The Competition is a Lie

Published July 18, 2015 by sleepydumpling

Well hello!  I’m still here, still alive (I know fat haters, you had me pegged as dying by the time I was 40!) and still keeping up with the fatosphere.  I know, I’m not writing as often as I used to – I have to focus on the boring stuff of life so much more these days, like working and paying the bills, there’s not as much time and energy to spend writing, which really bums me out.  But I am here, and I do continue to share a lot of stuff on my Facebook page.

Today I want to share some wisdom with you all.  Triggered by a couple of things really, I want to talk to all the women out there about self esteem and how you view/treat other women.  I’m currently reading a thesis I recently participated in (Tayla Hancock: Life in This Fat Body) and am hearing some of the other participants stories of how they feel in comparison to other women.  The other trigger is the almost constant surveillance I receive other women in public.  I’m sure many of you have experienced it, being out in public when you  notice a woman look you up and down (the old body check), focus on something about you (for me it’s usually my rather prodigious belly!) and then you see the expression of superiority and disdain travel across their face.  You know the look.  “Well, at least I’m not THAT fat/don’t have a big belly/fat arms/big butt etc/am prettier than her.”

I recently even had someone admit on my Facebook page that even though they’re a fat woman themselves, they find themselves looking at other women and thinking those very things.  My answer to her was “Don’t think that those women don’t know you’re doing that.  Because we do.”

I want to let you in on a little secret.  Judging other women will not fix your bad self esteem.

It won’t.  It might make you feel superior for a few minutes, but the minute you see another woman who you think is prettier/thinner/better than you, then your self esteem is going to crumble all over again.

For those of you who are subjected to the judgement of women needing to feel superior to you, take heart, their perception of superiority to you is no real reflection on your value.   Their critique means nothing.

Let’s face it – we women are taught from birth that our appearance is the most important thing about us and that life for women is a competition with each other.  To get the “best” man, “best” job, “best” home, “best” family etc we must be “better” than other women.  So it’s only understandable that we grow up to engage in those really crappy behaviours towards each other.  The reason that we do this, isn’t because we’re women, but because women are taught by our culture that we’re SUPPOSED to do this.  After all, how often do you see that in popular culture – the trope that women have to compete over a guy, or something else.  We’re not allowed to compete for things like sport or skill, as that would be “unlady-like”, but if we want the thing that’s held up to us as the ultimate goal for women – the attention of men, then we’re expected to fight tooth and claw for it.  It’s a false value system.  The truth is, the attention of men is of low value and all too abundant.   You really don’t have to compete with other women to get it, if that’s what you want.

That said, because it’s deeply ingrained and we’re taught by society that it’s how we’re supposed to behave, doesn’t make it OK.  Before we look at any benefits to ourselves, we need to be asking “Is this the right way to be treating other women?  Would I like to be treated this way?”  I’m pretty sure for most of us, the answer is a very firm no.

There is no competition.  By competing with other women, you instantly lose.  Every. Single. Time.

The way to make things better for yourself is not by pushing others down, but by recognising that we all have value and that womanhood is not a zero sum game.  The more we see value in women in general, the more we can recognise our own value.  Besides, beauty is false social economy as it does not belong to you – it’s fake currency metered out by our culture –  society can and does revoke it in a heartbeat, taking a woman from valuable to not in moments.

There are some really important facts for us to understand when it comes to our value as human beings, and to put us firmly on the path to building better self esteem.

Firstly, other women’s appearance, bodies, lives and success have absolutely no relevance to your value as a woman.  Womanhood and your value as a person is not a competition, and other women being successful or prettier or thinner than you does not make them superior to you as a human being.   Your value is something intrinsically tied to YOU, not to other people in relation to you.  There is no rank when it comes to womanhood.  There’s no real hierarchy of women.  Sure, a lot of men and society in general would love us to believe that we can be ranked and rated and should be devoting our lives to moving up that hierarchy, but it’s false.  If we are convinced to believe that, then we’re expected to compete for male attention and buy products to make ourselves “better/more worthy”.

Secondly, there will always, be someone thinner, prettier, sexier, better dressed etc than all of us.  Well, except perhaps Beyoncé.  But I can guarantee you, the most gorgeous woman you can think of still sees other women and thinks “I wish my [body part] were more like hers.”  So no matter how much superiority you build up when judging another women, it’s ALWAYS going to come crashing down when you encounter one that you decide has something better than yours.

Self esteem is built by learning your own worth, not measuring other people’s.  Seriously, the most important lesson I have ever learnt in building my self esteem is that by not judging other women, I actually stopped judging myself so harshly.  When I stopped judging other women for what they wear, how they look, the size and shape of their bodies, how they live their lives, suddenly I realised that I felt better about myself.  When you stop playing that constant comparison game, your energy is focused on so many other things and you stop being so critical of yourself.  When you are not constantly looking for someone to be better than, you also stop finding people you feel are better than you.

Finally, I think the most important thing to realise is that women are awesome.  We are.  When you learn to value other women for more than just how small their arse is or how clear their skin is, you realise that being part of womanhood is so richly rewarding.  Making friends with other women and valuing other women teaches you to value and be kind to yourself.  Once you start changing your thinking, it becomes self-perpetuating.  The more you question your attitudes towards other women and change that judgemental thinking, the better you feel about yourself, and then the better you feel about yourself, the less you feel the need to cast judgement on others.

It isn’t an overnight thing and is a learning process.  But the more you practice it, the stronger your own self esteem will get.  But I can tell you now after years of working on it, no amount of sneers at my big belly or fat arms diminishes my value as a woman.

So, the next time you find yourself looking at another woman and thinking “My ***** is better/thinner/prettier than hers.”, ask yourself why it matters.  Ask yourself how you’d feel if she was doing that to you.  And realise that so what if you’ve got a smaller arse than her or whatever.  That reflects only on you, not on her.

Or if you’re like me, and are one of the women who insecure others LOVE to treat with disdain, to use as their yardstick for their own worth, I want you to do something for me.  Next time you  notice it happening, put your shoulders back.  Hold your head up and look that woman in the face and remember that she’s doing it because SHE feels worth less, not because you are worth less.  Don’t give anyone that sense of superiority.  Smile at her, and walk away, rocking your badass, awesome self just as you are.

Fat Activism Is Not About Your Boner

Published June 6, 2015 by sleepydumpling

I think I just got the most ridiculous email I have ever received in my life.  Here is a screen cap:

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Here’s my open letter to Matt:

Dear Matt,

I couldn’t give a flying fuck about your boner.  My value, and the value of other fat women on this earth, is not measured by whether or not we give some random douchebag a boner.

The reason you can’t “attract women” has nothing to do with you having Asperger’s syndrome, it’s because you’re a judgemental fuck who thinks that women are on this planet for you to stick your dick in.  Or in your words ogle/fuck/date/marry.  Don’t use your Asperger’s as an excuse, plenty of aspie people find sexual partners and loving relationships – why?  Because they don’t treat prospective partners as though they owe them sexual attraction.

We don’t need to fix your fat hatred so that you get a boner for us.  There are plenty of men who value us and treat us as their equals, not living sex dolls.  If you want to expand your options for a relationship, try improving yourself, not demanding others perform for you.

It is not our job to help you find us sexually attractive.  It’s YOUR job as a human being to treat fat women with the dignity and respect that is our human right, whether you find us attractive or not.  Emailing a fat woman to tell her you find her and women like her “repulsive” is not treating them with dignity and respect.  It is also YOUR job to treat ALL women as human beings, not receptacles for your penis.  Until you do so, keep your sad little limp dick to yourself.

Yours sincerely

Kath

P.S.  Fuck you and your “large bodies repulse me”.  YOU repulse me with your misogyny and fat hatred.  And yes, YOU are showing your fat hatred by referring to us as “repulsive”.

I can't remember where I found this image, but it suits this piece perfectly.

I can’t remember where I found this image, but it suits this piece perfectly.

Honestly, it’s times like these that I could smack men like this in the dick with a frozen spoon and really keep the boners away.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Furious and Furiosa!

Published May 31, 2015 by sleepydumpling

Heads up, this post is going to be chock full of spoilers.  Continue on at your own peril!

So I am fresh home from a lovely day out with friends which included seeing Mad Max: Fury Road at the cinema this afternoon, and I cannot NOT blog about this one.  Holy crap what a movie!  I don’t normally do review type posts for movies unless they have a distinct fat theme, but this is one that I just HAVE to write about.

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I actually wasn’t going to see Fury Road at the cinema originally.  I had seen the original trilogy back when they first came out but wasn’t particularly attached to them in any way.  I remember the first one being extremely violent, and the third being kind of cheesy, but hadn’t given them much thought since then.  I had been seeing bits and bobs about Fury Road in the media for some time, and while I was thrilled to see that Tom Hardy was cast as Max (he’s wonderful in everything), I am not really much of an action movie fan, so I wasn’t all that interested.  But I’d seen some good press about it a while ago, some friends had really raved it was going to be great so I thought I might go and see it in the cinema, because it’s good to support the Australian film industry, but thought if I missed it, I wouldn’t be that bothered.

But then the “Men’s Rights Activists” started whining about it being “feminist propaganda” and I was INSTANTLY thinking “Oh sign me up for this one then!”  Anything that pisses off the MRA’s can have my money, just for shits and giggles.

Before I go on, there is a lot of talk from all perspectives about Fury Road being a “feminist movie”.  Now personally, I don’t believe there really is such thing as a “feminist movie”, short of perhaps a biopic about famous feminists or a story about the history of feminism.  What most people really mean when they suggest a film is a “feminist movie” is that it either approaches the story from a woman’s perspective, or that it simply treats women as human beings with agency over themselves.  I know, doesn’t take much to get that “feminist” label, does it?

What Mad Max: Fury Road is however, is 120 minutes of strap yourself in, hang on tight and try to remember to breathe occasionally top shelf cinema.  Right from the beginning you are thrown in to some intense action and it barely lets up for the entire movie.  I cannot remember the last time I saw a film that had me white knuckle, breath-holding, “Holy shit!” uttering engaged from beginning to end.

Now I must say, I am not normally an action movie fan.  Mostly I find them boring, because while there are lots of jaw dropping stunts and big explosions, they usually lack good narrative and engaging characters.  I need to be attached to at least one character and to feel like I’m being taken along in a story to be engaged in a film.  Fury Road has got it all.  Wild car chases, fire, big explosions, creepy villains, a flame-throwing guitar player strapped to a huge mobile stack of speakers, dust, desert, and punch ups… but it also has tenderness, courage, intelligence, kindness and a whole lot of heart.

Max is not a testosterone fueled hero.  He is a man suffering obvious PTSD who is facing his greatest fear – of being captured and used as a living “blood bag”.  His terror at being captured by Immortan Joe’s war boys is palpable.  You feel his frantic attempts to free himself from the chains and mask the war boys have put him in.   His only goal is to escape.  It is not revenge, it is not a lust for blood, it is simply escape.  Max isn’t even the protagonist of this film, even though it bears his name.

The true protagonist is the wonderfully named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron).  We don’t know all that much about her.  She drives one of Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who was in the original Mad Max film) war rigs (a big bloody truck).  She has a prosthetic arm.  She is marked with Joe’s brand, as are his war boys, a group of men bred and brainwashed as a kind of cannon fodder.  We soon learn that she is liberating Joe’s five “war brides” – beautiful, fertile young women he has been keeping as his own personal sex slaves and breeding stock.  Later we learn a little more about where she is from, but we never find out how she lost her arm, how she came to be part of Joe’s army.  We can only guess at these things.

Personally I wondered if she may have either been one of his war brides once, or if she had once had the threat of being a war bride, but losing her arm had saved her from that fate?

Furiosa is badass.  At no point are we led to believe that she is any less capable than Max – in fact, thanks to a scene where he fails to shoot The Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter) twice, and she takes the final, and successful, shot using Max as a rifle stand, we know that she is more capable at some things than Max is.  Charlize Theron puts in a hell of a performance, fighting, driving, crawling all over a moving rig, shooting and generally just kicking arse, while also managing to convey a hell of a lot of emotion, and mostly wordlessly.  We see her anger, her fear, her pain, her frustration, her worry clearly on her face.  She cares about the war brides, and she cares about the Vuvalini, her own people, when they enter the story.  At no point is she exacting revenge with her violence, merely seeking liberation for herself and the war brides.  There is one moment that she comes close, but the war brides remind her of her promise to never to kill unnecessarily.

Which brings me to the war brides.  These five beautiful women (played by Zoe Kravitz, Rose Huntington-Whitely, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton) are the embodiment of perfection in this post apocalyptic world, sex slaves of Immortan Joe who has been keeping them in a kind of pampered captivity.  These are five slim, beautiful young women who have been kept as pristine and special as any creature can be in this world.  They are frightened and traumatised.  However, not one of these young women could be called weak.  Joe’s favourite, The Splendid Angharad (Huntington-Whitely) uses her pregnant body as a human shield, they are all handy with a weapon, and willingly fight and work to ensure their freedom.

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I also need to mention here that quite a few people who have already written about this film have raised that it’s very much a white person’s film, and yes, it is predominantly white, but many have dismissed the ethnic backgrounds of Zoe Kravitz, Courtney Eaton and Megan Gale.  There has been a lot of assumption that all of the women in this film are white… they are not.  I also feel that whiteness has been used well – the evil villains could not get any whiter than they are in this film!  The old white men are the bad guys (and they are truly repulsive, Keays-Byrne, Carter and John Howard as The People Eater – those nipple rings! – are all MEGA gross and creepy) using violent young white men as their henchmen.  Would have been good to have some more people of colour on the good guys side to bolster that colonialist metaphor though.

One of the things I loved most about Fury Road was the complete lack of sexual/romantic connection Max has with any of the women.  He respects them.  He helps to protect them.  He even shows tenderness to Furiosa when she is wounded, but it is in no way because of a romantic or sexual connection.  He has spent the past days fighting by her side, and he clearly has respect for her and shows that in his gentleness in treating her wounds.  She is not displayed as sexual, but as strong and brave.  None of the women are subjected to the male gaze from Max or even from Nux (war boy turned rescuer, played by Nicholas Hoult, who manages to STILL look gorgeous while rail thin, bald, scarred and ultra-pallid).  We as the audience are not invited to look at the women sexually except in the context of their vulnerability to the villain, but we don’t see them through his eyes, but we see them through Max’s.  Even though there is a tenderness between Nux and Capable (Keough), it is an emotional tenderness, not sexual.

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Even though Megan Gale as The Valkyrie (holy shit what an amazon that woman is!) has a nude scene, which at first I felt uncomfortable with, I realised that it was right to use her nakedness as “bait” – the Vuvalini only know that one of Imperon Joe’s war rigs is heading towards them – they have no way of knowing that it is Furiosa – what better way to bait Joe and his minions than with a “trapped”, beautiful, naked, young woman to distract them while the Vuvalini can ambush them.  Incidentally, the Vuvalini are mostly badass biker grannies from what is left of a matriarchal society, the one which Furiosa originates from.  She and The Valkyrie are the only young women of the Vuvalini left.

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Badass biker grannies.  I mean do you need anything more to entice you to see this movie?  Plus, the only fat women in the film have a pivotal role in saving the day right at the end, which is pretty bloody awesome.

Look, this is an amazing film.  Yes it’s a rollicking great action ride that takes you along with it and leaves you breathless by the end.  But it’s also a beautifully shot film with tonnes of nuance from it’s cast.  It’s a story of hope,  freedom and the strength of women.  Go see it.

 

 

Helen Garner – Violence and Visibility

Published May 15, 2015 by sleepydumpling

Have any of you read Helen Garner’s recent piece in The Monthly about the way older women in society are treated?  I have, and I can’t leave it alone.  At first glance, I was on board with Helen’s issue, in that yes, it is absolutely true that society in general is terribly patronising and discriminatory towards older women.  But the more I read and the more I thought about her piece, the more I realise that there is a whole lot more that is going on than just an older woman speaking up about cultural attitudes towards older women in general.

Firstly, we can’t go past her public assault of a teenage girl on a Melbourne Street.  I don’t care how annoying teenage girls are being in public, nothing, NOTHING excuses anyone from violently pulling their hair.  Was the girl being annoying and rude – probably.  Does that make it acceptable for Ms Garner to “seize her ponytail at the roots and give a sharp, downward yank” so much that the girls “eyes bulged and mouth was agape”?  No it does not.  There has been a lot of discussion in the media and feminist writing about how inappropriate New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was in his pulling of a café staff member’s ponytail was, yet I’ve not seen one other person step up and say that Ms Garner’s behaviour was unacceptable yet.  People applaud her in the comments on the piece for this behaviour.  She has even been sharing this anecdote to others, and receiving laughter for it, even though she says herself “technically I had assaulted the girl.”  Technically nothing, Ms Garner, you assaulted that girl.  In no way excusing PM Key, his actions were inexcusable, but why is it unacceptable for him to put his hands on a woman’s hair in his words “playfully” but it’s OK for Ms Garner to violently yank the hair of a teenage girl in public?

I think Anne Theriault said it best in this tweet:

We are living in a time where there is a rising rate of violence against women.  The rate of women being murdered by their partners or ex-partners has shot up over the past months.  Women are being harassed and abused via online hate mobs to the point that they have to leave their homes, change careers and radically alter their lives.  Women are even being murdered for standing up about violence against women, and yet we have a public figure who for the mere reason that she’s an older woman, is excused, nay celebrated, for assaulting a teenage girl in public.  Violence against women, no matter who the perpetrators are, or who the victims are, is never acceptable.  Not two days ago there was an article claiming that women must claim a 50% responsibility in domestic violence and feminists spoke up and said “There is never an excuse for violence against women.” yet the same people are cheering Helen Garner on for “Showing it to that teenage brat!”

What is that teaching teenage girls?  Moreover, what is that teaching teenage boys?  In fact, I wonder what she would have done if it had been teenage boys behaving rudely in public?  How would people react if a 71  year old man violently yanked a teenage girl’s hair?

My second issue with Ms Garner is her outrage at being “rendered invisible by age”.  This sentiment has long bothered me, because it shows a blatant unawareness of privilege, and privilege across the spectrum.  It must be tough being rendered invisible by your age, but you have had the privilege of being visible in the first place.  Ask any fat woman, woman of colour, disabled person, poor person or any other marginalised person how they feel about being rendered invisible by age and it’s highly likely they will point out that they were never visible in the first place.  Or in rare cases, if they did have visibility, it wasn’t the nice kind that gets them served in shops, the best seat in a bar or doors held open for them – it’s the kind of hyper-visibility that comes with abuse, ridicule and discrimination.

Ms Garner complains that waiters move her and her friends to the back of a restaurant, at the uncomfortable seats where nobody will see them.  As a fat woman, I’ve never been seated anywhere else, unless I politely but firmly request it.  She complains that people are patronising to her in airports – spend a day with people with disabilities and see just how patronising folk can be to them.  She dares any blood technician to not look her in the eye while drawing blood – ask a black woman how many people look her in the eye when interacting with her.

The reality is, suddenly finding yourself invisible as an older woman is very much a mark of privilege.  Being blissfully unaware of that privilege is pretty insulting to those who have never had it.

To me, the ignorance of privilege and the public assault of a teenage girl are both examples of a distinct lack of self awareness that unfortunately crops up time and time again with white, thin, affluent, able-bodied women in feminism.  Ms Garner, and other women like you, you’re not invisible to those of us you’ve never noticed yourself.

So yes, I agree that in our culture, women are ignored and discriminated against more and more as they get older.  As I am now in my 40’s, I see the vulnerabilities that lie in my future, and I also see the devaluation of older women as members of society.  Older women, particularly older single women, are at the highest risk for poverty and homelessness.  Older women are more likely to be abused and/or neglected by both relatives and professional carers as their health declines with age.  Older women are discriminated against in the workplace more than younger women or men of any age.  These things need awareness and to be addressed.  But we also need to be aware of when we give passes to behaviour from privileged women that we would not tolerate from men.

Not Down with #DropthePlus

Published March 31, 2015 by sleepydumpling

It’s highly likely that you’ve already heard of the campaign #droptheplus, initiated by ex-Biggest Loser host Ajay Rochester and model Stefania Ferrario.  If you’re on Twitter and follow any fat activists at all, most of us have been pretty vocal about it.  If not, Rochester and Ferrario are behind a push to stop the media and businesses using the term “plus-size”.  From what I’ve read, they both believe that referring to women as plus-sized is embarrassing and they don’t like the idea that models who are outside the very thin range that high fashion deems “standard” are called “plus-size”.

I have a lot of serious problems with this campaign.

Firstly, let’s talk about the two women who are spearheading the campaign.  Anything initiated or supported by anyone who was ever involved with The Biggest Loser strikes some serious alarm bells for me.  I know Ajay Rochester has left the franchise and she’s had some criticisms of it, but the fact that she thought it was an acceptable project to ever put her name to is something I find deeply worrying.  It is probably one of the most blatant examples of fat hate and is actually the televised torture and humiliation of fat people.  Nobody who actually really cares about fat people would have anything to do with it.

Then there’s the matter of a woman who is happy to make money out of the plus-size market, even though she isn’t actually plus-sized herself.  Stefania Ferrario is deemed a plus-size model, though, like most other plus-sized models (a tiny few are in-betweenies, with exception of Tess Munster who is actually the first REALLY plus-sized model), she does not have to shop from the plus-size section of any store.    Yet she is employed to sell us plus-sized clothing.  She is a model in a thin body, even if the very dodgy industry refers to her as a plus-size model.  Perhaps if she does not want to be referred to as plus-size, she could campaign for realistically sized models in the entire fashion industry – move away from the extremely thin for “standard” fashion and actually get some fat models who have bodies like the customers they serve for plus-size clothing?  Will she be advocating for more diversity in modelling for clothes, or is she happy to continue being paid to model clothes that actually would never fit the customers she’s supposed to be selling to?

To me, it seems that both Ajay and Stefania are ashamed of being referred to as plus-sized, as do those who support the campaign.  A quick look through the photos on Instagram and Tumblr under that hashtag show that most of the women who support it are either thin, or at most, in-betweenies.  So these are women who either are, or can pass as, not-fat.  Which tells me that most of these women are actually on this campaign because they don’t want to be considered fat, probably because they believe that fat is a bad thing.  There is a lot of rhetoric in the campaign about “all women being normal”, but I don’t see anyone with a body like mine being celebrated as “normal” as part of this campaign.

I do have a problem with people who don’t actually need to shop in the plus-size section, or those who have more options than others in plus-sizes, having any say on whether or not we use that term.  If you’re a thin woman, or even a smaller fat, why is it any business of yours to demand that anyone not use a term to describe their own bodies?

The only reason it would be “embarrassing” to be referred to as plus-size is if you think being plus-sized is a bad thing. This is another example of how the body positive movement excludes fat people, by suggesting it’s embarrassing to be identified as one of us.

Fat activists and fatshion bloggers have spent a lot of years working very, very hard to improve the market for plus-size clothing.  We’ve worked hard to get the industry taking plus-sizes seriously, and to include us in their merchandise and marketing.  We are still a very, very long way from being where we should be by way of options for fat women, but, there are more and better options now than there were 5 years ago.  That said, if you are over a 2X (or it’s local equivalent), the options dwindle down to very few indeed.  We are still in a time where major retailers exclude plus-sizes by removing them from their stores and expecting plus-sized customers to buy online.  They exclude us by charging ridiculously inflated prices compared to straight-sized clothing.  They exclude us by offering unfashionable styles in dark, dreary colours.  And many, MANY of them simply exclude us by size.  By either not offering a range over a size 14 or 16, or offering only a slightly extended size range, cutting off before actual fat people.  As it stands, at a size 4X I can count on one hand the number of places that carry clothes in my size, and only one of those has styles and colours that I REALLY like, rather than just settle for because I need clothes.

What I would like to know is if Rochester and Ferrario and those supporting the campaign, are campaigning for retailers to include ALL sizes in their clothing ranges.  And I don’t mean just a few extra sizes on top of what is currently considered straight sizes, I mean to AT LEAST a size 5X or 6X.  Because unless they are, this campaign to drop the term plus-size is actually not helping those of us that rely on plus-size ranges.  It is in fact, going to impact negatively on us.  Retailers will feel that it’s acceptable to no longer stock any sizes over their standard range, because they’re going to “drop the plus”.  Which will leave people of actual size with even fewer options than we already have.  The last thing we need is for plus-sizes to be eliminated in any way.

I also want to know how Rochester and Ferrario and their supporters would like to address those of us who are actually fat.   I don’t mean twee euphemisms like curvy, chubby, fluffy, BBW (such a gross concept) or voluptuous.  I mean actually fat.  If they have a problem with the term plus-size, you can bet that also have a problem with the word fat?  Or do they think that there is a limitation on which people get to be considered “normal”?  Are they just moving the bar of “normal” slightly to a place that still excludes many of us?   If they’re not going to use the word “plus-size” to refer to bodies like mine, what word will they use?   I’ll bet my 300lb+ body won’t be considered “normal” by them, so what do they propose I use?  I have the funny feeling that the vilest of all words “obese” will be tabled “because it’s a clinical term”.  HELL NO.  I am not going to be labelled as a disease.

All in all, the #droptheplus campaign is another deeply misguided attempt to create some kind of feel good movement that yet again, excludes those of us at the far end of the bell curve.  And as I said in my last post, if your activism doesn’t include ALL fat people, it is not making any real change.

Each and Every One Of Us

Published March 29, 2015 by sleepydumpling

The fatosphere has a problem.  Put simply, it’s too nice.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be part of the fatosphere, and I think amazing work is being done.  But too many fat people are being left behind.

We spend far too much time trying to accommodate people who hold us back from our rights.  We make space for people who refuse to acknowledge that fat stigma exists.  We allow diet and weight loss rhetoric in our spaces, despite the fact that both are the product of fat hate.  We fold the minute a thin person says “But what about skinny shaming?!” as though they’ve ever been there for us while were dealing with people who would eliminate us altogether, the same people whose silence in the face of the hate and bullying fat people receive is deafening.  We rush to prove that fat people can be healthy, pretty, fit, fashionable, successful, which on the surface is stereotype-busting, but is only a thin veneer over the stigmatisation of less privileged fat people.  We don’t have to be health, fit, pretty, fashionable, successful etc to earn our rights as human beings.

We have rights by default.  They are not something that has to be earned.

There needs to be room for more than just young, white, affluent, able-bodied, straight, smaller-fat, femme presenting, cis-women showing how beautiful they can be and how they’re “valuable” to others.  Because by focusing on the “acceptable fats”, we are inadvertently drawing a line that creates “unacceptable fats”.  And there is something important you all must know…

There are no fat people who are unacceptable.  Not a one.

Not the sick.

Not the disabled.

Not the queer.

Not the trans.

Not the poor.

Not the people of colour.

Not the old.

Not the weird.

Not the ugly.

Not the mentally ill.

Not the extremely fat.

Not the masculine presenting.

No fat person is unacceptable in fat activism.  It is important that when we take up the challenge of demanding dignity and respect for fat people, we need to include ALL fat people, especially those people who aren’t considered “valuable” to society.  Because human value isn’t about being pretty or fashionable or worthy.  All humans, by right of their existence, are valid, valuable people.  Fat people shouldn’t have to prove that they “contribute to society” to be included in fat activism.

I’m not saying that we have to open up the floor to every fat person who wants to have an opinion – plenty of fat people are chock full of internalised fat hate.  Fat liberation to me has no place for diet talk, proselytising weight loss, or any other form of anti-fat rhetoric.  But we need to be making sure that the people who don’t meet the standard of the cute fashion fatty have a seat at the table.

How do we do that?  Well, mostly we do it by watching our own behaviour and making sure we’re not building standards and barriers that exclude and de-value certain people.

We need to stop entertaining those who throw health questions at us.  Firstly it’s none of their business, nobody’s health is their business but their own and secondly rushing to declare that we are healthy throws those fat people with health or disability issues under the bus.  Not to mention that no human being is 100% healthy, all of the time.  We all age, go through illness and injury, and most of us will be subject to disability at some point  – it’s called age.  I’m sure many people mean well when they respond to the health policing with “But my blood sugar levels are fine!” or “I exercise every day!”  But that implies that there is something wrong with people who do have illness, or who are not active.  Again, health and physical activity are nobody’s business but your own.  The answer to the fat hating “But it’s bad for your health!” is not “My health is great!”, the answer is “Other people’s health is none of your business, and my human rights are not affected by my health or lack of it.”

We need to talk about more than access to fashion when it comes to clothes.  That doesn’t mean that we should never talk about plus-size fashion, it means that we need to open up the other issues around clothing for fat people.  When we squee over a new range, do we take notice whether or not that range is accessible to larger fats?  Or is affordably priced for fats on a lower income?

We need to talk about access to comfortable clothes and how fat people wearing comfortable clothing are stigmatised as “sloppy”.  We need to talk about access to work uniforms for fat people, and how without that access fat people are held back from employment opportunities.  We need to talk about access to surgical gowns, wound dressings and medical supports that fit our bodies, and how we are already humiliated in medical settings, without the embarrassment of ill-fitting hospital garments and discomfort of too small dressings/supports.

We need to talk about how larger fats (myself included) are routinely excluded from all of the “exciting” new fatshion collections and ranges, and why this is about more than just business.  We need to talk about how the plus-size clothing industry is terrified of the word fat, or acknowledging that their customers are fat people at all, and how this further stigmatises fat people.  We need to talk about how plus-size customers are treated with shame in retail, both by shaming us and by being ashamed of us.

When it comes to fat activism, we need to make sure we’re not walking over other fat people to raise ourselves and our own needs higher.  We need to examine our own preferences and tastes – why do we share the things we share, and follow the people we follow?  Do we uphold the very prejudices that we’re supposedly fighting against, because we have internalised the same societal bullshit as everyone else?  Are we making sure we represent a diverse range of fat people in all of our work?

What are we doing for the older fatties?  The fatties of colour?  The super fatties?  The ones that don’t care about fatshion?  The ones that can’t afford fatshion, or basic things like medical care and food?  The disabled or chronically ill (physically or mentally) fatties?   The queer fatties?  The trans* fatties?

We need to move beyond focusing on just the cuties, the fatshionable, the young, the social butterflies in the fatosphere.  We need to make it clear that fat rights are for all fat people.  There will be no real valuable social change until we do.

Reality Television – Modern Day Freak Shows

Published March 15, 2015 by sleepydumpling

After 6 years of being a fat activist, there isn’t much that makes my jaw drop in astonishment any more.  I’ve seen every pathetic excuse for fat hate that is out there, trolls stopped being original about 5 and a half years ago, and you name the creepy, cheesy, fatphobic trope in media, I’ve seen it.

But this week, I got a request that absolutely astonished me.  Take a look at this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 7.18.02 pmMy first reaction was to just blink in astonishment.

My second reaction was to see red and for steam come out of my ears.

I think reality tv is crap to begin with.  It’s unimaginative, cut rate content that only exists because the industry is too cheap to pay for good content.  But this really takes the cake.

I am utterly astonished that in the year 2015 anyone would consider a fat person in a relationship as “unique”.  Do they honestly think that approaching a known fat activist looking for “couples that are either in extraordinary situations or in uncommon relationships” is an acceptable thing to do?  Do they honestly believe that a fat person in a relationship is somehow an “extraordinary situation” or an “uncommon relationship”?  If they do, that speaks volumes about their attitude to fat people.

We are not freaks.  We are not a fetish.  We’re not even “uncommon” – we make up 60% of the population.  Being treated like fat people in relationships as being something unique or extraordinary is really dehumanising.  The suggestion is that nobody “normal” could really love a fat person.  Only “unique” and “extraordinary” and “uncommon” people love fat people.  Which is a coded way to suggest weirdos and freaks.

Fat people live the same lives as everyone else.  We have careers, we have relationships, we have families, we pay taxes, we are educated… we have lives.  There is nothing “unique” about it.  The only thing different is the way people treat us because of our bodies.  As if we are not human beings.

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