positive portrayals

All posts in the positive portrayals category

Fatropolis – A Review

Published August 10, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Hey all!  Been a while, hasn’t it?  Rest assured, I am still alive and kicking, still being fat all over the place.  In fact I’m being fat at you all right now.  But I am aware that I have been very quiet here on Fat Heffalump compared to in the past.  This is mostly because my paid job is so much more intense than it has ever been before, with so many projects going at once, that I just don’t have the free time outside of work that I used to have.  I was just lamenting yesterday that I really miss having a life outside of my job.  I need to get better at finding that work/life balance – it’s not good for anyone to lose their recreation time and the time they give over to the things that they are passionate about.

I am however, changing in my activism.  Don’t worry, I’m not going soft on fat hate, or misogyny, or racism or any other form of prejudice.  It’s just that I’m finding myself really over being expected to educate people in how to be decent human beings.  I’m tired of being expected to justify our existence, our validity as human beings.  I’m tired of the same 101 conversations over and over and over again.  Instead, I want to promote visibility of fat people as part of society, not for those who hate fat people, but to benefit US… we fat people ourselves.  I want to create and promote people who are living large so to speak, getting on with their lives and being fabulous, in whatever way.  Which means the way I engage with fat activism is changing.

Which leads me nicely to the next topic – the fab fatty zine.  It’s almost finished!  I have been picking away at it as best I can in limited time, and I’m just about to run off the first copies.  I am just finessing the last bits of it and writing up the credits etc  and I’m still not 100% happy with the cover, then I’ll be good to launch it.  I have enough  material for future editions already, it has been SO difficult to choose which ones to use this issue and which to hold off on.  Watch this space for further news.

But what I’m really here to do today is review a book!  A couple of months ago author Tracey L. Thompson contacted me asking if I would be willing to read her novel, Fatropolis.  A novel about a world where fat people are considered “normal”?  Bring it ON!  She arranged for a review copy to be sent to me and I got stuck into it as soon as it arrived.

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Fatropolis is a fantasy/sci-fi story about a Jenny, fat woman from New York City, who falls through a portal into an alternate universe, one where fat is considered the norm for society, and thin people are pressured to gain weight to meet that norm.  An opposite world in fact, where fat is considered attractive/healthy/normal.  Jenny is used to the way our world treats fat people, and is suffering with her own low self esteem from internalised fat phobia, so Fatropolis (which is in fact New York City in the alternative universe) is a massive cultural shock for her.

She quickly makes friends and has a lot of questions about the portals, why this world is so radically different from her own, and about herself as a fat woman, questioning her assumptions and the dominant paradigm around fat and health and attractiveness.  Jenny goes on many adventures with her new friends, both in Fatropolis and back in our own world, and embarks on a relationship with an acquaintance who has his own connections to Fatropolis, while also dealing with a young man named Argus who makes it clear from the moment he sees her that he has feelings for her.

Fatropolis is about discovering that fat is not a dirty word, and asking questions of the dominant cultural paradigm we live in today.

I enjoyed Fatropolis.  I will have to admit, at the beginning I really didn’t like Jenny, but as I read further, I realised the reason I didn’t like Jenny was that I used to be Jenny.  Judgemental, fixated on being acceptable/attractive to men, jealous of anyone who she perceived as having something that she didn’t, and mostly just rock bottom self esteem.  It shows how far I have come that I no longer identify with a character like that, but find them really unpleasant.

The story is well paced, the characters identifiable and the descriptions of sights, sounds and smells are vivid.  The only thing I can really find to kind of criticise (or more that it made me uncomfortable rather than true criticism) is the fixation on food in Fatropolis because it did feel a little like the “fatties all eat lots” thing a bit much, which we know is patently not true.  But when I thought about it more, we are so obsessed with NOT eating here in our world, it makes sense for Fatropolis, which is the opposite world, to be fixated on eating.

Tracey Thompson manages to weave in a whole lot of fat activism 101 in to this story and does so without it being preachy or pushy.  Instead she has the knack of having her characters question things that the reader then questions themselves.

I say get out there and give it a read, regardless where you are on your fat liberation journey.  You can buy it direct from Pearlsong Press here, or Aussies can buy it via Bookworld.

Focusing on the Fabulousness

Published May 18, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Folks, I am getting so excited about this zine.  I have had a few contributions submitted already, and I’ve written a couple of pieces myself, so it’s shaping up nicely.  Now don’t be shy, you can email me at fatheffalump at gmail dot com and for those of you who have already mailed me – send me your pieces!  I plan to put this all together while I am on leave (this coming Friday is my last day at work before holidays, woot!) and then have it ready to go out by the end of May/early June.

I am particularly looking for artwork (as I can’t even draw a stick figure!), and I particularly need a cover image.  Something that glorifies obesity all over the place!!  Send me your fatties!

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m suffering a bit of activist fatigue at the moment.  I’m writing a couple of pieces (I’m participating in the University of Queensland Women’s Collective Diversity Week event on Tuesday and have another commissioned piece) which I am finding I have to work a lot harder at than I usually do.  Mostly because I’m really quite over being expected to justify our existence as human beings, and to explain why we “deserve” the right to live our lives in dignity and respect, without fear of vilification or ridicule.  I think I just need to keep reiterating the following:

  1. Fat people are human beings.
  2. ALL human beings have the right to live their lives in dignity and respect, without the fear of vilification or ridicule because of their bodies, health or appearance.

It’s really that simple, and I simply don’t understand why we keep having to argue this shit!

I’d like to focus much more on celebrating fat people.  I want to focus much more on appreciating who we are.  The richness of our lives.  Our diversity, our style, our talent, our passions, our creativity.  I want to get us out there into the world and let us see each other.  Not for the benefit of the haters, the doubters, the excuse-makers, but for US.  I want to see fabulous fat people like me represented everywhere.  And because I don’t see that everywhere, I’m going to have to be it myself, and maybe others will follow.

So here’s to fat visibility.  Here’s to prodigious bellies, voluminous bosoms, generous butts, thick thighs, round faces, multiple chins, luscious arms, chunky calves and bountiful backs.  Here’s to getting out there and being seen and seeing each other.

Make it a goal to smile warmly at other fatties you encounter in the world.  Signal boost fab fatties that you find online.  Reblog, share, and collate all the fab fatties you find online.  Tell a fatty they’re fabulous.  Believe me, we all need it from time to time, and it’s so much better to focus on that than the shitty attitudes that force us to continually justify our existence.

Now… share a fab fatty or three (in whatever format) with us in the comments.  Let’s link us all up!

Be Your Own Expert

Published June 1, 2012 by sleepydumpling

You know what really shits me?

Every time I see an “opinion” piece on “obesity”, weight discrimination and stigma, weight and health or any other subject relating to fatness, it is almost always authored by someone who is not fat.  And more alarmingly, quite often authored by someone who has no expertise or experience in the fields of fat, health or stigma/discrimination.

Many of you will remember the piece written by Phil the Marketing Dude on The Hoopla a few months ago – an article published on a mainstream online magazine giving an opinion on weight and fat stigma by someone who works in marketing.  Someone who has no connection to fat studies or health studies or medicine and isn’t even fat himself, published as though he has the right to broadcast his opinion on a subject that he has absolutely no connection to.

I saw another one this week in The Conversation – another online journal, this one touting themselves as having “Academic rigour, journalistic flair” by a lecturer in politics of all things (no, I’m not going to link it, it’s the biggest pile of steaming crap I’ve ever read – plus it’s accompanied by a hateful photograph, ) giving his opinion about discrimination against fat people.  Of course, he starts by saying that he doesn’t believe that fat people should be stigmatised, and then goes on to do just that and to encourage other people to do it as well.

Over and over again, people who have absolutely no connection to weight or health get to spew their opinions in highly public forums, without regard to how their words affect the real lives of fat people.  It seems the only thing that makes one an authority on fatness in many publications is to be not-fat, and be vocal about it.  Or sometimes they will publish someone who was “successful” in weight loss, without examining just how long that “success” has been achieved (usually less than 2 years) or how that person’s life/resources or body may be at an advantage to those of long term fat people.

Even if it’s a positive bent to fatness – many publications will publish the opinions of thin people far before they will actually talk to fat people about their experiences, their history and their realities.  Not-fat authors are also more likely to be given a sympathetic/empathetic ear over those of us who are actually fat.  More often than not, fat people who speak up about stigmatisation and discrimination are accused of being angry, aggressive or too demanding.  As though if we just were “nice enough” we’d deserve to be treated like human beings.

This is why when mainstream media approach me for my input, I jump at the chance, even though I know the piece won’t be perfectly fat-positive, and is likely to contain the opinions of aforementioned “experts”.  Because so rarely do actual fat people, who live in fat bodies and face the realities of being fat in a society that openly loathes fatness actually get to be seen or heard.   Not to mention that when we are seen, we are portrayed as sad, lonely, depressed, dirty, lazy, gluttonous, smelly etc – almost always objects of ridicule.  For someone to open a magazine and click on a link and see a fat person who is happy and confident, and who is articulating the realities that fat people experience – it is a radical discovery.  I remember that it wasn’t too many years ago that I myself was completely blown away by a photograph of Kelli Jean Drinkwater being fat, powerful and confident.  It wasn’t that long ago that I was discovering writers like Lesley Kinzel, Bri King, Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby.

I think we need to call out publications that use people who have no connection or expertise to fatness for opinion pieces on fat.  We need to contact their editors, leave comments and ask questions as to why they’re publishing pieces by people who have no qualification to speak on the subject.  We need to keep telling our own stories and sharing our own experiences.  It’s bloody hard work – as well as having to find the time to do it, one has to have the sanity points to deal with those who think they know your body, your life better than you do, and those who believe that simply by measure of your body, they have the right to treat you as less than human.

That said, I don’t believe it has to be as political or even as wordy as the method I choose, which I think a lot of people assume that fat activism must be.  Being a fat person who lives their lives to the full is a radical, radical act in a culture that so openly loathes us.  Being a visible fat person – be it through fat fashion, art, prose and poetry, hobbies and sport, or generally just getting out there and enjoying life – your job, your family, your friends, etc.  If you can be a proud fat person living your life and sharing it online or anywhere else, without ever mentioning the more political side of fat activism.  When someone who has long believed that they are worthless because they have a fat body sees a picture of a fab fatty in a cute outfit, or a proud fatty talking about the job she loves, or her family, or a fatty having fun at the pool, in a dance class, at the park with her kids… their world is opened up to a whole new possibility.  It shows a completely different paradigm to the mainstream presentation of life as a fat person.

You are the expert on your life.  WE are the experts on life as fat people.

So get out there I say.  Live your life.  Have fun.  Love those in your life who are special to you.  Dress in ways that make you feel good.  Document your life – blog about your passions/share your photos/make videos/be artistic.

But most of all, in whatever way you can, tell your story.  YOU tell it – don’t let a fat loathing society tell it for you.

The Gift of Our Stories

Published December 14, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Up until a few years ago, I thought I was the most worthless creature on the planet.

I believed that I had no right to speak, have an opinion, share my beliefs, ask questions, or  talk to people without a being prompted directly.  Even then, I often held back, or made jokes about the situation, rather than actually sharing my thoughts or feelings.  I was full of guilt and shame.

But then I found fat acceptance.

I don’t remember exactly where I first encountered the concept, but I guess someone shared a link on Twitter or Facebook, and something piqued my interest, and I had a look.

Fat acceptance opened up a whole new world for me.  It changed my life so much that I can’t express fully just where I was and where I am now.

Where I am now, literally now, as I type this, is sitting in one of my favourite blogging spots, a little tabled area not far from my office, writing this blog post on a laptop as I’m photographed and filmed by a couple of academics as part of a documentation project about fat embodiment and activism.

When I look up, this is what I see. Lauren and Isaac.

Me.  Being photographed.  There are moments that I still can’t believe that I’m allowing the above to happen, not just allowing it but feel relaxed about it and even enjoying it.  I have a gap of about 20 – 25 years where there are only a handful photographs of me in existence.  More years I think, I’m not really sure.  I destroyed most of the photographs that were taken, simply out of self loathing.  I’ve had more photographs taken of me in the last 25 minutes than I did in that 25 years.  In the past few months, literally hundreds of photographs.

We found some photographs at work recently from 2003, and many people wouldn’t believe that the woman in those photos was me.  My self loathing is actually visible in most of them, even if I’m smiling on the surface.

It’s a massive shift in my paradigm.  To just allow someone to photograph me and relax (well mostly!) while they do so is so radically different to where I was years ago.

That’s fat acceptance and fat activism that has led me to that place.

An aside… it’s weird.  Every now and then a giant lens appears over my shoulder like a shark swimming into view.  I keep expecting to hear that music from Jaws, you know the bit with the cello?  It’s also kind of funny to have someone seeing my writing as I do it – normally it’s only seen by someone else when I have given it a tidy up and clicked on “publish”, not while it’s flowing out of my brain, through my fingers and onto the screen.  It’s a challenging exercise in the writing process.

Giving Isaac a taste of his own medicine!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, fat activism has brought so much to my life and radically change how I think about myself.  From a girl/young woman who received the dual message of “It’s lucky you’re smart, cos you’re not much to look at.” and “You shouldn’t get too big for your boots girlie.” to a 39 year old woman who has the confidence to allow people to document her life, and to share it with the world.

Telling my story is really important to me.  I think the most powerful thing about fat activism is the empowerment it gives to people to tell their stories.  Not to mention to hear stories of other fat people, which we simply don’t get in the mainstream.  Fat people in the mainstream are  one dimensional parodies – the sassy fat sidekick, the angry fat bully, the sad fat loner sitting at home in front of the television shoving food in their face.  We’re not seen in the mainstream as everyday people, with multi-faceted personalities.  We’re not seen as having jobs and careers, families and friends, hobbies and interests, passions and convictions.  Part of the power of being a fat activist is putting a representation of a real person, with all of those things, out in the world for other people to witness.  Both our fellow fatties, who often feel alone and isolated by the mainstream representation of fatness, and to non-fat people, who are sold this view of us that is not real.

Storytelling is a powerful, powerful thing.  Religions grow from it.  History is determined by who gets to tell their story and which of those stories is documented – which is how privilege is born.  That’s what marginalisation is – the silencing of people’s stories.

Fat activism not only allows me to tell my story and document my own history, but it also allows me to create a place for you to tell your stories, and to encourage you to create your own spaces to tell your stories.

And sometimes, if you’re really, really lucky like I am, you get other people who want to tell your story as well.

I’m having a lot of lightbulb moments while I work on this project.  I’m thinking about a lot of new things and learning a lot about myself.  From personal stuff – my own identity and embodiment – to the broader perspective of what it means to be telling the stories of fat people in general.  It’s become this strange meta process – the more immersed I get into a project about fat embodiment, the more I find myself defining my own identity and what I embody.

As I just said to Lauren, one of the best things about the internet is that we all have the power to document our stories and share them with the world, and to possibly have those stories heard by others, who then weave them into their own stories.  My story becomes entangled with yours, which then becomes entangled with the people in your life, and so on.

So thank you, dear Heffalumpies, for entangling your stories with mine.  That enriches my life far more than you can know.

Breaking Open the Beauty Paradigm

Published March 31, 2011 by sleepydumpling

The only way I can describe the feeling I have had this week after publishing this post in response to Leslie Cannold’s piece suggesting that Fat Acceptance activists (or “fativists”, as Ms Cannold decided to label us) were being too harsh on Mia Freedman for her repeated offenses of fat stigmatisation, is overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed at just how many of you the post touched a chord with.  Overwhelmed at just how widely that post was linked and tweeted and shared.  And overwhelmed at the amount of frustration I felt, pouring out of me when I not only wrote that piece, but also on reading so many of your comments and feedback.   Thank you.

But I’m not done with that article.  I want to address something else Ms Cannold said.  Let’s repeat it here:

It is good that those objecting to our culture’s equation of thin and beautiful also question why older, non-white, gay and disabled folk are excluded from the beauty standard. But the sincerity of such interrogation is undercut by fat acceptance articles illustrated with photos of heavily made-up obese women posing like models. Such illustrations don’t seem to say ”no way”, but express the less radical sentiment of ”me too”.

Hmm, this really sits unpleasantly with me, no matter how long I try to digest it.  Firstly, because I have a problem with the phrase “heavily made-up obese women posing like models”.  To me it smacks of slut-shaming, and in particular fat slut-shaming.  It has undertones of “how dare obese women gussy themselves up like tarts”.  Ms Cannold may not have intended for it to sound like that, but alas, to me, that’s just how it sounds.  It also rings a little of “look at those pathetic fatties, trying to make themselves beautiful”.

But what I really want to address as a follow up post to my last, is the notion that by engaging in fashion, make-up and modelling, fat activists are somehow negating our challenge of the beauty ideal.

Au contraire Ms Cannold.  In fact, we are turning the beauty ideal on it’s head.  The beauty ideal says that you must be thin, young, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered and usually affluent, among other things, to be beautiful.  That should you wish to engage in dressing up, fashion and make-up, to represent your look in a particular way, you need to fit this ideal. Yet here we are, fat and accepting of that fact, still engaging in these activities.  With no attempt at hiding our fatness with clothing, accessories and make-up that flatters, disguises or distracts, the statement is “I am here, I wish to be seen, and I am proud of who I am.”

Being visible as a fat woman is one of the most radical acts of fat acceptance I can think of.  It is accepting myself as a fat woman, and it forces others to accept me as I am.  Suddenly I am visible, like it or lump it.   And I have experienced that first hand, after 20-odd years of trying to make myself invisible, or blend into one group or another, to be just rocking whatever makes me happy, particularly if it involves make-up, costumery or anything that others would consider outlandish, as well as allowing myself to be photographed at all, let alone posing is possibly the most radical thing I have ever done.  It draws me the most accolades and the most criticism, far more than anything else I do.  Indeed, how I look seems to be far more important to many people than anything else about me.

Ms Cannold seems to imply that women in particular, only engage in fashion, make-up and being photographed in the quest to become the beauty ideal.  But what we really are on a quest to do is change the beauty ideal.  That doesn’t mean we have to all give up shaving our legs, wearing-make up and don bland, practical clothing.  What it does mean is that we create our own beauty, in all the diversity that we are.

But you don’t need to just take my word for it.  I decided to throw out a request to fatshionistas to define what participating in fatshion (which is fashion – clothing, make-up and accessories, as well as posing for photographs as fat women) means to them.

First we have Nicola, from 2 Many Cupcakes:

 

Nicola says: I am proud of the way I look and the things that I wear. I am not blogging to make myself thin and beautiful. I don’t need too. I don’t want to be thin and I already am beautiful. I enjoy clothing. I enjoy accessories. I enjoy chronicling my outfits because I think I have a good sense of fashion.

What is wrong with ‘obese women posing like models?’ The Oxford dictionary defines model as  “a person employed to pose for an artist, photographer, or sculptor.” Nowhere in that definition does it refer to a model needing to be a certain age, figure, race or sexuality. I am a fat woman modelling for my blog because it’s my hobby and I enjoy it. I will wear what I want and pose how I want for my blog.

 

 

And then we have Anna from Bargain Fatshionista:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anna says: For me, as a fat woman, fashion means rebellion. It’s telling every person who has ever told me that I should lose some weight to screw off. It means being happy where I am now and not caring what others think. It means acceptance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is Frances from Corpulent:

Frances says: I’m not a fashionable person. I don’t know much about designers, I don’t follow trends and I will never ever wear stilettos. That said, I do think fashion is important and can be quite political. The way we present ourselves through our clothes/accessories/hairstyles tells the world a story about us before we even open our mouths. The limited options available to fat people mean that the messages we are able to send with our fashion are, in a way, censored. By refusing to cater to us, fashion labels are controlling the way we can present ourselves. (The idea that all fat women are sexless and sloppy is that much easier to perpetuate when the clothes available are sexless and sloppy.) To send an accurate message of ourselves, fat people must try harder; we have to be adventurous, resourceful and inventive.

Though I am not a fashionable person, I do have style that’s all my own. Posting photos of my outfits, and looking at the outfits posted by others, has not only solidified my sense of style but my sense of self. My clothes make me feel more me than I ever have. Through fatshion, I am not proving my style credentials to others, but building up my own sense of value.

 

And from Bloomie, who blogs at 30 Dresses in 30 Days:

Bloomie says: Sometimes I get on the subway in the morning, look around at everyone on the train and think about how in a sea of black, I am the fat woman wearing multiple fluorescent colors and a faux fur jacket.  And then I laugh to myself and think about how far I’ve come from the days when I didn’t even know where to buy jeans that fit me.

To me fatshion is about loving my body and dressing it up and showing it off to the world.  It’s about expressing who I am through my clothing and it’s about taking risks and being unashamed and unembarrassed in my body.  It’s about challenging stereotypes of how I’m expected to dress or look or behave because of my size.  It’s about upending stereotypes.  It’s about strutting myself, highlighting my beautifully enormous ass and making people stop, turn and stare when I pass them on the street.

 

On to Sonya from Australian Fatshion:

 

 

 

 

 

Sonya says: Before discovering fatshion, there is no way I would have worn white or allowed a side-on photograph of my body to exist. I think increasing visibility of the fat body by taking outfit pictures will help to normalise those bodies and maybe make people question their prejudices and beliefs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is Georgina from Cupcake’s Clothes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgina says: Fatshion for me means being able to embrace fashion without worrying about size.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as Jessica from Tangled Up In Lace:

 

 

 

 

 

Jessica says: Blogging about fatshion is one of my many tools in the fight for body acceptance because beyond the visibility aspects, it gives me a chance to help other fat bodies get inspired to decorate and proudly present themselves to a society that tells them otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nor is fatshion restricted to women.  For example, Bruce from Chubstr:

Bruce says: I feel like fatshion and fashion are the same thing. The goal of Chubstr is to show big guys that they can wear the things they love and that they aren’t any different from their thinner counterparts. We spend a lot of time thinking that we don’t have options when that’s not really the case, and I want to do my best to show men of all sizes that it’s okay to be stylish no matter what your size.

 

 

These are just some of the examples of fatshion bloggers, a handful of fabulous fatshion folk who volunteered to share their definitions and pictures here to illustrate what engaging in fashion as a fat person embodies.  Over and over the message is repeated that engaging in fashion as a fat person means challenging the status quo, being both accepting and proud of oneself as a fat person, and being visible as a fat person, rather than conforming to the beauty ideal.

Fat fashion, fat visibility, fat acceptance smashes the beauty ideal doors down and invites everyone to participate, no matter who they are, even if they are not fat.  It is the veritable open house of fashion, appearance and style.  As the great Cole Porter once wrote:

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
Anything Goes.

So… We Just “Sit”?

Published February 11, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Yeah I know, I shouldn’t bite.  But I did.  On Facebook of all places.  I jumped on into the debate about “Obesity in Australia” set up by the Triple J Hack programme.  Frances from Corpulent/Hey Fat Chick and Dr Samantha Thomas (love you two!) were both on the radio programme yesterday afternoon (did an amazing job, go listen) talking about the stigmatisation of fat people.

So I won’t go into all the deets about the discussion, it’s mostly the same “But what about your health!!??” malarkey that we always get.  However, I do want to talk about a repeat message or sterotype that I kept seeing from those who were vehemently anti-fat.

That repeat message?  That fat people just sit around all day eating.

It seems that is the exact image that many people have of fat people.  We just sit around all the time, doing nothing but eating, and usually eating something laden with sugar or fat.  There is also an assumption that fat people have never ever heard of dieting, have no knowledge of nutrition, and don’t know anything about exercising.

It’s not just in this particular case either.  I see it come up over and over and over.  It came up during the John Birmingham thing.  I was reading an article on ABC the Drum some months back about “obesity stigma” and a commenter said “I feel sorry for fat people, their lives must be so boring, all they do is just SIT.”

Where on earth to these people get these ideas about fat people?  Well, television and movies mostly.  The fat character is almost always portrayed as some lonely fatty, at home shoving food in their face.  Then there’s the headless fatty footage of fatties sitting on park benches or in fast food joints.  The print media sell that image too.

I don’t know about you, but getting the luxury of time to “just sit” is pretty bloody rare in my life.  Even while I’m on holiday at the moment, I’m keeping pretty busy, when I really should be spending time “just sitting” a little more.

So how do we go about changing this perception of fat people?  How do we get the message out that fat people are no different to anyone else?  That we live our lives the same as anyone else?  We work, we go to school, we care for families, we spend time with friends, we shop, we laugh, we have hobbies, we play sports, we dance, we actually live full lives that are the same as non-fat people live.  The only difference is that our bodies are fat.

 

A Bad Day Get’s Better

Published January 28, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I woke up feeling pretty good.  I had my outfit picked out (something I could never wear to work – denim skirt, leggings and a leopard print camisole), and was excited to be going off to get my next tattoo today.  I showered and dressed, and realised I had a little bit of time up my sleeve, so I jumped online and went to my Facebook page.  Unfortunately, the first thing I saw was a post that was intended innocently by the friend who posted it, but was actually a big ole pile of fat hatred.  Even though it was posted in good spirit, it was painfully clear that the person who made the meme (one of those Demotivational posters) was being hateful and pushing more fat stereotypes (the junk food loving gluttonous fatty) and some of the comments were of very bad taste.

I was so hurt.  I plummeted into a spiral of self loathing and shame.  It took every ounce of my intestinal fortitude not to cancel my tattoo appointment and go back to bed.  Then it took every ounce of my willpower to not change my outfit and cover my body, to stay in the outfit that bares my fat arms and shoulders, that is visible.

But I did the old “fake it until you make it” and set out for the day.  I’m so glad I did.  Wanna see my outfit? (Click here for outfit details)  Here you go:

OOTD 28th January 2011

I’m fresh out of the tattooist chair, their apprentice took the photo for me.  There’s nothing like the adrenaline high after a tattoo to lift your mood.  I went from hating myself to feeling amazing in the time it took my tattoo artist, Victoria (from Wild at Heart Tattoo in Charlotte Street) to do the piece.

The piece is very significant too.  I know you want to see it.  But I’m going to tell you about it first, before I unleash it.  It’s a piece that Victoria and I designed, inspired by the art of Rubens Cantuni, a fabulous artist from Genova in Italy.  He does these pieces called Tokyo Candies that I fell deeply in love with a little while ago, after seeing some of his sexy fat lady artworks pop up on Tumblr.  (Rubens is on Twitter and Facebook if you’d like to follow him too.)  I saw this picture over a year ago and absolutely loved it, but it was seeing this one on Tumblr about a month ago that made me decide I absolutely HAD to have a tattoo piece inspired by his work.

I took a bunch of his work to Victoria and between us we came up with a design that was just perfect.  Not only is she beautifully fat positive, but it’s a celebration of the things I love about myself too.  I only have to look at her to be reminded of the things that I feel good about myself.

Yeah yeah, I know, you just want to see the damn tattoo.  Well here she is…

New Tattoo

See, I told you she was beautiful.

Documentary: fat body (in)visible

Published December 14, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Ok my lovelies, I have something REALLY special for you.

Margitte of Riots Not Diets over on Tumblr has made this amazing documentary called fat body (in)visible, which is the most amazing piece of fat activism.

Featuring Jessica of Tangled Up In Lace (blog here, tumblr here) and Keena of Buttahlove (tumblr here), the film documents their fat activism, fatshion, and stories of both visibility and invisibility as fat women.

Do not miss this film.  I’m both deeply moved and absolutely delighted by the piece, and it’s a wonderful thing to see fat women putting their voice out there, as we’re always judged on our appearance and rarely given the opportunity to speak for ourselves.

So without further ado, here is fat body (in)visible:

Plus-Size Clothing Retailers Take Note – Positivity Makes Money!

Published December 5, 2010 by sleepydumpling

As part of the + Plus-Size Plus + campaign I’m working on to improve the variety, quality and price of plus-sized clothing options from major chain retailers in Australia.  I’m focusing on the major chain retailers like Target, Big W, KMart, Myer, David Jones, City Chic, My Size, Autograph Fashion and the like because these are huge companies with a lot of buying power, and they’re the places the most plus-sized women go to first for their clothing needs.  Those retailers are the most prevalent, offer a range of price points that cover the broadest range of Australian women’s incomes, and in being the biggest companies, have the most room to give.  I believe they also have an obligation to their customers to offer ALL of their customers an equal range, prices and quality, not just the straight sized ones.

One thing I’ve been doing as I think about ways to go about this, is read the social media pages of these retailers.  Some of them don’t have any presence at all in a plus-sized clothing retailer capacity, but the specialists like City Chic, Autograph Fashion and MySize all have Facebook pages and I follow them all.  One thing I really notice is that every time one of them posts, most of the comment threads dissolve very quickly into a whole lot of body loathing.  It only takes one or two comments until the “flattering” concept comes up (usually a big old bun fight about whether plus-size retailers should bother selling sleeveless clothes) and then ends up with a mix of “We fat women shouldn’t wear *insert garment feature here*.” or “I really like that but I could never wear something that bares my *insert body part here*.”

This got me thinking about the marketing we see from plus-size retailers, the language they use about the bodies of their customers and how they could change their marketing to really encourage women to enjoy wearing clothes/fashion, which I believe would encourage women to BUY more clothes/fashion.

What I would really like to see, is one of these retailers be brave enough to come up with a truly body positive, empowering marketing campaign for their products.  Instead of playing on the whole “flattering” concept, and tiptoeing around the fact that their customers have fat bodies, how about a campaign that focuses on raising the self esteem of their customers?  Here’s what I’d like to see a plus-size clothing retailer do:

  • Get rid of the euphemisms.  No more crap about “real women” and curves/voluptuous and all of those things.  Just call themselves plus-size clothing retailers and focus on selling plus-sized clothing.  I know they can’t/won’t use the word “fat”, but let’s stop with the euphemisms that imply shame for being plus-sized.  Let’s stop pretending that your customers are not plus-sized/fat.
  • Focus on positive body messages.   Fabulous fashion for fabulous women.  Love your body, put our clothes on it.  Be confident in our fashion.  Gorgeous you, gorgeous clothes.  Messages like this.  No more talk of “flattering”.
  • Use models who actually look like the women who will be buying the product.  Let’s face it, most size 14 or 16 women, while they are catered for in these stores, don’t shop there.  You can get size 14 and 16 and sometimes 18 in quite a few straight size sections.  There are a lot of women in a size 14 and 16 who are not even going to go near a plus-size section.  The plus-size retailers are catering to those of us who cannot buy from the straight-sizes at all.  How about some models with bodies that look like ours?  Often the models they use are not even plus-sized at all.  UK blogger Lauren from Pocket Rocket Fashion has done posts this week on the topic (here and here).  I shared the first post on + Plus-sizes Plus + and the response I got back was that women want to see what clothes look like on bodies similar to their own.
  • Seeing women that look like we do is only going to make us feel better about ourselves in the long term.  Especially if these women are depicted as fashionable, happy, fun and glamorous.
  • Value your customers, understand what they want, treat them like they’re special (after all, they’re giving you their money and keeping you in business, that makes them VERY special) and understand that they have different needs to straight-sized customers, but want the same experiences.

Can you imagine how awesome, and how radical, a marketing campaign that promoted body love, self esteem and positive representations of their actual customers (rather than “aspirational” representations that would never actually purchase the stock) would be?  Particularly from a major chain retailer?  How many women would be empowered and inspired to enjoy dressing and fashion and shopping?

I know that’s a company I would want to give my money to.

Fat Gals Can Have Nice Things Too

Published November 21, 2010 by sleepydumpling

I’ve just spent a couple of hours doing something I often do on a Sunday morning – reading fatshion blogs.  I have a folder in my Google Reader labelled “fatshion” and I save them for times when I can sit back with a cuppa and just flick through them, looking at the photographs and reading the stories about where these amazing fatshionistas wear their gorgeous outfits, where they sourced them from, what kind of shops they love, how they put together outfits and just general stuff about their lives.

It never fails to make me feel good about myself.  I gave up reading magazines (except for Popular Mechanics, Discovery and the occasional tattoo mag) about 18 months ago, maybe a little more.  I’ve not missed it at all, and my wallet has certainly been happier.   When I first started out with my first few tentative steps into Fat Acceptance, I really never bothered with fatshion.  I had never bothered with fashion before, because I’d always felt excluded from it as a fat woman, and found it depressing to look at clothes on bodies that bore no resemblance to my own.

But then I found Tumblr, which led me to the awesome Frances and her tumblog Hey Fat Chick.  She threw open the doors of fatshion to me and once I started, I couldn’t stop.  I found myself pouring over fatshion blogs, tumblr accounts and the Fatshionista flickr group.  I found myself looking at the clothes and seeing myself wearing them, rather than some model who had been airbrushed and photoshopped into oblivion that made it clear that I could never wear those things.

Before long, I started to notice a radical change in myself.  Instead of just dressing in whatever I could find to fit me in the shops and never thinking about it again, I started to look for ways I could interpret the trends and styles that the fatshionistas were sharing.  Where once I would only buy clothes that I needed to function, I started to want things simply because they were beautiful, and because they expressed something about me.  Then I did something REALLY radical… I joined the Fatshionista flickr group and started posting my own OOTD (outfit of the day) photographs!  Guess what?  The world didn’t end!  Nobody laughed at me and I got some lovely compliements about the clothes and styling I was wearing.  Then I went on to start posting my own OOTD posts here on Fat Heffalump!  JAW DROP!

I never would have believed that I would get into clothes and accessories and fatshion at any point in my life.  I thought it was something I wasn’t allowed to do, because I am a fat woman.  In my teens I swung from only wearing what fit me (shorts, t-shirts, leggings) to clothe my body, to finding the most anti-social styles I could wear to try to scare the world away (goth, punk etc).  In my 20′s, I mostly did the grunge thing, because jeans, a band t-shirt and a flannelette shirt with Doc Martens was a nice uniform that I could wear and fit into.

These days, I’m discovering a deep, strong love for all things femme, and for lots of colour.  I only wish I could still wear high heels, but they don’t seem to like me any more, and I don’t have time in my life for shoes that hurt!

Nowdays I find myself compiling folders and using tools like Pinterest to catalogue my inspiration and put ideas together, based on the fatshion I find online.  If you had told me I’d be doing this a mere 2 years ago, I’d have told you that there was NO way that would ever happen!

So which fatshion blogs do I love?  Well, I follow a pretty long list, but how about I give you a few that really stand out for the kind of style I love?

I’ll start with the lovely Georgina from Cupcake’s Clothing.  Oh how I adore her style.  It’s romantic, fun, feminine and whimsical.  Her photographs are beautiful and I love seeing cute clothes and accessories on a body that is far closer to mine than anything I see in magazines.  Look… adorable…

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Adorable I say!

Another one I really love is A Well Rounded Venture.  Her style is classic and chic, and she does bold colour so well.

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Then there is Lauren from Pocket Rocket Fashion.  Lauren has a cute, feminine style that always fills me with joy when I see her posts and pictures.  She also loves leopard print, which makes me very, very happy!

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Representing for the Aussies, I really love Too Many Cupcakes.  She has a sunny, fun, upbeat style, and seems to ferret out the most amazing accessories.  Love her work!

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The US has lots of great fatshionistas too of course, one of which I love is Bloomie from 30 Dresses in 30 Days.  Bloomie rocks a dress like no other, and has a smile that could blind you for a mile.

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There are dozens more and I could make the world’s biggest blog post sharing them all with you, but these are just a few examples of the ones I love.

I really want to thank all of the fatshionistas out there for doing what they do.  I know a lot of them think they just post pretty clothes and stuff on the internet, but the truth of the matter is, what they do makes a difference.  Their visibility and love for fashion, clothing and styling is not only inspirational, it’s activism.  Fat women being visible is the very pinnacle of fat activism.

What about you?  Do you have any favourite fatshionistas?  Maybe they’re ones that I or other readers haven’t heard of before.  What is your style?  Do you indulge in fatshion and fatshion watching?  Share your fatshion loves in the comments!

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