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.

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.

Cover Girl

Published March 20, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Let me just start with a great big welcome to the new folks reading this blog.  I can see there are a rash of you today, and I’m so glad to see you here.  I hope this is the beginning of a whole new way of thinking for you, and that we can learn a whole bunch of new things together.

Before you do anything else though, please take the time to read my rules page, and also if you need further information (or you want to comment telling me I’m talking out my bum), start here on this resource page.  Incidentally you can find me on Facebook and Twitter.  The same rules apply there.

So the reason I’m getting an influx of new readers is because dum-dah-dah… I’m a cover girl!  Check it out:

that's life cover

Now I’m quite frustrated by the “Fat and Proud” thing… again – can editors not find another heading to use when talking about fat activism and fat positivity??  It really isn’t what fat activism is about but they glom onto it every time.

That said, the article is excellent, very close to what I wanted it to be (I wish editors wouldn’t shy away from using the fat positive language that I do) and I think it will really connect with people who may have never heard of fat activism.  Jo Moffatt who wrote it was awesome and let me have control of it while it was in her hands, it’s only when it hit the editors desk that it got tweaked away a bit.  But those tweaks aren’t too bad.

Look, here’s what the article looks like:

that's life article

Now, if you’re in Australia and you can do so, please go and buy this week’s issue and show them with your money that you support a magazine that publishes fat positive articles.

If you’re not able to afford a copy, please try your local library. (You know I gotta get that plug in there!)

For those of you overseas, I’m sorry but it is not online yet.  I think they post them the following week when the new mag goes on sale – if so, I’ll share the link then.  If not, I’ll wait a week and then scan it in high resolution and post it here for you all to read.

And again, welcome to all the new people the article has drawn here!  Well, those of you who aren’t haters… I’m fully expecting those to turn up too.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,921 other followers