All posts in the family category

Shall We Dance?

Published December 7, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I used to dance.  A lot.  Some of my first memories are of dances and dancing.  I started learning to dance when I was a toddler.  Ballroom dancing.  Ballroom dancing has always been important in my family.  I have an aunt and an uncle (siblings) who both competed in ballroom dancing competitions, my aunt did very, very well in it.  She taught ballroom dancing.  All of my maternal family ballroom danced.  The same man, a family friend, who taught my mother to dance when she was a girl, taught me most of the dances.  I remember him teaching me to waltz, going around and around and around, him forcing me to look up into his face so that I didn’t look at my feet, and just when I got the knack of it, he’d change it up and we’d reverse waltz until I got the knack of that.  I just remembered his big belly, which meant I wouldn’t have been able to see my feet even if I did look down!

As far back as I can remember, I was going to dance halls in the small country towns where my family lived, with my grandparents, with aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, various cousins.  I can remember sleeping behind the thumping piano, groggily watching the dancers swirl around and around the dance floor as I dozed off.  I remember the smell of the Pops that they used to sprinkle on the beautiful wooden floors to make them slippery.  I remember the smell of my aunts hair spray and perfume.  The tulle petticoats under her ballroom dresses.  The t-bar shoes the women in my family wore.  My Grandad’s Californian Poppy hair oil.

In rural Queensland, Australia in the 70’s and 80’s, kids learned ballroom dancing in both primary and high schools.  I remember that I already knew how, and I had to deal with smelly, sweaty boys who didn’t want to hold my hand.  I did my junior debut when I was about 5 or 6.  I remember the mint green satin dress I had, and my deb partner was a boy called Duncan Bucknall.  Funny how I’ve remembered his name.  I remember the posy I carried too.

I was in the Brownies (I actually got chucked out, long story, I’ll tell it some time) and because I was musically inclined, I got to be in all of the little dance recitals we did.  I remember playing a robin in them time after time, until something happened to the lead and I was the only girl who fit the costume, so I got to be the fairy princess, in a big pink glittery dress with a wand.

Of course, I got fat at about 11, and the self esteem issues started.  But I still loved to dance.

When I got to high school, I loved going to school dances to actually dance.  Other kids sat around the walls looking bored, but once the music started, I couldn’t get on the dance floor quick enough.  I had a very camp friend named Marcus (who Kurt from Glee reminds me of so very much) that loved to dance with me.  When I embraced Goth and Punk styles, I danced to that music.  At 15, I started going to nightclubs to dance.

When we moved town to where my Grandparents lived when I was 16, and I had to rebuild all of my friend base, I started going to ballroom dances with my aunt and uncle.  I made friends of kids around my own age who went to my school through the dances, and found a few dance partners.  I had one in particular I used to dance with a lot, and we did some competitions together as well.  I discovered that I was REALLY good at ballroom dancing, and that I could really dance all night without stopping except for supper.  I could do complex dances that other people did softened versions of.  I was fucking amazing at a REAL Quickstep, with all the hopping, and people always told me how graceful I looked doing a Swing Waltz, or my favourite, the Maxina.

My self esteem struggled, but I was good at it, so that got me through.

I remember at my high school formal, my friend and main dance partner asking me to dance to one of those Jive Bunny songs, which were remixes of Glenn Miller stuff, and the bullies laughing as we walked on to the dance floor, the fat girl and the geek.  We started dancing and the whole room stopped, and we took over the dance floor.  Everyone just watched with their mouths open as we tore up the dance floor to a Quickstep, never missing a step.  A teacher who didn’t know either of us very well outside of class stopped us as we strode defiantly off the dance floor and said “That was amazing!  You two… wow… you should do that professionally!!”

I ballroom danced regularly until I was in my mid-20’s, and I loved it.

But then depression kicked in.  It robbed me of all enjoyment of most things in my life, and smashed my self esteem into the ground.  All of the shit I’d dealt with about my weight and my looks came bubbling to the surface with the depression, and I stopped dancing.  I stopped believing I had the right to dance.  Instead I believed that people would find my fat body hideous dancing.

Only once since then have I danced.  I went to see a friend’s band play at a pub, and I saw this young cowboy guy trying desperately to dance properly with my friend, who was fantastic at shaking her booty, but couldn’t waltz or any other form of ballroom dancing.  This guy was about 18, and he was desperately trying to guide her into a proper ballroom dance step, and she just wasn’t comfortable.  I tapped her on the shoulder, stepped in to his arms, set my shoulders and we took the first step… and he burst into the biggest smile and said “Wow lady, you know what you’re doing!”  We danced until they kicked us out of the pub.

I want to start dancing again.  But the problem is that there are so few male partners willing to dance (and yes, I prefer to dance with a male partner, because that’s the way I’ve learnt to dance – I don’t lead at all) and the dance groups in a big city like Brisbane are learner groups.  So I end up going and teaching other women to dance.  I don’t want to teach.  I want to be lost in the waltz, swirling around a dance floor like I did when I was a little girl, being led by Mr Sykes or my Uncle Trev.  I want to not have to think, to not have to focus on anything, just to let go and trust my partner to lead me into a beautiful dance.

There is a muscle memory to that.  I’ve seen John Travolta in movies and on Oprah of all places, step up to dance with a woman in his arms… and he has it.  I see that same pull into a leading stance, the lock up to his chest so his partner is not able to look at her (or his, in the case of William H Macy once) feet and off they go.  I remember when he told the story of dancing with Princess Diana and having to pull her out of leading.  I’d kill to dance with John Travolta.  Or to have danced with Patrick Swayze, he had it too.  Hugh Jackman has it.  Ewan McGregor has it too.  When I see these men dance on screen, my body knows how to fit and remembers the steps and the stances.

I’m putting it out to the universe that I want to dance again.  I don’t know how or where or when it will happen, but I’m trusting that I will find my way to do so again somehow.  I will not be ashamed of my fat body dancing.  I will remember how good I am at it and let that shine through.

Special Guest Post: Kerri aka Katagal

Published October 12, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Well I have a very special guest post tonight, from a dear friend of mine, Kerri, who you will find over at Katagal Kapers.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about intersectionality, and how body policing extends across size, shape, colour and physical ability.  I’ve been talking to various friends of mine who identify as being bodily “different” to the imposed cultural norm in some way or another and wondering how their experiences of self esteem, confidence and the attitudes of others compare to mine, as a fat woman.

I decided that I would love for Kerri to share her story around confidence and self esteem first as a guest blogger here on Fat Heffalump, because in the years I’ve known Kerri (about 10 I think), I’ve seen her bloom and blossom from someone who was barely heard from in most situations to a confident, outgoing, strong woman.  I think in some ways our respective growth in confidence is what has brought us together as friends – we are close in age and have been colleagues for over a decade, but have grown to become good friends over the past few years.  I’m not sure that it’s a coincidence that we’ve also both grown more confident and stronger of self esteem at the same time our friendship has grown.

Kerri is a dear friend, valued colleague, cycling buddy (she wishes she had a bike as beautiful as mine), conversation partner, confidant, constant support and a bloody good cook that I am honoured to have in my life.  She is a true inflater in life – she always leaves you with your spine just that little bit longer, your head held just that notch higher.

Kerri has given me permission to share that she is hearing impaired, and wears hearing aids (the most awesome little bitty items of technology my geeky self has seen that ISN’T made by Apple) in both ears.

When I originally asked her to post I had this in mind, and so I’ve also asked her a couple of “interview” questions to go with her post, since I think they not only give an insight into her feelings about her confidence and how others treat her, as well as leading into her story about confidence and self esteem, but also show Kerri’s phenomenally positive, optimistic personality, which is one of the things I love most about her.  She also challenges people’s perceptions and attitudes, which is to me, such a radical act of activism that she lives every day.  What a woman!

So let’s start with the mini-interview:

FH: Do you think your hearing impairment was ever behind your shyness or lack of confidence?

KB:  It probably contributed a little because I could never be sure that I was hearing conversations or general chat correctly so I didn’t participate for fear of looking silly – I still did on innumerable occasions within family gatherings or close friends but that never really mattered but looking daft in front of strangers did up until I started to do storytime and now I don’t care.

FH: Do you think you’ve ever faced any discrimination because of your hearing impairment?

KB: I don’t believe I have ever been discriminated against because of my hearing, well I can’t recall a situation there may have been but I don’t hold onto stuff and usually forget it ever happened if it has.  I rarely ever tick the box saying I am a “woman” or “hearing impaired” or anything of those exception boxes for conferences or anything like that.  I’ve never expected my work to pony up special equipment for me ie phones, although with the VOIP rollout I did ask Helen (a colleague) if they were going to have bluetooth capability and she then went to marvellous lengths for me to see if we could maximise the bluetooth component of my new aids but it wasn’t to be, but we sure gave it a good crack.

And now, without any further ado, Kerri shares her story on her own self esteem/confidence journey.


Well I think I’ve made it in the world of blogging for I have been asked to guest post in a dear friend’s blog around the issues of confidence, self esteem and body image.  Three things I was very late in life in obtaining but once I got them, my life changed radically for the better.

I never had any issues with my body per se.  I was raised in a standard nuclear family with a mum who was always dieting and eating low fat foods but I don’t remember absorbing that issue, its only recently that I have been reflecting on this that I realised that Mum was always on a diet of some kind when I was small.  I was an average kid and skinny pre-teen largely due to surgery I had that prevented me from eating for about ten days and I dropped kilo’s inadvertently, that only reappeared when puberty hit.

My Dad was always praising my body as strong and tough and it was, one classic moment was when Dad said “Jeez love you’re built like a brick shit house” and he meant it with love referring to how strong and sturdy my body was from wrestling obstreperous calves and horses and other large animals.  I have to admit when I was about 15 that statement gave me a few pangs of worry but commonsense eventually prevailed and I realised he meant it with love and pride that he had a strong daughter.

I don’t remember hating my body at any point or even parts of it.  I remember wishing that some parts would be bigger i.e.  My boobs and longer i.e. my legs occasionally but overall it was my body, this is what I was born with and therefore I live with it.  I have always been pragmatic about my body and will happily wander around naked in a safe environment (alone in my own home for now).  I have no issue being naked in front of a lover who commented about how relaxed I was standing and wandering around naked, but the body to me is a shell and not the true value of a person.  To me trusting someone enough to feel safe enough to have sex with them is the big one, so being naked is nothing by then.

However with issues of developing self confidence and self esteem, they came along with a lot of hard work on me.  I am reasonably reserved and more a wall flower than most people would realise when faced with unknown situations but I have pushed myself hard to get past that and had many internal debates between my shy self and my common sense self.

The huge turning point in my life came when I was 27 still living with my grandmother and I had NO social life, and I do mean NONE.  I was sitting home alone (my grandmother was 72 and had a male companion and was out) watching a program about dancing, it featured a company called Le Step and the director Mick French was being interviewed, he said 3 things – singles were welcome, two left feet were fine, and little to no co-ordination was required.

I was sold, I phoned up and found the next class and I went to the very next class.  I was shaking with nerves and sick with fear but something inside me just said this is it; this will make your life explode.  I made myself go to every class I could and it was about six weeks before I stopped feeling nauseous with fear and anxiety.  I would put my professional library mask on so that I could be civil and able to speak with people.  I went 3 times a week for about six years and it gave me great legs and excellent stamina.  I have made some awesome friends from it and have very fond memories of weekends away in “mixed” company and developed the confidence to talk to men and dance with them sometimes in a very close and personal way but I developed trust in them to do the right thing as Mick kept a tight rein on his dance school and men were expected to behave civilly or he would boot them out in a no nonsense way.

My instinct is something I trust in implicitly, when it tells me that yes this is right and to go for it I do because it has never failed me.  I have often done things way out of my comfort zone because the instinct has said ‘do it please, you won’t regret it”.

After dancing for about six years, I was starting to feel bored with it and was looking for a new challenge.  I live about a 3 minute walk from a Martial Arts Dojo.  I’ve always loved the philosophy of Martial Arts.  My Dad did Tae Kwon Do for years and enjoyed it immensely and other people I know did it at school and of course the original Karate Kid movie had me sold on the idea from the outset.  However, I’ve always been uncoordinated and clumsy, so I thought martial arts weren’t for me.  But after living so close to the dojo and checking it out as I walked my dog, I yearned to learn Karate, but thought it also to be too macho as well.  But talking with my friend Dawn who is a black belt from years past, she advised to check out the age range and if there were lots of kids, women and older folk then it was a good family dojo and to give them a go, so I did and I haven’t looked back.

I have been training for 3 years now and am at purple belt grade, the next grade will be brown and then the big one – Black Belt!

Karate has had a massive impact on my life, when I first started we had to complete these written modules as part of our early grading.  One of the modules dealt with fear, what do you fear and why?  So I had to really think about it, at the time, work was requiring all staff to undertake storytelling and I would have rather crawled naked over broken glass then read to a bunch of ankle biters.  So this was on my mind, the module required me to reflect on why I feared this thing and really gets to the guts of it.  Once I really thought about it and progressed my way through the module, I realised that I had no grounds in that fear and stunned the bejesus out of my colleagues and my boss by volunteering to do story time and I rocked it!

Since then the development of my self confidence has seen me progress steadily in my career, I was stagnating because I was scared about pushing myself out of my rut as a Band 3.  Karate made me look at that, I am now a Band 5 for the moment and have even acted as Band 7 successfully.  I have had the courage to allow a couple of men into my life personally and had short term relationships, they weren’t terribly successful but I have at least had the courage to give it a whirl and work out more clearly in my mind what I want out of a relationship and if indeed I actually want one.

I give Karate and dancing full credit in revealing me to the world.  Dancing gave me the confidence to wear sleeveless tops and tight fitting pants, when I realised that women of all shapes and sizes wore these things and no one howled them down for it.  Karate has given me the confidence to walk down the street and project myself as a strong “mess with me at your own peril” kind of woman.  However, I know the whole time that this confident strong chick has always been inside me, she just took a long time to reveal herself.

I look people dead in the eye now, it is empowering, and people find it confronting to be looked straight in the face.  I hold myself up high and square my shoulders and project my confidence out there, it works.  Someone gives me a hard time, it’s never for too long, as I turn and face them dead straight in the eye and stand tall.  I am a work in progress and I am always looking to improve myself and make the most of my given opportunities and live my life well!


Thank you to Kerri for her post and I hope you’ll leave her a comment below, as well as checking out her own blog at Katagal Kapers.

Over the Top

Published August 16, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I’ve been writing this post for a while.  It sits in my drafts folder, I faff about with it, then I just save the draft.  I’m not entirely sure why, maybe because I still have moments of self doubt when it comes to the subject of style, maybe it’s because I’ve been talking about my family and that’s always a loaded subject for me.  But I think it’s time for me to just finish the damn thing and hit publish, you know?

I have a great aunt who I haven’t seen in a lot of years, mostly because we’ve never been close, and she lives geographically far enough away that it’s just prohibitive enough to stop me from seeing her more often than I do.  It’s usually been weddings, family reunions, landmark birthdays and such that I caught up with her throughout my life.  Besides, I don’t even go to those things any more, since I opted out of my family.

My memories of this great aunt have always not been of her directly, but of other people talking about her.  Not in a nice way either.  Mostly it was ridiculing what she wore.  The most vivid memory is of family sitting around after a wedding, making fun of the outfit this great aunt wore to the wedding.  It was a dress she had made herself, in a big black and white polka dot print, with a handkerchief hem.  She was referred to by people, by her own relatives, as a “puffed up dalmation” and a “spotty frog” and various other ridiculous analogies.

My great aunt was a fat woman who made her own clothes, and was unapologetic about her love of all things bold and colourful and outlandish.  I remember thinking as a kid, as a teenager “But I kinda thought she looked awesome.”  I also remember modifying my own tastes because I was afraid of my family ridiculing me like they did her.  They made fun of the clothes she made herself (hell, a fat woman had a tiny percentage of the choices we have today in plus sized clothing, what else was she supposed to do, living in a rural area?), they made fun of the way she styled her hair and wore her make-up, they made fun of her loud laugh, her child-like sense of humour, the jangly, noisy jewellery she liked to wear.

Now that I’m in my late 30’s, and having come to a place of self acceptance, I can look back over my life, particularly my youth, and see how often I let people pressure me into toning down my own personal tastes for fear of being ridiculed.  I would have forays into wearing or styling myself in a way that pleased me, and then a family member, or colleague, or even a supposed friend, would make a disparaging comment, and I’d tone it back down again.

These days the place I hear that sort of thing is in the culture of the workplace.  The comments about how women over 35 should never wear more than 3 accessories, or should cut their hair to shorter than shoulder length.  The talk about what colours are “appropriate” for a corporate appearance, whether or not someone is “mature” because of the way they dress or style themselves.  It’s in pretty much every workplace I’ve ever worked in, and I know it’s in that of a lot of my friends.  It’s not from the workplace per se, in that in most cases, there is no decree from anyone’s management or company owners that staff modify their appearance, but from the culture of the workplace, where people’s colleagues or those in the industry around them create this unwritten code of appropriateness.

Because as women, society imposes all these rules on us to behave in a certain way.  To present ourselves in a particular code that is pushed on us from the day that we are born.  Other people make the cultural rules about women, not us.  Don’t be too “over the top”.  Over the top of what?

Or in the case of fat women, be invisible.  Don’t stand out.  Don’t be noticed.  Blend.

I’ve decided I’m not going to tone down my personal tastes any more.  Of course most of you know I dyed my hair hot pink a couple of weeks ago.  I’m still amazed at the number of people who’ve stopped me in the street, or in the elevator or wherever to tell me they love my outlandishly pink hair.  I’ve never had so many compliments on my appearance in my life!  The compliments far outweigh the criticisms that I was so afraid of before, and render those criticisms invalid to me.  The world around me is going to have to get used to seeing a woman, a fat woman, unapologetically bold and colourful.

I’ll turn up appropriately shod, clean and groomed, and covered in an appropriate manner for the venue.  But I’m not going to apologise for my taste any more.  I stopped apologising for my taste in music, movies, television and books long ago.  Why has it been so hard to stop apologising for my taste in dressing myself?  What does it matter if I wear my pink hair in pigtails at 37 years of age?  Who am I hurting?  If I want to wear fluorescent orange tights with my new black dress, how is that affecting anyone other than myself?

I think about my Auntie Gwen.  With her big spotty dress that she made herself to wear to that wedding, and the long, jet black hair that she would loop and style in amazing ways.  Her raucous laugh and her kind eyes.  What an awesome lady.  A damn side more awesome than those who had nothing better to do than gossip and bitch about her because of her colourful taste.

It’s Your BODY, Baby!

Published January 10, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Yeah I know, it’s been some time since my last post.  I have been sick this week just gone, swinging between wild nausea, thumping headaches and this horrible lack of energy thing.  Summer gets me every year for a bit, and this week seems to be it.  So of course I have some blogging to catch up on.

A couple of days ago I came across this post on Tumblr.  It’s from The Tummy Project, which aims to showcase all forms of tummies, regardless of shape, size, skin type, colour, hair or lack of hair.  An excellent body positive project.  But this post really worried me.  I’ll reproduce it here:


My tummy is on its way to being what my family calls “gobby fat.” See the pooch at the bottom, under my belly button? That will be gobby fat in ten or twenty years, maybe. All of the women in my family have big middles, and they just laugh about it and make jokes but I know they hate it and it makes them feel awful. I am tired of being scared of this happening to me. I am also scared that someone will know this is me in this picture, because I am the funny, confident girl who is always telling other women to chin up and be proud of their bodies and love themselves. And they’ll know that I am a fraud. But I don’t know what to do about any of it. I just have this tummy. I always have. At every size, at every age, the belly has been.

I’m still shocked when I see that photo and read the accompanying post.  This young woman thinks her tummy is fat??  What the HELL are we teaching young people if they could possibly think that they are fat when they are shaped like this?

That “pooch” below her belly button.  That is supposed to be there, it is her bloody internal organs!

Body image is so fucked up in Western culture that we seem to be thinking that our bellies MUST be concave or at least flat, that they cannot have any curves or roundness to them at all.  Not only is it an impossible goal for a healthy body to obtain, it’s also not even true in the pictures we see of models and actresses that do have stomachs like that.  Either they’re digitally altered so that it’s not there, or they do things like starve themselves the day before a shoot so that they don’t have a “food baby” or a bump from where the food and internal organs naturally sit.

What disturbs me even more from the post is that this young woman is being taught by the women in her family that a) her body is something to be loathed, b) to accept people laughing and making jokes about her body and c) that they can’t express their feelings about their bodies.  If they hate their bodies so much, why aren’t they helping this young person in their lives who HAS a slim body in not hating hers?

There are some inroads being made into body positivity these days, but we have so far to go that we need to really work with the young.  Right from tiny children, we need to be teaching kids and everyone above that our bodies are marvellous things.  Sure, they come in all different shapes and sizes, some of which are slim and commercially “beautiful”, but all shapes and sizes are beautiful in their own way.

Not to mention that our bodies are INCREDIBLE!  I mean, think about your hand just for five minutes.  Do some things with it – pick something up, wave, point, toss something in the air and catch it, click your fingers.  Isn’t it incredible that in a matter of seconds we can command our hand, and the rest of our bodies, to do all these things.  In the blink of an eye, our brains and our bodies work together to propel us through our daily lives and we  never even give that any thought.  How often do you thank your body for doing the work it does every day.

That’s just the stuff we can control.  What about all the things our bodies do on their own?  Like breathing, processing food and water, self cleaning, thinking, growing, repairing itself (the only part of the human body that can’t repair itself are the teeth!) and a myriad of things we don’t know about.  How awesome is that?

Instead of realising this, we focus on every single thing that we consider “flaws”, even those these things usually are just features that are unique to ourselves.  The next time you think of your body’s flaws, try and see them as a feature, rather than a flaw.  These are the things that make you, YOU.

Our bodies are not a bunch of “parts” for us to critique and obsess over.  They’re an amazing system and thing of wonder that we hardly even fathom the complexity of.

We need to take care of them, be kind to them, nourish them, move them and appreciate them.  Love your body, no matter what it’s shape, size or what it does and doesn’t do.  Love it for what it is, and what it does for you.

Merry Christmas from Fat Heffalump

Published December 24, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

I just wanted to stop by with a quick post tonight, on Christmas Eve, to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.


I wish you all lots of joy, love, celebrations, laughs, tasty treats, goofy dancing, corny songs, playfulness, friends, hugs and peace.

Remember, you are worth as much as any other human being on this earth no matter what your size, and Christmas is a time for joy and celebration, not guilt, angst and low self esteem.

Remember, food has no moral value.  Your body is your own, and nobody has the right to comment on it or judge you because of it.  Not even your family. You are allowed to eat and enjoy food, without guilt or censure.  Taste it, smell it, savour and enjoy it and even over indulge in it a bit.  It’s bloody Christmas after all.  Try to avoid hangovers though – they’re not fun.

Walk tall.  Smile.  Relax and enjoy yourself.  You deserve it.

White Ribbon Day

Published November 25, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

Today is White Ribbon Day.  It is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  In Australia, the focus is on domestic violence, as this is the single most common violence that Australian women (and children for that matter) will suffer.  In fact, world wide, violence at the hands of men that women know and usually love is the most prevalent form of violence that women will suffer.

I am a survivor of domestic violence.  My father was a man who violently beat his family (in particular my mother and I) until we left him when I was 14.  It was the second time that we had attempted to leave him.  My clear memory of the first time was begging my  mother to carry through her decision to leave because I knew if we didn’t, he would probably kill either one or both of us.  I was 13 at the time.  However he continued to violently abuse me until I was 20 years old whenever I saw him.  I was terrified of him and consequently all men.

I also suffered domestic violence at the hands of my stepfather and other male relatives, whom I shall not name because I know that they have made changes to their lives and have never revisited this behaviour.

Domestic violence is particularly nasty because it is at the hands of the men who are supposed to love you.  Wives/partners and children are the victims.  The men who are supposed to love you most (fathers, grandfathers, husbands etc) are the ones doing you the most harm.  Not only does that physically hurt you, but it emotionally and mentally hurts you for the rest of your life, even after you move from victim to survivor.  These are scars that will never fully heal, despite the fact that they may fade.

Every year, on White Ribbon Day, there is a rash of “But men suffer violence too!” statements.  Not only from men too – I see it from women all the time.  This falls into two categories.  The first is the good old fashioned “What about the mens?!” where men simply fail to get the importance of the issue being discussed and think women are “making a fuss”.  More on that in a minute.

The second is when there is a legitimate case of a man being a victim/survivor and he feels voiceless.  This second category is valid and men need to be able to speak about the things they have suffered.  But what it means is that men need to create this space themselves, and not negate when women speak up about their suffering and demand change to cultural attitudes around this.

Back to the “What about the mens!?” (WATM) issue.  From the WATM article linked above from Finally Feminism 101:

No one is saying that discussions on men and masculinities shouldn’t go on. It is absolutely important to have dialogue on men’s issues, including discussions on violence done towards men. The thing is, a feminist space — unless the topic is specifically men’s issues — is not the place to have that discussion and neither are spaces (feminist or otherwise) in which the topic is specifically focused on women’s issues.

What it boils down to is this: Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues. There are a lot of feminist allies who do this, in fact, and there also a lot of non-feminist (or anti-feminist, if you really want to go there) spaces that are welcoming to this kind of discussion. Thus, the appropriate response to a thread about women is not to post a comment on it about men, but rather to find (or make) a discussion about men.

Women are conditioned from a very young age that we should be nice.  Don’t make a fuss.  Don’t whinge.  Be polite.  So it’s intimidating and annoying to some men when a day of action and awareness about violence against women gets attention.  They’re not used to having the attention diverted from them.  They don’t like being told what to do when it comes to how they treat women.   So they call it out with “But it happens to men too!”  Suddenly the focus is about them again, and they are happy.

When women pull the WATM card, it is for the same reasons.  Either they are uncomfortable with women having the focus of an issue and action being taken about it, or they’re speaking on behalf of a male who is suffering or has suffered.  Again, the latter is valid and  has it’s place, but when introduced during action for the benefit of women such as White Ribbon Day, it negates the voice that women have on that day.

From the White Ribbon Day fact sheet (pdf):

What about violence against men?

While this campaign focuses on violence against women, it is important to acknowledge that men too are often the victims of violence. Many of the victims of murder, manslaughter, and serious physical assaults are male.

Men are much less likely than women to be subject to violent incidents in the home and are more likely to be assaulted in public places. Violence against men is far more likely to be by strangers and far less likely to involve partners or ex-partners. Of all the violence men experience, far less is represented by domestic violence (less than 1 percent, versus one-third of violent incidents against women).   Boys and men are most at risk of physical harm, injury and death from other boys and men, but small numbers are subject to violence by women.

It’s pretty straight forward.  White Ribbon Day is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is one day per year.  Deal with it.  Get over the fact that the focus is not going to be on men for a day, that it is on women for this  one day, and that this issue is real, huge and needs to see cultural change before it will go away.

Want to never hear about White Ribbon Day again?  Take the oath.  Be proactive about changing the culture that it is acceptable for men to be violent towards women and eliminate the problem, and you’ll never be pressured to buy a white ribbon again.

Support article: Domestic Violence – Myths and Misconceptions

This post is dedicated to my friend Ian, who was the first man I ever trusted not to hurt me, and to Dave Earley, whose speaking up on Twitter this morning inspired me to write this post.  And all other men with the testicles big enough to stand up and say that violence against women is wrong.

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!