allies

All posts in the allies category

The Power of Community

Published October 3, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Yesterday, I found myself having a moment where it was keenly identifiable to me why the Fatosphere is so awesome.  Now when I say the Fatosphere, I don’t just mean active bloggers and activists, but to me it generally encompasses Fat Acceptance/Activism/Liberation bloggers and campaigners, as well as the readers, cheer squads, sharers of articles and photographs, allies, followers on Twitter and Tumblr… basically, anyone who believes in and supports the rights of fat people to live their lives with respect, dignity and without discrimination or vilification.  So by that definition, you dear readers, are to me what encompass the Fatosphere.

So yeah, yesterday.  I went to the home of the lovely Jen, aka Ilaeria, for a Thermomix demo with my friend Kerri.  Kez and I were driving down and I just had this moment when the awesomeness of the Fatosphere hit home for me.

I met Jen through the Fatosphere.  I think she started following me on Twitter first, is where I first “found” her.  It’s hard to remember, it seems like ages ago but it isn’t really.  Jen says she was my fan-girl at first though!  We met in real life (so to speak, I don’t believe that the internet is any less real life than in person) one day when she came to Brisbane with some friends, and we had lunch then went to see the Valentino Retrospective exhibit at the Gallery of Modern Art.   I was delighted to meet another Fatosphere friend in person, and knew that I’d encountered someone really amazing when back in January and Brisbane was suffering the devastation of the floods,  Jen and her husband Dave came up to Brisbane bring me some home baked goodies after I’d been without electricity for almost a week.  Since then I have come to consider Jen as a friend, not just a fellow fab fatty.

Here we are together, I got Kez to take a photo of us yesterday just for this blog post:

Jen’s so lovely, I’ll even forgive the jersey she’s wearing.

Since I found the Fatosphere, and have become conscious of just how many ways fat people (in general, where I once believed it was just me) are bullied, disrespected, ridiculed and vilified in our culture, I’ve also come to realise that our power is in our community.  Unlike many of the very people who feel it is acceptable to hate on someone simply for their body size (and/or appearance), we Fab Fatties have an incredible community to belong to, with so much talent, kindness, humour, wisdom, style, compassion, support, intelligence… the list goes on… right around us.  Just by opting out of the mainstream attitude about fatness, health and human worth.  The more we explore this alternative paradigm, the more fabulous, interesting, wonderful people we are exposed to.

Of course, one doesn’t necessarily connect with every single person one encounters in the Fatosphere – we’re all as individual and varied as anyone else, so there will always be people who disagree with, don’t connect with or simply dislike.  Don’t feel like a failure if you find that happening.  However you will find lots of other fab folk that you do connect with and it’s AWESOME when that happens.

I’ve found that no matter what is going on, at any time of day, there’s always someone to celebrate with, vent to, discuss things with, lend support when you need it, listen, cheer you on and inspire you.  When we need to gather our forces to take on some fat hate somewhere, there’s always a FA community on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, you name it to send out the #fatsignal to. (Don’t you love that hashtag?  David of Axis of Fat coined it the other day on Twitter – make sure you use it Tweeps).  But best of all, being around people who are working on their self esteem, and who are finding their confidence rubs off on you.  Want to feel awesome?  Spend time with other people who are unapologetic about their bodies and their size.  It’s like an intense self esteem treatement.  And the amazing thing is that you’re giving the same back without even realising it.

And if you can, get along to any fat positive events you can.  Keep your eye on social media, follow locals, Google for events… you won’t regret it.  I find fat positive events give me such a boost and there’s always someone new to meet as well as those you already know to catch up with.

We are so lucky to have such a strong community.  You’re all fabulous, for whatever reason you’re here, part of the Fatosphere, and I thank you.

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Keep Telling Your Story Until Someone Listens

Published September 25, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Let’s get something REALLY clear.

When someone says they “respect your choices” as a fat person, but continues to publicly vilify fat people in general… they actually DO NOT respect anything about you.

I know!  It’s a bit of a bombshell, isn’t it?

But this is the same thing I come up against every time I or anyone else in the Fatosphere (or our allies) challenge someone who speaks publicly about the fat stigma they are spreading.  It almost always goes like this:

  1. Public persona is published in the media talking about how unhealthy/sedentary/uncontrollable/irresponsible/costing the taxpayer fat people are and how society needs to take control/shame/tax fat people to make them “wise up” to the ZOMGBESITY CRISIS!
  2. Fatosphere says “Other people’s bodies are none of your business, and what you are saying stigmatises fat people.”
  3. Public persona (and their fan club) says “But everyone knows fat = unhealthy!”
  4. Fatosphere says “Health is not a moral imperative, and you cannot judge someone’s health by their size.  Shaming or hating someone for their own good doesn’t help.”
  5. Public persona (and their fan club) says “But I don’t hate fat people, I want to HELP them!”
  6. Fatosphere says “Help them by reducing fat stigma, and allowing them to advocate for themselves.”
  7. Public persona says “But I respect your choices!  I just wanna help those who need help!”
  8. Fatosphere says “By vilifying fat people in the media, you are not helping them, you are shaming them.”
  9. Public persona says “But I don’t hate fat people, I want to HELP them!  I respect their choices!”

See where I’m going with this?

I’ve said before, the problem we have here is that these people are not listening to us.  Oh they might be hearing the words, but they are not actually listening to what we are saying.  They’re not hearing that their words and actions are harming people.  They’re not hearing that they are hindering us, not helping us.  Whether this is because they don’t want to hear these things, or that they just cannot fathom that there is a disconnect between what they are pushing and reality or it is because they’re too horrified at the thought that they might have to be responsible for the things they say that harm people, I don’t know.  But I do know that when we see this pattern over and over and over, it is because we are not being listened to.

It makes me think of a friend of mine who is a school teacher, and she would say to her very small students “Now, do we all have our listening ears on?”

Just this week I’ve been reading the most beautiful book, Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill.  It is peppered with the most wonderful quotes about oppression, justice and personal experience.  I particularly fell in love with this quote, that just fits perfectly with the post I am writing tonight:

The abolitionists may well call me their equal, but their lips do not yet say my name, and their ears do not yet hear my story. Not the way I want to tell it. But I have long loved the written word, and come to see in it the power of the sleeping lion. This is my name. This is who I am. This is how I got here. In the absence of an audience, I will write down my story so that it waits like a restful beast with lungs breathing and heart beating.

Is that not the most beautiful paragraph?

I am struck with the thought that despite this being the words of an African woman sold into slavery over 200 years ago, it rings true for many marginalised people even today.  How many people SAY that they consider us their equal, be we women, fat people, people of colour, people with disabilities, queer people or any other marginalised people, but  yet they do not hear what we are saying, and cannot even identify us individually?  To how many people are we still the obese, the disabled, the homosexual, the blacks, etc, rather than people, their true equals?

While I would never compare my life to that of the character of Aminata Diallo from Someone Knows My Name, I too have long loved the written word, and understand it’s power.  I too believe that while people are not listening to us now, we can write our stories, share our experiences and talk about how we are affected by the behaviour of those who see us as “other”.  The more of us who do so, who put down our stories somewhere for others to read it, those stories accumulate and grow in power.  And they will also provide a record in later times, when people start to understand the damage being done now.  That while there may be many who do not listen to us now, we are reaching those who do, and by telling our stories we reach even more, and leave a legacy to those who follow us.

After all, marginalised people have spent their whole lives listening to those who oppress them.  We’ve had no choice but to do so.

32,001 Names – Will You Be One of Them?

Published September 9, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I’m going to post something off topic tonight.  It’s another cause that means a lot to me and I think we have the power to make a significant change in our world.

It’s no secret that marriage equality for same sex couples is a hot topic in Australia at the moment. Why it’s a hot topic, I don’t know, because as far as I’m concerned, if people are competent and consenting adults, then they should have the right to legally marry regardless of their gender, sexuality, race or anything else.  Romantic/sexual partnerships between consenting adults should be of no consequence to anyone except those people themselves, least of all the government.  As far as I’m concerned, there is no debate, just a matter of how we’re going to adjust our legal system to accommodate the growing needs of our population.

However, there is a debate, and unfortunately it’s being dominated by a certain breed of very hateful, bigoted voice at the moment.  Loudest of which is Queensland MP, Bob Katter.

But this debate isn’t really about consenting adults legal right to marry other consenting adults.  This debate, at least from the anti-marriage equality sector, is about the oppression of non-heterosexual people.  That’s all it’s really about, these anti-marriage equality campaigners, want to keep non-heterosexual people marginalised and treat them like they are somehow less than heterosexual people, as though they are sub-human.  By removing the basic rights that we heterosexual people take for granted, they’re implying that our GLBTQ members of society are not equal to us.

Which is bullshit.

The thing is, these bigots are not the majority.  They don’t speak for Australians in general.  But they’re very vocal and for some reason the government take notice of them, and pander to them.  Not only on this topic, but all other matters of social justice as well.

We have to speak up as well.  We have to make it clear that these ultra-extreme conservatives are just that – an ultra-extreme minority.

Enter James Newburrie.

James is a young gay man who lives in Mt Isa here in Queensland.  Right in the heartland of Bob Katter country.  Bob Katter famously said and I quote:

“I would walk from Brisbane to Bourke backwards if the poof population of North Queensland is any more than 0.001%.”

Mr Katter is at some point going to have to take that long walk backwards for that statement.  However, it’s not going to happen with the way things are because young GLBTQ people in rural areas are so violently bullied, oppressed and shamed that they are forced to live their lives in secret, or move to metropolitan areas to survive.  The suicide rate for young GLBTQ people in rural areas is astronomically high, and it’s because of people like Bob Katter and their bullying statements.  It’s because of a very vocal minority that tells them they are worth less than the rest of us.  It’s because people like Bob Katter incite the bullies and violent arseholes in the community to harass and harm them.

I grew up in rural areas.  I had GLBTQ friends who I saw bullied and beaten for just being who they are.  Some of them couldn’t cope, and took their own lives to escape that hatred.  And I saw people like Bob Katter, or those involved with groups like Family First and the Australian Christian Lobby make these young people go through living hell because of their bigotry.

As a heterosexual Christian myself, it’s assumed by people like Bob Katter and the ACL that they speak for me, when they in fact do not.

But back to James Newburrie.  James has been spurred into action as a young gay man living in rural Queensland to stand up and be heard.  James has started a campaign called 32001 Names, a bid to collect as many names as Bob Katter claimed he had against marriage equality… plus 1.  I personally believe that there are more than 32001 people willing to put their name behind James’ campaign.  He already has over 8500 names so he’s well on his way.  But I think we need to pitch in and find him more.

As well as this campaign, James has organised an equality rally in Mt Isa for this Sunday, right opposite Bob Katter’s office, just to show him that there are more than 0.001% of the local population who are GLBTQ and their allies.  If I could fly to Mt Isa this weekend to stand beside James and the other participants, I would.  But sadly I’m not able to, so instead I’ve pledged to spread the word any way I can.

So there are some things you can do to help.  You can “Like” the 32001 Names Facebook page or you can attend the rally in Mt Isa (or show your support for it).  You can share both of these with everyone you know, especially rural Queenslanders.  Very soon, there will be a way for you to also submit photographs, videos and other media in support for the 32001 Names campaign as well.  If you use Twitter, you can use the #32001names hashtag to spread the word.  It would be great to get that one trending on Sunday during the rally.  You could do as I have, and blog about James and the 32001 Names project.  You can share this blog post around.  Or you can get creative.  Visibility is the key for campaigns like these.  The more support, the more mentions, the more images, the more we speak up, the more the word spreads and the safer and more encouraged our young GLBTQ people feel.  Just by showing your support in some way, someone who needs to know that support is there might just hear, and you might just change their world.

Wanna help change the world?

On Expressions of Dismay and Disbelief…

Published April 11, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

It has been a bittersweet couple of days for me.  If you’re not on Twitter and involved in Fat Acceptance, you might have missed the absolute flood of tweets with the hashtag #thingsfatpeoplearetold.  The hashtag originated some time ago with Brian at Red No. 3, but was resurrected a couple of days ago after Catherine Deveny tweeted this damn offensive statement.

And it just took off.   I think the last time Brian tallied up the tweets he could find in a search there were over 2000 original tweets in less than 48 hours.  Mid afternoon I asked Brian to send me the word document he has been compiling, and the document is open here beside me as I type this, 216 pages long, with an average of 10 tweets per page.

I got into it, because it felt like an opportunity for me to vent all of the stupid, senseless, narrow-minded, ignorant, hateful, bigoted things that have been said to me over the years.  As the day went on yesterday, my feelings swung between bitter and sweet.  Bitter because reading all these tweets, and sharing my own, dredges up the hurt, anger, disgust, sorrow, frustration and general outrage I have felt at how I, and other fat people, are treated at the hands of general society.  But also sweetness, because not only was it amazing to hear all of these people finally have a voice, and a considerably powerful one, but there was also a strong sense of community and fellowship building over the past two days.  I gained dozens and dozens of new followers (though I also shed quite a few, who don’t like hearing the truth about the shit fat people are subjected to), and followed many new people myself.

But what I found most telling were the reactions from people who are not fat to many of the things that were tweeted under the hashtag.  And in a way, it makes me angry that so many people are only horrified now at these things.  I feel like “What the fuck have I been saying for the past two years if you’re only getting how horribly fat people are treated now?”

I’ll give you some examples of tweets that horrified some of the people who are not fat that I encountered today:

  • @fatheffalump: [well dressed woman physically pushes me over on an escalator] Well you shouldn’t be so fucking fat! #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @Nocturnal_Nyx said to me – fat people should kill themself and make more room for the normal people. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @lisa_n: No one’s ever going to love you if you don’t do something about that #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @Mrs_Sprat: You should feel lucky you were raped. How else would someone sleep with you? #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @fatheffalump: “Go away, lose weight, find a boyfriend and come back to me when you want babies.” (a Dr to me, aged 19 & in pain) #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @fatheffalump: “Keep walking ya fat cunt!” Yelled at me from a passing car as I went for an afternoon walk. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
These are just a few that I tweeted or retweeted that got horrified reactions from some of the not-fat folk I follow.


What people aren’t getting is that this shit isn’t one offs.  This shit isn’t something that happens on rare occasions.  It happens to lots of us, all the time.  I myself am literally spat at, have things thrown at me from passing cars, have shit called out at me, am mooed and barked at, have people call me a fat cunt, am photographed in public without my permission, particularly if I dare to eat in public, am laughed at by strangers on the street and receive death threats here on this blog, all of these things several times per week.  AND.  I.  AM.  NOT.  ALONE.   Over 2000 tweets in 48 hours give testament that this shit is happening to fat people, every day, every where.  God knows how many people out there are suffering without ever giving voice to the things that happen to them.

Simply because we are fat and we exist in this world.


Yet people are still surprised when we talk about this stuff.  There are still gasps of horror, exclamations of surprise, and declarations of “How can people behave like that to another human being?!”


You know how?  They can because to the people who do this shit, we are “the obese”.  We are not considered “people”, we are considered an “epidemic”.  Governments and the media declare a “war on obesity” – who do you think that war is on?  It’s on US.   We are those headless fatties you see on the news.  We are the “the obese” that the newspapers refer to when they wring their hands over how we’re costing the average taxpayer millions.  We are the “obese women” that journalists write pieces about how we should be ashamed of ourselves, hate ourselves and be shamed by society for being fat.  We are “the obese” who are shamed for daring to want to travel anywhere in a plane and told that we should pay more, buy two seats, not fly at all.  We are the ones who have no decent quality, attractive clothes provided for us at a reasonable price.  We are the ones who are represented on television by fat characters gorging themselves or bullying the “heroes”.   We are the ones that “non-profit organisations” have in mind when they say that childhood obesity is the equivalent to childhood abuse.  We are the ones our own governments set up to be bullied as children in the name of “public health”.


We are the ones who are reviled, shamed, ridiculed, bullied and abused at every fucking turn by the media, the weight loss industry, the beauty industry, the entertainment industry, even the fucking government.


Why else do you think we are treated like this?  Because we are not considered human beings, we’re considered sub-human, and that message is repeated over and over and over again, day in and day out.  So much that most of us spend our lives repeating it to ourselves.



So I want to say this to all of the people who are horrified at the things they read in these tweets.  Don’t just shake your head, gasp in horror, and cluck your tongue at how terrible people are to the poor fatties.  Stand the fuck up. Say something when you hear fat hate.  Speak up when you see someone being treated badly because of the size of their body.  Challenge those articles you see in magazines, newspapers and on television that perpetuate myths about fat people.  Ask questions of the “facts” you see spouted that shame fat people, think about who might just benefit from fat phobia.  After all, fat activists have been doing just this for decades.


Use your voice and join us in speaking out against sizeism.  How many of you will stand up and speak against the mistreatment of animals, yet just change the subject when you hear fat hate against your fellow human beings? How many of you won’t buy a product because it’s not idealogically sound to you, but will happily support an organisation or company  that shames fat people simply for existing in their bodies?


Look, your sympathy is nice.  I appreciate that you feel dismay that fat people are treated badly.  But ultimately we need more than your sympathy.  We need your solidarity.  We need you standing beside us and speaking up to all of society, to say that these are not acceptable ways to treat another human being.  And we need your vocal and obvious support.


We need more than quiet statements of dismay or disbelief.


We need shouts across the rooftops at the injustice of how fat people are treated.



I would like to dedicate this post to Dr Samantha Thomas, a woman who embodies what it means to be a true ally to fat activists, and who sticks her neck out and stands up for the rights of fat people every day, from getting her gorgeous mug on the telly to speaking up when she hears fat stigmatisation in public.  I feel blessed to have her stand beside me and other fat activists in this fight, and even more blessed to call her friend.