Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice? I Think Not.

Published August 21, 2014 by sleepydumpling

There is something you all need to know about me.  Some of you might already know it.

I am not nice.

I have never pretended to be so.  I have no desire to be nice.  I have rebuffed every claim that I am nice.  I simply don’t play that game.

I have been an activist now for over 5 years, and still to this day people are demanding that I be nice.  They demand that I allow them to say whatever they like in my spaces online  They claim that I’m going to be the end of fat acceptance (which I no longer consider myself part of anyway) because I’m not nice enough, because they consider me rude/angry/opinionated/whatever – as though I’m so all powerful that I can bring down fat acceptance on my own.  I still deal with people demanding that I explain everything to them in fine detail, and then complain that I’m not nice when I refuse to perform on demand.  I still deal with people who seem to think that they have a right to tell me what to do in my online spaces – what I post, what comments I allow, who I can and cannot block/ban from my spaces.  There are those that declare that I am censoring them, that I am denying “free speech” or their “right to their opinion” by curating which comments I allow in my own spaces.  Five years of people telling me what I can and can’t do in my own space.

As a result of this, I am no longer allowing comments in this blog for most posts.  Occasionally I will open up the floor to share things, but mostly, I’m not here for discussion.  I’m here to write about my experiences and thoughts and beliefs.   This blog is actually first and foremost for me – it’s the place where I get to be heard, when as a fat woman, mostly in the world I am not.  When it does connect with other people, and helps them along too, I am THRILLED.  That absolutely makes my day.  But I am under no obligation to spend my life fixing or educating other people.  I fight for my rights as a fat woman, and that contributes to fighting for the rights for ALL fat women – which I am very proud of.

This blog is not a public forum.  It is not a discussion board.  It is not a debate service.  I am not attempting to create a community.  I am not a brand, a company or a business.  I’m not making money from this – actually my activism costs me WAY more than I can really afford much of the time, and I’m not affiliated with any organisation or corporation.  It is MY blog.  Mine.  100% my space, my opinions, my thoughts, my choice.   I will of course share things here that other people write and create, because I agree with them and think they are important.  But I’m not providing space for other people to determine what is done with it.

For anyone who wishes to claim that this is somehow censorship or denying free speech or others’ right to their opinions, you do not understand the actual concept of free speech/censorship.  I am not stopping you from saying whatever you like elsewhere.  Just here, in this one tiny, pretty obscure corner of the internet.  It’s the equivalent of not allowing you in my house if I don’t like you.  I’m not stopping you from going to other people’s houses, or even being out in public.  Just mine.  That is not censorship, it’s creating one small boundary.

So comments are now closed.  You are more than welcome to hit the like button at the bottom of each post, or use any of the share functions.  You’re welcome to follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or Instagram.  You can contact me by email.  I love to hear from genuine people who bring something to the discussion without expecting me to perform for them on demand.  I’ve made some wonderful friends from people who’ve just taken the time to contact me to say hello or talk.  I wouldn’t change that for the world.  I will miss many of you who are regular commenters if I’m not able to connect with you elsewhere online, but you have all my other places of contact if you wish to keep in touch.

I am no longer going to give time, space and energy to people who wish to debate my right to live my life my with dignity and respect, just because I am a fat woman who refuses to be polite/quiet/invisible.

Of course, this is going to cause even more people to come out and say what a horrible person I am and how I’m somehow denying them something.  All I can say to that is GET OVER IT!  Go start your own blog/facebook page.

The thing is, nobody demands that men “be nice” in their spaces online.  Nobody suggests men are going to ruin an entire world movement if they are not nice.  I mean for fuck’s sake, Richard Dawkins is vile and disgusting but nobody holds him up as “ruining atheism”.  Russell Brand behaves abominably and nobody tells him to “be nice”.  I could list so many men who are anything but nice or polite who never have to deal with people demanding they tone down or be quiet.

Women are expected to always put other people’s feelings, needs and wants before their own.  We are expected to always be sweet and kind and defer to others, to be quiet and demure and polite.  We are criticised for showing emotion, for being angry, for standing up for ourselves and our rights.  Girls and women are meant to be nice.  The rest of us are just “bitches”.

Fuck that shit.

I am a lot of things.  I am angry.  I am outspoken and opinionated.  I am hot tempered and argumentative.  I am fiercely territorial.  I own these things about myself, and while they can get me into trouble sometimes, I am not ashamed of them.  When people list them as my “flaws” I do not deny them.

But I am a lot of other things that people rarely acknowledge but regularly attempt to utilise for themselves.  I am loyal.  I am protective.  I am so very compassionate and empathetic of people who are suffering that I literally read the news and cry for the wrongs in the world that I cannot fix.  I treat people I encounter in the world with kindness and respect (unless they fail to treat me so).  I am strong.  I am fierce.  I have a wicked sense of humour.  Those things are so often ignored because people would rather insist that I stop making them feel uncomfortable.  I’ve spent my whole life being uncomfortable with who I am, folks need to deal with being made feel uncomfortable a bit more often.

As a friend once said, I am a laughing lioness.  I am not now, nor will I ever be, nice.

I Stand With Shakesville

Published July 29, 2014 by sleepydumpling

It’s time for us all to break the silence.  It’s time for us to stand up together.

If you haven’t already heard about the harassment and abuse that Liss over at Shakesville is constantly under, please take the time to read her latest post.  Probably best to have read it before you continue reading here.

I am so angry about this.  Both for Liss, because I know how horrible it is to be subjected to abuse and harassment like this, but also because this shit happens time and time and time again to women online and nothing is ever done about it.  I could list hundreds of women I know who have gone through this.  Some of them I like and agree with, some of them I don’t.  It doesn’t matter – women online of all backgrounds and experiences are harassed and bullied and abused simply because they are women and are active online.

Firstly, let me state clearly that I fully stand with Melissa McEwan and Shakesville.  Shakesville has been incredibly important to me for some years now.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything over there, nor am I interested in every single post.  Because despite the abusers portraying people who read/follow/participate on Shakesville as some kind of clueless fool or victim, I’m a grown adult with a brain who can read and decide which posts are of value to me, and which I leave to other people who get something out of them.  Liss’s work at Shakesville, and that of her contributors and moderators, has been integral in both educating me and giving me food for thought to be able to make up my own mind on so many topics.  It has also been vital in building my self esteem as a fat woman, to hear Liss and others talk about their experiences, many of which I can truly identify with.  I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for years of reading Shakesville.  Not to mention that I have been directed to and met many other amazing writers and activists via Shakesville, be it by links in posts, guest posts or other commenters.

I have always felt safe when commenting on Shakesville.  Even when I disagree with something.  I know that over there, there is a dedicated team who keep the space free of bullying and work very hard to keep threads on topic and respectful.  That is a very rare environment for a woman online, believe me.

But I’ve also felt challenged by the writing over on Shakesville.  It makes me think.  Makes me ask questions of myself and others.  It’s good to be intellectually challenged about things.  It’s good to have your ideology tested regularly.  Sometimes I disagree with someone on a topic, and that’s OK.  I can choose to not read it at any time, to skip posts or give up altogether.  Mind you, nothing about Shakesville has made me feel like I needed to walk away from reading it, even when I have disagreed or been disinterested.  I like the mature, passionate, intelligent voices I am presented there.  I like that I can rely on the comments not to descend into hatred, attacks and insults.  It has inspired how I try to keep my comment policy.

Personally speaking, I am glad to have met Liss online.  She is whip-smart, funny, passionate and articulate.  She is also kind and thoughtful.  She shows she cares so often when others remain silent.  She has cute pets that make me smile and I enjoy her selfies and other photos she shares.  Even though we’ve never met in person, and we don’t talk as often as I might with other folk I know and am closer to online, I consider her a friend.  And I’m angry that a friend has been subjected to the abuse that she has.

I know this is going to draw me more harassment and abuse, because this is the way these people operate – they attempt to silence anyone who supports their target so that they isolate her further.  That is their objective – our silence.  They’re not going to get it from me.  I’m already harassed daily by those who want my silence, and even when I am not active online they come after me.  I long for people to stand with me and support me in the face of the harassment and abuse I receive, and it’s the right thing to do to stand by Liss in the face of hers.

I am no stranger to online abuse and harassment myself.

A couple of years ago I attempted to start an online magazine for marginalised women in the wake of yet another horrible example of “women’s media” being harmful to marginalised women.  Within 48 hours I was harassed, abused and bullied relentlessly, as were those who supported the project, until I had to pull the plug on it because I could not protect the very women I was aiming to give space to.  Most of it over a typo.

Daily I open my email to find hate mail telling me to kill myself, that I’m disgusting, that I am dirty, smelly, diseased and dying.  Emails describing how they’re going to rape me, beat me or murder me.  Another favourite method is to describe how someone horrible is going to rape/murder me – they delight in either creating fictional creeps/murderers/rapists or describing known ones.  Alternatively they love to describe how not even the most disgusting, creepy man on earth would touch me.

Someone was ringing my home phone regularly and laughing down the line at me or on to my voice mail, or calling me a cunt/fat slut/bitch/etc until I unplugged my phone since I wasn’t using it anyway.  I have come home to find notes stuck in my mailbox that simply point out that they know I where I live.  I have received my own address emailed to me by fake email addresses.  I have had my employer contacted by someone who demanded they demote me because they believed I wasn’t qualified enough.  I have had my work contact numbers and addresses given to hundreds of weight loss businesses, diabetes clinics and gyms/personal trainers, so that I was inundated with these businesses contacting me at work following up on what they thought was my genuine interest in their business, wasting their time, my employers and mine.

They’ve created fake social media profiles of me.  They create social media profiles just to harass me, so that no matter how many I block, they just create another one.  They leave anonymous hate on all of my social media profiles.  They email or message me gross pornography and gore.

There are pages and pages and pages of hate filled screed online about me.  I see them linked to this blog, and people sometimes send them to me out of wanting to help (it doesn’t), and sometimes the authors of this bullshit send it to me themselves, just to goad me.  There are pages discussing my hair, dissecting every little thing about it to ridicule me.  They speculate over how often I wash it and what with, what brand colour I use on it and what technique I use to colour it.  There are people who keep dossiers my online mentions of food.  Others save/download every photograph of me that is online and then deface them.  There are pages discussing my health, and dissecting photographs of me to try to find outward evidence of Type 2 Diabetes (I have it, have never hidden that).  They discuss whether or not I have pain or illnesses, rubbing their hands in glee when they think I do.

They look for mentions of my family and friends and colleagues, and try to make me believe that nobody likes me, that everyone is laughing at me behind my back, that I am alone and unloved.

Generally they just find every way to try to abuse or harass me they can.  The saddest thing is that I am just one of multitudes of women online, some of whom suffer far, far more disgusting abuse.  The objective is to drive us off the internet.  There is even a fucking website devoted to driving people off the internet, with users referring to it as “my internet”, as though they have some right to it that they can decide others don’t.  Silencing people with abuse and harassment is not criticism or disagreement.  It’s bullying.  Instead of behaving like a decent human being and just turning their back on the person they’ve decided they hate and not reading their work or visiting their website, they make it their mission to drive them away altogether.  Not content with making them unwelcome in their spaces online, they are determined to drive them out of ALL spaces online.

The truth of it is that as strong and courageous as any woman is, this constant abuse and harassment DOES cost us.  It costs us our freedom, our voice, our peace of mind and our emotional wellbeing.  It costs us relationships with people who cannot understand what it is like to be constantly abused and harassed, and with those afraid to be subjected to that abuse and harassment by association with us.  It costs us actual money to mitigate the very real dangers we face.  It costs us money in security for our homes, safe transport when we feel we cannot use public transport or travel alone safely, in software and services to block and filter and screen the abuse and attacks.  For some it costs their careers and access to education. But worst of all it costs us our physical safety.

I know exactly what is going to happen.  People are going to make excuses for the behaviour of these abusers and harassers.  They will suggest that women just ignore it, or don’t go online.  There will be those that suggest that Liss and I and other women bring it upon ourselves because we are so “opinionated”.  Others will say that we cannot take criticism – as though these things are not at all abuse and harassment. Criticism is “I disagree with you because…” or “I find the way you handled this problematic because…”  It’s not rape and death threats, stalking, harassment, name-calling, keeping dossiers and trying to silence someone.

They’ll say “Oh these are just sad losers on the internet.” as though they do no harm, or only harm themselves.  Or those around us will just stay silent.   They’ll read this or Liss’s piece, or any of the other examples of it that are written by the incredible strong, courageous women who put themselves online and they’ll just shrug their shoulders and say, “What can I do?”

The truth is, there are lots of things you can do.  Start by believing women who talk about this abuse and harassment.  Help by saying clearly and publicly “This is wrong. This has to stop.”  Signal boost when women write about the abuse and harassment they face.  When other people make excuses about the abuse and harassment women deal with, challenge them.  Tell them it is not acceptable to minimise or excuse the abuse and harassment.  Campaign online platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and any others to put in adequate security for their users – proper block functions, well moderated abuse reporting systems, clear anti-abuse terms of service requirements and strong anti-hacking/spam systems.  If you know a woman who is being harassed/abused online, listen to her when she needs to vent.  Ask her if she’s OK and if there are any ways you can help.  Often just knowing someone cares and is listening is the thing that is least expressed.  Support her if she goes to the authorities to report it.  Document anything you receive by being associated with her.

If you stumble across abuse and harassment of a woman online, think carefully before you approach her about it.  It is likely she already knows, and is finding it difficult to deal with already.  Be sensitive about it if you do feel you need to raise it.  Stay away from hate sites, use DoNotLink if you must link to it anywhere so the perpetrators don’t get the clicks/revenue.  Report abusive social media accounts.  Don’t blame the victim for the abuse, blame the perpetrators.  Point out the difference between abuse and criticism – sadly it seems a lot of people can’t discern that for themselves.

It has to stop.  Whether you agree with or like a particular woman online is irrelevant.  This is not criticism, this is abuse and harassment.  It is violence.  We know what domestic abuse is, we know what emotional abuse is, we know what sexual abuse is.  This culture of bullying, silencing and harassing women online is just another form of abuse.  And online abuse is no more acceptable than any other kind.

It’s time for everyone to stand up and clearly state that the abuse of women online is unacceptable in any form.  Not just to make it clear to the perpetrators that their time is coming to an end and that they will not be permitted to continue this behaviour, but to show support to those who suffer at the hands of these abusers.

No Fat Chicks

Published July 24, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Hey lovelies.  I’ve been quiet for a bit haven’t I?  Well something has brought me out of the woodwork today and steaming from the ears.  The lovely Em aka Boombands from Oh The Places You’ll Go drew my attention via her Twitter to a project this morning called Stop Dating Like a Fat Chick.  Em quite rightfully pointed out just how problematic the project was, and the author of it directed her to this page Who You Callin’ A Fat Chick?  When I read it, I can tell you, I felt kind of sick.

Firstly, most of you already know, I’m a fat chick.  I’m also a single fat chick.  Apparently, being a fat chick is a BAD THING.  The author of the blog/book, Adrienne Santos-Longhurst says that she is offering “the no BS guide to dating with confidence for the plus size girl” – so let me just get this right.  Being a plus size girl is ok, but being a fat chick is not.  Indeed, that is what she says at the top of the page… “If you let your size dictate how and who you date then YOU, my dear, are a Fat Chick.”

Sounds like Ms Santos-Longhurst is buying into the old “No Fat Chicks” bullshit that plenty of douchecanoes have been labelling women that they think they’re superior to for a long, long time.  We’re getting into some good fatty/bad fatty territory with this stuff.

Now that we’ve established that being a fat chick is a VERY BAD THING, and that to become a fat chick you only have to identify as fat and choose people to date and how you date them with relevence to your fatness.  So, that means that because I identify as a fat chick, and because I only date people who accept (and appreciate) my fatness and understand my self-identifying as fat, I “date like a fat chick”.  And that is a VERY BAD THING.

To be fair, I do everything like a fat chick.  I breathe like a fat chick.  I sleep like a fat chick.  I dress like a fat chick.  Because… I AM a fat chick!

According to Ms Santos-Longhurst, dating like a fat chick is a bad thing.  On her page, she outlines why this is a bad thing, because apparently fat chicks do the following:

always the best friend who chums around with a guy and even gives him advice about other women all while pining after him.

-the easy lay who has sex with any and everyone because they feel it’s the only way to get the affection and attention they crave.

- the needy and desperate woman who gets walked all over and jumps through hoops to keep a man in fear that no one else will want her.

-women who limit their dating to fat-friendly sites or even limit themselves to specific races who are said to prefer fat women because they fear they’ll be rejected by dating the “regular” way.

That’s a whole lot of assumptions to make about how fat chicks behave when dating.  Not to mention a whole lot of very negative assumptions.  Now, speaking for myself, that’s not really my method in the dating world, so it’s a pretty rich assumption to make about how we fat chicks date.  But hey, some fat chicks do date like that (so do a lot of thin chicks) and it’s a pretty hostile attitude to hold towards the way some women choose to date.  I’ll come back to that a bit later.

I understand that some of the underlying message Ms Santos-Longhurst is trying to get at is that many fat women suffer from confidence and self-esteem issues.  That no doubt comes from a genuine, good place of wanting to help.  But… this doesn’t help.  Shaming women, particularly fat women who are already shamed at every turn, for having low self-esteem and lacking confidence, is not going to help them.  Saying “Men treat you badly because you act like a doormat.” lays the blame at the feet of the victim, not the perpetrator.  It’s not anyone’s fault that someone treats them badly – ever.  If someone is treating you  like a doormat, then they are the one who are behaving badly and should be shamed, not you.  This is a very victim-blaming methodology that Ms Santos-Longhurst has adopted.

I also have a problem with the whole desperate/needy cliché.  Have you ever noticed how often the concept of desperate/needy are applied mostly to women?  That somehow, women when they have feelings for someone and want them reciprocated are desperate and needy, but when men do the same it’s coded as romantic, devoted, determined.  With a caveat – thin, pretty women are sometimes allowed to be romantic/devoted/determined.  But fat chicks – if we have feelings and want them reciprocated, ew gross, don’t be so needy!  Don’t be so desperate!

Unrequited feelings are messy.  We’ve all been there.  But the answer is not deciding that you’re pathetic for having unrequited feelings.  The answer is realising that we’ve all been there, and that it is possible to get past those feelings and move on with your life.  The answer is going “Well, if you don’t like me, that’s your loss.” and not letting it smash your self-esteem even further.  It’s not hating yourself for those feelings.

The next thing that brings me to is the idea of women who limit their dating to fat-friendly sites or people who prefer fat women.  Let’s just note the inherent racism in the way Ms Santos-Longhurst has framed it too – she hasn’t named any particular race but most of us already know that very racist stereotype.  Some fat women do indeed stick to fat-friendly dating environments.  And that is perfectly acceptable.  There is nothing wrong with choosing to involve yourself in community and environments that accept you and understand you and are tailored for you.  I’m not saying that those environments aren’t fraught with issues, but let’s face it, who hasn’t been objectified or fetishised while walking down the street, or on some non-fat-focused website?   I also find it deeply problematic that she seems to exclude these environments from what she calls “dating the regular way”.  What is dating the regular way?  He comes over and is interrogated by your father first?  Writes in your dance card?  Takes you to for coffee the first date, dinner the second date, movies the third?  The assumption that there actually is some “regular” way to date in 2014 is pretty crappy.  People meet one another and date all kinds of different ways.  Sometimes they meet at work, or through friends, or on a dating site, through a kink club, or sometimes they fuck outside a nightclub and then realise that they’re meant for each other.  All of them are valid ways to date.  There is no “regular” way that is more acceptable than any other.

Which brings me to the thing that REALLY made me go “Oh hell no!”  Yes, that big old stinking pile of slut shaming there on point two.  That silly fat girl who is an “easy lay” – the dirty slut!  Here’s the thing folks.  Fuck any consenting adult you want to fuck, as many times as you want to fuck them.  Whether you think they’re the love of your life, or you just want to come and a cuddle.  Fuck a bunch of consenting adults if you want to.  So long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, fuck away to your heart’s content.  That doesn’t make you an “easy lay” and there’s nothing at all wrong with having a whole bunch of sex if that’s what you want to do.  There’s nothing wrong with having NO sex if that’s what you want.  There’s nothing wrong with having a bit of sex if that works for you too.  Darlings, you get to decide that.  Anyone who shames you for your sexuality when it is between consenting adults is a jerk.

Again, I get the underlying thing Ms Santos-Longhurst is getting at is about confidence and self-esteem, but unfortunately the way she is going about it is damaging to a whole lot of people’s confidence and self-esteem.  Instead of telling “fat chicks” that “you’re doing it wrong and it’s all your fault”, I believe the way to build women’s confidence is to point out just how valid their feelings are, to establish that we are the ones who have final say over our own lives and our own bodies, and the biggie – show them that other people’s shitty behaviour is not their fault.

If you’re a fat chick, and are finding the whole dating thing awkward and painful and embarrassing… guess what?  That’s normal!  Dating and relationships are weird and awkward and sometimes painful for everybody.  They’re also wonderful and rewarding and delicious sometimes too.  But they’re not perfect.  They’re work.  The fairytale is just that… a fairytale.

But here’s to all the fat chicks who live their lives like fat chicks.  Don’t let anyone shame you for being a fat chick.

Queering Fat Embodiment

Published July 6, 2014 by sleepydumpling

As part of the launch of the new anthology “Queering Fat Embodiment” edited by Cat Pausé, Jackie Wykes and Samantha Murray, a social media book tour is travelling around the fatosphere and other key online spaces.  I was lucky enough to be asked to participate in the tour myself.

I was honoured to discover that I had been mentioned in the anthology, so Cat sent me an excerpt to share with you all here…

**@**

The Activist

Kath Read is an Australian fat activist who has a large presence in the Fat-o-sphere. Found on her blog The Fat Heffalump (and related Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter platforms), Kath writes about her own experiences as a fat woman living in a less than friendly environment (Read 2013a). The tagline for The Fat Heffalump is ‘Living with Fattitude’, and Kath invites others to be observers to her doing just that.

Kath writes about her fat identity, her fat embodiment, her fat fashion, and her fat life. She shares stories of triumph, and stories of harassment. She posts pictures of herself in her outfit of the day (otherwise known in cyberspace as OOTD), and often addresses the fat hate and fat shame she observes in the mainstream media, news, and her everyday life.

Occasionally Kath will write a piece like ‘You’re not the first person to tell a fat person’, in which she addresses common myths about fatness, and provides answers to some comments that she frequently receives when she has an influx of new readers (Read 2013b). In these posts, Kath is providing the opportunity for those who are reading to educate themselves a bit more about the assumptions they hold and beliefs they forget to unpack. She assumes the role of a teacher, answering the questions of her students in thoughtful and reflective ways.

Kath also speaks to her frustration about having to always educate the ignorant; it isn’t her job, she tells the readers, to highlight their bigotry, suggest they do their homework, or point out when they are being oppressive.

Simply through living her life online, Kath Read queers what it is to be fat. Her lack of shame, her love of fashion, and her brightly coloured hair, all contradict what fatness is supposed to be. She may invite others to join her, but it is the testimony of her life she is sharing with the web. She refuses to live her life according to other people’s standards, and she has long since forgotten that she is supposed to wait to live her dreams until she’s achieved the state of thinness.

Used by permission of the Publishers from ‘Causing a commotion: Queering fat in cyberspace’, in Queering Fat Embodiment eds. Cat Pausé, Jackie Wykes and Samantha Murray (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), pp. 79-80.  Copyright © 2014

Unruly Bodies

Published June 24, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Ever since I was born, my body has been unruly.  It has never done what bodies are “supposed” to do.  From a newborn, my body has always rebelled against the world around it.  From allergies to everyday baby items like soap, lambs wool, and lanolin which left my tender skin covered in eczema and hives to the big birthmark that graces my thigh, I was untidy from the get go.  Through childhood when more allergies had me a sneezy, snuffly, itchy hayfever sufferer.  I was never the kid that could run fast, it took me forever to learn to swim, I couldn’t catch a ball, and have always been a klutz.  Then puberty hit… and I became fat, the thing considered by society in general the unruliest thing of all for bodies to be.  As well as being fat, and allergic, and uncoordinated, I had a head full of enormous hair that has never done what I wanted it to.  I couldn’t afford cool clothes, but even if I could they are denied to fat people.

From my teens I started doing all sorts of things to myself to try to get thin, which my body rebelled against even further.  Years of disordered eating, exercise bingeing and ridiculous diets wreaked havoc on my body.  In my 20’s I went through stages of self harm.  Everything I did to myself to try to make my body conform to what I was told it should be, just made the problem worse.  Yo-yo dieting gave me stretch marks.  Purging damaged my teeth and my skin.  I scarred myself as punishment for being fat and unworthy and to escape the emotional pain.   The more I fought my body to be tidy, neat, contained, the more my body fought back.

Of course, by the time that one is 35, most people see the signs of aging.  The body continues to be unruly.   Hair starts to go grey.  Wrinkles and lines appear.  Collagen reduces allowing gravity to do it’s job.  So the body continues to be unruly.  And again, I’m still fat – the unruliest thing of all.

It wasn’t until I was 35 that I stopped fighting my body.  I found fat liberation and feminism, and realised that my value is not in my appearance, that it is in who I am as a person, and no matter what a person looks like, they are worthy of dignity and respect.

Part of fat liberation is finding the way to appreciate the unruliness of your body.  It is finding the power in your body.  It is seeing the unruliness as the history book of your body.  I look at my body now and the very things that I once loathed are the things that I am finding are my strengths.  The soft warmth of my round, generous body.  A small child once called me “The huggiest lady in the world!” because she enjoyed cuddling up to my big body.  The strength that I have at my disposal just by putting my weight into movement.  The space I take up, full and abundant.  I see smile lines, scars that tell of great adventures, stretchmarks that tell of changes I have lived through.  Soft skin that is a canvas for beautiful art.  Even my enormous, untameable hair is a pleasure now – I just dye it hot pink and let it go crazy.  Sure I’d love to get rid of the allergies – but they are a small price to pay for a big, soft, warm, bountiful body that carries me through life.

But another thing happened… I started to notice that while I had all these things about my body that were unruly, untidy, awkward, there are also a lot of things about my body that are amazing and have always been there, I just never appreciated them when I was spending so much time focusing on the things I couldn’t change.   I never could run fast, but I’ve always had phenomenal endurance.  It took me ages to learn to swim, but once I did, I could swim long distances with ease.  I might not have been able to catch a ball, but I have a shot like a cannon and can split tennis balls and golf balls with my strength.  While my hair may be big and wild, it’s also thick and shiny.  My body is fat, but it’s also soft and warm.  I may have allergies, but I’ve also got a fine sense of smell and taste.

I learnt that instead of focusing on what my body is not, I need to focus on what it IS.  And what it is, is wonderous.  Flawed and weird yes, as are ALL bodies, but also amazing.

Why must women be small, tidy, contained, unobtrusive?  Why must we spend our lives trying to disappear, be invisible, to not take up any space, to keep out of everyone’s way?  Why can’t we inhabit our bodies as they are, find comfort and joy in them?

Let’s start here.  Before we go further, I want you to sit up straight, or as straight as you can.  Put your shoulders back.   Lift your head up and look straight forward.  Take a deep breath and expand your lungs, and then let that breath out.  Take up the space you inhabit.  Now think about the things your body CAN do.

What are the things that are amazing about your body?

On the Telly!

Published May 29, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Just a quickie for those who haven’t seen it, I did a piece for news and pop culture show “The Feed” on SBS which aired on Monday night.  They kindly put it on YouTube, so I can share it with you here!

Enjoy!  It’s my first ever telly appearance! (Well, except for the time that news crew filmed me outside my work and used me as a headless fatty.)

More on That Louie Scene

Published May 25, 2014 by sleepydumpling

I had intended to run this post a few days ago, but the working week got the better of me (the crescendo of the financial year is always so intense), and I’m a little bit later than planned.  But it’s still important and I know some of you want to expand the discussion more from the previous post – thank you for your patience and keeping in topic!

So last post I was talking about the scene from Louie with the rather amazing Sarah Barker giving a stellar performance as a fat girl on a date.  My last post was a response to the criticisms of her statement that it sucks to be a fat woman were not a win for fat activism.  If you still haven’t seen the scene, or need a refresher, you can check it out here.

It’s important to note that I do have issues with Louis CK and his TV show.  But I’m not talking about those here.

Today I want to respond to some of the fatosphere criticisms of the scene with regards to dating and relationships.

The major criticisms that I have seen that bother me are:

  • She is begging for attention/to have her hand held.
  • That plenty of hot men want to date fat women, why did she go out with one that was reluctant to date her/be seen with her.
  • Men don’t want to date her because she is whiny and annoying, not because she’s fat.
  • It portrays single fat women as “pathetic” or desperate.
  • She’s “settling” when she says she doesn’t want a boyfriend or a husband.
  • Why doesn’t she just join a BBW dating site?

I find these criticisms extremely problematic.

The first thing that I have a problem with is the way that many perceive her as begging/whining/annoying.  I think that reaction actually reflects the point she makes to Louis about the double standard between when men and women talk about how hard it is to date while being fat – how he can get up on stage and joke about being single and a fat guy and people think it’s adorable, but if she tries to talk about how hard it is for her, people call the suicide hotline.  To me, suggesting she is begging/whining is deeply misogynistic.  She’s being very clear about what bothers her about the way she is treated, and she’s also calling Louis out for behaving in a way that she finds really disappointing.  She expected better of him.  But because she is a woman, it is instantly read as whining/begging.  However if a man were to outline when someone’s behaviour bothered him, he’d be considered assertive and honest.

The next point that bothers me is the suggestion that there are “plenty of hot men who want to date fat women” and “why doesn’t she just join a BBW dating site?”  I think that this reaction to the scene also demonstrates exactly what she is talking about.  She asks Louis if he has ever dated a fat girl, and quickly pulls him up when he starts to say yes and says “I didn’t ask if you’ve fucked a fat girl, every guy has done that.”  She’s calling out the constant fetishisation and objectification of fat women.  Those “plenty of hot men who want to date fat women” on BBW sites are in the majority not looking to date a fat woman – they’re fetishizing/objectifying us.  Hands up if you’ve ever been involved with a man who is all too happy to sleep with you in private, but won’t take you out for dinner, or hold your hand in public, or introduce you to his friends?  She quite rightly says that if she had offered Louis sex, he’d have taken it up straight away… what if that’s not what you want from a partner?  There is nothing, NOTHING wrong with wanting to have a romantic relationship with someone, and to want them to put some effort into that relationship.  She’s right, any woman who is willing can get laid.  But it is exceptionally difficult to find men who are willing to date fat women in the same way that they would a thin woman.

Another criticism I find difficult to accept are those asking why she is bothering with Louis if he doesn’t get it (settling).  That’s the judgement we all have to make on all of our interpersonal relationships with people who don’t quite get fat activism.  We don’t live in a bubble of fat positivity, we live in the real world and it means making decisions about whether people are worth having in your life.  Do you take up the challenge of educating them, getting them to see how their behaviour is problematic, or do you just move on.  Sure, pick your battles, some people really aren’t worth your time.  But some people are.  Some people, while initially not getting it, are more than willing to listen and work through it.  That’s what you have to decide.  I’ve not that long ago dated a guy who kept putting his foot in it, not quite understanding what bothered me, but he was willing to listen, and asked me how to get it right.  Sure, it gets frustrating at times, but I never felt that it was “settling” for me to continue to see him.  One of the greatest moments with someone who “doesn’t get it” is that moment that the penny drops and they DO get it.  I love that moment!  Some of the most important people in my life today were really defensive at first, but I thought they were worth keeping around, and now they’re my staunchest allies.

But the one that really sticks in my craw is the suggestion that this portrays a fat woman as “pathetic”.  Why?  Why is it pathetic for a fat woman to call a man out for a crappy attitude/behaviour and state clearly what she wants?  Why is it pathetic for a fat woman to say that she wants a man who will be proud to be with her and put some effort into dating her?  It’s interesting that whenever a man shows vulnerability or wants a romantic relationship, it’s sweet and romantic, but if a fat woman does the same, it’s “pathetic” and “needy”?

Interestingly, those within fat activism that have been the most vocal in suggesting that this portrays fat women as pathetic are those who have the privilege of being in a relationship of whatever form themselves.  It makes me really side eye them as supposed allies… do they really think those of us who are single and are interested in dating a man who is proud to be seen with us and puts some effort into us as “pathetic”?

I want all of you to know there is nothing wrong with being vulnerable.  There is nothing wrong with speaking about what you want and expect from relationships.  There is nothing pathetic about wanting to be in a relationship.

Personally, I found this entire scene empowering, because it articulates a lot of things that I feel and represents situations I have been in myself.  That’s what I want to see in television – realistic portrayals of the lives of fat women.  I don’t just want to see us lampooned or turning ourselves into cariacatures (a la Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids).  I want to see realistic fat women in realistic situations. Awkward conversations, guys being jerks and then getting called out on it, fat women who are angry, disappointed, exasperated, and fed up, people who don’t quite get it but are willing to try, and sometimes getting that wrong too.

I want to see all representations of fat women, not just those that tick all the Fat Activism 101 boxes.

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