Sydney

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Australian Fat Studies Conference: Thank You

Published September 12, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Here I sit, home from Sydney and the Australian Fat Studies conference, and there is just so much buzzing around in my head that I want to share with you all, but I’m still processing it all and dealing with some emotional stuff of my own that has been borne of thinking about all of this stuff in detail for a few days.  So I’ll let a lot of it burble until it’s ready to be shared with everyone.

What I want to do tonight is thank the amazing, incredible women who enrich my lives immensely, that I was able to meet this weekend.  So I’m going to thank you all individually right here.  Let’s try the order that I met each of you (except one I’m going to save until last).

Bri of Fat Lot of Good – Thank you Bri for being a strong, intelligent woman with a massive heart.  Thank you for standing up as a proud fat woman and speaking out against fat hate.  Thank you for sharing your story with us in your conference paper, for moving us all to tears as we ached for you, and ached for ourselves with the similarities in our own stories.  Thank you for welcoming me with a hug.   Thank you for making me laugh, for making me think, for making me strong.  You are such a beautiful person.

Dr Samantha Thomas (her blog, The Discourse) – Thank you for your empathy and your heart.  Thank you for caring about the quality of life of fat people.  Thank you for fighting for us in the face of so much opposition, so much aggression, so much bullshit.  Thank you for feeling as deeply as you do.  Thank you for your passion and energy.  Thank you for bringing a voice of reason and intelligence to a field so full of bias, disrespect and dehumanisation.  Thank you for envying my boobs.  Thank you for treating me as an equal even though I don’t have a jot of the education you have.  Thank you for your encouragement and support.  Thank you for just being the delightful person you are.

Frances of Corpulent – you are pure sunshine.  You are so full of joy that it radiates out of you and shines on everyone around you.  Thank you for that joy.  Thank you for your sweetness.  Thank you for being the first person to show me that bodies that looked like mine were beautiful.   Thank you for being bold and colourful and vibrant.  Thank you for your humour and magnificent smile.  Thank you for just being the joyous, beautiful woman you are.

Dr Cat Pausé of Massey University in New Zealand – we have only just met, but thank you for coming out as a proud, fat feminist, and giving me the courage to do the same.  Thank you for your warmth this weekend, I was drawn to your company immediately.

Scarlett O Claire – another woman I have just met – thank you so much for sharing your story, it hit so many common points for me.  Thank you for putting yourself out there as a beautiful performer, for bravely sharing things that still hit emotional buttons for you, and simply for being present in the world, just as you are.

Kelli Jean Drinkwater – we also just met, but thank you for being fucking amazing!  Thank you for being proud of your body, the first body that looks anything remotely like mine that I have seen portrayed positively.  Thank you for being visible as a fat woman.  Thank you for your sense of humour, your friendliness and your fabulous style.

Charlotte Cooper (view Charlotte’s blog, Obesity Timebomb here) – I know you are deeply embarrassed by the fangirl thing Charlotte, and it’s not really like that (we’re not the FA equivalent of Bieber Fever).  But what you do, your words, your art, your ideas, are so significant to me and I know many others.  What you do in fat activism is so very important to me, and has changed my life in so many positive ways, that I can’t help but be thrilled to have the opportunity to meet you and hear you speak.  Thank you so much for the work that you do, thank you for coming here to participate in this conference and thank you for kicking out the jams.

Finally, last but in no way least, thank you so much to the amazing, incredible, awesome Dr Sam Murray.  I do not have enough words to tell you what this conference, the space you created there and the dialogues that you are creating and encouraging mean to me.  I literally don’t have the words, I’m still processing!  This weekend has been a life changing event for me.  You did that.  With your dedication, with your passion and a whole lot of damn hard work.  And what a delightful soul you are.  You are utterly adorable in so many ways.  You have made me laugh, cry, think, and most of all, believe.  The only words I can find right now for you are simply: Thank you so very, very much.

And to all who attended and participated, thank all of you too, for being part of an event that has meant so much to me.  For those of you who couldn’t come, check out the companion site, Fat Dialogue

Fats on a Plane

Published September 9, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Hello friends! I am safely ensconced in my hotel room in Sydney, after a long and tiring day of travelling to get here. I am seeing lots of fabulous fatties around the hotel, but of course I can’t just say “Hey! Are you a fatty?!” to complete strangers. Just in case they aren’t here for the Australian Fat Studies conference!

If you are reading this, and are attending the conference, and you see me around the traps, I’m the one with the hot pink hair, say hello. I’m friendly, really!

My day started with waking up to find a text message from Qantas telling me that my flight had been cancelled! No other news, just “Hi, your flight has been cancelled, call us!” Eep! Thankfully they had booked me onto a flight an hour later. I’m lucky that I didn’t book a flight late tonight or first thing tomorrow, or I could have been sitting around in the airport for the night, or worse – not been here in time to give my presentation tomorrow!

I decided in the little bit of extra time that I had this morning that I might put Qantas to the test as a fat friendly airline. Because we all know how stressful travelling as a fatty can be, what with airlines charging us for two seats, the hostility from other passengers and the simple discomfort of fitting our bodies into seats designed to squeeze every penny out of passengers.

Now I have flown Qantas several times before, and always been pleased with them and couldn’t remember ever being treated ill because of my size. But I haven’t flown since becoming involved in Fat Acceptance, and I think that does open ones eyes to things a little more. I tend to spend the extra money and fly Qantas because I simply like their customer service. I flew Virgin Blue once and it sucked. They treated their customers like cattle and couldn’t even be bothered to put any effort into anything that could be considered “service”.

I started by going through the Qantas website and all of the policies for flights, looking for any mention of passenger weight or “passengers of size”. Nothing. I couldn’t find a single clause anywhere that even mentioned a passenger’s size. There were a few bits about contacting the airline if you have “special requirements” but they never hinted that size would be considered a special requirement. So they got brownie points there.

The next thing was the baggage check. I know with other airlines, when you turn up and they see that you’re fat, they often change things around to put you in different seats. It happened to me a few times when I was in the US, both at the baggage check point and again at the boarding desk. I’d be singled out and asked to wait a moment while they “Just moved seating around a bit.” They were always polite, but when it’s three fatties being pulled aside, while all the non-fats board… yeah, kinda obvious! Qantas however, not even a blip on the radar.

Next it was the seats in the waiting lounge. Now while I wouldn’t call them generous, I certainly could fit my deathfatz body into them, between the arms with no problem at all. They’re not exactly comfortable, but that’s not because of their lack of size.

Finally it was time to board, and this is where I expected things to get gnarly. From the size of the seats, to the seat belt length, to whoever got to sit next to me, these things are all high risk moments for the fat of the world.

Qantas seats aren’t too bad actually. Again, not at all generous, but certainly big enough to fit my body in without fat overhang, and I’m a deathfatz. I did find that my shoulders were too wide for it, but so were most adults except for the mega tiny. The arm rest went all the way down fine, and I had room to fish my seatbelt out and use the controls for the radio/headset.

Then I waited to see who came to sit next to me. That’s always an adventure – I’ve had some serious hostility from people who’ve had the seat next to me on flights, and I’ve also had some sweeties. I had already dealt with the old lady sitting behind me pulling my hair and saying “I like the colour.” I wanted to turn around and say, “That’s nice but you don’t have to pull it lady!” But I was polite. Anyway a dude turned up to sit beside me, and he was very nice. Never even batted an eyelid. He was even nice when I accidentally plugged my headset into his.

And finally, I decided to really test them. I was pretty sure the seatbelt was going to fit me as is, but thought I’d ask for the extender just to see how they responded. One of the attendants stopped just behind me at one point, so I leant back and said “Excuse me, could I please have a seatbelt extender?” She was very friendly and didn’t make a fuss, just said “Oh yes, of course you can sweetie!” and off she went. Came back a few minutes later with it in her hand, and I said “Actually, I don’t need it after all.” to which she replied “You’re comfortable? That’s great, if you need anything sweetie you just let me know.”

Now THAT is how to deal with a fat customer on a plane. Treated with respect, good customer service and without a fuss, the whole way through.

Qantas folks. The fat friendly airline.

Heading South

Published September 8, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Well folks, I am off to Sydney tomorrow for the Australian Fat Studies conference.  Big props to Dr Sam Murray and the team at Macquarie University for organising this conference, at which I am thrilled to be giving a paper at on Friday.  I’m really looking forward to attending, spending time in Sydney and of course, meeting all of the other rad fatties who will be attending.

Rest assured that I will publish my paper here after I have presented it so that those of you who cannot attend will be able to read it, and as I have a laptop with me for the weekend, I will do my best to blog regularly and keep you all updated on the fab stuff happening at the conference and the satellite events that are happening over the weekend.

Until then, Sam has launched the website that accompanies and compliments this conference, Fat Dialogue.  Pop on over and visit it now, have a bit of an explore.

And keep an eye on my Twitter and the Fat Heffalump facebook page, as I’ll tweet and update there as well, with goings on from the weekend, when I can.