fat phobia

All posts in the fat phobia category

Creating the Problem In the First Place

Published March 6, 2013 by sleepydumpling

This morning I awoke to see a constant stream of retweets and shares for an article on a major Australian women’s online magazine (give you two guesses – I’m not naming or linking to it) about a woman who found a note in her 7 year old daughter’s bedroom, labelled “Diyet”[sic] and listing the food she ate (not much) and quite a considerable list of daily exercise.

Now yes, I agree, it is awful that a 7 year old child is making diet plans.  It is awful that a 7 year old child is obsessing over her body and diet and exercise already.  It shouldn’t be happening and I understand her mother being horrified that she would find this item in her child’s room, and despairing that her daughter is being influenced by this stuff already.  I find no fault at all with the author of the piece or the story she tells.

But seriously, for this particular online women’s magazine (let’s be honest, most online women’s magazines and most mainstream media) to be clutching their pearls over children dieting is a bit fucking hypocritical if you ask me.

This shit doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  These same media outlets publish story after story beating the “obesity epidemic” drum, and wringing their hands over “childhood obesity”, and then wonder why children obsess over their weight from a ridiculously early age?   These media outlets crap on about being “healthy”, which is just diet-talk reworded with no actual conscientious addressing of holistic health of all people, and then they get all up in arms about children dieting?  They allow the most hateful, bigoted crap about fat people to be published in the comments and call it “opinion”.  Not to mention that every single time I go to a mainstream media site, women’s or not, I am bombarded with ads for weight loss.  Where do they think kids, and their parents, get all of this stuff in the first place?

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother dieting.  From as early as I can remember, there were stories in her magazines, and on the TV my father always had on, and in the Sunday paper, talking about the latest, greatest diets, the importance of being thin and how fat was “bad” (think of lazy, fat, beer drinking, old Norm in the Life: Be in It ad campaigns, fellow Aussies of a certain age).  Even if I hadn’t been told I was fat from my earliest memory (I wasn’t fat for most of my childhood) by my family, all I had to do was pick up one of the women’s magazines laying about the house, or sit and watch TV with my father and I was getting those messages.  Right from my earliest memories, I was hearing that fat is bad and that I should do ANYTHING to avoid being fat.

So what did I do?  I was put on my first diet at 11.  But I had already been experimenting with dieting and exercise regimes some years before that.  I was maybe 7 or 8 the first time I put myself on a “diet”.  I was very good at sneaking the various diet products that my mother had about the house, and I was an excellent reader, so I just read the magazines and followed the diets in those.  I was 13 the first time I was put on meal replacements (powdered shakes that were VILE).  Soon after I started engaging in purging after an older girl taught me how to do it.  I also started stealing laxatives and worming medicine because I’d heard those helped you lose weight too.  Once I got busted for stealing those out of the medicine cabinet at home, I started stealing them from the local chemist.  I can remember watching an article on one of those current affairs shows about childhood obesity when I was in Year 8, and this was in 1985 – long before the current obesity epidemic hysteria kicked off in the 90′s, which has magnified the situation hundredfold.

It has to stop.  The media are never going to take responsibility for the shit they publish, so we have to stop supporting the media that publishes shit.  Even when they do publish something that is worthy, like the story I mentioned above, we have to view it through the lens of the other stuff they publish as well and call them out on it.  We need to promote outlets that share the worthy stories without all of the fat shaming and stigma.  If we are worried about what our children are being exposed to, perhaps it’s best to start by examining what WE are exposed to.  Because if you think kids aren’t seeing this stuff, you’re seriously delusional.  Even if you don’t give it to them directly, if it is around, they find a way to get to it.  Or they hear a second-hand version from other kids at school.  We need to teach our kids critical thinking.  But first we have to learn it ourselves.  To question the source of information and to ask what their motives are.  We need to discuss these issues with kids and teenagers and each other, openly and critically.   We need to look at the ethics behind these outlets and their sponsors.

If these media outlets come up lacking, we need to stop supporting them.  We need to walk away and not give them clicks, not give them airtime, and not signal boost them.  Instead, find alternative outlets that take responsibility for the messages they are sending and don’t engage in hypocrisy.  Or that at least TRY.  If you know that an article that people are sharing from a media site is a cross post/re post from a blog (most of them say so somewhere on the article) – share the original version, not the re-post in the dodgy mainstream media.  We need to tell our stories and have them untainted by fat shaming that undoes the message that we are sending.  Want some suggestions?  Try here, here and here.  You’re welcome to share others in the comments that you like.

I dabbled myself with writing for mainstream media (was also offered a regular writing gig at several of them) and was burned more than once by them selling me out to some disgusting fat shaming story as a “follow up”, so I decided that I would rather tell my story here and keep it’s integrity than taint my readers with contradictory information.    It might mean I reach fewer people here and now, but the message gets through clearer and un-sullied by shaming to those it does get to.

The mainstream media is never going to change until we walk away from it and stop giving them the clicks, the reads, the purchases and the support.  Give that support to those who don’t perpetuate bigotry and hate while then decrying the state of the world that THEY created.

My Fat Body is ME

Published October 23, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Earlier today this post raced through my online networks like a brush fire.  With good reason, it’s an excellent piece that really lays out how fat hate has permeated so many people’s attitudes, and makes clear reasons why people need to think about what they are saying and what kind of stigma they are placing on the shoulders of fat people.

But, as is always the way with these pieces, the comments kick off with someone who simply doesn’t get it and makes the situation worse.  This person, who calls themselves a feminist (yeah right, as Flavia Dzodan says, my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit) says:

But I’m also a public health scholar. I’m doing my Master of Public Health in Maternal Child Health. Obesity is a chronic disease that we talk about in nearly every class. We talk about markers for childhood obesity, what leads to adult obesity, and how to curb this epidemic.

The comment does go on further and she argues with several people who call her out on this fat hating crap.  You can go and look at it if you like, the link is up there in the first sentence.  You can see how spectacularly she misses the entire point of the piece for yourself if you like.

I won’t go into the ableism and classism of the attitudes of people like the commenter here, as they both deserve posts of their own.  What I want to do tonight is address the attitude that “obesity is a chronic disease” and that we need to “curb this epidemic”. *cough* eugenics *cough*

Not about how this is complete and utter bullshit that other people have busted more eloquently and thoroughly than I could ever do, but how people like this woman are so fucking blind to the hate that they spew.  I mean, this bigot has just compared fatness (I refuse to use the word obesity to describe our fat bodies – same goes to any other medicalised word to describe physical size) to “cancer and heart disease and communicable diseases”.  I shit you not.  How anyone can fail to see this as hatred is beyond me.

Let’s break it down with some statements…

  • My fat body is not diseased.
  • I do not have/suffer obesity.  I am a fat person.
  • I am not a diseased person because I am fat.
  • My fat body is not something to be prevented, cured or eradicated.
  • I do not need anyone, be they organisation, company or individual to try to rid me of my body.
  • My fat flesh is part of me, it is not some parasite to be excised.
  • My fat flesh is not a virus to be vaccinated against, it is my body.
  • I will never again give anyone the power of starving my fat off my body, with absolutely no regard to the damage the methods of starvation cause on my body long term.
  • I will never again allow anyone to force me to apologise for my body.
  • I will never again kneel in subjugation to those who feel they are superior to me because of my fat body.
  • My fat body is not a contagion to be quarantined from “decent” society.
  • My fat body is not an affliction, a blight on humanity.
  • My fat body is not a mark of shame, or an indicator of failure.
  • My fat body is not a communicable disease, nor is it a cancer.
  • My fat body is ME and I have a right to live my life without vilification and stigma.

Anyone who seriously believes that fat bodies are any of the things above or that fat people have a debt to humanity to starve or punish themselves to meet other people’s aesthetic standards is a fat hating bigot.  It’s time we stopped dancing around the subject and named them for what they are.  No one of us has to be polite or respectful to people who believe that we are lesser than others because of the size, shape, ability and function of our bodies.  We don’t have to justify our existence, our happiness, our peace, our dignity to ANYONE on this earth.

It’s time we cut the crap with the whole “agreeing to disagree” rubbish and allowing people to be “entitled to their opinions”.  No, I don’t have to agree to anything with a person who treats me as sub-human.  Nobody is entitled to an opinion that vilifies and stigmatises another human being.  Our rights as human beings get priority over opinion, every single time.

2012: The Year of Living Fatly

Published January 2, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.  I see them as the perfect way to set oneself up for disappointment.  After all, if you really want to do something, setting a New Year’s resolution isn’t going to be enough to push you to do it.  When we really want to do something, like eat healthier or save money or quit smoking, we just up and do it.  Using the beginning of a new calendar year really doesn’t work.  Not to mention that New Year’s resolutions always seem to be about changing oneself to meet other people’s standards.  Whether it’s dieting or the gym or giving up something… seldom do people really make those resolutions for themselves.  They make them because they feel they should, or that they have to change themselves to conform to what other people want them to be.

However, after stumbling across some douchecanoe on Twitter whining about being offended by seeing “fat, lazy people”, I’ve decided that I have a goal for 2012.  Are you ready for it?

Here it is…

I am going to be willfully fat this year.  Offensively, obnoxiously fat.  All over the damn place.  In fact, I’m fatting at all of you right now.

I’m so fucking sick of people being all offended at fatness.  I am sick of people expecting fat people to hide themselves away out of public sight, never being seen at the shops, at the gym, in the workplace, on the street.  I’ve had enough of people complaining that they saw someone’s fat arse, arms, belly, thighs, whatever.  I’m tired of being told that fat people should cover our bodies, wear dark, minimising, flattering clothing.  That we shouldn’t be seen in leggings, tights, sleeveless tops, short shirts, tight jeans, swimsuits and short skirts.  I’m sick of fat people being told they should starve themselves, never eat.  I’m royally fucking fed up with being expected to hide myself away like I’m something to be ashamed of.  I’m over being hated simply because I exist in a fat body.

Yet of course, we’re also told that we don’t get out and exercise enough, that we don’t do anything but sit at home and eat.

What do you fucking want fat loathers?  Seriously, we’re either out in public being our fat selves, or we’re at home where you can’t see us.  You can’t have both!

So here’s my 12 step plan for my year of living fatly – it shouldn’t be too hard, I’ve been living fatly now for over 25 years.

  1. Be fat in public.
  2. Live while fat.
  3. Work while fat.
  4. Dress fashionably fat.
  5. Be fat in the company of my friends.
  6. Ride my bike while fat.
  7. Swim while fat – in a swimsuit, yikes!
  8. Expose my fat arms, fat thighs, fat belly and fat arse in public.
  9. Laugh and have fun while being fat.
  10. Celebrate other fab fatties.
  11. Eat in public while being fat.
  12. Unashamedly love myself while being unashamedly fat.

It’s so hard for society at large to believe that fat people have lives, loves, careers, hobbies, passions, style, intelligence, humour and value that I’m going to live my whole life doing all those things, having all those things, while being fat.  Not to prove to society at large that we do have those things, but to be someone that other fat people can see and hear.  To be a visible fat person breaking the mold.

But most of all, because none of us, not you, not me, not anyone, has to live their lives surreptitiously for fear of offending someone’s delicate sensibilities with our fatness.  No more furtiveness about living life.  It’s there to be lived, and I’m going to be fatting all over it.

Being Fat in an Ikea Show Room (yeah, I wear that top a lot!)

We’ve Done Our Time

Published September 19, 2011 by sleepydumpling

A little questionnaire for you all:

  1. How many years of your life did you put into trying to be thin?
  2. How much of your life did you put on hold while you tried to be thin?
  3. How old were you when you first remember being told you were fat?
  4. How many diets have you been on?
  5. How many exercise “plans” have you been on?
  6. How many years of your life have been taken up with eating disorders?
  7. How many people have told you that you are fat?
  8. How many people have treated you badly because you are fat?
  9. How many years did you spend counting calories, watching the number on the scale or the size label on your clothes?

Now tally the sum of all those years, all that time, all those diets, all those times you made yourself sick in the effort to get thin, all the punishing exercise regimes, all the hurtful experiences add all those numbers together.

Take that number, write it down, look at it for a minute, and ask yourself…

Don’t you think the fat haters should invest the equivalent amount of time, the same number of years, in trying as hard to be a decent human being, as we fat people invested in trying to be thin?

Fat people are not the ones with the problem, or who are in denial.   Fat people are not in denial of being fat.  We know we are fat, and in choosing fat acceptance, we accept ourselves exactly as we are, and we accept others exactly as they are.

You can let go of all those numbers now.  Set yourself free of the pain that those numbers represent.  You’re off the hook – you’ve done your part.  Close your eyes and imagine that all those instances of trying to be thin, or being bullied and shamed for being fat are balloons, filled with helium.  Imagine them in your hand, bobbing above you, all different colours.  Now open your hand and let them all go.  You don’t have to carry them any more.

This isn’t giving up.  This is letting go and deciding that YOU control your life, not other people who feel they have the right to judge you.  This is about deciding to live your life to the fullest you can.

People who think that fat people are somehow worth less as human beings as thin people, that fat people deserve to be shamed, discredited, their experiences denied and generally just shamed and bullied for being fat are the ones who have the problem.  They just can’t get on with their lives and let people be who they are, as they are.

We are not the ones in denial, it is the fat haters that are in denial.

Denial that they are in fact… arseholes.

*Post inspired this post by Ragen of Dances with Fat.

 

Working Your Way Out of the Self-Loathing Land

Published September 12, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Recently I received an email from an anonymous reader of Fat Heffalump, that asked me how one could possibly engage in Fat Activism/Acceptance when they absolutely loathed everything about their body.  They made it clear that it’s not that they thought that other people should loathe being fat, they just couldn’t find a single thing to like about their own body, they found themselves just that repulsive.

I think that is a bloody good question and one we should talk about.

Let me just say, there was once a time when I felt that way myself.  Even after years of being steeped in fat acceptance, I still have times where I get caught up in that kind of thinking.  I want to make it clear that there isn’t some kind of magical transformation that converts you to some kind of magnificent 100% self-loving fatty.  It just doesn’t work that way.  All of us have to work on it and practice and hone our skills.  I think the difference is that once you’ve been practicing this stuff for awhile and get better at it, you’re conscious of what it really is.  You’re aware that it’s not about your body being repulsive, but it’s about carrying the emotional baggage of a world that fears, loathes and stigmatises fat bodies.

We also have the benefit of community.  If you have a shitty day and you feel bad, having the community of the fatosphere to turn to is definitely beneficial.  When you have someone else to talk to, even online, who understands how you feel, and/or has had similar experiences, it is so much easier to deal with.

But also, it takes work.  We don’t just miraculously start loving our bodies overnight.  It takes work and practice.  Things like doing lots of reading of fat positive material.  Cutting out body snark of others.  Critical thinking about popular media and culture.  Surrounding yourself with fat positive people.  And taking the time to work on seeing yourself from a different perspective.

The thing that I think started to tip my thinking out of constant self-loathing was learning to be gentle with myself and actually entertain the thought that it wasn’t always going to be that way.  Just allowing yourself to think that there is an alternative way to feel is very powerful, even if you don’t feel that way right now.

So to start you all off, I’m going to share a little exercise that helped me to change my thinking about my body, and if you like you can share it in the comments below.

Think about your body and pick one thing that you like about yourself physically.  It can be anything, from the colour of your eyes, to your hair, your boobs, your hands, your elbows, the backs of your knees… anything on your whole body.  Just find ONE little thing that you like about your body, and think about it.  Think about that body part, you might like to close your eyes for a minute if you can.  Just think about it, the shape, the colour, the texture of the hair/skin/nails, all the different features of that one particular body part.  The only rule is no negative thoughts – you have to let those go.

If you can, take a photograph of that body part, or find one you already have that you like.  Think about what it is you like about that body part.  Think about how that part of your body serves you in your life, in it’s function in your body.

Hold on to those thoughts.  When you feel down about how you look, when you feel like you can’t love your body, go back to those thoughts and embrace them.  Remind yourself over and over about that one feature that you really like.  When you feel ready, have a go at finding another one.  And over time, you will find it easier to find things that you like about your body, adding more and more to your arsenal against self-loathing.

It sounds kind of silly, but it has really helped me in those very tough times.

Just to quickly share mine, I have always loved my feet.  They’re big but they’re a lovely shape. and they get me around everywhere I need to go.  I have funny wee toenails that I can paint cute colours, and I LOVE shoes, so my feet get to be decorated with something I love.  I also have both of my feet tattooed, which is another thing I love about them.  They also served me for many years with my dancing and I’m still very light on them.  Plus my feet never smell bad.  I just don’t get stinky feet, no matter what kind of shoes or socks or tights I wear.

Here’s a photo of my left foot before I got a real tattoo on it, back when I first started doing this exercise:

I’ve almost forgotten what my feet looked like without tattoos!  No matter how much I get caught up in the crappy messages society pushes at me about fat bodies, I only have to remember my feet, and how good they’ve been to me.

Your turn!!

BADD 2011 – Fat and Disablism

Published May 1, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2011

This is my first every foray into BADD, or Blogging Against Disablism Day.  I heard about it on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and thought it would be an excellent way for me to bring the topic of disablism to my blog, to begin a discussion over here.  I firmly believe that as a social justice movement, Fat Acceptance has a responsibility to address disablism within our sphere, which then I would hope, leads to further discussion about culture-wide disablism.

Please let me state very clearly that I very much consider myself a person of privilege in this area, and feel that I am constantly in a state of learning about the issues that surround disability discrimination, disablism or ableism.  I hope that in talking about this here, an opening up the discussion, I too can learn from those who live the experience.  I particularly look forward to reading as much as I can from the many other posts for BADD, and I urge you to read as many as you can too.

What I particularly wanted to talk about tonight is disablism in context of fatness, and how people with disabilities are often ignored or excluded by Fat Acceptance.  I think all too often we spend so much time trying to bust open the stereotypes of fat people being mobility impaired, suffering chronic illness and other health issues, that we completely ignore the experience of fat people who DO live with disabilities and illness.

As Brian over at Red No. 3 says, Fat Acceptance is for ALL Fat People, or at least it should be.  That includes those who happen to be within the range of the stereotypes placed upon fat people.  As far as I’m concerned, the fact that those who loathe and fear fat use people with disabilities or illness to heap their scorn upon all fat people is doubly insulting to those who live those experiences.  Not only are they reviled for their fatness, but they are then used yet again as cautionary tales, threats and ridicule for all other fat people as well.  If anything, we need to be standing up against that bullshit even more now than ever.

One of the things that I believe Fat Acceptance absolutely has to be about is the basic, fundamental human right of all people to live their lives with dignity and respect and without fear of being vilified for simply being who they are.  That’s why I believe that Fat Acceptance needs to benefit ALL fat people and that we have a responsibility to acknowledge those who regularly have their experiences erased because society has deemed that they embody what happens to fat people who don’t “take care of themselves”.

I think we need to call that shit out for what it actually is, which is double prejudice.  Instead of just defending our own health and ability, I think we need to call out the disablism as well.  When we get those threats of “Yeah well you’re gonna get diabetes/heart disease/end up with damaged knees/hips!” and so on from fat haters, we need to point out the sheer douchiness of using disability and illness as some kind of punishment for fatness, when people of all body shapes and sizes actually live with disability and illness, and should never be treated like they must have done something to “earn” it.

Besides, even if someone’s fatness somehow does contribute to illness or disability, this should never strip them of their right to live their lives with dignity and respect.

On Expressions of Dismay and Disbelief…

Published April 11, 2011 by sleepydumpling

It has been a bittersweet couple of days for me.  If you’re not on Twitter and involved in Fat Acceptance, you might have missed the absolute flood of tweets with the hashtag #thingsfatpeoplearetold.  The hashtag originated some time ago with Brian at Red No. 3, but was resurrected a couple of days ago after Catherine Deveny tweeted this damn offensive statement.

And it just took off.   I think the last time Brian tallied up the tweets he could find in a search there were over 2000 original tweets in less than 48 hours.  Mid afternoon I asked Brian to send me the word document he has been compiling, and the document is open here beside me as I type this, 216 pages long, with an average of 10 tweets per page.

I got into it, because it felt like an opportunity for me to vent all of the stupid, senseless, narrow-minded, ignorant, hateful, bigoted things that have been said to me over the years.  As the day went on yesterday, my feelings swung between bitter and sweet.  Bitter because reading all these tweets, and sharing my own, dredges up the hurt, anger, disgust, sorrow, frustration and general outrage I have felt at how I, and other fat people, are treated at the hands of general society.  But also sweetness, because not only was it amazing to hear all of these people finally have a voice, and a considerably powerful one, but there was also a strong sense of community and fellowship building over the past two days.  I gained dozens and dozens of new followers (though I also shed quite a few, who don’t like hearing the truth about the shit fat people are subjected to), and followed many new people myself.

But what I found most telling were the reactions from people who are not fat to many of the things that were tweeted under the hashtag.  And in a way, it makes me angry that so many people are only horrified now at these things.  I feel like “What the fuck have I been saying for the past two years if you’re only getting how horribly fat people are treated now?”

I’ll give you some examples of tweets that horrified some of the people who are not fat that I encountered today:

  • @fatheffalump: [well dressed woman physically pushes me over on an escalator] Well you shouldn’t be so fucking fat! #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @Nocturnal_Nyx said to me – fat people should kill themself and make more room for the normal people. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @lisa_n: No one’s ever going to love you if you don’t do something about that #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @Mrs_Sprat: You should feel lucky you were raped. How else would someone sleep with you? #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @fatheffalump: “Go away, lose weight, find a boyfriend and come back to me when you want babies.” (a Dr to me, aged 19 & in pain) #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @fatheffalump: “Keep walking ya fat cunt!” Yelled at me from a passing car as I went for an afternoon walk. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
These are just a few that I tweeted or retweeted that got horrified reactions from some of the not-fat folk I follow.


What people aren’t getting is that this shit isn’t one offs.  This shit isn’t something that happens on rare occasions.  It happens to lots of us, all the time.  I myself am literally spat at, have things thrown at me from passing cars, have shit called out at me, am mooed and barked at, have people call me a fat cunt, am photographed in public without my permission, particularly if I dare to eat in public, am laughed at by strangers on the street and receive death threats here on this blog, all of these things several times per week.  AND.  I.  AM.  NOT.  ALONE.   Over 2000 tweets in 48 hours give testament that this shit is happening to fat people, every day, every where.  God knows how many people out there are suffering without ever giving voice to the things that happen to them.

Simply because we are fat and we exist in this world.


Yet people are still surprised when we talk about this stuff.  There are still gasps of horror, exclamations of surprise, and declarations of “How can people behave like that to another human being?!”


You know how?  They can because to the people who do this shit, we are “the obese”.  We are not considered “people”, we are considered an “epidemic”.  Governments and the media declare a “war on obesity” – who do you think that war is on?  It’s on US.   We are those headless fatties you see on the news.  We are the “the obese” that the newspapers refer to when they wring their hands over how we’re costing the average taxpayer millions.  We are the “obese women” that journalists write pieces about how we should be ashamed of ourselves, hate ourselves and be shamed by society for being fat.  We are “the obese” who are shamed for daring to want to travel anywhere in a plane and told that we should pay more, buy two seats, not fly at all.  We are the ones who have no decent quality, attractive clothes provided for us at a reasonable price.  We are the ones who are represented on television by fat characters gorging themselves or bullying the “heroes”.   We are the ones that “non-profit organisations” have in mind when they say that childhood obesity is the equivalent to childhood abuse.  We are the ones our own governments set up to be bullied as children in the name of “public health”.


We are the ones who are reviled, shamed, ridiculed, bullied and abused at every fucking turn by the media, the weight loss industry, the beauty industry, the entertainment industry, even the fucking government.


Why else do you think we are treated like this?  Because we are not considered human beings, we’re considered sub-human, and that message is repeated over and over and over again, day in and day out.  So much that most of us spend our lives repeating it to ourselves.



So I want to say this to all of the people who are horrified at the things they read in these tweets.  Don’t just shake your head, gasp in horror, and cluck your tongue at how terrible people are to the poor fatties.  Stand the fuck up. Say something when you hear fat hate.  Speak up when you see someone being treated badly because of the size of their body.  Challenge those articles you see in magazines, newspapers and on television that perpetuate myths about fat people.  Ask questions of the “facts” you see spouted that shame fat people, think about who might just benefit from fat phobia.  After all, fat activists have been doing just this for decades.


Use your voice and join us in speaking out against sizeism.  How many of you will stand up and speak against the mistreatment of animals, yet just change the subject when you hear fat hate against your fellow human beings? How many of you won’t buy a product because it’s not idealogically sound to you, but will happily support an organisation or company  that shames fat people simply for existing in their bodies?


Look, your sympathy is nice.  I appreciate that you feel dismay that fat people are treated badly.  But ultimately we need more than your sympathy.  We need your solidarity.  We need you standing beside us and speaking up to all of society, to say that these are not acceptable ways to treat another human being.  And we need your vocal and obvious support.


We need more than quiet statements of dismay or disbelief.


We need shouts across the rooftops at the injustice of how fat people are treated.




I would like to dedicate this post to Dr Samantha Thomas, a woman who embodies what it means to be a true ally to fat activists, and who sticks her neck out and stands up for the rights of fat people every day, from getting her gorgeous mug on the telly to speaking up when she hears fat stigmatisation in public.  I feel blessed to have her stand beside me and other fat activists in this fight, and even more blessed to call her friend.


It’s Easy… Just Starve

Published April 10, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Last night I was reading blog posts through Google Reader, and somewhere in my reading travels, I read a commenter I think, relating something a thin colleague of hers had said to her. (I’m sorry I can’t find where I read it, if anyone knows let me know and I’ll link it up)  It went something like this:

My doctor says that it’s easy to lose weight, all you have to do is stop putting anything in here. *Pointing to mouth*

I can’t quite express how it made me feel.  It HURT at first.  Then it made me unspeakably angry, the red mist really formed before my eyes.  Then sadness, and some more hurt.  Followed by a big old mix of rage and pain and sorrow that all came flooding at once.

Because it’s not the first time I’ve heard the opinion that fat people should simply stop eating, AT ALL.  I’ve had it directed at me personally time and time again.  Let me share with you a couple of instances that stick in my mind.

More than a decade ago.  I was severely depressed, dieting (actually, pretty much starving myself) and generally just hating myself for being fat.  I was at the local shopping centre and I was so hungry, I was close to tears.  I hadn’t eaten all day, and I decided I could let myself have a small tub of fruit salad.  I bought the fruit salad, and was sitting on a bench eating it, when an elderly couple came by, pushing a shopping trolley.  The woman nudged her husband to look at me and said, loud enough for me to hear, “Look at that!  People like that should never be allowed to eat.”

I simply lowered my head, and cried.

About five years ago.  I was out on a date with the guy I was seeing at the time.  We were having dinner in a cafe.  I had improved a lot with my eating disorder by this time, but was still “watching what I ate”.  I am eating my dinner, a chicken and mushroom thing with a side salad and a pineapple juice.  He is eating his dinner, a burger with the works, large chips, a strawberry milkshake and a large serve of deep fried, crumbed calamari.  He is tall and very lean, I am average height and very fat.  Two women walk into the cafe, see us and as my date leans over, kisses me and helps himself to some of the food off MY plate, one woman says to the other “That’s disgusting, how can she just sit there eating in front of him?”

My date didn’t hear, but I did.  I fought back tears, and could not enjoy the rest of my date.

It happens all the time, not just the “stop eating” but everyone seems to be an expert on what fat people should do with their bodies, without any real knowledge at all about those people, their health, their bodies, their lives.  Everyone out there is an expert on fatness, you only have to take a look at the hashtag that has been busy on Twitter today #thingsfatpeoplearetold We suffer people telling us how to diet and exercise, as though we have never considered it in the past.  We suffer people commenting on what we are eating, how much (or how little) we are eating, how we are eating, when we are eating and why we are eating.  We suffer people making snap judgements on our bodies simply based on what they see before them, and their own fucked up assumptions about fat.

There is this fucked up thinking that if fat people simply stopped eating, ceased consuming any food at all, they would no longer be fat and the problem would be solved.  How we’re supposed to do that, when you know, humans need food to live, to survive, I don’t know.

I think the assumption is that fat people can just “live off their fat”, that if we stop eating, our bodies will just consume the fat on them and go along as per usual, without any negative consequence.  But it simply doesn’t work like that.  Ketosis for one, can be highly damaging to a body that is consuming it’s own fat, particularly to the liver.  Bodies that are not receiving nutrition can quickly become malnourished and begin to break down their own muscle and other vital materials rather than the fats stored.  It raises the risk of osteoporosis later in life.  And most of all, starvation makes people lose their ability to function generally throughout the day.  One cannot think straight, focus, remember etc when one is starving.

But all of this is considered acceptable by some, if it means you’re losing weight.

The thing is, weight loss is not guaranteed with starvation dieting.  In fact, I’m living proof that it simply doesn’t work, in fact, makes you fatter.  I starved myself, for long periods, on and off from when I was in my teens to when I was in my 30′s.  I rarely lost weight.  Sometimes I lost some, only to have it come back, even without going off the starvation diet.

Of course, it’s really not about health at all.  It’s about the sight of fat bodies being offensive to some people.  Because no matter how healthy you are, if you’re still fat… well then you are not doing it right.  You must get rid of your fatness, or at least hide it.  Cease to be fat, and if you can’t do that, cease to be.

But what really bothers me is not so much the epic wrongness of these assumptions, but the sheer injustice of being expected to live a life of deprivation, starvation and unhappiness, simply because my body is fat.  That to these people, I am never allowed to taste anything, to celebrate with food, to spend time with friends, colleagues and family over a meal, to experience the world through it’s cuisine, to enjoy food and eating, and most importantly, I am not allowed to make my own choices when it comes to food and eating.

I get angry that there are people who believe that my fatness negates my human right to live my life as I choose to do so.  There are those who believe that simply because my body is fat, that they, or society, or someone, needs to intervene in my life to direct me in how to take care of myself.

Well fuck that shit.  We are grown adults.  We are not stupid, or lazy, or somehow morally corrupted by our fatness.  We are capable of making our own choices when it comes to food and eating, particularly if you let us do so without ramming diets, or general fat loathing in our faces.  When removed from all the hateful messages society shoves on us about food and fatness, we can even become competent eaters.

If you are concerned about fat people eating, then don’t be, because it’s none of your concern.  Be concerned about your own eating.  We don’t need you to be concerned about ours.  I promise you, if fat people are left alone to eat as they wish to, without your concern, they won’t eat everything and leave you nothing.  The world won’t end.  You won’t miss out on that delicious thing that you are craving.  The economy of the planet is not going to collapse.  Children won’t suddenly drop dead from heart attacks.  You’re not going to see human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.

What will happen is that grown adults, regardless of their body size, will make up their own mind about food and eating, and that will be ok.

The Questions that Need to be Asked

Published April 1, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Dear Thin, White Women of the Media*,

I have to know.  Why are you so threatened by the idea of it being ok for fat people to just be themselves, as they are?

Why do you feel that it is your place to speak for fat people, to intervene in our lives?  What is so abhorrent about the idea of leaving us alone to advocate for ourselves?  Why are you so determined to make fat people the scourge of society?  Why do you feel the need to discredit us, denounce our ability to advocate for our own lives, our own health, our own standards of living?  Why do you feel the need to post articles that only draw more fat stimga to us, without ever moderating the comments so that we are subjected to even more loathing than we already suffer?  Why do you feel the need to make jokes about fatness, without any care or concern what the fallout of those jokes might be?  Why do you feel that our bodies need to be publicly discussed and criticised, when you are outraged when your body is treated this way?  Why do you say you are concerned for our health, when you know absolutely nothing about any of us, how healthy we are, what our histories are, and what it feels like to live in our bodies?  Why do you think it is acceptable to draw attention to extreme behaviour from some fat people, as though all of us live the same way, that we are all somehow “freaks” that should be pointed at, as though you’re shouting “Look!  Look at that fatty over there!  She’s WEIRD!”

Why do you talk so much about positive body image, but make it clear that fat people are to be excluded from positive body image?  Why do you speak about how as a society we should be talking about obesity, but the minute a fat person speaks, you shut them down, tell them they are not allowed to give criticism, not allowed to give their perspectives and discredit their experiences?  Why do you feel the need to imply that fat people are of a lower class by referring to the correlation of class and weight, without any acknowledgement of how society as a whole pushes fat people further down the class ladder by denying them employment, equal wages, clothing, and general social status.  Why would you do that unless as a way to highlight that fat people are somehow inferior to others?  Why do you fail to engage with any fat people unless it is on your terms?

Why do you feel the need to speak about us, to label us, to put words in our mouths, without ever listening to what we have to say, or asking us what we are really saying?  Why do you feel the need to twist what we are saying to make us look like a flock of fat harpies, intent on swooping down to peck at your bones?

Why are you interested in us at all?  Why aren’t you living your own lives, merrily on your way, but are instead so intent on denouncing us as unattractive, unhealthy, unworthy, the crux of all societies problems?  Don’t you have full lives that you have to live, to focus on?

Do we make you feel threatened, thin, white women of the media?

Are you worried that you might get fat if you don’t denounce us, denigrate us, demonise us?  Are you concerned that if you let your guard down for just one minute, the fatness might creep up on you?  Are you concerned that fatness is contagious?

Do you feel that if you have to “work so hard” to keep yourselves thin, that everyone should have to?  That if someone out there dares to accept their fatness, they are some how cheating at the game of life?  Do you feel resentment at the thought that there might be fat women out there not agonising over their bodies, not loathing themselves when you feel you should for any fat on your body?  Is it that you feel that if you have to spend your life watching your weight, that it’s only fair that everyone should have to?

Do you worry that if fat people are allowed to advocate for themselves, you might miss out on something?  That they might get something that you don’t?  Does it worry you that if someone is left to look after their own health, and health needs, that they might get a little more medical attention, or a little more time in a doctor’s office (instead of being told to lose weight and shunted out the door, with no addressing of their actual health issues) than you do?

Is it just about attention itself?  Are you concerned that if someone is paying positive attention to the fatties, they may not pay positive attention to you?

Or is it more sinister than that?  Do you feel that if someone is paying attention to fat women for something other than to demonise their fatness, that they might stop paying attention to you?  Are you concerned that if society in general stops judging women by how well they fit into a size 8 pair of jeans, and focuses on their wit, intelligence, style, kindness and skills, that you will lose that superior edge that being thin affords you over fat people?

I would genuinely like to know just what it is that brings you to the point in your life that you have to denounce, discredit, demonise other human beings just for existing as they are.  After all, the Fat Acceptance activists you are so quick to shout down don’t harbour any desire for thin people to go away, to cease to exist, to shut up, to be eradicated, to be cured of their thinness, like you desire of fat people.  Instead what we desire is a world where people of all body types, fat, thin and in between, can be left alone to find their own peace, their own health, their own happiness without being vilified for existing in the forms their bodies naturally take.  Where people all body types are valued for who they are, not what they look like.  Where people are allowed to be just that, people, not a symptom, a shape, a size, a number.

We don’t take up fat activism because we’re unhappy with our lives, we take it up because we want to reclaim our lives from those who would have us shut down, disappear, cease to live our lives to the fullest.  We take up fat activism because we want the same rights afforded to all others.  We are activists to celebrate our lives, not demonise the lives of others.

What is it that brings you to marginalising and vilifying other people based on their bodies?  What is happening (or perhaps not happening) in your lives that makes this a cause you take up?

Yours sincerely

Kath aka Fat Heffalump

*And before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, I am not referring to ALL thin, white women of the media, just those who spend time vilifying fat people.  If you don’t do that, it’s not about you.  I am addressing those who spend quite considerable amounts of time doing all of the above, and this past week we have seen quite a bit of them.  I have tagged the main culprits if you wish to know EXACTLY who I am referring to.

I’m Not Convinced the Leopard Has Changed It’s Spots

Published March 8, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Today over on The Discourse, Dr Samantha Thomas announced a MAJOR win on her behalf for the fight against the stigmatisation of fat people, when she shared that Obesity Prevention Australia had removed all images and references equating childhood obesity to child abuse. I am incredibly impressed that Samantha, and all others who spoke out against these disturbing messages and images, were able to have them removed and the collection tins bearing them recalled by Obesity Prevention Australia (OPA), and major kudos go to Samantha for spearheading it.

However, I’m not letting OPA off the hook that easily.  While I think it is excellent that they have removed this ignorant tripe from their site, and recalled those highly offensive collection tins from circulation, I still have lots and lots, and LOTS of problems with them.  Let’s make a list shall we?

  • In the response from Levi Walz, the CEO of OPA, he said “Firstly, I would like to issue my deepest apologies to anyone who has been offended by our awareness slogan.”  Well there’s your first problem.  There is no apology for the actual offense, merely a “sorry you’re offended”.  Which is a false apology – the onus is placed back on those who are offended rather than OPA for engaging in offensive behaviour.
  • Secondly, Mr Walz states “this upsetting feedback is truly new for us however, as since OPA’s inception the response we have received nationwide has been nothing short of completely positive (governments, health professionals, schools, program participants, other organisations, local business etc).”  All this illustrates to me is that fat hatred is deeply entrenched and OPA are actually contributing to it by adding their offensive campaigns to the already hostile environment for fat people.
  • Mr Walz then says “I have felt sick in my stomach at how our organisation has been interpreted by your readers”.  There is no “interpretation” of fat stigmatisation, by equating childhood obesity with child abuse, OPA were directly accusing parents of fat children of abusing those children.
  • He then states that he also feels sick in his stomach at “and how many of the people we aim to help have been hurt.”  The assumption that a) fat people either want or need any help from an organisation like OPA is both patronising and dismissive of the experiences of fat people at the hands of those who insist on stigmatising fatness as dangerous, deadly or abusive.
  • He then says “maybe people have been offended prior, however have just kept it to themselves” which makes me wonder if there has been any thought by he and the OPA into just how shaming, bullying and stigmatising fat people silences them.  Have they put any consideration into how much courage it must take for someone to stand up to a large organisation who are promoting the idea that “Childhood obesity is childhood abuse.”?

So that’s the response that we have seen with regards to this immediate matter.  I have noticed a general change in tone to the website since the piece by Dr Samantha Thomas (and she has lots of screenshots on this piece), which is a good start.

However, there is still a whole lot of wrong with the site, the organisation and the messages it sends out.  So let’s have a go at those too:

  • The name.  Obesity Prevention Australia.  As though obesity is a) something that can be prevented, b) something that should be prevented and c) something that is “other” than a human being.  “Preventing” obesity implies that one has control over one’s body size, which is erroneous to start with, and implies that obesity is someones fault.  Well, we’ve already seen them imply that obesity is the fault of parents.  Obesity isn’t a thing or a disease, it is a medicalisation of the state of being a fat PERSON.  I feel that naming your organisation “Obesity Prevention Australia” implies the eradication of fat people.  Be it through fat reduction by any means, or simply removing fat people from our culture.
  • While we’re on the topic of this being an organisation, I am wondering why they are using a .com.au web domain, which by law in Australia can only be registered by a registered BUSINESS (not organisation) with an ABN and the domain name must have some connection to the name, or the business type, of that registered business.  Surely a non-profit organisation should have a .org.au domain name, which are reserved for registered non-profit organisations?
  • Let’s talk about Shannon Ponton’s involvement with OPA.  Why is a physical trainer who works on a television show famous for bullying, shaming and humiliating fat people for entertainment, while promoting unhealthy extreme dieting and exercise practices, in a “lose weight at any cost” mentality, a member of an organisation that is supposedly concerned with the health of Australians, unless to add to the message of fat stigmatisation in a highly public manner?
  • How about OPA’s statement that they are an organisation “committed to reversing the obesity and inactivity epidemic that is debilitating our nation.”  Have they got any evidence of this supposed debilitating epidemic?  I can’t seem to see them citing any references anywhere on their site to go with their statistics and claims.
  • Actually have a look around the site at all of the “statistics” and claims.  I am unable to find any of them reference to anything.  They could be made up for all we know.
  • If you delve into their “Who we help” pages, they claim that “It is estimated that if current trends continue, close to 70% of all Australian adults will be overweight or obese by 2020!” – can we have some kind of evidence to this claim please?  They even follow that sentence up with “(If this does not scare you please read it again).”  This is meant to aid in healthfulness of  ALL Australians how?  It sounds far more like an “OMG THE FAT IS CATCHING AND IT’S GONNA GET YOU!!” than a positive message of raising health in Australia.
  • I’m rather impressed by how many ways they suggest that you can give them money.

I could go on, and on, and on with the ways in which this “organisation” make me question their intentions, their fund-trails and those who are involved with the project.  But I have to get up and go to work tomorrow and to be honest, the fat shaming on the site is starting to wear me down.  I invite anyone else reading to wade into the website if you have the spoons to do so (I will warn that it is full of fear mongering with little to no sources of information cited, that may be triggering to some) and add some more points of concern into the comments if you wish.

While I am very pleased that Obesity Prevention Australia INC (the INC is only mentioned in their prospectus page) has listened and removed the “Childhood Obesity is Childhood Abuse” propaganda, and some of the more disturbing images that were featured on The Discourse in response to Dr Samantha Thomas’ fantastic exposé on their methods, I am not ready to believe that they have the best interests of fat Australians at heart.  So long as they use the name “Obesity Prevention Australia”, spout unfounded death threats and continue to focus on and stigmatise fatness, they are doing more harm than good.   It is going to take some RADICAL changes of their entire organisation to rectify this, and I will be watching to see if this actually happens.

If they truly wish to improve the health of Australians, their focus needs to be on the availability of health education and resources for ALL Australians, not just the ones who don’t pass as “thin enough”.

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