Fat Stories: An Exhibition

Published October 19, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

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.

28 comments on “Fat Stories: An Exhibition

  • I wish either the show were coming here, or I suddenly had a fairy godmother update my passport and send me to Australia to see it.

    Great opening remarks. I’m betting not a lot of thin people have considered the question of who the illustrations of the ‘obesity epidemic’ might be. It’s got to be a bit of a shakeup to be confronted with that reality.

  • Well said Kath. I am very impressed by that speech of yours. I hope it hit them all really hard and they quit looking at us fatties the way the media portrays us.

    I feel honoured and privileged to know you and want to thank you for inspiring me in so many ways to love myself again. If I were a lot closer to Brisbane, you can bet I’d be there to take in all it’s glory.


  • This is off topic, but I’m almost certain I saw you in the city a week or two ago :O. No cool bloggers ever live in Brisbane, so I was excite haha 🙂

  • I mean, I can’t even believe I’m about to say this, but … peach is so hot right now! It’s a great colour on you and looks amazing with your hair too.

    Also – excellent speech 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • That speech is awesome, Kath! I had never heard your story of seeing your headless body on TV. I felt like someone punched me in the gut when I read that. That’s one of my big fears as well. I wish I could see the exhibit, it sounds wonderful. Oh, and you looked great all dolled up!

  • It’s funny, I got into a squabble with one of my co-workers once (a very, very naturally slim girl) when we were watching television and a segment about headless fat people came on. I said I thought it was gross that they dehumanized people like that, by severing their heads as if the were just fat bodies that didn’t really belong to people.

    She shook her head and said, “You don’t get it Clara, they don’t do that to dehumanize ANYBODY. They cut off their heads for PRIVACY purposes.”

    I pointed out that if they were really worried about these individuals’ privacy, they wouldn’t film them in the first place. She countered that without their heads nobody will know who they are. I came back with “They will.”

    She didn’t quite get what the big deal was. I realized that as a very slim person things like being equated with laziness and sloth (all the world’s problems) didn’t worry her.

  • You look gorgeous in the outfit! And the opening was great, no matter how many times I read it, it stills hits me hard. It’s painful enough to be blamed and shamed by the media, but then to see your body used without your consent in a campaign that calls for your eradication is at least 10 times worse. I hope the project gets the attention it deserves; we’re people, not body parts.

  • Fab speech… ouch, you know how to make a point! And you have such great funky tatted-out rockabilly style. Rowr!

  • Tthanks for a thought provoking post. perfectly timed, in that it confirms something that only occurred to me yesterday – fat people are human too. Sadly, I’m not joking.

    Herewith a blanket apology for all the appalling shit I have (metaphorically) thrown at fat people over the years – I was wrong, very wrong, and acted like a reprehensible douchebag. I’m appalled at my behaviour, and disgusted it took me this long (I’m 43 FFS) to realise that fat people are human too.

    I dont specifically recall harassing individuals but I sure as hell contributed to the prevalent “culture”. I probably did though – its highly improbable that none of the targets of my idiocy ever heard me.

    In my defense, I was a privileged self-absorbed asshole who callously disregarded the feelings of a huge swath of the human race for no discernible reason, whilst thinking I was being clever.

    I truly regret, and am ashamed by, my previous behaviour.

    And thank you Kath* for posting your speech – it helped me to grok how wrong I was.

    *I hope thats right – got it from one of the comments

    • TerryG – I’m glad you’ve moved forward to being a decent human being – it’s good for you, and it’s good for the rest of us.

      Now you have a job to do. Your job is to spread that message. To stand up, to speak up, to show the way. It’s not up to those of us who are the victims of fat hate to fix the problem, it’s up to the perpetrators.

      • Sleepydumpling,
        yep, you’re right. A bit of background: I used to be a typical bloke, but considered myself fairly free of prejudice. Then about a year ago all hell (?) broke loose in the online atheist community over a mere woman daring to say “guys dont do that”. The response from the misogynists was unbelievable (and unending), and it got me thinking (at long last) about feminism. the clincher was reading Schrodingers Rapist. that was an eye opener. it explained some of the weird reactions I’ve had (I walk fast), and made it clear that I’d spent my entire adult life mansplaining, never considering that as a 6’2″ guy, my idea of “safe is wildly different from women. some serious introspection followed, ending up with learning about feminism 101 and modifying my behaviour. its taken a while, but I’ve made great progress removing slurs from my vocabulary (its fun finding non-slur insults, and I swear a lot), recognising the misogyny we are constantly bathed in and calling out shitty behaviour.

        Didn’t stop me scorning fat people though – after all they just need to eat less, right? But thats just wrong (its pretty clear the science here is in its infancy, and whatever the hell is going on its extremely complex – human biology is insanely difficult). Besides – what right do I have to impinge on someone elses bodily autonomy. none, thats what. my thoughts on anothers BMI are as relevant and sought after as my thoughts on their fuckability – not at all (besides BMI = Bloody Meaningless Index).

        I’m guessing you’re aware of the whole Reddit/ViolentAcrez creepshots thing (what a repugnant excuse for a human) – I’ve been following the resultant debates on freedom of speech, anonymity etc. Then I read a post on a discussion about abortion, which is really about bodily autonomy, and someone wrote this comment yesterday:

        “Many people with heart conditions were told to lose weight by doctors…when do we hold them responsible, what time peroid. Letting them die will divert resources to more responsible and likely to survive patients after all” [it was snark btw]

        given my stance on bodily autonomy, I couldnt help but see my cognitive dissonance about fat prejudice – so I said as much. Then I came across your post today – and its not an analogy to creepshots its the SAME damn thing! an unsanctioned violation of your privacy for the titillation of others. And your speech showed clearly the effects are the same as creepshots too, enabling me to grok exactly how and why I was wrong, and resolve to change. not so much the final straw as an unavoidable slap up side the head.

        Lastly your hard work blogging gave me a platform from which I could apologise for having been such a jerk. For all of this I am in your debt, and I agree wholeheartedly with your last paragraph – it IS up to me to call this shit out. because if I dont, if I just let it slide, I’m enabling it, which is fuck all different from doing it. Besides, its the least I can do, to try and correct the imbalance I’ve contributed to for so long.

        Sorry to prattle on at such length, but you really did get me to think long and hard about this, and I didn’t think “OK I will” would suffice in reply.

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