photographs

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A Study of the Self

Published June 7, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Well hello!  Welcome to the plethora of new readers I have gained recently.  It’s so good to see that there are more people out there ready to think outside the dominant paradigm when it comes to bodies and weight.

Before I go on any further, a quick zine update – it’s shaping up nicely.  I’m just waiting on a few artworks to come through, and then I can finish work on the layout, with production following after that.  I shall continue to keep you all posted.

So today I want to talk about selfies.  For those of you who don’t know, the word “selfie” is colloquialism for a self portrait, mostly these days taken by smart phone and uploaded to social media, like Facebook or Instagram.  With cameras ubiquitous in phones, especially now that many have front facing cameras, and most of us having connectivity to the internet, selfies have become something of an everyday occurrence.  I’m sure you’ve all seen one.  If you haven’t, here’s one I took yesterday:

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Freshly pink haired.

Selfies get a lot of criticism.  They’re considered vain, posing or childish.  They’re ridiculed, especially selfies of women, and in particular selfies of fat women.  I know mine get stolen off my various social media sites and posted other places for ridicule, because “OMG look at the gross fatty, she thinks she’s people!!1!”

But that’s not going to stop me doing it.  People have been taking self portraits of themselves for centuries – be they photographic or other media.  Do I need to list some names of some famous self portrait creators?  Frida Kahlo.  Van Gogh.  Rembrandt.  Da Vinci.  Warhol.  Basquiat. Vivian Maier.  The list goes on and on, and right back through history.  Have a bit of a Google around and you’ll see everything from the brutally critical to the utterly whimsical.

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Self portaits and self examination are important and powerful.  There are several reasons why I take and share selfies.

  1. Until a few years ago, I never allowed anyone to take photos of me.  I was so used to being shamed by people for my weight that I believed I wasn’t worthy enough to be seen in photographs.  Now I’m proud of who I am and am happy to participate in photographs (with my consent – taking photographs of me or anyone else without our consent is douchey, don’t do it) and part of that is from playing around with taking photos of myself.
  2. I don’t see people who look like me in the media.  Fat women are not represented in the media, unless it’s to vilify us.  We’re not represented anywhere in a positive light unless we represent ourselves.  As Junot Diaz wrote “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”*  If posting my selfie on my Tumblr or Twitter or blog gives someone like me some representation, as a fat woman, then it’s worth it.
  3. Looking at yourself a lot from different angles and in different lights and colours helps you remove self criticism.  If you never see yourself, you never see yourself as “normal” (because as my dear friend Ian always says, “Normal is what you are.”), so seeing yourself helps you get used to yourself.  I’ve found I’m far less self critical since I’ve been taking selfies than I was before.
  4. My friends near and far like to see me.  They like to see what my new glasses look like, or what colour I’ve dyed my hair, or just to see my face.  Just like I love to see them.
  5. It’s valuable to have a record of yourself through your life.  It’s healthy to look at how you change and grow through your life.  I look back at old selfies and I realise how far I have progressed in life, both externally, in things like my job and where I live and things like that, but also internally, how I feel about myself and how I present myself to the world.  Selfies tell my story.
  6. Because I discovered, on regular self examination in my self portraits, I’m kinda fucking awesome.

Self portraits, be they taken seriously with skill and care, or a spur of the moment capture of yourself for fun, are part of being human.  Since we first worked out how to scratch on a rock face or in the dirt while looking at our reflections in water, we humans have been taking self portraits to tell our stories, to examine ourselves, to share with our loved ones, or just for fun.  It’s not vanity to want to see yourself represented, either just for yourself, for those around you or in the world at large.  It’s part of marking that you are a member of humankind.

Have fun.  Pose.  Share them with your friends or share them with the world.  Get used to seeing yourself.  Find your own awesomeness.

*Thanks Lonie for posting this one on FB this morning and reminding me of an awesome quote.

 

Fat Stories: An Exhibition

Published October 19, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Last night was the official launch of Fat Stories at the Brisbane Powerhouse – an exhibition of photographs by Isaac Brown, documenting the lives of six Australian fat activists, including yours truly.  These are photographs taken as part of the Stocky Bodies project, an image library of photographs of fat people going about our everyday lives.

Isaac asked me to give a bit of an introduction to the exhibition and project as one of the participants, so I thought it an excellent opportunity to frock up for the evening.  I wore a navy and white spotted dress I got from Best & Less yonks ago, my Domino Dollhouse peach crinoline, peach and white polka dot shoes from Target and a big peach statement necklace from Lovisa.  I guess you want a look right?

Always fun to get an opportunity to frock up!

I was thrilled to have my dear friend Kerri and my tattooist, the lovely Victoria R Lundberg, there as my guests.  And I was also tickled to see an old friend, Franca, come along to the exhibit too, as I hadn’t seen her in many years.

Well this time, I actually wrote down my introduction speech, so I thought I’d share it with you here.  Because this was a different audience of people than usually hear about fat activism and fat liberation, I wanted something that snuck up and hit people in the kidneys a little bit, and made them think about the systematic dehumanisation of fat people.  So here’s what I came up with:

Several years ago, I was watching the news on TV, when a story about the “obesity epidemic” came on.  It was the usual rhetoric, fat people are all lazy and gluttonous, and they’re all going to die, we’d better prevent them, cure them, eradicate them.  As I watched this news story wringing it’s hands about how fat is the scourge of society, it happened.  I saw myself, right there on the TV screen, with my head cut off.  A piece of footage that had clearly been filmed outside my office building without my knowledge or consent.  It was me – in the very outfit I was still wearing as I sat there watching the news after I’d got home from work.

I cannot tell you how devastated I was.  What was left of my self esteem was instantly crushed, and I was mortified.  I was embarrassed, ashamed and deeply hurt.  Here this news story was, calling for the eradication of of fat, and it was illustrated with a picture of me, completely dehumanised, as though I was nothing but a big belly.

This is how the media represents fat people.  This is not only how the world are shown fat, but how we fat people see ourselves represented.

But this is not the reality of our lives.  We are not amorphous blobs of fat to be eradicated.  We are people.  People who have lives, loves, families, friends, careers, hobbies and most importantly, feelings.

This project gives us back our personhood.  These photographs represent our lives as they are, not as the media and marketing like to portray us.  But most importantly, they show other fat people that they are valuable human beings, who can live their lives to the full, despite the constant suggestion that they are worth less than people who are not fat.  These photographs have already inspired people around the world to take up dancing, to buy a bicycle, to get tattoos, to go swimming, to spend time enjoying the company of their loved ones, to shop for fashion, to wear what they like… and the most important thing – believe in themselves and their own worth.

So yeah, there you have it.  For those of you in or around Brisbane, or who can get to Brisbane over the next three weeks, I do urge you to head to the Brisbane Powerhouse at New Farm to have a look at the exhibition (it’s free!)  Here’s the flyer, featuring a favourite photo of mine from the collection, of Victoria and I, proving once and for all that you can have a photograph of fat people that withholds their identity without it being a stigmatising “headless fatty” shot.

Or you can find out more information at Fat Stories – Brisbane Powerhouse.

Introducing… Stocky Bodies!

Published June 18, 2012 by sleepydumpling

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

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

Stocky Bodies!

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

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

How awesome is that??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Defining My Identity

Published October 21, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I’m a little high on adrenaline tonight.  I’ve had some more work done on my left half sleeve tattoo today, which always gives me an adrenaline rush afterwards, but it was just an intense day all up.  I have mentioned before that I am working on a project with Dr Lauren Gurrieri of Griffith University, which I cannot share much about yet (I promise I will as soon as I can) other than it involves my being photographed around the subject of my identity.  Of course, a major part of my identity is my tattooed body, so it was obvious that was one of the events we needed to document.  I’m really pleased and honoured that my fabulous tattoo artist, Victoria R Lundberg of Wild at Heart Tattoo was willing to be photographed (and filmed) during my appointment.  She’s a good sport and a talented artist, is Victoria.

Anyway, my eventful day really started when I was sitting waiting for the bus to head into town to meet Lauren and documentary photographer Isaac Brown and head to my tattoo appointment.  I was sitting at the bus stop in the shade, minding my own business, reading twitter on my phone when a white tradie van pulled up on the opposite side of the street, and the guy driving lifted his iPhone, took a photo of me and then drove off.  I know, I know, I should have said something or flipped him the bird, or took his photo… but when shit like that happens you’re just so stunned that you can do more than give them an indignant look.

It just goes to demonstrate just how much surveillance we fat women (and it is a mixture of fatness and womanhood that draws the surveillance) are subjected to in our culture.  It is both surveillance and the policing of our bodies.  If a fat woman is too visible, doesn’t hide herself away in shame, dress in black and minimise herself, she is scrutinised, photographed, judged and harassed for it.  But fuck hiding away.  Fuck letting other people police what I wear, how I do my hair, what I look like in public.  I think I look pretty fucking awesome:

Anyway, it got better when I was in town, I was walking through the Myer Centre when a young woman reached out and touched my elbow and exclaimed “Cool hair!”  I find that people who are complimenting me or being cool are happy to do so to my face, not by sneaking photos or whispering about me.

So it was particularly apt that today was the day I was a) adding to my half sleeve tattoo, which is a celebration of my identity and b) being photographed for Lauren’s project.

I have to say, it was pretty daunting.  I’m not used to just relaxing and letting someone photograph me as I go about my business.  I’m so used to having my appearance judged, and of that old mode of scrutinising every photograph of myself because of self consciousness.  I only saw two of the hundreds of photographs taken today, one each from Lauren and Isaac, so I have no idea how any of them look.  To be honest, that does make me feel nervous.  It’s all a learning and growing process – after all, it wasn’t that many years ago that I never let anyone photograph me EVER.  That vulnerability is very hard to let go of.  But I’m determined to let go of those old feelings of self consciousness because I want there to be a photographic record of my life.  I regret those years I didn’t allow people to photograph me.

As well as feeling vulnerable, it was an incredibly empowering experience for me.  I trust Lauren and Isaac to give me the space I need to feel comfortable with the process, and enough say in the process that if I’m not feeling comfortable or happy, I can say so and they will respect that.  Besides, from what I’ve seen of Isaac’s work, he’s a talented photographer and who wouldn’t love to work with someone with that much talent?

This whole process has been quite cathartic to me, it’s had me thinking about how I identify myself, and how through things like my bright clothing, bold hair and tattoos, I reclaim my right to determine my own identity.  Because that’s the thing about identity, it’s our own to determine.  I read this wonderful quote from Chris Graham in relation to right wing… media personality (I cannot call him a journalist) Andrew Bolt’s policing of Aboriginal identity, that I think is an excellent universal statement about identity:

No-one, no matter how hard they might stamp their feet, gets to tell you how you should identify.

Just to give you a teaser, here are a few photos that Lauren took on my little compact camera.

Victoria getting into the detail.

It doesn’t hurt that bad, really! (Lauren has a photo of me wincing in pain, so that’s not entirely true!)

Here you go.  The work after today’s session.

Victoria made the outlines bolder, touched up some of the colour in spots that were patchy, coloured the moon and the owl’s belly/eyes and added the words on the spines of the books.  All in all I’m very pleased with the progress.

Everything about today was about identity for me.  From choosing what to wear (which today, was 100% for myself, unlike on days I work or go to events for other people), being photographed without my consent, having a stranger compliment my hair, being tattooed, and indeed the subjects of my tattoos, and being photographed in the process.

I wish for all of you to be given the space and the opportunity to be able to define and own your identity.  It feels powerful and cleansing, particularly after having it denied of me for most of my life.

I Am Nobody’s Freak Show

Published September 27, 2011 by sleepydumpling

It happens to me all the time.  I’ll be walking across the square on my way home from work and I’ll see someone shift from photographing the building, to trying to sneak a photograph of me.  Or if I’m sitting alone in a café, quietly having my lunch on my own, (ESPECIALLY if I’m eating on my own) to escape from the noise of the office, when I’ll feel myself being observed, and spot someone trying to sneak a photograph of me from a nearby table with their mobile phone.  I’ve been sitting on the train or a bus, or at the platform/bus stop, when I’ve spotted someone surreptitiously moving the lens of their camera or phone towards me to sneak a picture.  On more than one occasion I’ve been watching the news and seen my own body, with my head cropped out, as a headless fatty on a news bulletin about the “obesity epidemic”.  And one horrible time, some years ago, a colleague I didn’t know very well discreetly came and told me that he had seen a photo of me on a website devoted to humiliating ugly people.  At the time, I was absolutely devastated.  These days I’d probably give him a serve for looking at such websites!

People think I’m stupid, that I can’t see when they’re aiming their cameras and mobile phones at me.  Others think I’m paranoid, imagining that people are photographing me in public, but several experiences of seeing myself as a headless fatty on the evening news (and once in a newspaper) and turning up on websites, is more than enough evidence.  I don’t imagine this shit and I’m not the only one it happens to.  How often do you see pop up on Twitter, someone posting a photo of a stranger they see on the bus or train or some other public place, saying “Check out this weird person?”  I’ve unfollowed all of the people who think it’s ok to do that, but occasionally a new one crops up.  Why are there sites like that Walmart one, or ones devoted to bad fashion, “weird” people or ugly people?

It’s because we live in a culture that thinks that just because they have a camera in their hand, they’re allowed to photograph people for the purpose of ridicule.

I’ve also had people suggest that these folks are taking my photo without my consent because “You’re awesome Kath.”  That is true, I am awesome.  But the people who think I’m awesome and want my photo have the decency to come and ask my consent.  That happens every now and again, someone will come up to me and say “I love your hair, could I take your photo?”  Or “Your outfit is so cool, can I get a picture of you?”

Sometimes people say to me “Well, perhaps if you didn’t cut your hair like that, or dye it bright colours, they wouldn’t photograph you.”  Sometimes they deem the way I dress being the reason for people photographing me.  But the thing is, no matter what the reason, be it my coloured hair, my bold style of dress, my fatness, my cropped hair, whether they think I’m ugly… no matter what reason someone is photographing me without my consent, doesn’t excuse them for doing it… without my damn consent and for the purpose of putting my photograph online or on the news or in the paper to ridicule.  “Oh but you make yourself so noticeable!” these people say.  I am not going to disappear, to hide away just to avoid rude people who feel the need to photograph anyone who looks different for the purpose of ridicule.  I don’t wear my hair the way I do, or dress the way I do to get attention.  I do it because those are the things I like.  I love coloured hair, I love bright clothes and unique style.  I make my appearance the way I do, because it pleases ME.

Having control over who photographs us and how we are represented in photographs is often seen as vanity or even self consciousness (the old “that’s not flattering” malarkey), but to me, it’s about having control over my identity.  It’s about ownership of my own body, appearance and identity.  People who just photograph others for their own amusement or to ridicule are treating the subjects they photograph as if they are public property.  No matter where we are, in public or in private, our bodies are our own property and we have every right to choose what happens to our bodies, including the photographing of them.

This is one of the reasons that I am really excited about working on a project with Dr Lauren Gurrieri of the Griffith University, which I will tell you more about when I can.  One of the components of the project is fat activists being photographed by a professional (and talented) documentary photographer.  I love the idea of choosing to be photographed on my terms, in places and settings that I feel represent me, by someone I feel comfortable with. 

It’s not going to be easy, handing over the reins to the photographer, even though I do trust him and have seen his excellent work.  It’s not easy for most people to relax and allow someone to photograph them going about their day (or even posing) because we’re conditioned to believe we’re horrible and that we need to vet every photograph taken of us.  But when you have people in the street thinking it’s funny to photograph you to show their mates or put on the internet for ridicule, or you’ve seen yourself decapitated on the evening news as a representation of something that needs to be cured/prevented/eradicated… well, you’ve got a whole lot of shit you’re carrying around to deal with that most people don’t have to.

But it’s also important to claim back my body for myself, and to not let the people who haven’t got a shred of basic respect for others to claim ownership of my identity.

It’s also important to call out this behaviour.  It’s not easy, but when we see our friends or family taking “sneaky” (they’re never sneaky enough to escape notice by the subject of the photograph, believe me, I notice) photos on their mobile phones and cameras, or posting things to their Facebook or Twitter to snark at them, we have to speak up.  We have to make sure that people know this kind of behaviour is unacceptable.

Because just because it isn’t us this time, doesn’t mean we won’t be the ones being photographed without our consent next time.

Breaking Open the Beauty Paradigm

Published March 31, 2011 by sleepydumpling

The only way I can describe the feeling I have had this week after publishing this post in response to Leslie Cannold’s piece suggesting that Fat Acceptance activists (or “fativists”, as Ms Cannold decided to label us) were being too harsh on Mia Freedman for her repeated offenses of fat stigmatisation, is overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed at just how many of you the post touched a chord with.  Overwhelmed at just how widely that post was linked and tweeted and shared.  And overwhelmed at the amount of frustration I felt, pouring out of me when I not only wrote that piece, but also on reading so many of your comments and feedback.   Thank you.

But I’m not done with that article.  I want to address something else Ms Cannold said.  Let’s repeat it here:

It is good that those objecting to our culture’s equation of thin and beautiful also question why older, non-white, gay and disabled folk are excluded from the beauty standard. But the sincerity of such interrogation is undercut by fat acceptance articles illustrated with photos of heavily made-up obese women posing like models. Such illustrations don’t seem to say ”no way”, but express the less radical sentiment of ”me too”.

Hmm, this really sits unpleasantly with me, no matter how long I try to digest it.  Firstly, because I have a problem with the phrase “heavily made-up obese women posing like models”.  To me it smacks of slut-shaming, and in particular fat slut-shaming.  It has undertones of “how dare obese women gussy themselves up like tarts”.  Ms Cannold may not have intended for it to sound like that, but alas, to me, that’s just how it sounds.  It also rings a little of “look at those pathetic fatties, trying to make themselves beautiful”.

But what I really want to address as a follow up post to my last, is the notion that by engaging in fashion, make-up and modelling, fat activists are somehow negating our challenge of the beauty ideal.

Au contraire Ms Cannold.  In fact, we are turning the beauty ideal on it’s head.  The beauty ideal says that you must be thin, young, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered and usually affluent, among other things, to be beautiful.  That should you wish to engage in dressing up, fashion and make-up, to represent your look in a particular way, you need to fit this ideal. Yet here we are, fat and accepting of that fact, still engaging in these activities.  With no attempt at hiding our fatness with clothing, accessories and make-up that flatters, disguises or distracts, the statement is “I am here, I wish to be seen, and I am proud of who I am.”

Being visible as a fat woman is one of the most radical acts of fat acceptance I can think of.  It is accepting myself as a fat woman, and it forces others to accept me as I am.  Suddenly I am visible, like it or lump it.   And I have experienced that first hand, after 20-odd years of trying to make myself invisible, or blend into one group or another, to be just rocking whatever makes me happy, particularly if it involves make-up, costumery or anything that others would consider outlandish, as well as allowing myself to be photographed at all, let alone posing is possibly the most radical thing I have ever done.  It draws me the most accolades and the most criticism, far more than anything else I do.  Indeed, how I look seems to be far more important to many people than anything else about me.

Ms Cannold seems to imply that women in particular, only engage in fashion, make-up and being photographed in the quest to become the beauty ideal.  But what we really are on a quest to do is change the beauty ideal.  That doesn’t mean we have to all give up shaving our legs, wearing-make up and don bland, practical clothing.  What it does mean is that we create our own beauty, in all the diversity that we are.

But you don’t need to just take my word for it.  I decided to throw out a request to fatshionistas to define what participating in fatshion (which is fashion – clothing, make-up and accessories, as well as posing for photographs as fat women) means to them.

First we have Nicola, from 2 Many Cupcakes:

 

Nicola says: I am proud of the way I look and the things that I wear. I am not blogging to make myself thin and beautiful. I don’t need too. I don’t want to be thin and I already am beautiful. I enjoy clothing. I enjoy accessories. I enjoy chronicling my outfits because I think I have a good sense of fashion.

What is wrong with ‘obese women posing like models?’ The Oxford dictionary defines model as  “a person employed to pose for an artist, photographer, or sculptor.” Nowhere in that definition does it refer to a model needing to be a certain age, figure, race or sexuality. I am a fat woman modelling for my blog because it’s my hobby and I enjoy it. I will wear what I want and pose how I want for my blog.

 

 

And then we have Anna from Bargain Fatshionista:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anna says: For me, as a fat woman, fashion means rebellion. It’s telling every person who has ever told me that I should lose some weight to screw off. It means being happy where I am now and not caring what others think. It means acceptance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is Frances from Corpulent:

Frances says: I’m not a fashionable person. I don’t know much about designers, I don’t follow trends and I will never ever wear stilettos. That said, I do think fashion is important and can be quite political. The way we present ourselves through our clothes/accessories/hairstyles tells the world a story about us before we even open our mouths. The limited options available to fat people mean that the messages we are able to send with our fashion are, in a way, censored. By refusing to cater to us, fashion labels are controlling the way we can present ourselves. (The idea that all fat women are sexless and sloppy is that much easier to perpetuate when the clothes available are sexless and sloppy.) To send an accurate message of ourselves, fat people must try harder; we have to be adventurous, resourceful and inventive.

Though I am not a fashionable person, I do have style that’s all my own. Posting photos of my outfits, and looking at the outfits posted by others, has not only solidified my sense of style but my sense of self. My clothes make me feel more me than I ever have. Through fatshion, I am not proving my style credentials to others, but building up my own sense of value.

 

And from Bloomie, who blogs at 30 Dresses in 30 Days:

Bloomie says: Sometimes I get on the subway in the morning, look around at everyone on the train and think about how in a sea of black, I am the fat woman wearing multiple fluorescent colors and a faux fur jacket.  And then I laugh to myself and think about how far I’ve come from the days when I didn’t even know where to buy jeans that fit me.

To me fatshion is about loving my body and dressing it up and showing it off to the world.  It’s about expressing who I am through my clothing and it’s about taking risks and being unashamed and unembarrassed in my body.  It’s about challenging stereotypes of how I’m expected to dress or look or behave because of my size.  It’s about upending stereotypes.  It’s about strutting myself, highlighting my beautifully enormous ass and making people stop, turn and stare when I pass them on the street.

 

On to Sonya from Australian Fatshion:

 

 

 

 

 

Sonya says: Before discovering fatshion, there is no way I would have worn white or allowed a side-on photograph of my body to exist. I think increasing visibility of the fat body by taking outfit pictures will help to normalise those bodies and maybe make people question their prejudices and beliefs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is Georgina from Cupcake’s Clothes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgina says: Fatshion for me means being able to embrace fashion without worrying about size.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as Jessica from Tangled Up In Lace:

 

 

 

 

 

Jessica says: Blogging about fatshion is one of my many tools in the fight for body acceptance because beyond the visibility aspects, it gives me a chance to help other fat bodies get inspired to decorate and proudly present themselves to a society that tells them otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nor is fatshion restricted to women.  For example, Bruce from Chubstr:

Bruce says: I feel like fatshion and fashion are the same thing. The goal of Chubstr is to show big guys that they can wear the things they love and that they aren’t any different from their thinner counterparts. We spend a lot of time thinking that we don’t have options when that’s not really the case, and I want to do my best to show men of all sizes that it’s okay to be stylish no matter what your size.

 

 

These are just some of the examples of fatshion bloggers, a handful of fabulous fatshion folk who volunteered to share their definitions and pictures here to illustrate what engaging in fashion as a fat person embodies.  Over and over the message is repeated that engaging in fashion as a fat person means challenging the status quo, being both accepting and proud of oneself as a fat person, and being visible as a fat person, rather than conforming to the beauty ideal.

Fat fashion, fat visibility, fat acceptance smashes the beauty ideal doors down and invites everyone to participate, no matter who they are, even if they are not fat.  It is the veritable open house of fashion, appearance and style.  As the great Cole Porter once wrote:

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
Anything Goes.

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