shame

All posts in the shame category

Public Health Does Not Make Me Public Property

Published June 16, 2013 by sleepydumpling

If I had a dollar for every time someone emailed me with some form of “But.. but… HEALTH!!” message in response to my fat activism, I would be a very wealthy woman indeed.  I’ve heard it all when it comes to people trying to use health, either private or public, as a stick to beat fat people over the head with.  To me it just boils down to one thing… no matter what a person’s appearance, weight, shape, level of health or physical ability, every human being deserves to live their lives in dignity and peace, without fear of discrimination or vilification based on their appearance, size, shape, body or health/physical ability.

Of course, to the essentialists out there who want to claim that fat activists are somehow anti-health, the idea of EVERYBODY deserving the same rights regardless of their appearance or physical state-of-being gets them into a right lather of outrage.  There is this attitude that “public health” must somehow trump basic human rights for some kind of greater good.  Of course, this is borne of decade after decade of big pharma, the media and the “beauty” industry carefully constructing a culture that equates health with attractiveness and thinness, and manoevering those measures of health to unattainable levels that very, very few people in the world actually come close to meeting, ie thin, white, able-bodied, heterosexual, cis-gendered, affluent, etc.

Fat activism, even those of us who actively call out healthism, is not an anti-health message by any means.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  I believe that everyone, yes EVERYONE, deserves access to the same healthful resources.  Clean water.  Clean air.  Safe spaces to engage in physical activity that is enjoyable and inclusive.  Abundant, fresh, affordable, nutritious food.  Compassionate medical care.  Vaccinations against communicable diseases.  Fair pay and working conditions.  Comprehensive education for all.  Mental health care.  Accessible public spaces for all bodies.  Affordable housing.  Affordable and suitable clothing.  All of these things contribute to improving the general health and quality of life of all people.

What I do not support is the idea that public health renders some people’s bodies as public property.  Public health is important in our society, and I am all for universal health care (an imperfect version of which we are lucky to have in Australia).  I am all for public health ensuring that our water is clean, that everyone has access to the medication and treatment they need, that people are aware of the importance of vaccination, that all people are encouraged and enabled to get outside into a clean, safe environment and enjoy moving their bodies, that public funding goes into curing disease and providing those treatments to all human beings and so on.

What I do not support from public health is the marking of non-normative bodies as “diseased” or “defective”.  I do not support the removal of agency and self-advocacy from people with non-normative bodies.  I do not support intervention into our bodies and health by public health organisations.  I do not support the vilification of human beings based on their appearance.  I do not support public health being driven by the diet, beauty and pharmacy industries, or the mainstream media, all of which have financial gain to be made in the othering of people based on their appearance.  I do not support public health campaigns that mark some bodies as inferior, immoral or defective.  I do not support public health campaigns that encourage friends, family, schools or other groups to intervene in to other people’s health.  None of these things actually help improve individual health or quality of life, in fact they all impact both health and quality of life negatively.

Anything that renders human beings as vulnerable to any of the above is public shaming and public stigmatisation, not public health.

Part of living in a society is that we can all contribute to that society for the general betterment of all.  Some people will need different resources and levels of care to others, because like any other living species, human beings are diverse.  That does not make those people beholden to society in general to try to change themselves to meet the narrow band of “average” that is classed as “normal”.  Instead, the responsibility is on society as a whole to include all people, rather than just the lucky few that meet some ridiculous arbitrary standards.

How to… Lose the Body Judgement

Published April 11, 2013 by sleepydumpling

I don’t know if you have seen it yet, but Bethany over at My Arched Eyebrow has written an excellent piece on the amount of body snark, judgement and fashion/wardrobe policing that goes on in the comment threads of plus-size clothing Facebook pages.

I’m sure you’ve seen it yourself, all those comments about what fat women “should” and “should not” wear, exclamations over garments not being “flattering” and that “fatties don’t want to expose their [insert body part here]“. Not to mention whenever there is a non-model shot (either a customer photo or a staff member usually), all this judgement comes out of so many commenters about their bodies, or what bits of their bodies aren’t “flattered” enough. Yet the same commenters usually whinge and complain whenever model shots ARE posted that they want to see the clothes on “real women”. Gah!

I was thinking a lot about the self hatred that so many women project on to others on these comment threads, either individually or fat women in general, and what really strikes me is that we’re never actually taught how to NOT judge people. From the minute we are born, we are taught how to judge others. Our parents and family, the media, school, our friends… everywhere we look from our earliest connections with the outside world, we’re conditioned to make judgements about people.

Sometimes judgement is useful. Sometimes it’s your subconscious giving you useful messages about situations – telling you when you are safe or not, letting you know whether someone is familiar to you or not, or generally just helping you communicate in the world, after all, up to 60% of communications are non-verbal. But when it is negative and based on arbitrary measures like someone’s body shape or size, it is actually of no use to you and is usually just deeply ingrained cultural conditioning, rather than actual learnt information.

One of the most liberating things I have ever learned is to undo that cultural conditioning and let go of judging people based on their appearance (among other things). Walking around the world without that mist of negative judgement on people’s appearances has meant that I’m not carrying that negative judgement on myself. It has also meant that I can approach life unfettered by all of that useless negativity and focus on the things that really matter, like how people behave, how they treat me and who they actually are. And in no way has it left me open or vulnerable to harm – it is something that is really unnecessary and has no real benefit to us.

It’s not easy. Every where we turn someone is telling us, particularly we fat women, what we should do, what we should wear, how we should eat, what to do with our bodies. So generally we naturally reflect that on to the world around us. It takes a definite, conscious disconnect at the beginning to undo the bombardment of messages we are hearing, to learn to filter out the garbage and focus on what is actually of use to us.

I have a few exercises I do when I find myself getting judgey in my head and I’d like to offer them up here for all of you to try and work on.

  • Start by setting yourself a goal. Tell yourself you are going to try to go one month without judging anyone negatively by their appearance. If you don’t think you can do a month, try a week. If you can’t do that, try a day. If even that is a stretch, try the time you walk to work or are in a shop or any measure that you think you can work with. When you master that timeframe, expand it.
  • Consciously try to find one positive thing about every single person you encounter’s outfit. Maybe they are wearing cute shoes. Or you like their earrings. Or the way they’ve styled their hair. Pick any one thing that is NOT part of their body, it only works if it is part of their outfit, and acknowledge it to yourself.
  • When you’ve mastered that, pay them a compliment. Remember, you’re not to comment on their body, it has to be something they are wearing. And keep the compliment simple. Smile and say “I like your earrings.” or “Cute shoes!” Try doing this for more and more people throughout the day. Start with people you are comfortable with – friends, family, colleagues. Expand upon the number of people you compliment every day. Try it with staff in shops, or the waiter in a restaurant, someone in the lift (elevator). As often as possible, pay people compliments on things they are wearing.
  • By this stage, you’re probably noticing things you like about people’s outfits more and more often. The more time you consciously spend doing this, the less time you spend passing negative judgement.
  • Something else starts to happen when you do this… the people you are regularly around start to return the compliments. Usually they don’t know they’re even doing it, they just tend to reciprocate. I’ve actually discovered that I’ve unconsciously trained a huge chunk of people in my workplace to notice positive things about each other. I’ve got people whose only interaction with me is that we bump in to each other in the lift complimenting me now before I get to them. People who I would never have interacted with before now smile and say hello, and we usually trade compliments!
  • You can even practice on the photos on plus-size clothing Facebook pages! Look at each photo and find something you like about the outfit. Even if it is just the colour, or the hemline, or the accessories the person is wearing.  Leave a comment saying so.  Remember, no body judgement!
  • Important caveat though – you don’t have to compliment anyone who is rude to you, who you don’t like or you can’t find anything you like about them. It’s good to try, even just in your own head, but it’s not going to ruin the experiment if you just let those people go.
  • If you do find yourself thinking “They shouldn’t be wearing that.” or something along those lines, ask yourself why. Is it hurting anyone? I mean REALLY hurting anyone, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it is “offending” you because you don’t like it. Ask yourself if anything is taken away from you by someone wearing something you don’t like, or in a way you wouldn’t wear.
  • When you are next out shopping for yourself, and you see something that you like but you’ve always considered it something that you “couldn’t” or “shouldn’t” wear, go try it on anyway. Grab a couple of things that you would wear and mix and match it in the fitting rooms. If you decide that you really don’t like it, put it back. But give it a try.
  • Wear one thing a week in a different way to how you would usually wear it. Wear a top tucked in or with a knot in it. Wear that sleeveless top/dress without a wrap or cardie (you can take one with you if you are really worried). Pull the waist of a skirt up higher (under a top) to make it shorter. If you can’t bring yourself to be in public, at least practice at home.
  • If you genuinely don’t like something on a plus-size retailer’s FB page (or similar), then say so, but try doing it without placing judgement on what other people “should” wear or on bodies.  State what you don’t like about it, acknowledge that others might like it, and tell them clearly what you would prefer.  Eg: “I really don’t like waterfall cardigans at all, even if they are popular.  It would be great to see you have a line of plain block colour cardigans with round necklines and elbow length sleeves.”  See… no commentary on anyone’s body, and constructive criticism.  Easy!

I would like to offer you all up the challenge to try the things above and see how you go. Even if you’re well seasoned at avoiding being judgemental about people’s appearances, you can still have a go. It can’t hurt and I find it makes me feel good. Not just about myself but about the people around me. Once you notice the changes that it brings, challenge other people to do it. Don’t allow people to spread their negative judgement on appearance around you.

Have a go… you may just find you like it.

Public Fat Shaming is not Good Marketing

Published March 31, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Well hello!  I haven’t forgotten or abandoned you all, I promise.  Life has been intensely busy and I made a promise to myself at the beginning of this year that I would pace myself better and not work myself into the ground with both my activism and my day job.  So you will be getting less posts from me but I’m sure they’ll be better quality in the long term.

I actually had another post written and ready to publish, but something else has cropped up that I would like to talk about.  On Thursday night, as part of the local Bluewater festival here on the bay, there was an event at Shorncliffe called Bayfire.  I decided to take myself along to it to have a look at the markets, get some dinner and watch the fireworks.  I wandered up there and had a look around, bought some very cute hair accessories from a small business called Princess Perfect Clips, tried Transylvanian cheese pie for dinner (verdict – rather tasty) and then watched the fireworks.

When the fireworks were finished, I decided to go and have a look at the rest of the markets.  As I was walking along the waterfront where the stalls all were, minding my own business, someone shoved something in my hands.  I looked down and it was a flyer for some ridiculous weight loss product, which was basically wrapping bits of your body in cling film.  I turned towards the woman who had stuffed it in my hand without asking me if I wanted it, and there they were, a bunch of seriously miserable looking women, all with their arms or middles wrapped in cling film.

I couldn’t believe anyone would be so rude to shove weight loss propaganda into the hands of someone who was not in any way inviting them to do so.  So I tore up the flyer very deliberately right in front of them, making sure they were all watching me, and tossed it into a bin, and walked away.  I was so pissed off.

A bit later I decided to get some dessert, and I decided to share this picture of my dessert on my social media sites (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook) with the following caption:

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 12.35.15 PM

Om nom nom, right?

Well, I didn’t imagine the shitstorm it would create on Tumblr.  Mostly because some people seemed to take personal offense that I wasn’t “allowing anyone to be encouraged on their weight loss goals”.

Now how my protesting some company forcing their material on to fat women (they were not shoving the flyers in the hands of men or thin people) to shame them equals “not allowing anyone to be encouraged on their weight loss goals”, I’m fucked if I know.  After all, I don’t give two fucks what other people do to their own bodies.  This has got nothing at all to do with other people’s bodily choices.  What this has to do with is the public shaming of fat women to make money.  What this has to do with is some woman wrapped in cling foil selling a phony diet product deciding that the fat woman walking past her has a body that is “unacceptable” and she can make a buck off that fat woman by flogging her snake oil product.  This is about someone selling a product assuming that as a fat woman that I must be unhappy with my body and want to spend my money on cling film to reduce it.

The other argument that people kept making is that it is “legitimate advertising” to single out fat women (again, they did not hand the flyers to men or thin people) in public and give them weight loss propaganda.

I am not sure what planet some people are living on.

To equate handing unsolicited weight loss flyers to fat people (and only fat people) to an ad on TV, in a magazine, on the radio or on the side of the street etc is fucked up.

Advertising in general is shitty, and needs to be spoken up against, but it’s not picking out an individual in a public place and physically handing them a flyer that says “Hey fat person, here’s a product you should buy to stop being a fat person because fat is gross.”  It’s not singling out someone who is minding their own business in public, to pass commentary on their body by recommending a product to reduce their body.

Imagine if I wasn’t the confident, self aware woman I am now.  To be singled out like this and handed such propaganda would have DEVASTATED me years ago.  I would have felt so upset that someone had pointed out my fatness in public and made commentary via their actions that my body was unacceptable.  How many other fat women had their night ruined on Thursday by being handed this shitty flyer while enjoying an evening out with their friends and/or family?  I don’t know about you, but most fat women I know don’t go out to a fair to find a weight loss solution, they go out to have fun and enjoy the shopping, dining and fireworks.

For some reason, it is believed by many people that weight loss peddlers actually care about us.  That they care about our happiness, our health and/or our bodies.  They don’t.  They care about obtaining our money.  They tell us our bodies are not acceptable, sell us a product that does not work, then blame us for failing, and sell us the product again, or a new product that does not work.   In Australia alone they make almost $800 million per year.  In the US, it’s $66 billion per year.  They are taking your money and laughing at you as they watch you blame yourself for their product or service failure.

Don’t stand for that shit.  Don’t let anyone dismiss what a horrible act it is to single out a fat person and try to shame them into buying a product.  Don’t let the weight loss industry brainwash you into believing that they care about you, or that they are doing anyone a public service by pushing their product on to people who never asked for it in the first place.

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.

How Much of Our Lives Do We Waste?

Published August 23, 2012 by sleepydumpling

It happens almost every day.  Sitting at the communal lunch table, usually playing Pocket Frogs or reading a book while I eat my lunch, I hear it start up…

“Oh, market day is my downfall, I turn into such a piggy-wig!”

“I don’t eat dairy, gluten or sugar.  You know they’re poison and make you fat.”

“Well, I did go for a run yesterday, so I guess I can have bread today.”

“Ohhhhh, that looks so yummy, but if I eat anything like that, I just get SO fat!”

“How many calories/carbs are in that?”

“You’re so naughty, good on you!”

I could go on and on and on with the kind of anxiety and analysing of food and eating that I hear every day from people (mostly women) all around me at meal times.  Women often use angst about food to bond with each other and you cannot get away from almost constant analysis and judgement of food and what other people are eating.  And don’t get me started on the amount of judgement over what fat people are eating, yeesh!  I have heard so many stories of fatties having complete strangers stop them in the supermarket to berate them over the contents of their shopping trollies, or being commented on in public for eating ANYTHING.  You can’t eat a salad, because that garners comments on how you must be doing it to lose weight, and you can’t eat an ice-cream because then you’re a gluttonous pig.  It’s a no win situation for fatties and food.  I have so many of my own experiences being shamed about food and eating by both complete strangers and people in my life, we could be here for a week.

What I wonder though, is how much of our time and energy are we as women wasting on thinking about food?  Because it seems, the more people put judgement on food and eating, the more time they spend thinking about food.  In my experience, the women who make the most judgemental statements, like I have listed above, are the ones who constantly talk about food.  And I’ve noticed my own behaviour change as I’ve removed all that angst and judgement about food from my own life.  Back in my dieting days, food was all I thought about.  Because I couldn’t have it, and because it all had so many rules and regulations and conditions, I would obsess over the food I wasn’t eating, all the time.  I have made all of those statements listed above at some time, and many more.  I would spend hours justifying every morsel I ever ate, every rice cracker, every celery stick, every raw almond.  Conversations over meals were all about how I had “earned” the food or I how I was “naughty” for eating something.

Basically, I not only wasted a whole lot of time, but I was a crashing bore too.  I mean really, isn’t there something more interesting to talk about over a meal?  Or if we’re going to talk about food, how about we talk about it without all the moralising?  About it’s flavour, it’s texture, where it was sourced from, how it was prepared.  Or perhaps we could talk about how some people have access to higher quality food than others, usually based on wealth.  Anything has to be better than putting false morality on food and eating.

Personally, I have embraced the #freefatty philosophy.  I refuse to be judged for my food and eating choices, and refuse to participate in the moralising of food and eating.  Plus, I refuse to justify what I eat.  I don’t need to provide a reason for eating either a salad or an ice cream.  It’s my body and my life.  If other people think I shouldn’t eat something, they can mind their own damn business.  While I’m still having to work on undoing a lifetime of baggage around food and eating, I am finding the more I let go of that judgement around food and eating, both for myself and for others, the less obsessive and anxious I am about food and eating.

Part of the oppression of fat people lies in the constant demand for us to justify our food choices.  We have to constantly prove we are being “good” because we’re fat, we’re not allowed to ever eat anything that is perceived as “bad”.  People watch every morsel that we eat (and they do, I can’t tell you the number of times someone has tried to “out” me for eating something that is “bad” or “unhealthy”) and place judgement on us for whatever it is.  Ask yourself, how often have you heard someone describe a slim woman eating say, ice-cream as “sexy”, yet in the next breath, referred to a fat woman eating the EXACT same thing as “gross”?  How often do you see comments from fat haters that say “Just put down the cheeseburger.”?

Firstly, what other people eat is no business of anyone but themselves.  It comes under the “If it’s not your body, it’s not your business.” rule.  So we don’t need to justify our food choices.  Secondly, I’m sure we all have things we’d much rather be doing than obsessing over food.  What can we do with our time and energy if we don’t waste it on angst and analysis of every morsel that we put in our mouths?

Dear My Size… NO.

Published August 2, 2012 by sleepydumpling

**Update** My Size have blocked me from commenting on their Facebook page.  It seems that instead of addressing criticism about their marketing, they just shut any of their target audience that dares speak up out.  They will never get another penny of my money, and I will continue to  monitor their marketing and publicly criticise it if it continues to be as bad as it has been of late.

I just opened my Facebook to see this post from Australian plus-size clothing retailer My Size*:

[image description: cartoon of two children, a girl and a boy, and the boy is whispering in the girl's ear "Dear Girls, Dressing immodestly is like rolling around in manure. Yes you'll get attention, but mostly from pigs. Sincerely, Real Men."]

 

And I’m gobsmacked.  I mean, who is writing their social media PR, Tony Abbott?  Rush Limbaugh?  This is beyond a joke.  Not only is the cartoon really douchey, but look at the comment from My Size under it:

Styles come and go but class stays forever!  Wen you’re putting your outfit together, make sure that you feel comfortable, not too much is on show and that everything fits well.

I mean seriously!  Let’s break this down and have a look at exactly why this whole post is just disgusting  We’ll start with the cartoon itself.

  1. My Size sells plus-size women’s clothing.  “Dear Girls” is incredibly infantilising.  Your customers are not girls who need instruction on how to behave.  We are women.
  2. Dressing immodestly?  Who chooses what is modest and what is immodest?  I work with people who consider pants “immodest”.  Some people consider women exposing their hair “immodest”.  “Modesty” is a completely arbitrary measure.
  3. This is slut shaming.  It basically says that girls should be “modest” if they want to be treated with respect.  That the only attention “immodest” girls (which suggests women who are sexual, or show any of their flesh) is from “pigs”.
  4. So dressing “immodestly” is like rolling around in manure.  Are you suggesting that women who don’t dress to some standard of “modesty” look like shit My Size?
  5. And the signature – “Sincerely, Real Men”.  Who gets to decide which men are “real”?  What if men like women who dress sexy?  Does that mean they are by default pigs?
  6. I don’t know about most of you, but I don’t get up in the morning and decide what to wear based on how “Real Men” (whatever that is) will judge my outfit.  I dress for ME and how men, real or otherwise, feel about my outfit is irrelevant.

But the caption written by the My Size staffer is a whole new level of judgemental bullshit.

  1. The whole style vs class thing.   Again, who decides what is stylish and what is classy?  Does classy mean expensive?  Or “modest”?  Yet another arbitrary judgement of what is acceptable and what isn’t.
  2. “Make sure you feel comfortable and that everything fits well” – yep, I’m with you there.  Comfort and clothes that fit you so that you are comfortable and not pulling, tugging and adjusting is a great idea.
  3. But “not too much is on show”.  Excuse me, are you selling me clothes My Size or are you caring for my immortal soul?  Who gets to decide what is “too much”.  Is my cleavage, or my legs, or my arms, or whatever other flesh I choose to show “too offensive” because I’m fat or just because I’m a woman?    What happens if I show “too much”?  Oh that’s right, I look like shit and only get attention from pigs.

Look, I don’t care how people choose to dress.  Covered from neck to ankle, or with their flesh exposed all over the place, that’s their choice, their bodies and their lives.  But I do care when a business that is supposed to be selling me fashionable plus-sized clothing for my fat body starts preaching about modesty, “real men” and class.  It’s not your job My Size to tell women how to dress, it’s your job to provide options to your customers,  so that they may choose for themselves how they wish to dress.  But if you as a business are not a fan of revealing clothes, then simply don’t offer them in your product lines – those who want something more sexy or revealing will go elsewhere, or they’ll doctor your products (wear a top as a dress anyone?)  After all, what products you wish to offer are yours to decide, and in turn any customers/potential customers will make their own choice as to whether or not they wish to spend their money with you.

I also care when a business engages in misogyny, fat shaming and slut shaming.  I care when a business suggests that my role is to dress to please “real men”, or to earn respect from people other than “pigs”.  I care when a business suggests that somehow if a woman is “immodest” that she isn’t “classy”.  I care when a business suggests that my body should be covered as if it is something to be ashamed of.

This kind of post is not acceptable on social media (or anywhere else) from a business, especially not one aimed at plus-sized women.  Bad form My Size, very bad form.  You won’t be getting any of my money in the near future.

*not linking to them, you can use your Google Fu to find them, right now I don’t want to promote them positively in any way.  And as of publication, the image I took a screen shot of and posted above is still live, with several people echoing my sentiments at how douchey the post is.

We Don’t Imagine It, We See It

Published March 26, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I noticed the old woman at the table beside me first. Watching every morsel of food I put in my mouth with a look of disgust on her face.

Then I notice the two guys in high vis vests, their hard hats on seats beside them, nudge each other and look my way.

So I sit back and start to observe people around me.

I’m sitting in the food court of a large suburban shopping centre, somewhere I rarely visit, on my lunch break from work. We’re working on a big new project due to open this week, which is a high pressure, messy environment, that I thought I’d take some time away from over my lunch break.

As I look around me, I would estimate that at least 90%, possibly more of the people here are not fat. There are a handful of we fatties, dotted around the place.

At the nearby McDonalds, there are about 20 people lined up. Only one of them is a fat person. Not an eyelash is batted at the not-fat people lined up, ordering their burgers, fries, chicken nuggets and shakes. However the fat man is attracting sneers and giggles, all eyes glance over him and none of them bother to hide their disgust, disdain or their ridicule. Even the people ordering burgers and shakes themselves are staring and sneering at the man, lined up at the very same fast food restaurant as they are.

This scrutiny and public judgement is nothing unusual for those of who live in fat bodies. Most of us are used to it, many of us ignore it, simply because it is nothing unusual. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Quite often we are told “You’re just too sensitive.” or “I think you imagine it.” On the rare occasion that someone who is not fat notices, they respond like its an anomaly, just the occasional rude jerk one encounters. Or they say “Just ignore it.” as if it is the singular occurrence of the day.

In my own case, I’m told that people sneer and stare because of my brightly coloured hair, tattoos and clothing. As if that is somehow a suitable excuse for their behaviour. But I can assure you that I got the stares and sneers back when I was a fat brown mouse, doing everything I could to be invisible to the world.

The truth is, in this “anti-obesity” culture, people are taught to sneer, stare and ridicule. They are taught that people like me are a scourge on society, that we are burden to humanity. You only need to look at the comments on my recent piece in The Hoopla (if you have the sanity points) to see someone refer to me (and people like me) as revolting, using up the public health system, slothful, idle and an overeater. Despite knowing nothing more about me than I have a fat body (though one claimed to know all about me from this blog, my twitter, though I think it’s my photos of myself as a fat woman she is judging me on) the judgement has been passed on my value as a human being.

Living with that amount of scrutiny and judgement is like physically carrying a load on your back. When you hear people referring to fat people as “struggling with their weight”, the reality is that our struggle is with the weight of society’s judgement and scrutiny, not with the weight on our bodies.

I can only speak for myself when I say that physically, I do not feel limited or as if I need to struggle to do anything in my fat body. But the pressure of being under constant scrutiny and subjected to the assumptions and judgements of complete strangers is a burden to bear. I am quite sure however that I am not the only one who feels like this.

What really bothers me are the double standards. Thin people who eat fast food are considered “lucky” that they are “naturally thin”, yet no matter what a fat person eats, by default they must be lazy and greedy, with denial and stupidity thrown in for extra measure. Nobody ever suggests that inverse to the lucky/naturally thin that humans can be unlucky/naturally fat. Nobody demands thin people who are sedentary and/or eat fast food (or a lot of food) change their lives and “get healthy” because they are “costing us money with their unhealthy habits” – quite the opposite, they’re cheered on for their habits. Two people, both living the same lifestyle, can have vastly different life experiences if one is thin and the other is fat.

These double standards and snap judgements of people’s value based on their body size don’t help anyone. They don’t make fat people thin, they don’t encourage healthy behaviours and they certainly don’t change the number of people needing health care in our society.

All they do is allow some people to feel superior to others, which to me, is a pretty screwed up way to look at the world.

2012: The Year of Living Fatly

Published January 2, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.  I see them as the perfect way to set oneself up for disappointment.  After all, if you really want to do something, setting a New Year’s resolution isn’t going to be enough to push you to do it.  When we really want to do something, like eat healthier or save money or quit smoking, we just up and do it.  Using the beginning of a new calendar year really doesn’t work.  Not to mention that New Year’s resolutions always seem to be about changing oneself to meet other people’s standards.  Whether it’s dieting or the gym or giving up something… seldom do people really make those resolutions for themselves.  They make them because they feel they should, or that they have to change themselves to conform to what other people want them to be.

However, after stumbling across some douchecanoe on Twitter whining about being offended by seeing “fat, lazy people”, I’ve decided that I have a goal for 2012.  Are you ready for it?

Here it is…

I am going to be willfully fat this year.  Offensively, obnoxiously fat.  All over the damn place.  In fact, I’m fatting at all of you right now.

I’m so fucking sick of people being all offended at fatness.  I am sick of people expecting fat people to hide themselves away out of public sight, never being seen at the shops, at the gym, in the workplace, on the street.  I’ve had enough of people complaining that they saw someone’s fat arse, arms, belly, thighs, whatever.  I’m tired of being told that fat people should cover our bodies, wear dark, minimising, flattering clothing.  That we shouldn’t be seen in leggings, tights, sleeveless tops, short shirts, tight jeans, swimsuits and short skirts.  I’m sick of fat people being told they should starve themselves, never eat.  I’m royally fucking fed up with being expected to hide myself away like I’m something to be ashamed of.  I’m over being hated simply because I exist in a fat body.

Yet of course, we’re also told that we don’t get out and exercise enough, that we don’t do anything but sit at home and eat.

What do you fucking want fat loathers?  Seriously, we’re either out in public being our fat selves, or we’re at home where you can’t see us.  You can’t have both!

So here’s my 12 step plan for my year of living fatly – it shouldn’t be too hard, I’ve been living fatly now for over 25 years.

  1. Be fat in public.
  2. Live while fat.
  3. Work while fat.
  4. Dress fashionably fat.
  5. Be fat in the company of my friends.
  6. Ride my bike while fat.
  7. Swim while fat – in a swimsuit, yikes!
  8. Expose my fat arms, fat thighs, fat belly and fat arse in public.
  9. Laugh and have fun while being fat.
  10. Celebrate other fab fatties.
  11. Eat in public while being fat.
  12. Unashamedly love myself while being unashamedly fat.

It’s so hard for society at large to believe that fat people have lives, loves, careers, hobbies, passions, style, intelligence, humour and value that I’m going to live my whole life doing all those things, having all those things, while being fat.  Not to prove to society at large that we do have those things, but to be someone that other fat people can see and hear.  To be a visible fat person breaking the mold.

But most of all, because none of us, not you, not me, not anyone, has to live their lives surreptitiously for fear of offending someone’s delicate sensibilities with our fatness.  No more furtiveness about living life.  It’s there to be lived, and I’m going to be fatting all over it.

Being Fat in an Ikea Show Room (yeah, I wear that top a lot!)

How Does Dieting Benefit Our Health?

Published September 29, 2011 by sleepydumpling

**Trigger warning, topic is about weight loss diets and disordered eating.**

I got a fantastic question on my Tumblr yesterday, that got me thinking a bit about diet culture and the constant calls for fat people to go on diets “for their health” and “take care of yourself”.

I was thinking about my own life of dieting, and how I felt all those times, and what my own health was like in those years.

When people say fat people should go on diets “for their health”, they’re not factoring in a) how dieting  affects the body and b) the mental health of the fat person.  Even if they are genuinely concerned for someone’s health and not just using concern trolling to police fat bodies because of their appearance, how much thought do they give to what dieting turns people into?

Now let’s just establish here that we know that fat people aren’t lazy gluttons and that we’re not all stuffing our faces 24 x 7 and that “dieting” doesn’t equal “just eating healthy”.  I know that’s the rhetoric that is spouted at us all the time, that we just have to “Put down the donut/cheeseburger/whatever.”  Let’s make it nice and clear that I’m talking about food restriction or replacement, rather than the mythical “just eat healthy” that the anti-fat seem to think we are not doing already.  When people say “Just eat healthy.” they don’t actually mean that, they mean diet, because hey, there’s no possible way a fat person can already be “just eating healthy”.  I’m talking about weight loss diets.  Calorie counting, no carb, no fat, no sugar, cabbage soup, replacement shakes, Atkins, South Beach, Pritikin, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, grapefruit, high protein, high fibre, high cardboard… whatever the fuck diet we were on at the time.  And this includes any of the disordered eating habits too – bingeing, purging, starvation, laxative abuse, diet pills, exercise bingeing, and even weight loss surgery.  Anything that is designed to restrict, reduce or purge for the supposed purpose of making us thin.

Can I ask… have any of you ever known a person, fat or thin or somewhere in between, who has been on a weight loss diet/programme, who is/was actually HAPPY while they are doing so?

*crickets chirping*

I know I was never happy.  I always felt like shit.  Having to measure every bit of food, count points, calories or grams, having to think about what I was going to eat every minute of the day.  I couldn’t just relax and spend time with friends, because I’d have to think about what foods met my diet.  Organising lunches for work was a headache and I was always on my guard for people questioning my eating habits (or lack of them).  Grocery shopping was even more nightmarish than I find it now (and I hate it now, thank God for online grocery shopping!) because almost everything was “forbidden” on whatever diet I was on at the time.  I was always hungry.  When I did get to eat, it was shitty.  Either it was really bad food (cabbage soup?) or it wasn’t even food at all, it was some powdery substitute or rubbery/cardboard diet version.  I never wanted the things I was “allowed” to eat, and yet I was so unbelievably hungry all the time that I had to eat them when I could.

Physically, my body fought me all the way.  I was constantly sick with every cold and virus that came around.  My skin was bad.  My teeth were terrible.  I constantly had to fight bad breath and diarrhea.  I had constant hayfever and headaches.  I never had any energy and never slept properly.

Emotionally, I was depressed, anxious and obsessive.  Depressed because I hated being hungry all the time and having to eat things that tasted like cardboard or rubber, depressed because no matter what I did, I could never lose weight and keep it off.  Anxious because I never knew where I could get “suitable” food, and I hated anyone knowing I was on a diet.  Anxious because my blood sugar was always low and I was shaky and couldn’t concentrate.  Obsessive because food might actually GET me, if I let down my guard.

Yet all of this was supposed to benefit my health?  How?

We all know that diets fail on the long term in 95% of cases, with weight regain plus more, but we never talk about how bloody miserable dieting is.  How nobody is actually happy while they are dieting, and because 95% of them find diets fail, they’re not happy in the long term either.  The whole diet culture just sets people, particularly women, up to be miserable all the time, both during dieting and then when it inevitably fails.

And this is supposed to be for our health?  This is supposed to be “taking care of ourselves”.

I call bullshit.

Instead, we can put all that crap behind us, re-learn to eat to nourish us, let go of exercising as some kind of penance and learn to find activity that we enjoy and live our lives to the fullest no matter what our weight.

I know which sounds like taking care of myself to me.

Keep Telling Your Story Until Someone Listens

Published September 25, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Let’s get something REALLY clear.

When someone says they “respect your choices” as a fat person, but continues to publicly vilify fat people in general… they actually DO NOT respect anything about you.

I know!  It’s a bit of a bombshell, isn’t it?

But this is the same thing I come up against every time I or anyone else in the Fatosphere (or our allies) challenge someone who speaks publicly about the fat stigma they are spreading.  It almost always goes like this:

  1. Public persona is published in the media talking about how unhealthy/sedentary/uncontrollable/irresponsible/costing the taxpayer fat people are and how society needs to take control/shame/tax fat people to make them “wise up” to the ZOMGBESITY CRISIS!
  2. Fatosphere says “Other people’s bodies are none of your business, and what you are saying stigmatises fat people.”
  3. Public persona (and their fan club) says “But everyone knows fat = unhealthy!”
  4. Fatosphere says “Health is not a moral imperative, and you cannot judge someone’s health by their size.  Shaming or hating someone for their own good doesn’t help.”
  5. Public persona (and their fan club) says “But I don’t hate fat people, I want to HELP them!”
  6. Fatosphere says “Help them by reducing fat stigma, and allowing them to advocate for themselves.”
  7. Public persona says “But I respect your choices!  I just wanna help those who need help!”
  8. Fatosphere says “By vilifying fat people in the media, you are not helping them, you are shaming them.”
  9. Public persona says “But I don’t hate fat people, I want to HELP them!  I respect their choices!”

See where I’m going with this?

I’ve said before, the problem we have here is that these people are not listening to us.  Oh they might be hearing the words, but they are not actually listening to what we are saying.  They’re not hearing that their words and actions are harming people.  They’re not hearing that they are hindering us, not helping us.  Whether this is because they don’t want to hear these things, or that they just cannot fathom that there is a disconnect between what they are pushing and reality or it is because they’re too horrified at the thought that they might have to be responsible for the things they say that harm people, I don’t know.  But I do know that when we see this pattern over and over and over, it is because we are not being listened to.

It makes me think of a friend of mine who is a school teacher, and she would say to her very small students “Now, do we all have our listening ears on?”

Just this week I’ve been reading the most beautiful book, Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill.  It is peppered with the most wonderful quotes about oppression, justice and personal experience.  I particularly fell in love with this quote, that just fits perfectly with the post I am writing tonight:

The abolitionists may well call me their equal, but their lips do not yet say my name, and their ears do not yet hear my story. Not the way I want to tell it. But I have long loved the written word, and come to see in it the power of the sleeping lion. This is my name. This is who I am. This is how I got here. In the absence of an audience, I will write down my story so that it waits like a restful beast with lungs breathing and heart beating.

Is that not the most beautiful paragraph?

I am struck with the thought that despite this being the words of an African woman sold into slavery over 200 years ago, it rings true for many marginalised people even today.  How many people SAY that they consider us their equal, be we women, fat people, people of colour, people with disabilities, queer people or any other marginalised people, but  yet they do not hear what we are saying, and cannot even identify us individually?  To how many people are we still the obese, the disabled, the homosexual, the blacks, etc, rather than people, their true equals?

While I would never compare my life to that of the character of Aminata Diallo from Someone Knows My Name, I too have long loved the written word, and understand it’s power.  I too believe that while people are not listening to us now, we can write our stories, share our experiences and talk about how we are affected by the behaviour of those who see us as “other”.  The more of us who do so, who put down our stories somewhere for others to read it, those stories accumulate and grow in power.  And they will also provide a record in later times, when people start to understand the damage being done now.  That while there may be many who do not listen to us now, we are reaching those who do, and by telling our stories we reach even more, and leave a legacy to those who follow us.

After all, marginalised people have spent their whole lives listening to those who oppress them.  We’ve had no choice but to do so.

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