fat activism

All posts in the fat activism category

Care of Magical Creatures

Published March 24, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

Boy oh boy, what a busy few days it has been since the magazine piece came out in That’s Life!  My inbox has been chockas, I’ve had all these new people wanting to friend me on Facebook, I’ve had several media requests and all my other social media platforms have taken off too.  Mostly it has been awesome, lots of new folks interested in what I do with my fat activism, which is always a good thing.  Unfortunately it comes with a serving of abuse from the arseholes of the world, which is both annoying and exhausting.  Self care has been really important this past few days, so that I can have the energy to deal with the bullshit, and appreciate the good stuff.  Particularly as I’m sporting an injury at the moment that is really wearing me down.

Today I wanted to talk about how you, dear readers, can support the fat activists that you dig.  Because just a little bit of support goes a long way in helping us keep plugging away with the work that we do.  Not to mention that most of us do this work for free, putting in hours and hours of our own time and resources to fight the good fight for fatties of all kinds.  If I were paid for the work I do in fat activism at the same rate I am for my day job, which I believe is the minimum that I am worth financially, I would almost double my wage.  Yup, I put THAT many hours into fat activism every week.

So here’s a list of things that you can do (or not do) to support your favourite fat activist.

1. Let us know you’re out there listening.  Either a comment, a “like” on the blog or on Facebook, or a retweet/reblog on Twitter/Tumblr will do.  We can see how many hits we get on the blog, but who knows what percentage of those are dickwads from reddit or creepers?  Giving us an accurate idea of who is actually reading for the right reasons keeps us going when we’re dealing with the jerks.

2. Signal boost/share our stuff.  WITH CREDIT.  I can’t stress the credit part enough.  Imagine if you spent hours on something and then someone showed it off without acknowledging you.  That would suck, wouldn’t it?

3. Don’t try to use us as your own personal bullhorn.  I get so pissed off at people who email and ask “Why haven’t you talked about X yet?”  Because I don’t want to.  Or I didn’t know about it.  Or because it’s triggering.  Or a million other reasons.  If you want someone to talk about a particular subject, fire up a blog (they’re free you know!) and talk about it yourself.  Many of us spend a lot of time doing research, reading blog posts, going through Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook for links about the topic of fat.  We see this stuff, we don’t need it brought to our attention (unless we specifically ask for it) and if we want to talk about it, we will.  Which leads me to the next point…

4. Do not send us unsolicited links to articles/examples of fat hate.  When you see fat hate, how does it make you feel?  Bad right?  It makes you angry/upset/sad/depressed/shitty.  So why would you send that to another fat person?  We fat activists are not made of steel – we feel the same things you do when we see fat hate.  It hurts.  We’re quite capable of finding our own horrible examples of fat hate.

5. GOOGLE.  Use it.  It’s your best friend.  If you don’t understand a term or you’re not sure about something, copy and paste those words over to Google and hit the search button.  We’ve likely spent a lot of time thinking about and carefully wording something, the least you can do is take the time to explore it further yourself.

6. Following on from that, please don’t use us as your own personal reference librarian.  I get SO many emails and asks from people saying “What does [insert word or activist concept] mean?”  or “I once saw this article about [insert fat related topic], I was wondering if you could give me the link?”  Come on now.  You’re already on the internet, you know where to find Google, why are you asking someone who has already given you loads of their time for free to do it for you?  And don’t ask us to source plus-size clothing for you.  We have enough trouble sourcing our own.  Feel free to ask us where we got something, but don’t ask us to source that perfect bra for you, or where you can buy wedding dresses in your town or whatever.

7. Don’t use our photos without credit.  I found out thanks to the art department of That’s Life! that people have been ganking my photos off this blog and posting them on their blogs and Tumblr’s and stuff without linking them back to me.  That wasn’t cool.  I love when people share my outfit photos in fatshion posts and stuff, but please always link them back to me either here or wherever else you got them.  It’s never pleasant to find out your face and body have been posted somewhere without your knowledge.

8. If you have thin privilege over us, there is no need to declare “I’m not as big as you.” or “I’m not a fat person.” or “I’m a slim person.”  That always feels like you’re adding the disclaimer that you’re not as “bad” as us.  It’s ok to acknowledge your thin privilege (and yes, even fat people can have thin privilege – someone who is smaller than my size 26AU but is still fat is going to have privileges that I don’t have) but leave the declarations of your size or lack of fat out of it.  A simple “I realise/acknowledge that I have privilege over those who are larger than I am.” will do the trick if you must bring it up at all.

9. Realise that not being able to get clothes that fit is not the same as not having clothing options AT ALL or having very minimal clothing options.  I really get the shits with people complaining that things at any size less than a 20 aren’t cut to fit them when my size is routinely excluded all together.  Yes, clothes that don’t fit quite right suck.  But if you can size up and still be clothed, you’re in a better position than many of us are.

10. Ask us how we are occasionally.  Don’t expect us to be “on” all the time.  Sometimes it feels like we have to perform all the time, a bit “Dance monkey, dance!”  We do this because it’s important to us and we want to make a change in the world, but it isn’t easy and often you’re left feeling that you’re the cannon fodder pushed out to the front lines while everyone cowers behind you.  Knowing that people care about your welfare and that they are willing to support you while you be the one putting your face and name out there really does help.

11. Most importantly, realise that we are human beings.  We have shit days, we have stuff going on in our lives, we work regular jobs, we have friends and family and all the things all of you do.  Sometimes our brain is not in a space to be able to respond to comments, or we’re really busy with work and don’t get time to respond to emails.  Sometimes we make mistakes, or we respond to things emotionally.  That’s because we’re human beings!  We’re not really magical creatures that are impervious to fat hate, or have 100% confidence and strong self esteem all the time.

Cover Girl

Published March 20, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

Let me just start with a great big welcome to the new folks reading this blog.  I can see there are a rash of you today, and I’m so glad to see you here.  I hope this is the beginning of a whole new way of thinking for you, and that we can learn a whole bunch of new things together.

Before you do anything else though, please take the time to read my rules page, and also if you need further information (or you want to comment telling me I’m talking out my bum), start here on this resource page.  Incidentally you can find me on Facebook and Twitter.  The same rules apply there.

So the reason I’m getting an influx of new readers is because dum-dah-dah… I’m a cover girl!  Check it out:

that's life cover

Now I’m quite frustrated by the “Fat and Proud” thing… again – can editors not find another heading to use when talking about fat activism and fat positivity??  It really isn’t what fat activism is about but they glom onto it every time.

That said, the article is excellent, very close to what I wanted it to be (I wish editors wouldn’t shy away from using the fat positive language that I do) and I think it will really connect with people who may have never heard of fat activism.  Jo Moffatt who wrote it was awesome and let me have control of it while it was in her hands, it’s only when it hit the editors desk that it got tweaked away a bit.  But those tweaks aren’t too bad.

Look, here’s what the article looks like:

that's life article

Now, if you’re in Australia and you can do so, please go and buy this week’s issue and show them with your money that you support a magazine that publishes fat positive articles.

If you’re not able to afford a copy, please try your local library. (You know I gotta get that plug in there!)

For those of you overseas, I’m sorry but it is not online yet.  I think they post them the following week when the new mag goes on sale – if so, I’ll share the link then.  If not, I’ll wait a week and then scan it in high resolution and post it here for you all to read.

And again, welcome to all the new people the article has drawn here!  Well, those of you who aren’t haters… I’m fully expecting those to turn up too.

What Being a Fat Woman Is Really Like

Published March 1, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

I don’t know if you all came across that piece from Cosmopolitan, the interview with two self-identifying fat women which was a surprisingly respectful interview for a mainstream media piece.  Thanks to Laura at Tutus and Tiny Hats I’ve discovered that quite a few fat bloggers having a go at answering the questions themselves, to give some more perspectives on what it is like to be a fat woman.  There is a list at the bottom of this one by Charlotte at The Reality of My Surroundings of others who have done it.

So I thought I might have a go myself.  I think it’s a great idea to have as many perspectives of what it is really like to be a fat woman, so if you’re a fat blogger, I encourage you to have a go yourself.

piggy donut

How do you feel when other women around you complain about feeling/being fat?

It really pisses me off.  Because 99% of the time, not only am I fatter than they are and it implies that there is something bad about me, but they actually don’t mean that they feel fat, they mean that they feel miserable, ugly, sad, frumpy, unattractive, bloated, unwell etc.  “Fat” has become a catch-all negative word that women use when they don’t feel good about themselves.  It’s time we expanded our vocabulary and used the actual words that describe how we really feel.  You can’t “feel” fat… well, not unless you’ve got your hands on me.

How has your body image changed since high school? College?

Vastly.  It didn’t really happen until my mid-30’s, but before finding fat activism, I honestly believed I was completely worthless as a human being, simply because I was fat.  All of the other things about myself didn’t matter – I was fat, therefore I was worthless.  How things have changed since then!

Have you tried dieting? What happened?

AHAHAHAHAAHA!  I wish I could charge a dollar for every time I have been asked that question.  What happened is that I completely fucked my metabolism, my teeth, my digestive system and continued to get fatter and fatter until I stopped dieting.

Do you think in your case your weight is partly or entirely genetic?

I actually think it doesn’t matter.  It’s irrelevant how I or anyone else arrived at being fat – we just are, and regardless of how we got there, we all deserve the same dignity and respect, and to live our lives in peace.

Do you consider yourself healthy? Have there been instances where people assumed you were unhealthy?

Again, something I think that is entirely irrelevant.  A fat person’s health status has no bearing on their value as a human being.  Not to mention that it’s also their own business and doesn’t have to be proven or declared to anyone.  It is also ableist to assume that everyone is obliged to be healthy.

And people make assumptions about me and my body and my abilities all the time.  I don’t actually care what they think, what matters is how I feel, and that I am treated with dignity and respect. (I’m gonna keep using those two words until the world gets it in their head!)

Are your parents both supportive of you at the weight you’re at? Have they always been?

I wouldn’t know what my parents think these days, I no longer allow them in my life.  When they were in my life, they were both very abusive about my body, even before I was fat.  I think it’s common for girls to be targeted about their bodies as part of abuse, no matter what size or shape their bodies are.

How do you think retailers can improve clothes for plus-size people?

This is an easy one.  Provide the same clothes in the same amounts and same variety as they do for straight sizes.  Simple as that.

Do you think plus-size women are judged differently than plus-sized men are? How?

Most definitely.  While I don’t think fat men escape judgement, I think women are judged much harsher, simply because we’re women, and society believes the most important thing a woman can be is decorative.  It’s already hard enough to be a woman in our culture, but to be a woman who “fails” to conform to society’s standards means that she is seen as less than human.  Add more marginalised identities and you’re even more detested by societal standards.

Do you think there’s an assumption made/stereotype that exists about plus-size people? How would you respond to it?

How long have we got to go over the assumptions and stereotypes about fat people.  There are many, they’re pretty much all negative bullshit.  My response?  This:

homer fingers

Do you think there’s ever a right way or time to express concern about someone’s weight?

Mostly no.  In most cases, someone’s weight is none of your business or concern.  Ask yourself, why are you REALLY concerned about that person’s weight?  How about showing concern about someone’s feelings, or their wellbeing first?

What are the worst things people have said to you about your body?

Again, how long have you got?  I think the regular calls for me to kill myself would probably have to be the lowest of the low.

How did you respond?

See the image of Homer above.

What have people said (or do you wish they’d say) that would compliment your body or appearance?

I don’t want people to compliment my body.  Unless I am getting all sexy with that person, my body is irrelevant.  In the case of lovers, the thing I’ve always loved to hear most is how soft I am.  I am soft!

Though once a little boy I looked after when I worked in a child care centre hugged me and said to his Mum “Mumma she’s the huggiest lady in the world!”  I thought that was pretty cool.

If people want to compliment how I dress, or what I do with my hair – that’s a different thing.  That’s about my style and my taste, not about my body.

Do you find yourself hanging out with women who are closer to your size?

I hang out with women of all shapes and sizes.  In my friendships, bodies and size don’t matter.

However there is something very special about being around someone close to your size, who understands what it is like to live in a fat body, and to share that commonality.

How has your weight affected your sex life, if at all?

Not the actual sex life.  It has affected relationships, but not sex.

When you’ve been single, has your weight affected your dating life?

My weight itself hasn’t, but other people’s attitudes about my weight has.  A lot of men think that fat women should be grateful for their attention, which I find infuriating.  I’ve had men ask me out and then qualify it with “I don’t mind dating bigger women.”  Really?  Is that how you impress me?  By telling me that you “don’t mind” dating women like me?  BZZZZZT!!  Next!!

There is also the fetishisation of fat women to contend with.  I find it really gross when men don’t see me as a person, but see me as a masturbatory aid.

Do you feel weird if the guy you’re with only dates larger women?

Yes.  I don’t date only one type of man, so I don’t want to be with someone who limits themselves to being attracted to me for my fatness.  I want to be with a man who is attracted as much to the rest of the things that make up me – I’m more than just my fat.

I understand sexual attractions – I have some “things” that I find attractive too – very tall, thin men, men with chest hair, men with big feet and so on… but I’m not going to reject a man that doesn’t have those things – sexual attraction is about so much more than just body features.

Do you feel weird if he’s only dated slimmer women before you?

I don’t know – I’ve never been with someone who has ONLY dated slimmer women before me.

I’m Not Making This Shit Up!

Published February 26, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

One of the best things about being a fat activist is the community that you get to be part of.  Thanks to my work in fat activism I’ve been able to meet (both online and off), some of the most amazing people, a number of whom I now call good friends.  Of course, there are those who treat fat activists like we are some kind of giant hive mind that all think the same things and have had exactly the same experiences in life, but that’s not true.  I’ve met fat activists from all walks of life, some of us get along really well, some of us disagree vehemently and some of us simply don’t like one another as people.  That’s good in a way – it shows we’re have a good balance of people, approaching fat activism from all angles.  It means we have robust discussions that nut out all the thorny bits of activism.

Another great thing is that we share resources.  Recently I was lucky enough to have bestowed upon me a fantastic collection of fat studies reference books by a fellow fat activist who was moving house at the time and needing to downsize her library.  It was an absolute joy to have parcel after parcel arrive in my PO Box full of books about fat.  Check these glorious piles of literary goodness out:

One of the things that struck me as I catalogued these into my own collection (yes, ever the librarian) was that people have been talking about fat politics, and particularly fat stigma and fat hatred, for a very long time.  This collection alone spans about thirty years, and it is by no means a complete collection of fat studies works.  These titles approach fat politics from almost every angle imaginable – sexuality, health, feminism, fiction, media, sociology, childhood development, eating disorders, psychology, food, exercise… you name it and someone has raised the topic in relation to fat politics in one of these books.

To put it bluntly, people have been talking about this shit for a long time and from a lot of perspectives.

However, listen to any of the many (and boy are there many) critics of fat activism, they will have it that we’re just making this stuff up as we go along.  It usually falls into two categories – either that we’re in some kind of denial about how horrible fat is, or that we’re just trying to find ways to “justify” being fat.  Let’s put aside the fact that I personally don’t focus on justification of my fatness – I am fat, the reasons are irrelevant  – but am focusing on fat people’s right to live their life with dignity and respect, and without discrimination or persecution, no matter what in their life led them to be fat.  We’ll also put aside that I’m in no denial that there are negative issues that correlate with being fat, but are not caused BY being fat, and don’t forget to include those issues that are caused by society’s loathing of fat.

But here in these books, and the many more out there, you have evidence that people have been examining fatness and society’s attitude towards fatness for a very long time.  I’m not the first person to discuss the subjects I do here on this blog, I’m certainly not the most formally educated person to examine the subjects I do here on this blog, and I’m definitely not making this shit up as I go along.  Unlike the majority of those who criticise fat activism, I spend an awful lot of time researching fatness, it’s effect on people and how society responds to it.  I certainly have not yet read all of these books, but I’ve spent almost 5 years reading an awful lot of them, along with an incredible amount of material online from all perspectives, which is a lot more than can be said from the average fat hating commenter who turns up with “But! But! But!  EVERYBODY KNOWS fat is bad!!”  Despite the fact that there is an incredible amount of material published from all over the world that disputes that supposed “everybody knows” knowledge.

The one thing I do know – fat haters do not present us with any new information or perspectives and have not done so for a very, very long time.  The very same arguments that the earliest of fat studies literature responds to are the same arguments that we are presented with today.  One would think, considering the amount of information we have presented over the past 30+ years as to why fat stigma and fat loathing are so damaging and erroneous, that a new perspective or new information would have come into play from the anti-fat brigade.  But alas, no.

What I do know is that there are people who have far more qualifications after their name than myself, and certainly more than the majority of the anti-fat brigade, listed amongst the authors of these books.   These are a learned bunch, and they’ve got very important things to say, and the evidence to back it up.

Something you will hear often in fat activism is “Educate yourself.”  Because it’s not our job to educate you in our oppression and how it affects us.  Many of us have spent years educating ourselves in the subject, we’ve spent our own time, money and energy to learn what we have learnt as fat activists.  If you wish to engage in the subject and dispute us, the least you can do is educate yourself.  Of course, there are always those that have excuses, saying they don’t know where to start or can’t find resources (Google is your friend people!)

However, I’m going to do something very generous.  I’ve created a resources page here on this blog, where I’ve listed all of the books in this collection, and others that I have read.  Now I know not everyone can afford all of these books, but you see, I’m a librarian, so I’m more than happy to encourage you to go and get a library card to get your hands on these resources.  If your library doesn’t have them, talk to your local librarians and ask them if they can add them to their collection, or organise an inter-library loan for you.  Librarians LOVE help with collection development, it’s a big job, any help we can get is always welcome.

For those of you who genuinely want to broaden your horizons and hear about the experiences of fat people, especially for those of you who are fat yourselves and need to know you’re not alone, this is a good place to start.

If you know of any other great resources, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will add them to my “to read” list.

Stuff I Dig Volume 1

Published October 13, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

As part of trying to get back into the swing of things, I’ve decided to attempt to do a semi-regular post of things that I find online that I really dig.  Be it interesting articles, fatshion, artworks, things that make me laugh.  A kind of potted view of the things I post all over the internet, be it Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or anywhere else I lurk about.  It gives me a chance to signal boost some cool stuff, and to talk about the things I dig with you all.  Sometimes it might have a method or layout, other times it might just be a hotch potch of stuff.

I really encourage  you to share stuff in the comments that you’ve been interested in, but please keep it to positive stuff – no posting some shitty journalist hating on fat people, or any other douchenozzle behaving badly.  Let’s not give those people the signal boost.  Though thoughtful and kick arse responses to douchecanoes are welcome!

So, let me see, what have I been into lately…

Fat Activism

Gradient Lair on Thin Privilege and Intersectionality

A powerful piece from Rebecca Shaw on coming out as fat.

Kyla the Great’s tips on dealing with haters and harassers.

My favourite piece of the past few days, Elizabeth Tamny on the visibility of fat people and THAT Elle cover with Melissa McCarthy.

Caitlin Seida writes about how her photograph was stolen online and set upon by Reddit trolls.

Fatshion Inspiration

My lovely friend Bek, she of Colourful Curves, wrote an excellent guest post on Suger Coat It on how to do fatshion on a budget.

Check out these amazing paua shell look nails by karengnails:

paua nails

Here’s Jodie of Fat Additives looking as fierce as fuck in Autograph:

fat additives

I made such a noise of awe when I saw this photograph of Leah from Sweet Tea Kisses:

sweet tea kisses

I loved this post from Maiya Mayhem on fashion rules for fat girls:

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 1.33.41 PM

Feminism

I love this piece by Laurie Penny on the idea that feminism needs re-branding.

Skepchick on why she doesn’t go to the police when she is on the receiving end of online threats and harassment.

A Good Cause

You know how hard it is to find a decent bra?  Well, some women have it way, way harder than we do.  And we can help them by sending them bras in pretty much any condition (yep, they need them that bad!)   So you know those bras you have kicking around that have a broken underwire, or don’t fit you?  Send them along to the Uplift Project.

Cuteness

Hear the mighty lion roar!

If you follow me on Tumblr at all, you know that I am totally besotted with Tom Hiddleston.  I mean look at how pretty he is:

hiddles 1

hiddles 2

No really, he’s delicious.  Look, here he is practicing swordplay for the upcoming production of Coriolanus (which I have tickets to a broadcast of!)

Nipples!

Nipples!

Food

Look at how gorgeous this polka dotted cake is!

polka dotted cake

Laughs

Read the reviews on these sugar free gummi bears.  Maybe don’t read them in public (or at the office lunch table like I did – I got stares!)

Jess of Ghost of Enid has done this brilliant set of Tony Abbott: Minister for Women posters.  Political statements are so effective when infused with humour.  Here’s an example:

minister for women

And here’s Kermit the Frog doing his take on Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”:

wrecking ball

Other Fab Stuff

Does anyone want to buy me a house?  I mean look at this library:

dream library

Music

Let me finish with the most kick arse girl band you will see in a long, long time.  You need to watch to at least 2 minutes in to get the full benefit.

Broken…

Published October 9, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

I was feeling like crud.  Stomping my way in to work this morning, really fighting with the black dog of depression, feeling like dirt.  And there she was.  An angel in a floral skirt and cream top.  The young woman I had been standing beside at the lights about 10 minutes before – I had been staring at the print of her skirt trying to grasp the one thing that was nice in my brain at just that moment – a pretty pink floral.  I was walking back towards my office having stopped off in the markets to pick up some breakfast, when  she stopped me on the street and told me that she really loved my blog, and that even though I hadn’t posted in a while she still hoped I would.  She complimented my taste in clothes, mentioned that we had the same dress (the hot pink one from Autograph) and that she loved my fatshion reviews.  I was a bit flabbergasted and I forgot to ask her name, which I always do, because it always takes me by surprise.  She made me smile, she thanked me and touch my arm, and we parted.

Five minutes later I was sobbing in the ladies room at work, finally able to feel something.  That’s what depression does to you, it robs your ability to feel.   You might walk around talking and even smiling and laughing, but you don’t really feel it, instead you’re kind of just going through the motions, performing as yourself instead of being yourself.  At least that’s what it does to me.  I wasn’t crying because something had upset me, I was crying because I’d finally felt something (surprise, pleasure, even a glimmer of joy) and that caused the floodgates of all the feelings I haven’t been able to feel for weeks to open and let them all out.  The crying was a good thing.  Embarrassing and uncomfortable, but ultimately good for me.

The past months have been hellish for me with my depression creeping up stronger than it has for some time.  It isn’t just the usual chemical stuff either, usually brought on by hormones and stress, I began to recognise it a few weeks ago.  It was emotional burnout.  It had all got too much for me.  My job is a bigger workload than it has ever been (it’s that way for everyone at my work these days) and I feel like Sisyphus, having to roll the same boulder up the hill every day only to have it roll down again.  (If only it was like Loki, burdened with glorious purpose.)

Add to that the fact that I’d been doing fat activism for over four years, 95% of it for free, out of my own time, pocket, talent and energy only to be constantly bombarded both by general hate as a random fat person on this earth, and deeply targeted hate from really fucked up people out there who cannot bear the thought of an unapologetic and even proud fat woman existing on the planet.  Even still, even though I haven’t posted in months, there are days when I get over 4000 hits via a Reddit hate forum alone, filled with people who spend hours and hours of their lives hating on me and other visible fat people for a hobby.  They dig up old posts, they steal the photos from this blog (and my Tumblr or Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook), they spend hours and hours and hours discussing my life in minutiae… as a hobby.

One nutter even keeps a dossier on every food post I ever make online and keeps tabs on what I eat (or at least the bits I post online) and then crops up on old articles about me, or anything I comment on online to try to “discredit” me by “proving” that I’m a “liar” because of how “unhealthy” I am using the posts about food as “evidence”.  They send me long, rambling emails detailing how many calories are in every item of food I post, and how each morsel is hardening my arteries and sending me to my grave.   Who has time in their life to do this shit?

As much as I block, spam and filter all of that hate, it still gets through.  I still see bits of it.  I still see the referring links on my dashboard of my blog posts, all coming from a Reddit fat hate forum.  I still see old blog posts targeted by thousands and thousands of people in one day.  I still see the hate comments that I have to delete, block as spam, report as abuse.  As much as I rationally know that their hate is not about me, it’s no reflection of me and my worth, it’s still toxic.  I’m still being bathed in this venom all the time.  Some of it has got to sink through my skin.  I am a human being, I do have feelings and I’m not made of steel.  People can hurt me.  This shit eventually does hurt me.  There is no shame in my being human, and vulnerable.

However, that wasn’t the worst of it.  The worst of it was that all that hate and harassment robbed me of the one thing that is most precious to me – my ability to write.  It did EXACTLY what they wanted it to do, it silenced me.  I was so battle scarred by all of that shit that the minute I started to write anything, instinctively I shut down, as a protection mode.  My brain would simply block any flow of thought, any language out of sheer self-protection against the rightly anticipated onslaught of hate and harassment.  I had the worst case of writers block I have ever had, because it wasn’t just fatigue or lack of creativity, it was like a great big door slamming shut in my brain and locking all the good stuff in to where I could not reach it, and to further the torture, I knew it was still in there but it was out of my grasp.  This is what caused me to spiral further and further into depression.  The more I couldn’t write, the more depressed I got, and the more I felt like I had abandoned my activism, and the more it made me depressed, which then blocked me from writing… and so on.

Yet today, a living angel pops into my life and reminds me just why I became a fat activist.  Who reminded me that what I do matters to more than just me.   Who jolted me out of the bleak headspace and reminded me that by letting all the shit that the haters heap on me STAY on me, they don’t win – nobody with that much hate in themselves actually wins anything, but WE lose.  We lose community, we lose our voice, we lose visibility and we lose strength.   This is how they wear us down, by attacking and attacking individually until we individually can’t bear it any more, which breaks our collective strength.  They can’t break us as a collective, so they work on breaking each us one by one.  You are my strength, my fellow fat community.  You folk are why I stand up and say “I’m not taking this shit any more.”

Individually, it’s really hard being strong in the face of all that hatred spewing in our direction.  But collectively, I believe we are unstoppable.  I believe we are all heroes for each other, even if it is only in tiny ways.  A friendly smile, a kind word, a gesture of support.

By giving a spontaneous moment of kindness, this lovely woman jolted me back from a dark, painful place.  It let me get out all the anger and hurt and frustration.  It’s like her kindness broke the crust of hate that had formed from all of the abuse I’d received over the years.  Which means I sit here in my morning tea break (and again in my lunch break) with all of this stuff pouring out of me at last, onto the page, finally able to write again. I can’t say I’m back to my old standards, but I have taken that first step, and it feels like a huge one.

So thank you to the lovely young woman on George Street (do leave a comment and identify yourself, I won’t publish it if you don’t want me to!) in the floral skirt and cream top – you can’t know just how important you are right now!

Fatropolis – A Review

Published August 10, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

Hey all!  Been a while, hasn’t it?  Rest assured, I am still alive and kicking, still being fat all over the place.  In fact I’m being fat at you all right now.  But I am aware that I have been very quiet here on Fat Heffalump compared to in the past.  This is mostly because my paid job is so much more intense than it has ever been before, with so many projects going at once, that I just don’t have the free time outside of work that I used to have.  I was just lamenting yesterday that I really miss having a life outside of my job.  I need to get better at finding that work/life balance – it’s not good for anyone to lose their recreation time and the time they give over to the things that they are passionate about.

I am however, changing in my activism.  Don’t worry, I’m not going soft on fat hate, or misogyny, or racism or any other form of prejudice.  It’s just that I’m finding myself really over being expected to educate people in how to be decent human beings.  I’m tired of being expected to justify our existence, our validity as human beings.  I’m tired of the same 101 conversations over and over and over again.  Instead, I want to promote visibility of fat people as part of society, not for those who hate fat people, but to benefit US… we fat people ourselves.  I want to create and promote people who are living large so to speak, getting on with their lives and being fabulous, in whatever way.  Which means the way I engage with fat activism is changing.

Which leads me nicely to the next topic – the fab fatty zine.  It’s almost finished!  I have been picking away at it as best I can in limited time, and I’m just about to run off the first copies.  I am just finessing the last bits of it and writing up the credits etc  and I’m still not 100% happy with the cover, then I’ll be good to launch it.  I have enough  material for future editions already, it has been SO difficult to choose which ones to use this issue and which to hold off on.  Watch this space for further news.

But what I’m really here to do today is review a book!  A couple of months ago author Tracey L. Thompson contacted me asking if I would be willing to read her novel, Fatropolis.  A novel about a world where fat people are considered “normal”?  Bring it ON!  She arranged for a review copy to be sent to me and I got stuck into it as soon as it arrived.

IMG_0584
Fatropolis is a fantasy/sci-fi story about a Jenny, fat woman from New York City, who falls through a portal into an alternate universe, one where fat is considered the norm for society, and thin people are pressured to gain weight to meet that norm.  An opposite world in fact, where fat is considered attractive/healthy/normal.  Jenny is used to the way our world treats fat people, and is suffering with her own low self esteem from internalised fat phobia, so Fatropolis (which is in fact New York City in the alternative universe) is a massive cultural shock for her.

She quickly makes friends and has a lot of questions about the portals, why this world is so radically different from her own, and about herself as a fat woman, questioning her assumptions and the dominant paradigm around fat and health and attractiveness.  Jenny goes on many adventures with her new friends, both in Fatropolis and back in our own world, and embarks on a relationship with an acquaintance who has his own connections to Fatropolis, while also dealing with a young man named Argus who makes it clear from the moment he sees her that he has feelings for her.

Fatropolis is about discovering that fat is not a dirty word, and asking questions of the dominant cultural paradigm we live in today.

I enjoyed Fatropolis.  I will have to admit, at the beginning I really didn’t like Jenny, but as I read further, I realised the reason I didn’t like Jenny was that I used to be Jenny.  Judgemental, fixated on being acceptable/attractive to men, jealous of anyone who she perceived as having something that she didn’t, and mostly just rock bottom self esteem.  It shows how far I have come that I no longer identify with a character like that, but find them really unpleasant.

The story is well paced, the characters identifiable and the descriptions of sights, sounds and smells are vivid.  The only thing I can really find to kind of criticise (or more that it made me uncomfortable rather than true criticism) is the fixation on food in Fatropolis because it did feel a little like the “fatties all eat lots” thing a bit much, which we know is patently not true.  But when I thought about it more, we are so obsessed with NOT eating here in our world, it makes sense for Fatropolis, which is the opposite world, to be fixated on eating.

Tracey Thompson manages to weave in a whole lot of fat activism 101 in to this story and does so without it being preachy or pushy.  Instead she has the knack of having her characters question things that the reader then questions themselves.

I say get out there and give it a read, regardless where you are on your fat liberation journey.  You can buy it direct from Pearlsong Press here, or Aussies can buy it via Bookworld.

No More Media Excuses

Published July 8, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

Well.  Just a little while ago I received the following email and I was outraged.  I think my response sums it up pretty clearly, don’t you?

Morning,
I was wondering if you’d be around for a chat over the phone this morning about a story we’re covering.
We’re going to be talking to Katie Hopkins who has come out and said that she wouldn’t employ an overweight person as they’re all lazy….
Wondered if you’d be up for challenging this remark?
Can you call me on [redacted]?
Look forward to hearing from you.
Natasha Bateman
Producer
Mornings with Adrian Goldberg

And my response:

Natasha,

Katie Hopkins and her ignorant, bigoted attitudes are not worth me getting out of bed for, let alone making a long distance phone call from Australia to the UK for.  It shows an astonishing lack of respect from you to expect me to respond to someone who so openly hates people like me.  In fact, it is completely shameful that you would even have someone like that on your radio show AT ALL and expect your listeners to tolerate it.  Would you allow someone who would discriminate on the grounds of gender, sexuality or race on your show to spout their bigotry?  Would you ask a woman, a gay person or a person of colour to also appear on your show with someone who is going to openly spout hate at them?  I would hope not, so why would you ask a fat person to participate in such a programme?

We are led to believe that the BBC is one of the quality broadcasters of the world.  Yet you still entertain the notion that it is acceptable to allow people who openly and unashamedly discriminate against other human beings to have air time on your shows to promote their hateful, ignorant attitudes, and that the people who are the victims of their hate are in some way obligated to spend their time responding to them.  That is not the mark of a quality broadcasting service.  It is the mark of gutter media trying to stir up ratings.

Please do not waste my time in future unless you are willing to ensure that I am treated with the basic dignity and respect that I deserve as a human being, by both your programme and any guests you intend to have on it.

Yours sincerely
Kath Read

It’s time we started calling out the media for this kind of behaviour.  It is time we responded to these media outlets and told them that they are both wasting our time and are deeply disrespectful to expect us to tolerate such hateful attitudes, let alone respond to them.  The media have stitched up so many of we fat activists over the years, that it’s time we name our terms and start valuing ourselves as worthy human beings, as busy people who have better things to do in our lives than be subjected to people like Katie Hopkins and their bigotry.

No more excuses about “it’s what people want to hear” and “it’s just debate”.  We don’t want to hear people like Katie Hopkins any more.  If people want to hear someone like Katie Hopkins spouting bigotry in the media, then they should be ashamed of themselves.  Not to mention that our rights as human beings are not up for debate with anyone.  People don’t get to “debate” whether we fat people deserve to be treated with basic dignity and respect.  We do, as do all human beings.

You’re Not The First to Tell a Fat Person…

Published June 25, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

Look, I know I have a lot of new readers.  I understand that many of you are totally new to the concept of fat activism and fat liberation.  I know that when you turn on the telly or open a newspaper, you are told, over and over again, fat = unhealthy and unhealthy = bad therefore fat = bad.  So what I’m saying here on this blog is a radical concept to a lot of you.  The idea that someone might refuse to believe that dominant rhetoric of fat = bad and actually be happy in their fat body is possibly confronting and confusing for many of you.  But it’s not a new concept.  Go back to my first post… July 2009.  I’ve been banging on about this for four years.  In fact, I just noticed that this is my 400th post.  So for four years, and with an average of 100 posts per year, I’ve been talking about this stuff for a long time now.  And believe it or not, a lot of people have been talking about it for a lot longer than me.  In fact, fat activism has its roots in the SIXTIES.  Yes, this stuff has been around for 50 years.  It’s not new.

So we need to talk about the sudden influx of you leaving comments on this blog that are never going to see the light of day.  Because yes, I know for you these things are radical and new… but to we fatties in the fatosphere, we’ve heard the same old same old our whole lives.  So not only do they not need to be published here to beat us over the head again and again with the same stuff that we’ve debunked time and time again, but you really don’t need to say them in the first place.  WE’VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE!  SERIOUSLY, YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST PERSON TO TELL US THE THINGS BELOW!

Today I’m going to address a few of the most commonly deleted/spammed comments (other than the usual troll bullshit) that I just refuse to allow space on this blog any more, because I do know there are a lot of you newbies out there who have just started reading my blog recently and perhaps think you’re presenting some new idea to myself and other fatties in your comments.  This is for you, so that you don’t make a dick of yourself any more in comment threads on fat activist blogs and other sites saying things that every fat person has heard a bajillion times already.

But fat is unhealthy!?

There is a plethora of evidence out there that debunks this myth, I’m not going to go into that here and now.  It’s not my job to educate you – I’ve given you lists of resources, off you go to educate yourself.  What I am going to say are the following things:

  • health is not a moral obligation.
  • Health is not a measure of human worth.
  • Health is arbitrary – what is “healthy” for one person, is not necessarily the same for the next.
  • Thin people suffer health issues too
  • People with illness/injury/disability are just as deserving of dignity and respect as anyone else, no matter what that illness/injury/disability may be or how it is “caused”.

But you’re driving up taxes/health insurance!!

So are people who drive cars, drink alcohol, play sport, have unprotected sex, get pregnant or get old.  Among many other things.  Fat people pay taxes and for health insurance too, and their taxes and health insurance dollars go into the same pool that yours do.  Fat costs on public health are a false cost – if you medicalise something, then it is going to “cost” to “treat” it.  If the medical profession focused on treating actual health issues and not trying to make fat people thin, those costs would all but disappear.

Well I’m all for loving your body, but within limits/not for super-obese people!

Firstly, I’m actually not interested in “body love”.  Sure, it’s probably good for us to reach a place of love and acceptance of our bodies.  But in the face of a world that sends us constant messages that our bodies should be something completely unattainable, I reckon if we can just get to a point where we respect our bodies as remarkable and complex systems that propel us through life, we’re doing well.  If someone does love their body, then that’s a bonus and I believe that anyone is allowed to love their body, be they thin, fat or in between.

As for the “limits” to which people are included in fat activism/liberation, it has to be all of us.  Not some, not to a certain point, not just the “healthy” ones, not just the ones who are cute/attractive, not just the young, white, straight, able-bodied ones.  Every single one of us deserves to live our lives in dignity and peace, without fear of discrimination or vilification based on our weight and size.  Every single fat person deserves positive representation.  EVERY. SINGLE. FAT. PERSON.

But I’m just concerned about your health/ wellbeing!

No you’re not.  If you were, you would be standing beside me fighting fat stigma and advocating for equitable health treatment for all.  You don’t give a damn about the health and wellbeing of fat people.  You don’t care that fat people can’t get treatment for everything from the common cold through to cancer because they are all blamed on their fatness and they’re just given a diet, not actual treatment.  You don’t care that the public vilification of fat people causes depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.  You don’t care that fat people are dying because they are so shamed by the medical profession that they can’t bring themselves to go back to the doctor when they are ill.  Claiming you care about our wellbeing is a lie.

But you need help!  Making  “obesity” a disease will get you help and cheap treatment!

We do not need “help” that is against our will or counter-productive to our actual health.  We don’t need “treatments” that fail and make us gain even more weight in the long term (diets and other weight loss methods), that butcher our bodies (gastric mutilation surgeries) or deplete our quality of life (weight loss medications that give us heart conditions, make us sick, give us “oily anal discharge” or a plethora of other side effects that are far worse than simply being fat).   Many of us don’t need help or treatment at all.  Many of us are happy just as we are and are doing fine.  What we need is to be treated as human beings, and to have agency over our lives.

But don’t you want to live longer?

Since when has anyone been able to control when they die?  We don’t know how long we’ll be here for.  We only get one shot at it.  So we best fill our lives as best we can, and not put them on hold because we don’t meet some kind of cultural measure of acceptable appearance.

You just want everyone to be fat like you!

Unlike the anti-fat camp, I believe that human bodies are naturally diverse and that some of us are meant to be fat, some are meant to be thin, and the rest are meant to range in between.  I don’t want to make other people fat any more than I want to make myself thin.  Unlike the anti-fat camp, I believe that all human beings are valid and equal regardless of their size or weight.  I like diversity, it keeps things from getting boring.

But… everyone KNOWS [insert anti-fat trope here]

Everyone used to know the earth was flat.  Everyone used to know that the sun revolved around the earth.  Everyone used to know that smoking tobacco was good for you.  We as human beings don’t know everything, and sometimes when we think we know things we’re wrong.  Emergent science is showing us already that our pre-conceived notions of fatness have been wrong on many counts (again, off you go to do your own research, you’ve got access to all the same online tools I’ve got access to, I’m not here to do it for you), I’ve spent the past four years learning, reading expanding my world view with these facts, I’m not just making this shit up myself.  Don’t make a fool of yourself by hanging on to ignorance.

You’re just making excuses to sit around on your fat ass all day and eat donuts!

If I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t need an excuse to do so.  I’d just do it.  I’m a grown adult and my life is mine to choose how I spend it.  That said, I actually wish I had a little more time to relax and wasn’t so busy all the time.  If I COULD find a way to do that, I WOULD take more time to relax, you’d better believe it!

It’s just calories in, calories out, you just need to put down the fork and move your fat ass!

Humans are not bomb calorimeters.  Nor are we lawnmowers.  Incidentally, do you think that no fat person ever has thought to try diet and exercise to get thin?  That at almost 41 years of age it never occurred to me to try “calories in/calories out”?  Do you REALLY think you’re the first person to make that suggestion to a fat person?  I can guarantee you, it’s highly unlikely you’re even the first person TODAY to make that suggestion to me.

You just lack willpower!

Oh really?  I engaged in a full blown restriction and purging eating disorder for twenty years, don’t talk to me about willpower.   If willpower actually amounted to anything, I would be thin, ridiculously wealthy and married to Hugh Jackman by now.  And put it this way, if you think I don’t have willpower, consider the fact that I haven’t smacked one of the dozens of fat hating douchecanoes I deal with every day in the mouth yet.  THAT takes willpower!

But I’ve lost weight and kept it off – you can too!

Define “kept it off”.  Have you passed the 5 year mark yet?  No?  Well since SCIENCE says that 95% of people who lose weight through dieting will regain it and more within 5 years, you need to go away and come back once you’ve kept it off for 5 years.  And that’s 5 years solid, not regained it after a year or so, lost it again, regained it again, lost it again, regained, lost (which most of us can do and have done).  If you have kept it off for 5 years or more, congratulations for being one of the 5% statistical anomalies.  Hopefully you can understand basic percentages and realise that most of us are likely to fall into the 95% bracket.

Not to mention that what you choose to do with your body has no bearing on what I choose to do with mine.  You focus on your body and life, I’ll focus on mine.

So there you have it.  I’ve taken the time to address the common tropes I find in comments about, and this should save us all a lot of time.  Hopefully those of you who want to tell/ask me (or any other fat people) any of the above things can save your breath and not embarrass yourselves publicly, and I shouldn’t have to deal with the same old same old in my inbox every day.

Resources! Get Your Resources Here!

Published May 31, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello!  Welcome to all of the new readers, thanks to my being listed on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed feature overnight.  It’s an honour to be featured on Freshly Pressed and I hope that by being featured there, some new fellow fatties have found me and perhaps the fatosphere in general.

Because of the influx of new readers, both from Freshly Pressed and those who came along from the UQ Women’s Collective event I did last week, I think it’s time to do a refresher course on Fat Activism 101.  Because it will save us ALL a big headache in the long run.

Now, one of the things about being an activist is that people expect you to educate them all the time.  But it doesn’t work like that.  You have to go educate yourself.  If you’re reading this, you have an internet connection, and I think it’s pretty safe to assume that you can use Google.  If you don’t understand a term or a word, please take the time to Google it, and do a bit of reading.  Not because I’m too lazy to educate you, but because if I have used a term or word or even talked about an issue, it is undoubtedly the gajillionth time I have had to do so.  None of the questions that anyone presents me as a fat person about fat rights, fat stigma or even fat health are new ones for me, nor for most fat people you will meet.  We get this shit every day of our lives.  And we keep talking about it publicly, but again and again and again we’re still asked the same questions.

In fact, you can use the search engine on the top of this page to search just my blog and I’m sure you can plenty of information and instances where I’ve already answered your questions.  There are almost 400 posts here just on Fat Heffalump, I’m sure I’ve answered a lot of your questions already.

But!  I’m feeling generous today.  I’m going to help you with some resources, because as well as being tools for people to educate themselves, they are also fantastic resources for those of you who are fat and are looking for help with everything from clothing to health care to simply just standing up for your rights.

Some of these posts will be older ones, but they’re so good they’re worth keeping in an archive of resources.

Before we get into all subjects fat, it’s best that you understand privilege.

Let’s start with the piece that blew my world open, by Kate Harding for Shapely Prose:

The Fantasy of Being Thin

Then there is this brilliant post by Michelle aka The Fat Nutritionist:

Eat food. Stuff you like.  As much as you want.

In fact, while you’re at it, go read the entire back catalogue of The Fat Nutritionist.  Michelle’s work is amazing and she has helped SO many people get started on the road to healing a whole host of disordered behaviours around food.

Now, for those of you who have questions about health and fatness and all that malarkey, I cannot tell you how valuable Dr Linda Bacon’s book “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” is.  Here, have some free excepts:

Excerpts and Downloads: Health at Every Size

Don’t understand what fat activism is exactly?  Well, Dr Charlotte Cooper has you hooked up for that one:

What is a fat activist?

Another great place to get a whole lot of  101 on a whole host of fat topics is Melissa McEwen of Shakesville’s Fatsronauts 101 collection.  Pretty much everything Melissa has to say about fat is a valuable read.

The moralisation of health is a big issue for fat people, and Shannon over at Nudemuse has a recent post that sums it up beautifully.

Other useful links:

Brian at Red No. 3 is very good at getting right down to the nuts and bolts of fat hate.

Need an Australian Health Care Provider who is fat friendly?  Try the All Bodies Directory.

Marilyn Wann is like the first lady of fat.  Her book Fat! So? is a bit of a bible to many of us.

If you don’t understand thin privilege, this checklist is a good starting point.  Then move on to the This is Thin Privilege Tumblr.

There you have it.  A nice pile of resources to get you started on understanding fat activism, fat rights and fat stigma.  If anyone else has others, please feel free to drop them in the comments.