media

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Good Weekend – Corrections and Clarifications

Published January 23, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Well, hello!  There are a LOT of new people popping in to view my blog, and I can only assume that it’s because of the article published today in the Good Weekend magazine, which is a weekend addition to the Sydney Morning Herald.  Welcome to all of those who are newly discovering this little blog.  And to all of those of you returning, it’s good to see you back.

Dog Reads Newspaper?

*Deep breath*  Today has been a little intense and it’s a new kind of intense on top of an already intense week.  I’ve had a lot of people contact me today thanks to the aforementioned article, some of whom with very valid questions and critique.  Quite a few talking out their arse, but I pay no mind to those.  I just wanted to write a little something to go with the article.

Now I don’t think that Tim Elliott has written a bad article, quite the opposite.  But I have been misquoted/misinterpreted a bit, and I don’t know whether that was a communication error, misinformation or just bad copy editing (do newspapers even have copy editors any more – or were those all made redundant too?).  Generally speaking the article is far more fat positive than most pieces we see, and it’s so good to see some actual fat women represented.  I had loads of fun doing the photoshoot for it by amazing photographer Paul Harris, who was really fun to work with and seemed to just “get it”.  My hair and makeup were done by Monique Zalique who was an absolute sweetie and made me look super glam, despite it being a roasting hot day!

So, a few things I would like to set right.

Firstly, for some reason, the amazing Jessica West, at fashion organiser and advocate, as well as my friend, has not been credited at all.  She’s the mega cutie in the video with the black and gold headscarf and babely glasses.  She was interviewed and photographed for the article but it wasn’t used, but footage of her was used in the video and she is the only one whose name isn’t published!  So I want to acknowledge her first and foremost.  She has a killer instagram, go follow her.

Next I’d like to address the way I’ve been described.  The “fat prider” thing – I’ve never called myself that, though I do believe in fat pride and fat liberation.  I identify as a fat activist and my focus is on fat politics.  The article implies some kind of leadership role, but I have never called myself or inded wanted to be a “leader” in any form of fat politic movement.  Personally I believe that activism should have no leaders, because activism is about pushing and growing and evolving, not a direct hierarchy.  In Australia, there are many fat activists, doing their thing in their own way.  All of us are needed.  I’m just one that will put myself in front of a photographer or journalist and do the media thing from time to time.

I also want to correct a couple of statements.  While I have had my workplace contacted by harassers, I’ve not had one show up there thankfully.  Not that that diminishes the actual harassment that has happened.  I also did not actually catch anyone slipping an abusive note in my mailbox, though I did contact the police about it at the time, who suggested I should “just get off the internet” and “not be so confident”.  The young law student from UQ that I caught was creating fake accounts on Facebook to send me harassing messages, and I was able to link those fake accounts to her real one.  Since I named her, she has not been back to my knowledge.

As for the suggestion that fat activists harass and bully people who lose weight, by choice or accident, that is absolute bullshit.  While we may object to those who start (or return to) “fat is bad” attitudes, and we will call out those who use stigmatising and hateful language to describe fatness and weight.  Saying “It’s not acceptable to vilify fatness.” is not bullying, abuse or harassment.  Unfortunately those who promote weight loss and/or dieting refuse to accept that by it’s very nature, eliminationist rhetoric about fat, the idea that fat should be prevented, cured, eradicated, it is harmful to fat people.

What you do to your own body is your business.  When you start promoting that some bodies are better than others, then I’m going to point that out as unacceptable.  That is not bullying or harassment from fat activists, and that does not make us “neo-fascists”.

One of the biggest problems with people who have privilege pointed out (especially if it’s new privilege, through weight loss, popularity or financial gain) is they refer to anyone pointing that out as “hate”.  Hate is sending threats, telling someone they are disgusting or sub-human, or ridiculing someone for who they are.  Pointing out that someone is engaging in behaviour or rhetoric that is harmful to others is not “hate”.

And finally, there is one statement that really, really bothered me.

Indeed, many fat activists regard their battle for acceptance as akin to the civil rights movement, or the struggle for gay and lesbian equality.

I really, really cringe at this.  Yes, I understand there are SOME that still see fat activism that way and conflate it with other movements.  But here’s the thing.  Marginalisation is diverse.  Each kind stands on it’s own as a valid thing to fight.  Many people have intersecting identities that are marginalised.  Some of those identities are in more peril than others, which makes the fight for their rights crucial and urgent.  Black people and trans people are currently extremely vulnerable.  There is no such thing as “another civil rights movement” – they’re all facets of the same fight – the right for ALL people to be treated equally.   The “struggle” for equality belongs to all of us, we just have to realise that some of us have privileges that others don’t.  As a white, cis, heterosexual woman with a regular income, I have privileges that others don’t.  As a very fat woman with disability, I am not afforded the privileges of thinner people, able-bodied people and men.  There is no sliding scale.  All of this is complicated and intertwining and every bit of fighting for human rights of any kind is needed.  None of them are new or taking over.  Can we please let go of that thinking right now!

So, that’s my clarifications/corrections to the article.  Again, while there are some issues with details, I still think this is a very positive article and I’m proud to have been able to participate in this get some light shed on fat liberation in the mainstream media.

On the Telly!

Published May 29, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

Just a quickie for those who haven’t seen it, I did a piece for news and pop culture show “The Feed” on SBS which aired on Monday night.  They kindly put it on YouTube, so I can share it with you here!

Enjoy!  It’s my first ever telly appearance! (Well, except for the time that news crew filmed me outside my work and used me as a headless fatty.)

Fear and Loathing (and Jealousy) in BrisVegas

Published April 9, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

Well… for all of you who have yet to see it, Jasmin Lill has done another excellent interview for News.com.au.  I’m going to link to The Australian version, because there are only two comments and they are a WHOLE lot less shitty than those on the Courier Mail (one of my colleagues tried to read them and he got so angry and upset I had to make him stop reading) and nobody needs to be subjected to that.

But speaking of being subjected to things… boy, have I had a lot of hate in my inbox over the past 8-10 hours.  No doubt there will be more, the bullies and abusers always come out of the woodwork whenever one of us has something in the mainstream media.  It was like fat hate bingo on steroids all day.

I know why.  Two reasons.  Firstly, they’re afraid, because they’re being called out on their shitty behaviour publicly – it makes them nervous that someone in their own lives is going to tell them what douchebags they are.  It’s only a matter of time before it happens.  Secondly, they are unbelievably jealous.  They’re so dirty that they’re not the ones being listened to, being asked their opinions, being sought after to tell their story.  It drives them wild with jealousy that the people that they believe are beneath them, that they believe they are better than, are the ones being taken seriously.  Man, that’s got to sting.  Good.

However, the reason I’m posting tonight is that while I was on the train home tonight, feeling tired after an intense day, frustrated that The Courier Mail don’t have a better commenting policy, and fed up with being told to go die in a fire or that I am disgusting, a song shuffled into play on my iTunes and just reminded me of the important message.

So for all of you who’ve ever had to deal with pathetic people who have nothing better to do than say hateful things, here’s a song for you…

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.

The Burden of Hate

Published September 24, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

So yeah, I dyed my hair turquoise on the weekend.  Check it out:

I’m really happy with it, it’s bold and colourful and fun.  But I didn’t expect the reaction I would get from Joe and Jane Public.  Holy crap!

I did expect it to draw some attention, of course I did, why else would I dye it such a bold colour?  I like being different, I like standing out, and I like being unapologetic for who I am.  But I had no idea that it would attract the sheer hostility that it has done in the past 48 hours, peaking this afternoon at some random guy yelling “What the fuck?!  Why would you want to draw attention to that fucking head??!” as I walked to the train station after work.

But it has been happening in a myriad of ways over the past two days.  Three times yesterday I caught people photographing me without my consent, and two of them showed the people with them the photos and laughed.  People have cast disgusted, even hostile looks at me, have stared, have laughed, have nudged each other and pointed, have made negative comments about my appearance and generally just made it apparent that I should not have turquoise hair.

It’s exhausting.  I feel like I have to be on guard to protect myself all the time, because when I let my guard down, like I did walking home tonight, that’s when I get slammed with something like the attack above.

Yet if I looked like this, I’d be told my turquoise hair is beautiful.

See, I think it boils down to this.  Fat women are not supposed to make themselves visible.  We’re supposed to be ashamed of who we are, we’re supposed to hide ourselves away and make sure nobody can see us.  Why?  Because the media and marketing, the government and even medical practitioners tell the world that fat should be prevented, cured, eradicated.  Fat should not exist, and if it does, the bearer of that fat should be deeply ashamed of themselves.  They should not draw attention to themselves, they should not walk with their shoulders back and their head held high, they should not be confident.  They should be apologetic for their existence.

This is what happens when a culture believes fat = bad.  This is what happens when it is culturally acceptable for fat people to be vilified publicly by the media, marketing, the government and the medical field.  This is what happens when a world stops treating fat people as humans and treats them as a disease.  “Obesity” is no longer a descriptive word for human fatness, all humanity is stripped from it, and fatness is seen as a disease, a thing that must be eradicated.  Our personhood matters nothing when our bodies are fat.

The general public get this message hundreds of times per day, that fat must be eradicated, that fat is a scourge on society, and that fat is less than human.  Daily there are so many messages blasted at everyone, on television, in newspapers and magazines, in journal articles, in books, in advertising, in movies, from comedians and writers.  Over and over that message is repeated – fat is less than human.

So is it any wonder, that when a woman like me, very fat and very visible comes along in Joe/Jane Public’s world, walking down the street, minding my own business on my way home from work, that some of them think it’s perfectly acceptable to pour hatred on me.

But I will not carry that hate.  I will not hate myself because society says that my body makes me less than human.  I will not hate myself because you are taught to hate me.  I will not hate myself because you hate yourself.  I will not feel ashamed of my body because you deem it shameful.

I will continue to dress and adorn MY body in a way that pleases ME, because it belongs to ME.  The eyes I look into in the mirror are mine, not yours.  The life I am living is mine, not yours.

Keep your hate to yourself.  It is your burden to carry, not mine.

The Fortunate Ones

Published June 14, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

One of the corollaries of talking to the media repeatedly about the same concepts over and over again is that you do a lot of self reflection on topics, constantly honing and shaping how your activism works and how it applies to your life and your self perception.  Mostly, this is a good thing – evolution is a healthy process, though one does have to take care not to internalise and dwell on the negative.

The best part though, is that sometimes you have a real “Aha!” moment, where a light goes on in your mind and something is clarified for you.

I had one of those moments yesterday while talking to a journalist from the Sunday Mail (Brisbane).  She had asked me what I thought the difference was between how other people see me, and how I see myself.  My response was that it was twofold – people who know me, even through this blog or other social media have one perception of me, and then there is the average punter on the street, who sees me just as an anonymous fat woman somewhere in public.

What I really wanted to focus on is how fat people in general are perceived, rather than me personally, and I was talking about how culturally, fat people are either viewed with disgust, as lazy/dirty/gluttonous etc, or we’re viewed with pity, as though we’re sad/depressed/lonely and so on.  I was talking about how neither of those perceptions were valid for me personally, and for most fat people I know in fact, when a light went on in my head and I said “Really, what I am is lucky.”

I didn’t mean that I am lucky to be fat, but that I’m lucky in that I stumbled across fat acceptance, and that I have been able to take up fat activism myself.  On reflection, I believe that we are the lucky fatties, those of us who have found something outside of the dominant paradigm.  Not just the luck of stumbling across whatever blog or resource we did, but also we’re lucky in that we’ve found an alternative to the cycle of self loathing, punishment to our bodies with diets and other damaging weight loss schemes, emotional self-flagellation and general misery of hating our bodies for being something other than thin.  It’s not an easy process, but at least we have it, unlike those who still believe that their bodies are bad/failures/broken.

Of course, personally speaking I’m very fortunate.  One of the benefits of spending so much time doing this is that I get a lot of really awesome opportunities.  They don’t come without hard work and effort, but their value is not diminished by the work it takes for them to happen.

No matter how far down this road of self acceptance and fat positivity I get, I cannot forget what it felt like before I found my way to this road.  I cannot forget the crippling depression, the constant anxiety, the physical pain of torturing my body with ridiculous exercise regimes, starvation and purging.  I cannot forget how lonely and lost I felt.  Most of all I cannot forget the fear.  Fear that I would never be good enough.  Fear that I would never find happiness, love, joy… peace.  Even fear that I would die.  No matter how far away I get from those years, I still remember those feelings.  They are marked on me in indelible ink, as much a permanent part of me as the tattoos I have adorned myself with since.

To be honest, I don’t want to forget those feelings, because they remind me of just how lucky I am as a fat woman to have found an alternative, to be able to opt out of that paradigm.  They also remind me that these were not feelings I came to on my own – they were placed on my shoulders like a mantle by a culture that repeatedly berates fat people as being worthless, broken, bad.

But when you look at it, aren’t we the lucky ones?  Aren’t we the ones who have moved forward and started to reclaim our lives and our bodies?  Don’t we have to resources, skills and community to fill our lives with joy and positivity, instead of self-loathing and fear?  Aren’t we the lucky ones for finding this strength within ourselves, and I believe that fighting the cultural norm about fatness takes great strength of character, and building on it?

Have you thought of your life pre and post FA?  What are your thoughts on the subject?

It’s Out – Australian Women’s Weekly June Edition

Published May 30, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Hey all!  Just a quick blog post from me tonight, I’ve been sideswiped by a cold that has gone through my office like a brush fire, so I’m trying to indulge in some self care to help get through it as quickly as possible.

I discovered this morning that yes, my article in the Australian Women’s Weekly (AWW) is out today!  For those of you looking to get a print copy, it is this one, with Chrissie Swan on the cover:

I’m pretty chuffed to be in an issue that has Chrissie on the cover, she’s awesome.  And she has some really positive things to say about living life as a fat woman.

I’m pretty impressed with this from Chrissie:

“It’s shaming fat people into thinking their heart’s about to explode, their legs are about to be cut off due to diabetes. They’ll never conceive a child, they’ll never get married, they’ll never find love, they’ll never get the job they want.”

Chrissie — who has two sons, Leo, three, and nine-month-old Kit — is especially upset at the messages conveyed to children, that there is something wrong with them and they ought to be ashamed if they are chubby.

“We can’t say fat people are bad, we can’t have them crawl through mud pits on national television and have skinny people yelling at them, saying, ‘How does it feel?’ Because kids see that and they go, ‘Okay, it’s cool to scream abuse and belittle a fat person. I’ll do that next time I see Billy in the playground.’

There is an online version, however it is an abridged version of the full print article. (Note, don’t read the comments unless you have plenty of sanity points to spare!)

Overall I’m happy with the article, it’s not perfect but it has an overwhelmingly positive tone to it, and really entertains some concepts that aren’t normally presented in the mainstream media.  The only thing that bums me out is that they have an “obesity expert” who pushes surgical organ mutilation (weight loss surgery) in the name of “health”.  But that said, I get the final world in the piece, and it’s a pretty damn good quote to end with.

All in all, I think that if just one person Google’s my name, Fat Heffalump, fat acceptance or Health at Every Size, we’ve won.  If we stop one person from hating themselves, or have them entertaining the idea that we can live our lives to the full no matter what size or shape we are, then we’ve smashed down some walls for people.

And since already I’ve had at least one person (waves to Phoebe) come along to this blog from the AWW article, it’s doing it’s job!

 

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