interviews

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What Being a Fat Woman Is Really Like

Published March 1, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

piggy donut

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

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

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

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

Have you tried dieting? What happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

homer fingers

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

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

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

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

How did you respond?

See the image of Homer above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No More Media Excuses

Published July 8, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

And my response:

Natasha,

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

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

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

Yours sincerely
Kath Read

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

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

Holy Crap – What a Roller Coaster!

Published April 27, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Hey!

I know, it has been awhile since I blogged last.  But this post is going to be all about what has been going on in my life since the whole Hoopla debacle and I want to clear a few things up too.

So, things have been kind of chaotic for me.  The big thing is that I’m moving house in a week’s time.  Which for me is a seriously big deal – I’ve lived in my little place here for fourteen and a half years – the longest I have lived anywhere in my life.  But I’m also moving across the city, not to mention doing almost everything on my own (but I do have a couple of awesome friends who have been really helpful – love youse!) and I’m moving because my current landlord is kicking me out, not for any negative reason, but because I no longer meet their criteria to rent one of their properties, which really sticks in my craw.  So the whole thing is really massive for me.  That said, I have a lovely new place lined up to move into that has lots of fabulous things that I don’t have here.  My own private laundry!  An east facing balcony!  A lock up garage (lots of storage for me because I don’t drive)!  Proper wardrobes, linen cupboard and kitchen pantry!  Just the storage alone is making me excited.  But best of all, I will be living by the sea.  I am moving to a bay side suburb, and my new flat is only metres from the foreshore.  I can’t wait to be able to ride my bike and walk up and down the waterfront at any time I choose.  Not to mention those gorgeous sea breezes.

Yeah, so that’s the biggest upheaval.

But as well as going through a full residential relocation, I’ve had so much else on in the past few months.

There’s the shiny new library we opened at the end of March.  I always think bringing a new library into the world is somewhat like bringing a new baby into the world.  There is a long, uncomfortable gestation, then a difficult labour and intense birth, but then you have this beautiful newborn that you love like no other and are already beginning to think you might like another one!

I also sprained my ankle a couple of weeks ago.  Walking to my bus stop, moved aside to let a cute little old couple that looks like Santa and Mrs Claus by on the footpath, hit an uneven bit of concrete and turned my ankle.  Went down like a sack of spuds, landed on my right knee and sprained  my left ankle.  I’m healing ok, was very limpy for a couple of weeks there and am stuck in a compression bandage for another two weeks yet, but I’m thankful I’m strong and in robust health so that I can heal well.

Y’all know about the Hoopla drama.  And in the thick of all of that, an interview I did back in January was published in the Sun Herald (Sydney).  I had seen the online version, but when a friend left me a message to tell me that there was a “huge” photo of me in the print version, I was kind of “Oh yeah, that’s nice.”  Then she sent me the paper copy:

That’s a library card sitting on top of the paper to give scale (same size as a credit card).  I’m about half the page!!  I sent it to my Grandma, she was tickled pink.  I like how it shows off my gold We Love Colors tights and the leopard print Chucks my friend Kylie found for me in the UK.

And then there has been more media interest… Kelli Brett from ABC Radio Melbourne’s The Main Ingredient interviewed me for her programme.  The podcast hasn’t gone up live yet but I’ll share when it does.  Plus a news editor from the Australian Women’s Weekly interviewed me a couple of weeks ago, for a piece that I think will be in the June or July edition.  More on that in a minute.

I do just want to clarify something.  There has been some suggestion from several people that The Hoopla publishing my piece some weeks ago is the reason that these media gigs have been coming my way.  I would just like to make it very clear that this is not true.  I was interviewed for the Sun Herald back in January (on Australia Day, January 26th, to be exact, and photographed in the first week or so of February) and any subsequent media contact has come from either this blog or that Sun Herald article.  One of the recent interviewers had never even heard of The Hoopla, the other wasn’t interested in it.  As much as there might be people that would like to claim that they are the reason for my “overnight success” (after over 3 years of slogging away at this stuff as a second, unpaid, full time job), it is simply not true.  The Hoopla did not “discover me”, I contacted them and asked if they would publish my writing.

Right, now that we’ve got that out of the way!  I am very lucky to get these opportunities, but that luck is coupled by my own hard work.

As well as being interviewed by the Australian Women’s Weekly, they have set up a photo shoot on Monday, which I am both nervous and excited about.  They’re going the whole kit and caboodle with a studio shoot, with fashion stylist, make-up and hair and Autograph Fashion are kindly loaning us the clothes for the shoot.  I am so excited, because what fun is it to get all dolled up!  But I am very nervous and anxious, as I’m suffering some impostor syndrome about it all.  I’ve been labelled the “ugly fat chick” my whole life, and it’s just bizarre to think that I’m doing a photo shoot with AWW, a magazine that I read my mother’s copies of as a kid.  As I said on Twitter this evening “I’m in your magazines, smashing your beauty standards!”

And the other big, exciting news for me is that I’ve found a way to wangle the finances to attend the Massey University, Palmerston North Fat Studies: Reflective Intersections Conference in New Zealand!  I am SOOOO excited, not only am I taking a holiday (two beautiful weeks) to New Zealand, but I’m going to be able to get all fab fatty at the conference.  I’ll get to see friends I made at the last conference, and hopefully make some new friends.  It’s worth putting myself into hock for!  Of course I promise to blog all about it, take lots of photos and I have also submitted an abstract for a paper I am writing.  Cross fingers it gets accepted so I can present it.

So, there you have the absolute roller coaster of chaos that my life is at the moment.  I’m knackered, a bit sore, sneezy from all my allergies stirred up by packing and cleaning, and in desperate need of a decent night’s sleep and a couple of days relaxation.  But I’m also  excited, challenged and happy.

Hope you are all in positive places in your lives too!

Inspirational Women: Not Blue At All

Published October 28, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I think it’s time to share another one of the women who have inspired me in my life.  Tonight I’m bringing you a bit of a quiet achiever.  Sarah, aka Not Blue At All was another of the early blogs that I discovered when I was first tasting fat activism.  Her bubbly manner and honesty drew me in like a magnet, and she has always got plenty of food for thought in her writing.  I’ve watched her evolve through her blog, and have seen her go through the ups and downs of life with grace and good humour.  I am sure you will find her as refreshing and delightful as I do.

Not Blue at All

Was there a defining moment for you as a person that made you decide that fat activism was for you?  What was it?

I am a hippie at heart, so the activism side of fat liberation/acceptance was a natural attraction for me. I can’t say that there was a specific moment that inspired or motivated me to identify as a fat activist. I think it was gradual. Though I will say that reading Fat Heffalump and The Rotund made me realize that just being in public while fat was so political. I now embrace this and go about my life with my head held higher and with a wider smile than before. I have locked eyes with another fatty in a mall and we were both sleeveless and we sort of just smiled and nodded at each other. That was a magical moment.

What projects or achievements are you most proud of in your fat activism?

So far I have to say that my proudest achievement is participating in Marilyn Wann’s 2011 International No Diet Day “Flesh Mob” when we fat-crashed an anti-obesity conference. I didn’t realize how radical this simple act would appear to outsiders or even to other fats. I just thought it was this very cool thing we could do to make a statement, get heard and be seen without hurting anyone. It wasn’t until later that I heard from others that it was this big scary deal. It is a bit of a blur, but it was all of two minutes. It was the last hour of the conference we crashed and the guy talking had such disgust for us (the obese) that I relished in the moment, more than I had thought I would. We danced, we chanted and we made some of those people wake up a bit. Others will still hate us, but that’s okay. It just felt good to do something as a fat group with so much fat pride. It is one of my fondest memories, for sure.

Is there a song that defines you or that you particularly identify with?  Will you share it with us?

I’m such a music lover and my taste is so varied. A song that defines me? Whew! That is a tall order…But why not Della Reese’s “Come on A My House” she’s a fatty and I love the hell out of this song. I called it my theme song for a few years. It is a song of welcome, love, offerings and nourishment. So, “come on a my house!” Ha-ha! I am always trying to get my friends together for fun and good times.

Many fat activists refer to having a “coming out as fat” moment in their lives, where they take their fab fat life to the people in their lives (friends, family, colleagues etc).  Did you have one of these?  How did it happen for you?

I don’t think I officially came out as fat or anything, but it was a big deal to me personally that for my last birthday I asked my friends to attend a Big Moves Bay Area event instead of giving me gifts. It was a fun night with fatties dancing and chocolate tasting. I wanted there to be a full on fatty dance party after, but sadly that didn’t happen.

If you could have someone make you the ultimate outfit for your body, what would it be?  Tell us that dream outfit/garment you’d love to see in plus-sizes.

I would start with gorgeous black knee-high boots. They would have chunky soles and possibly buckles or straps. I’m thinking industrial meets grunge. Then I would have these beautifully printed, quality lycra, tights in some goreous paisley or other lovely print. I’d probably just rock a dress I already have since the tights and boots are my biggest want at the moment, but I would love a more fitted/tailored dress. It’s why I love eshakti, I pay a few extra dollars and they make it to my specific measurements. And I would love a bag that I could wear cross-body style without it being a giant bag or having the strap too short.

Who has been your biggest “real life” support in your activism?

My husband. While he hasn’t participated, he’s always there for me. He listens to my bizarre ideas and rants and whatever else I’m going on and on about. He’s my best friend and my rock. He has attended a couple of fat events with me, but he’s a true introvert, so I never push. I actually love that he makes me feel supported in all that I do and gives me the space to get out and do what he’d never want to.
My BFFs are so very supportive, too. They went with me to a Big Moves event the first time I ever went strapless in public. I was somewhat horrified, but pushed myself to get the hell out of my comfort zone. I never looked back! They have been by my side and have my back no matter what.

Who has inspired you in your activism?

You Kath! And Marianne Kirby, Marilyn Wann, Amanda Levitt, Michaela Null, Lesley Kinzel, Virgie Tovar, Jeanette Miller, Jessica Gagnon and and and and… I could go on and on, believe me! I am so grateful and fortunate to have so many amazing and brilliant fat activists in my life. These women speak a truth that my heart needs to hear all of the time. They embody fat activism even when they haven’t the strength to write about it. They understand what it takes to keep this movement’s momentum going. I love them all.

Do you have any tattoos?

Oh yes. I long for a fat related one, but funds are not available now. I have a small butterfly in my right ear. Chinese Characters on my left shoulder blade. A vine with big purple flowers on my right shoulder blade. A lovely rain foresty piece around my right ankle.

What piece of advice would you like to share with all fatties out there?

Find and honor your authentic self. Let no one or thing ever define you, but you. Care for yourself and your needs.
Love with your whole self. Don’t hold back. Scare people off, who needs ‘em? Be honest above all else, but don’t be mean or rude or judgmental. Treat your body like your best friend, because it is and it will always be there for you. Trust your body, listen to it, be mindful of it and learn to nourish and care for it. We are taught from such an early age to distrust our bodies in fear and that makes me sad and angry. Support other fatties. Support other communities. Speak up. Stand up for yourself and others. Be your own advocate. Call out hate when hate is spoken or taught or heard. Above all, just be you.

Quick Hit: Triple J Hack

Published February 17, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Just a pop in post today.  I was interviewed yesterday morning by Alex Mann from Triple J for the Hack programme on the topic of the interactions between fat people and medical professionals, in particular GP’s (General Practitioners), along with Bec aka @TrashyTeacake from South Australia.

If you’d like a listen, click here.

I have to say, I’m well impressed that the producers of Hack on Triple J have given an opportunity to fat people to talk about how they are treated by health professionals, rather than the usual mainstream media method of speaking to everyone BUT fat people about the topic of fatness and health.  Alex from Triple J even came up here to interview me in person.

Kudos to Hack on Triple J.

My favourite part of the piece was the commentary from Dr Rick Kausman, in particular this quote:

Unfortuntely as a society, we’re focusing on the wrong “W”. We’re focusing on the “W” for weight, rather than the “W” for wellbeing. If we could focus on the “W” for wellbeing, the rest would take care of itself.

Dr Rick, YOU ROCK!

Side note: I was not asked to give my BMI, nor was it verified with me.  I have spoken to Alex about this and made it clear that had I been asked, I would have calculated my BMI (I actually don’t know it at the moment) rather than have them “assign” my BMI based on my mentioning that I am classified as “morbidly obese”.  Alex has apologised and understands the issue of others placing body measures on fat people, particularly in such a public way.