Last night was the official launch of Fat Stories at the Brisbane Powerhouse – an exhibition of photographs by Isaac Brown, documenting the lives of six Australian fat activists, including yours truly. These are photographs taken as part of the Stocky Bodies project, an image library of photographs of fat people going about our everyday lives.
Isaac asked me to give a bit of an introduction to the exhibition and project as one of the participants, so I thought it an excellent opportunity to frock up for the evening. I wore a navy and white spotted dress I got from Best & Less yonks ago, my Domino Dollhouse peach crinoline, peach and white polka dot shoes from Target and a big peach statement necklace from Lovisa. I guess you want a look right?
Always fun to get an opportunity to frock up!
I was thrilled to have my dear friend Kerri and my tattooist, the lovely Victoria R Lundberg, there as my guests. And I was also tickled to see an old friend, Franca, come along to the exhibit too, as I hadn’t seen her in many years.
Well this time, I actually wrote down my introduction speech, so I thought I’d share it with you here. Because this was a different audience of people than usually hear about fat activism and fat liberation, I wanted something that snuck up and hit people in the kidneys a little bit, and made them think about the systematic dehumanisation of fat people. So here’s what I came up with:
Several years ago, I was watching the news on TV, when a story about the “obesity epidemic” came on. It was the usual rhetoric, fat people are all lazy and gluttonous, and they’re all going to die, we’d better prevent them, cure them, eradicate them. As I watched this news story wringing it’s hands about how fat is the scourge of society, it happened. I saw myself, right there on the TV screen, with my head cut off. A piece of footage that had clearly been filmed outside my office building without my knowledge or consent. It was me – in the very outfit I was still wearing as I sat there watching the news after I’d got home from work.
I cannot tell you how devastated I was. What was left of my self esteem was instantly crushed, and I was mortified. I was embarrassed, ashamed and deeply hurt. Here this news story was, calling for the eradication of of fat, and it was illustrated with a picture of me, completely dehumanised, as though I was nothing but a big belly.
This is how the media represents fat people. This is not only how the world are shown fat, but how we fat people see ourselves represented.
But this is not the reality of our lives. We are not amorphous blobs of fat to be eradicated. We are people. People who have lives, loves, families, friends, careers, hobbies and most importantly, feelings.
This project gives us back our personhood. These photographs represent our lives as they are, not as the media and marketing like to portray us. But most importantly, they show other fat people that they are valuable human beings, who can live their lives to the full, despite the constant suggestion that they are worth less than people who are not fat. These photographs have already inspired people around the world to take up dancing, to buy a bicycle, to get tattoos, to go swimming, to spend time enjoying the company of their loved ones, to shop for fashion, to wear what they like… and the most important thing – believe in themselves and their own worth.
So yeah, there you have it. For those of you in or around Brisbane, or who can get to Brisbane over the next three weeks, I do urge you to head to the Brisbane Powerhouse at New Farm to have a look at the exhibition (it’s free!) Here’s the flyer, featuring a favourite photo of mine from the collection, of Victoria and I, proving once and for all that you can have a photograph of fat people that withholds their identity without it being a stigmatising “headless fatty” shot.
Or you can find out more information at Fat Stories – Brisbane Powerhouse.