It Sucks to be a Fat Woman

Published May 17, 2014 by sleepydumpling

I don’t know if you’ve all seen this snippet from the TV show Louie, but it has done the rounds of the fatosphere quite a bit over the past few days.  Just in case you haven’t seen it, or want to refresh your memory, here it is again.

I’m not a watcher of Louie, and I have mixed feelings about Louis CK, and his show as a vehicle for social politics, but I want to move away from that aspect just now.  That’s a conversation for another time.

This clip has garnered a lot of criticism within fat activism circles.  Some of it is valid criticism, some of it I disagree with because I think it is viewed through a lens of privilege and internalised misogyny as well.  I’m going to do more than one post about it, so please hang in there ok, and we’ll hit the issues up one by one.

But for me, well, I connected with it very deeply.  Not only because Sarah Baker gives one hell of a performance, but because she voices a lot of things I feel and think.  I have a lot of thoughts on being a fat woman and dating, but I think those are for another time.  I will actually have a post on that coming up soon.

What I want us all to focus on here is the statement that seems to have got the most criticism.  “It sucks being a fat girl.”

So many people have complained about this, saying that it doesn’t suck to be a fat girl and that her saying it sends a “bad message” to the rest of the world, that it’s “so negative, we can’t see it as a win.”

Well I’m going to be the one to say it as a real life fat woman.

It sucks to be a fat woman.

It really does.  But not because of physically being fat.  It doesn’t suck having a fat body, that doesn’t bother me in the slightest.  It sucks to be a fat woman in a world that treats us as second-class citizens.

It sucks to be treated with contempt, derision, ridicule and outright hatred.

It sucks to have a lot of men act like their dick is going to fall off if they are seen with you in public.

It sucks to be sneered and tutted at on public transport as though you don’t have the right to be there.

It sucks to go to the doctor for a cold or a sore toe and be lectured on your weight instead of being given treatment.

It sucks that retailers who know they could make very good money off you refuse to stock reasonable quality, fashionable clothing at a reasonable price because they don’t want to lose their thin customers who wouldn’t be seen dead in the same outfit as a fat woman.

It sucks to have random men scream abuse at you in the street.

It sucks to get hate mail and trolling because you dare to be a visible fat woman.

It sucks that furniture often isn’t made to include your body.

It sucks that you can’t turn on the television or open a magazine without being shamed for your body.

It sucks that strangers take your photo in public without your consent.

It sucks to be a fat woman.

I find the whole idea that we must be positive at all times, and only represent the good things about being fat at all times really damaging.  It’s not helping anyone to expect that fat women are always depicted as everything being perfect and rosy.  Or that we’re 100% arse kicking, take no prisoners, school every nasty dude that crosses our path at every moment of our lives.  Not only does it provide a false sense of “Everything’s fine!” to not fat people, but it doesn’t help we fatties.  It doesn’t help we fatties to think that so long as you’ve got good self esteem and don’t hate your body, suddenly the world gets all sunshine and roses.  It doesn’t.  People told me back in my self hating days that when I learned to build my self esteem and be confident, people wouldn’t be as horrible to me as they were when I hated myself.  That’s a blatant lie.  It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t get better.

What does change when you find self esteem and confidence is YOU.  You get better.  Not better as a person – you were already perfectly fine even before you found self esteem and confidence.  But better at dealing with the crap.  Better at valuing yourself.  Better at realising that other people’s crappy behaviour is no reflection on you.  Better at self care to deal with other people’s horrible attitudes.  Better at advocating for yourself.  Better at saying no.  Better at shrugging off the haters and living your life anyway.

I also don’t want us to have to deny any vulnerability.  You know what, people are shitty to and about fat people, and it’s hurtful and bloody stressful!  We’re dealing with a constant level of stress that thin people generally don’t have to think about.  Will I physically fit in that furniture?  Will people be rude to me for taking up too much space?  Is the doctor going to take me give me treatment or are they just going to prescribe a diet?  Can I take a walk without someone mooing at me and calling me a fat bitch?  Will I be able to find a suitable outfit in my size for a job interview?

But most importantly, the answer to “Being a fat woman sucks.” is not “Well become a thin woman then.”  Firstly because there is no proven way to do that and secondly because our bodies are not the problem – our culture is.

Note: Please keep to topic in the comments and any “But thin people have it hard too!” denial of privilege will be sent to the spam bin and banned from commenting permanently.

Unapologetically Ugly

Published May 1, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Every day, when I open my email, there are a plethora of emails detailing how ugly I am.  Every day, someone leaves a comment here on this blog, or sends me an email, or trolls my Tumblr, deeply intent on declaring me the ugliest person they’ve ever seen.  They equate me to pigs, whales, elephants, hippos, manatees and all manner of animals, all of which I personally find awesome and absolutely adorable.

Once upon a time, this would have hurt me deeply.  I would have been terribly upset, it probably would have made me self harm, or driven me to isolate myself more, or stopped me from dressing the way I love to dress.

But it hasn’t done that for a long time.

Now before you deny my ugliness, which is a lovely thought of you, I want to say, it’s OK.  I’m not writing this to have people dispute the accusation.  You don’t need to tell me I’m not ugly, or even that I’m beautiful, to undo the shitty things that some people say to me.  Because other than some irritation at having to deal with continued abuse and harassment, the actual words themselves don’t hurt me at all.

I realised why today when I responded to an email that was actually lovely (not abuse, I don’t respond to those) from a woman who had always felt ugly and she told me about her journey to find her own beauty.  I got to thinking about that need to be beautiful, and I realised I don’t have that need myself. Not that I have any problem with other people needing to feel beautiful, but it’s just not there for me.

I feel absolutely no obligation to be aesthetically pleasing to others.  Oh don’t get me wrong, it is always nice when someone refers to me as beautiful, but I don’t feel it defines me or adds any value to me as a person.   Now admittedly, mostly women are expected to be beautiful, or at least aspire to beauty.  Women are often seen as prizes or trophies measured by their beauty.  I want more from my life than being aesthetically pleasing.

My having beauty does not define all of the important things in my life.  It doesn’t diminish my intellect, my humour, my compassion, my dedication, my enthusiasm, my strength, my ability to love.  These are, for me anyway, the yardsticks which I measure my success as a human being – not beauty.

Let’s not forget, beauty is entirely subjective anyway.  As much as there is a societal beauty ideal, it is not the default of what all people actually find beautiful.  People find all types of features beautiful – for every single feature of appearance there is, someone out there will find it beautiful – even the very things we ourselves might find deeply unattractive.  We can also find polar opposites of features beautiful – you can be attracted to more than one body type, or more than one eye colour, or more than one skin tone, and so on.  I know I am.  Think about the famous people that are seen as beautiful.  One movie star or pop singer may be deeply desirable to one person, and then completely off putting to the next.  Except perhaps for Tom Hiddleston, it seems EVERYONE finds him deeply desirable!

Personally, I’m attracted to people for more than just their physical beauty.  A person can be physically stunning, but deeply repulsive to me.  I can think of several famous actors who are lauded as being the “sexiest men alive” yet I find them very unattractive because I know that they have been violent towards previous partners, or have bigoted political beliefs, or are ignorant.  What I find attractive in a person extends much further than external appearance.  For example I am attracted to an infectious laugh, gentle hands, quick wit, deep intellect… I also like crooked teeth, skinny legs, smile wrinkles, hairy bodies, big feet, fat bellies… all things that other people would consider very unattractive.  A person doesn’t have to have all of those things for me to find them attractive, but I notice them on people and am attracted to them, particularly when accompanied by those non-physical attributes that I like.

That said, I don’t expect every person on the planet to meet my aesthetic.  I’m not personally offended by encountering someone that I do not find attractive.  There seems to be this mentality in men in particular that if a woman fails to be sexually attractive to him, it is a personal insult to him.  I’ve heard it referred to as The Boner Principle.  Any woman who “fails” to inspire an erection in a man loses her right to basic human respect by default.  It is the most unbelievably conceited attitude to think that you are owed attraction by every woman you encounter.

I’ve got no intention of buying into that bullshit.  My life is worth far more than being a pretty ornament that pleases others.  If people think I’m ugly, I offer no apology and feel no shame.  For some time my personal motto has been:

I’m not here to decorate the world, I’m here to change it.

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

Published April 22, 2014 by sleepydumpling

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

photo 1

photo 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Printed Legging

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

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

Give them  a try today!”

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

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

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

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

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.

Fear and Loathing (and Jealousy) in BrisVegas

Published April 9, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Well… for all of you who have yet to see it, Jasmin Lill has done another excellent interview for News.com.au.  I’m going to link to The Australian version, because there are only two comments and they are a WHOLE lot less shitty than those on the Courier Mail (one of my colleagues tried to read them and he got so angry and upset I had to make him stop reading) and nobody needs to be subjected to that.

But speaking of being subjected to things… boy, have I had a lot of hate in my inbox over the past 8-10 hours.  No doubt there will be more, the bullies and abusers always come out of the woodwork whenever one of us has something in the mainstream media.  It was like fat hate bingo on steroids all day.

I know why.  Two reasons.  Firstly, they’re afraid, because they’re being called out on their shitty behaviour publicly – it makes them nervous that someone in their own lives is going to tell them what douchebags they are.  It’s only a matter of time before it happens.  Secondly, they are unbelievably jealous.  They’re so dirty that they’re not the ones being listened to, being asked their opinions, being sought after to tell their story.  It drives them wild with jealousy that the people that they believe are beneath them, that they believe they are better than, are the ones being taken seriously.  Man, that’s got to sting.  Good.

However, the reason I’m posting tonight is that while I was on the train home tonight, feeling tired after an intense day, frustrated that The Courier Mail don’t have a better commenting policy, and fed up with being told to go die in a fire or that I am disgusting, a song shuffled into play on my iTunes and just reminded me of the important message.

So for all of you who’ve ever had to deal with pathetic people who have nothing better to do than say hateful things, here’s a song for you…

We Are Not the Problem

Published April 7, 2014 by sleepydumpling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is NOT our fault.

It is NOT your fault.

Hashtag Activism – A Sign of Strength

Published April 5, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Something awesome is happening on Twitter right now.  Born of a conversation between @fatbodypolitics and @mazzie, the hashtag #notyourgoodfatty was born, and it has been picked up by fat women (and a sprinkling of men) all over the world.  I know yesterday it was trending in the US, but I’m sure it has been trending elsewhere and is probably trending as I write this, because it’s right in the middle of another run now.

Hashtag campaigns always get a lot of criticism that they are pointless and don’t change anything.  I call bullshit on that attitude.  As a fat woman who is so fucking fed up with both the general shit that fat women have to deal with, but also with the constant measuring of whether some fat people are “better” than others, just reading through the thousands of tweets from other fat people venting their frustrations and smashing down that “good fatty” lie gives me strength.  It also expresses things I have not been able to myself.

I’ll keep this short and sweet because it is taking off right now, but I’ll share some more favourites later.

So get yourself over to Twitter, and search for #notyourgoodfatty

But do ignore the trolls.  They’re showing their arse over there too.  How embarrassing for them.

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