fear

All posts in the fear category

Part of a Solution, Or Part of the Problem?

Published July 28, 2013 by sleepydumpling

I don’t know if you saw this article from the Herald Sun over the past few days.  It is a piece by the Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay, calling for men to both listen to women when they speak about domestic and gendered violence, and for men to speak up against all instances of violence towards women, not just the big horrifying stuff.  It asks men to take a look at their own attitudes and behaviour, and whether or not they are contributing to a culture that excuses violence towards women.

It’s an excellent piece and I am happy to see such an influential man standing up and calling out the dismissive attitudes that many men have towards domestic and gendered violence.

I of course, shared it on my Facebook and asked the men in my life, who I believe are good men, otherwise I wouldn’t have them in my life, to take some action themselves.  I saw the article shared by many, many women but had not once seen a man share it.  So I asked the men in my life to ask themselves if perhaps this was an indication that they were not listening to the women in their lives, and could take a little more action to speak up against violence against women.

Two awesome dudes in my life took the time to post the article themselves and openly condemn violence towards women, no matter how big or small.  I’m so proud to know those two guys are listening, and are not afraid to step up and say that violence towards women is unacceptable.  That’s the kind of man I want in my life.

But I’m not so pleased about is the responses to the article that I saw.  They were the same response in every place I looked regardless of the gender of the commenter, or their age, or whether they were commenting on it posted by a man or by a woman.  Now while the actual wording of the responses were different, they all said basically the same thing:

Men are violent towards women because of [television/pop music/the economy/culture/parents/insert other excuse here].

Over and over and over again, something was to blame for men being violent towards women.  The shit kiddies watch on telly today.  Those awful rappers.  The economy, men don’t feel respected when they can’t be breadwinners.  Young people today.  Because women are sometimes violent too.  Porn, porn makes men violent.  Religion, religion makes men violent.

All these excuses.

I’m sick of the excuses.  Can we not just stand up and say that when men are violent towards women, it’s because those men believe they have the right to be?  And by making excuses and pointing the blame at external factors all the time, we’re GIVING them an out.  We’re telling men that we “understand” that things “make” them violent towards women, instead of placing the blame exactly where it lies, with the men who are violent towards women.

The one that bugs me the most is the whole “young people today with their television and pop music” argument.  I’m 41 this year, so I’m in my 5th decade.  I’ve been around since the 70’s, and guess what, the past isn’t some rosy place where no woman was ever subjected to violence.  Popular culture is no  more to blame for men being violent towards women today as it was in the 70’s when my father was kicking the shit out of me.  I’ve survived violence from men through every decade of my life, be it overt or subtle, it has always been there.  From the domestic abuse of my childhood, the sexual abuse of my teens and twenties, through abusive partners in my 30’s and I still have men groping or grabbing me in public, spitting at me, calling me a cunt in the street or sending me death threats online.  Music and telly didn’t cause that at any point in my life, the cultural excuses for violence against women did.

The same goes for the economy/breadwinner argument.  If violence towards women were based on economy or employment, then no wealthy man would have ever murdered, raped or assaulted a woman in history, which we know is not true.  We would never have had violence towards women in boom times, like after the second world war or through the early 2000’s.  Men in jobs they love that provide them with excellent incomes are still violent towards women, this is not about whether or not a man is “respected” as a breadwinner.  It’s pretty disgusting that anyone would demand that men should be “shown respect” through the struggling economy when women can’t even be respected as human beings whether the economy is good or not.

When we constantly try to find something to blame for violence towards women, we are contributing to the problem.  We’re building the culture that tells men it’s not their fault that they are violent towards women, instead of telling them that violence towards women is inexcusable.  We have to tell the perpetrators of violence that they are responsible for their actions, not find something else to blame.  Until we do, this culture is never going to be broken.  And women are still going to be living their lives in fear of “triggering” violence from men.

If you’re making excuses as to why men are being violent towards women, I want you to listen to yourself.  Whatever your gender, I want you to ask why there has to be an excuse, why you have to find something to blame?  Ask yourself, is this part of the solution, or am I part of the problem?

*And before you start in on the “But what about violence against men?!” crap, read this, and then read this.

You Have No Power Over Me – The Futility of Trolling

Published September 1, 2011 by sleepydumpling

The bulk of this post was written a week ago, and I had intended to publish it then.  However with my coming down with some kind of stomach bug at the end of last week, and then other topics coming up, it waited patiently in my queue, ready to be posted when I got a moment.

However, over the past 48 hours, I’ve been hit by a wall of trollery both here (mostly at people pissed off that I and others keep saying that no matter how fat someone is, they still deserve nice clothes) and on other social media sites of mine – particularly my Tumblr.  So this topic became all the more relevant for me.  I was also preparing to post it tonight when I read this beautifully honest and heartfelt piece from Gluten-free Girl, which I cannot resist linking back to here.

So, I’m going to talk about a subject that is often considered taboo in Fat Acceptance spaces.  It’s often taboo in many social justice spaces.  That is the subject of trolling.

I bring this up because of a comment on an earlier post about someone being attacked by trolls, and because I read this excellent piece by Melissa over at Shakesville about the level of hate that is aimed in her direction, and Ragen from Dances with Fat often mentions the same issue.

There is this unspoken (or rarely spoken) understanding that to talk about the amount of hate and trolling that we get, we are somehow feeding the trolls, that by acknowledging their presence, we’re encouraging them to continue their shitty behaviour.  However, what nobody acknowledges is that they troll anyway, whether you ignore them or out them, whether you keep silent about the hatred or you speak about it.

Just existing feeds the trolls.

To me, this results in a real feeling of solitude, as though we stand alone in dealing with this.  But the truth is, we don’t.  It happens to all of us in the Fatosphere at some point, and the more visible you are, and the more you stand up and speak out about the injustice of fat stigma, the more they do it.

The real irony to me is, it seems that the happier you are, the more comfortable you are in your skin and in your life, the more vicious and nasty the trolling gets to be.

That’s the bit that I don’t understand.  I actually have people, not just random anonymous trolls who pop up for a bit of “You suck, fatty boombaladah!”, but people who have met me somewhere (either through work, or through friends or other things I’m involved with, or they know who I am through someone else) and they are so angry that I’m happy, that I’m confident and have strong self esteem, that they have to troll my blog, and various other social media sites and try to tear me down.  They spend their precious time (and I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have enough hours in the day!) watching my every move, keeping notes on what I say on Twitter, Tumblr, here on my blog and other places, and saving them up to try to use them against me to make me feel bad or something.

These people have so much time on their hands, and are so fascinated by me and my life, that they spend inordinate amounts of time following everything I do, trying to find a way to make me angry or feel bad or something.  Here are some examples of things I’ve discovered my own little posse of trolls doing.

  • They go through BOTH my entire Twitter streams (I have two Twitter accounts, I keep a separate one for work stuff) and catalogue every single time that I mention I’m tired and any other statements they can use to try to prove that I’m unhealthy, and tried to fling that back at me.
  • They spent several hours one evening signing me up to every weight loss clinic, gym, diabetes organisation, personal trainer and diet company they could find in Brisbane.  Those poor businesses had so much time wasted in contacting me back, but I was happy to hand the culprit’s IP address over to their internet service provider’s fraud investigation team, as I’m sure the businesses I gave that IP were too.
  • They spam my Tumblr and Formspring with the most boring, inane questions, like “How much do you weigh?” and “How much time do you spend on the computer?” (Zzzzzzzz)
  • They send childish, passive-aggressive notes, pretending to be my “friend”.  Bwahahahaa!
  • They Google my name and find out as much information about me as possible, and then they troll me saying they hate everything about me (and list it off, every bit of it!)
  • They search for where I have commented on other blogs or news articles, and leave personal comments hating on me.
  • They go through my Flickr stream and look at every photograph of me, leaving insults and bitchiness on my photographs.
  • They comment on Facebook pages for anything about obesity saying that there is this horrible blog called Fat Heffalump that is hating on thin people and “promoting obesity” and urge people over here to “Stand up against this bully!” and troll me further.
  • They are even stupid enough to log on using their work email or on their work internet access to leave nasty comments here on Fat Heffalump… where I can see their IP address, and can put in a formal complaint about them to their employers with concrete proof!  You can get fired for trolling people’s blogs and websites on your work internet.

And these are just some of the examples of just how much time and energy these people put into directing their hate at me.

Here you go darlings.  You don’t have to pour over my Flickr or Tumblr or Twitter, here’s a photo JUST for you:

Check out my big fat middle finger Trolly McTrollerson!

My experience with being trolled is by no means isolated.  Many in the Fatosphere experience all of this and more.

However, do you know what I think?  When people do this kind of stuff at us, they don’t hate us at all.  I know I don’t actually hate anyone (nobody is worth that kind of passion if I don’t like them) but I can’t imagine spending hours and hours examining someone online, looking for any little thing you can pick at them on, reading everything they write and share and looking at every photograph of that person in detail when I don’t like them.  The first thing I do if someone gives me the shits is block them, wipe them totally from my view and move on with my life to all those awesome people I do really love and enjoy.  I don’t have enough time in the day to keep up with all the awesome people and stuff out there, let alone waste it on those I don’t like.

But these trolls, they spend hours pouring over every thing they can find, compulsively checking every single iota of online presence.

I think they actually admire us, but they’re too scared to admit that they’re not happy and wish they could be like us.  I think they fear us, and worry that somehow, by our being happy and confident, they are missing out on something in life.   I think they are jealous of us, because they see our happiness and joy, our successes, the praise we receive, the community we hold and the fact that we simply refuse to hate ourselves because of what other people say about us and they want that.  I think they wish they could be as outspoken, passionate, funny, intelligent, respected, honest, confident and bold as we are.

I think they are sad, frightened, angry, lonely and envious.

That must be the case, because I can’t for the life of me think of any other feasible reason why someone would devote so much time and energy to reading, viewing and interacting with someone they actually didn’t like, let alone supposedly hated.  I’ve said it before, but people with full, happy lives don’t need to hate on others.  They are too busy, too otherwise engaged to do that.  They don’t feel hate in their hearts, or feel the need to make others feel bad.

We fascinate them, we fatty unicorns.  That’s what we are, those of us who refuse to buy into the fat loathing and hate ourselves for being fat, those of us who stand up and say “I won’t apologise for my size, and I deserve the same rights as every other human being.”  We’re fat unicorns.  There aren’t that many of us in comparison yet (though we’re breeding rapidly, which must be a mix of terrifying and fascinating to these people) and we have special powers.  We have the power of confidence and self esteem.  We have the power of the Fatosphere, our very own community of fatty unicorns around us.  We have the power of self respect.

I know, that it gets hard dealing with these people sometimes.  In the past it used to hurt me terribly when I got that kind of crap turning up on my blog or social media pages.  Nowdays I mostly find it funny, or just ludicrous that someone would spend so much time watching me so closely.  But the thing that really twigged in my head a while back was that these people have no power over me.  For all they think that they’re going to bully me into hating myself, or shut me up from talking here on my blog or any of my social media accounts, or change who I am or what I do, they have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually doing any of that.

Because they are completely powerless.  That’s why they do it – they know they have no power in their everyday lives, so they try to exert power over us online.  But it’s completely redundant.

The only person who has the power to make us change anything about ourselves, is ourselves.  Promise me you will never forget that lovelies.

Your Body is not Voldemort

Published July 28, 2011 by sleepydumpling

One of the lovely, but slightly scary, things about blogging and having your blog audience grow to a fair size is that people start asking your advice about all kinds of things.  It’s lovely and awesome, to be seen as some kind of fairy fat-mother, but in the same time, it’s kind of scary.  I mean, I’m not an expert on anything by any stretch of the imagination, and in my day job, I’m an IT librarian.  I want to get things right for you guys when you ask my advice, I want to help.  But I am a human being and I can only give my own thoughts/opinions and hopefully that helps.

I get a lot of questions from people who hate their bodies.  Or they hate something about their body or appearance.  I get a lot of questions about people (usually young cis-women) who are ashamed of something about their bodies/appearance, and don’t know how to change that.  Or want to know how to hide the thing they’re ashamed of, or who to talk to about that shame.  Sometimes it’s about being too embarrassed or ashamed to go to the doctor to talk about something that worries them.

Mostly, it’s a whole lot of shame and fear about their appearance.

Every time I get a question like this, there are two things I want to do.  Firstly, I want to hug that person and tell them that they’re perfectly ok as they are.  But I also want to give them something to set them free of that shame and fear.  I don’t quite know what that is yet though!

One thing I do know, is that fear and shame often make the issue seem a whole lot bigger than it is.  That’s the nature of fear and shame – it festers away in our heads growing bigger and bigger and bigger by feeding off itself and each other.  Think about when you were a kid, and someone told you a scary story, or you watched a scary movie.  It was terrifying, wasn’t it?  But then when you go back and watch it as an adult, often it looks silly and cheesy, rather than scary.

Fear makes the wolf look bigger.

Source unknown*

Well it’s the same with our bodies and our appearance.  That scar we obsess over, those stretchmarks, the wobbly arms we hide away, the round bellies, the hairy legs… whatever it is we attach shame and fear to.  We stare at them in the mirror, or poke and prod at them as we get dressed or bathe… and we look at them in every minute detail.  You’ll never know a body as intimately as you know your own.  We practically go over ourselves with a magnifying glass, looking so closely at our supposed flaws that we are afraid other people will see, that we usually fear those flaws far bigger, far uglier and far more dramatic than they actually are.

Sometimes douchey people pick up on those things, and they use our fears and shame against us.  They are perceptive of our vulnerabilities, so they will hone in on that and ridicule or point out those things because they know they can hurt us with  it.  Thus the person who has that ridiculous habit of bellowing “You’re so fat!” or something else about our appearance, or in my case, posting troll comments about how I’m fat, hairy or ugly.

I do understand those fears and the shame though.  I lived with them my whole life until just a few years ago.  I’m fat and hairy.  I’m kind of a tall hobbit really.  I tried EVERYTHING to hide my fat, hairy self.  I avoided those topics in conversation.  I wore clothes that I thought disguised me.  And worst of all, for many years I let so many people hurt me so deeply by pointing out how fat and hairy I am.  Sometimes the barbs still sting for a second, but not like they used to, and it’s rare that it does actually sting any more.  Because it’s a pretty sad person that has to highlight other people’s supposed faults or belittle someone because of their appearance to make themselves feel better.  Seriously… it’s a bit hard to give them any power to hurt you when you stop and think just how pathetic that is!

What we do, is turn our flaws into Voldemort.  Yes, I am a Potterfile, stick with me here.  Through most of the Harry Potter series, everyone is SO afraid to even think about “The Dark Lord”, they can’t even name him.  He is You-Know-Who and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  Even the name Lord Voldemort isn’t really his name, it’s the name he’s given himself to appear even more frightening, because he knows that not speaking the real name of something you fear, keeps the fear growing.

J.K. Rowling actually said it in the first Harry Potter book:

Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 1997.

We do that.  We speak of fatness in hushed tones.  We don’t mention being hairy, or having acne, or stretchmarks, or skin problems, for fear of uttering those names will conjure them up in front of us, or put a huge neon sign over those “flaws” we have.

When really, most of the time these things aren’t Lord Voldemort, they’re just boring old Tom Riddle, and can be defeated, or at least reduced to something so much easier to deal with, simply by not fearing them any more.

Letting go of that fear and shame is not easy.  But that’s the hardest bit – letting go.  Taking that first step.  Opening the door.  Once you take that step, and set off, it really does get a whole lot easier.  That doesn’t mean you never stumble, or you never have the overwhelming urge to run back in and slam the door shut behind you.  That still happens.  But I think once you’ve taken that first big step, you can often recognise the fear and shame for what it is.  You’ve given it it’s real name, rather than hiding away and never mentioning it.

So… how do you feel about fear and shame in the context of your body and/or appearance?  Is there something you think you could let go of to make the wolf look smaller?  To lessen the grip that fear and shame have on you?

Or have you been able to give something it’s real name and chase that fear and shame away?

*I’m unable to find a source/credit for this awesome grafitti/photo – if you can provide one please let me know and I’ll update with full credit.

The Lazy Diagnosis

Published April 21, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I want to talk about death threats against fat people today.  Not literal ones, like “I’m going to kill you!”, which we do receive sometimes, particularly if we commit the “crime” of being publicly and unashamedly fat.  But the more subtle ones.  Brian over at Red No. 3 wrote about them a while back, in his post “A Culture of Death Threats“.

It’s the kind of message that fat people hear every day.  The message that boils down to “You’re going to die, fatty!!”  All those times you hear “But don’t you know being fat is unhealthy??” and “You’re going to get diabetes/high cholesterol/heart disease/bowel cancer/etc.” right through to the ridiculousness of “Your fat is crushing your bones!  Your organs are going to liquify into fat!  Obesity destroys your immune system!”

We, fat people, hear those messages every day.  From sources near and far – friends and family, the diet industry, mainstream media, the government, strangers on the street, and indeed, from many health care professionals.

As Brian says in his post, this is a method of control, trying to get us to do as we are told.  We must diet, punish ourselves, be invisible, feel shame, loathe our fat bodies.  Be a good fatty and do whatever we can to stop being fat.

However, something else happens too.  Even if we opt out of the societal norm of loathing and shame for fat bodies, something happens to us that even the most deeply entrenched fat activist can be susceptible to.  We begin to fear our fat bodies.   We stop listening to them as part of ourselves, and see them as the enemy, something to be feared and fought, other than/outside ourselves.

It happened to me this week.

I’ve mentioned plenty of times before that I suffer from anxiety.  Some of it is genetic (most of my family on both sides have some form of anxiety issues) and some of it is a result of PTSD.  Of course, my anxiety has been blamed on my fatness too, but I have thin relatives who also suffer it, and that never gets acknowledged.

Most of the time, it’s well managed these days.  I recognise many of the triggers, I see the warning signs, and I have learned the skills to mitigate most bouts.  But sometimes it blindsides me, and then it’s very difficult to work through it, even with the recognition and skills I have learned.

So I got a cold a couple of weeks ago.  It swept through my office like a brush fire, and as I had a nice open tattoo wound at the time, I could hardly avoid it.  My doctor (who is awesome and I am very lucky to have found) and I have noticed this phenomena of me getting a cold every time I have a fresh tattoo – otherwise I hardly get the bugs that go around.  I had a pretty full on cough, got a rather interesting husky voice for a couple of weeks, felt a bit run down and tired, but wasn’t that bad so I didn’t have any time off work though many of my colleagues who got the same lurgy did.

However this week, I noticed a pain in the left side my chest.*

And every voice that ever told me that I was going to die because I’m a disgusting fatty, fat, fat came flooding back to me.  Every concern troll, every narrowminded bigot, every doctor who didn’t bother to examine me and just looked at my fat body and made a diagnosis, every arsehole on the street who told me I would die because of my fatness was suddenly back in my head, telling me that my fatness was going to give me a heart attack and I would die.  I was hearing those old recordings in my mind, and I was afraid.

It was stupid.  But it happens, even now.  Because the relentlessness of those messages, that are literally inescapable, means that even though I’m consciously rejecting them, they still get through from time to time, when I’m not feeling at my strongest.

This is what we’re up against in our culture.  Relentless messages that tell us, regardless of any actual facts about our personal situations, that we’re going to die, and it will be all the fault of our fatness.  People who are not fat, or who can pass as not fat, don’t have to constantly brace themselves against that avalanche of negativity every day.  But those of us who have unhideable bodies, bodies that can never pass as “not fat”, are subjected to it, everywhere.  Dozens and dozens of variations of that same basic message, “Fear your fat body.”

The thing is, having that kind of constant threat of death spouted at us is what makes many of us sick, not the fatness of our bodies.  Having that much negativity, shame and loathing constantly thrown at you has got to wear at times.  It’s the nocebo effect – where those messages are so deeply ingrained, that we start to believe that we are going to get sick, that we are going to die and that message is so powerful that we actually DO get sick.

But it’s still our fault.  Because we’re fat, and being fat means that you caused all bad things that have happened to you.

Of course, we are then accused of being “weak” when those messages weigh too heavily on our shoulders.  When the constant call to fear our own bodies actually filters through, and we succumb to that fear.  If we admit anxiety or stress, then it is somehow our fault, and we’re to blame for that as well.   If we go to the doctor, we’re often told that we’re hypochondriacs, or that we’re being overly dramatic, if we would just go and lose weight this wouldn’t happen.  Our anxiety and stress is dismissed as whinging or attention seeking, with no question as to what is causing such anxiety and stress.  We are tossed out the door yet again, with “lose weight” as the cure for all that ails us.

So what do so many of us do?  We ignore the REAL messages our bodies try to send us.  When we feel pain, we avoid going to the doctor, because we’ll only be told that we’re weak, that we should just lose weight and the problem will go away.  We won’t get a real diagnosis, they won’t care how we feel.  We’ll just be shamed and sent packing with instrutions to eat less and exercise more.

Is this ever factored into “studies” into mortality and health of fat people?  Is it ever acknowledged by those supposedly researching into issues around obesity that the very culture we live in is a) making fat people sick and b) preventing us from getting adequate health care when we do get sick?

It strikes me that the lazy ones aren’t those of us who are fat.  It’s those who don’t bother to actually listen, and investigate the health of individual fat people on a case by case basis.  It’s those who take one look at our fatness and diagnose every ailment we have as “obesity”, merely on sight.  It’s those who don’t ask WHY there may be evidence towards fat people having health issues and just assume that fat is always to blame.

Wouldn’t you say that’s pretty hypocritical?  I know I would.

*It’s ok, the pains in my chest turned out to be pulled muscles in my ribcage due to coughing with that damn cold.

It’s Easy… Just Starve

Published April 10, 2011 by sleepydumpling

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

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

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

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

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

I simply lowered my head, and cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Questions that Need to be Asked

Published April 1, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Dear Thin, White Women of the Media*,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely

Kath aka Fat Heffalump

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

Too Little Too Late

Published March 17, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Many of you may have seen or heard about the case of Casey, a 16 year old boy from New South Wales (Australia) who having being bullied repeatedly, retaliated by body slamming the younger boy who had been hitting and taunting him, into the ground, while other boys taunted him and videotaped the bullying.  If you haven’t, here is a link to an article (which includes the video, please watch with caution as it may be triggering to some).

I have written before about my own experiences at the hands of bullies, and like Casey, I had a moment where it simply became more than I could tolerate, and I lost control and got violent with the girls who were bullying me.  And also like Casey, I was punished for that incident, not the bullies.  Even though my parents, teachers and other adults knew that I was being bullied long term.  I was punished at a moment when I hated myself more than ever, for resorting to the one thing that I never, ever wanted to do, but in desperation found myself with no other alternative.

Since the story went viral, there has been overwhelming support for Casey, but also there have been countless people weighing in on what should be done about bullying, what they think of Casey’s behaviour, and what they believe Casey should have done.

I think most of the advice being given, or the solutions being offered, are too little too late for Casey.  And for countless others who have suffered, and are suffering, like Casey has.

The repeated message I keep seeing is “Violence is bad, mmm’kay?”  Over and over, I hear things like “I feel for Casey, but he shouldn’t have resorted to violence.”  I’ve seen people suggesting he take martial arts or self defence lessons.  That he get counselling because of his violent retaliation to the bullies.   That Casey should have behaved this way, or that Casey should have done something else.

What I want to know, to ask all of the people who are full of suggestions for Casey, is where were they when Casey was being bullied?  Why does it take a young man of 16 to completely snap, before everyone jumps in with solutions to his problem?  This false sympathy, this sense of “You poor thing, but you still did it wrong.” is to me, one of the main reason bullying continues to be a problem.

It boils down to two things for me:

1) Casey should not have suffered as he did.

2) The onus should have been on the bullies to change their behaviour, NOT Casey.

If it’s so all important to prevent violence, we need to be focusing on the bullies right now, not when the victim is finally pushed to a point of retaliation.  We need to be teaching kids (and a whole lot of adults too) that the responsibility is on them to not bully anyone, that if they do bully someone, they are the ones who are going to suffer the consequences, and we need to follow through with that.  This means a complete zero tolerance on bullying in all environments, coupled with real repercussions for those who do bully.

Over and over, we hear kids being told that they should learn to defend themselves, learn appropriate responses, change their behaviour, practices and routines to prevent bullying.  Why is the onus on the victims, and potential victims to take action, rather on those who are, or might be, perpetrating the bullying?

This is a recurring theme in our society, that it is somehow a responsibility to take preventative measures against bullying, rape, and other acts of violence or violation, rather than it being a responsibility to not commit bullying, rape or other acts of violence or violation.

Why are the victims being expected to make changes, when all the victims really want, at the very heart of the matter, is for the violence/abuse/violation to cease?

To me, there is something fundamentally wrong with our society for this to be the norm.  This has to change, or we are never going to see any improvement in the rates of violence, bullying, rape or any other kinds of assault/violation.  So long as the responsibility lies on the shoulders of victims/potential victims, the perpetrators are going to believe no fault lies with them.

In short, we are going about it ass backwards.

So we end up with kids like Casey.  Kids like I once was myself.  Who in a moment of sheer desperation of wanting to just make it stop, take that step too far.  They find themselves like cornered animals, lashing out simply to just end the abuse.  They find themselves behaving in a way that they never wanted to behave, simply because they feel they have no other alternative.

Kids like Casey, don’t need lectures after the fact about what they did wrong, how they failed.  They need to know that we, as a society, as a community, have failed them.  That we failed to protect them, we failed to ensure that they can go through their young lives safe and without fear of bullying, and we failed to put the responsibility of preventing bullying on the shoulders of the bullies, instead of the victims.

It’s our responsibility as adults to stand up and make it very clear that there is to be no tolerance of bullies in our society, and that there will be real repercussions to those who do behave in this manner.

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