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?