judgement

All posts in the judgement category

More on That Louie Scene

Published May 25, 2014 by sleepydumpling

I had intended to run this post a few days ago, but the working week got the better of me (the crescendo of the financial year is always so intense), and I’m a little bit later than planned.  But it’s still important and I know some of you want to expand the discussion more from the previous post – thank you for your patience and keeping in topic!

So last post I was talking about the scene from Louie with the rather amazing Sarah Barker giving a stellar performance as a fat girl on a date.  My last post was a response to the criticisms of her statement that it sucks to be a fat woman were not a win for fat activism.  If you still haven’t seen the scene, or need a refresher, you can check it out here.

It’s important to note that I do have issues with Louis CK and his TV show.  But I’m not talking about those here.

Today I want to respond to some of the fatosphere criticisms of the scene with regards to dating and relationships.

The major criticisms that I have seen that bother me are:

  • She is begging for attention/to have her hand held.
  • That plenty of hot men want to date fat women, why did she go out with one that was reluctant to date her/be seen with her.
  • Men don’t want to date her because she is whiny and annoying, not because she’s fat.
  • It portrays single fat women as “pathetic” or desperate.
  • She’s “settling” when she says she doesn’t want a boyfriend or a husband.
  • Why doesn’t she just join a BBW dating site?

I find these criticisms extremely problematic.

The first thing that I have a problem with is the way that many perceive her as begging/whining/annoying.  I think that reaction actually reflects the point she makes to Louis about the double standard between when men and women talk about how hard it is to date while being fat – how he can get up on stage and joke about being single and a fat guy and people think it’s adorable, but if she tries to talk about how hard it is for her, people call the suicide hotline.  To me, suggesting she is begging/whining is deeply misogynistic.  She’s being very clear about what bothers her about the way she is treated, and she’s also calling Louis out for behaving in a way that she finds really disappointing.  She expected better of him.  But because she is a woman, it is instantly read as whining/begging.  However if a man were to outline when someone’s behaviour bothered him, he’d be considered assertive and honest.

The next point that bothers me is the suggestion that there are “plenty of hot men who want to date fat women” and “why doesn’t she just join a BBW dating site?”  I think that this reaction to the scene also demonstrates exactly what she is talking about.  She asks Louis if he has ever dated a fat girl, and quickly pulls him up when he starts to say yes and says “I didn’t ask if you’ve fucked a fat girl, every guy has done that.”  She’s calling out the constant fetishisation and objectification of fat women.  Those “plenty of hot men who want to date fat women” on BBW sites are in the majority not looking to date a fat woman – they’re fetishizing/objectifying us.  Hands up if you’ve ever been involved with a man who is all too happy to sleep with you in private, but won’t take you out for dinner, or hold your hand in public, or introduce you to his friends?  She quite rightly says that if she had offered Louis sex, he’d have taken it up straight away… what if that’s not what you want from a partner?  There is nothing, NOTHING wrong with wanting to have a romantic relationship with someone, and to want them to put some effort into that relationship.  She’s right, any woman who is willing can get laid.  But it is exceptionally difficult to find men who are willing to date fat women in the same way that they would a thin woman.

Another criticism I find difficult to accept are those asking why she is bothering with Louis if he doesn’t get it (settling).  That’s the judgement we all have to make on all of our interpersonal relationships with people who don’t quite get fat activism.  We don’t live in a bubble of fat positivity, we live in the real world and it means making decisions about whether people are worth having in your life.  Do you take up the challenge of educating them, getting them to see how their behaviour is problematic, or do you just move on.  Sure, pick your battles, some people really aren’t worth your time.  But some people are.  Some people, while initially not getting it, are more than willing to listen and work through it.  That’s what you have to decide.  I’ve not that long ago dated a guy who kept putting his foot in it, not quite understanding what bothered me, but he was willing to listen, and asked me how to get it right.  Sure, it gets frustrating at times, but I never felt that it was “settling” for me to continue to see him.  One of the greatest moments with someone who “doesn’t get it” is that moment that the penny drops and they DO get it.  I love that moment!  Some of the most important people in my life today were really defensive at first, but I thought they were worth keeping around, and now they’re my staunchest allies.

But the one that really sticks in my craw is the suggestion that this portrays a fat woman as “pathetic”.  Why?  Why is it pathetic for a fat woman to call a man out for a crappy attitude/behaviour and state clearly what she wants?  Why is it pathetic for a fat woman to say that she wants a man who will be proud to be with her and put some effort into dating her?  It’s interesting that whenever a man shows vulnerability or wants a romantic relationship, it’s sweet and romantic, but if a fat woman does the same, it’s “pathetic” and “needy”?

Interestingly, those within fat activism that have been the most vocal in suggesting that this portrays fat women as pathetic are those who have the privilege of being in a relationship of whatever form themselves.  It makes me really side eye them as supposed allies… do they really think those of us who are single and are interested in dating a man who is proud to be seen with us and puts some effort into us as “pathetic”?

I want all of you to know there is nothing wrong with being vulnerable.  There is nothing wrong with speaking about what you want and expect from relationships.  There is nothing pathetic about wanting to be in a relationship.

Personally, I found this entire scene empowering, because it articulates a lot of things that I feel and represents situations I have been in myself.  That’s what I want to see in television – realistic portrayals of the lives of fat women.  I don’t just want to see us lampooned or turning ourselves into cariacatures (a la Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids).  I want to see realistic fat women in realistic situations. Awkward conversations, guys being jerks and then getting called out on it, fat women who are angry, disappointed, exasperated, and fed up, people who don’t quite get it but are willing to try, and sometimes getting that wrong too.

I want to see all representations of fat women, not just those that tick all the Fat Activism 101 boxes.

Sell Us the Clothes – Don’t Judge Us On Them

Published April 22, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Ugh, when are these plus-size retailers going to get it?  Check out these screen shots I took from a post Autograph Fashion made today:

photo 1

photo 2

Now I *LOVE* Autograph.  I really do.  They’re one of the few brands that actually cater to my size (26AU) and I love that they’re presenting a lot of great colours, prints and styles that aren’t your usual black and boring boxy fare.  They’ve come so far in the past few years, from when they used to be full of peasant tops and capri pants and nothing else, to a range that is bold, colourful and full of variety.  In fact I’d pretty much wear that outfit above as is (maybe not the black tank, too many layers for Brisbane!)  I’m currently wearing an outfit entirely made up of Autograph pieces, including a pair of their leggings, which I am wearing as pants, and rocking the sh!t out of!

But when I saw this post today, I saw RED.

My objections?  Two things.  Firstly, the statement that “leggings are not pants”.  I’ve spoken about this before.  Leggings are pants if that’s what you wear them as, and none of us need anyone else, particularly not a retailer who is supposed to be marketing to us, lecturing us on how to wear clothes.  We’re fat, we’re not babies.  We’re able to determine what we want to wear and how we wish to wear it.

Secondly, a constant bugbear of mine in plus-size fashion – all the rhetoric about how to “hide” or “flatter” our “problem areas”.  I’ve actually been in store, browsing the products at Autograph, when a staff member remarked on a top I had picked up “Oh that’s lovely, it will hide all your bad bits.”  I responded very firmly “Excuse me?  I do not have any “bad bits”, thank you very much!”  It’s so entrenched in plus-size women’s wear, that it’s seen as acceptable for a sales person to actually say something like that to their customer and not think for a second that it would be offensive.

The assumption that every customer of a plus-size retailer must by default wanting to hide, disguise or minimise any parts of their bodies simply because they are fat women, has to stop.  The assumption that we even HAVE any “bad bits” or “problem areas” has to stop.  We don’t pay these retailers for body shaming and lectures about how we should dress to “flatter” our bodies.  We pay these companies for clothes, not body shaming.

For too long, this kind of marketing has been used to try to get us to purchase their products, and they wonder why it doesn’t work.  Women who feel bad about themselves are not going to spend money on themselves.  All it does is create more arbitrary policing of how fat women dress.

Now I’m not saying that they can’t give style advice.  Definitely tell us what pieces look great together, how to layer for changing weather and what colours and prints are hot this season.  This is helpful information, and all part of good marketing.  I love to hear new ways of wearing things, and it helps me think of outfit ideas that I may not have thought of before.  The thing is, it’s not difficult to keep body shaming and judgement out of marketing copy.  Look, I’ll have a go:

“The Printed Legging

A  hot trend this season is the Printed Legging, no matter what size or shape there’s a style for you.  The trick to wearing leggings is to ensure you have the right fit, so that they hug your body.  The right fit will ensure your leggings are comfortable,  not see through or do not roll or bunch at the knees or ankles.

Printed leggings look fantastic with block colours, and we have a range of fabulous tunic tops that work perfectly.  Pair this seasons animal prints in black and white with bold purple, and add some silver jewellery for extra punch.  This asymmetrical tunic in royal purple looks great and is floaty and feminine.  If you want to add layers for cooler weather, a black tank can be worn underneath, or add a long line cardi or jacket for those chillier days.

Give them  a try today!”

But time and time again we see the same old loaded copy, full of body shaming and judgement.  Is it any wonder the comments threads are full of “But big women shouldn’t….!”  In fact, right after my comment a woman declared apropos of nothing that women with big thighs “shouldn’t wear stripes” – as though what other people wear on their bodies is anyone’s business but their own.  This is the kind of attitude that the negative marketing creates.

If you make women feel good about themselves, empowered and positive, they are very likely to spend money on nice clothes for themselves.  I know that’s when I spend the most money – when I’m feeling fantastic.  I want more nice stuff when I feel good.  When I feel crap, there’s no way I’m going to spend money on clothes.  It is not that fat women don’t want to buy clothes, it’s that we are so often made feel bad in the marketing, that it puts us off buying them.  So many plus-size clothing companies shoot themselves in the foot by using such negative marketing.

What I’d like to see from a plus-size clothing company is positive marketing that shows off their product with pride, and says “We love our product and you’d look great in it!”

Your job is to provide us with great clothes, it’s not to tell us that we should be hiding, minimising or disguising our bodies as though there is something wrong with them.

We Are Not the Problem

Published April 7, 2014 by sleepydumpling

I had planned to write some more about #notyourgoodfatty tonight but I had something happen to me on Saturday night that has really been bothering me and I want to talk about it and why it happens. Not to mention the feeling it leaves with the people it happens to.

I’d had a lovely day on Saturday. I had a delicious brunch with one of my best buds and her adorable doggie, then we went for a paddle down on the waterfront near my home. The water had been so lovely, warm and relaxing, like a bath. We had a little chill time by the bay, and then we went and saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier in Gold Class, which is always an indulgent experience, cosied up in those comfy recliners in a sparsely populated cinema. My friend dropped me home and I decided to nip up to the local Chinese restaurant to get myself a stir fry for dinner, since I had been out all day and was a wee bit sun burnt.

So there I was, sitting in the Chinese restaurant, minding my own business while I was waiting for my dinner. I was reading Instagram and Twitter on my phone, when this kid of about 16 or 17 rolls up to the doors of the restaurant on his bike, and it seems like he’s talking on his phone, but he walks right into the restaurant, holds his phone up to my face, and takes a picture of me – he even left the sound and flash on so I knew exactly what he did and knew his headphones weren’t plugged in. Without any attempt to hide what he is doing or any embarrassment on his part. As he does that, the girl on the counter asks him what he would like to order and he says “Oh… I dunno, hang on a minute” and then just walks out, gets on his bike and rides away.

Now I am not easily shocked by people being shitty to me in public, but this one just had me absolutely stunned. It was like I couldn’t register what he had done. I’m used to people sneaking photos of me (I now photograph them back and post them to my Tumblr) and I don’t doubt there are all sorts of shitty posts out there with my photo and people being douchebags about my body and my appearance. But to have someone just blatantly walk up to me, frame me up right in front of me and take my photo, and then walk away without batting an eyelid just gobsmacked me.

It honestly wasn’t until a couple of hours later that it sank in what he had done, and I can tell you, I felt so violated. It hit me like a wall, this feeling of being violated, assaulted. I think I had to get past the initial shock for it to register just how it made me feel. Usually when people try to take photos of me, they try to sneak it thinking I won’t know (I usually do) and at least have the humanity to look embarrassed when they are busted. Some of them even get pissed that I take their photo back. But this kid had no shame at all, spared no thought for whether or not I knew what he was doing, or how I might feel about being photographed by some complete stranger. My shocked response clearly meant nothing, and who knows where the hell that photo will turn up online.

The thing is, this is what happens when society demonises fat people so much that we are considered sub-human. People like this kid don’t see me as a person, because they’re bombarded with the message day in and day out that fat people are diseased, defective, less than. So our feelings, and our rights, matter nothing to them. Every time they see a headless fatty in the media, it gives them a message that we’re nothing more than a pile of fat. Every time they hear that fatness is a disease, it removes our personhood from their minds. So they have absolutely no qualms in behaving in such an invasive, abusive way toward us.

This isn’t the only thing that happens to us because of the dehumanisation of fat people in the media, but is simply one prime example. Every time we are subjected to abuse and harassment, every time we have someone yell at us from a passing car, every time someone tuts or scowls at us for taking up space on public transport or in other public places, every time someone passes comment on what we eat or do with our bodies, right down to every time someone targets us online for abuse (on our blogs and other social media spaces), these are not because we are fat and somehow cause this abuse ourselves. It is because the constant message from marketing and media tells people that we are sub-human, and then people who are broken and bigoted enough to believe that propaganda act on it.

But it’s not “normal” to spend your life harassing or bullying or abusing people. If these bigots want to talk about what is healthy, they need to look in the mirror first. It’s not emotionally or intellectually healthy to dehumanise other people. It’s not emotionally or intellectually healthy to be abusive or bullying. It is an unevolved, narrow mind that feels they have the right to police other people’s lives and bodies. Only those who are not comfortable and happy in who they are themselves are going to spend their lives looking for opportunities to harass and belittle others. People who are emotionally and intellectually healthy are far too busy focusing on their own lives, and those of the people they love to spend time harassing and bullying others.

The problem does not lie with us. We are not the ones who are damaged here. It is not our fault that we are abused by those who are so messed up that they genuinely believe that it’s a worthwhile pastime to abuse, harass and bully people.

We are NOT the ones who are broken in this equation.

It is NOT our fault.

It is NOT your fault.

Stop! It’s the Holiday Season Food Police!

Published December 25, 2013 by sleepydumpling

It’s that time of year again.  The “let’s be a jerk comments about food” time of year.  I don’t know about you, but I’m quite done with it already and it’s only Christmas Eve!*

Eating while fat at any time is a fraught exercise.  I just read a great post over on Shakesville by Aphra Behn on the weekend, take the time to go read it if you haven’t already.  But come the holiday season, and that really can extend any time from about late October through to oh, February, depending on where you live, it really gets intense.  So many people turn into the food police.  I don’t know about you, but when someone drops a food police bomb on me, more often than not I’m so taken aback by it that I can’t respond in the moment.  I’m already traumatised by food thanks to a lifetime of dieting and disordered eating, without having someone be a jerk over it.  Even though I’m well seasoned (see what I did there?) in dealing with food police.

So I thought I might drop a few examples with useful responses here that we could all use, and if you have any good ones you can put them in the comments.

“Oh, my diet is going to be SO ruined by this!”

“Well, you don’t have to eat any of this, we’ll understand if you choose not to, but we plan to enjoy it.”

“I didn’t realise that eating this was compulsory.”

“Like your diet isn’t going to be ruined by the fact that it’s an unsustainable way of feeding yourself in the long term.”

“That’s probably a good thing, it’s a well established fact that 95% of diets cause you to gain more weight in the long term than you lose.”

“This pie is SO sinful!”

“There’s a church at [insert nearby church address here] – I’m sure they’ll take your confession.”

“I’m more worried about the three firemen I shagged last night blotting my virtue.”

“I love the smell of brimstone in the morning!”

“It’s just pie, it’s not the anti-Christ.”

“Are you sure you haven’t had enough to eat already?”

“Are you sure what I eat is any of your business?”

“No.  I think I’ll have some more.  Thanks for checking in with me.”

“Why – is there more food somewhere?”

“Clearly not, or I wouldn’t be preparing to eat this.”

“That can’t be good for your health.”

“I didn’t know you’d gone and got a medical degree!”

“That’s so nice of you to worry about my health.  Would you mind looking at this rash I have… *zip*… down here?”

“Worry is worse for your health, so you take care and stop worrying about what I eat.”

“A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!”

“I’m not smearing it on my arse.”

“How about if I chew it REALLY slowly?  Will that be longer than a moment on my lips?”

“A moment on the lips, a lifetime of embarrassment for making such a stupid statement!”

“Oh, no, I’m watching my weight.”

“That must be boring viewing.”

“Why, does it do tricks?”

“I’m going to get SO FAT after all of this.”

“I’m fat, what’s wrong with being fat?”

“So you don’t want to be like me then?”

“Probably.”  (this one REALLY sticks in their craw!)

“We are all going to have to get on the treadmill tonight!”

“I don’t have to do anything of the sort, you worry about your body, I’ll worry about mine.”

“You do realise that human beings are not combustion engines right?  Bodies are far more complex than calories in/calories out.”

“If you want to be a hamster on a wheel for your evening entertainment, go for it.  I’ve got better things to do.”

*Stares at your food/plate*

Grab something off the plate and lick it and then put it back on the plate.  Say “There, now steal it.”

Take a fork/spoon full, raise it really, really slowly to your mouth, eat it really sexily and roll your eyes and make orgasm sounds.  Add a “Damn this is good!” for effect.

Pick up something small from your plate and throw it at them.

~~~@~~~

How’s that to get you all started on dealing with the food police?  Again, if you have any good ones, leave them in the comments so that we can build up an arsenal against the jerks out there who think they have a right to comment on our food and eating.

*I had this all ready to post last night but I spent too many hours having a beautiful roast chicken dinner with cheesecake and plum pudding with friends while we drooled over Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and didn’t get home until midnight, so it’s going up today.  Merry Christmas!  Or if Christmas is not your thing, I hope you’re having a fabulous holiday season of your choice!

Reindeer Games

If You’re Happy And You Know It…

Published December 8, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Sigh…

Every single time I’m in the media.  Every single bloody time.  And I’m sure that other fat activists get it whenever they’re in the media…

“There’s no way she’s happy with herself.”

“Nobody could be happy like that.”

“I bet any money she’s really unhappy.”

“I’m not as fat as her and I’m in pain and miserable, there’s no way she can be happy.”

“She won’t be able to walk at that size, and her knees will be really painful.  Nobody could be happy like that.”

Sigh…

I want to say something to all of those people – there are enough of them commenting on my blog (who are not being published because I want to spare the rest of you their misery and hate.)

Look, I get it.  You aren’t happy with yourself.  Or you think that if you got any fatter than you currently are, you wouldn’t be happy.  Your body might hurt and you might feel sluggish at whatever size you are, so you’re assuming if you were my size, then it would be worse.   You hate  how I look, so you think I must hate it too.  Maybe you hate how YOU look, and you reason that because you’re not as fat as me, then there’s no way I could be happy with myself.

But here’s the thing.  We’re all different.  What my body can do and how it feels at my size isn’t the same as what your body feels and can do at whatever size you are, or whatever size you have been in the past.  You’re not in my body.  You don’t know what it feels like for me.  I’m not in your body, I don’t know what it feels like for you.

I get that you’re really miserable and you hate yourself.  But that doesn’t mean I hate myself and am miserable by default, simply because I’m fatter than you.  Perhaps, instead of being SO determined to convince yourself and everyone else that I must be as miserable and self-loathing as you, you could focus on learning to find the happiness and self esteem you so desperately need.  It would make your life a WHOLE lot better, and people around you would be so much happier to be in your company.  Constantly trying to prove to yourself that I must be unhappy, in pain or somehow broken harms nobody but yourself.

Now, to the rest of you, my fellow fab fatties, who I am sure have been on the receiving end of this in some form or another, I want to send support.  This kind of gaslighting is so common and is designed to make you “prove” yourself.  But the truth is, no amount of “proof” will ever appease these people.  After all, I’ve been doing this shit for 5 years, a quick Google image search brings a plethora of photographs of me laughing, smiling, having a great time, riding my bike (for some reason the media LOVE those photos) etc.  There’s a whole website devoted to photos of myself and my local fat activist colleagues living our lives to the full.  But still people want to convince themselves that I must be unhappy, in pain and not able to move my body.

Besides, we owe nobody “proof” or justification of our existence.  I’ve said it a million times before, health/fitness is not a moral obligation.  Lots of people suffer illness or disability, fat or thin.  Myself included.  There is no need for anyone to be ashamed of illness or disability, EVEN if they are fat.  Proving that “fat can be fit” or any variation of such only feeds the stigma that fat people get.  We have to be in this fat liberation for ALL of us, not just those who fit in a narrow definition of “acceptable”.

Every one of us are valid, worthy human beings.  We owe nobody proof that we are “acceptable”.  The only person you owe proof of your happiness to is yourself.  The rest of the world should be considering your visible joy a gift, not something they can demand from you.

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!

How to Give a Compliment Without Being Douchey

Published April 15, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Following on from my previous post – on how to lose the body judgement for your own sake as well as others, it seems I need to write another… how to give a compliment without loading it with body judgement.

It’s not easy navigating in this world where the dominant paradigm is to critique appearances.  We are conditioned from the minute we are born that appearances are what we should judge others on and that we owe the world some kind of standard when it comes to our own appearance.  One of the most liberating things I have learnt is to be able to let go of that conditioning, and start to think of the world in a different way to that dominant rhetoric.  But it occurs to me that there is little to no help on HOW to unlearn all of that stuff, and what is the non-judgemental way to compliment people.  In fact, many of us can’t even see when we’re loading a compliment with body/appearance judgement, and so often we are hurt when someone says “Hey, don’t be a douche!”.  We respond “But I was complimenting you!”

So maybe I should start with a few examples of how not to pay a compliment someone?

I have someone in my life who does this EXTREMELY annoying thing.  She looks me up and down and then indicates my outfit and says “I approve” in a slightly patronising tone.  This one boils my blood!  I don’t wear outfits for other people to deem that they approve, I wear them because I like them and/or feel comfortable in them.   I have noticed that I get the “I approve” on days that I am wearing all dark colours, have most of my body covered or am wearing loose, flowing garments.  It’s particularly pointed on the days where she looks me up and down and doesn’t give the “I approve”.  I got one of those today.  Clearly my outfit (which I think is fabulous) doesn’t meet the standard.  See how “I approve” is not actually a compliment but a judgement?

Another is the “that is so flattering” faux-compliment.  It’s not a compliment to tell someone you like their outfit because it hides/disguises/minimises their body.  You are telling them that their body is something that should be hidden, disguised or minimised.

Add to the list the “you look great today”.  What did I look like yesterday, shithouse?  There’s no need to tack the “today” on to the compliment.  The same goes for “in that dress/colour/when you wear your *** like that” or any other  qualifier.

One that I get a lot is “Look at your legs, they’re amazing!”  I get this all the time, and it’s because on my body, thanks to the fact that I don’t drive which means I walk or cycle most places, my legs are considerably thinner than the rest of me.  What it does is highlight that the “acceptable” part of me is the thinnest bit of me.  I know it’s supposed to be a compliment, but just because my legs are the thinnest bit of me, doesn’t mean they need to be pointed out to all and sundry because they’re the least fat bit.  The rest of me, even my enormous belly, is pretty bloody fabulous thank you!

Some of you may have your own faux-compliments that you’d like to add to the list and you’re welcome to do so in the comments.

So… how do you compliment someone without accidentally putting body judgement on there?  Well… it’s actually pretty easy!  The best way is to keep it simple.

  • DO compliments on people’s skills.  A talent in styling an outfit or choosing fabulous colours or accessorising is a fabulous thing to have.  “I love the way you’ve styled that outfit!” or “You have accessorised fabulously!” are great compliments that don’t load body judgement in there.  You can even say “You have fabulous style!”
  • DO say you like an outfit, garment or accessory.  “I love your shoes!” or “Great dress!”  “Those earrings are awesome!”  Keep it simple.
  • DO use “I like” or “I love” statements.  I like your shoes.  I love your outfit.
  • DO tell people when they wear something well.  “I like the way you wear coloured tights.”  “You always make long dresses look so elegant.”  “Your outfits are so bright and fun.”
  • DO relate the compliment back to the person.  “Blue looks wonderful on you.”
  • DON’T mention people’s bodies.  Unless you are engaging in sexy-times with them, it’s not really anyone’s place to comment other people’s bodies.  Don’t say “That dress makes your waist look small/legs look long.” etc, instead just say “I love that dress on you.”
  • DON’T state your “approval”.  Whether you approve of someone’s outfit or appearance is irrelevant.
  • DON’T put a qualifier of time on a compliment.  You can just say “You look great!” rather than “You look great today.”
  • DON’T use the “I wish I could wear… like you.” line.  Drawing comparisons between bodies is pointless.
  • DON’T compare the outfit someone is wearing today to one they wore another time.  Perhaps they didn’t have the energy to put into an outfit at the other time.  Perhaps they like the other outfit better.  There’s really no need to point out that one outfit is better than another, unless someone directly asks you to compare them.  Just say you like what they have on.
  • DON’T use words like “slimming” or refer to the persons shape.  Again, a simple “You look lovely.” will do the job.
  • DON’T assume that an hourglass shape is superior to any other shaped body.  Firstly it’s not and while maybe the outfit they are wearing does give them an hourglass shape, they can look just as fabulous in an outfit that highlights any other shape they happen to appear.

FUCK FLATTERING!  Seriously, just fuck it.  Don’t use it, it’s shitty.

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