shame

All posts in the shame category

Shame from Within

Published September 14, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I need me a good vent!  And you, dear Heffalumpies, you’re gonna hear it.

There’s something that really pisses me off.  It’s the amount of body shaming and general snark that goes on wherever plus-size clothing retailers share their product.  Be that on blogs, Twitter, their Facebook page or anywhere else their supposed customers can comment on their stock and catalogues.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe very strongly in giving businesses feedback, and if they treat their customers like shit, I’m going to say so.  What I’m talking about is the body shaming and snark that goes on between the customers, about other fat bodies.

Now I completely understand wanting to be able to find clothing of certain cuts, and not being able to wear some styles.  For example, I can’t wear anything that buttons through the front.  Simply because I feel uncomfortable in it and they pull and gape over my magnificent giant boobs.  I also don’t wear anything with high or crew necklines, because I feel like they are choking me.  So if a company posts a picture of something with one of those features for their customers to view and give feedback, I’m going to ask if they have something that has a scoop or v-neckline perhaps, or simply leave feedback that I’m unable to wear button through garments myself.

What I am NOT going to do is suggest that they should not produce any garments with high necklines or button through fronts.  Because that defeats the whole purpose of trying to get plus-size companies to listen to us.  We need MORE options, not less.  Besides, it would be pretty bloody arrogant of me to assume because I don’t want something, nobody does.

The other thing that REALLY shits me, is the way people comment with body shame.  Instead of saying “I prefer not to go sleeveless.” or asking if there are any options with sleeves because they’re not comfortable going sleevless, we see “DON’T YOU KNOW FAT WOMEN CAN’T GO SLEEVELESS???!!!”  Or “That’s just not flattering!”  Sometimes they even say things like “You clearly don’t know how to dress fat women.”  They assume that because they want to hide their bodies away, and that because they loathe their own fat bodies, that everyone should.

To my mind, plus-size clothing threads should be the ONE place we can escape from body snark and bitchiness.  It should be the place we go to talk about fabulous clothes, to share the things we need and want while making sure these companies know what works and what doesn’t.  After all, we’re all in the same boat – we’re all fat, we all need plus-sized clothing and we all have a vast lack of options (some of us less than others), so we should be working together.  That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, just that we work together to get plus-size clothing companies to produce a variety of things in a suitable quality, price and sizing.

It’s so frustrating to have so much shaming coming from my fellow fatties.  I know that’s because society tells fat women that they should hide themselves away, and be ashamed of themselves, but surely we have enough experiences with being shamed by non-fat people that we’d avoid shaming our fellow fatties.

All I want is to be able to talk about plus-size clothing options without seeing body shame!  Is it that hard?

Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Greed

Published September 6, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

You know, I think it’s time to address another topic in my series on fat stigma.  Today’s topic is going to be on something that is repeatedly placed on the shoulders of fat people, and that is greed and gluttony.

There is this perception, and usually we place it on ourselves as much as others place it on us, that fat people are greedy.  The haters are always going to use greed and gluttony to criticise fat people, so I think it’s best to ignore them and instead, focus on our self perception of being greedy.

It has become such a common trope in our culture that being hungry is equal to being greedy, that so many of us internalise that message until we are at a point that we feel ashamed and guilty for feeding our bodies.  However, all living creatures need to eat to survive.  We need sufficient nourishment to fuel our bodies, both immediately in the day to day functioning of our bodies, and long term, to keep our bodies running efficiently and effectively.  We don’t have to look far to find examples of what malnourishment does to the human body long term.

In my own experience, I spent over 20 years denying my hunger and starving my body to try to be thin, because I believed that because I am fat, I must be greedy.  All that did to me was make my body fight harder to hang on to what it did have, and screw up my body long term.  Thanks to all those years of restriction, starvation and purging, my metabolism is shot, I have damaged teeth (not enough calcium going in and purging makes them brittle and discoloured) and I’ve constantly got anaemia (my body struggles to absorb iron because of how little it got for so much of my life).  If I had been left to feed my body as it needed, I wouldn’t have to worry about these issues now.

We are taught that hunger and feeding ourselves is greedy.  But the human body has hunger for a reason.  It tells us when we need fuel to keep us alive.  It tells us when our bodies are lacking certain vitamins and minerals that it needs to heal, grow, strengthen and function.  Feeding ourselves is vital for us to survive.  Over and over we are told to “Just stop eating.” but no living creature can do that and survive.  We feed ourselves to provide the fuel and nutrients we need, and we also feed ourselves for pleasure.

There is much shame loaded on finding pleasure in food, however we are both hard wired and culturally conditioned to do so.  Eating releases pleasure chemicals in our brains, which rewards us for fueling our bodies.  It is the body’s way of getting us to eat to survive.  And we find pleasure in the ceremony of food, the sharing of food and the exploration of food.  We are culturally conditioned to do this to both bond with each other as a species, to provide sustenance to our families and other loved ones, and to try a wide variety of food so that we can get all of the nutrients we need.

The amount of food we need varies widely from person to person, depending on many factors.  Not only the size of our bodies and the activity we do, but also our genetics, environment, culture, and emotions influence what we eat and how much of it.  But one cannot judge by looking at someone’s body just how much they eat.  In fact, a recent study showed that in general fat people actually consume less calories than their leaner counterparts.  Besides, hands up who has a thin friend who eats constantly and never gains any weight!  I’ve got several, from a tall, lanky relative who seems to eat nothing but KFC and pizza and play video games, to a colleague who will eat anything in his path and spends all day crunching and munching away at his desk, but only needs to get a cold or other minor illness and drops weight until he’s gaunt.

Human bodies are complex and individually unique – we simply cannot judge anyone for their size or what they eat.

Sometimes human beings do overeat and do so for several reasons.  Sometimes it is disordered behaviour, such as binge eating.  Sometimes it is eating to feed emotions rather than the body.  Sometimes it’s overeating after a period of restriction or starvation.  Whatever reason it is, it doesn’t make the person greedy or gluttonous.  Instead of passing judgement towards those who overeat (and as I said above, it’s not always fat people who overeat, though it’s only fat people who are considered greedy if they do), we need to realise that it’s none of our business what someone else eats or does with their own bodies.

If you’re an overeater yourself, the only person’s business it is, is yours.  Yes, overeating can make you sick, but moralising and shaming about health and food is not going to make you well.  What is going to make you well is to learn why you are overeating and to deal with that problem at it’s root source.  To learn what habits and foods make your body sick and what make them well.  You are entitled to feel well, worthy of feeling well, and if you feel you need help to do so, then you have every right to have that help without judgement.  A decent doctor, therapist or any other health professional worth their salt will help you compassionately and empathetically.

It’s really daunting to give yourself permission to eat.  As a very fat person myself, when I started to get help for my crippling lack of self esteem and eating disorder, I was terrified to eat.  I still have trouble sometimes when I’m stressed or very tired, not falling into that pattern of restriction.  My doctor and I are constantly working on getting me to eat enough, particularly to keep my blood sugar levels in check.

But when I first started changing my thinking around food and weight and body image, there was this perception that because I’m fat, if I didn’t restrict myself, that I would EAT THE WHOLE WORLD!!  That lurking beneath my long term dieter’s facade was a horrible, greedy person, because after all, I was fat.  I must be horrible and greedy right?

Wrong.  Firstly, one cannot eat the whole world.  In fact one would be unable to eat the whole town, let alone the whole state or country or world.  One cannot even eat ALL THE FOOD.  Because even if one was to just eat and eat heaps of food, before one got very far, one would feel sick.  You’re not taking food out of anyone’s mouth, it’s not your fault that there are starving children in the third world and you’re not going to explode like Mr Creosote.

Secondly, when you let go of judging yourself (and others) for what you eat, and listen to your body, you start to know when you are full.  Your hunger cues stop, and you start to feel the sensations of being full, before you get uncomfortable or ill.

When I was first taking steps to get into normal eating, or intuitive eating (I’ve seen it called both around the HaES resources), I did have trouble getting the swing right.  Because I was trying not to restrict or diet, I would make these meals and then think I had to eat all of it.  Or I’d go out to dinner with people and think that I had to finish everything on my plate.  Which resulted in several occasions that I felt sick from eating more than I really wanted.  But the more I stopped thinking and stressing about it, the better I got at listening to a) what I wanted to eat and b) how much I needed to eat.  Slowly but surely I started to see changes in how I felt about food, and slowly but surely I started to be able to feed myself without emotional issues… and most importantly, to really enjoy food again.  Without beating myself up about eating something or making myself sick with guilt later.  Best of all, I have SO much more energy now than I have probably ever had.  I’m not thin, but I’m never going to be.  Instead I’m strong, energetic, robust and happy.

The thing is, when you truly let go of all of that baggage, and remove that idea from your mind that you are greedy or gluttonous, your body is able to regulate itself.  You might have a period where you swing wildly a bit, but instead of beating yourself up about it, you listen to how your body feels, take note of what makes you feel good and what makes you feel ick, and learn from it for next time.  Eventually you start to settle and gradually you notice that you’re feeling better, more energetic.  You might get less colds, or if you do, you recover quicker than you used to.  You have fewer digestive issues.  You go to the bathroom more comfortably and/or don’t get reflux as often.  You start to crave different things, and you don’t feel the need to medicate your emotions with food.

But most of all, you let go of that feeling of being a greedy/gluttonous person because you’re hungry.  No matter what your shape or size, you have the right to eat, and you have the right to feel hunger.  Anyone else can just mind their own damn business.

Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Shame

Published August 20, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I talk about fat stigma a lot here on Fat Heffalump.  It’s the biggest problem fat people face and clearly the most damaging.  Far more damaging than being fat is, that’s for sure.  I want to start breaking down some of the components of fat stigma and talking about strategies to overcome those as a fat person.  Hopefully, this will be the first in a series of posts along this theme.

Tonight I want to talk about shame.  For me at least, and I know my experience is not universal but I am sure there are plenty of you who feel the same way, the shame placed on me as a fat person has been the most painful aspect of fat stigma, the hardest to overcome, and very much the one that has done the most damage to me.

Fat people are shamed at every turn.  We are shamed for being fat.  We are shamed for not being healthy enough (regardless of how healthy we actually are).  We are shamed for not being active enough, but if we are publicly active, we are shamed for that too.  We are shamed for being sloppy dressers, but if we do manage to find nice clothes and take pride in our appearance, we are shamed for that as well.  We are shamed for wearing shapeless sacks, and we are shamed if we wear anything that reveals any skin.  We are shamed for eating “junk” food, but should we be seen eating “healthy” food we are shamed for that as well (I can’t count how many times I’ve been told that “It will take more than salad to fix you, fat bitch.”)  We are shamed if we hide ourselves away from the world, and we are shamed if we appear in public.  We are shamed if we do not work, and then we are shamed if we dare to want a career and be treated the same as everyone else.  We are shamed for needing health care (and it is implied that we require more than others), but often we are shamed once we get health care for not getting it sooner.  We are shamed if we make no mention of our fatness, and yet if we do, if we are proud of ourselves and own our fatness, we are shamed for that as well.

No matter which way we turn, there is always someone waiting to heap shame on our shoulders.  Many people will say that they’re “Telling it like it is.” or somehow trying to help us when they put shame on us.  But there is one stark fact that we know for sure:

You cannot shame someone for their own good.

You just can’t.  Shaming someone has absolutely no benefit for them at all, just damage.  And shaming someone isn’t about helping them, it’s about making them feel bad, shutting them up, oppressing them and quite often, making the shamer feel better about themselves.

But what does help people, is letting go of shame.  Is empowering them to advocate for themselves, and to feel like they are able to deal with whatever life throws their way.  Empowering them to live their lives to the fullest, within their personal circumstances, that they can.

Every day of our lives, we hear, over and over, that fat people should be ashamed of themselves, for a myriad of reasons.  When you hear so many stories of fat people who are unhappy with their lives, it is so often because they feel worthless, ashamed of themselves because they are fat.  They loathe themselves because the world around them has told them they should.

People who feel worthless and unhappy don’t take care of themselves as well as they can.  When someone hates their body, they’re not going to treat it well and care for it the best they can.  Instead they are going to punish themselves, deprive themselves and look for ways to change who they are.

However, when someone has strong self esteem, and doesn’t carry that forced shame on their shoulders, they are able to do so much more for themselves in their lives.  They cope better with adversity in their lives (which none of us can avoid, we all go through tough times), they are able to focus better on their work and other life matters, they feed themselves better, are more likely to be active and to seek out quality health care.

So, as people who have shame heaped on us from every quarter at any opportunity, what can we fat people do to let go of that shame, and not carry a burden that is not ours to carry?

I can only share what has worked for me, but perhaps some of you have strategies and methods that you would like to share as well.  For me, surrounding myself with positivity helps.  Be it online or in reality.  I have found that the people I have in my life now are far more positive and progressive than when I was in that dark place of shame and self loathing.  I read different things and watch different movies/television shows.  I don’t read magazines or newspapers that indulge in shaming any more, and I am far more selective about which movies and TV shows I watch.  When it comes to my online reading, I find things that build my self esteem and confidence, rather than tear it down.  The same goes for the friends I surround myself with.  When I look back now, I was the whipping girl for so many of the people I called “friend”.  I was the fat girl they used to make themselves feel better.  That’s not a friendship, that’s abuse.

Self care is really important too.  Making sure that I take time to look after myself, be it just a pampering in a nice hot shower, time to read or relax some other way, making myself a nutritious meal, or just finding a way to de-stress when things get a bit much for me.

What also works for me is thinking of the shame as a metaphor.  Mine is kind of gross, but I like to think of the shame people try to hand me about my fat body as a big steaming turd.  I didn’t make that turd, and it’s not mine to carry.  When people try to hand me that steaming turd of shame, I metaphorically hand it right back to them and think to myself “That is yours to carry.”  Sometimes you might get a bit on yourself and have to take some time to clean up with some self care, but it’s still not yours to carry.

I know, it’s gross, but the metaphor works for me!

So how do you work your way through shame?  Has letting go of shame about your body helped you in any way?  Or are you still carrying around some that you need help shedding?

Your Body is not Voldemort

Published July 28, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

One of the lovely, but slightly scary, things about blogging and having your blog audience grow to a fair size is that people start asking your advice about all kinds of things.  It’s lovely and awesome, to be seen as some kind of fairy fat-mother, but in the same time, it’s kind of scary.  I mean, I’m not an expert on anything by any stretch of the imagination, and in my day job, I’m an IT librarian.  I want to get things right for you guys when you ask my advice, I want to help.  But I am a human being and I can only give my own thoughts/opinions and hopefully that helps.

I get a lot of questions from people who hate their bodies.  Or they hate something about their body or appearance.  I get a lot of questions about people (usually young cis-women) who are ashamed of something about their bodies/appearance, and don’t know how to change that.  Or want to know how to hide the thing they’re ashamed of, or who to talk to about that shame.  Sometimes it’s about being too embarrassed or ashamed to go to the doctor to talk about something that worries them.

Mostly, it’s a whole lot of shame and fear about their appearance.

Every time I get a question like this, there are two things I want to do.  Firstly, I want to hug that person and tell them that they’re perfectly ok as they are.  But I also want to give them something to set them free of that shame and fear.  I don’t quite know what that is yet though!

One thing I do know, is that fear and shame often make the issue seem a whole lot bigger than it is.  That’s the nature of fear and shame – it festers away in our heads growing bigger and bigger and bigger by feeding off itself and each other.  Think about when you were a kid, and someone told you a scary story, or you watched a scary movie.  It was terrifying, wasn’t it?  But then when you go back and watch it as an adult, often it looks silly and cheesy, rather than scary.

Fear makes the wolf look bigger.

Source unknown*

Well it’s the same with our bodies and our appearance.  That scar we obsess over, those stretchmarks, the wobbly arms we hide away, the round bellies, the hairy legs… whatever it is we attach shame and fear to.  We stare at them in the mirror, or poke and prod at them as we get dressed or bathe… and we look at them in every minute detail.  You’ll never know a body as intimately as you know your own.  We practically go over ourselves with a magnifying glass, looking so closely at our supposed flaws that we are afraid other people will see, that we usually fear those flaws far bigger, far uglier and far more dramatic than they actually are.

Sometimes douchey people pick up on those things, and they use our fears and shame against us.  They are perceptive of our vulnerabilities, so they will hone in on that and ridicule or point out those things because they know they can hurt us with  it.  Thus the person who has that ridiculous habit of bellowing “You’re so fat!” or something else about our appearance, or in my case, posting troll comments about how I’m fat, hairy or ugly.

I do understand those fears and the shame though.  I lived with them my whole life until just a few years ago.  I’m fat and hairy.  I’m kind of a tall hobbit really.  I tried EVERYTHING to hide my fat, hairy self.  I avoided those topics in conversation.  I wore clothes that I thought disguised me.  And worst of all, for many years I let so many people hurt me so deeply by pointing out how fat and hairy I am.  Sometimes the barbs still sting for a second, but not like they used to, and it’s rare that it does actually sting any more.  Because it’s a pretty sad person that has to highlight other people’s supposed faults or belittle someone because of their appearance to make themselves feel better.  Seriously… it’s a bit hard to give them any power to hurt you when you stop and think just how pathetic that is!

What we do, is turn our flaws into Voldemort.  Yes, I am a Potterfile, stick with me here.  Through most of the Harry Potter series, everyone is SO afraid to even think about “The Dark Lord”, they can’t even name him.  He is You-Know-Who and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  Even the name Lord Voldemort isn’t really his name, it’s the name he’s given himself to appear even more frightening, because he knows that not speaking the real name of something you fear, keeps the fear growing.

J.K. Rowling actually said it in the first Harry Potter book:

Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 1997.

We do that.  We speak of fatness in hushed tones.  We don’t mention being hairy, or having acne, or stretchmarks, or skin problems, for fear of uttering those names will conjure them up in front of us, or put a huge neon sign over those “flaws” we have.

When really, most of the time these things aren’t Lord Voldemort, they’re just boring old Tom Riddle, and can be defeated, or at least reduced to something so much easier to deal with, simply by not fearing them any more.

Letting go of that fear and shame is not easy.  But that’s the hardest bit – letting go.  Taking that first step.  Opening the door.  Once you take that step, and set off, it really does get a whole lot easier.  That doesn’t mean you never stumble, or you never have the overwhelming urge to run back in and slam the door shut behind you.  That still happens.  But I think once you’ve taken that first big step, you can often recognise the fear and shame for what it is.  You’ve given it it’s real name, rather than hiding away and never mentioning it.

So… how do you feel about fear and shame in the context of your body and/or appearance?  Is there something you think you could let go of to make the wolf look smaller?  To lessen the grip that fear and shame have on you?

Or have you been able to give something it’s real name and chase that fear and shame away?

*I’m unable to find a source/credit for this awesome grafitti/photo – if you can provide one please let me know and I’ll update with full credit.

On Flattering and Fat

Published July 25, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

It seems I have a rather large influx of new people viewing Fat Heffalump again all of a sudden.  Welcome!  Anyone want to tell me where you’re all being referred from?

Firstly, a little bit of housekeeping, just for the new folks (long termers, bear with me for a minute loves!)

There are rules for commenting on this blog – they can be found here.  This blog is not a democracy, it’s a dictatorship, and I am the (sometimes) benevolent dictator.  It’s my blog, so I make the rules and do whatever I like with it.  That’s the thing with blogging – your blog is your space and you get to do with it as you wish, and you set the boundaries.  If you want things to be different then they are here, I’m always open to suggestion, but when I put the foot down and say no, then the answer is no.

The other important thing to know about this blog is that it is about being fat.  Fat is not an insult in this space, it is a description.  It’s not self-denigrating of me to call myself fat.  I am a size 26 and somewhere around the 300lb mark (not sure where, I don’t weigh) and have a big belly, big boobs, multiple chins, thick thighs, big hips, wobbly arms… I am FAT.  I’m not chunky, fluffy, curvy, voluptuous, zaftig, big, large, plus-sized, chubby, hefty or any other euphemism that implies that fat is a dirty word.  I am FAT.  And I’m proud of who I am.

Here we refer to ourselves as fat without shame, without apology and without fear.  Fat is where it’s at baby!

Fat Positive Manatee (Click on the image for the Tumblr)

But now we’ve got that out of the way, mostly we’re here to talk about being fat and all the issues that go around it.

Which leads me on to the topic that I want to talk about again today, and that’s the topic of “flattering” and in particular, commenting on other people’s clothing/appearance.

There is a thing I notice a lot on blogs, and even more so on comment threads on plus-size clothing sites (this includes Facebook sites for brands), and that is body shaming by using the term “flattering”.  Whether the commenter is shaming their own body, by saying things like “I can’t wear that top, it doesn’t flatter my arms/belly/insert other feature here.” or worse, when they’re shaming other people’s bodies, either directly “Can’t you find something that is more flattering to your shape?” or indirectly “Don’t you know fat women shouldn’t wear bold prints, they don’t flatter!” – it’s all still body shaming.

I have a very strict rule here on Fat Heffalump that I won’t stand for body shaming – not even when someone says they “Don’t intend it that way.”  Intent is not quite enough to excuse the behaviour – when someone says not to do something in their space (as Fat Heffalump is my space), then don’t do it.  Don’t say that you didn’t intend it a certain way, or that you were only trying to make a suggestion.  Either apologise, or just walk away.  It’s not your territory, so you don’t get to make the rules.

That’s really bolshy of me, I know.  But I’m a bolshy woman, and this is my space.  It doesn’t mean you can’t call me out if I’ve said something problematic, but when it comes to the rules I’ve set about body shaming and appearance based judgment, I’m just not negotiable.  I want every one of you to be able to come here knowing that you will not be shamed for your bodies, no matter what shape, size, colour, physical ability or appearance you might have.

But back to the topic of flattering.  I vehemently reject the concept of dressing to “flatter” myself and I believe nobody has the right to suggest/demand that people change how they dress to “flatter” their bodies.  That doesn’t mean you can’t choose to highlight certain features yourself – because it’s your body and you know how you like to look.  It’s when other people come along and say “That’s not very flattering” – it’s the height of rudeness and a prime example of being judgmental about other people’s appearances.  Not even should they sell it as “suggesting you highlight your good points” – because by default, it’s also suggesting you should “lowlight” other parts of yourself because they are less/not acceptable.

I get very angry at those who crop up on plus-size clothing blogs and company pages etc and start talking about how “larger/big” women should dress.  We should all dress in a way that makes us happy ourselves.  It’s different for you than it is for me, than it is for the next person, but to cast our standards onto other people is simply rude.  However time and time again, I see people rudely leaving comments that say “Big women shouldn’t go sleeveless!”  or “Larger ladies need dark clothes, not bright colours!”  It’s just unbelievably rude to cast your own body hang-ups and judgement on other people.

That doesn’t mean you have to wear sleeveless tops and hot pink yourself.  Or even LIKE those things.  What it means is that instead of announcing what other people “should” do, you say “I’m not comfortable wearing sleeveless tops.” or perhaps “Bright colours aren’t really my thing.”  Then the statement is about you, not other people’s bodies/appearance.

Even saying that something is “flattering” on someone else is body shaming.  It implies that the outfit they are wearing that shows their shape a certain way, or changes their shape is better than something that shows them as they are.

Just don’t use the word flattering.  Instead, compliment someone straight up.  A simple “I like your outfit.” is far less loaded with body judgement than “That outfit really flatters you.”  If you don’t like a garment because you wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing it then say so.  Don’t ascribe shame to it by implying that other people shouldn’t wear it because you don’t.

There is enough body shame in the world today.  We get bombarded with it in magazines, newspapers, television, movies, fashion, advertising and a whole lot of other blogs.  Don’t contribute to it yourself, make a small change to your thinking and your language, and you contribute to making a big change to the world.

No Doing – Just Being

Published June 18, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Sorry it’s been quiet on the blog front my lovelies, I’ve been sideswiped with a cold that went down into a chest infection this past week and a bit.  Damn bug raged through the office a couple of weeks ago and I assumed I was spared the infection… but it got me after all.  Thankfully I’m starting to see some improvement at last, hopefully this means I can get all the ideas that have been burbling around my head this past week or so (I’ve read so much, no energy to do anything else while coughing until I saw stars) together and start some discussions here.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the haters and trolls and general disbelievers we fat activists get.  Mostly spurred on by a concerted attack on one young woman on Tumblr that I could see was deeply upsetting her, simply because a group of people think they have the right to bully and belittle someone simply because she is fat and doesn’t meet some arbitrary standard of attractiveness.

I get my fair share of trolls, haters and general disbelievers and troublemakers, both here and on my other social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, Formspring etc).  Once upon a time they used to bother me, but nowadays, I mostly pity them.  Or find them funny.   Mostly because they have this inflated sense of their power over me by thinking that by posting something hateful on my Tumblr, or trolling this blog, they can shut me up and chase me off the internet.  It’s pretty hilarious that someone would see such importance in themselves.

Of course, it has the opposite effect to the one they intended – it makes me more argumentative, more obnoxious and a whole lot more outspoken.

It’s very timely then that Ragen over at Dances with Fat would write her recent post “The Trouble with Proving It“.  Ragen highlights that every time some narrow-mind bellows “Prove it!” at her, and she does, over and over and over, they are still disbelieving of her reality.  No matter how much evidence she shares, it’s never going to be enough for these people.

I’m often called to do the same thing (for different reasons) and I have seen many other fat activists attempting to prove their own existence and realities over and over and over again.

Reading Ragen’s post reminded me of something very important.  I am not doing this fat activism to “convert” other people, to answer the haters criticism or to shout down the trolls.  Those things are not important.  I, and all other fat activists, and fat people and fat allies have no need to DO anything.  We are in debt to no-one.

What we need is to simply BE.

Simply being ourselves is a radical act in this fat-phobic culture we have found ourselves in.  Being alive, being happy, being active, being confident, being self-loving, being outspoken, being fashionable, being talented, being funny, being awesome… no matter what you as a fat person are being, simply being you is AMAZING.

For those of us who choose to spend time online sharing our lives, our thoughts, our opinions, our fashion, our images, the important part of that is being visible, being audible, being tangible.  In a world where fat people are silenced, discredited and openly loathed, being visible as a happy, confident fat person is a powerful message to send out into the world.

As I said to Ragen on her post, if it hadn’t been for my stumbling into the fatosphere, I probably wouldn’t be here today.  The people who took up fat activism before me and went public with it, being all the amazing things they are, really rescued me in a dark time of self-loathing and shame.  Just by being visible, they showed me that there was an alternative for me, that I didn’t have to spend my life buying into the fat-phobic lies that our culture perpetuates.  They showed me that I can be happy, have fun, live my life to the full and most importantly, that I, and all other human beings, have value and deserve respect.

That’s why I’m here, and why I do what I do.  I want to give that back to the world.  I want to show other people who are in the dark, frightening place that I once was, that it doesn’t have to be that way.  And that they too are awesome, radical beings, without DOING anything.  To simply live ones life happy and full is the most radical act you can possibly engage in.

And best of all… it really pisses the haters off.

“That’s the best revenge of all: happiness.  Nothing drives people crazier than seeing someone have a good fucking life.” 

Chuck Palahniuk

An Ode to My Thighs

Published May 17, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Oh I have been so cruel to my thighs.

I have starved them, hidden them, exercised them into exhaustion.  I’ve beaten them, scarred them and mutilated them.  I have blamed them from every issue I’ve had in my life, from past loneliness to not being able to buy clothes.  I have loathed them simply because of their shape and size.  How much vitriol I poured towards them for being fat and jiggly.  I’ve even tried to eradicate them altogether.

How could I have done that after all they have done for me?  They have carried me for over 38 years now.  They’ve propelled me through life and held me upright. They have tolerated everything I have tried to do to minimise them, to eradicate them.  They have given me the power to lift everything from children to furniture.  They’ve cradled lovers.  They have propelled me through water, on a bicycle and around a dance floor.  They’ve fleshed out fabulous clothes, given shape to gorgeous tights, and held stockings up.  They have been part of the foundation of who I am all this time.

They have done so much for me, with almost no complaint, for my whole life.

And I’m sorry I’ve treated them so badly.

I’m sorry I didn’t recognise how beautiful and amazing they are.  That I didn’t see the beauty in their fleshiness, their solidness, their width.  Even the rolls and dimples and scars and cellulite are beautiful.  Most of all their strength and resilience is beautiful.

I’m sorry thighs.  I hope you’ll forgive me and keep on being the amazing thighs you are.

How about you?  Do you think you’ve been mean to any parts of your body?  How about apologising to them and trying to love them?

Why I Will Be Participating in SlutWalk

Published May 14, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

So you may have seen some buzz around lately in the media about an event called SlutWalk.  What SlutWalk is, is a rally/march in protest of the cultural attitude that a woman may “deserve” to be raped/sexually assaulted, based on measures of what she wears, whether or not she is consuming drugs or alcohol, or her sexual activity, amongst other things.

SlutWalk began in Toronto, Canada after a police officer giving a talk at a college campus safety information session stated that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”.  Quite understandably so, the people of Toronto were angry at this and a protest event sprang up very quickly, the inaugural SlutWalk.  As the word spread around the world, allies all around the world have been organising their own local event to send the message that slut-shaming victims of rape/sexual assault is not acceptable.

Just a couple of days ago, I read this amazing speech given at Boston SlutWalk by Jaclyn Friedman.  Jaclyn really expresses most of my own thoughts (and a whole lot more) in her piece.  Don’t miss it – whether you watch the video or read the transcript.

A lot of women really have a problem with the term “slut” and some have refused to take part in the events because of the name.  Many feel that it is a derogatory term that shouldn’t be used to describe women, and feel that “reclaiming” the word encourages people to use the word to shame women who are sexually active, who enjoy sex or who dress in a manner that is considered “sexy”.

To be honest, I am inclined to agree.  It is a word that is used to shame and bully women, to control them by socially policing them into shame for having any form of sexuality and sexual expression.  It’s not a word I want to hear used to describe women and/or girls.

But that said, I am still going to participate in SlutWalk.

Why?  Because I feel it is of the highest importance that we, as a society, stand up and speak out against the rape culture that implies that women “asked for” or somehow deserved rape in any way, shape or form.  We need to speak out against a culture that tries to control women by dictating what they wear, what they do with their own bodies and how they conduct their sex lives.

Because I believe there is nothing that anyone can do or say that makes them deserve rape.  Ever.

But most importantly, as a sexual assault survivor myself, a rape survivor myself (I still have issues using that word in reference to my own experience) who has been doubted, questioned and denied the right to name what happened to me, I need to speak out against a culture that puts the onus of preventing rape on the victim, instead of where it should be, on the perpetrator.

The very reason I never reported my own rape (and other sexual assaults) was because I was led to believe that it was somehow my fault that I was raped.  I was shamed for being a victim of a horrible, violent act that someone else perpetrated against me.

So on the 28th of May, I will be joining the Brisbane SlutWalk, not to reclaim the word slut or proclaim myself a proud slut, but to stand up and stay that nobody deserves rape for any reason.

I urge you to become involved in the SlutWalk in your local area.  Don’t let the shame pushed at women hold you back from speaking out against the injustice of rape apologism and victim blaming.

Words: Use Them as Firewood and Let Them Burn

Published May 7, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

To every one of you who have felt the pain of someone’s hateful, hurtful words.  To every one of you who have been bullied, humiliated, shamed and trolled.  To every single one of you who have been told you are ugly, horrible, disgusting, gross, worthless, less than, or any other hurtful thing just because your body doesn’t match what someone thinks is acceptable, this song is for you.

Words

*original photo courtesy of (UB) Sean R on Flickr

On Expressions of Dismay and Disbelief…

Published April 11, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

It has been a bittersweet couple of days for me.  If you’re not on Twitter and involved in Fat Acceptance, you might have missed the absolute flood of tweets with the hashtag #thingsfatpeoplearetold.  The hashtag originated some time ago with Brian at Red No. 3, but was resurrected a couple of days ago after Catherine Deveny tweeted this damn offensive statement.

And it just took off.   I think the last time Brian tallied up the tweets he could find in a search there were over 2000 original tweets in less than 48 hours.  Mid afternoon I asked Brian to send me the word document he has been compiling, and the document is open here beside me as I type this, 216 pages long, with an average of 10 tweets per page.

I got into it, because it felt like an opportunity for me to vent all of the stupid, senseless, narrow-minded, ignorant, hateful, bigoted things that have been said to me over the years.  As the day went on yesterday, my feelings swung between bitter and sweet.  Bitter because reading all these tweets, and sharing my own, dredges up the hurt, anger, disgust, sorrow, frustration and general outrage I have felt at how I, and other fat people, are treated at the hands of general society.  But also sweetness, because not only was it amazing to hear all of these people finally have a voice, and a considerably powerful one, but there was also a strong sense of community and fellowship building over the past two days.  I gained dozens and dozens of new followers (though I also shed quite a few, who don’t like hearing the truth about the shit fat people are subjected to), and followed many new people myself.

But what I found most telling were the reactions from people who are not fat to many of the things that were tweeted under the hashtag.  And in a way, it makes me angry that so many people are only horrified now at these things.  I feel like “What the fuck have I been saying for the past two years if you’re only getting how horribly fat people are treated now?”

I’ll give you some examples of tweets that horrified some of the people who are not fat that I encountered today:

  • @fatheffalump: [well dressed woman physically pushes me over on an escalator] Well you shouldn’t be so fucking fat! #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @Nocturnal_Nyx said to me – fat people should kill themself and make more room for the normal people. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @lisa_n: No one’s ever going to love you if you don’t do something about that #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @Mrs_Sprat: You should feel lucky you were raped. How else would someone sleep with you? #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @fatheffalump: “Go away, lose weight, find a boyfriend and come back to me when you want babies.” (a Dr to me, aged 19 & in pain) #thingsfatpeoplearetold
  • @fatheffalump: “Keep walking ya fat cunt!” Yelled at me from a passing car as I went for an afternoon walk. #thingsfatpeoplearetold
These are just a few that I tweeted or retweeted that got horrified reactions from some of the not-fat folk I follow.


What people aren’t getting is that this shit isn’t one offs.  This shit isn’t something that happens on rare occasions.  It happens to lots of us, all the time.  I myself am literally spat at, have things thrown at me from passing cars, have shit called out at me, am mooed and barked at, have people call me a fat cunt, am photographed in public without my permission, particularly if I dare to eat in public, am laughed at by strangers on the street and receive death threats here on this blog, all of these things several times per week.  AND.  I.  AM.  NOT.  ALONE.   Over 2000 tweets in 48 hours give testament that this shit is happening to fat people, every day, every where.  God knows how many people out there are suffering without ever giving voice to the things that happen to them.

Simply because we are fat and we exist in this world.


Yet people are still surprised when we talk about this stuff.  There are still gasps of horror, exclamations of surprise, and declarations of “How can people behave like that to another human being?!”


You know how?  They can because to the people who do this shit, we are “the obese”.  We are not considered “people”, we are considered an “epidemic”.  Governments and the media declare a “war on obesity” – who do you think that war is on?  It’s on US.   We are those headless fatties you see on the news.  We are the “the obese” that the newspapers refer to when they wring their hands over how we’re costing the average taxpayer millions.  We are the “obese women” that journalists write pieces about how we should be ashamed of ourselves, hate ourselves and be shamed by society for being fat.  We are “the obese” who are shamed for daring to want to travel anywhere in a plane and told that we should pay more, buy two seats, not fly at all.  We are the ones who have no decent quality, attractive clothes provided for us at a reasonable price.  We are the ones who are represented on television by fat characters gorging themselves or bullying the “heroes”.   We are the ones that “non-profit organisations” have in mind when they say that childhood obesity is the equivalent to childhood abuse.  We are the ones our own governments set up to be bullied as children in the name of “public health”.


We are the ones who are reviled, shamed, ridiculed, bullied and abused at every fucking turn by the media, the weight loss industry, the beauty industry, the entertainment industry, even the fucking government.


Why else do you think we are treated like this?  Because we are not considered human beings, we’re considered sub-human, and that message is repeated over and over and over again, day in and day out.  So much that most of us spend our lives repeating it to ourselves.



So I want to say this to all of the people who are horrified at the things they read in these tweets.  Don’t just shake your head, gasp in horror, and cluck your tongue at how terrible people are to the poor fatties.  Stand the fuck up. Say something when you hear fat hate.  Speak up when you see someone being treated badly because of the size of their body.  Challenge those articles you see in magazines, newspapers and on television that perpetuate myths about fat people.  Ask questions of the “facts” you see spouted that shame fat people, think about who might just benefit from fat phobia.  After all, fat activists have been doing just this for decades.


Use your voice and join us in speaking out against sizeism.  How many of you will stand up and speak against the mistreatment of animals, yet just change the subject when you hear fat hate against your fellow human beings? How many of you won’t buy a product because it’s not idealogically sound to you, but will happily support an organisation or company  that shames fat people simply for existing in their bodies?


Look, your sympathy is nice.  I appreciate that you feel dismay that fat people are treated badly.  But ultimately we need more than your sympathy.  We need your solidarity.  We need you standing beside us and speaking up to all of society, to say that these are not acceptable ways to treat another human being.  And we need your vocal and obvious support.


We need more than quiet statements of dismay or disbelief.


We need shouts across the rooftops at the injustice of how fat people are treated.



I would like to dedicate this post to Dr Samantha Thomas, a woman who embodies what it means to be a true ally to fat activists, and who sticks her neck out and stands up for the rights of fat people every day, from getting her gorgeous mug on the telly to speaking up when she hears fat stigmatisation in public.  I feel blessed to have her stand beside me and other fat activists in this fight, and even more blessed to call her friend.