conformity

All posts in the conformity category

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice? I Think Not.

Published August 21, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

There is something you all need to know about me.  Some of you might already know it.

I am not nice.

I have never pretended to be so.  I have no desire to be nice.  I have rebuffed every claim that I am nice.  I simply don’t play that game.

I have been an activist now for over 5 years, and still to this day people are demanding that I be nice.  They demand that I allow them to say whatever they like in my spaces online  They claim that I’m going to be the end of fat acceptance (which I no longer consider myself part of anyway) because I’m not nice enough, because they consider me rude/angry/opinionated/whatever – as though I’m so all powerful that I can bring down fat acceptance on my own.  I still deal with people demanding that I explain everything to them in fine detail, and then complain that I’m not nice when I refuse to perform on demand.  I still deal with people who seem to think that they have a right to tell me what to do in my online spaces – what I post, what comments I allow, who I can and cannot block/ban from my spaces.  There are those that declare that I am censoring them, that I am denying “free speech” or their “right to their opinion” by curating which comments I allow in my own spaces.  Five years of people telling me what I can and can’t do in my own space.

As a result of this, I am no longer allowing comments in this blog for most posts.  Occasionally I will open up the floor to share things, but mostly, I’m not here for discussion.  I’m here to write about my experiences and thoughts and beliefs.   This blog is actually first and foremost for me – it’s the place where I get to be heard, when as a fat woman, mostly in the world I am not.  When it does connect with other people, and helps them along too, I am THRILLED.  That absolutely makes my day.  But I am under no obligation to spend my life fixing or educating other people.  I fight for my rights as a fat woman, and that contributes to fighting for the rights for ALL fat women – which I am very proud of.

This blog is not a public forum.  It is not a discussion board.  It is not a debate service.  I am not attempting to create a community.  I am not a brand, a company or a business.  I’m not making money from this – actually my activism costs me WAY more than I can really afford much of the time, and I’m not affiliated with any organisation or corporation.  It is MY blog.  Mine.  100% my space, my opinions, my thoughts, my choice.   I will of course share things here that other people write and create, because I agree with them and think they are important.  But I’m not providing space for other people to determine what is done with it.

For anyone who wishes to claim that this is somehow censorship or denying free speech or others’ right to their opinions, you do not understand the actual concept of free speech/censorship.  I am not stopping you from saying whatever you like elsewhere.  Just here, in this one tiny, pretty obscure corner of the internet.  It’s the equivalent of not allowing you in my house if I don’t like you.  I’m not stopping you from going to other people’s houses, or even being out in public.  Just mine.  That is not censorship, it’s creating one small boundary.

So comments are now closed.  You are more than welcome to hit the like button at the bottom of each post, or use any of the share functions.  You’re welcome to follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or Instagram.  You can contact me by email.  I love to hear from genuine people who bring something to the discussion without expecting me to perform for them on demand.  I’ve made some wonderful friends from people who’ve just taken the time to contact me to say hello or talk.  I wouldn’t change that for the world.  I will miss many of you who are regular commenters if I’m not able to connect with you elsewhere online, but you have all my other places of contact if you wish to keep in touch.

I am no longer going to give time, space and energy to people who wish to debate my right to live my life my with dignity and respect, just because I am a fat woman who refuses to be polite/quiet/invisible.

Of course, this is going to cause even more people to come out and say what a horrible person I am and how I’m somehow denying them something.  All I can say to that is GET OVER IT!  Go start your own blog/facebook page.

The thing is, nobody demands that men “be nice” in their spaces online.  Nobody suggests men are going to ruin an entire world movement if they are not nice.  I mean for fuck’s sake, Richard Dawkins is vile and disgusting but nobody holds him up as “ruining atheism”.  Russell Brand behaves abominably and nobody tells him to “be nice”.  I could list so many men who are anything but nice or polite who never have to deal with people demanding they tone down or be quiet.

Women are expected to always put other people’s feelings, needs and wants before their own.  We are expected to always be sweet and kind and defer to others, to be quiet and demure and polite.  We are criticised for showing emotion, for being angry, for standing up for ourselves and our rights.  Girls and women are meant to be nice.  The rest of us are just “bitches”.

Fuck that shit.

I am a lot of things.  I am angry.  I am outspoken and opinionated.  I am hot tempered and argumentative.  I am fiercely territorial.  I own these things about myself, and while they can get me into trouble sometimes, I am not ashamed of them.  When people list them as my “flaws” I do not deny them.

But I am a lot of other things that people rarely acknowledge but regularly attempt to utilise for themselves.  I am loyal.  I am protective.  I am so very compassionate and empathetic of people who are suffering that I literally read the news and cry for the wrongs in the world that I cannot fix.  I treat people I encounter in the world with kindness and respect (unless they fail to treat me so).  I am strong.  I am fierce.  I have a wicked sense of humour.  Those things are so often ignored because people would rather insist that I stop making them feel uncomfortable.  I’ve spent my whole life being uncomfortable with who I am, folks need to deal with being made feel uncomfortable a bit more often.

As a friend once said, I am a laughing lioness.  I am not now, nor will I ever be, nice.

2012: The Year of Living Fatly

Published January 2, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.  I see them as the perfect way to set oneself up for disappointment.  After all, if you really want to do something, setting a New Year’s resolution isn’t going to be enough to push you to do it.  When we really want to do something, like eat healthier or save money or quit smoking, we just up and do it.  Using the beginning of a new calendar year really doesn’t work.  Not to mention that New Year’s resolutions always seem to be about changing oneself to meet other people’s standards.  Whether it’s dieting or the gym or giving up something… seldom do people really make those resolutions for themselves.  They make them because they feel they should, or that they have to change themselves to conform to what other people want them to be.

However, after stumbling across some douchecanoe on Twitter whining about being offended by seeing “fat, lazy people”, I’ve decided that I have a goal for 2012.  Are you ready for it?

Here it is…

I am going to be willfully fat this year.  Offensively, obnoxiously fat.  All over the damn place.  In fact, I’m fatting at all of you right now.

I’m so fucking sick of people being all offended at fatness.  I am sick of people expecting fat people to hide themselves away out of public sight, never being seen at the shops, at the gym, in the workplace, on the street.  I’ve had enough of people complaining that they saw someone’s fat arse, arms, belly, thighs, whatever.  I’m tired of being told that fat people should cover our bodies, wear dark, minimising, flattering clothing.  That we shouldn’t be seen in leggings, tights, sleeveless tops, short shirts, tight jeans, swimsuits and short skirts.  I’m sick of fat people being told they should starve themselves, never eat.  I’m royally fucking fed up with being expected to hide myself away like I’m something to be ashamed of.  I’m over being hated simply because I exist in a fat body.

Yet of course, we’re also told that we don’t get out and exercise enough, that we don’t do anything but sit at home and eat.

What do you fucking want fat loathers?  Seriously, we’re either out in public being our fat selves, or we’re at home where you can’t see us.  You can’t have both!

So here’s my 12 step plan for my year of living fatly – it shouldn’t be too hard, I’ve been living fatly now for over 25 years.

  1. Be fat in public.
  2. Live while fat.
  3. Work while fat.
  4. Dress fashionably fat.
  5. Be fat in the company of my friends.
  6. Ride my bike while fat.
  7. Swim while fat – in a swimsuit, yikes!
  8. Expose my fat arms, fat thighs, fat belly and fat arse in public.
  9. Laugh and have fun while being fat.
  10. Celebrate other fab fatties.
  11. Eat in public while being fat.
  12. Unashamedly love myself while being unashamedly fat.

It’s so hard for society at large to believe that fat people have lives, loves, careers, hobbies, passions, style, intelligence, humour and value that I’m going to live my whole life doing all those things, having all those things, while being fat.  Not to prove to society at large that we do have those things, but to be someone that other fat people can see and hear.  To be a visible fat person breaking the mold.

But most of all, because none of us, not you, not me, not anyone, has to live their lives surreptitiously for fear of offending someone’s delicate sensibilities with our fatness.  No more furtiveness about living life.  It’s there to be lived, and I’m going to be fatting all over it.

Being Fat in an Ikea Show Room (yeah, I wear that top a lot!)

Tattoos and Candy Coloured Hair: Sending a Message to Young People

Published December 22, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Some few weeks ago you might have seen some furore around the traps about a tattooed Barbie Doll with pink hair being sold.  This Barbie doll (pictured below) is a collectable collaboration between fashion/accessory label Tokidoki and Mattel, makers of Barbie.  There was a lot of furore about this doll corrupting children somehow despite being a very expensive collectable few children (if any) will ever own.  Tokidoki Barbie (originally $50US) sold out very quickly and I have since seen them showing up on eBay for around $500.

Now of course, I have some issues with Barbie in general, mostly around her unattainable standard of beauty and body shape, and the lack of diversity of race available in Barbie, a doll that is marketed all over the world – that all needs a post of it’s own.  But what I noticed was the repeated message that went with this collectable tattooed, pink haired Barbie is that tattoos and candy coloured hair are trashy, low class, unintelligent and even mark a woman as promiscuous.

As a tattooed woman who usually has pink hair myself, I take some exception to this message.  Just reading around a few articles on this doll, I found the following quotes:

“I think it is horrible and sends the wrong message to young people”

“In no way should a tattoo be honored.”

“Encouraging children that tattoos are cool is wrong, wrong, wrong. Mattel why not put a cigarette and a beer bottle in her hand while you’re at it!”
and my favourite:
“Forget being a doctor, this Barbie sports a pale pink bob and is covered with tattoos on her neck and shoulders.”
So someone with tattoos and coloured hair can’t be a doctor hmm?

Well, being a tattooed, pink haired librarian myself, I put the word out on Twitter and Tumblr and asked for candy-haired, tattooed women to come forward and share their stories, just to see what kind of women have brightly coloured hair and tattoos.

Bri of Fat Lot of Good (above) is a counsellor, social worker and social justice activist, as well as being a Mum to two kids.  She got her first tattoo when her son was about 6 months old, and now has 7 tattoos.  She has also had pink, purple or red streaks in her naturally black hair.  Bri has never had anyone say anything negative to her face about her tattoos, though she has sensed disapproval but chooses to ignore it.  She feels that she gets more disapproval for her fatness than she does her tattoos.  She finds that generally her family and friends are very accepting of her tattoos, though her Dad has made it clear that he hates tattoos and has voiced “at least they can be covered up”.  She has also found that in her work life, people are interested in hearing the stories behind her tattoos, and in some cases have been helpful in engaging with her clients.  She does admit that  her tattoos are mostly covered though, and are fairly discreet designs.

Rachel of Very Busy and Important (above) is the Director of Location Services for a television network based in Chicago, IL.  She is a liaison  between station viewers and partners and it’s various departments at headquarters, developing both operational and marketing-based support programs for each.   She got her first tattoo at 22 and first ventured into candy coloured hair at 27.   She says she was surprisingly conservative as a teenager, and says she rebelled against her Mom, who owned a body piercing studio and hair salon by being aggressively square.  Rachel says that surprisingly, she has never experienced her hair or tattoos being the focus of negative attention in her job, but has got more flack on the streets than at work.  Her boss loves her hair and her CEO has asked for tattoo artist recommendations for his teenage son.  However she does find it intrusive and bothersome to explain the meaning of (or lack thereof) her tattoos repeatedly.  She also says:

As I’ve gotten older, not that 27 is particularly “older,” I’ve realized that the only way for me to maintain mental health is to stop compartmentalizing my personality between work and home. I am the same silly, opinionated, compassionate, and intelligent woman with my friends that I am with my colleagues. Not only do my colleagues deserve to interact with an actual person, instead of a robotic facade, I deserve to be free to be myself. Why spend all of that energy maintaining the illusion that I am a, you know, mild mannered person without opinions who isn’t covered in various swirls of (semi)permanent colors when I could be putting that energy into actually doing my job?

Kara (no photo supplied) from Vicious Sioux works in retail and is an activist who supports her family.  She has been colouring her hair since she was 16 and her first tattoo at 18.  She finds both her family and her workplace are ok with her hair and tattoos, though her conservative grandmother really objected to them, though she’s sure her current employers would not appreciate her returning her hair to hot pink, yet her colleagues and peers love it.

Amanda of FatWaitress.com (above) runs Love Your Body Detroit, a non-profit activism organisation that fights fat phobia and weight bias, and is a full time college student who works both on campus and as a nanny on weekends.  She got her first tattoo at 22, and started colouring her hair at 16, to have every colour under the sun, including her favourite, bright red with purple tips.  She has had to cover her tattoos when working in hospitality, but says people rarely react negatively to them.  She has only had one particularly bad response, in which she says “I was waiting on her a few years ago and she refused to look at me or even talk to me. Every time I would drop things off at the table she would stare at my tattoo.  She has found that her family is mostly ok with her tattoos, but some aunts have mentioned that they wish she would hide her forearm tattoo, which is a Gandhi quote.  Her father got his first tattoo at 65, just before she got her first.  She finds that most employers want her to cover her tattoos, but don’t mind her coloured hair, so long as it looks good.  At her current workplace her appearance is not an issue so long as she can perform her job, and says “At this point in my life if a place has an issue with what I look like, then they have an issue with me as a person. I’m more happy to not work there then have to hide my body.”

Lori St.Leone of The Story of Lori ran a successful piercing studio (and was a piercer herself for 16 years), is currently studying midwifery and has two children.  She started colouring her hair candy colours at 15 (she is now 36) and got her first tattoo just before her 18th birthday.  These days she dyes her naturally blonde hair more natural hues, at the moment it is coppery red.  Lori has had complete strangers comment on what a bad mother she must be for having tattoos, piercings and coloured hair.  She doesn’t feel that she should educate them or be polite to them, when they police her body and appearance.  She hasn’t had many problems at work but has used retainers for her piercings and covered her tattoos.  However she has faced some judgement at her oldest child’s pre-school, mostly from the staff!  Lori’s mom thinks her tattoos are beautiful and proudly shows off photographs of her and her family.  Lori’s partner did not have any body modifications when they first started dating (except for an earlobe piercing) and had not dated anyone with serious body modifications before.  Lori has not had much negative response in the workplace to her tattoos and piercings, but she is interested to see how future pregnant clients will react to a tattooed, pierced midwife.  However she says from her own experience, most women in labour don’t have time or attention to care what their midwife looks like, so long as that midwife is caring and supportive and doing their job well!

Alicia Maud, aka @rightingteacher is a high school English Teacher and co-director for Capital District Writing Project.  She is also a dancer and writer for a local magazine on health issues.  Alicia Maud has coloured her hair since the 7th grade, everything from Sun-In to reds, pinks and mahogany, and then on to candy apple red.  She was a junior in college when she got her first tattoo – she and her mom went together for her mom’s birthday!  She hasn’t had any negative reaction towards her tattoos and hair, but has received plenty of attention.  Her parents are big supporters and her mom sees hair as an opportunity for play and loves her tattoos.  Alicia Maud has also received positive attention in the workplace with regards to her hair and tattoos, but feels her supervisor is OK with Alicia Maud having candy hair and tattoos, but would never do it herself.  She hasn’t had any concerns brought to her by the parents of the kids she teaches either.

Abi of Adipose Rex is a stay at home mom of three boys and part time student, who has been experimenting with coloured highlights in her hair for years, but six months ago went the whole kit and caboodle and dyed her hair a candy colour all over.  While she moves in fairly conservative circles, she does get some sideways looks, but mostly people have treated her normally, much to her surprise.  Abi’s parents aren’t entirely thrilled about her hair colour, but she says that’s nothing new!  Her kids love it, and her husband, while he prefers her hair to be a bit less vivid, has the good sense to know that it is HER hair and is happy that she is happy with it.

Bek of Colourful Curves is a stay at home mum, a Christian and a single parent.  She has two boys, aged 4 and 6, cares for other children in her home and has a degree in Early Childhood teaching.  She started colouring her hair when she was 18 on her first trip away on her own.  Her parents weren’t keen on the idea of her dyeing her hair, but without them there, she dyed her hair dark red and has been colouring her hair ever since – she associates it with freedom, friendship and independence.  Bek says she hasn’t really had any negative attention from her hair, but working within the home gives her an advantage over those in other environments.  She finds her church circle are accepting of it as well.  Bek’s children love when “Mummy gets her hair painted” and want their own hair painted too.  Her mum has grown accepting of her hair colours.  Bek relates a story when a small girl of about 10 stopped her and said “I love your hair!  My aunty would love to dye her hair that colour, but she’s too scared to.”  Bek was very encouraging of the girl’s aunt’s wish!  She mentions that even her family GP has a purple streak in her hair (see, Barbie could have pink hair AND be a doctor!)

Ealasaid (no photo available) is a technical writer, bookbinder and movie reviewer who was first tattooed in January 2009, adding two more to the collection since then.  She has waist length hair and doesn’t feel confident in colouring it, so leaves it natural.  Ealasaid’s parents don’t comment on her tattoos, but she knows her mom doesn’t approve, but hasn’t given her too much of a hard time about it.  She covers her tattoos for work, but her colleagues that have seen them have had positive reactions – but she thinks it might help that she works in the San Francisco Bay area!

Kate aka Craftastrophies is an editor and project manager – she describes it as “a regular office job”.  She has been colouring her hair bright red for about 5 years, after a run-in with an inattentive hairdresser and some bleach.  She went bright reddish purple that time, but it wasn’t until Easter 2010 that she went for the blue.  Kate says she has only ever had positive feedback about her hair, or people simply ignore it.  She says “I have gotten a few glares on the street, but mostly people have better things to think about.”  She says that her hair is a big hit with kids too.  She says “About three months ago we were at a family dinner and an uncle, who has seen me at least six times since I dyed it, stared for a few minutes and then said ‘your… hair is… green!’ He was swiftly corrected by my grandmother. ‘It’s BLUE.’ Obviously.”  Kate finds that most people she works with seem to think it’s none of their business, and has only had one positive comment on it.  She dyed it blue between leaving one job and taking another, and asked at the interview if they minded, which they did not.

So as you can see by these amazing women above, women with candy coloured hair and tattoos are diverse,  professional, caring, intelligent, witty, giving and overall awesome.  How is this not something for girls and young women to aspire to?  What I see above are 10 inspirational women who rock their body art in their rich, full lives.

Why shouldn’t candy haired, tattooed women be honoured in doll form?  It’s an honour for me to share them with you here.

Defining My Identity

Published October 21, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I’m a little high on adrenaline tonight.  I’ve had some more work done on my left half sleeve tattoo today, which always gives me an adrenaline rush afterwards, but it was just an intense day all up.  I have mentioned before that I am working on a project with Dr Lauren Gurrieri of Griffith University, which I cannot share much about yet (I promise I will as soon as I can) other than it involves my being photographed around the subject of my identity.  Of course, a major part of my identity is my tattooed body, so it was obvious that was one of the events we needed to document.  I’m really pleased and honoured that my fabulous tattoo artist, Victoria R Lundberg of Wild at Heart Tattoo was willing to be photographed (and filmed) during my appointment.  She’s a good sport and a talented artist, is Victoria.

Anyway, my eventful day really started when I was sitting waiting for the bus to head into town to meet Lauren and documentary photographer Isaac Brown and head to my tattoo appointment.  I was sitting at the bus stop in the shade, minding my own business, reading twitter on my phone when a white tradie van pulled up on the opposite side of the street, and the guy driving lifted his iPhone, took a photo of me and then drove off.  I know, I know, I should have said something or flipped him the bird, or took his photo… but when shit like that happens you’re just so stunned that you can do more than give them an indignant look.

It just goes to demonstrate just how much surveillance we fat women (and it is a mixture of fatness and womanhood that draws the surveillance) are subjected to in our culture.  It is both surveillance and the policing of our bodies.  If a fat woman is too visible, doesn’t hide herself away in shame, dress in black and minimise herself, she is scrutinised, photographed, judged and harassed for it.  But fuck hiding away.  Fuck letting other people police what I wear, how I do my hair, what I look like in public.  I think I look pretty fucking awesome:

Anyway, it got better when I was in town, I was walking through the Myer Centre when a young woman reached out and touched my elbow and exclaimed “Cool hair!”  I find that people who are complimenting me or being cool are happy to do so to my face, not by sneaking photos or whispering about me.

So it was particularly apt that today was the day I was a) adding to my half sleeve tattoo, which is a celebration of my identity and b) being photographed for Lauren’s project.

I have to say, it was pretty daunting.  I’m not used to just relaxing and letting someone photograph me as I go about my business.  I’m so used to having my appearance judged, and of that old mode of scrutinising every photograph of myself because of self consciousness.  I only saw two of the hundreds of photographs taken today, one each from Lauren and Isaac, so I have no idea how any of them look.  To be honest, that does make me feel nervous.  It’s all a learning and growing process – after all, it wasn’t that many years ago that I never let anyone photograph me EVER.  That vulnerability is very hard to let go of.  But I’m determined to let go of those old feelings of self consciousness because I want there to be a photographic record of my life.  I regret those years I didn’t allow people to photograph me.

As well as feeling vulnerable, it was an incredibly empowering experience for me.  I trust Lauren and Isaac to give me the space I need to feel comfortable with the process, and enough say in the process that if I’m not feeling comfortable or happy, I can say so and they will respect that.  Besides, from what I’ve seen of Isaac’s work, he’s a talented photographer and who wouldn’t love to work with someone with that much talent?

This whole process has been quite cathartic to me, it’s had me thinking about how I identify myself, and how through things like my bright clothing, bold hair and tattoos, I reclaim my right to determine my own identity.  Because that’s the thing about identity, it’s our own to determine.  I read this wonderful quote from Chris Graham in relation to right wing… media personality (I cannot call him a journalist) Andrew Bolt’s policing of Aboriginal identity, that I think is an excellent universal statement about identity:

No-one, no matter how hard they might stamp their feet, gets to tell you how you should identify.

Just to give you a teaser, here are a few photos that Lauren took on my little compact camera.

Victoria getting into the detail.

It doesn’t hurt that bad, really! (Lauren has a photo of me wincing in pain, so that’s not entirely true!)

Here you go.  The work after today’s session.

Victoria made the outlines bolder, touched up some of the colour in spots that were patchy, coloured the moon and the owl’s belly/eyes and added the words on the spines of the books.  All in all I’m very pleased with the progress.

Everything about today was about identity for me.  From choosing what to wear (which today, was 100% for myself, unlike on days I work or go to events for other people), being photographed without my consent, having a stranger compliment my hair, being tattooed, and indeed the subjects of my tattoos, and being photographed in the process.

I wish for all of you to be given the space and the opportunity to be able to define and own your identity.  It feels powerful and cleansing, particularly after having it denied of me for most of my life.

I Want to Put a Ding in the Universe

Published October 7, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I have been a sad fatty for the last day and a bit.  When I first heard the news that Apple founder and former CEO Steve Jobs had passed away at 56 from the pancreatic cancer he has been suffering for some time, I was not surprised at all, as he has been seriously ill for some time and it was inevitable.  But I was struck by a deep sadness and sense of loss all the same.

Before I continue, I want to express how royally fed up I am with people who think it’s perfectly acceptable to shit on other people’s grief.  I think it’s disgusting behaviour.  Regardless of what you think of the deceased, a little respect to those grieving their loss never hurt anyone.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s only a couple of short steps away from rejoicing over that person’s death.  Everyone deserves the right to grieve for whomever they grieve for, without being shamed or ridiculed for it.  After all, isn’t that what the Westboro scum do?  Picket people’s funerals, interrupting the grievers?  I don’t care what kind of despot someone was – it is a really low thing to start shitting on people’s grief.  I think Lesley Kinzel said it best in this tweet

“Life rule: if people are sad, don’t shit on their sadness, even if you think the reason they are sad is stupid. Doing so makes you a jerk.”

So before anyone wastes my time by commenting on how much they hate the dirty millionaire capitalist who ruined the world, I want to talk about why the loss of Steve Jobs in the world means so much to me.

Many of you know my love of shiny gadgets.  Especially sleek, glossy, minimalist shiny gadgets with coloured screens and embedded cameras that you can carry all your music around on that have a white apple symbol on them.  But that’s not the reason I am mourning Steve Jobs.  Shiny Apple gadgets are pretty, but they’re not what inspires me at the core.  Oh of course I feel they connect me to the source of the inspiration sometimes, but really, they’re just the icing on the cake.

Steve Jobs was an inspiration to me because he believed that because we only have one life to live, and it’s not a very long life really, we have to spend that life being as authentic to ourselves as we possibly can.  Making the best of what we have in our lives as we can and wring as much out of them as possible.

For the first 30+  years of my life, I didn’t really do that.  Because I believed my life was worthless.  That I had nothing to give anyone, and no place in the world.  I believed that I just had to muddle through and stay out of everyone’s way, and quite often I believed that it would be best if I could just cease to be, because I had nothing to contribute to the world and nobody wanted me here.

Then things started to happen in my life, all about the same time.  I found a great doctor who treated me with respect, and started to look for ways to get me out of the deep pit of depression and rock bottom self esteem I was in.  I travelled overseas for the first time, and found so many warm, giving, fabulous people in America and Canada who just accepted me as I was and wanted to spend time with me.  I got through an icky relationship situation and removed my ex from my life.  And I heard about Fat Acceptance.

Somewhere along the way, I encountered this quote:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.  Everything else is secondary.”

And it sunk right into my brain and my heart.  There is something so simple, so clear about this quote that just sat me on my arse and made me think about what I was doing with my life.  It was a really pivotal moment for me.  I later discovered that was a quote from the commencement speech he gave at Stanford in 2005.  The piece is full of wisdom and honesty, and it told me far more about the man than all of the biographical articles I had read before.

I began to take more interest in Steve Jobs as a man, not just as the figurehead for a really cool brand.  I started to listen to the things he had to say, and think about his life and his choices and how he saw the world.  Oh I understand that along with his innovation and insight he’s had some pretty serious luck.  But could also see the hard work and the willingness to stick his neck out and try something new when others were so determined to take the safe route.  That’s what I admire about him, and that’s what inspired me to change my life, to take up the things that are important to me, to try new things and speak my mind.  To realise my value in the world, and hopefully, help other people to realise theirs.

The more I read and learned of Steve Jobs, the more inspiration I got from his words.  The more lightbulbs I got from his wisdom.

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me.”

Steve also spoke of being different, which as a fat person who refuses to buy into the cultural normative of fat shame, meant a lot to me.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

But my favourite quote ever from Steve, was the simplest one, and the one I’ve chosen to title this post with:

“I want to put a ding in the universe.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to put a ding in the universe too.  I believe that if each and every one of us thinks about what we do, how we impact the world and how we spend our lives, we can each put our own ding in the universe, and collectively shape it to a better place.  It’s my entire reason for doing everything I do  – to contribute to making this world a better place.

There is a reason that everyone is talking about the passing of Steve Jobs.  Not because he made shiny gadgets that people spend a lot of money on, but because he put a great big ding in our universe.  He believed in himself, and believed in those who stand up to make a difference, even if it breaks the rules everyone else seems to think we should stick to.  He will be missed, not because of that apple logo that became synonymous with him as a person, but because he understood that people who step out of the norm are the ones who will change the world.

He pushed this misfit, troublemaker, VERY round peg forward in her life.  And I feel the loss of his wisdom, innovation and inspiration deeply.

Vale Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011.

Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Criticism of Fat as Identity

Published October 5, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

“Why the obsession with fatness?”

I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been asked that question.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been labelled obsessed, sensitive, angry, paranoid, fixated, hung-up, pissed… you name it.  It seems that if one wears ones fatness as their identity, and/or speaks up on the injustice of our society’s treatment of fat people, then one must be “obsessed with fatness”.  We’re told to “get over it”.  To stop talking about it, nobody wants to hear about this stuff.  Stop identifying as fat and then people won’t treat you so badly.  People use euphamisms to try to soften the sound of their criticisms of fat activists.  They say things like “You must be proud of being large, if you call yourself THAT” (rarely will they use the word Fat, even though I use it as my screen name).  As though there is something shameful about being proud of who you are, and your body, if you are a, well… large person.

I loathe being called large, big, hefty, fluffy, chunky.  These are weasel words that are designed to shame the word FAT.

We’re not allowed to have fat as part of our identity, yet at every turn, we are reminded that we are fat.  Every day, we see and hear hundreds of negative messages about weight in the world around us, from the news story about the “obesity epidemic”, magazine covers about some celebrity’s latest weight loss or gain, advertising for weight loss products or diet foods, to public service announcements about living a “healthy lifestyle” which always imply that healthy = thin.  Then if those messages aren’t enough, fat people are told they can’t have clothes as nice as everyone else (lest we be “promoting obesity”), must pay for two seats on many airlines, shouldn’t take up too much space on public transport, should cover our bodies to hide our fatness and are not allowed health care unless it is focused on our weight.  When we go to the doctor, no matter what it is for, most of us are told to lose weight, or asked what we are “doing about our weight”, or lectured on the perils of obesity.  Then on top of that, we are shamed and bullied by the arseholes of the public.  We are yelled at, photographed, body-checked, have things thrown at us, are lectured by our families, friends and workmates, are spat at, are called fat bitches/cunts/fucks, are filmed without our consent by news crews to use as headless fatties on stories about how we are the scourge of the nation, fat children are bullied at school and singled out by the schools as being “unhealthy”, we are called liars if we say we eat healthy, and are called gluttonous/pigs/greedy if we eat anything that is deemed “unhealthy”.  If we don’t exercise, we’re told we’re lazy and deserve to die, if we do, we’re bullied while we go about it.  If we want to have children, we’re told we are too fat and it would be cruel to inflict us on our own offspring, and now it seems if we wish to not have children, we’re told we’re too fat to have an abortion or birth control.  And over and over again we hear messages about how we, as representatives of “the obesity epidemic”, should be eradicated, cured, prevented, fixed, solved, removed.

All of that comes at us every day of our lives, over and over and over and yet we’re not to own our own fatness as part of our identity?  We’re not allowed to identify as fat?

The thing is, we ARE fat.  There is no escaping that fact for us.  But we have a choice, we can buy into the cultural norm of the fatty claiming mea culpa, and never referring to themselves as what they actually are, never using the word fat, except in a whisper or to beat ourselves up, always speaking in euphemisms – large, chubby, big, hefty, plus-sized, thick.  Or, we can claim our fatness as it is – OUR fatness.  Our bodies, our lives, our experiences, our needs, our perspectives.

When someone says “Why are you so obsessed with fatness?” answer them “Because that is who I am and owning my identity isn’t obsession.”

When someone says “You sound like you’re proud to be fat.” answer them “Yes I am.  I’m proud to be a fab fat person who doesn’t let your fat hating culture rule my life.”

Fat hatred is not OUR culture, it is the culture we’re opting out of.  We don’t identify with it any more.  Our identity is fat positive.

On Stareable Bodies

Published June 11, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

It has always happened, but it happens more now than it used to.  Or maybe I just notice it more than I once did.  But I think that my level of confidence and fairly good self esteem either contribute to, or highlight it more than when I was depressed and self-loathing.  Perhaps it’s because I now walk with my head held high, my gaze lifted and my shoulders back, where once I walked eyes downcast, trying desperately to minimise myself in the eyes of the world around me.

But whatever the reason behind it, one thing is very clear.  I have a stareable body.

Stareable bodies are those outside the very narrow band of what is culturally considered “normal”.  That can be for reasons that are because they don’t meet those standards (fat bodies, disabled bodies, visibly ill bodies, bodies that are dressed or marked in some way “different” to what is the acceptable norm for example) or it can be because the starers view those bodies as above the standards, particularly female bodies (exceptionally conventionally beautiful bodies, bodies with sexual features that are exaggerated etc).  But stareable bodies are those bodies that members of the general public feel the need to stare at and take extra notice of.

As a very fat woman, it happens to me all of the time.  Yesterday I was walking back to work from a quick jaunt to the nearest chemist on my morning tea break (I have a cold, ick), and as I passed an outdoor patio style cafe, I spotted a man at a table of about 6 men, nudge a couple of the other men, and they all turned and stared at me.  When I returned the first man’s gaze, he had the audacity to look angrily at me, as if I had done something to offend him.

Thing is, I had offended him.  I was a visibly very fat woman, passing in his view, that was my first offense.  I was also a visibly very fat woman who was walking with her head held high, with visible confidence  and his nudge and point routine failed to force me to lower my head and my gaze.  His pointing me out to his buddies failed to result in what he clearly expected it to, and that was my embarrassment and shame.  I had offended him deeply.

To be fair, it’s not just men.  Recently I went to an afternoon tea with friends, and while one friend and I waited in front of the cafe for the others to arrive, I noticed a woman say in a loud whisper to a younger woman sitting in front of her “Look, look at her!”  Unfortunately for her, the younger woman, looked the wrong way, and she was forced to desperately try to get her to turn her head towards me.  When the younger woman finally did, she saw that I could see and hear them, and looked embarrassed, but the older woman was going on “Oh my God!  Look at her!”  So I did what first came to my mind, and I leaned over as we walked past and said discreetly “Hi, would you like me to pose for a photo or something?”  The older woman had almost the same expression at this as the aforementioned man – she was clearly offended at my acknowledging her behaviour.  I was supposed to be embarrassed and ashamed, not confident and speaking up.

It’s not easy, speaking up, staring back.  Most of the time I’ve got better things to do with my time than confront some rude narrow-mind about their behaviour.  Sometimes I’m in a setting that isn’t conducive to making an example of someone’s bad behaviour, like at work or if I’m a guest of someone else.  Other times I just don’t want to and don’t feel that I should have to.

And I don’t have to.  Not if I don’t want to, I’m not under any obligation to fix other people’s bad behaviour, only my own.

But I’ve learnt that by challenging the starer, I regain something that is mine – my right to be in public, as I am, without apology.  I’ve also learnt that I place the negativity that the starer throws at me squarely back on their shoulders, where it belongs.  It is not mine to carry.  And most importantly, I’ve learnt that every time one of us with a stareable body challenges the cultural messages that it’s acceptable to single out, to make example of, to point and stare at those who are outside the narrow band of “acceptable”, we shift the status quo, just a tiny little bit.  I am reminded of this quote from Rosemarie Garland-Thomson in Staring: How We Look that Margitte from Riots not Diets shared a little while back:

When people with stareable bodies […] enter into the public eye, when they no longer hide themselves or allow themselves to be hidden, the visual landscape enlarges. Their public presence can expand the range of bodies we expect to see and broaden the terrain where we expect to see such bodies.

[…] These encounters work to broaden the collective expectations of who can and should be seen in the public sphere and help create a richer and more diverse human community. This is what starees can show us all.

What it all boils down to for me, is that other people do not get to dictate whether or not you can be visible in public, and what is acceptable for you.  You do.