cruelty

All posts in the cruelty category

Do You Want To Be That Person?

Published August 21, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I’m upset tonight.  And I need to get it out or it will just fester and make me angry, which will then just move into depression, and I can do without that shit.

Again tonight I’ve been confronted with another piece of ridicule towards a complete stranger on the internet.  I know, I know, it’s not like it’s a rare thing on the internet right?  There are hundreds of websites devoted to posting pictures of complete strangers for the purpose of ridiculing them.  But sometimes it just gets too much for me to just ignore, to just scroll past or click through.

Every day, when I go to Facebook, or Twitter, or Tumblr, or various other social networking sites, people who I care about, people who are my friends, share posts of the kind that just rip my heart to pieces.  You know those sites, I’m not going to link to them.  The ones of people at Walmart, or people’s party photos.  There’s one about people’s fashion/clothing choices.  Another about “ugly people”.  There’s one about weddings as well.  All those sites where users can upload pictures they’ve taken on their cell phones, or worse, that they’ve stolen off someone’s Facebook or Flickr, just for the purpose of ridicule.

I don’t go to those sites because I find them offensive.  I also know what it’s like to have been the victim of that sort of bullshit.  I’ve had my photo taken in public and shared around for the purpose of ridicule.  I’ve also had pics stolen off my Facebook (before I locked it down) and my Flickr, that were put on websites where people ridiculed me for being fat, being ugly, not being feminine enough.

But the really heartbreaking thing is that I don’t need to go to those sites.  Because people I know, people who care about me and would NEVER dream of posting a photo of me like that, share pictures of strangers for the purpose of ridicule, right there on their profiles.  I know, I know, “Unfriend” or “Unfollow” you say.  But what do I do when it’s people I care about?  And LOTS of people?  If I unfriended or unfollowed every one who does it, my Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and such would be almost empty.  Because so many people do it.

I saw this post on Tumblr the other day (and reblogged it) because it really struck a chord with me.  Yes, it’s about a fat person.  But the issue is not just about fat people.  It’s about people who dress “weird”.  It’s about people who look “funny”.  It’s about guys who aren’t “masculine enough” and women who aren’t “feminine enough”.  It’s about anyone who is outside of the norm.  All of those people are at risk of having their photo secretly taken or stolen from their own site for the purpose of ridicule.

It makes me think of the Doors song, “People are Strange”:

People are strange when you’re a stranger
Faces look ugly when you’re alone

Because that’s how it is, isn’t it?  When you know someone, you see past the outside shell.  You see their sense of humour, or intelligence, or their kindness.  You see them for who they really are, complex beings that have strengths and weaknesses, and when you know them and/or care for them, you don’t see the things that strangers might notice as first impressions.  But when you’re a stranger, when you don’t know someone, you don’t have that depth of perspective, and there’s that disconnect to their feelings and thoughts.

How many times have you met someone and then as you got to know them, suddenly discovered or grew to realise that they’re wonderful, that they’re beautiful, that they’re awesome?

People who are strangers do look different, foreign, other.  It’s human nature, because we don’t have any emotional or intellectual connect with them.  But just because they are anonymous, doesn’t give anyone the right to ridicule them, not even with the anonymity of the internet.

Now I’m not trying to be holier than thou.  I’ve seen people and thought they looked weird, or dressed odd, or whatever.  In the past, I made the mistake of voicing that – never to them, but to my friends.  But I’ve learnt the hard way, through personal experience, it’s not cool.  It’s not the right thing to do.  I try to ask myself now “Is this person hurting anyone?”  If the answer is no… then it’s none of my damn business how they look.  The second question I ask myself is “How would I feel if I knew someone was judging me like that?”  It forces you to have a good hard think about your attitudes towards other people.

It’s also the problem of the culture of the paparazzi fed media too – because photographers stalk celebrities for candid shots of them, which then get splashed all over magazines and the papers and the internet, there is this mentality that everyday people can just whip out their camera phones and take a shot of someone any time they like too and do what they like with it.  It’s not ok.  Just because someone is in public doesn’t make them public property.

What I ask is that for anyone who shares these kinds of pictures on their Tumblr, their Facebook, their Twitter, or any other website, do you really want to be that person?  How would you feel if you suddenly met the person in that photograph, and saw how seeing their picture up being ridiculed on the internet made them feel?  Would you feel good about your part in that?  What if it was you?  What if it was one of your loved ones?  Would you feel ok about seeing them hurt by the actions of strangers?

I know how I feel.  Strangers might be strange.  But they’re still people.

Post “Fat Pig” Debrief

Published June 18, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I’ll give you a heads up that this is going to be a bit of a stream of consciousness blog post tonight.  I have just got home from seeing Neil LaBute’s “Fat Pig” by the Queensland Theatre Company, and need to debrief a little or I will never sleep tonight!

Now, let me just start off by saying that the play is wonderful, with a fantastic cast, though the two support characters are a little caricature-like to really take them seriously.  The leads, Amy Ingram and Christopher Sommers however bring depth and an honesty to their characters that more than makes up for the one dimensional supporting characters.  I loved the play, it’s an honest, confronting story and really blows open some issues around fat hatred and bigotry that I feel gets the subject out in the open.

However, right now, I am filled with such a blinding rage, an anger so intense that it had me sobbing hysterically in the theatre at the end of the play, fighting to just express how fucking furious I feel right now.

I think my two lovely friends at first thought that I was so upset because I was sad – the play confronts a lot of painful issues for fat women, especially around romantic relationships.  And yes, those moments are sad in the play.

However, they were so over-ridden by the rage I felt not at the story, or the cast, or anything to do with the play.  What I am so angry at, what makes me almost physically sick, is the reaction of a not-insignificant portion of the audience.

Without spoilers, I can tell you that the two sub-characters in the play are full of some pretty vitriolic fat hate.  That’s the point of them.  They’re the antagonists in the story.  What I didn’t expect was that quite a few people in the audience actually cheered them on, not because of the actors particularly good acting, but because these characters were saying things that those audience members clearly approved of.

There is one particular scene where Jeannie, played by Paige Gardiner, throws a rather theatrical tantrum, and lets spew with a whole string of hateful, vitriolic, bigoted bitchiness about the heroine of the play, Helen.  Paige plays this woman as particularly vicious and shrill, which to be honest, is the kind of woman that just makes me want to take a dump in her handbag and give her something to really bitch about, but as she stormed off stage, there were say a quarter of the audience, who applauded, not to acknowledge the actress, but instead as though they were offering a “RIGHT ON!” to Jeannie’s loathing of this fat woman.

And while most of us were laughing and cringing at the sheer ludicrousness of Carter’s (Steven Rooke) shallowness, there were two young women sitting next to us who, at a somewhat shocking and hateful reveal on his behalf, thought it was delightfully funny… while most of the audience were gasping with shock at just how vicious his behaviour was.  These two young women weren’t the only ones I’m sure.

I guess what has me so angry is that despite this fat woman, this lovely Helen, being given a face and a name and visible feelings in this wonderful play, despite the play pointing out the offensiveness of bigoted behaviour (not just towards fat people, but towards gay, disabled, old, and others as well) – there were a portion of the audience that just didn’t get it.  There were these people who just continued to think that behaviour like this towards fat people was perfectly acceptable – despite it being pointed out to them very clearly in this beautifully honest play, the despicable nature of their attitudes.

That’s what we’re up against in fighting fat hatred.  That’s the biggest fight we’ve got in front of us.  Not the good people who just let it slide because they don’t want to rock the boat.  Not those who feel discomfort about the bigotry and don’t quite know what to do, so they avoid the topic.  Not those who are just ignorant and buy into what they’re sold by the media and marketing.  But those who openly believe it’s totally acceptable to display hatred towards fat people, who normalise this behaviour as if it’s funny, or should be applauded or encouraged.

And that makes me so very, very angry.

Thanks for listening folks, the debrief has done me good.

Men Who Make a Difference

Published April 18, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

It’s not secret that I love Craig Ferguson.  Not only is he cute and funny, I love how intelligent, opinionated, passionate and articulate he is.  I bookmark a stack of videos, pics, quotes and things about him each week and usually Sunday is my internet catch up day, where I go back and take a look at all the bits and bobs I’ve saved for later.

I found this video via Tumblr.  Take a look, especially for the bit at the end, from around the 7:11 mark:

I knew what the subject matter was in that bit, in fact I’d seen a transcript of his comments on the Rhianna/Chris Brown thing, but what I didn’t expect was my reaction.

I fully expected to cheer a bit, say “YES!” and basically be impressed that Craig has had the guts to say something about it.

What I didn’t expect, was to quietly start crying.

Even though I have been safely removed from my abuser for over 15 years, there is still pain.  Even though I know now that the abuse wasn’t my fault, it still hits somewhere deeply when I think of what I and other women have suffered and are suffering.

A lot of good men say it doesn’t matter if they say anything against domestic violence.  They think that their voice against such abuse is pointless and doesn’t change anything.  I know it feels that way, in the face of “smack the bitch around” jokes and comments about how women just get to men so much that there is nothing they can do in retaliation but become abusive.  I know that it feels like it makes a man powerless to speak up, or that it’s pointless.

I am here to say that it is not pointless.  It does matter.  You are not powerless in speaking up against men who are abusive towards women and children.

It matters most to those of us who have suffered and are still suffering.  To hear a man say that hitting women is not acceptable means more than I can put into words.  It gives us heart that there are men out there who would never dream of hurting the people that they love.  Especially when being hurt by the person who is supposed to love you the most is all some women and children know.  It gives us hope that someone is speaking up with those of us who are victims and survivors.

Most importantly, it gives power to women and children who are being abused by the men in their lives to make a change and get out of that situation.

So the next time you hear of a case of domestic abuse dear good men, and I now know you are out there, in the past 15+ years I’ve been fortunate to have many of you come into my life as friends, colleagues, and even romantic interests, do speak up.  Say something.  Say something publicly.

Because you DO make a difference, it does matter.  I thank those of you who do.

Under No Obligation

Published November 10, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

This isn’t just a post about being fat.  It’s also a post about being a woman.  The two are very much linked together, because fat actually is a feminist issue.  It’s not only a feminist issue, but it is still one.

One of the problems with being fat and being female, is that in Western society at least, and probably in others, women’s bodies, and women themselves, are often considered public property.  Women’s bodies are commented on and critiqued.  They are touched, felt, groped, stood over and dominated.

Even when it’s not intended to be a menacing thing, women’s bodies are public property.  Ask any woman who is, or who has been pregnant what it’s like having complete strangers paw over her belly, comment on her shape and ask inappropriately personal questions.

When a woman’s body is fat, it’s subject to judgement and derision, comment and criticism.  A woman’s morals are judged by her body.  Slender, pretty women are “lovely, sweet, take care of themselves, angelic” etc.  Fat women who don’t fit traditional beauty standards are “lazy, gluttinous, slothful, sloppy, dirty” etc.

Of course, it’s totally wrong.  Body shape and physical attributes have absolutely no reflection on the morals and values of the person within.

Because women are so often treated as objects, not people, we have to endure a lot of behaviours from men that we shouldn’t have to endure.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE MEN.  Whooooweee, do I love the fellas.  Not only cos I find men sexy creatures that I would like to do sexy things with, but also because I generally enjoy the company of men the most.  Except for those men that exhibit the attitudes and behaviours that I’m about to talk about.

If a man speaks to a woman in public, and she does not respond, or is not interested in him, she is not a bitch, a slut, whore, fat cow or a lesbian.   She is under absolutely no obligation at all to respond or pay attention to any man.  Her avoidance or disinterest is not an invitation for that man to aim hostility, ridicule or abuse in her direction.  It is simply what it is – disinterest, and she is allowed to be disinterested.  It is not a crime.

Guys – if a woman buries her nose in her book, or plugs in her iPod, or turns away from you – leave her alone.  This is her way of telling you she does not wish to be disturbed by you.  This is not an invitation for you to harass her, insult her or assault her.  Women are taught from a very young age not to argue, to not make a fuss, to behave in a “ladylike manner”.  So these are her cues to leave her alone.  It’s likely she’s not going to say “Go away.” or “Leave me alone.”  because she has been taught to “not make a fuss”.  Or she has had an experience where she has told a man to go away, and he has actually got MORE abusive, MORE persistent with her, so she’s trying to avoid that.

If she is talking, laughing, or paying attention to another man, this also does not  mean that she has to pay attention to you by default.  She is allowed to choose which men she gives her attention to, just as you are allowed to choose which woman you pay attention to.  That does not make her a bitch or a snob, it just is her choice.

If she is a fat woman, she is not desperate.  She does not have to be “grateful” for your attention.  Or anyone else’s attention for that matter.  She is not just waiting for someone, ANYONE to pay her attention.  She is not an easy target for you to sleep with either, because again, she is not desperate.  She is just fat.  Just because you think she is unworthy or somehow deficient for being fat, doesn’t necessarily mean that other people, indeed, other men feel the same way.

If a woman is not interested in you, she is not interested in you.  Move on.  Behave like a decent human being, and you may find the next woman you approach will be interested in you.

It is not true that nice guys never get the girl.  They do, they just don’t behave like a douchebag about it.

Challenging the Cheap Shot

Published October 27, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

Today has been a cruddy day.  I’ve just been blue all day, and pretty much for reasons completely unknown to me.  Hormones or general depression, whatever it is, I’ve been having a very blah day.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve been particularly annoyed and angered by hate statements today.  Not just fat hate, but a whole bunch of stuff.  Usually I can just go “What-EV-er!” at it, but because I’m feeling cruddy, it has been annoying me and angering me more than it usually would.

It’s got me wondering why people feel the need to just spew hate.  I’m not talking about anger – anger can be useful and when expressed properly is not offensive or hateful.  What I’m talking about are the hate statements that often go with anger.

You know, someone is pissed off, so they say something like  “That fat bitch!” or “That ugly bastard.” or “You’re so gay!”  They hate on something that has absolutely no relevance to their anger, ie someone’s weight, sexuality, appearance, gender, colour, etc.

My pet hate is when people describe something bad as being “gay”.  That makes my blood boil!

I came to the realisation some time ago that these kind of things help nobody.  They don’t help me, and of course they certainly don’t help anyone else.

What they do show is a lack of ability to express oneself.  When people can’t think of anything specific to say, they hate on the incidentals like weight, appearance, gender, colour, sexuality etc.

A few nights ago I spotted a tweet from a woman that I was following on Twitter that was something like “This band is SOOO fat!  And SOOO gross.”  I was completely baffled at why an otherwise intelligent woman would just resort to such a cheap shot.  I didn’t stick around to find out though, that’s the beauty of Twitter, an unfollow is an easy thing.

What it really boils down to is that commenting  on or insulting a person’s appearance, abilities or gender is offensive.  Someone has made you angry?  Then complain all you like about their behaviour or their attitudes, but leave the cheap shots out of it.  It’s childish and pathetic.

I don’t know though – I wish I had some answers on how to stop people just hating all the time.  I know I’m working very hard on letting go of any negativity, that includes when people hurt me, I want to address their behaviour or attitudes, not who or what they are.  I wish I knew how to challenge meanness and hate, but I’m at a bit of a loss.

How do you do it?

What’s in a Name?

Published July 13, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

Now don’t get too used to two posts in the same night, I just want to give you a deeper introduction so you all know what I’m about early in the piece.

Ok, where to start hey? Well, perhaps I’ll tell you why I chose the title “Fat Heffalump” for this blog. I chose it, to reclaim it as mine. Because when I was a kid, in fact, right up until the last time I spoke to him about 5 years ago, my very cruel brother always called me a “Fat Heffalump”. And it hurt. Oh boy, every time he used that phrase, it tore a hole in my soul that was raw, bleeding and sheer agony. I can’t tell you the number of tears I have cried over the words “fat heffalump”.
The worst times were when he used it in front of other people. He delighted in calling me that in front of his friends, my friends, boys at school, our family, loudly in public places in front of strangers. Because he knew it hurt me to the core.
And I would make some kind of joke, call him a wanker and laugh it off, all the while a piece of me was dying inside. I died inside for many, many years. From as early as I can remember, I was dying inside because of other people’s remarks. I was very good at hiding my tears, hiding how much I hurt. Everyone thought I was “happy bubbly Kath”, but the truth was that up until a few years ago, I was a huge well of emotional pain.
But something changed over the past few years. Some of it due to professional counselling, some of it due to finding my own strength and removing a lot of hurtful people from my life, but adding beautiful, delicious, accepting, big hearted, positive, gentle, giving people to my life. I’ve learned to value myself, and that the people are worth having in my life will never be cruel or hurtful, that they’ll raise me up, not slam me down.
So I am taking back the words “fat heffalump”. They are mine. I now embrace those two words with affection. They are not something that has power over me, but something that I am fond of for my own reasons.
I don’t really know what a heffalump is (it sounds kind of fuzzy and cute really) but if anyone creative wants to draw/paint/create me their interpretation of one, I’ll feature it here on this blog and plug your artwork all over the place. I’ll sing your praises from the rooftops!