respect

All posts in the respect category

I Can’t Say it Any Better…

Published April 18, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Beautifully simple piece by xkcd.  So many people do not understand the concept of free speech.  Sometimes, you don’t get to march into a space and say whatever you like.

This is very important in fat activism community, regardless of the form it takes.  The rules may vary from space to space, but the owner of the space gets to decide what is hosted in that space, and what is not.  There is a whole internet out there for people to say what they like, they can create their own space or go to spaces that are open to their opinion.

But as a general rule, in fat activist spaces, steer clear, unless explicitly stated that it is ok, from the following topics:

  • diets
  • intentional weight loss/weight loss proselytising
  • moralising food (look for descriptors like good, bad, sinful, junk, healthy, clean, wholesome, naughty etc)
  • suggesting health is mandatory or anyone’s business but a person themselves.
  • “the last acceptable prejudice” (it’s not)
  • suggestions of “real women are/have…”
  • the “O” words – obese, overweight.
  • twee euphemisms for fat like curvy/big/chubby/voluptuous etc.  If the host refers to themselves as fat, you should too. (unless describing yourself, it is understandable that not everyone is comfortable with referring to themselves as fat.)
  • justifying your body/food choices/physical activity
  • suggesting the author should “just ignore them” or questioning their perception.  Trust people to know how they feel and how they read a situation.
  • Confusing YOUR experiences for those had by the author.

That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with someone.  I think a lot of people don’t know how to disagree with people without being a jerk about it.  If you’re in someone else’s space, remember your “I/Me/My” statements.  Don’t march in and say “You’re wrong/full of shit/you suck.” because then you’re being an asshole.  It doesn’t hurt to say “I disagree because I feel/believe…” or “It has been my experience that…”  Or you can go and disagree in YOUR space, where you can say whatever you damn well like.

Generally it’s just a good idea when you’re on someone else’s website/blog/social media page to remember that you’re on their turf.  That’s their house online.  I don’t go marching onto your turf and start lecturing you, I’m as sure as shit not going to take anyone coming in to mine to do that.  If I go to your space online, I am going to follow your rules.  If I don’t like them, then I will make the decision to leave and not come back.  I’m not going to hang around and be an arsehole.

It’s important to remember that while you are entitled to your opinion, you’re not entitled to that opinion with out responsibility and repercussions for your behaviour.

Care of Magical Creatures

Published March 24, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Boy oh boy, what a busy few days it has been since the magazine piece came out in That’s Life!  My inbox has been chockas, I’ve had all these new people wanting to friend me on Facebook, I’ve had several media requests and all my other social media platforms have taken off too.  Mostly it has been awesome, lots of new folks interested in what I do with my fat activism, which is always a good thing.  Unfortunately it comes with a serving of abuse from the arseholes of the world, which is both annoying and exhausting.  Self care has been really important this past few days, so that I can have the energy to deal with the bullshit, and appreciate the good stuff.  Particularly as I’m sporting an injury at the moment that is really wearing me down.

Today I wanted to talk about how you, dear readers, can support the fat activists that you dig.  Because just a little bit of support goes a long way in helping us keep plugging away with the work that we do.  Not to mention that most of us do this work for free, putting in hours and hours of our own time and resources to fight the good fight for fatties of all kinds.  If I were paid for the work I do in fat activism at the same rate I am for my day job, which I believe is the minimum that I am worth financially, I would almost double my wage.  Yup, I put THAT many hours into fat activism every week.

So here’s a list of things that you can do (or not do) to support your favourite fat activist.

1. Let us know you’re out there listening.  Either a comment, a “like” on the blog or on Facebook, or a retweet/reblog on Twitter/Tumblr will do.  We can see how many hits we get on the blog, but who knows what percentage of those are dickwads from reddit or creepers?  Giving us an accurate idea of who is actually reading for the right reasons keeps us going when we’re dealing with the jerks.

2. Signal boost/share our stuff.  WITH CREDIT.  I can’t stress the credit part enough.  Imagine if you spent hours on something and then someone showed it off without acknowledging you.  That would suck, wouldn’t it?

3. Don’t try to use us as your own personal bullhorn.  I get so pissed off at people who email and ask “Why haven’t you talked about X yet?”  Because I don’t want to.  Or I didn’t know about it.  Or because it’s triggering.  Or a million other reasons.  If you want someone to talk about a particular subject, fire up a blog (they’re free you know!) and talk about it yourself.  Many of us spend a lot of time doing research, reading blog posts, going through Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook for links about the topic of fat.  We see this stuff, we don’t need it brought to our attention (unless we specifically ask for it) and if we want to talk about it, we will.  Which leads me to the next point…

4. Do not send us unsolicited links to articles/examples of fat hate.  When you see fat hate, how does it make you feel?  Bad right?  It makes you angry/upset/sad/depressed/shitty.  So why would you send that to another fat person?  We fat activists are not made of steel – we feel the same things you do when we see fat hate.  It hurts.  We’re quite capable of finding our own horrible examples of fat hate.

5. GOOGLE.  Use it.  It’s your best friend.  If you don’t understand a term or you’re not sure about something, copy and paste those words over to Google and hit the search button.  We’ve likely spent a lot of time thinking about and carefully wording something, the least you can do is take the time to explore it further yourself.

6. Following on from that, please don’t use us as your own personal reference librarian.  I get SO many emails and asks from people saying “What does [insert word or activist concept] mean?”  or “I once saw this article about [insert fat related topic], I was wondering if you could give me the link?”  Come on now.  You’re already on the internet, you know where to find Google, why are you asking someone who has already given you loads of their time for free to do it for you?  And don’t ask us to source plus-size clothing for you.  We have enough trouble sourcing our own.  Feel free to ask us where we got something, but don’t ask us to source that perfect bra for you, or where you can buy wedding dresses in your town or whatever.

7. Don’t use our photos without credit.  I found out thanks to the art department of That’s Life! that people have been ganking my photos off this blog and posting them on their blogs and Tumblr’s and stuff without linking them back to me.  That wasn’t cool.  I love when people share my outfit photos in fatshion posts and stuff, but please always link them back to me either here or wherever else you got them.  It’s never pleasant to find out your face and body have been posted somewhere without your knowledge.

8. If you have thin privilege over us, there is no need to declare “I’m not as big as you.” or “I’m not a fat person.” or “I’m a slim person.”  That always feels like you’re adding the disclaimer that you’re not as “bad” as us.  It’s ok to acknowledge your thin privilege (and yes, even fat people can have thin privilege – someone who is smaller than my size 26AU but is still fat is going to have privileges that I don’t have) but leave the declarations of your size or lack of fat out of it.  A simple “I realise/acknowledge that I have privilege over those who are larger than I am.” will do the trick if you must bring it up at all.

9. Realise that not being able to get clothes that fit is not the same as not having clothing options AT ALL or having very minimal clothing options.  I really get the shits with people complaining that things at any size less than a 20 aren’t cut to fit them when my size is routinely excluded all together.  Yes, clothes that don’t fit quite right suck.  But if you can size up and still be clothed, you’re in a better position than many of us are.

10. Ask us how we are occasionally.  Don’t expect us to be “on” all the time.  Sometimes it feels like we have to perform all the time, a bit “Dance monkey, dance!”  We do this because it’s important to us and we want to make a change in the world, but it isn’t easy and often you’re left feeling that you’re the cannon fodder pushed out to the front lines while everyone cowers behind you.  Knowing that people care about your welfare and that they are willing to support you while you be the one putting your face and name out there really does help.

11. Most importantly, realise that we are human beings.  We have shit days, we have stuff going on in our lives, we work regular jobs, we have friends and family and all the things all of you do.  Sometimes our brain is not in a space to be able to respond to comments, or we’re really busy with work and don’t get time to respond to emails.  Sometimes we make mistakes, or we respond to things emotionally.  That’s because we’re human beings!  We’re not really magical creatures that are impervious to fat hate, or have 100% confidence and strong self esteem all the time.

No More Media Excuses

Published July 8, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Well.  Just a little while ago I received the following email and I was outraged.  I think my response sums it up pretty clearly, don’t you?

Morning,
I was wondering if you’d be around for a chat over the phone this morning about a story we’re covering.
We’re going to be talking to Katie Hopkins who has come out and said that she wouldn’t employ an overweight person as they’re all lazy….
Wondered if you’d be up for challenging this remark?
Can you call me on [redacted]?
Look forward to hearing from you.
Natasha Bateman
Producer
Mornings with Adrian Goldberg

And my response:

Natasha,

Katie Hopkins and her ignorant, bigoted attitudes are not worth me getting out of bed for, let alone making a long distance phone call from Australia to the UK for.  It shows an astonishing lack of respect from you to expect me to respond to someone who so openly hates people like me.  In fact, it is completely shameful that you would even have someone like that on your radio show AT ALL and expect your listeners to tolerate it.  Would you allow someone who would discriminate on the grounds of gender, sexuality or race on your show to spout their bigotry?  Would you ask a woman, a gay person or a person of colour to also appear on your show with someone who is going to openly spout hate at them?  I would hope not, so why would you ask a fat person to participate in such a programme?

We are led to believe that the BBC is one of the quality broadcasters of the world.  Yet you still entertain the notion that it is acceptable to allow people who openly and unashamedly discriminate against other human beings to have air time on your shows to promote their hateful, ignorant attitudes, and that the people who are the victims of their hate are in some way obligated to spend their time responding to them.  That is not the mark of a quality broadcasting service.  It is the mark of gutter media trying to stir up ratings.

Please do not waste my time in future unless you are willing to ensure that I am treated with the basic dignity and respect that I deserve as a human being, by both your programme and any guests you intend to have on it.

Yours sincerely
Kath Read

It’s time we started calling out the media for this kind of behaviour.  It is time we responded to these media outlets and told them that they are both wasting our time and are deeply disrespectful to expect us to tolerate such hateful attitudes, let alone respond to them.  The media have stitched up so many of we fat activists over the years, that it’s time we name our terms and start valuing ourselves as worthy human beings, as busy people who have better things to do in our lives than be subjected to people like Katie Hopkins and their bigotry.

No more excuses about “it’s what people want to hear” and “it’s just debate”.  We don’t want to hear people like Katie Hopkins any more.  If people want to hear someone like Katie Hopkins spouting bigotry in the media, then they should be ashamed of themselves.  Not to mention that our rights as human beings are not up for debate with anyone.  People don’t get to “debate” whether we fat people deserve to be treated with basic dignity and respect.  We do, as do all human beings.

You’re Not The First to Tell a Fat Person…

Published June 25, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Look, I know I have a lot of new readers.  I understand that many of you are totally new to the concept of fat activism and fat liberation.  I know that when you turn on the telly or open a newspaper, you are told, over and over again, fat = unhealthy and unhealthy = bad therefore fat = bad.  So what I’m saying here on this blog is a radical concept to a lot of you.  The idea that someone might refuse to believe that dominant rhetoric of fat = bad and actually be happy in their fat body is possibly confronting and confusing for many of you.  But it’s not a new concept.  Go back to my first post… July 2009.  I’ve been banging on about this for four years.  In fact, I just noticed that this is my 400th post.  So for four years, and with an average of 100 posts per year, I’ve been talking about this stuff for a long time now.  And believe it or not, a lot of people have been talking about it for a lot longer than me.  In fact, fat activism has its roots in the SIXTIES.  Yes, this stuff has been around for 50 years.  It’s not new.

So we need to talk about the sudden influx of you leaving comments on this blog that are never going to see the light of day.  Because yes, I know for you these things are radical and new… but to we fatties in the fatosphere, we’ve heard the same old same old our whole lives.  So not only do they not need to be published here to beat us over the head again and again with the same stuff that we’ve debunked time and time again, but you really don’t need to say them in the first place.  WE’VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE!  SERIOUSLY, YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST PERSON TO TELL US THE THINGS BELOW!

Today I’m going to address a few of the most commonly deleted/spammed comments (other than the usual troll bullshit) that I just refuse to allow space on this blog any more, because I do know there are a lot of you newbies out there who have just started reading my blog recently and perhaps think you’re presenting some new idea to myself and other fatties in your comments.  This is for you, so that you don’t make a dick of yourself any more in comment threads on fat activist blogs and other sites saying things that every fat person has heard a bajillion times already.

But fat is unhealthy!?

There is a plethora of evidence out there that debunks this myth, I’m not going to go into that here and now.  It’s not my job to educate you – I’ve given you lists of resources, off you go to educate yourself.  What I am going to say are the following things:

  • health is not a moral obligation.
  • Health is not a measure of human worth.
  • Health is arbitrary – what is “healthy” for one person, is not necessarily the same for the next.
  • Thin people suffer health issues too
  • People with illness/injury/disability are just as deserving of dignity and respect as anyone else, no matter what that illness/injury/disability may be or how it is “caused”.

But you’re driving up taxes/health insurance!!

So are people who drive cars, drink alcohol, play sport, have unprotected sex, get pregnant or get old.  Among many other things.  Fat people pay taxes and for health insurance too, and their taxes and health insurance dollars go into the same pool that yours do.  Fat costs on public health are a false cost – if you medicalise something, then it is going to “cost” to “treat” it.  If the medical profession focused on treating actual health issues and not trying to make fat people thin, those costs would all but disappear.

Well I’m all for loving your body, but within limits/not for super-obese people!

Firstly, I’m actually not interested in “body love”.  Sure, it’s probably good for us to reach a place of love and acceptance of our bodies.  But in the face of a world that sends us constant messages that our bodies should be something completely unattainable, I reckon if we can just get to a point where we respect our bodies as remarkable and complex systems that propel us through life, we’re doing well.  If someone does love their body, then that’s a bonus and I believe that anyone is allowed to love their body, be they thin, fat or in between.

As for the “limits” to which people are included in fat activism/liberation, it has to be all of us.  Not some, not to a certain point, not just the “healthy” ones, not just the ones who are cute/attractive, not just the young, white, straight, able-bodied ones.  Every single one of us deserves to live our lives in dignity and peace, without fear of discrimination or vilification based on our weight and size.  Every single fat person deserves positive representation.  EVERY. SINGLE. FAT. PERSON.

But I’m just concerned about your health/ wellbeing!

No you’re not.  If you were, you would be standing beside me fighting fat stigma and advocating for equitable health treatment for all.  You don’t give a damn about the health and wellbeing of fat people.  You don’t care that fat people can’t get treatment for everything from the common cold through to cancer because they are all blamed on their fatness and they’re just given a diet, not actual treatment.  You don’t care that the public vilification of fat people causes depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.  You don’t care that fat people are dying because they are so shamed by the medical profession that they can’t bring themselves to go back to the doctor when they are ill.  Claiming you care about our wellbeing is a lie.

But you need help!  Making  “obesity” a disease will get you help and cheap treatment!

We do not need “help” that is against our will or counter-productive to our actual health.  We don’t need “treatments” that fail and make us gain even more weight in the long term (diets and other weight loss methods), that butcher our bodies (gastric mutilation surgeries) or deplete our quality of life (weight loss medications that give us heart conditions, make us sick, give us “oily anal discharge” or a plethora of other side effects that are far worse than simply being fat).   Many of us don’t need help or treatment at all.  Many of us are happy just as we are and are doing fine.  What we need is to be treated as human beings, and to have agency over our lives.

But don’t you want to live longer?

Since when has anyone been able to control when they die?  We don’t know how long we’ll be here for.  We only get one shot at it.  So we best fill our lives as best we can, and not put them on hold because we don’t meet some kind of cultural measure of acceptable appearance.

You just want everyone to be fat like you!

Unlike the anti-fat camp, I believe that human bodies are naturally diverse and that some of us are meant to be fat, some are meant to be thin, and the rest are meant to range in between.  I don’t want to make other people fat any more than I want to make myself thin.  Unlike the anti-fat camp, I believe that all human beings are valid and equal regardless of their size or weight.  I like diversity, it keeps things from getting boring.

But… everyone KNOWS [insert anti-fat trope here]

Everyone used to know the earth was flat.  Everyone used to know that the sun revolved around the earth.  Everyone used to know that smoking tobacco was good for you.  We as human beings don’t know everything, and sometimes when we think we know things we’re wrong.  Emergent science is showing us already that our pre-conceived notions of fatness have been wrong on many counts (again, off you go to do your own research, you’ve got access to all the same online tools I’ve got access to, I’m not here to do it for you), I’ve spent the past four years learning, reading expanding my world view with these facts, I’m not just making this shit up myself.  Don’t make a fool of yourself by hanging on to ignorance.

You’re just making excuses to sit around on your fat ass all day and eat donuts!

If I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t need an excuse to do so.  I’d just do it.  I’m a grown adult and my life is mine to choose how I spend it.  That said, I actually wish I had a little more time to relax and wasn’t so busy all the time.  If I COULD find a way to do that, I WOULD take more time to relax, you’d better believe it!

It’s just calories in, calories out, you just need to put down the fork and move your fat ass!

Humans are not bomb calorimeters.  Nor are we lawnmowers.  Incidentally, do you think that no fat person ever has thought to try diet and exercise to get thin?  That at almost 41 years of age it never occurred to me to try “calories in/calories out”?  Do you REALLY think you’re the first person to make that suggestion to a fat person?  I can guarantee you, it’s highly unlikely you’re even the first person TODAY to make that suggestion to me.

You just lack willpower!

Oh really?  I engaged in a full blown restriction and purging eating disorder for twenty years, don’t talk to me about willpower.   If willpower actually amounted to anything, I would be thin, ridiculously wealthy and married to Hugh Jackman by now.  And put it this way, if you think I don’t have willpower, consider the fact that I haven’t smacked one of the dozens of fat hating douchecanoes I deal with every day in the mouth yet.  THAT takes willpower!

But I’ve lost weight and kept it off – you can too!

Define “kept it off”.  Have you passed the 5 year mark yet?  No?  Well since SCIENCE says that 95% of people who lose weight through dieting will regain it and more within 5 years, you need to go away and come back once you’ve kept it off for 5 years.  And that’s 5 years solid, not regained it after a year or so, lost it again, regained it again, lost it again, regained, lost (which most of us can do and have done).  If you have kept it off for 5 years or more, congratulations for being one of the 5% statistical anomalies.  Hopefully you can understand basic percentages and realise that most of us are likely to fall into the 95% bracket.

Not to mention that what you choose to do with your body has no bearing on what I choose to do with mine.  You focus on your body and life, I’ll focus on mine.

So there you have it.  I’ve taken the time to address the common tropes I find in comments about, and this should save us all a lot of time.  Hopefully those of you who want to tell/ask me (or any other fat people) any of the above things can save your breath and not embarrass yourselves publicly, and I shouldn’t have to deal with the same old same old in my inbox every day.

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.

Stares, Sneers and Snickers

Published February 14, 2013 by sleepydumpling

If you follow me on my Fat Heffalump Facebook page, you may have seen this article I posted yesterday.  Photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero has documented the reactions of people around her, a fat woman, in public.  If you go to Haley’s page, you will see the full suite of photographs called Wait Watchers as she documents people laughing at her, sneering, and generally just being douchey.

Now I don’t advocate reading the comments on PetaPixel articles (actually, on any articles about discrimination and bigotry for that matter), but I did, and I also saw them elsewhere, suggesting either that Haley just captured “general expressions” (not necessarily aimed at her) or that perhaps they weren’t deriding her because of her weight but because of the way she dressed (which is no different than most of the thin people around her – only fat people are considered “sloppy” in shorts and a top), her looks, or as one said “Those people aren’t looking at her because she’s fat! It’s because she’s doing x, y, z. But if she doesn’t want to be ridiculed in public, maybe she should lose some weight.”

Wait, what?

Regardless of the reason why people behaved like they did, they were behaving in a judgemental manner, and judging her negatively, which their expressions and behaviour showed.

Well, I can tell you now, I have further proof to add to Haley’s testimonial of the derisive surveillance fat people are under.  Because some time ago, I engaged in an experiment with Stocky Bodies photographer Isaac Brown, where I spent time in the Queen Street Mall here in Brisbane doing things that I am normally likely to do in public, as anyone else is (reading, using my phone, eating a salad, eating an ice-cream) and Isaac blended into the crowd and photographed people’s reactions to me.

Before anyone says “But it’s because you have bright pink hair!” let me address that.  Firstly, lots of people have bright coloured hair these days.  But many of them are not ridiculed in the street.  I am a fat woman with pink hair, I get a very different reaction from Jo Public than a thin woman with pink hair.  Secondly, I currently have my natural hair colour (dark brown with a bit of grey) and I get the same treatment no matter what colour my hair is.  Just two days ago I spotted a guy on the opposite train platform to the one I was standing nudge the woman next to him, point me out (brown hair, tattoos covered up, wearing quite a conservative dress and plain ballet flats) and they both laughed at me.  When they realised I had seen them pointing me out and laughing, they both clearly knew they had been busted by me.

And finally, do people with pink hair or any other bright, bold appearance deserve to be ridiculed in the street?  No they do not.

Others suggest people stare because “You look awesome Kath!”  People do not scowl, laugh derisively, or have expressions of disgust at people they find awesome.  They do not nudge and point.  When people find me awesome, and yes, some do, they smile at me.  They pass and say “I love your hair!”  Their faces are open and friendly, not closed and hostile.  Believe it or not, fat people are emotionally intelligent enough to be able to distinguish between negative and positive reactions to them.

I asked Isaac to send me some of the photos he took, so that I could share them with you.  You will see quite clearly that these are not the expressions of people who are thinking “That pink haired, fat lady is awesome!”

KathQSM-14

Some people just stare.

Sometimes I'm stared at by multiple people, not connected to each other.

Sometimes I’m stared at by multiple people, not connected to each other.

Some people show their disapproval quite clearly on their faces.

Some people show their disapproval quite clearly on their faces.

It's not just women that stare either.

It’s not just women that stare either.

Even "nice little old ladies" stare and grimace at me.

Even “nice little old ladies” stare and grimace at me.

Some don't even bother to hide their laughter.

Some don’t even bother to hide their laughter…

... until their companions stare too.

… until their companions stare too.

Nor do they hide their disapproval.

Nor do they hide their disapproval.

Even sunglasses don't hide their disgust at the sight of a fat woman eating in public.

Even sunglasses don’t hide their disgust at the sight of a fat woman eating in public.

As you can see, it’s not just a phenomena that Haley Morris-Cafiero experiences.  I do too, as do many other fat people who spend time in public places.

But what is most offensive is the routine denial of those experiences, as though we are either imagining the stares, disapproving/disgusted looks, the nudging and pointing and laughter, or they are somehow our fault.  Having our experiences dismissed is actually part of the systematic oppression of fat people.  Portraying us as overly sensitive, or imagining the way we are treated is also a form of abuse.   It labels us as “deluded” or emotionally damaged.  It is ironic, many of us do have emotional damage, not because we are fat, but because of the way society treats us as fat people, which includes the regular dismissal of our experiences.

The thing is, it’s not just me that notices the way people behave towards me in public.  It affects my relationships with others as well.  I have had a boyfriend leave me because he couldn’t handle being subjected to so much derision from strangers (yes, I am aware that I am better off without such a man!) and it often diminishes the enjoyment of time out with friends, because they see how people behave towards me and because they care about them, it upsets them and makes them angry, as they want to defend me and respond to the general shittiness of strangers behaviour.  Not to mention that even though I’m mostly pretty thick skinned about it, some days it gets too much for me and affects my mood – it’s hard to relax and have fun with your friends when you are being subjected to the kind of derision and judgement shown in the photographs above.

It is sadly just another example of the way fat people are viewed as inferior in our society.  Not only do we “deserve” the vilification, ridicule and judgement, but if we acknowledge it, we are viewed as irrational, over-sensitive or deluded.

If you are experiencing these things, you are NOT irrational, over-sensitive or deluded.  Your feelings and experiences are valid, and you are not alone.

Note: Any comments denying my or anyone else’s experience with judgement and ridicule in public will be marked as spam and have you blocked from commenting.  You are welcome to state that you are fortunate enough to have not experienced it, but DO NOT suggest that I or anyone else is imagining our experiences, as you will be doing exactly what I call out in this article.

No More Hoops

Published January 6, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Over the past few days there have been loads of pieces from awesome fat activists on fat and health, mostly in response to a couple of studies that reports that fat and fit are not mutually exclusive and that fat is not an instant death sentence.  It has been really heartening to see so many responses from fat activists that highlight how important access to health care is for fat people and the prejudice that fat people face both in the health care industry and because of the myth that fat automatically equals unhealthy.

However, I think we need to stop and reassess what we are doing here.  Yes, conflating weight with health has been a very pervasive myth that many people have used to justify fat hatred and addressing that is important.  But I don’t think that it is going to help fat people in the long run as much as we need it to.  Because no matter how many myths and stereotypes you bust, those who hate fat people are ALWAYS going to find a way to justify their disgusting attitudes.  Be it health, fitness, appearance, the cost of mittens in America… there will always be something used to justify fat hatred.

We need to let go of constantly trying to meet the bar set by fat haters.  If they say it’s because poor health, we spend our time proving that fat does not equal poor health.  If they say it is because we’re lazy, we spend all our time proving that we are not.  If they say it is because we are gluttonous, we spend our time policing and justifying our own choices for eating.  The list goes on and on.  No matter what myth or stereotype we respond to, there will always be another.

It is time we stopped looking to ourselves to be the ones to change to fight fat hatred.  It is time we started demanding that those who hate fat people are named and shamed for what they are – ignorant bigots who sincerely believe that some people are sub-human and do not deserve to live their lives in peace and dignity.  We, as fat people who are the victims of fat hatred have absolutely no obligation at all to modify our lives or our behaviours to suit those who hate us and to justify our existence.

You know who else believed that some people were not human?  Heard of untermensch?  How is it any different that some people believe that fat people are sub-human or inferior because of how they look and their bodies than it was believed that some people were sub-human/inferior because of their skin, hair or eye colour?  Is not the belief that thin people are superior evidence of the belief of a “master race”?  No decent, ethical human being would ever hold this belief.  Honestly, what kind of person would sincerely believe that they or others are somehow superior to other human beings?

That’s what bigotry is, the belief that there is some kind of hierarchy of human value based on those with power and privilege being higher up than those without.  It’s bullshit and we really need to stop buying into it – both externally AND internally.

Not to mention that every time we engage in the health argument, we are not only setting ourselves up to have to meet some kind of arbitrary requirement of health (which we owe NOBODY) but it’s also incredibly ableist.  What about fat people with disabilities or chronic illness?  What about anyone with disabilities or chronic illness?  How about someone in a coma or other incapacitated state?  Do they not get treated with respect and dignity simply because they’re “not healthy”?  How about those thin people when they inevitably get sick or injured?  Do they forfeit their right to dignity and respect at that moment?

Even if we buy into the whole thing that fat people “choose” to be fat (yeah right, like anyone would choose a life full of discrimination and hatred), that still does not justify the mentality that we are sub-human or somehow inferior to thin people.  Lots of people choose to do things that lower their life expectancy – for fuck’s sake merely driving a car statistically drops YEARS off your life, let alone all of the wild and extreme things human beings do to their bodies.  Just because someone smokes or skateboards or jumps out of perfectly good planes doesn’t mark them as lesser human beings, so why should it apply that way to fatness?  Because again, it’s not at all about health.  It’s not at all about life expectancy.  Fat hatred is simply about a fairly young (only about a hundred years) cultural stigmatisation of people based solely on their appearance, because someone, somewhere decided that money could be made by frightening people into trying to control their appearance.  All because someone saw money (and power, let’s not forget the intersectionality of the control of women in fat hatred) in getting people to buy products, diets, gadgets, pills and schemes to change their bodies, we now have a culture that marks fat people as sub-human.

No, this is about creating hoops for fat people to jump through so that we are not allowed to EVER live our lives with the freedom and dignity that is our right as is every human’s right.  And we must stop engaging with it.  We must stop believing that we have an obligation to prove our health, to prove our lives meet some kind of arbitrary standard placed on us to prevent us being marked as inferior.  Instead of arguing that fat people are not unhealthy/lazy/gluttonous/etc, we need to be repeating over and over and over that to label any human being as inferior based on their health, their appearance, their size, their choices in food or physical activity or any other arbitrary measure that is nobody’s business but their own is bigotry.  We need to be naming and shaming people who honestly believe that they have the right to label us as sub-human/inferior.  We need to be reclaiming our right to live our lives in our own bodies without interference or intervention from anyone.

But most of all we need to believe that of ourselves.  We need to be able to walk through this world that is rife with prejudice against us with our heads held high in the knowledge that we are not sub-human, we are not inferior, that we are as valuable and worthy as any other human being on the planet.

YOU are as valuable and worthy as any other human being on this planet.  Your life is yours.  Live it for you, not to prove that you’re not a stereotype.

We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

Published November 28, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Looking out my window this evening there is no mistake that summer is here.  There is a storm brewing, it’s hot and it’s sticky.  I’m sitting here in a camisole top and a sarong, the fan blowing on me and my balcony door open to get the evening sea breezes until the storm hits and I have to run around and shut everything to keep the rain out.

It has now been about 5 years since I first started hearing about this thing called “fat acceptance” (my first foray into fat activism of any kind), and started entertaining the notion that I wasn’t worthless because there was more of me than there is of many other people.  In those years, my life has radically changed.  I’m a different person than I was 5 years ago.  I no longer put my life on hold, waiting to do things “when I lose weight”.  I no longer apologise for being the size I am.  I no longer allow people to treat me as sub-human because of my fat.  And I no longer hide myself away behind baggy, shapeless, dark clothing because others suggest it is “flattering”.

I realised the other morning as I was getting dressed for work, the me of 2012 really resents having to wear sleeves and cover my body in this hot weather.  That astonished me.  Was it really only a couple of years ago that I would never have dreamed of being seen without my arms covered?  There was once a time, that even in the hottest of summers, I would not leave the house without my arms covered past the elbow, my legs covered past the knees and a full face of makeup.  Now I often roll out of bed, shower, throw on a sun-dress and sandals and I’m out the door.  If I’m working and I have to have my arm tattoo covered, I find tops with the barest minimum length to cover the bits I need to, and then leave the rest free.  On the weekends I will chuck on a cami or tank top, a pair of shorts (sometimes plain shorts, sometimes bike-pants) and go for a walk along the waterfront with the sea air blowing on my skin.

As the weather heats up, I’m currently looking for a new swim suit, preferably a tankini or halter neck top with boy-leg shorts (so they don’t creep up my bum!) to go swimming at my local pool in.  No more wearing a huge t-shirt over the top to cover my body, no more dropping the sarong off my bottom half at the side of the pool and slipping quickly into the water.  Where my arms and legs were once pale white and untouched by sun, never seen by anyone, they are now gently ripening to brown and are adorned with magnificent ink.

I only wear makeup now when I want to dress up a bit, or have fun with some colour.  I no longer feel that I have to have a “face” on to be acceptable to be seen.  I once wore glasses that were plain and unobtrusive, now they are bold and make a statement.  Where I once wore my hair long, thick and heavy because I was told it was flattering to my round face, slowly cooking my own head under it’s weight, I now crop it uber-short with clippers, cool and light, and dye it bright hues as it grows back to a short back & sides.

Once I would hunt the sparse racks of plus-size clothes looking for black, navy, burgundy and forest green, now I am drawn to red, turquoise, magenta, mint, peach and cobalt.  From plain dark colours of my past wardrobe to the now busy prints, bold patterns and clashing colours.  I embellish them with big, fabulous accessories, shiny, colourful and jangly.  I like accessories that move and make noise, they stimulate my senses.  I look for shapes that skim my body, not blouse over it like I’m trying to hide it.  Where my legs once were always covered in plain pants, they now are bare under skirts and dresses.  When I did wear skirts before they were always with heavy black tights to hide my legs.  Now they are bare, or if it’s cold enough to need cover, have bright tights and leggings that draw attention to the shape of my legs.

In the past I walked with my head bowed, looking at my own feet, avoiding eye contact with anyone, trying to disappear.  Now I walk with my head held high, my shoulders back, surveying the world around me, smiling at the things that make me happy, meeting the eye of anyone who dares stare at me.  I would never, ever eat in public, always uncomfortable in restaurants or cafes, preferring to drink vast quantities of alcohol instead of being seen eating.  Now I don’t touch alcohol at all (I figure I drank all my share at once) and I love to dine out, to socialise with friends over brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee and cake.  I enjoy the food that I eat, and eat what I want, stopping when I’ve had enough, even if there is still food on my plate.  I know the foods that make me feel good, and those that make me feel cruddy.  I refuse to allow anyone to shame me for my food choices.

When I am home alone, I am comfortable with my naked body.  My new flat has a large mirror level with the plain glass shower stall.  The past me would never have been able to shower in this bathroom without covering the mirror, lest I catch a glimpse of my large, round, naked body.  Now I see it and value it, for being strong and capable, and for carrying me through my life.  I admire the roundness, the curves and bumps, the thickness and the marks of my life – stretchmarks, scars, moles and freckles, adorned with the ink that documents my life.  I am not bothered by the hairy bits or the saggy bits.  They are part of the road map of my life, signs of my maturing body.  Nor am I bothered by my natural hair, greying at the temples.  I feel no need to cover it as I grow it back ready to colour it something bright and fun.

This is the first phase of fat liberation for me.  I am free, I have been liberated from the prison I lived in for the first 35 years of my life.  A prison that I was both forced into, yet for many years was too afraid to leave.  My choices are mine.  My body is mine.  My life is mine.  I may never see fat bodies truly valued and celebrated by society in my lifetime, but my body is valued and celebrated by me.

I wish that for each and every one of you.

My Fat Body is ME

Published October 23, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Earlier today this post raced through my online networks like a brush fire.  With good reason, it’s an excellent piece that really lays out how fat hate has permeated so many people’s attitudes, and makes clear reasons why people need to think about what they are saying and what kind of stigma they are placing on the shoulders of fat people.

But, as is always the way with these pieces, the comments kick off with someone who simply doesn’t get it and makes the situation worse.  This person, who calls themselves a feminist (yeah right, as Flavia Dzodan says, my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit) says:

But I’m also a public health scholar. I’m doing my Master of Public Health in Maternal Child Health. Obesity is a chronic disease that we talk about in nearly every class. We talk about markers for childhood obesity, what leads to adult obesity, and how to curb this epidemic.

The comment does go on further and she argues with several people who call her out on this fat hating crap.  You can go and look at it if you like, the link is up there in the first sentence.  You can see how spectacularly she misses the entire point of the piece for yourself if you like.

I won’t go into the ableism and classism of the attitudes of people like the commenter here, as they both deserve posts of their own.  What I want to do tonight is address the attitude that “obesity is a chronic disease” and that we need to “curb this epidemic”. *cough* eugenics *cough*

Not about how this is complete and utter bullshit that other people have busted more eloquently and thoroughly than I could ever do, but how people like this woman are so fucking blind to the hate that they spew.  I mean, this bigot has just compared fatness (I refuse to use the word obesity to describe our fat bodies – same goes to any other medicalised word to describe physical size) to “cancer and heart disease and communicable diseases”.  I shit you not.  How anyone can fail to see this as hatred is beyond me.

Let’s break it down with some statements…

  • My fat body is not diseased.
  • I do not have/suffer obesity.  I am a fat person.
  • I am not a diseased person because I am fat.
  • My fat body is not something to be prevented, cured or eradicated.
  • I do not need anyone, be they organisation, company or individual to try to rid me of my body.
  • My fat flesh is part of me, it is not some parasite to be excised.
  • My fat flesh is not a virus to be vaccinated against, it is my body.
  • I will never again give anyone the power of starving my fat off my body, with absolutely no regard to the damage the methods of starvation cause on my body long term.
  • I will never again allow anyone to force me to apologise for my body.
  • I will never again kneel in subjugation to those who feel they are superior to me because of my fat body.
  • My fat body is not a contagion to be quarantined from “decent” society.
  • My fat body is not an affliction, a blight on humanity.
  • My fat body is not a mark of shame, or an indicator of failure.
  • My fat body is not a communicable disease, nor is it a cancer.
  • My fat body is ME and I have a right to live my life without vilification and stigma.

Anyone who seriously believes that fat bodies are any of the things above or that fat people have a debt to humanity to starve or punish themselves to meet other people’s aesthetic standards is a fat hating bigot.  It’s time we stopped dancing around the subject and named them for what they are.  No one of us has to be polite or respectful to people who believe that we are lesser than others because of the size, shape, ability and function of our bodies.  We don’t have to justify our existence, our happiness, our peace, our dignity to ANYONE on this earth.

It’s time we cut the crap with the whole “agreeing to disagree” rubbish and allowing people to be “entitled to their opinions”.  No, I don’t have to agree to anything with a person who treats me as sub-human.  Nobody is entitled to an opinion that vilifies and stigmatises another human being.  Our rights as human beings get priority over opinion, every single time.

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.

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