fat stigma

All posts in the fat stigma category

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.

Busting Myths About Fat Bodies

Published September 17, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I’ve been thinking a lot about the assumptions people make about living in a fat body.  It’s important to say living IN a fat body and not living WITH a fat body, because we don’t cohabit with our fat bodies, we inhabit them.  These thoughts have been spurred on by repeated statements I’ve read from people decrying how we must be so miserable, uncomfortable and in pain simply because we have fat bodies, that we are so unhealthy simply by having fat bodies, that our quality of life must be just terrible.

I want to break some of those erroneous assumptions about living in a fat body down.  I want to talk about how it feels to live in a fat body.  Of course, there will always be a certain subset of the population who will tell us that we are in denial, that we are lying or that we have no idea what it feels like to live in our own bodies.  They’re dickheads, and I don’t care what they think.  But I want to talk to you, fellow fats, about thinking about how you feel in your fat body,

Now I can only talk about how it feels in MY fat body, because this is the only body I have lived in.  How I feel in my fat body is influenced by my being a woman, by my whiteness, my cis-genderedness, my able-bodiedness, my heterosexualness and so on.  I don’t speak for anyone else’s body, but if I talk about how I feel in mine, I’m sure it will ring true for many other fatties and then you are all welcome to share your own perspectives in the comments (remembering the golden rules of this blog – no promoting weight loss, no general negativities about fat bodies and check your privilege).

So, what are a few of the commonly held assumptions about living in a fat body?  I’ll come up with the ones I can think of, and you’re welcome to add more in the comments for me to touch on in another post.  So here we go:

  1. In every fat body, there is a thin person trying to get out.

    No, no there’s not.  In every fat body there is a human being trying to live their life in dignity and peace, with general respect as a human being.  Many fat people will confuse this with a thin person, because thin people are usually awarded the privilege to live their life in dignity and peace, with general respect as a human being.  So they try to become thin to get that respect, dignity and peace, rather than demanding something that is already theirs as a human right.  Mostly because we’re led to believe that thinness is something that can be achieved, that it’s something within our control.  Attempting to become thin won’t solve the problem of fat stigma, but ending fat stigma certainly will.

  2. Having a fat body is like carrying around a 2o/50/100/whatever lb/kg sack of potatoes/dirt/lard whatever.

    Wait, the average adult skeletal structure weighs about 20lbs right?  So is having a skeleton like carrying around a 2olb weight?  No it’s not.  Fat bodies are not attached to us, like some kind of extra luggage – they ARE us.  Our whole bodies hold ourselves up – bones, muscle, organs, skin, fat, everything – it’s all part of a complex machine that propels us around our lives.  If you hand me 50lbs, I’m going to feel it’s weight, because it is not part of me.  But 50lbs of my own body weight (or whatever number you choose) is part of me, and it has it’s own function in my body.  The only time I’ve felt like I’m carrying a burden is when I believed I was worthless because I was fat.  That wasn’t the physical weight of my body, it was the weight of stigma.

  3. Fat bodies feel sloppy and gross.

    My fat body is soft and warm, thick and both firm and pliant.  There is a full firmness to my body, but at the same time, it gives and moves as I move and people or objects move against me.  To hug my body is to receive a hug of substance, or as a friend of mine’s toddler calls it, snugglehugs.  My ex used to refer to cuddling me as being “bosomy”.   My body is pleasant and anything but “gross”.

  4. Fat bodies are “weighed down” by gravity and it makes them unable to move properly.

    If this were true, none of us would be able to stand upright or move.  If there was some kind of pound by pound ratio to how gravity pulls a creature down… how do you explain elephants being able to walk and run?  Or something heavy but thin, like… a giraffe!  Giraffes weigh over 3000lbs.   Maybe it IS true and fat people have super-human strength.  I can jump, ride a bike, climb a ladder… I must be Super Fatty.

  5. Fat bodies are always in pain from carrying around extra weight.

    No.  I am very fat and I feel no pain except when I do something stupid, like lifting stuff at work with my back and not my legs, or kicking at a ball of paper and missing, giving myself that awful over-extended kneecap pain thing. (Yeah I know, I’ll cop to being fairly unco-ordinated!)  I don’t suffer back pain, but I have a friend who is half my weight and he has suffered back pain since his mid-20’s.  Fat people who are in pain usually suffer pain because they have an illness or an injury, just like thin people who suffer pain.  Nobody bats an eye at some thin guy with a bad back, he’s just unfortunate, but if a fatty complains of any type of ache, oh it’s because you’re a big fat lardy arse.  All of us will suffer illness or injury at some point in our lives, it’s part of living, and part of getting older.  People of all sizes deal with back pain, sore hips, knees and ankles.  (Another friend of mine is TINY and has the dodgiest hips I’ve ever encountered – she’s always sore.)  As I get older, I am less flexible and take a bit longer to heal an injury than I did in my youth, but who doesn’t?

  6. Fat people just sit around eating all the time.

    God I wish!  I’d love to be able to stop still a bit more.  But between work, socialising, my activism, and generally just living my life, I’m on the go most of the time.  I’d love more time to sit and read, or catch up on the growing mountain of DVD’s beside my computer, or just snooze on my balcony.  I have lived in my new home for over 4 months and I’m yet to have spent time sitting on my balcony reading, something I LONG to do.  Most fatties I know (and I know a lot of fatties these days) are equally busy.  After all, try organising a get together for fatties – I can never get us all in the one place at the same time.  As for the eating all the time – it has been proven that fat people eat no more than thin people.  We are not just stomachs with mouths – despite the mass media portraying us that way.

  7. Fat must be burnt off the body.

    This one bothers me the most.  My fat flesh is not something to be burned or cut off of my body, as though it is a parasite or an infection.  It IS my body.  It is part of who I am.  It is as much part of me as my brain, my heart, my bones, my eyes.  It is not excess.  There is exactly as much of me as there needs to be.

These are just a few of the assumptions about fat people that I’ve been thinking about lately.  So what myth about fatness bothers you?  What myth are you carrying around that you could let go of?

Can We Kill the Privilege Denying Please?

Published September 12, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Yeesh, thin privilege is just rampant isn’t it?

Before we continue, if you’re not sure what thin privilege is, don’t expect me to educate you on it.  You’ve got access to the internet, you know what Google is, clearly you have enough literacy to read this blog, so you can go and educate yourself on the subject.  And if you think it doesn’t exist, then you haven’t educated yourself enough yet.  I’ll still be here when you have, no need to hurry, but please, don’t waste my time and that of everyone else reading this blog in arguing it in the comments.  NOT GONNA HAPPEN PEOPLE.

I will throw you a bone though and share this link with you:

http://thisisthinprivilege.tumblr.com/ with particular attention to this post please.

So, after getting a message via my Fat Heffalump FB page last night asking me to recommend fat acceptance blogs for women who are “not obese” (after all, who wants to have to look at and hear from those ICKY FATTIES, EWWWWWW!) and then got shitty at me when I told her she was being incredibly offensive, thin privilege has been at the front of my mind.

Today this article was published on the otherwise excellent Lip Magazine.  I don’t normally link to bad stuff, but Lip is usually so very good that I’ll give it this time.

First off, let’s acknowledge how transphobic that image is at the header of the article, and I won’t get started on that topic, we’ll save that for another blog.

What I really want to talk about is how INCREDIBLY privilege denying the piece is.  I was going to comment on the article but I think it needs expanding upon, so here we are.

Yes, I agree, the “real women” trope should die in a fire.  Besides, I’m not curvy, I’m fucking fat.  Big ole fat, fat, fat, Fatty McFattersons.  I don’t have “curves”, I have rolls and lumps and thick bits and chunks.  I’m just as real as any other woman.

Yes, I agree, nobody, thin, fat or in-between should be judged on their body shape or size.

But I have a real problem with how the author has framed this as supposedly unacceptable to comment on a fat person’s body.  To quote:

“Why, though, is it OK to tell someone that their natural shape is too skinny, but not that they’re too fat?”

I’d like to call bullshit on this particular assumption.  As a fat woman, not a day goes by without my body being used as a representation of greed, laziness, gluttony.  Not a day goes by without my body being held up in the media as an “epidemic” to be cured/prevented/eradicated.  Not a day goes by without someone making some kind of rude statement about my body.  Every day I deal with complete strangers calling me a “fat bitch” (or worse), people spitting at me, throwing things from cars, supposedly respectable adults making comments about how I am “disgusting” because I have a fat body.  Doctors refuse to treat fat patients, insurers refuse to insure fat customers, we are kicked off flights or forced to buy second seats, we are discriminated in the workplace, vilified by the press and generally just treated as less than human.

It IS totally culturally acceptable for people to judge fat bodies, but not just judge them – vilify and demonise them.  In fact, I’d go so far as saying it’s currently culturally mandatory – because look at how people react when fat activists dare to stand up and say “No, I am a human being and deserve to be treated as one!”  The amount of vitriol and hatred any visible fat person gets is testament to that.

Thin bodies do not get this kind of social stigmatisation at a systemic level.  So PLEASE do not imply that it is “not ok to tell people they are too fat” – when it is EVERYWHERE in our culture.

This is not a matter of thin vs fat.  It is a matter of reclaiming our bodies as acceptable no matter what size or shape they are, and getting rid of tropes that label one type of woman as more real than another.  But until fat people are treated as equal human beings to not-fat people, thin privilege will always exist.

Awww Look, the Fatty Thinks It’s People!

Published August 29, 2012 by sleepydumpling
*Trigger warning* – fat hatred, healthism and general douchebaggery about fatness.

I did something very foolish today.  I read the letters to the editor in response to the article about Zoe and I in the U on Sunday magazine.  I know, I know, I should know better, but I had been told that they were “overwhelmingly positive”, so I had hoped to see a few gems in there to restore my faith in humanity.

Ahh but how wrong I was.  Out of the five letters published, one was overwhelmingly positive, three of them pulled the old “I applaud Kath and Zoe but…” switcheroo (if it wasn’t “but”, it was “however” or “nevertheless”) and one claimed to know that we are “hiding behind” our fat positivity and endangering ourselves and others.

It makes me wonder – can these people (other than the positive one, thank you Cathy Forbes of Twin Waters – YOU ROCK!) not read?  Do they have comprehension issues?  Did they even read the article?

Firstly, let’s address the but/however/nonetheless phenomenon.  If you are saying one thing, and then tacking on a but/however/nonetheless afterwards, you’re actually negating the first part.  So if you say, and I quote FJ Mead of Seventeen Mile Rocks:

“While I feel happy for these large women who are comfortable with their size, it is ignorant to believe they will not be  a burden to the health system later in life.”

FJ, FJ, FJ… you are in fact NOT happy for us at all, as you think we are ignorant and will end up being a burden to the health system.  You can’t have both m’dear.  Either come out and say it and show your loathing for fat people, or shut up.  Don’t hide behind false statements of “I feel happy for them” when you clearly do not.  FJ also thinks that we “aspire” to morbid obesity, or are encouraging others to “aspire” to it.  Sorry FJ, the only thing we aspire to is to be treated like human beings and not have random strangers decide what our health is simply by looking at us.

Then there is D. Hudson from Park Ridge who knows my body, and that of every fat person better than we do ourselves.  D. states “For fat people, every movement is an effort…”  Really D. Hudson?  This is the first I’ve heard that every movement I make is an effort.  Aren’t I lucky you came along to tell me at almost 40 years of age that I don’t in fact feel great, that I have been wrong all along and am in fact struggling under the effort of having a fat body.  D. is also absolutely adamant that our lifespan in general is shortened.  Really?  So like some kind of fat Logan’s run, the minute a fat person gets to a certain size, the little light switches on and off we must go to have our lifespans shortened.  Don’t mind me, I just have to go pick up my 83 year old fat grandma, she’s over-lived her stay!  D. also believes that it’s our fault that we can’t find stylish/affordable clothes and that some of us (though D. seems to sweep all fatties into this pile) may find sitting in a cinema or plane uncomfortable.  Perhaps D., it’s the fact that society refuses to include us as people that causes the lack of stylish/affordable clothing and seats that are comfortable, not our actual bodies?  The real irony is that D. Hudson says it’s “great to see they are also committing themselves to a life of healthy eating and activity” (no I’m not, if I want a donut or a lie in, I’ll have one, the same as if I want a salad or a ride on my bike, I’ll have that too) and then goes on to blather all of the stuff above, as if despite our supposed commitment, we should somehow still be ashamed/unhappy because of our fatness.  How does that even make sense?

The same goes for Matt Smith of Kedron, who states “Ultimately, excessive weight will always adversely affect one’s health.”  Really?  You know that for 100% of cases Matt Smith (are you a Doctor Matt?  Wait, aren’t you THE Doctor??) that every single fat person will have negative health CAUSED by their weight?  Because as the article states, there is no proof of causation of negative health by weight.  So clearly, Matt Smith, you must be better qualified than every other academic who has researched the topic and found the opposite to your claims.  Why aren’t you publishing your findings Matt?  Strangely, Matt then ends his letter by wishing us well, despite having labelled us “irresponsible” and then wished us negative health simply because we’re fat and he wants it to be true that we will suffer poor health.

The big fat cherry on the top goes to Katie Tartare (OMG, do you know the calories in tartare sauce??) from Kanimbla in Cairns, who has decided that Zoe and I are “hiding behind” our self esteem.  Katie equates living in a fat body with endangering our health through excess alcohol or drug intake, as though fatness is some kind of addiction.  Perhaps Katie thinks we are “addicted” to food, a common misconception among fat hating douchecanoes, despite repeated studies showing that fat people eat no more than not-fat people, and in fact some studies show we actually eat less, especially those of us who reject dieting and attempting to lose weight.  Not to mention that food is vital to life.

I think I know the problem.  We fat activists dare to believe that we’re people.  We dare to believe that we should be able to live our lives with as much freedom, respect and dignity as any other person.  We dare to believe that our health is our own business, and that health has no moral value.  We dare to believe that we know our own bodies, what they are capable of and how to look after them in whatever shape or form they happen to be at any given time.  And finally we dare to be present in the world, without hiding ourselves away in shame and apologising for our bodies.

And we can’t have that now, can we?

Look, if you hate fat people, and are all grossed out by our icky fatness and don’t want your eyesight marred by something that you find so repulsive, then just come out and say it.  Have the guts to be honest, not just with the world, but with yourself.  Stop hiding behind “What about your health?!” bullshit, you honestly don’t care about my health, or that of any other fat person.  You couldn’t give a flying fuck about what it feels like to live in a fat body, what happens to fat people and whether or not we die early.  In fact, it would suit you just nicely if we were to all just up and die this minute, because then you wouldn’t have to see our fatness in the world, you wouldn’t have to deal with those gross fatties at all.  Let your friends, family, colleagues and other life acquaintances see just what kind of person you are, stop pretending that you CARE.  Because you could not care one bit about fat people other than to remove us from the world.

But most of all, have the guts to own up to being an arsehole who thinks that other people have to be attractive to YOU to deserve to inhabit this world.

Does a Bear Shit in the Woods?

Published August 18, 2012 by sleepydumpling

In Time “Healthland” this week, journalist Bonnie Rochman asks “Does Nike’s ‘Greatness’ Ad Exploit Fat People?”  As you may be able to guess by the title of this blog post, I think the answer just might be yes.  But not only does it exploit fat people, it further stigmatises us, as does Ms Rochman in the way she writes her article.

Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Perhaps we should all watch the ad:

So this ad uses a 12 year old fat boy, Nathan Sorrell, and Nike had him run behind a Porsche.  On the second take, he threw up in a ditch.  In the boys own words:

“We’ll try to work with you,” Sorrell said, quoting the director. “They were lenient with me.”

As though Nike were doing this boy a huge favour, and that they were generous by allowing the boy time to recover from being sick.

The advert goes on about greatness, how anyone is capable of it, all of us.  (Even the poor fatties!)  All the while focusing on a fat, sweaty boy running slowly towards the camera.

Even Ms Rochman in her piece uses words like “lumbering” and “bulk” to describe Nathan, words that suggest he is somehow ungainly, unattractive and even pathetic.

The implication of this advert, and even the article, is that we should cheer on the poor fat kid, because he’s working hard to lose weight, even if it is a bit pathetic.  This friends, is not an ad that is designed to celebrate fat people being active.  This ad is telling us “well, at least you’ll be better than this sorry fat kid.”

Even Rebecca Puhl from Yale’s Rudd Centre, quoted in the article, misses the point.  She refers to this advert as “featuring an overweight boy in their ad (and doing so in a respectful manner)”.  How is this respectful?  How is it respectful to have a 12 year old boy run repeatedly behind a Porsche (a fucking Porsche!) until he vomits?  How respectful is it to show a fat person struggling and sweaty, even looking like he is unwell and in pain (which we know he was) and adding hushed tones about how “anyone can be great”, with the implication that “even this pathetic fat kid”.  And let’s not get started on the fact that they used a twelve year old child for this, rather than an adult.

Also note, they have used a fat boy who is trying to lose weight, who is running because he doesn’t want to be fat any more.  Nike are even dangling the carrot of perhaps returning if he is “successful” at doing so.

How is this not stigmatising towards fat people?  There is nothing celebratory about this ad.  The ad isn’t celebrating Nathan, it’s just saying that he has the potential for greatness if he loses weight.  In fact, this ad is saying “Keep running fatty, until you’re not fat.”

If Nike, or anyone else, wanted to feature a fat person and do so in a respectful manner, they wouldn’t be using weight loss as a “greatness” metaphor.  They wouldn’t be using some poor kid who clearly is only running because he thinks he has to be thin.  They wouldn’t be featuring a struggling 12 year old boy who looks like the unhappiest kid in the world.

If they wanted to feature a fat person and do so in a respectful manner, which would be absolutely radical advertising, they would perhaps feature some fat people being active – running, playing sport, dancing etc in their Nike shoes and having a great time!  They’d show fatties laughing and having fun.  They’d show positive representations of fatties engaging in physical activity, not having some poor kid run behind a Porsche until he vomits.

Now I’m not expecting people to look pretty when they are physically active.  It’s hard work and it’s sweaty.  But instead of going on about how anyone has the potential to be great (which implies young Nathan only has the potential, he has to lose the weight first, he isn’t great yet), how about having some fats talk about how running makes them feel good?  Or how they love getting better and better at [insert sport of choice here] by practicing hard?  Or how working up a sweat makes them feel strong and alive?

Instead we are sold this lie that to achieve greatness (and do be worthy of wearing Nike’s gear), we must be working hard to shed the pounds, to reduce our fat bodies.  Fat people are not required to engage in physical activity to get a pass in society, nor are we only allowed to be fat if we are trying desperately to not be fat.  We are not potentially worthy (which is what this advert is really saying) unless we’re potentially thin.  Not to mention that health is not a moral value, nobody has an obligation to be “healthy”, whatever that is.  Running behind a Porsche until you puke is not healthy by my standards, that’s for sure.

Want to see some representations of fat people engaging in physical activity that are respectful and positive and non-exploitative? Check these out from Stocky Bodies*:

Frances stretching

Sonya swimming

Even me! On my bike!

THAT’S how you feature fat people engaging in physical activity in a respectful manner.  Not by focusing on their “lumbering bulk”, talking about how they have the “potential to be great” because they’re trying to lose weight (I think the three of us are already great up there in our photos!)  And certainly not by using a child who is very clearly unhappy about his body and is willing to run behind a Porsche until he is sick, and call it leniency on behalf of the director.

*Images by Isaac Brown for Stocky Bodies.

Introducing… Stocky Bodies!

Published June 18, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Some of you might remember a few months back I was talking about a photographic project I was working on with Dr Lauren Gurrieri of the Griffith Business School and photographer Isaac Brown of the Queensland College of Art, where I (and several other activists) were being photographed to document the lives of fat people.

Well, with no further ado, may I introduce you to…

Stocky Bodies!

On Friday night we launched the online image gallery to provide an alternative to headless fatties in the media and in marketing.  In a world where fat bodies are constantly othered and dehumanised, we recognised the need to have images that identify fat people as human beings with lives, loves, careers, hobbies, passions, families and rich experiences.

Not only can these be used for media and marketing purposes, but can be used by anyone who wishes to illustrate an article, blog post or other piece with non-stigmatising photographs of fat people.  It is free, and can be used for any non-commercial, non-derivative purpose, (the terms and condition are found on every image page).

How awesome is that??

It has been an incredible experience participating in this project, and we have more photo sessions in the future.  The other participants have been Zoe, Sonya, Frances, Nick and Natalie.  And in October, there will be an exhibition of more photographs at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

So to introduce you to the project, and show you how awesome the photos are, I have selected a few of my own favourites to share with you.  I only chose from photos including myself, so as to let the other activists showcase their own fantastic photos.

Tootling on My Bike.
Photo by Isaac Brown for ‘Stocky Bodies’.

Getting a haircut!
Photo by Isaac Brown for ‘Stocky Bodies’.

Feminist Reading
Photo by Lauren Gurrieri for ‘Stocky Bodies’.

Getting Inked
Photo by Isaac Brown for ‘Stocky Bodies’.

Fatshion!
Photo by Isaac Brown for ‘Stocky Bodies’.

I’m ready for my close-up!
Photo by Lauren Gurrieri for ‘Stocky Bodies’.

Market shopping.
Photo by Lauren Gurrieri for ‘Stocky Bodies’.

Blogging, or as I prefer to call it… BOOBS!
Photo by Isaac Brown for ‘Stocky Bodies’.
(Proof that you can remove faces from a photo and it be non-stigmatising)

Well that’s enough spamming you with photos of me!  I hope you like the teaser and please do go and have a look at Stocky Bodies.  And spread the word – this is an amazing project that I am very proud to be part of.

Be Your Own Expert

Published June 1, 2012 by sleepydumpling

You know what really shits me?

Every time I see an “opinion” piece on “obesity”, weight discrimination and stigma, weight and health or any other subject relating to fatness, it is almost always authored by someone who is not fat.  And more alarmingly, quite often authored by someone who has no expertise or experience in the fields of fat, health or stigma/discrimination.

Many of you will remember the piece written by Phil the Marketing Dude on The Hoopla a few months ago – an article published on a mainstream online magazine giving an opinion on weight and fat stigma by someone who works in marketing.  Someone who has no connection to fat studies or health studies or medicine and isn’t even fat himself, published as though he has the right to broadcast his opinion on a subject that he has absolutely no connection to.

I saw another one this week in The Conversation – another online journal, this one touting themselves as having “Academic rigour, journalistic flair” by a lecturer in politics of all things (no, I’m not going to link it, it’s the biggest pile of steaming crap I’ve ever read – plus it’s accompanied by a hateful photograph, ) giving his opinion about discrimination against fat people.  Of course, he starts by saying that he doesn’t believe that fat people should be stigmatised, and then goes on to do just that and to encourage other people to do it as well.

Over and over again, people who have absolutely no connection to weight or health get to spew their opinions in highly public forums, without regard to how their words affect the real lives of fat people.  It seems the only thing that makes one an authority on fatness in many publications is to be not-fat, and be vocal about it.  Or sometimes they will publish someone who was “successful” in weight loss, without examining just how long that “success” has been achieved (usually less than 2 years) or how that person’s life/resources or body may be at an advantage to those of long term fat people.

Even if it’s a positive bent to fatness – many publications will publish the opinions of thin people far before they will actually talk to fat people about their experiences, their history and their realities.  Not-fat authors are also more likely to be given a sympathetic/empathetic ear over those of us who are actually fat.  More often than not, fat people who speak up about stigmatisation and discrimination are accused of being angry, aggressive or too demanding.  As though if we just were “nice enough” we’d deserve to be treated like human beings.

This is why when mainstream media approach me for my input, I jump at the chance, even though I know the piece won’t be perfectly fat-positive, and is likely to contain the opinions of aforementioned “experts”.  Because so rarely do actual fat people, who live in fat bodies and face the realities of being fat in a society that openly loathes fatness actually get to be seen or heard.   Not to mention that when we are seen, we are portrayed as sad, lonely, depressed, dirty, lazy, gluttonous, smelly etc – almost always objects of ridicule.  For someone to open a magazine and click on a link and see a fat person who is happy and confident, and who is articulating the realities that fat people experience – it is a radical discovery.  I remember that it wasn’t too many years ago that I myself was completely blown away by a photograph of Kelli Jean Drinkwater being fat, powerful and confident.  It wasn’t that long ago that I was discovering writers like Lesley Kinzel, Bri King, Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby.

I think we need to call out publications that use people who have no connection or expertise to fatness for opinion pieces on fat.  We need to contact their editors, leave comments and ask questions as to why they’re publishing pieces by people who have no qualification to speak on the subject.  We need to keep telling our own stories and sharing our own experiences.  It’s bloody hard work – as well as having to find the time to do it, one has to have the sanity points to deal with those who think they know your body, your life better than you do, and those who believe that simply by measure of your body, they have the right to treat you as less than human.

That said, I don’t believe it has to be as political or even as wordy as the method I choose, which I think a lot of people assume that fat activism must be.  Being a fat person who lives their lives to the full is a radical, radical act in a culture that so openly loathes us.  Being a visible fat person – be it through fat fashion, art, prose and poetry, hobbies and sport, or generally just getting out there and enjoying life – your job, your family, your friends, etc.  If you can be a proud fat person living your life and sharing it online or anywhere else, without ever mentioning the more political side of fat activism.  When someone who has long believed that they are worthless because they have a fat body sees a picture of a fab fatty in a cute outfit, or a proud fatty talking about the job she loves, or her family, or a fatty having fun at the pool, in a dance class, at the park with her kids… their world is opened up to a whole new possibility.  It shows a completely different paradigm to the mainstream presentation of life as a fat person.

You are the expert on your life.  WE are the experts on life as fat people.

So get out there I say.  Live your life.  Have fun.  Love those in your life who are special to you.  Dress in ways that make you feel good.  Document your life – blog about your passions/share your photos/make videos/be artistic.

But most of all, in whatever way you can, tell your story.  YOU tell it – don’t let a fat loathing society tell it for you.

It’s Out – Australian Women’s Weekly June Edition

Published May 30, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Hey all!  Just a quick blog post from me tonight, I’ve been sideswiped by a cold that has gone through my office like a brush fire, so I’m trying to indulge in some self care to help get through it as quickly as possible.

I discovered this morning that yes, my article in the Australian Women’s Weekly (AWW) is out today!  For those of you looking to get a print copy, it is this one, with Chrissie Swan on the cover:

I’m pretty chuffed to be in an issue that has Chrissie on the cover, she’s awesome.  And she has some really positive things to say about living life as a fat woman.

I’m pretty impressed with this from Chrissie:

“It’s shaming fat people into thinking their heart’s about to explode, their legs are about to be cut off due to diabetes. They’ll never conceive a child, they’ll never get married, they’ll never find love, they’ll never get the job they want.”

Chrissie — who has two sons, Leo, three, and nine-month-old Kit — is especially upset at the messages conveyed to children, that there is something wrong with them and they ought to be ashamed if they are chubby.

“We can’t say fat people are bad, we can’t have them crawl through mud pits on national television and have skinny people yelling at them, saying, ‘How does it feel?’ Because kids see that and they go, ‘Okay, it’s cool to scream abuse and belittle a fat person. I’ll do that next time I see Billy in the playground.’

There is an online version, however it is an abridged version of the full print article. (Note, don’t read the comments unless you have plenty of sanity points to spare!)

Overall I’m happy with the article, it’s not perfect but it has an overwhelmingly positive tone to it, and really entertains some concepts that aren’t normally presented in the mainstream media.  The only thing that bums me out is that they have an “obesity expert” who pushes surgical organ mutilation (weight loss surgery) in the name of “health”.  But that said, I get the final world in the piece, and it’s a pretty damn good quote to end with.

All in all, I think that if just one person Google’s my name, Fat Heffalump, fat acceptance or Health at Every Size, we’ve won.  If we stop one person from hating themselves, or have them entertaining the idea that we can live our lives to the full no matter what size or shape we are, then we’ve smashed down some walls for people.

And since already I’ve had at least one person (waves to Phoebe) come along to this blog from the AWW article, it’s doing it’s job!

 

An Open Letter to Wendy Harmer and The Hoopla

Published April 12, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Dear Wendy Harmer, the Hoopla Team,

I am writing to you here, in an open letter on my blog, because I have to have control over the environment that this is published in, and what kind of content is posted in the comments.  I don’t do this to prevent anyone from having their say, they can already do that in their own space.  I do it because I am a human being, and I need to have SOME space in the world that I am protected and feel safe.

I am deeply, deeply offended at your decision to publish the piece today by Philip Barker*.  Not simply because he chooses to further stigmatise fat people by repeatedly implying that we are sedentry, gluttonous, unwilling to take personal responsibility  and out of control – people say that all the time about fat people, we’re used to it.  I am deeply offended because you allowed him to use me, to comment on me and my life, in a way that connects anti-fat rhetoric to me personally.

If Philip Barker had simply written an op-ed piece about how he believes weight stigma is wrong, but continued stigmatising fat people, I would have been annoyed, but not personally offended.  It’s ridiculous that he would, because he is not a fat person, nor does he have any expertise on weight or health, so why is he having his opinion on the matter published by a major online magazine such as yourself?  Why is some guy who works in marketing given space to give his opinion on obesity?  What relevance is obesity to Philip Barker?

To be honest, I could care less about Philip Barker – he is no authority on anything to do with weight or health, he is just a marketing man who thinks he has the right to define which bodies are “ok” socially and which bodies are not.  I am sure Philip Barker could find better ways to use his life… or maybe he can’t, I don’t know.

But you published, and included my name and photographs, a piece that does absolutely nothing but minimise the vitriolic anti-fat rhetoric aimed at myself and people like me, which will directly affect me.  Already, just in the comments of the piece alone, people are making assumptions about my health, how my body feels and works, and who I am.

You are not just “encouraging a conversation” when you publish pieces like this.  You are making the lives of myself, and people like me even more difficult than they already are.  You are putting already vulnerable people right in the line of fire of some horrible, horrible hatred.  You are contributing to an environment where people think it is perfectly acceptable to tell me to kill myself, to tell me I am revolting, to publicly harass me, to send me death and rape threats, to contact my employer to make vexatious claims, to send me anonymous messages of hate and to harass me in my spaces online.

And because of your allowing a piece that directly names and stigmatises me personally, you directly cause these things to happen to ME.

You have a duty of care as high profile media professionals to ensure that your publication does not cause anyone direct harm.  You have power that I do not have to match you with.  You are a media organisation, headed by a high profile media personality.  I am an IT librarian from Brisbane who has a blog.

The thing is, this fat activism business is not a hobby I do just to fill my time.  It is my fight to live.  It is my fight to keep my self esteem and not be completely crushed by the hatred that is spewed in my direction for simply living in a fat body.  It is my fight claim the space I need to live my life to the fullest with whatever cards I am dealt in life.  I don’t do this because I need to fill time and enjoy it – I do this to keep myself strong, healthy, happy and alive.  The alternative to my being a fat activist was crippling depression and absolutely no self esteem, which led to my attempting to end my life on more than one occasion.  It’s only that I found fat activism that I am alive today.  It’s only because of fat activism that I continue to thrive and live my life to the fullest – mostly because of my community of fellow fatties who understand what it is like to be hated for your body, and who are always there to listen and offer support.  They are my family.

It is my life we’re dealing with here.  Not conversation, not debate, not public interest.  My own life.  And my life is representative of many other people who live in fat bodies just like mine.

It is my greatest wish to be able to hang up my fat activist hat and never have to write or lobby about this subject again.  It is my greatest wish that there would be nothing for me ever to write about on the subject of fatness.  Because for that to happen, it would mean that I, and people like me, would be treated as human beings.  That we would never open a magazine or newspaper or turn on the news and see an article vilifying us.  That I could go through my life without being publicly scrutinised, judged and abused.  That I could find everything I needed without it being suggested that I am “promoting obesity” by wanting clothes that fit, equal access to public transport without being bullied for “taking up too much space” or by just living my life comfortably and happily.

By publishing that piece today, you took that away from me for even longer.  You made the fight all that much harder.  You made my life that much more of a fight for dignity and respect.

I think I deserve an apology.  I certainly deserve to be acknowledged as a human being whose life today was impacted negatively by your publication of that article.

*I will not be linking to The Hoopla until further notice, as I do not believe in giving web traffic to a site that directly causes me harm.

We Don’t Imagine It, We See It

Published March 26, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I noticed the old woman at the table beside me first. Watching every morsel of food I put in my mouth with a look of disgust on her face.

Then I notice the two guys in high vis vests, their hard hats on seats beside them, nudge each other and look my way.

So I sit back and start to observe people around me.

I’m sitting in the food court of a large suburban shopping centre, somewhere I rarely visit, on my lunch break from work. We’re working on a big new project due to open this week, which is a high pressure, messy environment, that I thought I’d take some time away from over my lunch break.

As I look around me, I would estimate that at least 90%, possibly more of the people here are not fat. There are a handful of we fatties, dotted around the place.

At the nearby McDonalds, there are about 20 people lined up. Only one of them is a fat person. Not an eyelash is batted at the not-fat people lined up, ordering their burgers, fries, chicken nuggets and shakes. However the fat man is attracting sneers and giggles, all eyes glance over him and none of them bother to hide their disgust, disdain or their ridicule. Even the people ordering burgers and shakes themselves are staring and sneering at the man, lined up at the very same fast food restaurant as they are.

This scrutiny and public judgement is nothing unusual for those of who live in fat bodies. Most of us are used to it, many of us ignore it, simply because it is nothing unusual. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Quite often we are told “You’re just too sensitive.” or “I think you imagine it.” On the rare occasion that someone who is not fat notices, they respond like its an anomaly, just the occasional rude jerk one encounters. Or they say “Just ignore it.” as if it is the singular occurrence of the day.

In my own case, I’m told that people sneer and stare because of my brightly coloured hair, tattoos and clothing. As if that is somehow a suitable excuse for their behaviour. But I can assure you that I got the stares and sneers back when I was a fat brown mouse, doing everything I could to be invisible to the world.

The truth is, in this “anti-obesity” culture, people are taught to sneer, stare and ridicule. They are taught that people like me are a scourge on society, that we are burden to humanity. You only need to look at the comments on my recent piece in The Hoopla (if you have the sanity points) to see someone refer to me (and people like me) as revolting, using up the public health system, slothful, idle and an overeater. Despite knowing nothing more about me than I have a fat body (though one claimed to know all about me from this blog, my twitter, though I think it’s my photos of myself as a fat woman she is judging me on) the judgement has been passed on my value as a human being.

Living with that amount of scrutiny and judgement is like physically carrying a load on your back. When you hear people referring to fat people as “struggling with their weight”, the reality is that our struggle is with the weight of society’s judgement and scrutiny, not with the weight on our bodies.

I can only speak for myself when I say that physically, I do not feel limited or as if I need to struggle to do anything in my fat body. But the pressure of being under constant scrutiny and subjected to the assumptions and judgements of complete strangers is a burden to bear. I am quite sure however that I am not the only one who feels like this.

What really bothers me are the double standards. Thin people who eat fast food are considered “lucky” that they are “naturally thin”, yet no matter what a fat person eats, by default they must be lazy and greedy, with denial and stupidity thrown in for extra measure. Nobody ever suggests that inverse to the lucky/naturally thin that humans can be unlucky/naturally fat. Nobody demands thin people who are sedentary and/or eat fast food (or a lot of food) change their lives and “get healthy” because they are “costing us money with their unhealthy habits” – quite the opposite, they’re cheered on for their habits. Two people, both living the same lifestyle, can have vastly different life experiences if one is thin and the other is fat.

These double standards and snap judgements of people’s value based on their body size don’t help anyone. They don’t make fat people thin, they don’t encourage healthy behaviours and they certainly don’t change the number of people needing health care in our society.

All they do is allow some people to feel superior to others, which to me, is a pretty screwed up way to look at the world.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,925 other followers