a couple of academics as part of a documentation project about fat embodiment and activism.

When I look up, this is what I see. Lauren and Isaac.

Me.  Being photographed.  There are moments that I still can’t believe that I’m allowing the above to happen, not just allowing it but feel relaxed about it and even enjoying it.  I have a gap of about 20 – 25 years where there are only a handful photographs of me in existence.  More years I think, I’m not really sure.  I destroyed most of the photographs that were taken, simply out of self loathing.  I’ve had more photographs taken of me in the last 25 minutes than I did in that 25 years.  In the past few months, literally hundreds of photographs.

We found some photographs at work recently from 2003, and many people wouldn’t believe that the woman in those photos was me.  My self loathing is actually visible in most of them, even if I’m smiling on the surface.

It’s a massive shift in my paradigm.  To just allow someone to photograph me and relax (well mostly!) while they do so is so radically different to where I was years ago.

That’s fat acceptance and fat activism that has led me to that place.

An aside… it’s weird.  Every now and then a giant lens appears over my shoulder like a shark swimming into view.  I keep expecting to hear that music from Jaws, you know the bit with the cello?  It’s also kind of funny to have someone seeing my writing as I do it – normally it’s only seen by someone else when I have given it a tidy up and clicked on “publish”, not while it’s flowing out of my brain, through my fingers and onto the screen.  It’s a challenging exercise in the writing process.

Giving Isaac a taste of his own medicine!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, fat activism has brought so much to my life and radically change how I think about myself.  From a girl/young woman who received the dual message of “It’s lucky you’re smart, cos you’re not much to look at.” and “You shouldn’t get too big for your boots girlie.” to a 39 year old woman who has the confidence to allow people to document her life, and to share it with the world.

Telling my story is really important to me.  I think the most powerful thing about fat activism is the empowerment it gives to people to tell their stories.  Not to mention to hear stories of other fat people, which we simply don’t get in the mainstream.  Fat people in the mainstream are  one dimensional parodies – the sassy fat sidekick, the angry fat bully, the sad fat loner sitting at home in front of the television shoving food in their face.  We’re not seen in the mainstream as everyday people, with multi-faceted personalities.  We’re not seen as having jobs and careers, families and friends, hobbies and interests, passions and convictions.  Part of the power of being a fat activist is putting a representation of a real person, with all of those things, out in the world for other people to witness.  Both our fellow fatties, who often feel alone and isolated by the mainstream representation of fatness, and to non-fat people, who are sold this view of us that is not real.

Storytelling is a powerful, powerful thing.  Religions grow from it.  History is determined by who gets to tell their story and which of those stories is documented – which is how privilege is born.  That’s what marginalisation is – the silencing of people’s stories.

Fat activism not only allows me to tell my story and document my own history, but it also allows me to create a place for you to tell your stories, and to encourage you to create your own spaces to tell your stories.

And sometimes, if you’re really, really lucky like I am, you get other people who want to tell your story as well.

I’m having a lot of lightbulb moments while I work on this project.  I’m thinking about a lot of new things and learning a lot about myself.  From personal stuff – my own identity and embodiment – to the broader perspective of what it means to be telling the stories of fat people in general.  It’s become this strange meta process – the more immersed I get into a project about fat embodiment, the more I find myself defining my own identity and what I embody.

As I just said to Lauren, one of the best things about the internet is that we all have the power to document our stories and share them with the world, and to possibly have those stories heard by others, who then weave them into their own stories.  My story becomes entangled with yours, which then becomes entangled with the people in your life, and so on.

So thank you, dear Heffalumpies, for entangling your stories with mine.  That enriches my life far more than you can know.

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