Coming Out of the Fat Acceptance Closet

Published May 8, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Well, it’s been an interesting week.  The big news of course for me is that my submission for the Australian Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue conference has been accepted and I’ve been invited to give a presentation at the conference in Sydney in September.  Not only am I honoured to be invited, but I’m also thrilled that as far as I know, this is the first time that fat people have been asked to participate in the discussion with academia.  Normally folks talk about us, not with us, you know?

One of the things I’m having to come to terms with is coming out of the closet so to speak as a fat acceptance blogger/activist in my day to day life.  Mostly at work I don’t talk about fat acceptance or the stuff that I do as an activist in the cause.  This isn’t because I’m ashamed of it or embarrassed by it – but simply because I’m mostly too busy at, and there is an element of “this is my workplace, I can’t piss people off here”.  And I know that my passion for fat acceptance over-rides my tact sometimes, so I kind of just take that hat off at work a wee bit.

However, with my absolute beside myself excitement over the Fat Studies conference, and a few other things lately, I’ve found myself quite proudly wearing that fat acceptance hat all the time.  It’s such a fabulous hat, you know?  I don’t want to leave it at home.

In response to my talking about fat acceptance amongst friends and colleagues, a few times someone has said to me “You are so brave to put yourself out there.”  I’ve felt a little uncomfortable with that, because I don’t feel brave or anything.  But then I was listening to the Two Whole Cakes Fatcasts that Marianne Kirby and Leslie Kinzel are doing at the moment, and I found myself thinking “They’re so brave.”

And they are.  So am I for that matter.  It’s not easy putting yourself out there on the subject of fat, simply because there is so much loathing, fear and hostility around it.  But I don’t do it to be brave, and while I can’t speak for Marianne and Leslie, it seems neither do they.  I think we do it because it’s the right thing to do, and because we want to make a difference.  Ladies, please correct me if I’m wrong.

Something Leslie said in the first fatcast really stuck with me.  Forgive me as I’ve paraphrased it, but basically “every time a fat woman gets out of bed, gets dressed and leaves the house she’s being an activist”.  It’s bloody true!!

Fat women are supposed to be apologetic for existing.  We’re supposed to be invisible, demure, quiet, ashamed and embarrassed.  We’re supposed to dress in shapeless, dark colours, apologise for taking up space in the world, shrink down (both figuratively and literally), pay more for everything (clothes, seats on airplanes, underwear, health care, you name it), to make excuses for ourselves, to be invisible.

So when we’re not invisible, when we talk about being fat, when we accept ourselves for who we are, as we are, when we live life to the full, bold and brilliant, when we are outspoken or confident, when we choose to clothe ourselves in things that make ourselves noticeable, we’re even more of an activist than just existing.

It isn’t easy.  Not only are you dealing with your own demons, a lifetime of fat hate heaped on you that you have to battle to re-claim your self esteem and confidence, but you’re scrutinised and inspected to the nth degree, just in case you make a mistake, or have an error in something you say, or are misinformed.

You’re also dealing with a whole lot of hatred in the form of the trolls you get on your blogs and anywhere else you’re active.  Some fatosphere bloggers don’t have much problem with it, but some of us get hammered every day by some douchebag who posts comments spewing their narrow minded hate.  Even when you have a good platform to deal with them, and get rid of them individually pretty quickly, there is another to take their place.  Why on earth anyone would want to waste their time on trolling blogs I’ve never understood, but one has to have a strong self esteem to deal with these morons.

But we keep going.  We keep blogging, talking about fat acceptance, feminism and body politics.  We keep doing it because it’s important to us.  A quote I love (and that I can’t work out who said it originally, sometimes the internets make it harder to find information than easier) and that sums up the whole shebang for me:

Courage is not the absence of fear but the awareness that something else is more important than fear.

I’ll talk more about the results of my coming out of the fat acceptance closet as time goes by and I find out how more and more people in my life react to it.

Are you active about fat acceptance in your day to day life?  How do your family, colleagues, friends etc respond to your fat acceptance activisim/beliefs?

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17 comments on “Coming Out of the Fat Acceptance Closet

  • I’ve read your blog for ages, but never commented — on this post, however, I simply had to, because it rings /so true/ to my experience. I’m writing the final paper in one of my classes on fatness in America, and I simply agonized about whether or not I should pick this topic, even though I really wanted to write on it and I had a lot to say.

    I worried about what my professor would think about me after reading my proposal, and even once I resolved that, I was absolutely terrified about giving a presentation of my research in front of the whole class. I am /never/ afraid of public speaking, but I almost couldn’t talk I was shaking so hard.

    It felt like I was coming out as a fat chick, even though anyone could tell that just by looking at me. I’d read in the literature the comparison of FA with the coming out process, but honestly, I was more worried about this presentation in class than I had been about telling my parents that I am queer. I felt like I was saying look at me, I’m fat, almost like I was giving everyone permission to judge me just for pointing it out. It was very strange, and it actually (in the end, once I got over myself and just did it) ended up strengthening my commitment to FA. If I’m so scared about talking academically about fat, about even using the word “fat” as opposed to “obese,” clearly we must be on to something.

    The presentation ended up going well, by the way. Everyone was enthusiastic about my research and several people demonstrated that they were well-read in fat studies and sympathetic to the movement. That class period was the most intense shift between terror of and affection for my classmates, seriously.

    • Becca, I’m glad to hear that it went well for you. Gives me heart that I’ll be fine as I “come out” more with people who aren’t as close to me.

      You know, I’m not scared about presenting at the conference, but I am definitely nervous about my colleagues and acquaintances knowing about my fat acceptance activisim. Thank God for the friends close to me who are always there to support me.

  • my comment is not so much about fat acceptance. But more about acceptance in general. Every time my two young girls (6 & 8) mentioned something that wasn’t “the norm” in people. whether it be a birth mark. Or handicapped. And of course overweight. I would tell them “everybody’s different”. Now they never seem to judge anyone. And more than that. When the recent debate about boat people was on the news. Some racist assclown was on TV criticizing Muslims and my 8yo shook her head and asked me what was wrong with him. And said everybody’s different Daddy.

    I personally don’t understand having hatred for complete strangers. Especially based on their body size. Life’s too short folks.

    Best of luck at the Sydney thing. I am sure you will knock them dead there. Anyway folks. keep fighting the good fight of acceptance. And teaching people to love themselves. And others !

    cheers

    Kirk

    • And that is why I am proud to call you one of my friends Kirk.

      Seriously, if it wasn’t for people like you, those friends who are my support network and who encourage me along, I wouldn’t be half the woman I am today.

  • Family knows I’m an FA blogger, they read my blog. My husband’s family, on the other hand, even tho they know I’m into FA, are still of the mindset that dieting works. We’re all on Facebook, and I keep posting FA things to my wall and sharing them with everyone I’m friends with. I figure eventually it may get through to them that they don’t have to wait until they hit that “magic” number on the scale to love themselves, but if not, at least I tried. And every time they see me, they see that I’m not dieting, that I don’t care what other people think about my size, what I eat, what I wear, or what I look like, and that I love me just as I am.
    As for trolls, real-life and blog, well, most of them I don’t know and will never know. I won’t have to interact with them on a daily basis so who cares what they think. I have a lot of snippy comebacks for any comments I happen to hear from the real-life ones, and the blog ones get deleted without any further thought. I don’t have the time or the Sanity Watchers points or the teaspoons to deal with their ignorance.

  • I have the same thing with Facebook – I post a lot of FA stuff. Some people get it and support me, others try to sneak a dig in from time to time about “If I just ate healthy and exercised… blah blah blah.”

    I’m collecting some of the really good comebacks for the trolls. They’re stupid though – with WordPress I can see their IP and a quick IP Lookup search tells me a WHOLE lot of information about them. Some of them are people I know in real life, who think I don’t know it’s them. Others are just the randoms.

  • I hear ya. I’m out there in many ways, blog, youtube, facebook, myspace, twitter and the haters somehow find me. They want to put me in my place. They want me to starve or they straight up tell me I should die. When we talk about Fat Advocacy people want to tell us that racial prejudice is different because people of color have no choice but we as “fatties” choose to be unhealthy bla bla bla…it’s sickening. But I wont’ shut up and I won’t disappear. There are others out there who are timid and sensitive who need to see us being proud of who we are. Congratulations on the conference in Sydney!
    I hope they publish or broadcast the talks. Lots of love to you!!! And thanks.

  • Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian,

  • Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian,

  • I’m going to be at (at least one day of) the Fat Studies conference as an audience member, not a presenter. So I’ll see you there! What is your presentation on?

    • That’s awesome Frances. I’m really looking forward to meeting all of my FA “sisters” (and any brothers that may turn up too) most of all.

      I will be talking more about my topic closer to date, but it’s around the “War on Obesity” and it’s effect on the “obese” – ie… us fatties.

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