discrimination

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Fat Hatred and Discrimination on Public Transport: Guest Post by Foxie

Published November 26, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

About a week ago my friend Foxie mentioned on Facebook that she had been discriminated against by a bus driver in her home town of Adelaide, who refused to allow she and another woman to board a bus, citing that it was full, only for them to discover that it was not, and the driver was only letting thin passengers get on.  On talking to Foxie about her experience, she spoke about the increasing level of fat hatred and discrimination she has seen on her regular commute on public transport in Adelaide.

As a public transport commuter myself, I have experienced my fair share of fat hatred and discrimination.  It has affected me so much that I avoid catching trains here in Brisbane because it is so prevalent on them, and prefer to take the bus because at least with a driver on board and within earshot, abusive behaviour is curbed somewhat.

I asked Foxie if she would write a piece about her experiences for me to share here on Fat Heffalump, and she has kindly done so.  So without any further ado, here is her piece on fat hatred and discrimination on public transport.  Hopefully she will also update us on the situation in the comments below.

Trigger warning for fat hatred and abusive language.

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My dear friend, Kath, asked me to write something about what I have experienced in the last three days and I decided that I would as I needed to vent. Writing my vents down has always helped and this subject has really made me angry.

It seems that I have been surrounded by inconsiderate, self-centred, downright nasty people in the last three days all with comments or actions being negatively made towards us fatties. Now most times I just let these things flow over me like water off a duck’s back but this week it has, quite frankly, pissed me off.

Firstly I was dumbstruck at the behaviour of a male aged in his late 30’s to early 40’s on my bus home on Monday who made an initial comment about how he couldn’t sit down because the “fat chick was taking up all the space and making others stand”. Now for starters she was sitting on a seat at the very front of the bus that only fits one person anyway as it’s not a full two-seater like the rest of them. Secondly, he did this loud enough for all those on the bus to hear. I was standing right at the back, hearing his voice so clearly, I actually thought he was standing just a couple of people down from me.

Now some people looked at each other with faces saying “oh my, I can’t believe he said that”, while others chuckled. The lady suddenly slumped her shoulders and looked out of the window. I felt for her, I really did. He continued to make fun of her size and even offered her a mars bar in case she was hungry. Thankfully, someone stood up in defense of her and told him he was a jerk and if there was a kingdom for (and I don’t like the word he used) cu**s, he would be the King. The King of Cu**ville. This made some people laugh and he shut up. Still I could see the lady was distraught but she never snapped back at and continued to ignore him to the best of her ability.

The next day, I got on the bus again and heeeellooo! He was back. This time he was within reach and he started on another lady, except this one was only a young pup, maybe late teens, early 20’s. He was with a work colleague this time and he was not amused at having to stand once again. I hadn’t seen him at first because we were all piling on like herded sheep and it wasn’t until he opened his mouth that I realised it was going to be one of those rides home again.

His first words: “Sorry mate, I’d offer you the seat here but you know, those fat girls are taking them all up again”. I looked at the young girl and saw her get all embarrassed and swore I saw her heart break. I felt my blood starting to boil. I bit my tongue to start with but he just went on and on and on. Finally I had a enough and said “I see the King of Cu**ville is back in town”. He just looked at me stunned and stumbled with any form of a comeback. So I continued….

“I really hope you don’t have a partner or children of your own that suddenly get sick and put on any weight because you’d disown them in a heartbeat wouldn’t you?” No answer. “And I reckon if you had a daughter who was of a larger size and she got picked on by a jerk like you on the bus, you wouldn’t try to defend her at all, you’d tell her to go eat some celery, exercise and harden up right?”. Again, no answer. “Seriously dude, grow up! It’s people like you that cause people to snap and not in a good way. You really should consider what you are going to say before you say it because you have no fracking idea WHY any of us are the way we are, you have no idea if it’s pure laziness and love of food, you don’t know whether it’s a medical condition, you don’t know shit! So shut the frack up before I put you on your ass!”. I got applauded by the majority of people at the back of the bus.

He looked at his work colleague for some back up and he just said “She’s right mate, you can be a real jerk sometimes and a lot of the time, rather offensive towards people.” That there was priceless because he suddenly had nobody and was stuck on the bus for the next 20 minutes surrounded by people that were going to smack him if he opened his trap again.

The young girl who had put her iPod on smiled at me and said “Thank you”, tears rolling down her cheeks. He had pissed me off and I couldn’t hold back any longer. I think if my husband had been on the bus with me he probably would of smacked him out before I had gotten the chance to say anything.

Today however, was the icing on the cake!

Today I came around the corner from my workplace to see my bus already at the bus stop and people had stopped piling on. There were a couple running towards him and so he waited. When another lady and I got there, he looked us up and down, looked in the rear view mirror and said “I’m sorry ladies, this bus is full and I can’t let anyone else come on.”. Now neither of us had looked at the amount of people on the bus as we ran towards it and therefore said “oh ok” and rejoined the queue.

Upon turning around and saying a couple of things to each other, we realised the bus was not full, in fact it wasn’t even half full of people standing and there was plenty of room for us to get on. We looked at each other, turned towards the door of the bus to see him let on more people, all of “petite” size. Now he had not asked anyone to move back or anything and he hadn’t closed the doors to move on because it was “full” as we had walked back to the queue.

Immediately the lady that had been declined access got her phone, pen and paper out and wrote the bus number and route down, along with a description of the driver and took a photo of the bus, clearly showing the room that was on there. She then phoned up the bus company to complain, stating to me that she would then hand the phone to me for my complaint to be given.

Other people in the line started talking about it and how they couldn’t believe what they had just witnessed and so when she’d finished with her complaint, she asked them if they’d help her by giving her their details if she needed further witnesses to the incident. 7 out of the 10 said they would and gave her their name and numbers. I put my complaint in and then we both got on the next bus. She had told the person on the other end that she wanted a phone call by 5pm tomorrow from management or she’d be taking the incident to the Minister for Transport, ACA and Today Tonight and then filing papers for discrimination against the driver and the company for not disciplining him or getting him counselled.

It was while talking to her on the bus that I discovered that she worked for a Law Firm with her specialty being discrimination. The first thought that came to mind was “he screwed with the wrong lady”. I then wondered if he would of done that if we were actually disabled with canes or a walking frame. I’m betting he wouldn’t have and made people move down instead so that we could get on as well.

I can tell you I was absolutely appalled by the whole affair and to have this sort of crap for three days straight pushed me over the edge.

Yes, I’m a fatty. Yes, there are medical reasons for why I am the way I am and I have learnt to be happy with who I am because in the end, it’s my life and if I am unhappy with it, then it’s up to me to do something about it. I don’t need nor want to hear from someone, who doesn’t know a thing about me, that I need to lose weight, that I am disgusting or anything of the sort. I’m human just like they are. I have feelings just like them and I have a right to be treated as an equal regardless of my size.

There is a very good chance my young daughter will have the same issues as me from puberty so I am working hard to help prevent that; to ensure that she has a life without the bullies and I will do everything in my power to protect her from the jerks like I have had to deal with these last three days.

Will the bullying of fatties ever end? I don’t think it will, but I can always hope and will stand up for those that can’t defend themselves against those that choose to be their own “King of Cu**ville”.

Here’s hoping I see that King again this week……

by Foxie

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What are your experiences with public transport as a fat person?  Do you find some situations are worse than others?  Share in the comments.

Flaunting Our Fat

Published October 30, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

So this post went around Tumblr through the week.  The original poster has since deleted the offending post, but like an elephant, the internet never forgets.  It’s basically some young guy saying that all fat people should stay at home so that he doesn’t have to see them while he’s trying to pick up women.

Charming huh?

The sad thing is that he’s not alone in his douchebag attitude.  There are plenty of them around. People who think that fat people should stay at home, not be seen anywhere in public (or in the media, unless we have our heads cut off and are being shamed) and should never do or be anything positive.  The very people who suggest that anything that isn’t actively shaming fatness is “promoting obesity”.  You know those folks, we’ve all encountered them.

But I have a proposal for you all.

Let’s be all obese at them.  Let’s flaunt our fat selves.  Now each of us do that is up to each of us individually.  For me, it’s about living my life to the fullest and refusing to wear the shame that people try to hand us as fat people.  Here are some suggestions, some of which I do, some of which I admire others doing.

  • Go sleeveless.  Let the world see those fat arms, get a little sun and fresh air on them, and feel cool on a hot day.
  • Spend time with your friends (and if you have fat friends, form a posse of fat flaunters!) having fun in public.  Laugh.  Talk.  Party.
  • Take up a sport or some other physical activity that you enjoy.  Have fun doing it.  Practice getting really good at it.
  • Be unashamedly affectionate with your loved ones.  Hug your friends, kiss your lovers, hold hands, put your arm around someone.
  • Go out to a nightclub, dance your arse off.
  • Wear something that makes you feel fabulous.
  • Get up on stage if you want to.  Sing, act, dance, perform.
  • Flirt.  But only with people who deserve your time and attention.
  • Go to sporting events and holler until you’re hoarse.
  • Eat ice-cream in public.  Or a burger.  Chips.  Brownie.  Something tasty that is deemed “bad”.  Enjoy it.  Give anyone who throws judgement at you the finger.
  • Wear body-hugging clothes.  Spandex, Lycra, Elastane etc.  Rock the shit out of them.
  • Dye your hair your favourite colour.
  • Get your belly button pierced.
  • Buy a swimsuit, a bikini if you want, and wear it at the beach or the pool.
  • Go on a date with a lovely person.
  • Ride a bike.  Or a horse.  Or a motorcycle.  Or a camel if you prefer.
  • Go shopping (but remember – if you can’t find clothes to fit you, that’s not because of your body, but because manufacturers and retailers are slack and are not catering to you.)
  • Go to your school reunion.  Party and have a great time.  It’s not a competition, it’s a night out.
  • Go to concerts and plays and other performances.  If you are so moved, stand up and applaud, dance or sing along.
  • Appear in public without apologising for your size.

So how is that to get you started?  You’re welcome to add your own in the comments if you like.

Believe me, according to douchebags like the one I linked to above, all of these are “offensive” behaviours from fat people.  Which makes them radical acts, though they seem simple on the surface.

I propose we get out there and just fat all over the place.  Fat to the left, fat to the right, fat in the day, fat in the night.

Every one of us has as much right to exist in this world as anyone else.  Let’s take it up.

We’ve Done Our Time

Published September 19, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

A little questionnaire for you all:

  1. How many years of your life did you put into trying to be thin?
  2. How much of your life did you put on hold while you tried to be thin?
  3. How old were you when you first remember being told you were fat?
  4. How many diets have you been on?
  5. How many exercise “plans” have you been on?
  6. How many years of your life have been taken up with eating disorders?
  7. How many people have told you that you are fat?
  8. How many people have treated you badly because you are fat?
  9. How many years did you spend counting calories, watching the number on the scale or the size label on your clothes?

Now tally the sum of all those years, all that time, all those diets, all those times you made yourself sick in the effort to get thin, all the punishing exercise regimes, all the hurtful experiences add all those numbers together.

Take that number, write it down, look at it for a minute, and ask yourself…

Don’t you think the fat haters should invest the equivalent amount of time, the same number of years, in trying as hard to be a decent human being, as we fat people invested in trying to be thin?

Fat people are not the ones with the problem, or who are in denial.   Fat people are not in denial of being fat.  We know we are fat, and in choosing fat acceptance, we accept ourselves exactly as we are, and we accept others exactly as they are.

You can let go of all those numbers now.  Set yourself free of the pain that those numbers represent.  You’re off the hook – you’ve done your part.  Close your eyes and imagine that all those instances of trying to be thin, or being bullied and shamed for being fat are balloons, filled with helium.  Imagine them in your hand, bobbing above you, all different colours.  Now open your hand and let them all go.  You don’t have to carry them any more.

This isn’t giving up.  This is letting go and deciding that YOU control your life, not other people who feel they have the right to judge you.  This is about deciding to live your life to the fullest you can.

People who think that fat people are somehow worth less as human beings as thin people, that fat people deserve to be shamed, discredited, their experiences denied and generally just shamed and bullied for being fat are the ones who have the problem.  They just can’t get on with their lives and let people be who they are, as they are.

We are not the ones in denial, it is the fat haters that are in denial.

Denial that they are in fact… arseholes.

*Post inspired this post by Ragen of Dances with Fat.

 

The Right of Self Advocacy

Published July 13, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I’m going to talk about another recurring theme of the kind of comments we see on (and in) articles about fatness (whether they be in the mainstream media as “obesity” articles or  here in the fatosphere ), and that is the theme that fat people should not, or cannot advocate for themselves.  That somehow, by measure of our fatness, we render ourselves incapable of making decisions as an adult about our own lives.

There is a common sentiment that fat people need intervention in their lives.  Be it from those in the medical profession, our families and friends, or complete strangers, either on the internet or in public.  Entire conferences are held by medical professionals into “obesity interventions and prevention”, without any input from actual fat people.  Doctors prescribe restrictive diets, food substitutes, weight loss therapy and at the most extreme, surgical gastric mutilation, without any further investigation than measuring a patients BMI, which in itself is a flawed system of measurement.  Our friends, families and even colleagues feel it is acceptable to “let us know” that we are fat and that we should “do something about it”.  And strangers, be they on the street or online, feel free to advise us, without invitation, without knowing anything about us, and often despite our protests, on what we should be doing with our bodies and our lives.

This of course is presented to fat people as “concern for your health“, but what it really is, at it’s core, is the infantilisation of fat people and stripping of the basic adult right to make ones own decisions.

It reduces fat people to a child-like state of requiring management to function in the basics like eating and physical activity.  It says “You’re not capable of taking care of yourself, so we need to step in and do it for you.”  Usually, it is done without any consultation at all with the fat person in question, and even if the fat person does attempt to explain that they do not require management or intervention, they are often dismissed as being overly emotional or in denial.  No matter what argument a fat person presents to advocate for themselves, the response is dismissive and patronising.

The other main outcome of this kind of behaviour is the othering of fat people.  It reduces fat people to sub-normal beings, as less-than-human others, as though they are animals that require husbandry, a kind of domestic management.  It strips fat people of the fundamental human right to advocate for themselves and make their own life decisions.  This is the kind of personal reduction that we have seen with other marginalised people throughout history and in our current time.  It is the act of reducing fat people (and other marginalised people) as somehow less than the normative.

One of the first things I think we need to be focusing on as a movement is the basic right to advocate for ourselves as adults.  It’s not easy, I know all too well.  Even now I still have trouble standing up for myself, particularly to medical professionals and saying “This is not what I want.” or “That is not my experience.” or even “You are not listening to me.”  Even now, as I get more and more bolshy about my fat activism, I still find myself daunted in the face of the kind of dismissive responses we often get.  Mostly it is born of frustration for me, that even at almost 38 years of age, I am unable to be heard as the capable adult that I am while people only focus on my fatness, rather than the facts, my experiences and my own wishes.

That’s it really.  The problem does not lie with our communication of these things, but with other people hearing them.

But that said, I know I have to keep doing it.  I have to keep pushing, keep challenging, keep demanding.  Because, like any other human being, we have the right to advocate for ourselves as adults.

No matter what size our bodies are, no matter what status our health is.

The Old “But Fatties are Costing Us Money!” Argument

Published July 11, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Reading the comments on Rebecca Sparrow’s excellent post on Mamamia about fat discrimination (in particular Stephanie Payne’s story of abuse on public transport) has had my face meeting my palm a few times today.  It’s the same old tropes that are trotted out on every single article about the “obesity epidemic” and anything else to do with fatness – you know the ones:

“But that’s not healthy!”

“Well nobody should be bullied but being THAT heavy/fat/obese is just wrong.”

“If they don’t want to be bullied, they should just lose weight.”

“Well there’s fat and then there’s just obese, that’s disgusting.”

“I’m not fat but I work really hard at staying thin, so they’re just lazy.”

“If you take up more space then you should pay for two seats.”

And even this one bothers me:

“Well you don’t know if they’re doing something to lose weight or not, so you shouldn’t risk bullying them.” (As if people who are not being “good fatties” and losing weight don’t deserve the same respect and fairness as everyone else.)

Blah blah blah blah blah!  I know, we’ve all heard them a million times over, as if they justify fat people being treated as though they are sub-human.

I want to focus on one I keep seeing repeated tonight.  Are we ready?

 

“But you’re driving up the cost of health insurance/taxes!!”

 

Let’s just think about that shall we?

Firstly, the implication is that fat people are nothing but a drain on the public infrastructure.  That somehow, fatness means that one can never have a job, pay taxes, engage in volunteer work, support a family (either children or elderly parents or any other members of family), have an education, be creative, be nurturing, be intelligent, be passionate, be hard-working or devoted.

Because all fat people do is sit on the sofa and eat cheeseburgers amirite?

Well, I can only speak for myself, but I’d love a little more leisure time to sit on the sofa and I wish cheeseburgers didn’t give me reflux!

Funnily enough, fat people go to work just like anyone else.  They work hard (if not harder, because of the amount of discrimination against fatness in the workplace) and pay taxes.  I work in a capital city, and I see fat people coming and going from their places of employment every day.  I am served in shops by fat people, waited on in cafes and restaurants by fat people, see fat bus drivers and fat cleaners and fat lawyers and fat doctors and fat police and fat tradies.  In my own job, I have fat colleagues and fat vendors and fat suppliers that I work with, and they’re all hard working people who do their part to help me do my job.  They do so just the same as the thin people I work with, and the in-between people I work with.  Body size has absolutely no bearing on how people do their job.  Well, unless you’re a window cleaner, and I don’t know about you, but the thought of dangling down the side of a building as the wind whistles by has absolutely no appeal for me, whether I was fat OR thin!

Secondly, let’s address the “driving up the cost” aspect.  This of course implies that the only people that are utilising health care/insurance are fat people.  Or at best, that fat people are using up more than “their fare share”.  So where are we with smokers, drinkers, drug users, those who engage in violence to themselves or others, sports people who sustain illness or injury due to their sport, DIY-ers who injure themselves while cutting/hammering/demolishing etc, people who drive cars and cause accidents, people who spend too much time in the sun and get sunstroke or severe sunburn, folks who get into trouble at the beach/pool/other waterway and need rescuing and subsequent medical attention… the list could go on and on of people who engage in behaviour that causes them to require medical attention.

And of course we have no concrete proof that fatness is because of any behaviour, can be controlled or reversed in any way, but I’m giving the “But you’re driving up the cost of health insurance/taxes!” crew the benefit of the doubt here.

Finally, let’s talk about the whole thing about taxes, levies, rates, tariffs and other public funding.  Part of being an adult in our society is that you are required to contribute a share of your livelihood in taxes and other public fees.

Ok, so you pay those monies, but you don’t want any of that money to go towards the fatties getting this perceived “extra” health care, because you’re not fat right?  So you shouldn’t be letting anyone else have “extra” that you don’t need right?

Well… do you have children?  Because if not, your money is going towards education, which you might not directly reap the benefits of.  How about drive a car, do you do that?  Because if you don’t, your taxes etc are going towards roads, bridges, highways and street-lights, the oil industry, and all the other infrastructure required to for motoring on, that you may not directly benefit from.  Do you use public transport at all?  If not, your tax dollars are going towards buses, trains, ferries, taxis and trams, not to mention cycle paths and walkways that you might not directly use yourself.  Do you go to the library?  Your rates and taxes go towards them too – how dare all those horrible people use your tax dollars to borrow books, enjoy story time, use the library space and take computer classes at your expense!

The reality is, we pay taxes and other public fees to go towards a pool of funds that are used to build the very infrastructure of our world.  To pay for roads and schools and libraries and parks and yes, even health care, among many other things.  If you want to quibble where your tax dollars go, how about you take a look at politicians pay packets.  Or how  much money goes into the military every year.  Believe me, it’s far more dollars that go to those two than go to health care for any people, let alone just the fat ones.

If you want to talk about things that drive the cost of private health insurance up, let’s look at the profit margins of health insurance companies.  Or better still, the pay packets of their CEO’s!  Let’s just say that these CEO’s aren’t going to be lining up for public health care with the rest of us any time soon.

In short, it’s a pretty redundant argument to say that fat people are driving up the costs of health insurance/taxes.  Health insurance is an industry created to make a profit for their shareholders, and taxes are a public pool of money that we all benefit from in various different ways.

And every single one of us has the same rights as the other, regardless of our body size, or our health.

What is Fat Heffalump All About?

Published June 25, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Well… how do I follow on from that last post?  It is the most viewed, most commented on and most widely shared post I’ve written in the history of Fat Heffalump.  I’m both gobsmacked and thrilled.

Firstly, let me welcome all of the new readers who have come along thanks to that post.  Just a little bit of housekeeping – there is a comments policy, probably a good idea to go take a look at it, just so we’re all clear.  It’s there to protect you as much as it is to protect me.  But I am thrilled to see so many new faces popping up here, and for those of you lurking, please feel safe to comment and say hello.

I think I’m going to give you a few resources today, because I know quite a few of the new folks who have popped up here since my last post are new to fat acceptance (also known as size or body acceptance, because it really does encompass all body sizes – I simply focus on fat acceptance because I am fat myself.)  I would also like to invite the more seasoned Fat Heffalump readers to leave their favourite resources (and their own blogs in fact) in the comments for our new readers too.

Where shall we start?  I guess the basic premise of fat acceptance is that all bodies, be they fat, thin or in between, deserve to be able to live their lives with dignity and respect, and without being singled out as “abnormal”.  Even the “unhealthy” ones, I use quotation marks because really, health is totally subjective and can’t really be measured by anyone but the individual themselves.  To share a lovely quote I saw on Hanne Blank’s post about “real” women today, from the fabulous Mr. Glenn Marla:

There is no wrong way to have a body.

That’s what it boils down to at it’s very core.  Of course there are a lot of other complex subjects within that, and fat acceptance does intersect with all other social justice movements.  That’s a really important thing to understand – that when we talk about our own rights, and the marginalisation of ourselves as people with fat bodies, that it intersects with all other marginalised people and their rights.  Marianne from The Rotund has a very good post about intersectionality that also explains why we don’t go down the road of saying “Fat hatred is the last acceptable prejudice.”  Cos you know, it’s not.

There is a lot of work around basic human rights, and taking it up in one place does benefit all, so long as you acknowledge and work with that intersectionality.  As well as benefiting oneself, it benefits the world.

For me personally, the reason that fat acceptance is so important to me is about self esteem.  I come from a place where I had absolutely no self esteem.  I thought I was the most worthless human being on the planet simply because I was fat.  Then I found fat acceptance, and a world opened right up for me.  I started to believe that I was worthy of simple things, like adequate medical care and help for my depression and non-existent self esteem.  I started to believe that I had a right to live my life happy and abundant, and without being discriminated against or vilified for my body.  I began to believe that I was worth taking care of myself.  From there, I’ve grown so much and my life has opened up in so many ways.

I really do believe, that with strong self esteem, a person’s world is always made better, no matter their circumstances.  It’s such a difficult thing to cultivate, but the benefits of it are incredible.

So I want to give back where I benefited from.  I want to help other people find strong sense of self esteem, to find their confidence and point them in the direction of  all the amazing things I found through fat acceptance.

And what resources did I find that brought me to the world of fat acceptance?

Well, I think the first was the very Awesome Frances of Hey Fat Chick!/Corpulent.  Hey Fat Chick! was so revolutionary to me, to see bodies that looked like mine portrayed as beautiful and happy and strong.  There was the aforementioned Marianne Kirby with her blog The Rotund and the book she co-wrote with Kate Harding, Screw Inner Beauty (known as Lessons from the Fatosphere in other parts of the world).  There was the most wonderful Marilyn Wann and her book Fat! So?

Close to home, there is Bri King from Fat Lot of Good and Elizabeth from Spilt Milk.

Some of my current favourites that regularly get me thinking, blow my world open and inspire me are Lesley Kinzel from Two Whole Cakes, Ragen Chastain from Dances with Fat, Sarah from Not Blue at All and Elizabeth Tamny from The Extender.

Another aspect of fat acceptance you might like to get into is fatshion.  That’s fat fashion!  My lovely friends Nicole of A Well Rounded Venture and Anna of Bargain Fatshionista are a good place to start.  But others I love are Cupcakes Clothing, Pocket Rocket Fashion and we can’t forget the fabulous Bloomie of 30 Dresses in 30 Days.

Oh, and if you want to hear from the fellas, you can’t go past Brian at Red No. 3 and the amazing big dude fashion resource, Chubstr.

This is just a small selection of the amazing work that is being done out there by some really incredible people.  But it will get you started and I’m sure bring you some amazing information, ideas and perspectives.

I regularly post links on my @fatheffalump twitter and the Fat Heffalump Facebook page to articles and information that interests me as well, so feel free to follow there!

Again, welcome to all of the new people who have popped up as readers here at Fat Heffalump recently, and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.

On “Letting Yourself” Get Unhealthy

Published June 7, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I read this post from Dr Samantha Thomas over at The Discourse and I must say, while I’m absolutely disgusted at the way Amanda Bell has been treated, sadly I am not actually surprised.  Because most of us who live in fat bodies know all too well that respectful, dignified health care is not something we can find easily, and that part of the reason so many of us find ourselves ill is because we avoid going anywhere near medical providers due to the amount of shame and bullying that is heaped on us when we do.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is a chronic illness that comes with a whole host of it’s own shaming, which is compounded when it is suffered by someone who is fat.  I am lucky, I have a GP who is supportive, sympathetic and treats me with respect and dignity.  She also listens to me.  However I was in my 30’s before I found my beloved Doc Jo.  But I dread the thought of needing a specialist of any kind, because it is fresh in my mind the horror of having to deal with fat shaming and the general disrespect of fat-hostile medical professionals (and I use the term “professional” loosely).

But as I have read more and more on the topic of T2 diabetes, all I have found is further fat-shaming from both health care professionals and from every “expert” member of the media and the public who profess to have an opinion on a chronic illness that they neither suffer nor have studied.  The most common message is that T2 diabetics, or to be specific, fat T2 diabetics, have “brought it upon themselves” and are now “clogging up our health care system on something they did to themselves.”  Somehow thin T2 diabetics escape this criticism and are often heaped with sympathy and disbelief on how they should get a disease that the commenter believes is something that only “unhealthy fat people” get.

And just tonight, on Twitter I have had some two-bit television doctor from the UK dismissing me as “being silly” when I tried to speak to him about the disrespect and shaming that fat people suffer at the hands of medical professionals.  Clearly he fails to see that a patronising tone is not an adequate argument.

What I want to talk about today is the commonly held belief that fat people do not deserve respectful, caring medical attention and are unable to advocate for their own health.  Now, let’s pretend, for just a moment, that all the evidence we have found about there being no causal links between fatness and disease, only correlation, and we’ll pretend, just for a moment, that there are no healthy fat people, nor unhealthy thin people, and we’ll even pretend for a moment that 95% of diets and weight loss regimes do not fail over the long term.  So if we ignore all of that evidence, and pretend, just for a moment, that fat really is something that can be controlled and eradicated by diet and exercise.

Let’s just pretend for a minute (bear with me).

If that’s the case, wouldn’t that mean that EVERYBODY who engages in risky behaviour or does things that are detrimental to their own health should be shamed, bullied, intervened into and vilified for their behaviours?  Wouldn’t that mean that ANYONE who is not in 100% tip-top physical form through some kind of activity or behaviour that may possibly do damage to the human body should be held fully financially responsible (without any support from private or public health care) for their illnesses and injuries?

Let’s think about that.

Do you tan/sunbathe/expose ANY of your skin to the sun?  Well, that counts you out for respectful health care, because you’ve let yourself get skin cancer.  Do you drink alcohol?  No respectful health care for you, if you let yourself get cirrhosis, stomach ulcers or alcohol related illnesses.  How about anyone who plays sport?  If you let yourself get injured on the field/course/track/court – no respectful health care for you.  Have you ever had sexual intercourse in your life? Well if you get any of the long list of illnesses and diseases that can be contracted from just one sexual encounter, then it’s your fault, you are also exempt from respectful health care.  Do you drive a car?   If you have an accident, you let it happen, so off the list you go too.  Take public transport to commute to and from work?  Well, if the bus has an accident, or you get the flu from other people on your train – you let that happen by engaging in behaviour that has risks, so you’re off the list there.  Choose to get pregnant?  Well, all those things that can happen during pregnancy and childbirth – you let those happen by exposing yourself to that risk, so nope, no respectful health care for you either.

We could go on like this for ever.  Because every single action we do in our lives, can and does have health risks.  Not to mention that we humans do a lot of very stupid things to ourselves and end up sick or injured because of it.  We drive big metal and glass vehicles at high speeds, we perch atop small things with wheels on them and hurtle along roads, down hills and around car-parks in the name of fun or transport.  We hurl balls, sticks, spears, discs and other projectiles at each other in the name of sport.  We jump out of planes, strap huge cans of air to our backs and dive to the bottom of the ocean with big creatures that have teeth that and see us as food, we go places where there are things that can bite, sting, spear and poison us.  We have sex with all kinds of people and things, we use mind-altering substances and we engage in all kinds of purely cosmetic procedures that can go wrong.  In the name of entertainment, pleasure or convenience, we do hundreds of things that are not entirely necessary, and carry risks to our health.

Such is life.  Simply being conceived, gestated and born is the riskiest thing any human being can do – all the stuff afterwards is just the icing on the risk cake.

So why is it that fatness is singled out?  Why is it that there is this general perception that fat people aren’t capable of making informed, conscious choices about our own lives and the risks associated?  Why is it believed that we need to be shamed for our own good?

Because it’s not about health.  It has never been about health.  It is about appearance and moral superiority.  A fat person offends the eye of a fat hater (and fat hatred is encouraged in our society), so they need to be shamed and bullied until they are either thin, or hidden away where the fat hater cannot see them.  Or better still, eradicated.  And our culture encourages people to feel moral superiority over others, so as we are encouraged to hate fat, who better to claim moral superiority over to make ourselves feel better than the fatties?

Yet so many people still can’t understand why fat people avoid going to the doctor…

If You Could Magically Become Thin Overnight, Wouldn’t You?

Published May 23, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Hands up if you’ve had this question.  If you’re a fat activist I’d say the likelihood is pretty high.  I hear it pretty regularly myself.

It’s usually followed by “Of course you would!” before I even get the chance to respond.  Which tells me from the outset that my answer to the question was actually irrelevant, since I wasn’t even given the opportunity to answer for myself.

I’ve just had another round of that question fired at me.  Anonymously of course, though it hasn’t always been so.  This time the asker hit me up in several places (Tumblr, Formspring, in the comments on this blog…) with the same question.  Seems they really want to tell me that “Of course you would!”

The thing is, it’s a redundant question.  There IS no magic way to become thin, either overnight, in a week, a month, a year, a decade.  The asker assumes that the concept is really worth entertaining because they believe that if I really, really wanted to, I could become thin.  But I know, and it’s becoming increasingly documented in science, that no matter how much a I could possibly want it (if I did), I can no more become thin than I can become a unicorn, the President of the United States of America, or marry Hugh Jackman.

Well, there is an outside, remote, very distant chance I could marry Hugh, but even that is more of a likelihood than my becoming thin.

However, there are some things I would like to happen, and I do believe are possible right now, without any magic, is for people with fat bodies to be treated with dignity and respect.  For our bodies to exist without being treated as objects of derision, fetish or ridicule.  And for fat people to be allowed to live their lives without the intrusion of strangers and the general public on our own private matters, such as health, sexuality and comfort.

I would like to see all bodies, regardless of their size included in all aspects of life.  I would like to see all bodies included in public spaces, on transport, in education and health without moral value being attached to them.  I would like all bodies to have access to clothing, furniture, safety gear and sporting/recreational equipment equally.

But most of all, I would like to see people in general focus on the wellbeing of their own bodies, rather than intruding on the wellbeing of other people’s – even fat people.

This is what could happen, without “magic”, and without wishing for something that is simply a fairytale.

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.


The Questions that Need to be Asked

Published April 1, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Dear Thin, White Women of the Media*,

I have to know.  Why are you so threatened by the idea of it being ok for fat people to just be themselves, as they are?

Why do you feel that it is your place to speak for fat people, to intervene in our lives?  What is so abhorrent about the idea of leaving us alone to advocate for ourselves?  Why are you so determined to make fat people the scourge of society?  Why do you feel the need to discredit us, denounce our ability to advocate for our own lives, our own health, our own standards of living?  Why do you feel the need to post articles that only draw more fat stimga to us, without ever moderating the comments so that we are subjected to even more loathing than we already suffer?  Why do you feel the need to make jokes about fatness, without any care or concern what the fallout of those jokes might be?  Why do you feel that our bodies need to be publicly discussed and criticised, when you are outraged when your body is treated this way?  Why do you say you are concerned for our health, when you know absolutely nothing about any of us, how healthy we are, what our histories are, and what it feels like to live in our bodies?  Why do you think it is acceptable to draw attention to extreme behaviour from some fat people, as though all of us live the same way, that we are all somehow “freaks” that should be pointed at, as though you’re shouting “Look!  Look at that fatty over there!  She’s WEIRD!”

Why do you talk so much about positive body image, but make it clear that fat people are to be excluded from positive body image?  Why do you speak about how as a society we should be talking about obesity, but the minute a fat person speaks, you shut them down, tell them they are not allowed to give criticism, not allowed to give their perspectives and discredit their experiences?  Why do you feel the need to imply that fat people are of a lower class by referring to the correlation of class and weight, without any acknowledgement of how society as a whole pushes fat people further down the class ladder by denying them employment, equal wages, clothing, and general social status.  Why would you do that unless as a way to highlight that fat people are somehow inferior to others?  Why do you fail to engage with any fat people unless it is on your terms?

Why do you feel the need to speak about us, to label us, to put words in our mouths, without ever listening to what we have to say, or asking us what we are really saying?  Why do you feel the need to twist what we are saying to make us look like a flock of fat harpies, intent on swooping down to peck at your bones?

Why are you interested in us at all?  Why aren’t you living your own lives, merrily on your way, but are instead so intent on denouncing us as unattractive, unhealthy, unworthy, the crux of all societies problems?  Don’t you have full lives that you have to live, to focus on?

Do we make you feel threatened, thin, white women of the media?

Are you worried that you might get fat if you don’t denounce us, denigrate us, demonise us?  Are you concerned that if you let your guard down for just one minute, the fatness might creep up on you?  Are you concerned that fatness is contagious?

Do you feel that if you have to “work so hard” to keep yourselves thin, that everyone should have to?  That if someone out there dares to accept their fatness, they are some how cheating at the game of life?  Do you feel resentment at the thought that there might be fat women out there not agonising over their bodies, not loathing themselves when you feel you should for any fat on your body?  Is it that you feel that if you have to spend your life watching your weight, that it’s only fair that everyone should have to?

Do you worry that if fat people are allowed to advocate for themselves, you might miss out on something?  That they might get something that you don’t?  Does it worry you that if someone is left to look after their own health, and health needs, that they might get a little more medical attention, or a little more time in a doctor’s office (instead of being told to lose weight and shunted out the door, with no addressing of their actual health issues) than you do?

Is it just about attention itself?  Are you concerned that if someone is paying positive attention to the fatties, they may not pay positive attention to you?

Or is it more sinister than that?  Do you feel that if someone is paying attention to fat women for something other than to demonise their fatness, that they might stop paying attention to you?  Are you concerned that if society in general stops judging women by how well they fit into a size 8 pair of jeans, and focuses on their wit, intelligence, style, kindness and skills, that you will lose that superior edge that being thin affords you over fat people?

I would genuinely like to know just what it is that brings you to the point in your life that you have to denounce, discredit, demonise other human beings just for existing as they are.  After all, the Fat Acceptance activists you are so quick to shout down don’t harbour any desire for thin people to go away, to cease to exist, to shut up, to be eradicated, to be cured of their thinness, like you desire of fat people.  Instead what we desire is a world where people of all body types, fat, thin and in between, can be left alone to find their own peace, their own health, their own happiness without being vilified for existing in the forms their bodies naturally take.  Where people all body types are valued for who they are, not what they look like.  Where people are allowed to be just that, people, not a symptom, a shape, a size, a number.

We don’t take up fat activism because we’re unhappy with our lives, we take it up because we want to reclaim our lives from those who would have us shut down, disappear, cease to live our lives to the fullest.  We take up fat activism because we want the same rights afforded to all others.  We are activists to celebrate our lives, not demonise the lives of others.

What is it that brings you to marginalising and vilifying other people based on their bodies?  What is happening (or perhaps not happening) in your lives that makes this a cause you take up?

Yours sincerely

Kath aka Fat Heffalump

*And before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, I am not referring to ALL thin, white women of the media, just those who spend time vilifying fat people.  If you don’t do that, it’s not about you.  I am addressing those who spend quite considerable amounts of time doing all of the above, and this past week we have seen quite a bit of them.  I have tagged the main culprits if you wish to know EXACTLY who I am referring to.