Welcome, Thank You and What Next!

Published June 24, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Wow!  Since my last post, I’ve had a huge influx of new followers and readers of my little blog.  Welcome to you all!  And thank you to those who took the time to share my last post.  I’m also really pleased to see so much positive response to the JCPenney campaign, that’s what we need to see when fat positive stuff gets done well – it shared, spoken about and promoted!

So what’s happening?  As many of you know, I’m off to the New Zealand Fat Studies: Identity, Agency and Embodiment conference next week.  I’m officially on leave from my day job now and am gearing up to head over to New Zealand, thanks to so many people who pitched in to my GoFundMe campaign!  I will be speaking on Day 2 of the conference, I’m in the process of finessing the presentation now, just the shiny bits to go with the actual paper.  Thank you to all who helped me out with content for that as well.  I am SO excited about the conference, about taking one of my BFF’s with me to introduce her to the amazing community that happens around Fat Studies conferences and catching up with rad fatties from all over the world who will be attending.  Some of whom I haven’t seen in person for six years!

Don’t forget you can register online for the conference, which will give you access to the live-stream and to on demand videos after the conference.

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I’m also doing a reading/spoken word piece at an event at Palmerston North Library the night before the conference.  This event is being organised by Dr Jenny Lee of Victoria University and promises to be a fantastic event.  I hope to be able to publish the piece I have written for this event here on my blog afterwards, so that you can all read it.  I will do the same for my conference paper if possible as well.

I’ve also got a couple of other projects on the boil which I can’t tell you about yet, but I will as soon as I can.  2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year!

The next thing I want to do today is give a shout out to some other fat activists that are doing amazing work lately.  As I spoke about in a post the other week, it is getting harder and harder to find and hear actual radical fat activism, the stuff that really challenges the status quo, amongst the sea of “body positivity” coming from the mainstream right now.  But there are people doing amazing work, and I just want to highlight a few right now.

Ali Thompson has written this amazing piece for Everyday Feminism titled 4 Ways Fat People Need to be Included in Reproductive Justice.  I know Ali has done a LOT of research on this topic and really worked hard on this piece – and it shows.

Alysse Dalessandro does consistently good work on multiple platforms, both as a businesswoman with Ready to Stare, her indie fashion store, and with her writing.  This piece she wrote recently interviewing a whole host of people about body positivity is exceptionally good (and includes yours truly!)

Aarti Olivia Dubey of Curves Become Her is also another consistently strong voice, and covers an incredibly broad range of topics.  Plus she’s as cute as hell with her fatshion!

Michelle Allison aka The Fat Nutritionist never ceases to rock my world with her work on food and the culture around food.

Kelli Jean Drinkwater recently gave a fantastic and powerful talk for TedX Sydney.  Don’t miss it.

Finally, there are two fat podcasts I never miss.  Cat Pausé of Friend of Marilyn has a fantastic podcast which brings good value every week, including guests from all over the world.  And if you’re not listening to Ariel and KC of Bad Fat Broads, you’re missing out on so much.  Entertaining, thought provoking and sharp as hell.  And Ariel manages to make me laugh out loud on the train at least once per podcast.  I love you Ariel!

There are others out there, but these are the ones I’m really, really into at the moment.

Finally, I’m adding a donate function to this blog.  Cos I wanna do more activism stuff and I can’t do it without fundage.  I’m not going to harass people to donate and I don’t expect anyone to give if they can’t afford it.  I’ll keep it to a donate button on the page and a note in the footer of each post.  But if you can help, and want to support me in doing more activism work, I’ve got a GoFundMe here, or the donate button over there on the right side of the page.

Marketing to Fat Women – This Is How You Do It

Published June 19, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Oh. My. Glob.  Have you seen the new video from department store JCPenney “Here I Am”?  No?  Ok, watch this…

I mean what can I say?  It’s wonderful!  Including actual fat women, including fat women of colour.  Doing kick-arse stuff.  With nary a word about “health”.  No “plus-size” models that wouldn’t actually wear the plus-size range.  No faux-bo-po slogan accompanied by a bunch of tall, hourglass, white women.  Fat women actually speaking about themselves and their own experiences.  Fat women showing that you can have an amazing life, exactly as you are.

I am not ashamed to admit that this made me cry.  In a good way I mean.  I was just so overjoyed to see how fat women are represented in this video, I burst into tears.  Which is really saying something.  I don’t cry about fat stuff any more.  None of it ever reaches me emotionally – I’ve grown so jaded and frustrated at the way we’re portrayed, the way nobody has listened to us, the way businesses insult and disrespect us and then expect us to give them our money.  I’ve never felt represented by marketing that was supposed to be aimed at me, and certainly not by the media.

But this… this is everything I’ve been banging on about for YEARS, trying to get brands and marketing to understand.  That they can market to us in a positive, aspirational way that INCLUDES us.  That says “We see you, and here are some products that we’ve got for you.  We’d like you to shop with us.”

It shouldn’t be that hard.  I mean we’ve known for years what we want from them.  We’ve been saying it for so long, and until now, none of the major brands and marketers have bothered to actually listen.

I really hope that JCPenney continue this kind of marketing, and that they don’t fold at any of the bullshit criticism that you KNOW will come.  All that crap about “glorifying obesity” and “unhealthy lifestyles” – as though a group of amazing, accomplished fat women are somehow a danger to society.  As though fat women don’t actually need clothing to suit their lifestyles right here and now.  I know the hot takes are going to be coming out very soon, all the armchair experts are going to crawl out of their holes and try to shout JCPenney into ditching this campaign.

Well, we’ll just have to be louder.  Tell JCPenney that they’ve done good things with this, use the hashtag #HereIAm to share your posts, pictures, outfits etc.  Tell other brands that you wish their marketing could be like this campaign.  And if you can, buy stuff from JCPenney – especially Ashley Nell Tipton’s new range when it comes out, which I believe will run to a size 34US, which is bloody amazing.  They also have another range I understand goes up to a 5X.  I know I will be shopping from them as soon as I can, even if they don’t have something totally my style, I’m sure I can support their plus-sizes somehow!

Well done JCPenney – keep up the good work, and thank you to all those involved in this campaign, especially the amazing fat women who have put themselves front and centre to represent us.

Is Radical Fat Activism Dead?

Published June 9, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

I was just reading this post over at Fatty Unbound, about why she no longer blogs about fatshion, and I was just hit with such a wave of sadness.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why she, and so many others have decided to give up blogging – I have a lot of the same feelings myself and it makes it really hard to keep blogging the way I used to.  But understanding why doesn’t mean I’m any less sad that so many amazing, bold, innovative fat activists and/or bloggers are deciding to pack it in.

The reality is, body politics have been branded and corporatised.  Companies are taking the work that we did, for generations – remember fat activism has been around since the 60’s, and they sanitise it, sand back the rough edges, take out all the radical messages and sell it back to us, as this awful, bland, homogeneous pap called “body positivity”.  And so many people just lap it up.  Many through no fault of their own – they simply haven’t seen any alternative.  The brands and those who are keen to represent them simply have volume and a bigger platform than your average radical fat activist.

And look, I get it.  It’s bloody hard work to keep up as a radical fat activist.  This shit grinds you down.  It takes a lot of emotional energy to step up and put your life out there as a fat person.  There aren’t a lot of rewards for the average fat woman to put herself on the internet and speak up for fat women’s rights – unless you’re young, white, cisgender, able-bodied, a smaller fat, have an hourglass or pear shape, have a pretty face and have access to a lot of new clothes, makeup and photography, and are willing to smile and play along with the expectations of the brands who will fund you if you’re a nice, good fatty.

There are also a lot of negatives that come with being a visible fat woman.  The constant stream of concern trolling, ignorance and sheer bigotry you have to face is so corrosive, it eats away at your energy levels and is so frustrating dealing with people who refuse to listen or think about the ignorance they’ve swallowed and regurgitated for so long.  On top of that there is the abuse and harassment.  The constant barrage of shitty little people who have nothing better to do than either wank over you or spend every minute of their time trying to find some way to hurt you.  Or in many cases – both.  The same people who profess they hate you and find you repulsive are the ones wanking furiously over pictures of you.

These things are so bloody hard to deal with.  So I fully understand why so many fat women just decide “Fuck it, I don’t want to deal with this any more.”

But… I still feel sad that this is happening.  I feel so sad that brands and haters have pushed us out of OUR space.  It is ours.  It doesn’t belong to them.  They haven’t worked and fought so hard to carve out this space in the world, despite so many telling us we’re unworthy of it.

I feel sad that there are so many fat women who are missing out on what I found all those years ago – radical fat activism that blew apart my world and shook me to the core.  That helped me give up the endless cycle of self hate and suspension of actually living that was my life.  That inspired me to take up fat activism myself, and tell my story and start showing people like me that we do not have to be classed as inferior to people who have smaller bodies than we do.

I don’t really believe radical fat activism is dead – there are still some amazing people out there doing some incredible work.  I think I’ll do a post over the weekend with some links to the ones I really love.  But the numbers are dwindling.

What I really want is for those of us who feel like we’re being pushed out of our spaces and shouted down by brands and haters that we’re not going away.  We’re not letting them shove us out of our spaces, and that all of us that don’t fit their little plastic boxes are still here, we still have voices and we’re still going to celebrate who we are.  I want all the unruly fat women, the ones that are ignored by the brands and told they’re not good enough by the haters to put on an outfit that makes them feel good (regardless of what anyone else thinks about it), hold their head up high and stick their middle fingers in the air and declare “I have the right to exist and be seen in this world too.

Here, I’ll go first.

Photo by Paul Harris

Photo by Paul Harris

Winners – Online Registration for Fat Studies: Identity, Agency, Embodiment Conference

Published May 22, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

As promised, I’ve just drawn the two winners for the online registration for the Fat Studies: Identity, Agency, Embodiment conference!

I had 11 entries (one commenter asked not to be entered to the competition) and used an online random number generator to pick the two winners.  The first one is…

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Number 9 – spunkysarsapirella

And the second one goes to…

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Number 3 – Dizzyd

I will be in touch with you both shortly to arrange your online registration.  Congratulations!

For the rest of you who are interested, you can still get online registration here for the conference.  It’s a bargain at $50NZ, you get access to all of the presentations via both livestream and on demand.  It’s the next best thing to being there in person!

Get on it, it’s gonna be awesome!

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Competition! Win an Online Registration for Fat Studies: Identity, Agency, Embodiment Conference

Published May 15, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello!  It’s all happening here – thanks to those of you who donated, promoted and shared my GoFundMe campaign, I raised a neat $2000 to get me to New Zealand to present my paper at the 2016 Fat Studies: Identity, Agency Embodiment Conference next month.  I am SO excited about being able to attend and present this year, I did so four years ago at the first conference, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.  Not only to go and be amongst scholarly thinking about fat but also to be amongst a community of fat people and allies.

I am also completely gobsmacked at just how generous and supportive so many people have been in getting me there.  It’s been a big couple of months for me, as well as all of this, my Grandad passed away, and I’m working on a really big project with my day job, and having so much support and encouragement for my activism has really help shore me up in an otherwise intense time in my life.  So to all of you who contributed in whatever way, thank you so much.

Now, on to the meaty stuff of this post!  One of the awesome things about this upcoming conference is that for those who are unable to travel to New Zealand, there will is an online registration available.  This gives you access to both live stream and view on demand professional video recordings of the event (including each of the presentations) and the conference programme.  It’s a bargain at $50NZ and you can get it here.

Also, I’ve got two online registrations to give away!  So two of my lucky readers will be signed up for online registration, and get to enjoy the conference and all the on demand videos!  How cool is that?

And look at what you get to enjoy!  Keynote speakers Katie LeBesco and Substantia Jones.  And two days full of speakers like Jenny Lee, Amy Farrel, Xavier Watson, Hannele Harjunen and Cat Pausé of course!  Oh, and me!

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Online promotion flyer 1

Now, I know you want to know how to enter.  I’m gonna make it pretty easy for you.  All you need to do to qualify to go in the draw is leave a comment below answering this one question:

What one thing would make you feel liberated as a fat person?

There is no correct/winning answer, I just want to know what liberation looks like to all of you (and it helps me weed out the trolls).  It could be anything, what matters to you is different to what matters to the next person, though I daresay we probably share a lot of them!

Here, I’ll even give you some help, here’s my answer.

I’d feel really liberated as a fat person if I could exist in the world without the constant surveillance I am subjected to.  Without people staring, ogling my food choices and grocery shopping, sneaking photos of me in public, nudging each other to point me out and poring over my online presence out of some perverse need to watch me at all times.  It would be so freeing to not have to deal with that every day.

Entries are one per person and you have a week to enter – I will draw the winner (by numbering all valid entries and then drawing a random number) next Sunday night, 22nd of May, 2016 and I will contact the winners by email (so please make sure to use your emails in the comment login field in WordPress!)

So there you go.  Good luck and I can’t wait for the conference to happen so that I can tell you all about it.

Help Get This Fatty to New Zealand!

Published March 29, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Well, I’m tickled pink to announce that I have been accepted to present a paper at the 2016 New Zealand Fat Studies: Identity, Agency and Embodiment Conference in Palmerston North in June.  My paper, with the tongue-in-cheek working title “Hey! Fat Bitch!” will be on the long term abuse and harassment that fat people (particularly women and girls) face, be it from family, peers or strangers and how that affects our quality of life.

But… I need some help.  I have been working as a fat activist now for over 7 years without ever seeking any funds from anywhere.  I’ve been able to go to conferences in Sydney in 2010 and Wellington in 2012 (you can read my papers for those conferences at the links provided), done countless events and projects at my own cost and have been engaging with the media all over the world for free to fight to make the world a better place for fat people.  Unfortunately, what with the growing cost of living… it’s getting harder and harder to participate in these things when they are costing me my limited funds to do so.  I do not have advertising on this blog (except for the WordPress one that only people without a WordPress account can see, which I get no revenue from) and don’t even do reviews for product any more.

So I’m asking if folk can help me get to New Zealand with a GoFundMe campaign.  I am seeking to raise the cost of flights, accommodation and the corresponding insurance, plus registration for the conference.  Or at least put a significant dent in those costs!

As well as attending the conference, delivering my paper and reaping the networking rewards that I hope to be able then plough back into my activism, I hope to be able to write complimentary articles about the conference and the people involved that I can publish here for all of you.  I am also hoping to be able to engage the media in both Australia and New Zealand in some fat positive articles, because every little bit of positive  media helps shift the narrative from “the war on obesity” to “fat people have rights too”.  I hope to be able to blog both on the road (I’m already thinking of some pieces about flying while fat, and the cultural differences between New Zealand and Australia when it comes to fatness) and around the actual date.

The other good news is that there will be an online registration available for those who wish to either live stream or view on demand the presentations from the conference, which will include mine!  For more information on the conference, go to the conference page here.

So, all it leaves me to ask here is that if you can donate, any amount at all, it would be most appreciated.  And if you could share the link to either this post or my GoFundMe page around your social media, you’d be doing me a huge favour.

Let’s Get This Fatty to New Zealand!

A Tribute to Nurse Kellye

Published March 27, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Do you ever watch an old TV show that you thought you knew really well, and find a whole bunch of new things about it that you missed when you first watched it?  Especially watching something as an adult that you watched as a kid – you notice characters that you didn’t before, story threads that weren’t easy to pick up on unless the series was seen in order, brief roles by people who later became famous, or just understanding jokes and references that went over the head when you were a kid.

Like most people of my generation, I grew up on a solid diet of M*A*S*H – it started the year I was born and I can’t ever remember it not being on television.  It was a firm favourite of everyone in my household – which now surprises me as it’s very progressive for it’s time and I would not have expected it to be popular with my conservative parents.  If it was showing somewhere on TV, then the channel got switched over so we could all watch it.

Recently my library service added the entire collection of M*A*S*H to the catalogue, and as it had been some years since I’d even seen an episode, I decided to wade in and watch the entire 11 seasons.  It’s been MONTHS since I started and I’m only up to Season 10 right now, but I’m on the home run and while I’m sure I’d seen every episode already, I have learnt so much about the series and characters while I’ve been watching.  Like what?  Well, let’s see…

  1. It’s highly likely that my first love as a child was Major Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers) and even now, my heart still flutters at the mere thought of him.
  2. Loretta Swit never got near enough credit for where she took the character of Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan over the life of the show – from a goofy comedy foil to a nuanced, complex woman character whose storylines really pushed the boundaries of women’s roles even in the 70’s, let alone the 50’s in which the series is set.
  3. Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) can be a colossal jerk at times.
  4. The most consistently good acting (both comedic and serious) in the entire series was Gary Burghoff, who plays Walter “Radar” O’Reilly.
  5. As an adult, I like Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) more than I liked Colonel Blake (McLean Stevenson) as a kid.
  6. BJ Hunnicut (Mike Farrell) was probably the most decent character amongst the core cast.  All of the characters were flawed, but BJ seemed to always be a good guy.
  7. Klinger (Jamie Farr) was hilarious in his dress up days, but a much more nuanced character once he got out of the frocks.

But there’s one thing I’ve really discovered as I’ve watched the series.  My favourite character isn’t any of the above central characters.  My favourite character is lucky to have one or two lines per episode and her story isn’t always consistent.  In fact her name isn’t always consistent.  She is a short, chubby woman of colour.  She is Nurse Kellye, played by Kellye Nakahara.

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Nurse Kellye is probably in more episodes than anyone else, except Hawkeye, who was in every episode.  She’s always there – in the background in the mess tent, working diligently in the OR or Post-Op.  She dances with almost every major male character in the Officer’s Club at some point over the series.  In the later series, she has a line or two in almost every episode, and in the final series she has a whole episode to herself.  Her surname changes repeatedly throughout the show (sometimes they even use the actress’ real surname Nakahara for the character – it’s never really outlined what her full name is) as does her heritage.  At one point she mentions that she’s part Chinese, part Hawaiian, but later on she’s referred to as Japanese-Hawaiian.  We do know that her rank is Lieutenant at least.

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But she’s always there.  How many other women that look like Kellye Nakahara can you name in ANY television series, let alone one from the 70’s and 80’s who is always there, and is always shown as smart, competent, compassionate and professional?  How many chubby women of colour characters can you name that aren’t the butt of a joke, or portrayed as klutzy, or incompetent, or over-sexed, or silly?

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But there Nurse Kellye is, with her cute pigtails and sweet face, pretty much every episode, working beside the doctors and even respected by all of them – which is saying something when you remember Hawkeye’s attitude to the nurses.  She’s multi-lingual, a dedicated and more-than-competent nurse whom the doctors look to for information and advice on more than one occasion.  I particularly like that she was repeatedly shown socialising with Major Winchester – from being his dinner date when Klinger had set up a fancy restaurant in the mess tent, to asking him to dance (and he accepts graciously) in the Officer’s Club when a visiting USO performer strikes up a polka.  She wasn’t the butt of a joke in those scenes, she was just a woman socialising with her male colleague.

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When she does get to participate in a joke, she gets to be part of the gag, rather than be the butt of it.  Her flirting with Hawkeye when he is working in Rosie’s bar is not a joke at her expense, it’s her being cheeky to her colleague, an officer who outranks her, who has ended up serving behind the bar in the local den of iniquity, subverting the joke that has her as the GI chasing the bar-staff, rather than it being his usual role.

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In an era when women of colour were scarce on our TV screens and women who were not slim and “pretty” by conventional standards were almost always the objects of ridicule, seeing a consistently positively portrayed Asian-American woman with a short and chubby frame is SO refreshing.  We know that Nichelle Nicholls is a trailblazer in television with her role as Uhura in Star Trek, but has anyone ever acknowledged Kellye Nakahara for her 165 episodes of pure badass awesomeness in M*A*S*H?  We almost never see women like her in roles today, so there is no doubt at all that she too, was a trailblazer for her time.

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