fat activism

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Why I Take No Shit From Anyone in My Online Spaces

Published May 28, 2013 by Fat Heffalump
  • Angry fat bitch!
  • You’re so bitter!
  • You don’t care about the CAUSE, it’s all about YOU!
  • OMG you’re so rude!  It’s no wonder you’re hated when you’re so RUDE!  I was just giving my OPINION!!
  • You’ve got such a foul mouth!
  • Why are you so sensitive?  God, get over it!  What are you, paranoid?!
  • Well, you’re not getting MY support any more!  Not if you can’t be nice.
  • If you weren’t such a rude bitch, you wouldn’t have these troubles.  You catch more flies with honey than vinegar you know.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard something along the lines of the above statements, I would have a LOT of dollars.  It happens a lot.  I get people turning up here, and in my other spaces online, lecturing me on how I’m supposed to behave and react and address them… in my space online.

I feel like a broken record half the time, telling people to fuck off.

But I think people need to be told to fuck off once in a while.  It does us all good.  Actually, if being told to fuck off on a blog or a facebook page or somewhere else online is the worst of your troubles in a day, you’re doing well I reckon!  I wish the worst that happened to me in life was being told to fuck off!  In fact, at any given time that I comment on someone else’s blog or other online space, I do so knowing that they have the full right to tell me to fuck off.  After all, I’m in THEIR space.

There’s a reason I’m so vehement about telling people to fuck off.  Two reasons really.  The first is because most of the time, in everyday life, we can’t just tell people to fuck off.  Because people are so threatened by two words “fuck off” they’re likely to resort to violence, or ACTUAL bullying tactics.

Incidentally don’t let anyone convince you that telling someone to fuck off is bullying.  It’s clear, it gets the message across, it’s not hidden away from witnesses like actual bullying is.  It doesn’t denigrate someone or cause them any harm.  It is simply a succinct, profane instruction.  Fuck off out of my life.  As much as so many people want to clutch their pearls and carry on like they’ve been slandered or wounded or some other great harm, fuck off does nobody any actual harm.

The second is that unless we stand up and stand solid in our own little corners of the internet, then we just get silenced again.  And again and again and again.  We fat folk are constantly told that we have to play by society’s rules.  We have to put up with so much shit in this world.  From hearing that we’re sub-human, worthless and inferior, through to being the subject of hate, derision and scorn, and right through to physical harm – be it passive (diets, weight loss surgery, dismissal of our health needs, an environment that we have to painfully squeeze our bodies in to) or aggressive (actual physical assault and harassment).  Every day we are subjected to being policed for every aspect of our behaviour – from the mere space we take up through to what we eat and what we wear and what we do with our bodies.

So when we do carve out a little space, a tiny corner of the vast universe of the internet, then we have EVERY right to set up boundaries in that space and not tolerate anyone who tries to police us within those boundaries.  I have to sit through people telling me I don’t have the right to agency over my own life and body every single day, I’ll be damned I’m going to sit quietly while people do it in my tiny spaces online.

Actually I just thought of a third reason.  So that I can hopefully give you folk, even if it’s only one of you, the strength to tell someone to fuck off when they’re behaving in a manner that is unacceptable to you.  If I give just one of you some strength when you’re feeling like the whole world is just pushing you down at every opportunity, then it is worth it.

You bet I’m angry.  You bet I’m going to get hot headed and loud about it.  It’s WRONG and unless those of us who can speak up DO speak up, it’s never going to change.

I’m under no illusion that I’m “nice” or “sweet” or even “popular”.  I don’t want to be nice, or sweet or popular.  There are no “true colours” waiting to be exposed – I’m angry, I swear a lot and I have little tolerance for bullshit.   I want to be the thorn in people’s side when they’re behaving in a way that is unacceptable.  I want to be that painful bit of sand that irritates the oyster of the world and creates change.  So what if people hate me for it – people hate me already just for living in a fat body, they hated me even when I was a brown mouse fatty too scared to say anything to anyone.  I’m used to being hated.

I’m tired of playing nice with people.  Nobody plays nice with we fat folk.  We are forced to justify our existence time and time again, we are dismissed, dehumanised, derided and denied.  We are treated as though we are inferior, and we are vilified as monsters at every turn.  So I feel no obligation to be “polite” with people who turn up in my online spaces under the guise of “disagreeing” or “freedom of opinion” with our rights to live our lives on equal footing with any other human being.  Nobody gets to debate fat people’s right to fair treatment in the world.  NOBODY.

I’m not here to convince fat haters, not-fat people looking for superiority and “skeptics” of fat activism that fat people deserve to be treated as human beings.  They’re never truly going to be convinced anyway, and they waste all of our time putting caveats on that, on the condition that we “play nice”.  The minute they disagree with us or we stand up to them, they turn that hate back on to us all over again.  Don’t be afraid that you’ll “lose their support”… if they’re that easily turned away, we never had their support to start with.  And NOBODY is that important that their withdrawing their support is going to end the fat activism movement.  And I believe if you connect with ONE person properly that it’s worth far more than suppressing your voice to make a thousand people happy.

I’m here for my own sanity, my own voice but most importantly my fellow fatties, who are told everywhere else in the world that they are inferior.  I’m here for you my beloved fat community.  I’m here to show you that you don’t have to stand for shitty treatment and that you are valuable, that you are worthy, that you are equal human beings to anyone else.

I have no interest in catching flies with honey or vinegar.  We all know flies eat shit anyway – I’m here with a can of Fuck Off, to repel those flies from this one little corner of the internet.

Notes From the Fatosphere – Admin Help Needed

Published May 27, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

So how many of you use the Notes From the Fatosphere rss feed to keep up with all the fatty awesomeness out there?  I know I do, and I know it draws me a lot of readers who stumble across my blog while reading others out there.  If you’ve never noticed Notes From the Fatosphere before, you can see it on this page, it’s the list of links and opening lines on the left there at the bottom of the info I have here on my blog.

Now for the past four years it has been administered by the lovely Bri of Fat Lot of Good, and she has done a great job of doing so, but is ready to hang up her NFtF hat for awhile so that someone else can have a go of driving the mother-ship!  So she has asked me to post the piece below calling for a new administrator for the service.

So if you think you can help, please contact Bri via the email address below – it would be a shame to see this fantastic tool disappear.

Hi All!

I have been the administrator of the Notes From The Fatosphere rss feed for around 4 years now and while continuing as a Fat Activist I feel it is time to pass the feed on to someone else.

At the moment the feed is administered via a Google account and a public Google Reader feed. However Google Reader will no longer be available after July 1 so another way of administrating the feed will need to be used.

The task of administrating the feed is fairly simple. You add blogs you believe fit with the ideology of the Notes feed (ie fat oriented) and you remove any blogs you think no longer fit the ideology. Occasionally a blog will “fall off” the feed and you need to re-add it -generally the blog’s author will email you and let you know their posts aren’t showing up in the feed.

Moving the Feed to another reader site (or the like) will involve finding a suitable place to host the feed and then subscribing to each of the blogs currently on the Google Reader feed. This will take a while but once it is done you only have to add new blogs or remove existing ones.

If anyone is interested in taking on the admin of the Notes feed please email me at scarlettheartt @ gmail.com  (without the spaces) and we can chat.

Yours in Fat,

Bri King

Fat Lot of Good blog

Focusing on the Fabulousness

Published May 18, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

Folks, I am getting so excited about this zine.  I have had a few contributions submitted already, and I’ve written a couple of pieces myself, so it’s shaping up nicely.  Now don’t be shy, you can email me at fatheffalump at gmail dot com and for those of you who have already mailed me – send me your pieces!  I plan to put this all together while I am on leave (this coming Friday is my last day at work before holidays, woot!) and then have it ready to go out by the end of May/early June.

I am particularly looking for artwork (as I can’t even draw a stick figure!), and I particularly need a cover image.  Something that glorifies obesity all over the place!!  Send me your fatties!

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m suffering a bit of activist fatigue at the moment.  I’m writing a couple of pieces (I’m participating in the University of Queensland Women’s Collective Diversity Week event on Tuesday and have another commissioned piece) which I am finding I have to work a lot harder at than I usually do.  Mostly because I’m really quite over being expected to justify our existence as human beings, and to explain why we “deserve” the right to live our lives in dignity and respect, without fear of vilification or ridicule.  I think I just need to keep reiterating the following:

  1. Fat people are human beings.
  2. ALL human beings have the right to live their lives in dignity and respect, without the fear of vilification or ridicule because of their bodies, health or appearance.

It’s really that simple, and I simply don’t understand why we keep having to argue this shit!

I’d like to focus much more on celebrating fat people.  I want to focus much more on appreciating who we are.  The richness of our lives.  Our diversity, our style, our talent, our passions, our creativity.  I want to get us out there into the world and let us see each other.  Not for the benefit of the haters, the doubters, the excuse-makers, but for US.  I want to see fabulous fat people like me represented everywhere.  And because I don’t see that everywhere, I’m going to have to be it myself, and maybe others will follow.

So here’s to fat visibility.  Here’s to prodigious bellies, voluminous bosoms, generous butts, thick thighs, round faces, multiple chins, luscious arms, chunky calves and bountiful backs.  Here’s to getting out there and being seen and seeing each other.

Make it a goal to smile warmly at other fatties you encounter in the world.  Signal boost fab fatties that you find online.  Reblog, share, and collate all the fab fatties you find online.  Tell a fatty they’re fabulous.  Believe me, we all need it from time to time, and it’s so much better to focus on that than the shitty attitudes that force us to continually justify our existence.

Now… share a fab fatty or three (in whatever format) with us in the comments.  Let’s link us all up!

Eeeeee! A Zine!

Published May 11, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

Hey hey!  Guess what I’m going to do?  I’m gonna make a fab fatty zine!  Now, before you ask, a zine is a hand-made, self published, (usually) paper-copy publication.  I used to make one in my early 20’s when I owned a music store, that had all kinds of stuff in it – poetry, artwork, music, book and movie reviews, jokes, an agony aunt, whatever came to mind.  If you would like to get your hands on an already published fab fatty zine, check out Two By Four by Michaela and Chris Nowell.

So yeah, I want to make one chock-full of fat positivity.  And I’m looking for contributions!  Would you like to be in a zine?  Cos you totally can, if you want to contribute something.

What am I looking for?  Well, here are some guidelines:

  1. It must be on the topic of fat/fatness and be fat positive.  This zine will be a celebration of all things fat.
  2. It must be able to be reproduced in black and white on no bigger than A4 paper.  This helps me keep the cost down for the actual zine when it is published.
  3. It must not marginalise, oppress, other or dismiss other under-privileged people.
  4. It must be your own work.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much up to you!

Just some suggestions:

  • Artwork
  • Poetry
  • Review (book, movie, tv show, music etc)
  • Photographs
  • Humour
  • Advice
  • Comic strips
  • Use your imagination!

For example at the moment I’m working on a tongue-in-cheek piece about fat fashion “rules” which I hope to have an awesome piece of art to accompany it.

What I’d really like to see is some radical stuff.  Stuff that is overwhelmingly celebratory of fat people and fat bodies.  I want to “glorify obesity”.

Now, I’m not planning to make a profit on this zine, I will only be charging enough to cover printing and postage (where needed).  So all contributions will be voluntary and of course you will get FULL credit for your work.  And I will send you a free copy of the zine if your work is published.

The other thing I’m looking for is an awesome name for this zine.  Something that is empowering and bold and radical and that says “We are fat and we are awesome!”  And that is FUN.  So if you can think of anything, let me know.

If you would like to contribute or have any questions that you would like me to answer privately, please email me at fatheffalump at gmail dot com.

Closing date for contributions is Friday 25th of May as I have two weeks “staycation” booked off work from the 27th which will give me time to put it all together and prep it for distribution.

If there is something in particular you would like to see in a fab fatty zine, do let me know in the comments and I will see what I can do.

You Can’t Hold a Fat Bitch Down

Published February 26, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

It’s funny you know.  The more blatant the evidence, the more desperately some people cling on to their notions.  After my last post, which was showing evidence on the public ridicule that fat people endure, I received more hate mail than I have in quite some time.  Don’t get me wrong, there is always a low level, annoying hum of hate mail that I receive, like a mosquito buzzing around my ears all the time, but it really peaked over the past week or so.

It strikes me as interesting that I receive the most hate mail usually under the following two circumstances:

  1. I provide evidence of something really shitty happening to fat people.
  2. I post pictures or text showing myself as the happy, confident, secure woman that I happen to be since I gave up accepting fat hatred.

It doesn’t just happen online either, and not just to me.  Countless fat women have told stories of going about their daily lives, being out in the world enjoying themselves, when someone has felt the need to cut them down with some hate.  Eating out in a restaurant, on holidays with the family, at a party or nightclub, playing sport, at the pool, out shopping… or you know, just walking down the street happily minding your own business.  This is something that happens to people from all marginalised groups, and of course the more ticks in boxes you have for points of marginalisation, the worse it gets. (See intersectionality.)

One only has to read the comments on any news article about fat that gives the remotest idea that perhaps the dominant paradigm about fat is not quite right (it doesn’t even have to be a vaguely positive article), and you will see people hating on fat people.  Not that I recommend ever reading the comments anywhere – except here on Fat Heffalump, where I police them pretty strictly to keep them safe for you.

I’ve been reading bits of bell hooks again lately, thanks to a manuscript I am currently reading, and thinking about the way she talks about dominance as being part of oppression and marginalisation.  Dominance is that constant effort to push a marginalised person down.  To “take them down a peg or two” or make sure they’re “not getting too big for their boots”.  It is that constant assertion that a marginalised person is inferior because of whatever it is society has deemed them “other” for.  In my case, being a fat woman.

Many of those with privilege are most threatened by finding that there is ever a reason why they are not superior to someone without the same privileges as they.  Some without privilege do it too, because they have internalised the stigmatising messages so deeply.  So they must be hateful, or build false arguments (which are inherently hateful) to cut those of us down and attempt to make us feel bad about ourselves.

When we as fat women, refuse to hide ourselves away in shame, make ourselves visible and are openly happy and enjoying our lives, many people feel threatened by that.  So much to the point that they fixate on us and spend time they could be spending actually getting on with their lives.  That’s the thing – us gaining our freedom doesn’t cost them anything!  By fat women being happy and living their lives to the full doesn’t actually reduce anything at all from theirs.  Our getting adequate clothing options doesn’t mean there will be less clothing options for straight sizes.  Our getting decent, non-stigmatising health care doesn’t mean there will be less health care for not-fat people.  Our feeling happy and confident doesn’t detract from anyone else feeling happy and confident.  The world just doesn’t work like it’s some kind of zero sum game.

What it is, is a kind of false reassurance for some people.  They convince themselves that so long as someone who is fatter them (or “uglier” or “older” or “unhealthier” whatever other thing they deem inferior) hates themselves, well then at least they’re better than that “loser”!

I think that’s why, since I stopped hating myself and started living my life as I please, the abuse has actually got worse, not better.  The big difference is in how I handle it, not in whether or not it is still happening.  An example, I was walking to work one morning, merrily skipping along, idly thinking about the fact that my friend Toots was coming down to visit me on the coming weekend, which always brings a smile to my face.  A man was standing outside a 7-11 shop on the corner as I crossed, I was really paying no attention until I noticed him scowling heavily.  Our eyes met briefly, as they do when one is walking around with one’s head up and facing the world merrily, and he growled at me “You lower your eyes around a man, you fat bitch.”  All because I happened to be a fat woman who wasn’t deferring to his perceived superiority.

It was similar after I posted that last post, demonstrating just how rude people can be to fat women in public.  Of course there were the usual deniers of my experience, I expected that.  But I got literally dozens of hate comments, hate emails and even hate asks on my Tumblr.  People who catalogued all of the things they have decided my life is lacking in (none of them asked me, they just decided/made it up as they went along), told me I was a freak (I believe the correct term is Super Freak, thank you very much), call me a failure, told me I was going to die immediately (I’ve been hearing that for 35 years), telling me I was ugly/unattractive/unfuckable (that’s fine, I wouldn’t fuck any of them either, and I don’t need to see their photos to know that – but of course they’re always too cowardly to identify themselves), called me a bitch/slut/whore/virgin/lesbian/trans-woman/man/dog/cunt/bunch of other stuff I can’t remember and my favourite of all, declared that I’m fat (as if my blog title doesn’t give it away that I might already know that!)  Plus a bunch of other stuff that was supposed to insult/hurt me.

All of these are attempts to dominate me.  To push me down, to remind me of my place, to nip my attitude in the bud, to subjugate me, to mark me as inferior.  Because we cannot, under any circumstances, have a happy, confident, positive fat woman.  We have to knock that fat bitch down a peg or two.

But what it really shows is just how many people out there are so terrified that they have no worth other than being better than someone else.  They’re so desperate to prove their value, they do it by attempting to disprove mine (and anyone else they can find to feel superior to).  There are so many tells that give these people away.  The pointed remarks about how many friends they have, or what a good time they’re having.  The statement that they may not be perfect, but at least they’re not as disgusting as me.  The demands that I “Shut up!” but are then offended when I ignore them – when they apparently wanted me to shut up in the first place!  They are at great pains to make sure that they are not worthless, they are not inferior, that they are somehow better than others.  There are a lot of not-so-subtle hints that they have these fabulous exciting lives that they just love.  The hater doth protest too much, methinks.

Most of the things they try to shame me for are the very things they are ashamed about in themselves.  As a psychotherapist I know once suggested to me, perhaps we should make up cards or jpegs of listings of good psychotherapists to help them.  As he said “I could cure most of those people of their need to hate others anonymously on the internet with some really good therapy.”

For all the anger I have about the way fat people are treated, there is no-one on this planet that I actually hate, and no-one whom I dislike that would be worth me giving the time to go and leave anonymous rubbish on their blog or Tumblr etc.  I have better things to do than try to prove my superiority by making others feel inferior.  I really don’t understand the mentality of spending all your time thinking about and paying attention to someone you supposedly hate.  Why would you do that?  Where is the quality of life in spending all your time focused on someone you hate?   Unless the issue isn’t really hatred, but envy or perhaps fear.  I once read that there are only two base emotions in life, love and fear.  The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear.  What makes these people so afraid?

I don’t know about you, but I simply don’t have the time.  I can’t keep up with blogs and social media of people I love, let alone anyone I don’t like or who pisses me off.  My reading list is a mile long, and I don’t get enough time to spend with the fabulous people in my life, and do all the things that are fun and fabulous, let alone focus on someone I dislike.  Even when I’m seriously pissed off at someone for being a complete douchecanoe, I’m either going to challenge them directly, without hiding my identity, or I’m just going to walk away and not give them any attention.  And I’m certainly not going to abuse some random person in the street just because they look happier than I feel.

What I want you to know dear, lovely fatties, is that the problem doesn’t lie with you.

People hating on you is not a reflection of you, it’s a reflection on them.  Happy, confident, positive people don’t send hate out to others.  They don’t feel the need to push others down to make themselves feel better.  You don’t have to carry around other people’s shit.  Whenever someone tries to hand you a big, steaming pile of hate, don’t carry that shit.  It’s not yours to carry, it’s theirs.  And when people carry around hate, it can be smelled a mile away.  You let them carry around their own stink of hate, and see just how many friends it makes them, how far it gets them in life.

Hold your head high.  Measure your worth by the things YOU value in yourself and your life, not by what other people try to project on you.

No More Hoops

Published January 6, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

Over the past few days there have been loads of pieces from awesome fat activists on fat and health, mostly in response to a couple of studies that reports that fat and fit are not mutually exclusive and that fat is not an instant death sentence.  It has been really heartening to see so many responses from fat activists that highlight how important access to health care is for fat people and the prejudice that fat people face both in the health care industry and because of the myth that fat automatically equals unhealthy.

However, I think we need to stop and reassess what we are doing here.  Yes, conflating weight with health has been a very pervasive myth that many people have used to justify fat hatred and addressing that is important.  But I don’t think that it is going to help fat people in the long run as much as we need it to.  Because no matter how many myths and stereotypes you bust, those who hate fat people are ALWAYS going to find a way to justify their disgusting attitudes.  Be it health, fitness, appearance, the cost of mittens in America… there will always be something used to justify fat hatred.

We need to let go of constantly trying to meet the bar set by fat haters.  If they say it’s because poor health, we spend our time proving that fat does not equal poor health.  If they say it is because we’re lazy, we spend all our time proving that we are not.  If they say it is because we are gluttonous, we spend our time policing and justifying our own choices for eating.  The list goes on and on.  No matter what myth or stereotype we respond to, there will always be another.

It is time we stopped looking to ourselves to be the ones to change to fight fat hatred.  It is time we started demanding that those who hate fat people are named and shamed for what they are – ignorant bigots who sincerely believe that some people are sub-human and do not deserve to live their lives in peace and dignity.  We, as fat people who are the victims of fat hatred have absolutely no obligation at all to modify our lives or our behaviours to suit those who hate us and to justify our existence.

You know who else believed that some people were not human?  Heard of untermensch?  How is it any different that some people believe that fat people are sub-human or inferior because of how they look and their bodies than it was believed that some people were sub-human/inferior because of their skin, hair or eye colour?  Is not the belief that thin people are superior evidence of the belief of a “master race”?  No decent, ethical human being would ever hold this belief.  Honestly, what kind of person would sincerely believe that they or others are somehow superior to other human beings?

That’s what bigotry is, the belief that there is some kind of hierarchy of human value based on those with power and privilege being higher up than those without.  It’s bullshit and we really need to stop buying into it – both externally AND internally.

Not to mention that every time we engage in the health argument, we are not only setting ourselves up to have to meet some kind of arbitrary requirement of health (which we owe NOBODY) but it’s also incredibly ableist.  What about fat people with disabilities or chronic illness?  What about anyone with disabilities or chronic illness?  How about someone in a coma or other incapacitated state?  Do they not get treated with respect and dignity simply because they’re “not healthy”?  How about those thin people when they inevitably get sick or injured?  Do they forfeit their right to dignity and respect at that moment?

Even if we buy into the whole thing that fat people “choose” to be fat (yeah right, like anyone would choose a life full of discrimination and hatred), that still does not justify the mentality that we are sub-human or somehow inferior to thin people.  Lots of people choose to do things that lower their life expectancy – for fuck’s sake merely driving a car statistically drops YEARS off your life, let alone all of the wild and extreme things human beings do to their bodies.  Just because someone smokes or skateboards or jumps out of perfectly good planes doesn’t mark them as lesser human beings, so why should it apply that way to fatness?  Because again, it’s not at all about health.  It’s not at all about life expectancy.  Fat hatred is simply about a fairly young (only about a hundred years) cultural stigmatisation of people based solely on their appearance, because someone, somewhere decided that money could be made by frightening people into trying to control their appearance.  All because someone saw money (and power, let’s not forget the intersectionality of the control of women in fat hatred) in getting people to buy products, diets, gadgets, pills and schemes to change their bodies, we now have a culture that marks fat people as sub-human.

No, this is about creating hoops for fat people to jump through so that we are not allowed to EVER live our lives with the freedom and dignity that is our right as is every human’s right.  And we must stop engaging with it.  We must stop believing that we have an obligation to prove our health, to prove our lives meet some kind of arbitrary standard placed on us to prevent us being marked as inferior.  Instead of arguing that fat people are not unhealthy/lazy/gluttonous/etc, we need to be repeating over and over and over that to label any human being as inferior based on their health, their appearance, their size, their choices in food or physical activity or any other arbitrary measure that is nobody’s business but their own is bigotry.  We need to be naming and shaming people who honestly believe that they have the right to label us as sub-human/inferior.  We need to be reclaiming our right to live our lives in our own bodies without interference or intervention from anyone.

But most of all we need to believe that of ourselves.  We need to be able to walk through this world that is rife with prejudice against us with our heads held high in the knowledge that we are not sub-human, we are not inferior, that we are as valuable and worthy as any other human being on the planet.

YOU are as valuable and worthy as any other human being on this planet.  Your life is yours.  Live it for you, not to prove that you’re not a stereotype.

Outside the Margins – Fatshion and Fashion

Published December 2, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Hasn’t this week been a big one for the discussion of what has happened to fatshion?  This discussion is a very good thing, and mostly it has actually been discussion, rather than drama.

That said, there are two assumptions/perceptions that I really want to address today in this post:

1) That fatshion has been consumed by the corporate, that it has been branded and marketed out of all power.

2) That fatshion is inaccessible to people who do not have things like a fancy camera, access to designer brands, high profile status, the ability to travel, or influential contacts.

Before I address these two things, I want to acknowledge that high profile plus-size fashion visibility is most definitely white, smaller fat (14-18), young, cis-gender, heterosexual, able bodied and affluent.  Hell yes, the freebies, the plum gigs in the industry, the advertising money, and the popularity go to those with privilege.  We need more diversity in plus-size fashion.  We need more women of colour, we need more variety in size and shape of fat women in plus-size fashion, we need older women, we need variance of gender and sexuality, we need visibility of people with disabilities and indeed, most plus-size fashion is expensive and inaccessible to those without ready disposable income.  Absolutely.

But answer me this… isn’t ALL fashion guilty of these things?  Isn’t the entire fashion industry, regardless of size, guilty of these things at a base level?  Plus-size fashion companies are mirroring the EXACT thing that happens in straight-size fashion.  The entire industry needs revolutionising, for no other reason that like all of society, it favours the privileged.  A young, white size 16 woman in fashion may not be radical anymore, but it is radical that we have shifted the boundaries to the point that they are no longer considered radical.

What I believe, is that fatshion is not the same thing as the plus-size fashion industry.  They intersect of course, but the reality is that the plus-size fashion industry is not fully serving the fatshion community (or just the general fat community) to meet it’s need.  That brings me to my first point above:

1) That fatshion has been consumed by the corporate, that it has been branded and marketed out of all power.

We are seeing a slight shift in the world of plus-size fashion.  It’s not a radical one at all, but it is a shift.  Young, attractive women bloggers over a size 14 are starting to get noticed by the plus-size fashion industry.  In fact they’re starting to get noticed by the fashion industry in general.  Names like Gabi Gregg and Nicolette Mason are turning up in mainstream fashion arenas.  Models like Teer Wayde, Fulvia Lacerda and Lizzie Miller are being featured in mainstream magazines.  We are seeing an interest in women with bodies outside of the traditional modelling and fashion size range (which is obscenely narrow – pun not intended) across the board.

But that’s not the reality of fatshion for the vast majority.  Gabi, Nicolette, Teer, Fulvia, Lizzie and others like them are making amazing careers for themselves in an industry that until now has otherwise excluded them.  They are doing something that very few people get to do, and I believe should be celebrated for doing so.  But they are working in the fashion industry.  Fatshion is not about working in the fashion industry, it is about every day fat women engaging in dressing themselves with care and pride, despite a world that tells them they are not entitled to do so.  Yes, these women definitely do that, it is possible to engage in fatshion while working in the fashion industry.  But we should not be holding them as a standard that all fat women should aim for by engaging in fatshion.  Realistically, there is only ever going to be a tiny, elite few who get to do that.

Fatshion is not the same thing as the fashion industry.

What is amazing about these women is that they are pushing the boundaries of what the fashion industry means.  A mere two years ago, these women were struggling to be seen, to progress in their careers.  They’ve worked hard to get where they are and they have been propelled by fatshion, both directly and indirectly.  By engaging in fatshion themselves, they have become visible in an industry that almost always renders women over a very small size range invisible.  It has made them stand out in an industry that is pretty bland really.  However, fatshion in general has also had it’s role in propelling these women into an industry.  The snowball effect of more and more people engaging in fatshion and visibly interested in style, clothes, accessories and expressing ourselves through those things has meant that it empowers others to do so as well.  This then rolls on to the money spent in the fashion industry.  The fashion industry notices this change, and then responds by trying to make more money by cashing in on this expanding marketing.  It’s the nature of the beast.  The more visible those of us on the fringes are the more the boundaries are pushed.  The more we make it clear that we care about where we spend our money, and that we will spread word of mouth, both positive and negative, the more the fashion industry tries to cash in on us.

Fatshion has not been consumed, nor is it powerless.  The boundaries of the fashion industry have simply shifted slightly to include a tiny few more.  Fatshion’s job is not over, nor will it ever be.  Someone is always going to be marginalised, and it’s our power to use fatshion to constantly push, stretch and pull those margins to include more and more people.  Fatshion is powerful and valuable.  I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for fatshion, and my engaging in fatshion is often what opens the doors for people to come and investigate my activism.

This brings me nicely to the second point above:

2) That fatshion is inaccessible to people who do not have things like a fancy camera, access to designer brands, high profile status, the ability to travel, or influential contacts.

There seems to be this perception that the only people engaging in fatshion are those like the aforementioned high-profile women.  That fatshion is somehow closed to everyday people.  If you think that’s what fatshion is about, I say you’re not looking hard enough.  The vast majority of fatshion bloggers are people with everyday lives.  Jobs, families, commitments and restrictions are all present in most fatshion blogger’s lives.  Again, fatshion is not about being directly involved in the fashion industry.  Fatshion is about participating in something otherwise denied to fat women. It is about visibility, celebration and creativity.

The assumption that engaging in fatshion requires the best of everything, or the most privileged of people, is erroneous.  Otherwise I wouldn’t engage in it myself, at 40 years old and size 26AU and beyond, using my phone to take photos in the bathroom mirror at work, and shopping on a $25 per week clothing budget (sometimes less).  I’m not even a fatshion blogger, one doesn’t have to be to engage in fatshion.  I use my fatshion as one of the aspects of my activism, to change how people think about how fat women present themselves and how we should look.

When I look through my Fatshion folder in Google Reader, I see so much more than just a few high profile plus-size women in the fashion industry.  I see canny thrift shoppers, skillful re-stylers, talented crafters, and most practice a make-it-work philosophy.  I see a smattering small-time designers creating amazing things for women with bodies like their own.  I see photographs taken on smart phones, budget digital cameras, webcams and borrowed cameras.  I see single Mums, carers, women who work from home.  I see bloggers who work long hours in regular jobs, some who have several jobs.  I see some who have continued through illness, injury, unemployment and tragedy.  I see etsy hunters and eBay stalkers. I see swappers, sharers and sellers.  I see those who take fatshion to an artform, living their lives as works of art.  I see women of colour, women with disability, a rainbow of gender variations and sexualities.  I see women of all ages, from those fresh out of high school through to those with “advanced style”.  I see every size from 16 through to beyond what is available commercially in plus-sizes.  I see high fashion, high art and popular culture interspersed with alternative style, radical looks and vintage kitsch.  I seldom see high end designer pieces, but I see vintage, budget mass produced and hand-made all used with personal flair and creativity.

This is what fatshion means to me.  While I admire the few who have made it into the mainstream fashion industry and continue to push it’s boundaries, they’re not what I take my inspiration from.  They’re not why I take pleasure in fatshion myself, and not how I use fatshion as activism.

Fatshion is so much  more than mainstream fashion up-sized to fit a size 16 or 18.  Fatshion belongs to us, not to the fashion industry.  Fatshion will always be outside the margins, and will always be radical.  Fatshion belongs to here and now, not the past.  Fatshion is about finding your own style and rocking the hell out of it, flying in the face of a world that tells us we should never be seen.

We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

Published November 28, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Looking out my window this evening there is no mistake that summer is here.  There is a storm brewing, it’s hot and it’s sticky.  I’m sitting here in a camisole top and a sarong, the fan blowing on me and my balcony door open to get the evening sea breezes until the storm hits and I have to run around and shut everything to keep the rain out.

It has now been about 5 years since I first started hearing about this thing called “fat acceptance” (my first foray into fat activism of any kind), and started entertaining the notion that I wasn’t worthless because there was more of me than there is of many other people.  In those years, my life has radically changed.  I’m a different person than I was 5 years ago.  I no longer put my life on hold, waiting to do things “when I lose weight”.  I no longer apologise for being the size I am.  I no longer allow people to treat me as sub-human because of my fat.  And I no longer hide myself away behind baggy, shapeless, dark clothing because others suggest it is “flattering”.

I realised the other morning as I was getting dressed for work, the me of 2012 really resents having to wear sleeves and cover my body in this hot weather.  That astonished me.  Was it really only a couple of years ago that I would never have dreamed of being seen without my arms covered?  There was once a time, that even in the hottest of summers, I would not leave the house without my arms covered past the elbow, my legs covered past the knees and a full face of makeup.  Now I often roll out of bed, shower, throw on a sun-dress and sandals and I’m out the door.  If I’m working and I have to have my arm tattoo covered, I find tops with the barest minimum length to cover the bits I need to, and then leave the rest free.  On the weekends I will chuck on a cami or tank top, a pair of shorts (sometimes plain shorts, sometimes bike-pants) and go for a walk along the waterfront with the sea air blowing on my skin.

As the weather heats up, I’m currently looking for a new swim suit, preferably a tankini or halter neck top with boy-leg shorts (so they don’t creep up my bum!) to go swimming at my local pool in.  No more wearing a huge t-shirt over the top to cover my body, no more dropping the sarong off my bottom half at the side of the pool and slipping quickly into the water.  Where my arms and legs were once pale white and untouched by sun, never seen by anyone, they are now gently ripening to brown and are adorned with magnificent ink.

I only wear makeup now when I want to dress up a bit, or have fun with some colour.  I no longer feel that I have to have a “face” on to be acceptable to be seen.  I once wore glasses that were plain and unobtrusive, now they are bold and make a statement.  Where I once wore my hair long, thick and heavy because I was told it was flattering to my round face, slowly cooking my own head under it’s weight, I now crop it uber-short with clippers, cool and light, and dye it bright hues as it grows back to a short back & sides.

Once I would hunt the sparse racks of plus-size clothes looking for black, navy, burgundy and forest green, now I am drawn to red, turquoise, magenta, mint, peach and cobalt.  From plain dark colours of my past wardrobe to the now busy prints, bold patterns and clashing colours.  I embellish them with big, fabulous accessories, shiny, colourful and jangly.  I like accessories that move and make noise, they stimulate my senses.  I look for shapes that skim my body, not blouse over it like I’m trying to hide it.  Where my legs once were always covered in plain pants, they now are bare under skirts and dresses.  When I did wear skirts before they were always with heavy black tights to hide my legs.  Now they are bare, or if it’s cold enough to need cover, have bright tights and leggings that draw attention to the shape of my legs.

In the past I walked with my head bowed, looking at my own feet, avoiding eye contact with anyone, trying to disappear.  Now I walk with my head held high, my shoulders back, surveying the world around me, smiling at the things that make me happy, meeting the eye of anyone who dares stare at me.  I would never, ever eat in public, always uncomfortable in restaurants or cafes, preferring to drink vast quantities of alcohol instead of being seen eating.  Now I don’t touch alcohol at all (I figure I drank all my share at once) and I love to dine out, to socialise with friends over brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee and cake.  I enjoy the food that I eat, and eat what I want, stopping when I’ve had enough, even if there is still food on my plate.  I know the foods that make me feel good, and those that make me feel cruddy.  I refuse to allow anyone to shame me for my food choices.

When I am home alone, I am comfortable with my naked body.  My new flat has a large mirror level with the plain glass shower stall.  The past me would never have been able to shower in this bathroom without covering the mirror, lest I catch a glimpse of my large, round, naked body.  Now I see it and value it, for being strong and capable, and for carrying me through my life.  I admire the roundness, the curves and bumps, the thickness and the marks of my life – stretchmarks, scars, moles and freckles, adorned with the ink that documents my life.  I am not bothered by the hairy bits or the saggy bits.  They are part of the road map of my life, signs of my maturing body.  Nor am I bothered by my natural hair, greying at the temples.  I feel no need to cover it as I grow it back ready to colour it something bright and fun.

This is the first phase of fat liberation for me.  I am free, I have been liberated from the prison I lived in for the first 35 years of my life.  A prison that I was both forced into, yet for many years was too afraid to leave.  My choices are mine.  My body is mine.  My life is mine.  I may never see fat bodies truly valued and celebrated by society in my lifetime, but my body is valued and celebrated by me.

I wish that for each and every one of you.

Review – Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Love, Life and Fashion

Published November 26, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

The kind folks at Seal Press sent me a copy of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Love, Life and Fashion edited by Virgie Tovar a few weeks ago for me to review, and I literally started reading it the minute I ripped open the envelope.  This is one book I was really excited to get into.

What can I say about this book other than… it’s fabulous!  You may know some of the contributors, amazing fierce fatties like Charlotte Cooper, Margritte Kristjanss0n, Tasha Fierce,  Golda Poretsky and of course Virgie Tovar amongst others, all of whom have been writing for awhile online.  There are also heaps of other brilliant pieces from other writers I had not heard of too.

This book made me laugh, think, cry, ask questions and pump my fist in the air in triumph.  Not just for baby fab fatties Hot & Heavy had me asking questions and stretching my thoughts about all kinds of topics, from my choices in clothes to fat sexuality.  But so much of it resonated with me I felt like I was having a conversation with friends, not just reading a book.

I would say that Hot & Heavy is the new must-have book for all fab fatties, whatever stage of their lives they happen to be in.  If you can’t buy it, urge your local library to get copies for you to borrow.  I wish I could buy each and all of you a copy, I know this one will have pride of place on my bookshelves.

Can We Kill the Privilege Denying Please?

Published September 12, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Yeesh, thin privilege is just rampant isn’t it?

Before we continue, if you’re not sure what thin privilege is, don’t expect me to educate you on it.  You’ve got access to the internet, you know what Google is, clearly you have enough literacy to read this blog, so you can go and educate yourself on the subject.  And if you think it doesn’t exist, then you haven’t educated yourself enough yet.  I’ll still be here when you have, no need to hurry, but please, don’t waste my time and that of everyone else reading this blog in arguing it in the comments.  NOT GONNA HAPPEN PEOPLE.

I will throw you a bone though and share this link with you:

http://thisisthinprivilege.tumblr.com/ with particular attention to this post please.

So, after getting a message via my Fat Heffalump FB page last night asking me to recommend fat acceptance blogs for women who are “not obese” (after all, who wants to have to look at and hear from those ICKY FATTIES, EWWWWWW!) and then got shitty at me when I told her she was being incredibly offensive, thin privilege has been at the front of my mind.

Today this article was published on the otherwise excellent Lip Magazine.  I don’t normally link to bad stuff, but Lip is usually so very good that I’ll give it this time.

First off, let’s acknowledge how transphobic that image is at the header of the article, and I won’t get started on that topic, we’ll save that for another blog.

What I really want to talk about is how INCREDIBLY privilege denying the piece is.  I was going to comment on the article but I think it needs expanding upon, so here we are.

Yes, I agree, the “real women” trope should die in a fire.  Besides, I’m not curvy, I’m fucking fat.  Big ole fat, fat, fat, Fatty McFattersons.  I don’t have “curves”, I have rolls and lumps and thick bits and chunks.  I’m just as real as any other woman.

Yes, I agree, nobody, thin, fat or in-between should be judged on their body shape or size.

But I have a real problem with how the author has framed this as supposedly unacceptable to comment on a fat person’s body.  To quote:

“Why, though, is it OK to tell someone that their natural shape is too skinny, but not that they’re too fat?”

I’d like to call bullshit on this particular assumption.  As a fat woman, not a day goes by without my body being used as a representation of greed, laziness, gluttony.  Not a day goes by without my body being held up in the media as an “epidemic” to be cured/prevented/eradicated.  Not a day goes by without someone making some kind of rude statement about my body.  Every day I deal with complete strangers calling me a “fat bitch” (or worse), people spitting at me, throwing things from cars, supposedly respectable adults making comments about how I am “disgusting” because I have a fat body.  Doctors refuse to treat fat patients, insurers refuse to insure fat customers, we are kicked off flights or forced to buy second seats, we are discriminated in the workplace, vilified by the press and generally just treated as less than human.

It IS totally culturally acceptable for people to judge fat bodies, but not just judge them – vilify and demonise them.  In fact, I’d go so far as saying it’s currently culturally mandatory – because look at how people react when fat activists dare to stand up and say “No, I am a human being and deserve to be treated as one!”  The amount of vitriol and hatred any visible fat person gets is testament to that.

Thin bodies do not get this kind of social stigmatisation at a systemic level.  So PLEASE do not imply that it is “not ok to tell people they are too fat” – when it is EVERYWHERE in our culture.

This is not a matter of thin vs fat.  It is a matter of reclaiming our bodies as acceptable no matter what size or shape they are, and getting rid of tropes that label one type of woman as more real than another.  But until fat people are treated as equal human beings to not-fat people, thin privilege will always exist.