haters

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Stop that Shit

Published April 30, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

When I think back, I’m embarrassed at how I used to behave and think. I used to do it all the time, without giving it a second thought. I assumed that “Everyone does it, it’s fine.” I never did it publicly, or to anyone’s face, as if that made it excusable, ok. If I ever did it out loud, it was only to trusted friends, the people who also thought it was ok.

But it’s not ok.

What am I talking about? What was the shameful behaviour that I used to engage in? It’s judging other people by their appearance, be it the clothes they wear, the way they style their hair, or the shape of their bodies.

We have ALL done it.  A lot of us still think it’s ok to do it, so long as you don’t do it to someone’s face, so long as they don’t know.

But it’s not ok.  Ever.

Take this quote from Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby’s book Screw Inner Beauty*:

“At some point in your adult life, you’ve probably walked into a party and felt a frisson of relief upon discovering at least one woman there who was fatter, uglier, and/or dressed more inappropriately than you. We sure have. But if you want to have any hope of making peace with your own body, you need to knock that shit off.”

You’ve totally done that, haven’t you?  I know I have.

And here’s the real kicker, I still do.  There are still times I catch myself doing it.  But knowing it’s not ok has me doing something else.  Thanks to people like Kate and Marianne, and others who’ve shown me just how fucked up it is, not just because it’s nasty, but because it does me damage in the long run too, something else happens now when my mind goes to those thoughts.  A second thought tacks right on to that judgmental one, and it’s “Stop that shit.”  It’s becoming automatic now, the minute the synapses trigger in my brain that give me that kind of judgey thought, the next ones are “Stop that shit.”

Why?  Because I know it’s bullshit.  I know that every single person in this world should have the right to look, dress, and appear however suits them.  I also know that I have absolutely no right at all to judge another human being on their appearance.  And finally, I know that it only poisons me in the long run anyway.  More from Kate and Marianne:

“We’re not even telling you to stop just because it’s nasty, petty, and beneath you to judge other women so harshly; it is, but because you’re not a saint, and neither are we. We’re telling you to stop because it’s actually in your own self-interest to stop being such a bitch. ‘Cause you know what happens when you quit saying that crap about other women? You magically stop saying it about yourself so much, too.

Judging other women negatively creates a constant stream of nasty thoughts in your head. It is inevitable that you will end up applying those same standards to yourself. We think we’re building ourselves up when we do this but, really, we’re just tearing other people down to our level. And we hate to go all Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on you, but tearing other people down isn’t really productive. It leaves you in the same place you started, which is full of loathing for your own body.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

But most of all, I know I hate it when people do it to me.  When people judge me on the size/shape of my body, the choice of clothes I make, the colour/style of my hair, whatever, it really hurts.  So why the hell would it be ok for me to do it to someone else?

I still see it though, and done overtly too.  From people who consider themselves liberal, progressive, campaigners for social justice.  People who call themselves feminist.  Others who will fight against body politics in one arena, but then snark about someone’s hair, or clothing style soon after.  I even saw someone who calls themselves feminist post a photo they’d taken of a couple of strangers in a car park simply to snark at how those people looked.  And don’t get me started on the appearance-based snark that went on with the UK Royal wedding last night.  How can that be considered ok?

It doesn’t matter how weird, ugly, dorky, strange or just plain “gross” someone looks to you.  So what if someone dresses strange, or doesn’t hide their body as society rules they should, or even how you think they should.  So what if someone is “weird” or “dorky”.  So what if someone’s appearance or hair is outdated, unfashionable.    How are they hurting you or anyone else in any way, just for looking the way they do?

Nobody has the right to judge another on their appearance.  Assess people based on their behaviour, their attitudes, but appearance is arbitrary and gives no indication of the person behind it.  And ask yourself, how do you feel when someone judges you on your appearance?  When someone deems you “gross” because you’re fat. When someone suggests you’re low class because you don’t have the same fashionable clothes as they think you should.  When you’re judged on your appearance simply because you’re a woman, when a man doesn’t have to meet the same standards.  How does that make you feel?

If you’re going to fight for the right of people to be treated with respect and dignity in one arena, then you have to accept that you have to treat all human beings with respect and dignity in all other arenas, regardless of their appearance.

*Australian title.  International title is “Lessons from the Fatosphere“.

Public Service Announcement: Health and Bodies

Published February 18, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I want to make something very clear to everyone who reads this blog.

To those of you who get it, and read because you wish to share experiences, or discuss living in a fat body.

To those of you who are popping in to read because you’re tired of hating yourself for not being thin, who are looking for an alternative to the cycle of pointless diets and exercise punishment.

To those of you who are trolling here to congratulate yourself on being superior to fat people, simply because you are thin.

To those of you who know me in real life, and are looking to use this blog as a passive-aggressive way to hassle me. (You know who you are.)

And to those who are just curious about the obnoxious fat woman who pops up on a Facebook post and tells others that their behaviour is unacceptable.

To all of you, here are some really important points to remember.

  • Your body, is no-ones business but your own.
  • Whether you are thin, fat or somewhere in between, your weight, and how you live with your weight, is not open for public discussion, criticism, judgement or debate.  Even if you are the fattest person in the world.
  • Nobody has the right to comment, judge, police, or question another person’s weight/body/health.
  • Your health, or the health of anyone else, is not a public concern.  It is not a matter to be “discussed” in public forum.
  • You can not “share your opinion” about someone’s health.
  • You do not have to prove your health to anyone.  Nor do they have to prove their health to you.
  • You choose how you refer to your body, and how others should refer to it.  If you wish to call yourself fat, and do not wish others to use euphemisms or medicalised terms, then that is your right.  It is your choice, and anyone who does not respect your choice is policing your body, which they have no right to do.
  • You cannot judge someone’s health by looking at them.
  • You cannot tell someone whether or not they are healthy by your standards.
  • You are under no obligation to be healthy.

But most importantly:

  • When it comes to other people’s bodies and health, MIND YOUR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS.

I also want to highlight this excellent post by Silentbeep, in which she talks about even if “stereotypes around fat people being lazy, eating constantly, and how we all apparently won’t “put down the fork” or “put down the sandwich” or whatever.” that does not give anyone license to hate them, show bigotry towards them, or demonise them as some kind of morally reprehensible creature.

Now, I hope that is clear.  It’s a simple concept really, but so many people fail to grasp it.

An Epiphany

Published February 2, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Last night I really struggled to go to sleep.  I felt so angry and bullied by the afternoon/evening’s events online.  I won’t link to John Birmingham’s blog post, simply because while he does give a hat tip to Fat Acceptance, he just continues the “but you’re not healthy!” rhetoric that frankly, I’m sick of hearing and sick of responding to.  I will however link to a fabulous response piece over on Spilt Milk, that I think you should all go and read if you haven’t done so already.  We’ll wait…

Fab piece huh?

So anyway, I went to bed really late, and just couldn’t settle.  I’d had hateful tweets come my way, some nasty troll comments here on Fat Heffalump and I’d seen some of the others that my fellow fats had suffered.  It does hurt, and I don’t think John Birmingham quite understands what he unleashes on us every time he carelessly throws out a bunch of assumptions about fat people.  If he does understand, then he’s a fucking douchebag for not taking responsibility for his actions… but to be honest, I don’t really think he knows.  Trolls and haters are cowards, they don’t do it where someone like he can see it, and if any of us report it, then we’re accused of being the ones seeking attention.

I’m laying in bed, thinking about all of the hurt and anger I saw from fellow fats yesterday, and thinking how sometimes it would be just so much easier to give up on Fat Acceptance and go back on a fucking diet, or at least shut up and pretend that I buy into the bullshit than it would be to put myself out there time and time again and get slapped with hatred time and time again.

But then I had an epiphany.

Fat haters hate fat people no matter what they do.

They hate us for being visible.  They hate us for wearing clothes that show any of our bodies.  They hate us for living life to the full.  They hate us for speaking up and demanding respect and fairness.  They hate us for eating.  They hate us for being in public.  They hate us if we dress fashionably or alternative.  They hate us if we appear in public.  They hate us if we speak out about the futility of dieting/fat shame/anything at all.

But guess what?  If you buy into what fat people are “supposed” to do, then they hate us for that too.

They hate us if we diet, they hate us if we try to exercise, they hate us if we mutilate our bodies with weight loss surgery, they hate us if we use diet pills, they hate us if we dress in boxy, dark clothing, they hate us if we have eating disorders, they hate us if we shut up and sit in a corner trying to disappear.

I know they do, because they aimed that hate squarely at me when I tried to do a lot of those things that fat people are “supposed” to do.  And I’m quite sure I’m not the only one.

The only thing fat haters want us to do is cease to exist.  It is the only thing that would stop them from directing hate at us, not being here.

But don’t despair.  There is a second part to my epiphany.

If you love yourself, you are absolutely guaranteed of one less person hating you.

No matter what we do, as fat people we’re going to draw hatred from some shitweasel* who just can’t live and let live.  Some douchecanoe* who has nothing better to do with their lives than bully, hate and harass people either on the internet or in the street.  I can’t imagine what kind of pathetic little life a person must live to need to do that.  Hell, there are people I cannot stand on this earth, but I want to get as far away from them as possible, not spend any time anywhere near them, following them online, or harassing them etc.  I don’t have enough time to read all the stuff on the internet that’s awesome, let alone stuff I don’t like.

But the best way to deal with those shitweasels and douchecanoes, is to live.  Be happy.  Laugh.  Love and be loved.  Have fun.  BE. Cos it drives them fucking spare with frustration that they haven’t made you cease to be. It sticks in their craw and gets up their butt.

While you’re doing it, be kind to yourself.  You’re ok, you’re not the one who spends your time harassing people online, or directing hate at people.  You’re just getting on with your life.

You are worthy of your own love more than anyone else in your life.

*Fabulous new cursewords courtesy of Hanne Blank

Celebrating the Community

Published November 29, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I’ve had a few intense days with work, but as far as I know it all paid off this morning with the opening of our relocated library at Carindale.  My entire body is still stiff and sore from the mammoth effort I put in over the past three days, but I know it will pass.

Because I’ve been quieter than usual online for a few days, several people from the Fatosphere have taken the time to check in on me, just to give a wee nudge and make sure that I’m still about and ok, which was absolutely lovely.

In the spirit of focusing on the positive this month (and the month is almost over, eep!) I really want to talk about where the true strength of fat acceptance is, and that’s in it’s community.

Earlier this week I was listening to the Two Whole Cakes Fatcast on radicalism and Marie Claire from Marianne and Lesley, and they were talking about the sense of community within Fat Acceptance, and how there is no rivalry amongst the fatosphere – or at least none that they feel.  This is one of the things that I love about fat acceptance, the way that we see every success had by one of our peers and/or allies as a win for all of us.  When one of us breaks through somewhere, is published, has a successful event, gets some good visibility happening, and so on, it benefits all of us, even those who are not activists but are just fat and want to opt out of the mainstream of diet, body loathing and shame.

I was also reading this post from Lisa of Lisa’s Life Lessons on how she has received a lot of vitriol for speaking out against weight loss surgery, and how merely telling her story, and sharing the stories of others who have suffered like she has, has drawn quite a lot of hatred in her direction.  She has found haven in the Fat Acceptance community as well as encouragement and support.  The comments on her post are further evidence of this.

It only takes an event where Fat Acceptance activists and allies get together to highlight how strong the community we have is.  Marianne blogged about the Re/Dress NYC indie trunk show event and expressed how supported, encouraged and welcomed she felt in that space.  I have talked about it myself after attending the Australian Fat Studies conference in Sydney.  There is nothing like being in that space with people who you don’t have to explain or justify your choice to opt out of body loathing and shame.

The power of community is often underestimated.  Particularly by those who wish to silence and further marginalise people.    Our strength is in being able to support each other to go back to what we do time and time again.

I am so thankful that I came into this community thanks to Fat Acceptance activism.  It’s what keeps me going and makes it worthwhile when the haters turn up.  Thank you for being part of my community.

Keeping it Positive if it Kills Me!

Published November 20, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

It’s been a bit of a rough week for me.  A stressful time at work with two huge projects about to hit their critical points, coupled with the most debilitating allergies (don’t let anyone tell you that allergies don’t have a high impact on your quality of life – they’ve never experienced them fully if they think so) have left my tolerance levels very low.  Where I would often ignore someone’s ignorant behaviour/attitude, I’ve just had no tolerance for that kind of shit this past week or so.

It all culminated in me making some decisions on how I use tools like Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, which blogs I read and follow, and what kind of approach I want to have for the world at large last night.

I vowed this blog would be positive this month, so I’m going to put a positive spin on this past shitty week and talk about some of the awesome people who’ve stood up to the ignorant, the insensitive, the bigoted, the narrow-minded and the downright rude over the past couple of weeks.  I want to celebrate those who with their passion, eloquence, strength of character and articulate writing make a difference to the world we live in.

There has been some drama within the Fatosphere/Fat Acceptance world over the past couple of weeks with one blogger (whom I won’t name, y’all have encountered it) who has made some folks uncomfortable, and instead of listening when people tried to respectfully point out how they were making others uncomfortable, they did one of their now famous rant “teardown” posts, which then grew into a big mess on Tumblr.  I personally have been the subject of one of these teardown posts and it still smarts to this day that instead of talking to me directly, I was torn to shreds publicly.  Oh the author apologised, and I accepted that apology, but it doesn’t mean that it was right to do it in the first place.

Anyway, there were three writers who really amazed me with their responses to the anger and arguments coming at them and others.  The first I saw was from Simone Lovelace, who with grace and a whole lot more dignity that I had to offer, laid out the points of her argument over and over with such clarity that I can’t tell you how impressed I was.  I am without doubt that so many who would read along would learn so much from Simone’s writing and hopefully take it away to think over a bit before continuing on.  I know I have.

The next one that knocked my socks off was the fabulous Jessica of Tangled Up in Lace.  Her response to a very angry post on Tumblr was nothing short of fucking brilliant.  For me, I nearly fell off my chair with this quote:

But seriously my fingers are too fat to play the tiny violin for you….

Not only does Jessica have the ability to make an amazing argument, and express herself beautifully, but she’s such an entertaining read as well.  Her sense of humour and creativity in her writing is the stuff that will have you spraying your Reese’s Puffs all over your computer screen with laughter and general cheering .  Or is that just me?  Go read her stuff, plus she’s all glamorous too, so you get even more value from her work.

However, the writer who really knocked my socks off in the whole brouhaha was Elizabeth of Spilt Milk, who posted a response on her Tumblr (read it here, I can’t leave this one un-linked) that touched on so many points that are so deeply important to me, and did so in a manner that was nothing short of brilliant, that I shed a few tears and needed a few days to process my own feelings around the topic before I talked about here.  To my mind, Elizabeth is one of the best writers in the Fatosphere and indeed beyond.  I am constantly learning from her and expanding my own thoughts thanks to her writing.

What all three of these women did so beautifully, that I’ve struggled with a bit over the past couple of weeks, is stood up and spoke up when someone was behaving in a way that bothered them.  To be honest, the circumstances behind it don’t really matter, it was the fact that they did so, and did so in an eloquent and articulate manner.

I realised over the past few days that I censor myself a lot of the time.  Particularly when I’m outside of my immediate circle of supportive friends and the fabulous Fatosphere.  For example I have a Twitter account that I use for work purposes (mostly library stuff and librarians) that I found myself tolerating some really ignorant behaviour, until this week, when I wasn’t feeling well, and I decided to challenge someone who has troubled me with their ignorance about health/weight before.  Of course, this guy had gone unchallenged before, so he really didn’t like me pointing out that something he posted and his assessment of weight loss being “simple really” was highly patronising.  The hostility he responded with opened up quite a shit storm.

Then of course, it being White Ribbon Day this coming week, and there being extra campaign activity in the media, the indignant choruses of “But men suffer violence too!!” have started up.  As a survivor of domestic abuse, this is a topic very close to my heart and one that I have spoken out about before.  So I found it particularly offensive that some of the people around me STILL don’t get it, and that I have to take up that message again.

And finally, the short lived Privilege Denying Dude (which has been closed down on Tumblr and pretty much taken over by privilege denying dudes on the meme generator – how meta!*) started out as a fantastic way to express just what the marginalised folk of the world are up against (and it’s ridiculous) but is now a neat little lesson in just how far those who wish to keep us marginalised will go to shut us up.  I believe there are threats of law suits against the creator/s of the meme who paid for and credited the image they used for the meme.  Yup, not even a silly internet meme is safe from the kind of person who thinks that nobody should speak out against the privilege denying dude!  I say keep making and sharing and reblogging the meme.

But what with all of the above things happening over the past week or so, I’ve seen a whole host of:

“You’re being too sensitive!”
“If you block or remove people who oppose your views, you’re just surrounding yourself with sycophants!”
“Feminists have no sense of humour.”
“Don’t be so paranoid!”
“You’re just censoring my freedom of speech.”

And my “favourite” of the week:

“Methinks somebody needs to take their meds.” (way to stigmatise mental illness and undermine other people’s realities hmm?)

What I want to get at with this post, the positive message I want you to take away, is that you don’t have to shut up and suffer through ignorance.  You are not censoring anyone, you’re not humourless, you’re not surrounding yourself with sycophants if you choose who you engage with, you are not too sensitive, and nobody ever has the right to question your fucking sanity or suggest anyone needs to be medicated.

These are all just tactics to shut us up when we speak up about ignorant attitudes and behaviour.  They’re passive-aggressive manoeuvres to put us on the back foot, to make us feel we have to explain why we are speaking up about their ignorance.

Keep speaking up.  Don’t let them undermine you by telling you that you’re too sensitive/paranoid/humourless.  Disengage whenever you need to, and cut them right out of your life if you want to and can.  Why should any of us waste our lives with people who treat us and others as though they are less than them?  Every minute you spend on someone who is disrespectful and wilfully ignorant, is one that you’re not able to spend with the wonderful people out there.  Every minute that I waste on trying to convince some patronising jerk on Twitter that he’s being ignorant is a minute that I could be spending talking to one of my awesome friends or reading the fantastic writing of people like those I have mentioned above.

Keep standing up.  Keep speaking out.  Disengage from those who would shut you up for calling out their ignorance and bigotry.

And in the words of Dr Seuss:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

*I just found out that Privilege Denying Dude was shut down on Tumblr, but has sprung up again on Blogger.  Linky linky!

Your Emotions are YOURS

Published October 30, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

My friend and Cyster Jenn reposted something I said on Facebook as her status update last night, and while of course I was very honoured, I took the statement I had made away for awhile and have been rolling it around in my mind, thinking about what it means to me and how best to expand upon it.  I guess the best way to start is by sharing it here:

It’s not about allowing people to hurt you, it’s about your right as a human being to be treated with basic respect, dignity and fairness. We need to stop blaming the victim with the attitude of “they only hurt you because you allow them to” and put the onus back on to the perpetrator.

What I keep hearing, over and over, as a response to anyone who complains or calls out bigoted behaviour towards fat people are statements like:

“Don’t take it so personally.”
“They only hurt you if you allow them to.”
“Why are you always so angry?”
“Don’t let it get to you.”
“Just laugh at them.”
“Just let it go.  Get over it.”

And many other similar pieces of “advice”.

I really need to express my objection to this kind of attitude.  People who are harmed by others, be it physically or emotionally, have every right to be angry, hurt, dismayed, feel violated and any other way they happen to feel about the harm that has been laid at their feet.  They also have the right to expect that the perpetrator has to be the one to take responsibility for their behaviour, not them as the victims.

For too long, we’ve been practicing the old “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” attitude.  The truth is, words DO hurt people, and it is NOT acceptable to just say whatever one likes about others without taking the responsibility of the results of making those statements.

I also saw people responding with things like “Well it depends on the case…” suggesting that there are some kind of rankings for violation/abuse.  We need to let go of that attitude that there is some kind of gradient that means we should shut up for some things and speak up for others.  Yes, abuse is varying in it’s degrees, but that doesn’t mean we should just let the small stuff go.  Because what happens?  The big stuff gets bigger and more and more gets swept under the carpet.  Instead, put it back on the heads of the perpetrator.  The responsibility is with them and the level of repercussion is theirs to bear, not ours.  Violation is violation and there have to be repercussions for all of it, not just the worst end of the spectrum.

Yes, pick your battles, but that doesn’t mean you have to hide that you are hurt by the violation if it isn’t as violent as another violation.

You don’t have to pretend that their words don’t hurt.  When people tell you to just get over it or to not allow others words to hurt you, what they are doing is minimising your feelings, effectively telling you to be quiet and not complain.  They’re also minimising the responsibility of the person who has hurt you.

You can be angry. I’m not saying that you should be letting anger consume you, or other people’s behaviour from stopping you living your life to how YOU want to live it, but you have every right to feel anger and hurt and to express that.  As Marianne Kirby says in her recent post:

How dare people try to stifle our hard-won anger? Especially when we have every right to BE angry in the first place. You DO have every right to be angry. It is not wrong for you to feel that way. It’s important to find constructive ways of dealing with that anger but the anger itself is not usually the problem, okay? You are right to be angry at the people who want to abuse fatties.

She’s right on the nail.  With anger, I can fuel a whole lot of things.  That doesn’t mean that the anger controls me in any way, quite the opposite.  Anger is not the problem, the abuse is the problem.  Make the abuse go away, and off the anger goes with it.

In reference to the Marie Claire debacle of this week, the amazing Marilyn Wann tweeted yesterday:

Marie Claire says: “The opinion was that of a blogger, not the magazine. She posted an apology…We consider this matter closed.” Nuh-UH!

The prejudice-monger (Marie Claire) doesn’t decide when we’re prejudice-free. The prejudice isn’t gone until the FAT LADY says it’s gone!

Oh how I love how Marilyn can get right to the nitty gritty and say it so succinctly.  The perpetrator doesn’t get to choose how people react to their behaviour.  They also don’t get to choose when they’ve fully taken responsibility for that.  The person/people they have wronged do.

Don’t let anyone diminish how you feel.  Don’t let anyone tell you to just “get over it”.  How dare they?  Are they the ones harmed by the behaviour?  Even if they are, they choose how THEY react to it, and how they feel about it, not how anyone else does.  Your emotions are YOURS, and nobody has any right to minimise them.

*BTW: Do read Marianne’s post, it’s good advice on keeping yourself emotionally healthy and strong in the face of fat hate.

We’re Not Making this Shit Up!

Published October 24, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I know plenty of other fatosphere bloggers have talked about and shared this piece by sugaredvenom over on Tumblr and I’m not sure I have much more to add to what has already been said.  But because I get someone pretty much every day commenting that I should just “get over” being fat in this world and quit being so angry/political/whiny/vocal and so on, I just want to put it out there again.

Because I get very tired of hearing the same old “you’re just imagining it” thing over and over.  We’re told we’re paranoid, that we read too much into what people say and do about fat bodies and fat people.  We’re told that we’re the ones creating animosity about fatness.  But I think sugaredvenom has found some very clear proof that we do not imagine the hateful attitude towards fat people.

Just because I believe in having a look if I can replicate the results myself, and to follow her advice and look to see if there were the same amount of negative ones for thin people (there are not, Brian over at RedNo3 demonstrates this) I was doing some Google searches myself.  I came up with the same results as sugaredvenom for the searches she ran, but found a few doozies myself.

How about this one:

why are fat people

Then there is this one:

Photobucket

Smaller brains and no reason to live hey?

This one suggests we use more gas as well as being unattractive and ugly:

Photobucket

Just in case we didn’t know, we make people sick and must die.

fat people m

And of course we’ve all heard how gross we are and that we should just go be fat somewhere else, and again, we’re to blame for global warming.

fat people g

It’s pretty clear that fat hatred is well entrenched in our culture.  If enough people are entering those search terms that they are trending on Google to make your searches easier, then I think we’ve got enough proof that fat hatred is a valid thing that people suffer at the hands of others on a daily basis.  Just looking through the Google search terms that brought people to this very blog, the most prominent searches over the past few months have been the terms:

fat sluts; fat women don’t deserve happiness; shut the fuck up fat bitch; fat should kill themselves; fat women suck; fat people ruin everything; fat people take food from thin people; bitches are fat; nobody will fuck you fatty; fat bitch from Glee; kill yourself fat…

and a whole bunch of other terribly misspelled terms along the same lines.  One thing about fat haters… a lot of them have really awful spelling!

Fat hatred is rife.  Nobody is making it up, or being paranoid by speaking out about it.  Those who minimise or dismiss the very real feelings of pain, anger and fear that many fat people have are simply adding to that fat hatred and hostility.

Let’s Make it Better

Published October 7, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I want to talk about bullying.  But I’m struggling with it, because even now, when I am in a safe, happy place in my life, when I am bully free and strong, I still feel hurt and fear.  Just thinking about what I suffered at the hands of bullies plunges me back into all of those emotions, even though rationally I know that I am safe and strong.

But I HAVE to talk about it.  Because not only is it good for me personally to voice all of these demons that bother me, but because being open about it, putting out there into the world what people are suffering every single day, and calling it out for what it is, is needed to help battle the very deeply ingrained bully culture of our world.

Brace yourself, this is going to be a long post.

Bullying is by no means a new thing.  It happened to me all my life and I’m 38 this month.  As a child, as a teen, and yes, even as an adult.  And I know it’s been happening for so long in history one couldn’t pinpoint an origin.  But I do think that it is particularly vicious in our time now.  I’m not saying it’s at it’s most vicious now, or that it we haven’t had equally/more vicious periods of bullying in our history.  I do think it comes and goes in cycles perhaps, as society finds excuses, until the inevitable backlash comes along.  It’s time for that backlash now.

I am of course, right now, spurred on by the It Gets Better project, which is in response to the suicide of several young gay men who were bullied to the point of losing all hope.  However, while I do want to send a message of support out to the young queer folk out there, and talk to them about the bullying they go through, I want to broaden this to anyone who has suffered, or is suffering at the hands of bullies.  Whether that be because you are GLBT, fat, shy, female, small, different, just an easy target… whatever reason the bullies have chosen you, I want to talk to you in this post.  And that goes to those of you who have been bullied in the past but are doing ok now.

So let’s start with my story.

As I mentioned, I was bullied my whole life.  I came from an abusive home, so perhaps I already had the mark on me of being a suitable victim.  I don’t know, but it definitely started before I got fat, so it’s not just my fatness that was the reason.  I can remember being pushed over at Kindergarten by a boy who was bigger than me on more than one occasion, for no good reason that I knew.  When I went to primary school, I got it there.  Menaced by bigger boys for any money I might have (which was very little if any), or my stuff, even if it was cheap and crappy.  I was made fun of for being poor, for being dirty, for being fat (even before I was fat), for being stupid (which I have never been), or just because I was available for bullying.  When I got a little older I would stand up to the bullies if they targeted my younger brother, but if I was just on my own, I seemed to lack the confidence to do so.   They would push me around, throw food or anything else gross they could think of at me, steal my school stuff and hide it or destroy it, make fun of how I looked or what I was wearing, or lie to teachers and get me in trouble when I hadn’t done anything.

But, in primary school I had friends, a couple of lovely teachers, and my beloved school library (complete with teacher-librarians who I still idolise today), so I survived.  It was much harder surviving what was being dished out at home than dealing with what was happening at school.

When I got to high school, things changed.  I got fat.  Puberty hit at the end of primary school so I was far more developed than my peers.  Added to the mark I already seemed to have on me labelling me as a perfect bully victim, it equaled 5 years of living hell.  For the first time, the girls started in on me.  Say what you like, boys might be rougher and bigger, but girls are far, far more vicious bullies.  There was one girl who had a pair of twin sisters as friends.  Think of the two oafs that Draco Malfoy has as his henchmen in Harry Potter… Crabbe and Goyle.  That’s what these two twins were like.  Twice my size, mind numbingly stupid, but would do anything that the Malfoyesque girl told them to do.  They beat the shit out of me.  They burnt my stuff.  They followed me home (across the street from the high school, fucking great huh?) and stood there on the corner for hours on end, menacing me.  They told the older boys that I liked them and that I’d sleep with them for money.  They rang the school pretending to be a concerned parent and dobbed on me for doing things I didn’t do.  They told my violent father that they caught me smoking.  They stole my lunch and ground it in the dirt.  They cornered me in the girls toilets and forced me to stick my fingers down my throat until I vomited, and told me that I had to do that after every meal because I was so fat and disgusting.  They found a boy to piss on me, which he would do every couple of days.  They got other boys to ring my house and ask me out, and then laugh at me no matter what reaction I had.  They spat on me, they stole my school books, they tore my school uniforms, they just never fucking stopped.  All the while the main girl just told them what to do, and spewed hateful words at me.

One day when I was about 14, something snapped.  I lashed out with a steel ruler that I happened to have in my arms with my school books, and hit the main girl across the face with it.  I was horrified but I had just snapped.  The deputy principal took me into his office and said “I know you’re not that girl, you’re not violent.  But I know what goes on at home, and that you don’t want to be that person.  Don’t ever come back into my office for this reason again.”

They never bothered me again.  In fact, even the oaf twins gave me a wide berth.

But the bullying didn’t stop.  Older kids stepped in.  Boys got worse.  They grabbed my breasts, forced me into corners and grabbed my crotch.  They pulled down my pants.  They asked me out and then screamed with laughter at the mere thought of dating me.  They spat on me, pissed on me, threw dog shit at me, you name it.

I changed schools in my Senior year because my mother moved us to a new town.  The bullying happened there too, just with different kids.  But they could have been the same kids.  They looked and sounded like the same kids to me.

Teachers never helped.  They told me not to be so sensitive, not to engage with the bullies, not to take things so seriously, to mind my own business, to get a hobby, to lose weight, to apply myself better in school.  My parents didn’t care, they were too busy fighting each other and bullying me themselves.

By the time I was 16, I wanted to die.  It was the only way I could see an end to it.  But for some reason, I never did it.  I just wanted dying to happen, I couldn’t do it myself.

After I left school, there were some good years, but soon after more bullies found me.  One of my first full time bosses bullied me for fun.  A neighbour bullied me.  I had some more good years.  Then a colleague bullied me for a couple of years that were absolutely hellish, and which only stopped when a bullying complaint was filed on my behalf (when I simply asked for help) and while that complaint was dismissed because of a technicality, for some reason the bullying stopped too.

I got help with my self esteem and the depression issues (which I believe are part chemical, part result of constant abuse and bullying my whole life).  Things are good for me now, and I know I would never, ever take the shit that I once used to tolerate.  But in those bad years, time and time again I wished for death to claim me, a few times I got to the point of attempting it myself.

So I know, oh believe me I know how it feels.

Now, to those of you who are young and think it never ends.  It does.  You are not what they say you are.  You are not worthless, ugly, disgusting, gross, nothing.  You will survive this.  And it WILL get better.  Please, please don’t give up.  Talk to someone.  Call or email something like The Trevor Project, or Kids Helpline, or Lifeline, or something else in your state/country along those lines (anyone who knows any services, please share links in the comments).  But hang in there.  Hold your head up and know that you DO deserve better.

And I promise you this.  I am working to MAKE it better.  It’s not fair of people to just say “Hang in there, it will get better.” without doing anything to make it better.  You shouldn’t have to just ride it out and tolerate being bullied.  But if you can hang on, I and a lot of other people who care, will work to make it better, to change things.  I will fight to change the cultural attitude of permitting bullying, or excusing it.  I will ask others to stand beside me in that fight.  It has to change.

Now to those of you who are adults and have suffered bullying in the past.  Or those of you who maybe have or know kids you’re worried about when it comes to bullying.  I need to talk to all of you.

It’s not right that we ask kids to hang on, to suffer through the bullying with the vague promise that “it gets better”.  We need to MAKE it better.  We need to teach our own children, and all of those around us, that bullying is never, ever acceptable.  I’ve seen posts over the past couple of days saying that bullies do so because they hate themselves, or because they’re the victims of abuse at home themselves, and a myriad of other reasons.  I’m here to say that while I care that people feel this way, I DO NOT ACCEPT THOSE EXCUSES.

I hated myself my whole life, until I was past 35.  I came from a violent, abusive home.  Lot’s of us did/do.  Lots of us have things in our lives that made/make us miserable, but do we turn to bullying to deal with that?  No.  Because we know it’s just a very pathetic excuse to be a cretin.

I do not accept any justification for bullying.  I am not going to give bullies sympathy and hugs.  Not until they stop bullying.  If and when anyone chooses to be a good human being, and to treat others with basic respect, then I will encourage them and support them until the ends of the earth.  But so long as someone is bullying others there need to be decent repercussions for that behaviour.  We need to stop making excuses and enabling bullies.  We need to speak up and say it is unacceptable, over and over and over again.  We need to tell our friends, our families, our colleagues that bullying behaviour is not acceptable.  We need to work to make it better for the kids that are coming up behind us.  We cannot let the same injustices happen over and over again.

It’s time we stood up and said loud and clear that bullying is NEVER acceptable. Change takes time, but we have to stand up and start making that change.  The kids of today will join us down the track, and more and more after them.

Let’s not expect young people to just suffer through bullying.  Let’s make a difference.

Breaking the Contract

Published August 2, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Ok so I dyed my hair pink yesterday.  Not a soft, floaty, ethereal pink.  Not a dusky, muted pink.  But a hot as possible, obnoxious, shiny, LOUD pink.  It wasn’t entirely intentional, the colour I used came out as a raspberry/cherry red last time, but this time the bleach worked a little more effectively and I had a blonde base underneath instead of a copper one.  But I am glad it went this colour because it’s far more representative of my personality, and I’m quite heartily in love with my new pink hair.

I’ve found I’ve had two basic reactions to it.  A lot of people love it.  They love the intense colour, they feel it’s daring and bold and I’ve had a few comments that have been really fun.  One colleague said it looked like a lolly (candy), and another thought it was like one of those Anime characters.  I got in the lift and a lady said “Oh!  I love your hair!  It looks like a unicorn mane!”  How’s that for an awesome compliment?

However, some people really take exception to my having pink hair.  The people who know me are polite about it, they change the subject or they say “Hmmm…”  But in the little over 24 hours since I coloured it, I’ve copped a lot of abuse from random strangers.  When I walked to the shops yesterday afternoon, in a trip that was maybe 15 minutes there and back, I had half a dozen douchebags yell shit at me out of passing cars.  Today I overheard a girl walking in front of me say to her boyfriend “Look at the fat woman behind us with the stupid pink hair.”  A guy yelled and flipped the bird at me as I waited for the bus this morning.  I got more catcalls throughout the day.

I believe there is a reason for this random hatred and the tut tutting of the people around me, aimed at me as a fat woman with loud pink hair.  It’s because I break the societal contract.

Women are not supposed to draw attention to themselves.  Fat women even less so.   We’re supposed to be demure, delicate, submissive, quiet, elegant, classy, modest, self debasing, “feminine”.  We’re supposed to feel shame about ourselves, to minimise, to be invisible, out-of-the-way.  “Nobody wants to notice your fat arse, bitch.”

Women who make their hair loud colours, or wear brightly coloured clothes, or have tattoos are loud, brash, brassy, obnoxious, unprofessional, childish, juvenile, unfeminine, silly, outlandish, ridiculous, immature… the list goes on.  The entire judgement of that woman’s character is on how she looks, without ever learning anything about her at all.  Not a thing about her intellect, wit, kindness, honesty, passion, generosity is ever worth acknowledging when her appearance is outside of what is considered “proper”.

So when a woman does something bold with her physical appearance that makes her highly visible, she breaks the societal contract.  She does what a whole host of people want to do, but don’t have the guts to do.  So they get angry and take their misery out on women like that.  How dare she do something that they want to but feel they can’t?  And she’s FAT too!  BITCH!!

How dare I not be ashamed of myself?  How dare I take pride in being noticeable and visible?  Who do I think I am?

I know y’all want to see the hair colour, even though I can’t seem to get a photograph to reflect the exact colour it is.*  So I’ve combined a photo of the hair with a message to all of the haters out there who get all sweaty lipped and twitchy over a fat woman who makes herself visible.

Behold!

Photobucket

*It’s more like the colour in this photo or perhaps this photo in reality – the photo makes it HEAPS darker!

Post “Fat Pig” Debrief

Published June 18, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that makes me so very, very angry.

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