judgement

All posts in the judgement category

My Plate Does Not Have to Be the Same As Your Plate

Published February 3, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

I’m having one of those “What is so hard to understand about it?” moments.  You know the drill, someone says or posts something judgemental, you call it out, and then they turn themselves into knots trying to justify their actions/attitudes.  And you just realise that it’s not going to get through, but you can’t understand what is so hard to understand.  I have those a lot, I shouldn’t, but yeah… the willful ignorance just boggles me.

The current puzzler is about food judgement.  I’m really struggling to understand why people can’t see that what other people eat is none of their business, and what they choose to eat doesn’t need to be moralised or proselytised as though it’s the only way to eat.

It’s really simple.  Worry about what’s on your own plate, and what you put in your own mouth (and your own children’s).  If you choose not to eat certain foods, that’s ok.  If there are certain foods that make you unwell, that’s ok.  If there are certain foods that you simply don’t like, that’s ok.

But let’s quit broadcasting messages about food as though there is one true way to eat.

What does this mean?  Well, let’s start with the old social media post.  I am sure you’ve ALL seen them.  The link to some article denouncing sugar as poison, or carbs as the scourge of society, or meat as unnatural.  Or then the new one is the infographic.  Some thing that tells people not to eat processed food, or how many greens they should have, or how much sugar is in something and so on.  Those “pithy” little jpegs or gifs that scatter around Facebook or Tumblr spreading their judgement all over the place.  Why do people post those?  To prove that the way they eat is somehow morally better than people who make different food choices?  To “convert” people to eating the “right” way?  I’m not sure, all I see when they pop up on my social media is someone telling others what to do with their own bodies.

Then there’s the social situation.  There is food available.  Someone doesn’t eat that food for whatever reason.  They don’t just say “No thank you”, instead they say things like “Oh no, I couldn’t, I’ve already been a little pig!”  Or “Oh no, my hips will never forgive me!  I’m already getting fat.”  Or “No, I don’t eat sugar/processed food/carbs/whatever – it’s poison.”  There’s the conversations in the office about what diets people are on.  There are the questions like “Are you sure you need that?”  The outright statements “I can’t eat that, too many calories.”  Or even “Go on, have another slice, you know you want to.” or “Come on, just try some, I’m sure you’ll like it.”

The scenarios are endless, I’m sure you’ve all had examples of your own plenty of times, and you are welcome to share them in the comments.

The thing is, food is such a loaded subject in our current culture.  It has become a moral measure to so many people, and that moralising is now a way people bond.  Recently when challenging someone’s attitude about food moralising I was told “Well if  you don’t talk about anyone other than yourself, you can’t avoid casting judgement.”  I call bullshit on that.  While yes, it’s very easy to slip back into the dominant way of thinking about food and loading it with morality, it’s also easy to be conscious of that judgement and nip it in the bud.  It’s like the matrix – once you’ve taken that red pill and are aware of the reality of just how fucked up judging people for food (and other arbitrary measures), you see it all over the place.  You CAN look at your own thoughts and behaviours and curb them when they’re inappropriate.  You CAN train yourself out of that culturally dominant way of thinking, you just have to be willing to let go of being judgemental of others for abitrary reasons.  Sometimes I think people don’t want to let go of that.

But you CAN let go of that.  You can talk about food (even foods you don’t like or can’t eat) without loading it with moral judgement on others.

To give examples of myself – it is a constant source of teasing from my USian and Canadian friends about how squeamish I am about pumpkin desserts.  The quickest way to get a reaction out of me is to post a pumpkin pie or pumpkin-spiced latte on FB and tag it with my name and they get rewarded with me going “Ewwwww, I can’t!”  It’s just something I personally cannot bear to eat, despite loving pumpkin as a savoury vegetable.  I made friends roar with laughter when I was in the US and I announced, on tasting pumpkin ice-cream that it was “the most disgusting thing I had ever eaten and that’s saying something because I’ve eaten scorpion, grubs, and two different types of testicle!”  But that isn’t saying that it’s “bad” to eat pumpkin desserts, or that other people shouldn’t – just that I don’t like them.  In fact if I’m not getting all squeamy I usually just say “Please feel free to eat my share of pumpkin desserts of the world, I don’t want them!”

Another example is allergies.  I am allergic to sheep.  Yes, I know, I’m weird.  I can’t wear the wool, come in contact with lanolin or eat the meat.  Now if lamb is on the menu somewhere, I simply ask not to have any, because I’m allergic.  The same goes for avocado, which I am also allergic to.  A simple “May I ask if this has avocado in it?” followed by “No thank you, I’m allergic.”  Almost every time the host or other folk will point out something that is avocado free, and then we’re all good.

Or if you really want to make sure you’re not loading food talk with moral judgement, my other method is to just keep repeating myself with a polite “No thank you.”  No matter how many times someone tries to pressure me into eating something that I don’t want, I just keep saying “No thank you.”  If they push you to give a reason, just say “Because I said no thank you.”  They’re going to be the one who looks douchey for pushing the issue, not you for politely refusing.

That doesn’t mean that the topic of food is off the agenda – talk about food.  Talk about how delicious it is, where you found the good stuff, where the food wasn’t so great, who made that delicious recipe, how cute the presentation is, the foods you’ve tried around the world, even the foods you don’t like.  Just don’t load it with moral judgement as you do so.  If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you don’t eat gluten or dairy or sugar for whatever reason – that’s ok.  But please, don’t tell the rest of us we are “evil” or “greedy” or “lazy” for eating differently to you.  A simple “I choose not to eat meat because I don’t feel right eating animals.” or “No sugar for me thanks, it makes me feel really unwell.” is acceptable.  It makes it clear that you have made choices about the food you eat without heaping judgement on anyone else.

Besides, how often do you know who is hearing that moralising?  How often are you sure there’s not someone with an eating disorder around that is triggered by that kind of talk?  Or someone who has a serious medical issue, or someone who is simply broke and can’t afford to pick and choose foods as much as others?  Do you really want to be the douche who makes people feel bad about food when they have enough to deal with already?

But what do you do when you’re in a social setting (either online or off) where someone is going on and on about food, loading it with moral judgement?  Well, that depends on the situation and the person it is.  Sometimes you can be blunt and say “Oh pull your head in, mind your own damn business.”  Other times you might have to have your polite pants on.  Like the workplace or a social situation at someone else’s house.  If you can’t walk away (a very effective response to food moralising sometimes!) there are several things you can say.  You can simply say “That’s ok, you don’t have to eat it, but you don’t need to judge others for choosing to.”  Sometimes I say things like “Hey, eat the chocolate or don’t eat the chocolate, it’s your body, you get to choose what to do with it.” which seems to nip it in the bud too.  Or perhaps “Let’s not put a dampener on the party by policing the food ok?”

I know these aren’t always going to work, there is always going to be that situation where you can’t speak up, and walking away will make a scene that you don’t want to have.  But knowing that you don’t have to carry that moral judgement on your shoulders also helps.  If someone is crapping on about food and loading it with moral judgement, then that’s a reflection on THEM, not a reflection on you.

Your plate is YOUR plate.  Your body is YOUR body.  Keep your food morals to yourself and don’t take on anyone else’s food morals.

Falsely Filling in the Story

Published January 19, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

Firstly I want to share the amazing work of Rachele aka The Nearsighted Owl with you.  Rachele has been doing a series of “shame loss” artworks, which I think are absolutely brilliant.  You can check them out on her blog, or you can find them on her Tumblr.  I want you to go and look at them on her sites, so I’m only going to share the one with you all now, because I want to talk about it.  It is this take on the crappy Special K ad:

Image courtesy of Rachele of The Nearsighted Owl

Image courtesy of Rachele of The Nearsighted Owl

Isn’t it fabulous?  I am loving that Rachele is creating lots of intersectional images of fat folk – people of colour, people with disibility, across gender and of varying shapes and sizes.  Some of them are naked, some are clothed, the variety so far has been great and I look forward to the others she comes up with – I really do hope she comes up with more!

The reason I’m singling out this piece is because of the horrific healthism and ableism that has come out of people responding to the artwork.  Most predominantly, that this fat woman “did it to herself” because she must have diabetes and has had a leg amputated because of it.  I know, can you believe just how fucked in the head the thinking is around the image of a fat woman with a prosthetic leg that they’ve invented a whole fucking scenario for her… from a drawing!

Let’s ignore the logic of the whole thing that she’s clearly a young woman and people who suffer amputation due to diabetes are almost always elderly and it takes many years of suffering from vascular issues before things get as drastic as amputation.  Not to mention that it’s a drawing, not a fucking photograph of an actual person.  Logic clearly doesn’t come into play with these people.

Let’s focus on the bullshit attitude that somehow because she is a fat woman she “did it to herself”.

Let’s imagine that the image is exactly the same, only she is thin. What scenario do you think these people would dream up for her prosthetic leg then?

Car accident?  Well let’s ask if the car accident was her fault?  Did she “do it to herself” then?

How about through some kind of extreme sport/thrill accident?  An accident base- jumping?  Mountain climbing?  Snowboarding?  Surfing in shark infested waters?  Would that come under “did it to herself”?

How about some of the cancers that are caused by lifestyle?  Did she sunbathe?  Smoke cigarettes?  Live somewhere near radioactive material?  Does that come under “did it to herself”?

I could go on.  But what I’m really getting at is that if this was a picture of a thin woman with a prosthetic leg, there would be no question of “she did it to herself” and the image would not be met with the disgust and dreamed-up diabetes amputation scenario that came with it as it is above.  There still would have no doubt been ableism, but the “fat chick did it to herself” people would have asked how a thin woman came to have a prosthetic leg, or assumed it was congenital, or some “tragic” circumstance

Only fat people get accused of “doing it to themselves” when it comes to disability or illness.  Fat people are never allowed to have tragic circumstances, accidents, congenital illnesses or any other reason for their disabilities, no, it’s assumed that we must be unhealthy and have “done it to ourselves”.  Even with NO information other than the person in the picture is fat and has a prosthetic leg, fat haters invent their own story for the person laying the “blame” on them.  As Amanda at Fat Body Politics says on her post Speaking Hypothetically:

Attacking a drawing, that doesn’t depict a real person, gives people who are blinded by their own prejudice an ability to try and remove their own responsibility that is connected to the harm their words cause. The issue really isn’t that they are reading a drawing of a person that was meant to be positive, but that they are trying to negate the reality that their words have been said about real people, with real bodies that live in reality. Their lives and body should never be used as a hypothetical situation.

But what REALLY pisses me is that regardless of body shape or size, what if it was a picture of someone who had an amputation because of diabetes? (Since thin people get diabetes too – ie, my paternal uncles)  It is disgustingly healthist and ableist to suggest that they “deserve” to be treated poorly.  Every single human being, regardless of level of health, physical ability, size or general quality of life, deserves to live their lives in peace and dignity, without being vilified and bullied because of their bodies.

I don’t care if someone is the fattest person on the planet and they cut their own leg off for kicks, they still deserve to live their lives in peace and dignity, and to see themselves represented and accommodated in society – fat, with a disability and any other identifying features – as valid human beings.

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.

The Space We Need

Published December 17, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

There’s a new book about fat on the block, and I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy (ask your local library if they’ve got it, if not, ask them if they can get it in for you) and having a read.  It is Fat by Deborah Lupton.

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It’s not perfect, there’s quite a bit of privilege denial (ugh, thin privilege) and she completely misses the point about much of fat activism a fair bit, but it has been giving me some real food for thought.

One of the things it has triggered a lot of thinking about lately is how those of us with fat bodies negotiate our way through the physical spaces of the world.  I got to thinking about just how conscious I am of the space my body takes up, and how I have to negotiate my body in a world that marks me as “abnormal”.  The more I paid attention to it, the more I noticed that almost every aspect of my life is framed around this process of moving my body around in the world.

People with thin privilege do not see that as well as the general stigma and shaming around having a fat body, the act of simply existing in a fat body is something that constantly has to be monitored so as to minimise further shaming and stigma.

Even at home it starts…

The first thing I do in the morning is jump in the shower.  In my flat, the shower stall is quite small, smaller than the one I had in my previous home.  As I get in to the shower, the glass door sometimes swings wide open as I bump it, which means water sprays out onto the bathroom floor.  After my shower I get dressed in clothes that I have had a lot of difficulty to find (correct fit but also clothes that I like and reflect how I wish to dress, and are suitable for the place I intend to wear them).  Once dressed and shod and ready to leave the house, I grab my handbag, which I had some difficulty finding one with a long enough shoulder strap that it would fit cross body, so that I could have my hands free.  As I leave my building I squeeze through a space between the stairwell and the garden edge, that is cut to narrower than my body.

I walk to the train station, often facing abuse that early from cars that pass me, or if nothing else stares when I get to the train station.   I sit down on the benches on the platform.  People usually avoid sitting next to me, and often make it clear that they find me repulsive.  I wait for the train, usually catching up with Twitter while I wait.  Once I get on the train, I am lucky enough to get on at the second station so there are usually plenty of seats.  I sit on one facing the direction of travel, move close to the window and put my bag on my lap or between my feet.  My body, while very large, does not take up more than one seat width, though my shoulders do a little.  I usually read while commuting.  I make my body take up as little space as possible.  As people get on the train, and it begins to fill, I notice them looking for seats anywhere but me.  Some of them sigh or tsk as they pass me.  Many would rather stand, or sit next to a man with his legs widely spread and his newspaper out open than sit next to me, as though my fat is contagious.  I see them staring (I wear sunglasses which hide my eyes so they don’t know which way I am looking) sometimes they nudge the person they are travelling with and not-so-subtly point me out.  Semi-regularly I catch someone photographing me on their smartphone.  Occasionally if I don’t have my iPod on, I hear someone say something like “If it wasn’t for fatso there, we would have more seats.”

When I get to my destination, I leave the train and walk through the station.  I walk down the stairs to the subway, no slower than most other people, but there is always someone who huffs and puffs behind me like I am holding them up.  Usually my speed is determined by the people in front of me, but the eyes on me say “Fatty you’re holding people up.”  Sometimes people even say this out loud.  As I line up for the GoCard gates, I am acutely aware that my body only just fits through the gates, and when I am wearing my bag across my body I have to adjust it to be in front of me so that I fit.

I walk to work, still facing comments, nudges and stares from strangers.  As I walk into my building and get into the elevator, often people eye me up and down, sigh or tsk as if they’re offended at the amount of space I take up in the lift.  When I get to my desk, the standard office chairs are not wide enough between the arms for me to sit comfortably, in fact, they’re not wide enough for MOST people to sit comfortably, almost everyone in the office has a different brand chair to the “standard” but as the fattest woman I’m the one looked at askew for using a different chair.

Anywhere I walk in public I constantly have to be aware of the space I am taking up.  I am expected to apologise for not fitting between groups of people crowding a walkway, or through the gaps in chairs in the building’s food court area if I go to buy a coffee or my lunch.  Furniture is arranged so that it is too narrow for my body to pass through, and I often have to move chairs, squeeze sideways or ask people to move because I don’t fit the designated space for a body.  Bathroom stalls are narrow, the sanitary bins often dig into my side if they are not far back enough.  Meeting anyone in a doorway means that I must again apologise for my size, because we won’t both fit through at the same time.

The kitchen and bathroom basins in our office building force me to lean over them and my belly gets wet from water people have slopped there beforehand and not cleaned up.  If I go into shops, I have to manoeuvre my way around racks, displays and other people who are all closer together than fits my body.  Chairs provided in public spaces are either too narrow for me, or too flimsy or both.  If I go to the movies, the chairs there are uncomfortable, older theatres have narrow seats with inflexible arm rests that dig into my sides, and again I face the constant tsks of disapproval from strangers for sitting in chairs near where they want to sit, even though none of me protrudes out to other chairs except my shoulders, which would be the same if I were thin.  The same goes for restaurants and other places with public seating – either seats are uncomfortable for me, or I get shamed for taking up too much space.

If I want to eat in public, I have to decide whether I have the sanity points to deal with comments people make, or more stares and nudges.  Often some of the rudest comments or behaviour comes from the staff of the place I am purchasing food.  I quickly work out the places I can go where they won’t shame me for buying any food, and never return to those that do, if I have a choice.  In supermarkets, people stare into my trolley/basket and don’t hide their disapproval at finding food in there.  Sometimes they make comments about foods I have chosen, either chastising me if they deem it unhealthy, patronising me if they decide it is healthy.  I have even had people remove food from my trolley, scolding me that I “don’t need it”.  I always use the self checkout units at the supermarket, even if there are cashiers free, because it’s not worth putting up with the comments the cashiers make, or the scrutiny of the shoppers behind me.

It even affects my friendships and relationships.  One ex-boyfriend left me because he couldn’t tolerate the stares and nudges in public.  Several of my friends have told me that they find themselves getting angry when they are out with me, because they see how people behave.  I find myself getting angry after a few hours in a public place like a shopping centre, because I’m sick of being stared at and openly judged, which ruins my enjoyment of time out with my friends.

When I take a walk or a bike ride along the beautiful waterfront parklands near my house, I get more stares, more comments.  People stop me to make patronising comments “encouraging” weight loss.  One afternoon I had stopped at a picnic table to rummage through my bag for my purse when a woman came up to me, indicated I should take my earbuds out and then said “You are doing SO well, keep going and you will lose ALL that weight.”  She didn’t like it when I responded “Mind your own business, I’m quite happy with my body, now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go buy fish and chips for dinner.”   In the heat of the past few weeks I have packed a salad in a lunch box and taken it down to the waterfront picnic tables to eat in the sea breeze, much more pleasant than the heat of my home.  People stare and make comments about “people like that eating”.

Most people parrot “Well just lose weight then!” with no actual experience in what it is like to try to make a fat body smaller, or no true knowledge of how a fat person lives.  They believe the stereotypical myth of fat people rather than take the time to actually know what a fat person’s experiences are, what it is like to live in a fat body or to even believe not just fat people, but science that tells us that 95% of people can not lose weight permanently.  Instead of making the world variable enough to fit all of us, they insist that we make ourselves fit the world.

This is why when someone says for the millionth time “But what about your health!?!” I get angry.  What about our health?  Do people really think that stigma and shaming, and a world that is deeply uncomfortable for fat people is actually good for anyone’s health?  Do they really think that by not allowing us to live our lives in peace and dignity, we’re going to suddenly go “Oh wait!  I should get thin!” as if we have never tried it?  It is also why when people parrot the old “Just put down the cheeseburger and get off the couch” bullshit, I get angry.  Every morsel we eat is policed, and every moment in public is too.  Do they really think that this helps us live full, happy lives?  Do they really believe that they have the RIGHT to intervene in our lives?

There is not a day goes by without these micro-aggressions coming my way, as they do for  most very fat people.  I don’t share these things so that people feel sorry for me, that’s not what I want at all.  I want to highlight just how fat stigma and shaming forces fat people to spend their whole lives mitigating unpleasant, embarrassing or painful incidents caused by a culture that refuses to share its space with them.  There IS plenty of space for all of us, big or small, on this planet.  The problem is that fatness has been so demonised, so dehumanised that everyday people feel they have the right to be police AND judge, jury and executioner for fat people in the world.

I never feel discomfort because of my fat body.  I constantly feel discomfort because of the way the world treats me and refuses to accommodate me  because of my fat body.

Awww Look, the Fatty Thinks It’s People!

Published August 29, 2012 by Fat Heffalump
*Trigger warning* – fat hatred, healthism and general douchebaggery about fatness.

I did something very foolish today.  I read the letters to the editor in response to the article about Zoe and I in the U on Sunday magazine.  I know, I know, I should know better, but I had been told that they were “overwhelmingly positive”, so I had hoped to see a few gems in there to restore my faith in humanity.

Ahh but how wrong I was.  Out of the five letters published, one was overwhelmingly positive, three of them pulled the old “I applaud Kath and Zoe but…” switcheroo (if it wasn’t “but”, it was “however” or “nevertheless”) and one claimed to know that we are “hiding behind” our fat positivity and endangering ourselves and others.

It makes me wonder – can these people (other than the positive one, thank you Cathy Forbes of Twin Waters – YOU ROCK!) not read?  Do they have comprehension issues?  Did they even read the article?

Firstly, let’s address the but/however/nonetheless phenomenon.  If you are saying one thing, and then tacking on a but/however/nonetheless afterwards, you’re actually negating the first part.  So if you say, and I quote FJ Mead of Seventeen Mile Rocks:

“While I feel happy for these large women who are comfortable with their size, it is ignorant to believe they will not be  a burden to the health system later in life.”

FJ, FJ, FJ… you are in fact NOT happy for us at all, as you think we are ignorant and will end up being a burden to the health system.  You can’t have both m’dear.  Either come out and say it and show your loathing for fat people, or shut up.  Don’t hide behind false statements of “I feel happy for them” when you clearly do not.  FJ also thinks that we “aspire” to morbid obesity, or are encouraging others to “aspire” to it.  Sorry FJ, the only thing we aspire to is to be treated like human beings and not have random strangers decide what our health is simply by looking at us.

Then there is D. Hudson from Park Ridge who knows my body, and that of every fat person better than we do ourselves.  D. states “For fat people, every movement is an effort…”  Really D. Hudson?  This is the first I’ve heard that every movement I make is an effort.  Aren’t I lucky you came along to tell me at almost 40 years of age that I don’t in fact feel great, that I have been wrong all along and am in fact struggling under the effort of having a fat body.  D. is also absolutely adamant that our lifespan in general is shortened.  Really?  So like some kind of fat Logan’s run, the minute a fat person gets to a certain size, the little light switches on and off we must go to have our lifespans shortened.  Don’t mind me, I just have to go pick up my 83 year old fat grandma, she’s over-lived her stay!  D. also believes that it’s our fault that we can’t find stylish/affordable clothes and that some of us (though D. seems to sweep all fatties into this pile) may find sitting in a cinema or plane uncomfortable.  Perhaps D., it’s the fact that society refuses to include us as people that causes the lack of stylish/affordable clothing and seats that are comfortable, not our actual bodies?  The real irony is that D. Hudson says it’s “great to see they are also committing themselves to a life of healthy eating and activity” (no I’m not, if I want a donut or a lie in, I’ll have one, the same as if I want a salad or a ride on my bike, I’ll have that too) and then goes on to blather all of the stuff above, as if despite our supposed commitment, we should somehow still be ashamed/unhappy because of our fatness.  How does that even make sense?

The same goes for Matt Smith of Kedron, who states “Ultimately, excessive weight will always adversely affect one’s health.”  Really?  You know that for 100% of cases Matt Smith (are you a Doctor Matt?  Wait, aren’t you THE Doctor??) that every single fat person will have negative health CAUSED by their weight?  Because as the article states, there is no proof of causation of negative health by weight.  So clearly, Matt Smith, you must be better qualified than every other academic who has researched the topic and found the opposite to your claims.  Why aren’t you publishing your findings Matt?  Strangely, Matt then ends his letter by wishing us well, despite having labelled us “irresponsible” and then wished us negative health simply because we’re fat and he wants it to be true that we will suffer poor health.

The big fat cherry on the top goes to Katie Tartare (OMG, do you know the calories in tartare sauce??) from Kanimbla in Cairns, who has decided that Zoe and I are “hiding behind” our self esteem.  Katie equates living in a fat body with endangering our health through excess alcohol or drug intake, as though fatness is some kind of addiction.  Perhaps Katie thinks we are “addicted” to food, a common misconception among fat hating douchecanoes, despite repeated studies showing that fat people eat no more than not-fat people, and in fact some studies show we actually eat less, especially those of us who reject dieting and attempting to lose weight.  Not to mention that food is vital to life.

I think I know the problem.  We fat activists dare to believe that we’re people.  We dare to believe that we should be able to live our lives with as much freedom, respect and dignity as any other person.  We dare to believe that our health is our own business, and that health has no moral value.  We dare to believe that we know our own bodies, what they are capable of and how to look after them in whatever shape or form they happen to be at any given time.  And finally we dare to be present in the world, without hiding ourselves away in shame and apologising for our bodies.

And we can’t have that now, can we?

Look, if you hate fat people, and are all grossed out by our icky fatness and don’t want your eyesight marred by something that you find so repulsive, then just come out and say it.  Have the guts to be honest, not just with the world, but with yourself.  Stop hiding behind “What about your health?!” bullshit, you honestly don’t care about my health, or that of any other fat person.  You couldn’t give a flying fuck about what it feels like to live in a fat body, what happens to fat people and whether or not we die early.  In fact, it would suit you just nicely if we were to all just up and die this minute, because then you wouldn’t have to see our fatness in the world, you wouldn’t have to deal with those gross fatties at all.  Let your friends, family, colleagues and other life acquaintances see just what kind of person you are, stop pretending that you CARE.  Because you could not care one bit about fat people other than to remove us from the world.

But most of all, have the guts to own up to being an arsehole who thinks that other people have to be attractive to YOU to deserve to inhabit this world.

Unlearning

Published August 20, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Firstly, I would like to welcome all the new readers who have come over here from the article in U on Sunday in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane) yesterday.  For those of you old timers (I love you, you oldies!) who haven’t yet seen it, you can read it here.

Just a note – if you’ve come here to tell me I’m going to die… so will you.  If you’ve come here to tell me I’m going to infect people with my fatness… careful, or I’ll rub up against you.  And if you’ve come here to tell me that I am crazy – I’m not the one who Googled a blog just to rant in the comments section.  And we won’t have any stigmatisation of mental illness on my watch thank you very much!

So, on to today’s topic!

In light of a lot of comments on Saturday’s post on the Nike ad, some of which I chose not to publish because they were stigmatising, and some of the responses to the article in the Courier Mail yesterday, I wanted to talk a little bit about the things that we’ve always been taught, those things that “everybody knows”.  Mostly because in my experience, I have realised that I have had to unlearn so many things that I took as given, since I took up fat activism.  In fact, I pretty much have spent the last 5 years unlearning the previous 35 years.

One of the reasons I think people rail so heavily against fat activism is that they are terrified that they might not know things.  They hear or read something that is contrary to what they have always been led to believe, or have simply assumed, and they feel inadequate in not having known that.  Or they feel like they must prove those things wrong to save face themselves.  Instead of taking a step back and re-thinking things, doing a little research, asking a few respectful questions of people who know stuff, they lash out at anyone who challenges the dominant paradigm.  The thing is, as human beings, we should be taking it as a given that we really know very little indeed.  And that when we don’t know something, or don’t understand it, there is no shame in just sitting back and listening, or seeking more information.

When I was in high school, my favourite teacher was my science teacher, Mr Bendell.  The one lesson he taught that really sticks with me, is that there is no shame in simply admitting “I don’t know.”  Remember when you weren’t paying attention in class and the teacher would catch you at it and ask you a question, and you’d stammer and try to bluff your way through it?  Well to Mr Bendell, that was the worst thing you could do.  After all, you didn’t know, you hadn’t been paying attention.  The appropriate response was “I don’t know Sir.”  It acknowldedged that you hadn’t been listening, (and in Mr B’s class, being called out was punishment enough, we all loved him) and there was no trying to prove you knew something by lying about it.

But that said, it wasn’t until recent years that I’ve started to understand that what I thought I knew about the world really isn’t a fraction of the whole picture.  I’m learning, sometimes through making mistakes, that if I don’t understand something, or I don’t have direct experience with something, that there is nothing wrong with just shutting up and learning.  There’s nothing wrong with letting other people speak.  And if I still disagree, when I have privilege over someone, I can just leave it alone.  I don’t have to leave a comment railing at how they are wrong (when I have never experienced something from their underprivileged perspective) and that because I didn’t interpret something in the way they do.  For example, it’s not my place to tell people of colour what their experiences are as I am a white woman.  They are quite able to speak for themselves and their own experiences.  It’s my job to listen, to learn, to adjust my own behaviours and assumptions, and to bear witness to those experiences when they happen around me.

But I also wanted to talk today about some of the things I’ve personally had to unlearn about bodies, weight, health and fatness over the past few years, especially considering I have been a fat person myself for many, many years and believed a great deal of things that I now know, were not right.  I love a good list, so how about we try that?

  1. Fat is bad.  Yes, I believed for the first 35 years of my life that fat was the worst possible thing a person could be, and as a fat person, that made me worthless.  I now know that this is not true.
  2. Fitness and health are “inspirational” – no they’re not, they’re blessings that everyone has at different levels.  Things like strength, endurance, balance, agility, speed, flexibility and so on can be improved with work, but everyone has individual levels of these things, and no person is better for having more of one or more of them than someone else.  The same goes for health.  It is perfectly acceptable to find no value in either fitness or health, and neither are a measure of character.
  3. Fat people are going to die.  Well, this one is correct, but the bit I had to unlearn was that ONLY fat people are going to die, or they’re going to die sooner than thin people.  All people die, and none of us can predict when it will happen.  That’s what makes us living creatures – the fact that the life comes to an end at some point.
  4. Fat people live inferior lives to thin people.  No, fat people’s lives are often made inferior by discrimination and stigmatisation.  Their lives are not by default inferior to thin people.
  5. You can tell how healthy someone is, or how long they are going to live, by looking at them.  Nope, you can’t.  Quite often, it takes very extensive tests to measure an individuals health.  Most of us are not qualified to make those judgements.  Unless you are in the medical profession, AND have undergone an examination and related tests of an individual, you know NOTHING about their health.
  6. How you perceive something is how it was intended.  Oh no, not by a long shot.  While your perception or understanding of something may not be harmful, that doesn’t mean the original intention of it was harmless.
  7. If someone doesn’t intend something to be harmful, it cannot be.  Very wrong.  For example, I used to regularly use the term “real women” to describe women who were not thin.  I didn’t understand that by labelling some women as real, as good as my intentions were, I was harming others.  When we say things that are stigmatising to others, but don’t intend them to be stigmatising to those others, it doesn’t mean that any stigma is erased.  See referring to something as “lame” or “gay”, or the whole fat shaming position of many anti-ChickFilA campaigners.  While people with disabilities, gay people or fat people may not be the intended targets, they are stigmatised by these behaviours.
  8. You can discriminate against people with privilege.  Sorry, no.  There is no such thing as “reverse” sexism/racism/sizeism and so on.  That’s the whole crux of privilege – if you have it, you are by default gifted with something that others are without for no good reason.
  9. You have a right to your opinion.  Well, technically yes you do.  But you do not have the right to air it anywhere you choose.  Sometimes the space is not yours to speak in.  Sometimes it is not appropriate for you to air your opinion in a particular forum.  Hold that opinion all you like, but if someone says that you are not welcome to air it in their space, that is their right.
  10. You have freedom of speech.  Again, technically you do, but with that freedom comes the responsibility of bearing the repercussions of what you say.  Also, when we say “freedom of speech”, that actually refers to freedom of speech from your government and from corporations.  It does not mean you have the freedom of speech from individuals.  So if an individual tells you they don’t want to hear you, they have every right to do so.
  11. What you think of other people’s appearance means nothing.  This one is a tough one to swallow for a lot of people.  Your opinion on other people’s appearance is worth NOTHING until that person gives that opinion value.  So if you don’t like what someone is wearing or how they look – tough.  It’s none of your business.
  12. You don’t get to decide other people’s value in society.  You do get to decide their value in your life, but generally speaking, none of us get to decide whether they are valuable in or worthy of society.
  13. Feelings are something that people should “get over” or “deal with”.  It doesn’t quite work that way.  Feelings and emotions are really complex and we have them for a reason.  And while yes, we should be examining them and unpacking them for our own good, we don’t get to tell others to “get over it” or “deal with it”.

I think a baker’s dozen is a good start.  I am sure I could list a whole lot of other things that I’ve had to unlearn over the course of my 39 years and 1o months of life (so far), and there are many, many things I’m going to have to unlearn in the future.

If you are struggling against these things, you’re not alone.  I fought them tooth and nail for most of my life and really had to radically shift my beliefs.  I too railed against them, argued with people, stamped my foot and generally just made an arse of myself over these things.  But I can tell you this.  Once you start to unlearn these things, not only are you generally becoming a better person, but you find yourself a whole lot happier too.  When you start to let go of those things you cling to because either you’ve been taught them by authority figures in your life (from parents to politicians!) or because “everybody knows” them, and start to think about how you measure your own life, and ONLY your own life, life starts to get easier.  Hateful people don’t hurt as much.  Mistakes don’t matter so much when you use them to learn and grow.  Responsibility gets less scary.  Other people’s opinions of you have no power over you any more.

That doesn’t mean everything is rosy and easy and perfect and happy all the time.  God far from it!  It just means that you see the world from a different perspective, and that you are able to unpack your own feelings and how other people affect you.  You’re able to recognise when you need help, and you’re able to draw from your own well of strength.  You’re able to understand that how you see the world may be more privileged than the way others do, and realise that with your own actions, you can change the dominant paradigm, even if only in small ways.

But most of all, learning is good for everyone.  The more you learn, the more you grow.

What have you had to unlearn?  What do you struggle with unlearning, or at least letting go of?

OK, I’ll Be The One To Say It…

Published July 29, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

This morning I reached a boiling point.  I saw some more posts on Tumblr and Twitter talking about the subject of dieting fatties demanding to be included/acknowledged by several fat activists.  I opened my inbox and there were several asks in my Tumblr account demanding I do the same.  I deleted several comments from this earlier post because they just kept going on and on and on about how I personally had to “be inclusive” of people who are dieting, or are “not that fat”, as if every single person must have my direct and personal validation or “the movement” is ruined.

I don’t speak for any “movement”.  I speak for me and my fight for fat liberation.  Yes, I am proud of the community that has formed around fat activism and I love feeling part of that community, but it doesn’t define me, nor do I speak for it.  We are not a monolith, we are a group of people who find connections with each other.  Sometimes we have the same aims, but we don’t connect with one another for whatever reason, and that’s ok too.

But back to the topic at hand – this constant demand that people who are dieting, or engaging in some form of weight loss, or those who are “not that fat” are acknowledged.  It’s exhausting and it’s bullshit.

I’m sick of it.  I’m sick of everyone tiptoeing around the subject.  I understand why people do, and I’m not asking anyone to be as bolshy as I am in saying it, but it is a constant derailment of the actual core aims of fat activism (whatever way you identify it).  So I had one of my now famous Twitter rants, which this evening has grown into this piece below.

I hope this is enough to make it clear, but let me make it VERY clear that I am not opening up the floor for a discussion of why we should be validating people who are dieting/trying to lose weight/”not that fat”.  Any attempts to do so will be removed, and if you want to call that silencing, censorship, exclusionary, bullying, too hardline, or whatever else you can think of that tells me I am doing it wrong, then you’re doing EXACTLY what I’m fed up with.  I’m not here to create a warm fuzzy club for all, I’m here to radically push the agenda on how fat people are treated, and one of those radical shifts I need to see is that we have to stop feeling that people who are dieting/engaging in weight loss or are “not that fat” need some kind of cookie or permission slip.

So without any further ado….

Dear People Who Are Dieting/Trying to Lose Weight,

Shut the fuck up.

Stop trying to force everyone to give you a medal.

You have the whole damn world, you DON’T get/need fat activism to validate you.

Stop trying to establish that you’re “one of the good fatties” on the backs of the rest of us because you’re “doing it for your health”.  This is not a competition.  There are no prizes given out for who does it better, or who is “healthier”, or who lives longer.

You are not superior/harder working/healthier/better than those of us who don’t diet.   The same goes for those who say “I’m not really that fat, but I hate my body too, where is MY space?!”  Stop demanding those of us who you have privilege over validate you.  Stop using people to prove to yourself “at least I’m not that fat/unhealthy/gross/lazy”.

Do whatever the fuck you like with your own body/life, but stop forcing fat activists/acceptance/positivity/liberation to validate you.

Whatever way people identify it, fat activism is not some exclusive club for you to demand your “right to be a member”, nor is it for you to demand “acknowledgement” from.

Fat liberation is about learning to find your own value and being free from needing anyone else to validate you.  If you want to feel like you’re changing something in your life, that’s what you need to find, not demand that the rest of us acknowledge you as if we’re admitting you to some kind of clique.  It is NOT a club/clique.  It is walking away from the need for others to validate you, to approve of you, and finding your own self worth and being your own validation.  It’s about learning what really matters, where you want to improve yourself and where you need to push back against societal pressure to conform to arbitrary standards.  It’s by measuring yourself against YOURSELF, and your own standards and core beliefs, not other people or their standards and beliefs.

Stop demanding other people validate you and start learning that the only validation worth anything comes from within yourself.  If you’re happy dieting and buying into the weight loss schtick – then you don’t need the rest of us to validate you, to acknowledge you.

We’ve got better things to do than constantly appease your “But I must be acknowledged!!” bullshit.

Like fighting for the rights of fat people to live in this world without being bullied, vilified, demeaned, or treated like pests to be eradicated.

And to my fellow fat activists who are constantly plagued by comments, asks and emails and the like of this nature (as I am myself), my suggestion is that every time we get these messages we hit the delete button.  These people get far too much of our time and attention.  They have derailed the conversation long enough.

Yours vehemently

Fat Heffalump

Guest Post: Sarah – Getting to the Point

Published April 18, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

I’d like to introduce you to the lovely Sarah, a fab fatty I was fortunate enough to meet in Sydney in 2010 at the Australian Fat Studies Conference.  She was wearing the CUTEST dress (she wore cute outfits the whole conference) and Bri from Fat Lot of Good and I contemplated raiding her suitcases while she was busy at the conference.

Sarah posted a version of this post on her Facebook page as a status update a few days ago and I punched the air and yelled “YES!!” several times in response to it, because I think she really hits the nail on the head.  So I asked her to put it together as a post and if I could host it here on Fat Heffalump as a guest post.

So without further ado, here is Sarah’s post:

Getting to the Point

The point is not whether or not fat people can “help” being fat. There are some fat people who are lettuce-eating gym junkies and some fat people who sit in bed eating nothing but donuts all day. The point is that fat people are human beings who should not be vilified regardless of “why” they are fat, or how much control they have over their fatness, or whatever other excuse people are giving for insulting and dehumanising fat people these days. The point is that even if you think what other people eat is your business, and even if the fat person you’re looking at *might* sit in bed eating nothing but donuts all day, you can’t possibly know that by looking at them.

I approve of public health campaigns and preventative measures when it comes to disease. I just think they should be focusing on things – like eating as healthily as possible and being active in enjoyable ways when and how you can – that everyone can work towards to improve their health, regardless of whether they are poor or have a disability or are genetically predisposed to be fat or *whatever*. I believe they should support people in doing these things by helping poorer people get access to fresh food and helping stigmatised people be active without shame. But most of all I believe you can’t hate someone for their own good, and you most certainly can’t shame someone healthy. If “a healthy lifestyle” (whatever that may mean) is not an individual’s personal priority, or prioritising it in the way you would like isn’t possible for them for whatever reason, be it disability or finances or mental health triggers or anything, then it’s actually none of your business.

Yes, even if they get medicare rebates for treating ailments that you think are “caused” by their choices. All women *could* lessen their
chances of breast cancer by having radical mastectomies as soon as they hit puberty. But whether they do or not is not your decision to
make, just as whether or not a person tries to lose weight or adopts “healthy lifestyle changes” is not your decision to make. For some it
might be easy. For you it might have been easy. For me, losing a significant amount of weight means being constantly obsessed with my
weight, with everything I eat, with everything I do with my body or food. I know, I’ve done it. And if I don’t think being thinner is worth dedicating my *entire existence* to weight loss and weight maintenance – regardless of what health benefits it may or may not entail – then that is up to me, and I don’t deserve to be hated for it.

Bio: Sarah is a 20-something feminist fatshionista with a degree in sociology and a background in fashion design.  She has been a sad fat
kid and an eating disordered fat teenager and young adult, and now she is a happy fat grown up and her blossoming self respect is all Fat
Acceptance’s fault.  Nowadays she likes cupcakes, clothes and talking your ear off about social justice, and every now and then she enjoys sitting in bed all day eating nothing but donuts.  She doesn’t have a blog yet, but she’s working on it.

We Don’t Imagine It, We See It

Published March 26, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

I noticed the old woman at the table beside me first. Watching every morsel of food I put in my mouth with a look of disgust on her face.

Then I notice the two guys in high vis vests, their hard hats on seats beside them, nudge each other and look my way.

So I sit back and start to observe people around me.

I’m sitting in the food court of a large suburban shopping centre, somewhere I rarely visit, on my lunch break from work. We’re working on a big new project due to open this week, which is a high pressure, messy environment, that I thought I’d take some time away from over my lunch break.

As I look around me, I would estimate that at least 90%, possibly more of the people here are not fat. There are a handful of we fatties, dotted around the place.

At the nearby McDonalds, there are about 20 people lined up. Only one of them is a fat person. Not an eyelash is batted at the not-fat people lined up, ordering their burgers, fries, chicken nuggets and shakes. However the fat man is attracting sneers and giggles, all eyes glance over him and none of them bother to hide their disgust, disdain or their ridicule. Even the people ordering burgers and shakes themselves are staring and sneering at the man, lined up at the very same fast food restaurant as they are.

This scrutiny and public judgement is nothing unusual for those of who live in fat bodies. Most of us are used to it, many of us ignore it, simply because it is nothing unusual. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Quite often we are told “You’re just too sensitive.” or “I think you imagine it.” On the rare occasion that someone who is not fat notices, they respond like its an anomaly, just the occasional rude jerk one encounters. Or they say “Just ignore it.” as if it is the singular occurrence of the day.

In my own case, I’m told that people sneer and stare because of my brightly coloured hair, tattoos and clothing. As if that is somehow a suitable excuse for their behaviour. But I can assure you that I got the stares and sneers back when I was a fat brown mouse, doing everything I could to be invisible to the world.

The truth is, in this “anti-obesity” culture, people are taught to sneer, stare and ridicule. They are taught that people like me are a scourge on society, that we are burden to humanity. You only need to look at the comments on my recent piece in The Hoopla (if you have the sanity points) to see someone refer to me (and people like me) as revolting, using up the public health system, slothful, idle and an overeater. Despite knowing nothing more about me than I have a fat body (though one claimed to know all about me from this blog, my twitter, though I think it’s my photos of myself as a fat woman she is judging me on) the judgement has been passed on my value as a human being.

Living with that amount of scrutiny and judgement is like physically carrying a load on your back. When you hear people referring to fat people as “struggling with their weight”, the reality is that our struggle is with the weight of society’s judgement and scrutiny, not with the weight on our bodies.

I can only speak for myself when I say that physically, I do not feel limited or as if I need to struggle to do anything in my fat body. But the pressure of being under constant scrutiny and subjected to the assumptions and judgements of complete strangers is a burden to bear. I am quite sure however that I am not the only one who feels like this.

What really bothers me are the double standards. Thin people who eat fast food are considered “lucky” that they are “naturally thin”, yet no matter what a fat person eats, by default they must be lazy and greedy, with denial and stupidity thrown in for extra measure. Nobody ever suggests that inverse to the lucky/naturally thin that humans can be unlucky/naturally fat. Nobody demands thin people who are sedentary and/or eat fast food (or a lot of food) change their lives and “get healthy” because they are “costing us money with their unhealthy habits” – quite the opposite, they’re cheered on for their habits. Two people, both living the same lifestyle, can have vastly different life experiences if one is thin and the other is fat.

These double standards and snap judgements of people’s value based on their body size don’t help anyone. They don’t make fat people thin, they don’t encourage healthy behaviours and they certainly don’t change the number of people needing health care in our society.

All they do is allow some people to feel superior to others, which to me, is a pretty screwed up way to look at the world.

Thoughts on Being “Othered”.

Published February 28, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

A few days ago I was writing an email to a friend of mine about fat, fashion and marginalisation, and while I was doing so, quite a few things kind of went “Ping!” in my head, and I realised I wanted to expand upon the subject in a general sense here on my blog.  We were talking about how many fat women feel about clothing and fashion, and the desperation so many of us feel when trying to find clothes that fit us, suit our lives, we like, make us feel good, and that are fashionable.

Those of us who engage in fatshion, the act of dressing/styling ourselves with pride and personal expression as fat women are outside of the acceptable cultural meme for fat women.  Fat women are expected to constantly be expressing their shame at having a fat body and doing everything they can to hide those fat bodies.  Regardless of whether or not that suits our lives, our needs or our personalities.

That’s the thing with inhabiting a fat body.  People see you as just that – a fat body.  They don’t attribute anything else to you, like a career or family, hobbies or convictions, let alone sense of humour, or intellect, or talent, or kindness and caring, or passion, or dedication… the list goes on.  The world sees you as FAT.  It’s the first thing people use to describe you, even if you have other more noticeable traits.  In my own personal case, my fat even trumps my candy coloured hair and tattoos as the most noticeable thing about me.  People notice that I am fat, before they notice a single other thing about me.

But of course, if you identify as fat and actually own this quality about yourself that the world constantly reminds you of, then the vitriol intensifies.  How DARE any woman not be ashamed of being fat.  She must be reminded that she is of lesser value, she must be brought down to the level that she belongs.

Clothing, indeed fashion, is one of the ways that society does that.  By restricting the options to fat women, it is another reminder that we are other.  That we don’t deserve the same things as “normal” people.  It serves to make us look even more different to general society, and then of course it is very effective in making us FEEL different to general society.

Having access to clothes that are fashionable and on a par with general society is both empowering and deeply emotional.  Because it takes away that demarcation of being socially other, and brings fat women to a point of being able to not just dress like, but BE peers to others in society.

I’m old enough to span a few decades of awareness of clothing and fashion.  I remember what it was like in the 80’s to try to find clothes to fit my fat body.  It was agonising.  So as a consequence, I spent most of my teens through to my early 30’s hiding.  Hiding in black, navy, burgundy.  Hiding in shapeless boxes.  No personal expression, no style, no fashion.  I never got to engage in fashion as a social event, so I was distanced from other girls/young women.  Therefore I never felt I could be friends with girls/women – and consequently only had male friends until my 30’s.  Of course, I didn’t know back then that this was institutionalised misogyny – teaching me that if I couldn’t “compete” with my peers, I couldn’t participate with them.

See how this shit works to push fat women further and further down the cultural hierarchy?

Then it came to work, and I couldn’t find clothes that matched those that my professional peers were wearing.  Instead, more shapeless, sloppy, dark sacks – which in turn made others (and myself) believe that I was less capable, less committed, less able than my thin peers.  After all, if you can’t dress yourself confidently, surely you can’t do anything else confidently right?

It just keeps going on and on and on.

I’ve also been the fattest person at the lunch table while everyone else talks about how disgusting their own, much thinner bodies are.  That’s always a special feeling.  I’ve been the one that the person with the fucked up food obsession uses for thinspiration.  I can’t tell you how it feels to have someone in a position of power use you as their metaphorical piggy-on-the-refrigerator, stalking your every move around food… and because they’re in a position of power, you can’t say “Fuck off.” or if you say anything to anyone else you get told you’re imagining it or over-sensitive.

I understand.  I know how it feels.  I live it every day of my damn life.

My only way of coping is to take it on and try to change the world.  I did 35 years of trying to change me to fit the world, and it didn’t work – it almost killed me.  Now I intend to devote the rest of my life to changing the world to fit everyone.  After all, the world is a big diverse place, there is room in it for all of us, no matter who we are, what we look like or what our lives are.  And we fat people have as much right to it as anyone else.