Feeling Forced

Published January 31, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

I need to get something off my chest.

I know I’ve been a bit quiet here on Fat Heffalump as of late.  I’ve got some personal stuff happening that is proving to be highly stressful and it’s going to be so for the next few months, and work is hotting up on a big project that is also due to reach it’s peak at the end of March.  So my writing mojo is not really what it normally is.  So I’ve been practicing what I preach, and putting some self care practices in place so that I can emotionally and physically get through what is going to be a big upheaval in my life.

However, it doesn’t mean I’m not participating in, or keeping abreast of the happenings of the world of fat activism.

That said, it’s a bit of a phenomenon of being a visible rad fatty that many people send me emails, tweets or posts on other social media spaces showing me links to horrible articles of fat hatred, ask me for advice, or ask me to comment on articles or join in on debates about fat stigma.

Most of the time, I’ll pitch in.  Sometimes I’ll respond with some advice so that they are armed with something to go and respond directly themselves.

But of course, there are times I just want to turn on my computer and read stuff, or chat with people, without being everyone’s agony aunt and rent-a-radical.

Today was one of those days.  I got up, got ready for work, and was on the bus in to work when I was reading through Twitter and Facebook, and checking my emails.  My usual routine.  Yet again, there they were.  The tweets “Have you seen this?! [insert: link into fat-hating article here]”.  The email “Can you come on to my FB page and help me argue with this person [read: fat hating douchecanoe they refuse to unfriend]?”  The FB update where they tag me and expect me to jump in with a piece about the myths about fat and health.

Now look, I am passionate about this stuff.  I want to help where I can.  I want to make a difference.  But I am a human being, and I do have limitations.  Not to mention that I have my own wall of fat hatred I have to fight through in this world.

And I just can’t deal with it at the moment.  I let fly on Twitter with this mini-tirade:

https://twitter.com/#!/Fatheffalump/status/164111690852614144

https://twitter.com/#!/Fatheffalump/status/164112272908750849

https://twitter.com/#!/Fatheffalump/status/164112497115275265

https://twitter.com/#!/Fatheffalump/status/164112743845216256

https://twitter.com/#!/Fatheffalump/status/164113453869572097

It wasn’t aimed at any one in particular, but at ALL of the examples that have been coming through.  Unfortunately though, someone tried to lay a guilt trip on me for pushing back against this expectation of me being constantly available to fight other people’s battles.  When I called them on it, she retweeted me and called me “bitter”.  This is the very same person who wanted me to respond to the fat hatred they pushed at me a few hours before.

It’s exhausting.  It’s invasive.  And it shows a whole lot of indifference to my feelings as a human being.

I know what fat hatred and stigma are.  I see these articles and discussions.  I deal with my own share of fat hatred aimed at me – sometimes more, because I am an outspoken, visible fat woman.  I don’t need them directly sent to me all the time, with the insinuation that I should respond to them, the implication that I should be the one to speak up.  The lovely @mimbles referred to it earlier today as “the everyone else takes one step backwards kind of volunteering!”  When people go “This is horrible!  Something should be done!” and then all step back and wait for someone else to fix it.

It’s not cool.  It makes me feel used.  It leaves me with no space that I can get a rest from the relentless slog that is fat activism.  And it makes me feel that my own needs and life are irrelevant, and that I’m only interesting to people when I’m fighting on their behalf.

I know I’m not the only activist who feels worn down by this at times.

I love, love, LOVE how my activism has brought so many amazing people to my life, how it has given me some fantastic opportunities and how people have so many lovely things to say about me and the work I do.  I love that people trust me, and that people sometimes even look up to me.  I still can’t believe it most of the time, but it is really lovely.

But I need people to remember that I am a person.  One who has feelings, who on top of her activism, has a busy career life, friends, hobbies, responsibilities and her own baggage too – all things that fill my life already, without the time and energy I put into activism.

I hope I’m always here to fight right beside you all against fat hatred and stigma.  But please, don’t push me in front of you on the battlefield.

42 comments on “Feeling Forced

  • *big fat hugs*

    Sorry you’re feeling so overwhelmed right now. If it helps, know that there are plenty of us out here that step up daily, in growing numbers, to tell people that individual bodies are not the property of the Public at large. We are not here for the viewing pleasure/displeasure of someone else. Their opinions about our outside wrappers are only that, and as such are worth less than nothing. Fat people are not second class citizens, and we do not need to know our place, do not need to choose to cover ourselves sufficiently in order to meet their esthetic preferences. Because you *have* chosen to do this work, you and others like you, more and more of us are able to stand up for the right to exist in the bodies we have. We’re starting to take pride in our Earth homes, and sharing the idea that it’s OK to be the very person we are, right this minute. That we don’t need that new renovation, or to hack off entire wings of our homes just to keep up with the Joneses. Don’t for one minute beat yourself up for needing to take care of your own house, hugs.

    • Thank you Sherie. And I know that there are lots of wonderful activists who step up daily to the fray. You’re doing a fantastic job and I am so proud to stand beside so many of you.

  • …Well said! I love to read your posts and yes, that stuff must get more than annoying! Personally, I feel lucky that you have so much time to post here when you could be off being an award winning writer of, I don’t know, other stuff! You have such a gift for writing! Great job and thanks for all you do to promote a more open minded and loving society. Muah!

  • I understand and will be careful not to link you in future. Just a quick POV, I have linked you about twice, I think, to comment threads, but it’s not because I expect you to jump in, it’s because I feel that particular thread could benefit from being introduced to the FA movement, and you are so awesome at conveying what all us fatties feel and go through, that a quick click on your link could open some eyes and make people think. So many of us wish we had the eloquence and ability to put the right words up that you do. I totally get how difficult it must be sometimes to feel you are carrying everyone. Hope life upheaves in the right direction luv, keep being awesome. Love n Light xxx

    • I understand that Katie. Thing is, it gets exhausting being the one who is expected to do the introducing all the time. Feel free to link people back to stuff I’ve already written any time, quote me (with credit of course) or share links generally – it’s when it’s targeted directly at me with the implication that I’m supposed to respond that just does my head in, you know?

  • This makes sense to me! Let’s agree to send Kath a tweet with something funny, new, or interesting instead of another assignment. We support you as a person and need to participate in the battle against hate even if we think we wouldn’t do as well.

    Cheers!

  • Thank you for all that you do. You have opened my eyes to so much. Really appreciate all your hard work and will be more mindful of you needing space too.

  • Totally hear you hon. This is why I have taken a big step back in my online activism. Not because I don’t believe it or support it anymore, just because I need to look after myself first.

  • I hear you, too. I’ve withdrawn a lot from FA stuff recently, not because my heart isn’t in it, but because I have too much going on elsewhere in life that’s higher priority. I think it’s difficult when you have a talent — which you obviously do, for writing and organizing and activism — because people gravitate towards you as the more eloquent voice, the better organizer, and so on. I think there are a lot of great voices in the movement right now, but there’s much *less* of what I used to see a few years ago — smaller blogs popping up, where people talk about FA who aren’t doing it full- or part-time. There needs to be a balance between this level of almost-professional activism and people who just want to talk online about fat liberation.

    Hugs.

    • Thanks hon, I think in some ways I’m going to have to cut back a bit. I want to be in the thick of it, but I don’t want to be relied on to just take up the mantle every time. And I want to be allowed to just BE without having to engage in activism to justify my right to be, if that makes sense.

      After all, nobody asks a thin person to justify why they blog about fashion, or their hobbies, like fat people are expected to do.

  • You’re right; people need to step up and do their own activism. If they really like how you say it, they should link to their favorite blog post of your’s, or quote you in their reply. You are not required to be a superhero just because you’re one of the few willing to raise a voice.

    I hope you’re able to get some peace and a break from the negativity; it’s something everyone needs once in a while.

  • “I know I’m not the only activist who feels worn down by this at times.” Yes. A thousand times, yes. It is hard to be a voice not only for yourself but for all the others who have come to love what you write! Take some time for yourself to recharge🙂 And the tweeter who called you bitter, is more likely themselves rather bitter to have been called out on what they totally know (even if only deep inside) is really their attempt to get you to fight their battles. Which, on the one hand: flattery because of how awesome they must (rightly!) think you are! On the other hand: more than a bit insidious in how it not only ensures you’re ALWAYS surrounded by the sort of articles and news you’re fighting so hard against but also because it leaves this underlying extra layer of guilt where if you DON’T jump in, it must be because you don’t care. Even when you DO care but just can’t reve up the activism cannons at every moment because you need, for your own sanity, a few moments of down time in life!

    Phew. Anyway! Love your posts of all sorts and hope you get a chance to mentally calm from the constant barrage🙂

  • (sends great big squishy fatty hug)

    I think sometimes people see you being so brave, so strong, and so determined that they forget that you’re also a human being with limitations and responsibilities, too. They see you coming across as Captain Kirk, Wonder Woman, Luke Skywalker and Tank Girl rolled into one and can’t imagine what they have to contribute other than another fight.

    Folks, Kath is amazingly articulate and feisty… but you honestly can do the same kinds of things she does. More voices speaking out against body hate and shame makes things better. Leaving it all to the couple most vocal and awesomely articulate among us – while tempting – keeps us a tiny fringe minority of weirdos who are easily ignored.

    So the next time you see an article dripping with body hate, write about it on your FB wall, post about it in your LiveJournal, tweet it for yourself. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the better you are at answering the doucheweasels (or knowing when to cut them from your friends list). Activism is just like any other skill: work at it hard enough, and chances are you’ll improve. Maybe you won’t be the next Fat Heffalump, but you’ll add something of your own to the mix. And you never know what you’ll turn out to have an amazing facility for if you don’t ever give it a go in your own right.

    Kath, take care of yourself. Even Captain Kirk needs a damn break every once in a blue moon.

    • Ahh Twistie, thank you.

      It’s funny, someone said on Twitter yesterday “Even Batman gets some down time!” It’s true! Though of course, Batman is a white, affluent, thin, able-bodied male – of course he gets some damn down time!!

      And you’re absolutely right – I’m not the only one who can do this, and more people need to know that they have the power to do it. And that the more voices that are heard, the more noise we make.

      You know, I see when people tweet about these articles. I see when people share the links generally on their FB or Twitter. It doesn’t need to be sent to me directly – I read so many people’s Twitter and FB, I see!

  • Dear Kath,
    Thank you so much for your activism. I second the above remarks about taking care of yourself. I also wanted to let you know that the posts and pictures on your site helped me find the courage to participate in Marilyn Wann’s Stand4Kids campaign and to address (calmly and assertively) my disability during a contract renewal interview with my employers today. Again, thank you!

  • Fuck yeah. You have to take care of yourself and if people aren’t understanding that, it’s not your problem. Your activism holds up on it’s own without having to carry other people’s too, whether you’re able to or not.❤

  • I’m new to your blog by the way, so let me start off by saying thanks!

    I’ve been on both sides. There have been times where I’ve felt like I’m fighting the fight by myself, and wished there was someone like you to jump into the fray.

    I’ve also been DRAGGED into forums and message boards during some very troubling personal times, both physical and emotional.

    As most have said here, you need to take care of yourself first, the cause second. The numbers are growing (figure of speech…..), so when you’re not feeling it, rest assured that someone else will pick up the slack.

    Thank you again for all of your efforts!
    Phil

  • You deserve a vacation. Every blogger needs a break every now and then and I’m sure that your truly supportive fans would understand. (I certainly would!) If anyone gives you a hard time about it, send them a copy of this post. And if they still give you a hard time, tell them to fuck off. Some people are not worth wasting your time over, as I’m sure you’ve already learned from dealing with fat-hating jerks.

    When you’re ready to start writing again, maybe you can start teaching people how to be their own advocates, because that’s clearly a skill that a lot of people need.

    • Thanks Julanar. I would hope that just by reading this blog people are learning to be their own advocates. What I do isn’t special, really. It’s just not taking no for an answer.

  • Thank you Kath for all you do. I hope you do get some peace. Everyone needs a break. I hope that things get less hectic (I think that is the word I am looking for) for you. I also hope that people will stand up and not expect you to stand up for them.

    Lots of love and hugs. You rock Kath. Thank you again for everything you do.

  • To be honest, i’ve wondered about this from afar, and i have no idea how you shoulder it all. Obviously, people both adore and admire you, but the repetitive exposure is injurious, because you are receiving a somewhat condensed portion of triggering shit on an almost constant basis. In their eyes, you are invulnerable, resourceful, strong, intelligent……it is easy to forget, sometimes, that your strength requires refuelling, that you are not only the ‘online Kath’, you cannot patch up every wound, or sway in on every single fat related argument on the interwebs. You are also raw, sensitive and require self care (and this must always come first). I am sure that the people who email you respect you beyond belief. They are equally passionate and devoted to the cause, but you can’t be expected to fight everyone’s corner, not at the expense of your own health and happiness.

    Take it easy, don’t feel bad about the tweets, and find some space to throw off the burden for a while.
    I have encountered something of a similar nature (although nothing concerned with body politics) in the past, and I too had to suffer constant email exposure to a highly distressing trigger – having become a temporary mouthpiece for a cause, nobody gave a thought to how much i could truly take, and the pressure almost crippled me.

    Anyhow, I hope you manage to ease the stress, and especially the personal issues you mention. Best wishes from here x

  • Well said. And honestly, there’s a time and place to engage fat hysteria in public discourse. Not everyone is a good faith objector to fat acceptance. Some people just do it to get a rise out of people. It’s one thing if someone is being bullied in their personal life, but online, my attitude has become–give idiocy no quarter in your own mind. Yes, fat activism involves engaging the general public’s view of fat people, but that area is dwarfed in importance for me by the impact of fat acceptance on the individual and their mindset. Honestly, I appreciate fat acceptance most because it has the potential to help fat people reach their full potential. If attitudes change as a result of that, so be it, but if obstacles (internal and external) for fat people are removed to living their lives as is their right, that’s the most important thing.

    It’s about giving yourself permission and encouraging yourself to cut sources of fat hatred and concern trollery out of your life–especially on the net. Some (not many) people aren’t going to change their minds about fat people, because they have a vested interest in putting someone else down and don’t really care whether or not it’s healthy. We need to make sure fat hatred and engagement with it doesn’t waste our time or dim our spirit.

  • I originally came here for the FA/HAES parts but that’s not why I read it now. This blog interests me because I’m really impressed by your self-esteem and confidence. I admire you very much.

  • Sometimes a situation needs a simple intervention – one or two people to step forward and say ‘this is not acceptable’. Sometimes we need a full blown activist with contacts and well known forum.

    I tend to assume the former and then ask for back up if it’s the latter. The more people we get to just say that something is not acceptable the less alone each voice feels.

    If we want the world to change then we have to take one step forward and raise our voice at least once before we try to dump the problem on someone else.

    I’m glad you were able to set boundaries for yourself which will stop you getting burnt out. I hope anyone who had their nose put out of joint by that takes a step back and looks at how they would feel in the same situation.

    • Pyctsi, in a lot of cases I will see when someone tweets or FB’s that they’re getting stuck in on a situation. People assume they have to link me directly, but I actually do see most of this stuff. Then they assume that I don’t jump in because I don’t care. But it’s usually because I care too much and don’t have the sanity points to spare at that given time.

  • I just want to say thank you, for standing up in the first place. You’ve helped give me a voice. It’s not much of one but it’s a start. I was finally annoyed enough about fatbashing “funny” images being posted on Facebook, that I blew my top today, and had a major rant about it, letting people know if they’re going to do that, then they can get the hell off my friends’ list! And thanks to you and the tools that you’ve given us this far, I was able to phrase it in a way that will detract the “but I care” comments too and hopefully inspire others. It’s sprouted a few linked postings of a gorgeous bellydancer from the Health at Every Size campaign from some of my friends already!

    If it only makes one person think, it’s a start. If it sows the seeds, it’s a start. It’s not about getting you to fight battles for us, it’s about giving us the weapons to fight our own. And I cannot thank you enough for giving me mine today.

    *love and gratitude and strength*

  • It’s hard to be an active blogger because the Internet community is 24/7 and can be an exhausting place. Thanks for everything you do as an activist and member of an amazing community.

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