fat visibility

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It Sucks to be a Fat Woman

Published May 17, 2014 by sleepydumpling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It sucks to be a fat woman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It sucks to be a fat woman.

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

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

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

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

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

Broken…

Published October 9, 2013 by sleepydumpling

I was feeling like crud.  Stomping my way in to work this morning, really fighting with the black dog of depression, feeling like dirt.  And there she was.  An angel in a floral skirt and cream top.  The young woman I had been standing beside at the lights about 10 minutes before – I had been staring at the print of her skirt trying to grasp the one thing that was nice in my brain at just that moment – a pretty pink floral.  I was walking back towards my office having stopped off in the markets to pick up some breakfast, when  she stopped me on the street and told me that she really loved my blog, and that even though I hadn’t posted in a while she still hoped I would.  She complimented my taste in clothes, mentioned that we had the same dress (the hot pink one from Autograph) and that she loved my fatshion reviews.  I was a bit flabbergasted and I forgot to ask her name, which I always do, because it always takes me by surprise.  She made me smile, she thanked me and touch my arm, and we parted.

Five minutes later I was sobbing in the ladies room at work, finally able to feel something.  That’s what depression does to you, it robs your ability to feel.   You might walk around talking and even smiling and laughing, but you don’t really feel it, instead you’re kind of just going through the motions, performing as yourself instead of being yourself.  At least that’s what it does to me.  I wasn’t crying because something had upset me, I was crying because I’d finally felt something (surprise, pleasure, even a glimmer of joy) and that caused the floodgates of all the feelings I haven’t been able to feel for weeks to open and let them all out.  The crying was a good thing.  Embarrassing and uncomfortable, but ultimately good for me.

The past months have been hellish for me with my depression creeping up stronger than it has for some time.  It isn’t just the usual chemical stuff either, usually brought on by hormones and stress, I began to recognise it a few weeks ago.  It was emotional burnout.  It had all got too much for me.  My job is a bigger workload than it has ever been (it’s that way for everyone at my work these days) and I feel like Sisyphus, having to roll the same boulder up the hill every day only to have it roll down again.  (If only it was like Loki, burdened with glorious purpose.)

Add to that the fact that I’d been doing fat activism for over four years, 95% of it for free, out of my own time, pocket, talent and energy only to be constantly bombarded both by general hate as a random fat person on this earth, and deeply targeted hate from really fucked up people out there who cannot bear the thought of an unapologetic and even proud fat woman existing on the planet.  Even still, even though I haven’t posted in months, there are days when I get over 4000 hits via a Reddit hate forum alone, filled with people who spend hours and hours of their lives hating on me and other visible fat people for a hobby.  They dig up old posts, they steal the photos from this blog (and my Tumblr or Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook), they spend hours and hours and hours discussing my life in minutiae… as a hobby.

One nutter even keeps a dossier on every food post I ever make online and keeps tabs on what I eat (or at least the bits I post online) and then crops up on old articles about me, or anything I comment on online to try to “discredit” me by “proving” that I’m a “liar” because of how “unhealthy” I am using the posts about food as “evidence”.  They send me long, rambling emails detailing how many calories are in every item of food I post, and how each morsel is hardening my arteries and sending me to my grave.   Who has time in their life to do this shit?

As much as I block, spam and filter all of that hate, it still gets through.  I still see bits of it.  I still see the referring links on my dashboard of my blog posts, all coming from a Reddit fat hate forum.  I still see old blog posts targeted by thousands and thousands of people in one day.  I still see the hate comments that I have to delete, block as spam, report as abuse.  As much as I rationally know that their hate is not about me, it’s no reflection of me and my worth, it’s still toxic.  I’m still being bathed in this venom all the time.  Some of it has got to sink through my skin.  I am a human being, I do have feelings and I’m not made of steel.  People can hurt me.  This shit eventually does hurt me.  There is no shame in my being human, and vulnerable.

However, that wasn’t the worst of it.  The worst of it was that all that hate and harassment robbed me of the one thing that is most precious to me – my ability to write.  It did EXACTLY what they wanted it to do, it silenced me.  I was so battle scarred by all of that shit that the minute I started to write anything, instinctively I shut down, as a protection mode.  My brain would simply block any flow of thought, any language out of sheer self-protection against the rightly anticipated onslaught of hate and harassment.  I had the worst case of writers block I have ever had, because it wasn’t just fatigue or lack of creativity, it was like a great big door slamming shut in my brain and locking all the good stuff in to where I could not reach it, and to further the torture, I knew it was still in there but it was out of my grasp.  This is what caused me to spiral further and further into depression.  The more I couldn’t write, the more depressed I got, and the more I felt like I had abandoned my activism, and the more it made me depressed, which then blocked me from writing… and so on.

Yet today, a living angel pops into my life and reminds me just why I became a fat activist.  Who reminded me that what I do matters to more than just me.   Who jolted me out of the bleak headspace and reminded me that by letting all the shit that the haters heap on me STAY on me, they don’t win – nobody with that much hate in themselves actually wins anything, but WE lose.  We lose community, we lose our voice, we lose visibility and we lose strength.   This is how they wear us down, by attacking and attacking individually until we individually can’t bear it any more, which breaks our collective strength.  They can’t break us as a collective, so they work on breaking each us one by one.  You are my strength, my fellow fat community.  You folk are why I stand up and say “I’m not taking this shit any more.”

Individually, it’s really hard being strong in the face of all that hatred spewing in our direction.  But collectively, I believe we are unstoppable.  I believe we are all heroes for each other, even if it is only in tiny ways.  A friendly smile, a kind word, a gesture of support.

By giving a spontaneous moment of kindness, this lovely woman jolted me back from a dark, painful place.  It let me get out all the anger and hurt and frustration.  It’s like her kindness broke the crust of hate that had formed from all of the abuse I’d received over the years.  Which means I sit here in my morning tea break (and again in my lunch break) with all of this stuff pouring out of me at last, onto the page, finally able to write again. I can’t say I’m back to my old standards, but I have taken that first step, and it feels like a huge one.

So thank you to the lovely young woman on George Street (do leave a comment and identify yourself, I won’t publish it if you don’t want me to!) in the floral skirt and cream top – you can’t know just how important you are right now!

Eeeeee! A Zine!

Published May 11, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Hey hey!  Guess what I’m going to do?  I’m gonna make a fab fatty zine!  Now, before you ask, a zine is a hand-made, self published, (usually) paper-copy publication.  I used to make one in my early 20′s when I owned a music store, that had all kinds of stuff in it – poetry, artwork, music, book and movie reviews, jokes, an agony aunt, whatever came to mind.  If you would like to get your hands on an already published fab fatty zine, check out Two By Four by Michaela and Chris Nowell.

So yeah, I want to make one chock-full of fat positivity.  And I’m looking for contributions!  Would you like to be in a zine?  Cos you totally can, if you want to contribute something.

What am I looking for?  Well, here are some guidelines:

  1. It must be on the topic of fat/fatness and be fat positive.  This zine will be a celebration of all things fat.
  2. It must be able to be reproduced in black and white on no bigger than A4 paper.  This helps me keep the cost down for the actual zine when it is published.
  3. It must not marginalise, oppress, other or dismiss other under-privileged people.
  4. It must be your own work.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much up to you!

Just some suggestions:

  • Artwork
  • Poetry
  • Review (book, movie, tv show, music etc)
  • Photographs
  • Humour
  • Advice
  • Comic strips
  • Use your imagination!

For example at the moment I’m working on a tongue-in-cheek piece about fat fashion “rules” which I hope to have an awesome piece of art to accompany it.

What I’d really like to see is some radical stuff.  Stuff that is overwhelmingly celebratory of fat people and fat bodies.  I want to “glorify obesity”.

Now, I’m not planning to make a profit on this zine, I will only be charging enough to cover printing and postage (where needed).  So all contributions will be voluntary and of course you will get FULL credit for your work.  And I will send you a free copy of the zine if your work is published.

The other thing I’m looking for is an awesome name for this zine.  Something that is empowering and bold and radical and that says “We are fat and we are awesome!”  And that is FUN.  So if you can think of anything, let me know.

If you would like to contribute or have any questions that you would like me to answer privately, please email me at fatheffalump at gmail dot com.

Closing date for contributions is Friday 25th of May as I have two weeks “staycation” booked off work from the 27th which will give me time to put it all together and prep it for distribution.

If there is something in particular you would like to see in a fab fatty zine, do let me know in the comments and I will see what I can do.

You Can’t Hold a Fat Bitch Down

Published February 26, 2013 by sleepydumpling

It’s funny you know.  The more blatant the evidence, the more desperately some people cling on to their notions.  After my last post, which was showing evidence on the public ridicule that fat people endure, I received more hate mail than I have in quite some time.  Don’t get me wrong, there is always a low level, annoying hum of hate mail that I receive, like a mosquito buzzing around my ears all the time, but it really peaked over the past week or so.

It strikes me as interesting that I receive the most hate mail usually under the following two circumstances:

  1. I provide evidence of something really shitty happening to fat people.
  2. I post pictures or text showing myself as the happy, confident, secure woman that I happen to be since I gave up accepting fat hatred.

It doesn’t just happen online either, and not just to me.  Countless fat women have told stories of going about their daily lives, being out in the world enjoying themselves, when someone has felt the need to cut them down with some hate.  Eating out in a restaurant, on holidays with the family, at a party or nightclub, playing sport, at the pool, out shopping… or you know, just walking down the street happily minding your own business.  This is something that happens to people from all marginalised groups, and of course the more ticks in boxes you have for points of marginalisation, the worse it gets. (See intersectionality.)

One only has to read the comments on any news article about fat that gives the remotest idea that perhaps the dominant paradigm about fat is not quite right (it doesn’t even have to be a vaguely positive article), and you will see people hating on fat people.  Not that I recommend ever reading the comments anywhere – except here on Fat Heffalump, where I police them pretty strictly to keep them safe for you.

I’ve been reading bits of bell hooks again lately, thanks to a manuscript I am currently reading, and thinking about the way she talks about dominance as being part of oppression and marginalisation.  Dominance is that constant effort to push a marginalised person down.  To “take them down a peg or two” or make sure they’re “not getting too big for their boots”.  It is that constant assertion that a marginalised person is inferior because of whatever it is society has deemed them “other” for.  In my case, being a fat woman.

Many of those with privilege are most threatened by finding that there is ever a reason why they are not superior to someone without the same privileges as they.  Some without privilege do it too, because they have internalised the stigmatising messages so deeply.  So they must be hateful, or build false arguments (which are inherently hateful) to cut those of us down and attempt to make us feel bad about ourselves.

When we as fat women, refuse to hide ourselves away in shame, make ourselves visible and are openly happy and enjoying our lives, many people feel threatened by that.  So much to the point that they fixate on us and spend time they could be spending actually getting on with their lives.  That’s the thing – us gaining our freedom doesn’t cost them anything!  By fat women being happy and living their lives to the full doesn’t actually reduce anything at all from theirs.  Our getting adequate clothing options doesn’t mean there will be less clothing options for straight sizes.  Our getting decent, non-stigmatising health care doesn’t mean there will be less health care for not-fat people.  Our feeling happy and confident doesn’t detract from anyone else feeling happy and confident.  The world just doesn’t work like it’s some kind of zero sum game.

What it is, is a kind of false reassurance for some people.  They convince themselves that so long as someone who is fatter them (or “uglier” or “older” or “unhealthier” whatever other thing they deem inferior) hates themselves, well then at least they’re better than that “loser”!

I think that’s why, since I stopped hating myself and started living my life as I please, the abuse has actually got worse, not better.  The big difference is in how I handle it, not in whether or not it is still happening.  An example, I was walking to work one morning, merrily skipping along, idly thinking about the fact that my friend Toots was coming down to visit me on the coming weekend, which always brings a smile to my face.  A man was standing outside a 7-11 shop on the corner as I crossed, I was really paying no attention until I noticed him scowling heavily.  Our eyes met briefly, as they do when one is walking around with one’s head up and facing the world merrily, and he growled at me “You lower your eyes around a man, you fat bitch.”  All because I happened to be a fat woman who wasn’t deferring to his perceived superiority.

It was similar after I posted that last post, demonstrating just how rude people can be to fat women in public.  Of course there were the usual deniers of my experience, I expected that.  But I got literally dozens of hate comments, hate emails and even hate asks on my Tumblr.  People who catalogued all of the things they have decided my life is lacking in (none of them asked me, they just decided/made it up as they went along), told me I was a freak (I believe the correct term is Super Freak, thank you very much), call me a failure, told me I was going to die immediately (I’ve been hearing that for 35 years), telling me I was ugly/unattractive/unfuckable (that’s fine, I wouldn’t fuck any of them either, and I don’t need to see their photos to know that – but of course they’re always too cowardly to identify themselves), called me a bitch/slut/whore/virgin/lesbian/trans-woman/man/dog/cunt/bunch of other stuff I can’t remember and my favourite of all, declared that I’m fat (as if my blog title doesn’t give it away that I might already know that!)  Plus a bunch of other stuff that was supposed to insult/hurt me.

All of these are attempts to dominate me.  To push me down, to remind me of my place, to nip my attitude in the bud, to subjugate me, to mark me as inferior.  Because we cannot, under any circumstances, have a happy, confident, positive fat woman.  We have to knock that fat bitch down a peg or two.

But what it really shows is just how many people out there are so terrified that they have no worth other than being better than someone else.  They’re so desperate to prove their value, they do it by attempting to disprove mine (and anyone else they can find to feel superior to).  There are so many tells that give these people away.  The pointed remarks about how many friends they have, or what a good time they’re having.  The statement that they may not be perfect, but at least they’re not as disgusting as me.  The demands that I “Shut up!” but are then offended when I ignore them – when they apparently wanted me to shut up in the first place!  They are at great pains to make sure that they are not worthless, they are not inferior, that they are somehow better than others.  There are a lot of not-so-subtle hints that they have these fabulous exciting lives that they just love.  The hater doth protest too much, methinks.

Most of the things they try to shame me for are the very things they are ashamed about in themselves.  As a psychotherapist I know once suggested to me, perhaps we should make up cards or jpegs of listings of good psychotherapists to help them.  As he said “I could cure most of those people of their need to hate others anonymously on the internet with some really good therapy.”

For all the anger I have about the way fat people are treated, there is no-one on this planet that I actually hate, and no-one whom I dislike that would be worth me giving the time to go and leave anonymous rubbish on their blog or Tumblr etc.  I have better things to do than try to prove my superiority by making others feel inferior.  I really don’t understand the mentality of spending all your time thinking about and paying attention to someone you supposedly hate.  Why would you do that?  Where is the quality of life in spending all your time focused on someone you hate?   Unless the issue isn’t really hatred, but envy or perhaps fear.  I once read that there are only two base emotions in life, love and fear.  The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear.  What makes these people so afraid?

I don’t know about you, but I simply don’t have the time.  I can’t keep up with blogs and social media of people I love, let alone anyone I don’t like or who pisses me off.  My reading list is a mile long, and I don’t get enough time to spend with the fabulous people in my life, and do all the things that are fun and fabulous, let alone focus on someone I dislike.  Even when I’m seriously pissed off at someone for being a complete douchecanoe, I’m either going to challenge them directly, without hiding my identity, or I’m just going to walk away and not give them any attention.  And I’m certainly not going to abuse some random person in the street just because they look happier than I feel.

What I want you to know dear, lovely fatties, is that the problem doesn’t lie with you.

People hating on you is not a reflection of you, it’s a reflection on them.  Happy, confident, positive people don’t send hate out to others.  They don’t feel the need to push others down to make themselves feel better.  You don’t have to carry around other people’s shit.  Whenever someone tries to hand you a big, steaming pile of hate, don’t carry that shit.  It’s not yours to carry, it’s theirs.  And when people carry around hate, it can be smelled a mile away.  You let them carry around their own stink of hate, and see just how many friends it makes them, how far it gets them in life.

Hold your head high.  Measure your worth by the things YOU value in yourself and your life, not by what other people try to project on you.

Melbourne Cup Fatshion!

Published November 8, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Tuesday was Melbourne Cup day here in Australia.  For the uninitiated, the Melbourne Cup is the “horse race that stops the nation”.  It’s the biggest sporting event of the year here in Australia, and folks in Victoria (which Melbourne is the capital of) get a public holiday for it.  We folks in Queensland don’t, sob! Instead, workplaces across the country often have a kind of celebratory day, including dressing up, a luncheon and often run a sweep, which is a kind of lucky draw betting system where you pay a dollar or two to enter, draw a horse and if it wins, you get a prize.  Many Australians place a bet on the race, the only bet they’ll place all year – known colloquially as a “flutter”.

In my office, we do run a sweep and then we have a kind of pot luck lunch together and then all watch the race.  It’s a good opportunity to have some social time with my colleagues as we really only get to do that on Melbourne Cup day and at Christmas.  Anyway I couldn’t care less about horse racing or betting on said horse racing, but I do love the opportunity to frock up and always have a few dollars in the sweeps, mostly so I can playfully stir with my big boss, who is uncannily lucky with sweeps.  It was a delight this year to have the first and second place in the sweeps when she got not a penny – the first time I’ve ever won anything on it and one of the two occasions in all the years I’ve worked with her that she hasn’t had a win!  You should have heard the banter that afternoon!

I decided to debut my new Domino Dollhouse bone skater dress, that my friend Diane bought me for my birthday.  She landed me the last one in my size, woot!

As you can see, my main accessory for the day was a big arse lace bow headband.  After all, if a gal can’t wear a big arse lace bow on Melbourne Cup day, when can she wear one?

Deal with it.

I can’t tell you how much I love this dress.  It fits beautifully, the fabric is soft and breathes, the print is gorgeous, it is well made and the price was fantastic too.  I hope Domino Dollhouse bring out lots of similar dresses in different prints and colours, I’ll be buying them, that’s for sure.  I think next time I wear this one I’ll wear my petticoat under it too.  I love that Domino Dollhouse do many of their collections up to a size 4X and they’re doing something radical – fat positive marketing and fat-positive products.  The clothes Tracy designs and sells say “I’m here!  I will not hide myself away!”  That is massively radical in plus-size fashion and so empowering.  So Domino Dollhouse are one of the companies I am happy to give my money to!

So Aussies – tell me, did you frock up for Melbourne Cup day?  What did you wear?  And for the overseas folk, do you have a national day (or even a state/province/regional day) that everyone brings out their fab fashions for?

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?

Australian Women’s Weekly Photo Shoot

Published April 30, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Well, what a day I have had!  As I mentioned in my previous post, today was the day that I met with the team from the Australian Women’s Weekly (AWW) for a photo shoot to go with the interview I recorded a couple of weeks ago.

I’ll be honest, I was as nervous as hell.  AWW is a big deal.  It’s an absolute juggernaut in Australia, a cultural touchstone that sails right down the centre of our society.  Everyone knows it, 1 in 4 households purchase it, and even more come in contact with a copy somewhere – be it one belonging to a friend or family member, a copy in the doctor’s office, the library, or just browsing in the aisles of the supermarket.  I believe it’s really important that we get our message in these incredibly mainstream places – the more people we get to, the more fatties will start to think twice about allowing the world to beat them into submission.  There is of course always a risk with mainstream media, but it’s one I’m willing to take.  So long as I stay true to myself, then I’m happy to throw myself into this and reach out.  It’s scary, but I think it has to be done.

So yeah, I was awake at FOUR AM this morning.  Totally wired, really nervous and just gobsmacked that this is where my life has taken me.  I caught the bus into town fairly early (I like to be early – that’s my thing) and had a leisurely breakfast in a little cafe I like in town before catching the bus out to Newstead where the studio that had been hired by AWW was located.

I am so, so glad that I was allowed to bring Lauren and Isaac (Gurrieri and Brown, from Griffith University) with me today, to get all meta and photograph the photography, because not only did we get some more shots for the project we are working on, but I had two people whom I feel comfortable with, and who kept me focused on what really matters to me.  I can’t thank Lauren and Isaac enough for being there today – and there was a moment when Lauren and I had a quiet chat between shots that just helped me so much.  I was feeling quite, I guess sensory overload – all the lights and noise and scents and unfamiliar clothes etc was doing my head in and I was forgetting to just be me, and Lauren really brought me back to where I needed to be.  I think the best photos will be those at the end of the shoot, because I was able to have my head in the right space.

Also, Lauren has provided me with a few photos to share with you all here.  Thanks Lauren!

Now, when the stylist Tanja Mrnjaus called me a few days ago and asked me what clothing label I would like to wear on the day, my first thought went of course, to Autograph Fashion.  Not only because I have a good working relationship with them, but also because a) they cater to my size, when so many don’t, b) they are clothes that I actually do wear every day myself and c) I know they are trying very hard to get it right for their customers.  So we arranged for Tanja to contact them, I popped into my local store and picked a few things I liked with my fave fab Autograph lady Michelle, and then Tanja worked those into “looks” that Autograph very kindly loaned us a wardrobe of clothes to shoot in today.

Clothes by Autograph Fashion

AWW really went the whole kit and caboodle with this, hiring a fashion stylist (Tanja), a very talented hair and make-up artist Abigael Johnston and photographer Alana Landsberry, and booking a half day in a studio.

Abigael started making me up and she really went all out.  It was an awful lot of makeup in “reality” – the iPhone shot I took shows just how much I had on, but of course that doesn’t show up in the magazine shots.  She really focused on my eyes and I even got to wear mink false eyelashes for the day!  She had some beautiful lip colours she mixed up for me too – the first one was such a gorgeous, rich old-world red that I wished it came in an actual lipstick, but she had a secret formula for that one.

Because my hair is very short and bright purple, she just gave it a bit of volume and texture for most of the shots, and then when I wore a cocktail dress at the end, slicked it back more to change the look.

Abigael starts work on the hair and makeup.

I really enjoyed working with Alana, the photographer.  She was fun and while a lot of it felt really silly and made me feel quite… weird, she was very perceptive and could see when I wasn’t into something.  But for me, the best part of the day was when Tanja came back from a nearby cafe and told us she saw some amazing graffiti inside it, and perhaps we could do a shoot in there.  So we all traipsed down to the cafe, Alana asked the owner and they were amazing – they let us move their furniture around and take over a little room that was all painted up with pink graffiti of cupcakes and uber-femme art.  They even made us the most wild concoction of a milkshake in purple and pink that we used as a prop.

All in all it was loads of fun and I think it will be a really positive, joyous set of photos of a fat woman in a major magazine.  That’s always a good thing!

Oh what?  You want to see some photos of the final looks?  Well, I’ll give you one as a little teaser (you’ll have to save the rest for the article in June/July!)

Check out the colours of that milkshake!

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!)

The Gift of Our Stories

Published December 14, 2011 by sleepydumpling

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

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

But then I found fat acceptance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving Isaac a taste of his own medicine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flaunting Our Fat

Published October 30, 2011 by sleepydumpling

So this post went around Tumblr through the week.  The original poster has since deleted the offending post, but like an elephant, the internet never forgets.  It’s basically some young guy saying that all fat people should stay at home so that he doesn’t have to see them while he’s trying to pick up women.

Charming huh?

The sad thing is that he’s not alone in his douchebag attitude.  There are plenty of them around. People who think that fat people should stay at home, not be seen anywhere in public (or in the media, unless we have our heads cut off and are being shamed) and should never do or be anything positive.  The very people who suggest that anything that isn’t actively shaming fatness is “promoting obesity”.  You know those folks, we’ve all encountered them.

But I have a proposal for you all.

Let’s be all obese at them.  Let’s flaunt our fat selves.  Now each of us do that is up to each of us individually.  For me, it’s about living my life to the fullest and refusing to wear the shame that people try to hand us as fat people.  Here are some suggestions, some of which I do, some of which I admire others doing.

  • Go sleeveless.  Let the world see those fat arms, get a little sun and fresh air on them, and feel cool on a hot day.
  • Spend time with your friends (and if you have fat friends, form a posse of fat flaunters!) having fun in public.  Laugh.  Talk.  Party.
  • Take up a sport or some other physical activity that you enjoy.  Have fun doing it.  Practice getting really good at it.
  • Be unashamedly affectionate with your loved ones.  Hug your friends, kiss your lovers, hold hands, put your arm around someone.
  • Go out to a nightclub, dance your arse off.
  • Wear something that makes you feel fabulous.
  • Get up on stage if you want to.  Sing, act, dance, perform.
  • Flirt.  But only with people who deserve your time and attention.
  • Go to sporting events and holler until you’re hoarse.
  • Eat ice-cream in public.  Or a burger.  Chips.  Brownie.  Something tasty that is deemed “bad”.  Enjoy it.  Give anyone who throws judgement at you the finger.
  • Wear body-hugging clothes.  Spandex, Lycra, Elastane etc.  Rock the shit out of them.
  • Dye your hair your favourite colour.
  • Get your belly button pierced.
  • Buy a swimsuit, a bikini if you want, and wear it at the beach or the pool.
  • Go on a date with a lovely person.
  • Ride a bike.  Or a horse.  Or a motorcycle.  Or a camel if you prefer.
  • Go shopping (but remember – if you can’t find clothes to fit you, that’s not because of your body, but because manufacturers and retailers are slack and are not catering to you.)
  • Go to your school reunion.  Party and have a great time.  It’s not a competition, it’s a night out.
  • Go to concerts and plays and other performances.  If you are so moved, stand up and applaud, dance or sing along.
  • Appear in public without apologising for your size.

So how is that to get you started?  You’re welcome to add your own in the comments if you like.

Believe me, according to douchebags like the one I linked to above, all of these are “offensive” behaviours from fat people.  Which makes them radical acts, though they seem simple on the surface.

I propose we get out there and just fat all over the place.  Fat to the left, fat to the right, fat in the day, fat in the night.

Every one of us has as much right to exist in this world as anyone else.  Let’s take it up.

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