opinions

All posts in the opinions category

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice? I Think Not.

Published August 21, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

There is something you all need to know about me.  Some of you might already know it.

I am not nice.

I have never pretended to be so.  I have no desire to be nice.  I have rebuffed every claim that I am nice.  I simply don’t play that game.

I have been an activist now for over 5 years, and still to this day people are demanding that I be nice.  They demand that I allow them to say whatever they like in my spaces online  They claim that I’m going to be the end of fat acceptance (which I no longer consider myself part of anyway) because I’m not nice enough, because they consider me rude/angry/opinionated/whatever – as though I’m so all powerful that I can bring down fat acceptance on my own.  I still deal with people demanding that I explain everything to them in fine detail, and then complain that I’m not nice when I refuse to perform on demand.  I still deal with people who seem to think that they have a right to tell me what to do in my online spaces – what I post, what comments I allow, who I can and cannot block/ban from my spaces.  There are those that declare that I am censoring them, that I am denying “free speech” or their “right to their opinion” by curating which comments I allow in my own spaces.  Five years of people telling me what I can and can’t do in my own space.

As a result of this, I am no longer allowing comments in this blog for most posts.  Occasionally I will open up the floor to share things, but mostly, I’m not here for discussion.  I’m here to write about my experiences and thoughts and beliefs.   This blog is actually first and foremost for me – it’s the place where I get to be heard, when as a fat woman, mostly in the world I am not.  When it does connect with other people, and helps them along too, I am THRILLED.  That absolutely makes my day.  But I am under no obligation to spend my life fixing or educating other people.  I fight for my rights as a fat woman, and that contributes to fighting for the rights for ALL fat women – which I am very proud of.

This blog is not a public forum.  It is not a discussion board.  It is not a debate service.  I am not attempting to create a community.  I am not a brand, a company or a business.  I’m not making money from this – actually my activism costs me WAY more than I can really afford much of the time, and I’m not affiliated with any organisation or corporation.  It is MY blog.  Mine.  100% my space, my opinions, my thoughts, my choice.   I will of course share things here that other people write and create, because I agree with them and think they are important.  But I’m not providing space for other people to determine what is done with it.

For anyone who wishes to claim that this is somehow censorship or denying free speech or others’ right to their opinions, you do not understand the actual concept of free speech/censorship.  I am not stopping you from saying whatever you like elsewhere.  Just here, in this one tiny, pretty obscure corner of the internet.  It’s the equivalent of not allowing you in my house if I don’t like you.  I’m not stopping you from going to other people’s houses, or even being out in public.  Just mine.  That is not censorship, it’s creating one small boundary.

So comments are now closed.  You are more than welcome to hit the like button at the bottom of each post, or use any of the share functions.  You’re welcome to follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or Instagram.  You can contact me by email.  I love to hear from genuine people who bring something to the discussion without expecting me to perform for them on demand.  I’ve made some wonderful friends from people who’ve just taken the time to contact me to say hello or talk.  I wouldn’t change that for the world.  I will miss many of you who are regular commenters if I’m not able to connect with you elsewhere online, but you have all my other places of contact if you wish to keep in touch.

I am no longer going to give time, space and energy to people who wish to debate my right to live my life my with dignity and respect, just because I am a fat woman who refuses to be polite/quiet/invisible.

Of course, this is going to cause even more people to come out and say what a horrible person I am and how I’m somehow denying them something.  All I can say to that is GET OVER IT!  Go start your own blog/facebook page.

The thing is, nobody demands that men “be nice” in their spaces online.  Nobody suggests men are going to ruin an entire world movement if they are not nice.  I mean for fuck’s sake, Richard Dawkins is vile and disgusting but nobody holds him up as “ruining atheism”.  Russell Brand behaves abominably and nobody tells him to “be nice”.  I could list so many men who are anything but nice or polite who never have to deal with people demanding they tone down or be quiet.

Women are expected to always put other people’s feelings, needs and wants before their own.  We are expected to always be sweet and kind and defer to others, to be quiet and demure and polite.  We are criticised for showing emotion, for being angry, for standing up for ourselves and our rights.  Girls and women are meant to be nice.  The rest of us are just “bitches”.

Fuck that shit.

I am a lot of things.  I am angry.  I am outspoken and opinionated.  I am hot tempered and argumentative.  I am fiercely territorial.  I own these things about myself, and while they can get me into trouble sometimes, I am not ashamed of them.  When people list them as my “flaws” I do not deny them.

But I am a lot of other things that people rarely acknowledge but regularly attempt to utilise for themselves.  I am loyal.  I am protective.  I am so very compassionate and empathetic of people who are suffering that I literally read the news and cry for the wrongs in the world that I cannot fix.  I treat people I encounter in the world with kindness and respect (unless they fail to treat me so).  I am strong.  I am fierce.  I have a wicked sense of humour.  Those things are so often ignored because people would rather insist that I stop making them feel uncomfortable.  I’ve spent my whole life being uncomfortable with who I am, folks need to deal with being made feel uncomfortable a bit more often.

As a friend once said, I am a laughing lioness.  I am not now, nor will I ever be, nice.

Advertisements

I Can’t Say it Any Better…

Published April 18, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

Beautifully simple piece by xkcd.  So many people do not understand the concept of free speech.  Sometimes, you don’t get to march into a space and say whatever you like.

This is very important in fat activism community, regardless of the form it takes.  The rules may vary from space to space, but the owner of the space gets to decide what is hosted in that space, and what is not.  There is a whole internet out there for people to say what they like, they can create their own space or go to spaces that are open to their opinion.

But as a general rule, in fat activist spaces, steer clear, unless explicitly stated that it is ok, from the following topics:

  • diets
  • intentional weight loss/weight loss proselytising
  • moralising food (look for descriptors like good, bad, sinful, junk, healthy, clean, wholesome, naughty etc)
  • suggesting health is mandatory or anyone’s business but a person themselves.
  • “the last acceptable prejudice” (it’s not)
  • suggestions of “real women are/have…”
  • the “O” words – obese, overweight.
  • twee euphemisms for fat like curvy/big/chubby/voluptuous etc.  If the host refers to themselves as fat, you should too. (unless describing yourself, it is understandable that not everyone is comfortable with referring to themselves as fat.)
  • justifying your body/food choices/physical activity
  • suggesting the author should “just ignore them” or questioning their perception.  Trust people to know how they feel and how they read a situation.
  • Confusing YOUR experiences for those had by the author.

That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with someone.  I think a lot of people don’t know how to disagree with people without being a jerk about it.  If you’re in someone else’s space, remember your “I/Me/My” statements.  Don’t march in and say “You’re wrong/full of shit/you suck.” because then you’re being an asshole.  It doesn’t hurt to say “I disagree because I feel/believe…” or “It has been my experience that…”  Or you can go and disagree in YOUR space, where you can say whatever you damn well like.

Generally it’s just a good idea when you’re on someone else’s website/blog/social media page to remember that you’re on their turf.  That’s their house online.  I don’t go marching onto your turf and start lecturing you, I’m as sure as shit not going to take anyone coming in to mine to do that.  If I go to your space online, I am going to follow your rules.  If I don’t like them, then I will make the decision to leave and not come back.  I’m not going to hang around and be an arsehole.

It’s important to remember that while you are entitled to your opinion, you’re not entitled to that opinion with out responsibility and repercussions for your behaviour.

Creating the Problem In the First Place

Published March 6, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

This morning I awoke to see a constant stream of retweets and shares for an article on a major Australian women’s online magazine (give you two guesses – I’m not naming or linking to it) about a woman who found a note in her 7 year old daughter’s bedroom, labelled “Diyet”[sic] and listing the food she ate (not much) and quite a considerable list of daily exercise.

Now yes, I agree, it is awful that a 7 year old child is making diet plans.  It is awful that a 7 year old child is obsessing over her body and diet and exercise already.  It shouldn’t be happening and I understand her mother being horrified that she would find this item in her child’s room, and despairing that her daughter is being influenced by this stuff already.  I find no fault at all with the author of the piece or the story she tells.

But seriously, for this particular online women’s magazine (let’s be honest, most online women’s magazines and most mainstream media) to be clutching their pearls over children dieting is a bit fucking hypocritical if you ask me.

This shit doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  These same media outlets publish story after story beating the “obesity epidemic” drum, and wringing their hands over “childhood obesity”, and then wonder why children obsess over their weight from a ridiculously early age?   These media outlets crap on about being “healthy”, which is just diet-talk reworded with no actual conscientious addressing of holistic health of all people, and then they get all up in arms about children dieting?  They allow the most hateful, bigoted crap about fat people to be published in the comments and call it “opinion”.  Not to mention that every single time I go to a mainstream media site, women’s or not, I am bombarded with ads for weight loss.  Where do they think kids, and their parents, get all of this stuff in the first place?

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother dieting.  From as early as I can remember, there were stories in her magazines, and on the TV my father always had on, and in the Sunday paper, talking about the latest, greatest diets, the importance of being thin and how fat was “bad” (think of lazy, fat, beer drinking, old Norm in the Life: Be in It ad campaigns, fellow Aussies of a certain age).  Even if I hadn’t been told I was fat from my earliest memory (I wasn’t fat for most of my childhood) by my family, all I had to do was pick up one of the women’s magazines laying about the house, or sit and watch TV with my father and I was getting those messages.  Right from my earliest memories, I was hearing that fat is bad and that I should do ANYTHING to avoid being fat.

So what did I do?  I was put on my first diet at 11.  But I had already been experimenting with dieting and exercise regimes some years before that.  I was maybe 7 or 8 the first time I put myself on a “diet”.  I was very good at sneaking the various diet products that my mother had about the house, and I was an excellent reader, so I just read the magazines and followed the diets in those.  I was 13 the first time I was put on meal replacements (powdered shakes that were VILE).  Soon after I started engaging in purging after an older girl taught me how to do it.  I also started stealing laxatives and worming medicine because I’d heard those helped you lose weight too.  Once I got busted for stealing those out of the medicine cabinet at home, I started stealing them from the local chemist.  I can remember watching an article on one of those current affairs shows about childhood obesity when I was in Year 8, and this was in 1985 – long before the current obesity epidemic hysteria kicked off in the 90’s, which has magnified the situation hundredfold.

It has to stop.  The media are never going to take responsibility for the shit they publish, so we have to stop supporting the media that publishes shit.  Even when they do publish something that is worthy, like the story I mentioned above, we have to view it through the lens of the other stuff they publish as well and call them out on it.  We need to promote outlets that share the worthy stories without all of the fat shaming and stigma.  If we are worried about what our children are being exposed to, perhaps it’s best to start by examining what WE are exposed to.  Because if you think kids aren’t seeing this stuff, you’re seriously delusional.  Even if you don’t give it to them directly, if it is around, they find a way to get to it.  Or they hear a second-hand version from other kids at school.  We need to teach our kids critical thinking.  But first we have to learn it ourselves.  To question the source of information and to ask what their motives are.  We need to discuss these issues with kids and teenagers and each other, openly and critically.   We need to look at the ethics behind these outlets and their sponsors.

If these media outlets come up lacking, we need to stop supporting them.  We need to walk away and not give them clicks, not give them airtime, and not signal boost them.  Instead, find alternative outlets that take responsibility for the messages they are sending and don’t engage in hypocrisy.  Or that at least TRY.  If you know that an article that people are sharing from a media site is a cross post/re post from a blog (most of them say so somewhere on the article) – share the original version, not the re-post in the dodgy mainstream media.  We need to tell our stories and have them untainted by fat shaming that undoes the message that we are sending.  Want some suggestions?  Try here, here and here.  You’re welcome to share others in the comments that you like.

I dabbled myself with writing for mainstream media (was also offered a regular writing gig at several of them) and was burned more than once by them selling me out to some disgusting fat shaming story as a “follow up”, so I decided that I would rather tell my story here and keep it’s integrity than taint my readers with contradictory information.    It might mean I reach fewer people here and now, but the message gets through clearer and un-sullied by shaming to those it does get to.

The mainstream media is never going to change until we walk away from it and stop giving them the clicks, the reads, the purchases and the support.  Give that support to those who don’t perpetuate bigotry and hate while then decrying the state of the world that THEY created.

My Gift To You

Published October 19, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I’m going to give you all a gift tonight.  A gift that was given to me not that long ago, but one of the most valuable I’ve ever received.  One that has changed my life and made how I approach the world and everything in it very differently.  Best of all, this gift is absolutely, 100% free.  It costs me nothing to give to you, but I hope you get as much value from it as I have.

It is a bit of a multi faceted gift, which has several parts you can put together and use as you need them.  Are you ready?

Your life is yours.

Yep.  That’s the gift I’m giving you.  The knowledge that your life is your own.  It doesn’t belong to anyone but you.  Not your parents, not your boss, not your partner, not your kids, not your doctors.  It’s yours.  It doesn’t belong to “experts”.  Because the only expert on your life is YOU.  You get to choose what you eat, what you wear, what you do to your hair and your skin, what medical treatment you have, what you do with your body, who you have sex with (and don’t have sex with), who you talk to, what you read and what you feel.  Those are yours to choose.

You do have responsibilities of course, we all do, but that doesn’t make your life any less yours.  When you say or do something, you have to accept the consequences of your words and actions.  But those consequences are as much yours as your words and actions.  Yes, you might have to be responsible for your children, a job, a home, a business, all those things that we have in our lives, but that doesn’t make your life any less yours.  You get to work within the boundaries of your responsibilities and make the choices you need to make, with the information that you can source at any given time.  That’s the crucial bit – arming yourself with lots of information, so that you can make informed choices.  The more informed your choices, the less likely you will regret it later.

But what I really want to acknowledge is that when people try to take our lives away from us, to control us and oppress us, as they do to those of us who are marginalised in society, we don’t have to just tolerate it.  We don’t have to play nice, we don’t have to listen to their “opinions” and we certainly don’t have to modify our lives to suit them.  When people say fat people can’t/shouldn’t/don’t do or be something, they are defining our lives for us, not allowing us to define them ourselves.  We have every right to say “Enough!”  We have every right to tell them to piss off.  We have every right to completely ignore their “advice” or opinions.  You don’t have to respect someone who cannot respect your ownership of your own life.

The best thing is, when we stand up for our ourselves in the face of this kind of control, it has a cumulative effect.  It benefits other people like us, who are also pushed into doing or being something other than they want to.  And it benefits other marginalised people.  That’s the good bit about intersectionality.  Speaking up about equality and personal freedom benefits everyone.  The stronger we get about ourselves, the more energy we can devote to speaking up about the other wrongs in our world.

The next time someone randomly pushes their advice, opinions or assumptions about your life on you, remind yourself that your life is yours.  You can walk away from that person, not engage with them, or you can simply tell them to piss off, the choice is yours.

Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Anger

Published September 16, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I’m sure we’ve all heard it before.  The old “Why are you so angry?”  Or “You’re such and angry, angry person!”  Any time we speak up about an injustice, or show passion for a cause, this is the accusation that comes at us to try to derail us from our objectives.

It’s an incredibly passive-aggressive method of derailing an argument.  Particularly when coupled with those concern-troll statements like “I worry about you.” or “I really hope you find peace.”  Oh vomit!  What they’re really implying when they pull the old “you’re angry” defense, is that you’re too emotional, or you’re too aggressive, or too simply “you’re right but I want to save face”.

What it also does is attempt to shame you for having emotional reactions to something, for being angry or passionate or outspoken.  Women are supposed to be “lady-like”, demure, not make a fuss, not get too emotional, keep their opinions to themselves.  People rarely criticise a man for being passionate about a topic, or about stating his opinions.  Men are supposed to be assertive.  But women who display these behaviours are scolded for not being “lady-like”.

What year are we living in?  1911?

Here’s the thing.  Anger is a perfectly valid emotion.  I know, shocking isn’t it?   And anger at things like injustice, loathing, bullying, stigmatisation and shaming is perfectly justified.  We have every right to be angry at the way the world treats fat people.  The same as any other marginalised group of people has every right to be angry at the oppression they suffer.  The idea of shaming people for anger at oppression isn’t new – after all, the trope of the “uppity negro” has been used for centuries.  Damn straight we’re angry at fat hatred!  I defy anyone to face that kind of outright loathing and bullying that fat people face every single day, and not be angry at it.

Sure, anger can consume you, and that’s not a good thing.  If something makes you so angry that you’re unable to function because of it, then yes, it can become a problem – particularly as prolonged anger is a form of stress, and we all know stress is damaging to the mind and body.  But anger is also a valid emotion that fuels action when channeled properly.  There is nothing at all wrong with using anger to propel yourself into action.  There is nothing wrong with expressing anger (only when expressing it with violence) at injustice and oppression.  In fact, I believe it’s vital to vent that anger.  Expressing anger doesn’t mean that someone is an angry person, or is in any way angry all the time.  I can get as foot stomping, table thumping angry as anyone but really I’m as happy as Larry generally speaking.  I’m an optimist with a goofy sense of humour, yet that doesn’t mean I’m never angry.

The only thing I don’t condone when it comes to anger is when people use anger to be violent.  There is never an excuse for violence, no matter how angry someone or something makes you.

But I also want to talk about other things that are conflated with anger.  Particularly passion and outspokenness, and especially in women.  It seems that the minute a woman is passionate or outspoken about a topic, it is assumed that she is angry.  Having strong opinions and voicing them is seen as somehow aggressive and irate and overly emotional in women, where usually it is seen as assertive and confident in men.  I’ve had people say to me “You’re pretty opinionated.” in a tone that clearly expresses their disapproval with that fact, as though I’m supposed to apologise for having an opinion or being passionate about things.

Yeah, that’s not gonna happen folks.

Passion is an awesome thing.  I love passionate people.  They inspire me.  I have no time for cynicism or complacency in my life.  It’s boring and counter-productive.  When I’m surrounded by passionate people, who fire my passions, there is nothing I cannot achieve.  Passion is what had me fighting my way through high school when I was expected to leave and get a full time job at 15, writing my first novel at 16 (damn I should try to get that thing published!), starting a radio station at 21 years of age, travelling around the US on my own, working my way into a job that I love and am constantly challenged by, and taking up fat activism.  Passion is what propels me through life with gusto.  I don’t want to be the kind of person who lives half-heartedly, without ever feeling any strong emotions.  That sounds as boring as batshit to me!

If something makes you angry, and you want to express that anger, then vent that anger (non-violently of course).  If someone pisses you off, and you are in a position that you can do so… then say so!  We all have to bite our tongues from time to time, but learning to vent your anger appropriately is so powerful, especially when you refuse to be shamed for it.  Build a network of people you can trust, and who understand that your venting anger is in no way a commentary on them, and let rip!  Be there for those people when they  need a good old vent too.

If you have an opinion on something, make yourself a space somewhere (be it a blog, a letter to the editor, your Facebook or Twitter) and share that opinion.  Sometimes people will have different opinions to you.  That’s ok.  Sometimes you will find yourself shifting your opinion when you listen to other people, sometimes their opinions will shift when they listen to yours.  Other times you each will strengthen your own opinions and always differ… and guess what, the world doesn’t end.  Sometimes if it is something truly important to you, you find yourself having to move away from that person.  But other people, who feel the same way you do, will come into your life.

But most of all, please, please, please celebrate your passions.  Share your passions.  Live your passions.  And by doing so, you inspire those of us who are not afraid of passion.