Tangled Up In Lace

All posts in the Tangled Up In Lace category

Breaking Open the Beauty Paradigm

Published March 31, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

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.

Advertisements

Documentary: fat body (in)visible

Published December 14, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

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:

Keeping it Positive if it Kills Me!

Published November 20, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

It’s been a bit of a rough week for me.  A stressful time at work with two huge projects about to hit their critical points, coupled with the most debilitating allergies (don’t let anyone tell you that allergies don’t have a high impact on your quality of life – they’ve never experienced them fully if they think so) have left my tolerance levels very low.  Where I would often ignore someone’s ignorant behaviour/attitude, I’ve just had no tolerance for that kind of shit this past week or so.

It all culminated in me making some decisions on how I use tools like Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, which blogs I read and follow, and what kind of approach I want to have for the world at large last night.

I vowed this blog would be positive this month, so I’m going to put a positive spin on this past shitty week and talk about some of the awesome people who’ve stood up to the ignorant, the insensitive, the bigoted, the narrow-minded and the downright rude over the past couple of weeks.  I want to celebrate those who with their passion, eloquence, strength of character and articulate writing make a difference to the world we live in.

There has been some drama within the Fatosphere/Fat Acceptance world over the past couple of weeks with one blogger (whom I won’t name, y’all have encountered it) who has made some folks uncomfortable, and instead of listening when people tried to respectfully point out how they were making others uncomfortable, they did one of their now famous rant “teardown” posts, which then grew into a big mess on Tumblr.  I personally have been the subject of one of these teardown posts and it still smarts to this day that instead of talking to me directly, I was torn to shreds publicly.  Oh the author apologised, and I accepted that apology, but it doesn’t mean that it was right to do it in the first place.

Anyway, there were three writers who really amazed me with their responses to the anger and arguments coming at them and others.  The first I saw was from Simone Lovelace, who with grace and a whole lot more dignity that I had to offer, laid out the points of her argument over and over with such clarity that I can’t tell you how impressed I was.  I am without doubt that so many who would read along would learn so much from Simone’s writing and hopefully take it away to think over a bit before continuing on.  I know I have.

The next one that knocked my socks off was the fabulous Jessica of Tangled Up in Lace.  Her response to a very angry post on Tumblr was nothing short of fucking brilliant.  For me, I nearly fell off my chair with this quote:

But seriously my fingers are too fat to play the tiny violin for you….

Not only does Jessica have the ability to make an amazing argument, and express herself beautifully, but she’s such an entertaining read as well.  Her sense of humour and creativity in her writing is the stuff that will have you spraying your Reese’s Puffs all over your computer screen with laughter and general cheering .  Or is that just me?  Go read her stuff, plus she’s all glamorous too, so you get even more value from her work.

However, the writer who really knocked my socks off in the whole brouhaha was Elizabeth of Spilt Milk, who posted a response on her Tumblr (read it here, I can’t leave this one un-linked) that touched on so many points that are so deeply important to me, and did so in a manner that was nothing short of brilliant, that I shed a few tears and needed a few days to process my own feelings around the topic before I talked about here.  To my mind, Elizabeth is one of the best writers in the Fatosphere and indeed beyond.  I am constantly learning from her and expanding my own thoughts thanks to her writing.

What all three of these women did so beautifully, that I’ve struggled with a bit over the past couple of weeks, is stood up and spoke up when someone was behaving in a way that bothered them.  To be honest, the circumstances behind it don’t really matter, it was the fact that they did so, and did so in an eloquent and articulate manner.

I realised over the past few days that I censor myself a lot of the time.  Particularly when I’m outside of my immediate circle of supportive friends and the fabulous Fatosphere.  For example I have a Twitter account that I use for work purposes (mostly library stuff and librarians) that I found myself tolerating some really ignorant behaviour, until this week, when I wasn’t feeling well, and I decided to challenge someone who has troubled me with their ignorance about health/weight before.  Of course, this guy had gone unchallenged before, so he really didn’t like me pointing out that something he posted and his assessment of weight loss being “simple really” was highly patronising.  The hostility he responded with opened up quite a shit storm.

Then of course, it being White Ribbon Day this coming week, and there being extra campaign activity in the media, the indignant choruses of “But men suffer violence too!!” have started up.  As a survivor of domestic abuse, this is a topic very close to my heart and one that I have spoken out about before.  So I found it particularly offensive that some of the people around me STILL don’t get it, and that I have to take up that message again.

And finally, the short lived Privilege Denying Dude (which has been closed down on Tumblr and pretty much taken over by privilege denying dudes on the meme generator – how meta!*) started out as a fantastic way to express just what the marginalised folk of the world are up against (and it’s ridiculous) but is now a neat little lesson in just how far those who wish to keep us marginalised will go to shut us up.  I believe there are threats of law suits against the creator/s of the meme who paid for and credited the image they used for the meme.  Yup, not even a silly internet meme is safe from the kind of person who thinks that nobody should speak out against the privilege denying dude!  I say keep making and sharing and reblogging the meme.

But what with all of the above things happening over the past week or so, I’ve seen a whole host of:

“You’re being too sensitive!”
“If you block or remove people who oppose your views, you’re just surrounding yourself with sycophants!”
“Feminists have no sense of humour.”
“Don’t be so paranoid!”
“You’re just censoring my freedom of speech.”

And my “favourite” of the week:

“Methinks somebody needs to take their meds.” (way to stigmatise mental illness and undermine other people’s realities hmm?)

What I want to get at with this post, the positive message I want you to take away, is that you don’t have to shut up and suffer through ignorance.  You are not censoring anyone, you’re not humourless, you’re not surrounding yourself with sycophants if you choose who you engage with, you are not too sensitive, and nobody ever has the right to question your fucking sanity or suggest anyone needs to be medicated.

These are all just tactics to shut us up when we speak up about ignorant attitudes and behaviour.  They’re passive-aggressive manoeuvres to put us on the back foot, to make us feel we have to explain why we are speaking up about their ignorance.

Keep speaking up.  Don’t let them undermine you by telling you that you’re too sensitive/paranoid/humourless.  Disengage whenever you need to, and cut them right out of your life if you want to and can.  Why should any of us waste our lives with people who treat us and others as though they are less than them?  Every minute you spend on someone who is disrespectful and wilfully ignorant, is one that you’re not able to spend with the wonderful people out there.  Every minute that I waste on trying to convince some patronising jerk on Twitter that he’s being ignorant is a minute that I could be spending talking to one of my awesome friends or reading the fantastic writing of people like those I have mentioned above.

Keep standing up.  Keep speaking out.  Disengage from those who would shut you up for calling out their ignorance and bigotry.

And in the words of Dr Seuss:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

*I just found out that Privilege Denying Dude was shut down on Tumblr, but has sprung up again on Blogger.  Linky linky!

Valuable

Published September 5, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

It has happened again, I’ve been inspired to blog by another fabulous Fat Acceptance writer.  There are some amazing writers out there, and they just get me thinking and writing so effectively.

In particular, this post by the lovely Jessica of Tangled Up In Lace, who as well as providing a great blog, has one of the most fabulous Tumblr’s in existence.  I reblog more of her stuff on Tumblr than anyone else.

Anyway, back to the post of Jessica’s that has inspired this post.  Jessica shares an experience in her post of being duped into attending an event by being given sketchy and misleading information.  She and her friend turned up to what they were led to believe was a fat positive pinup modelling shoot, but turned out to be an event to promote a porn website and BBW (big, beautiful woman) nightclub.  She goes on to give her thoughts about fat admiration and the BBW concept, which then segues into thoughts on feederism.

I get quite angry when I find people using Fat Acceptance and Fat Admiration/BBW as interchangeable concepts.  Please understand, I don’t have any issues with fat admiration, or the BBW culture per se, but I don’t believe it is right to equate the two as being Fat Acceptance.

To me, Fat Acceptance is a social justice movement.  It’s about ending prejudice and bigotry, about pride, respect, dignity and inclusion.  To have that broken down to a mere vehicle for sexual attraction diminishes the importance of what FA activists and advocates are doing to a mere “Hey I’m hot too.”  Yes, fat admiration and the BBW culture is often a very effective way to raise ones self esteem, and strong self esteem is at the very core of FA, but to break it down to merely promoting fat being sexy undermines the power of being included and respected in society as the fat people we are.

It’s great to feel beautiful and sexy.  But to have that as the primary identifier of who you are, and to be considered attractive and sexy just for your fatness and not because of anything else about you removes any depth or complexity to you as a person.

In my mind, to reduce a person to mere fatness for sexual pleasure is no different to reducing a person to mere fatness with the aim of curing or eradicating obesity.  It makes fat people “other” than the human beings that they are.

And yet, I would say a significant portion of the visitors to Fat Acceptance blogs are fat admirers/BBW fans.  How do I know this?  Let’s start with the most prominent search terms used to navigate into this blog alone.  They’re all about fat body parts, and most of them are about “hot/sexy” fat body parts.  Again, it’s lovely to be admired, but it’s incredibly frustrating to be seen as just a bunch of fat body parts sought out for sexual gratification.

I also see it in a less sexual form, where fat women are celebrated for being gorgeous and glamorous by other women, and attention being paid merely to how they look, without any consequence to the rest of them.  Their intellect, their humour, their kindness, their outspokenness, their passion, their eloquence and so on.  The very focus is on how the fat women look, rather than who they actually are.

It isn’t helped that when we finally get a voice in mainstream media, that very mainstream media focuses on how we look as opposed to what we think, what we need and want, and who we really are.

Not only does this diminish those beautiful, glamorous, gorgeous women to their external appearance, but it sends the message that women are only valuable for their looks, and that those who are not considered beautiful, or glamorous, or gorgeous have less worth, that they don’t have a place in Fat Acceptance and society in general.

All of us are worth far more than that.  Fat Acceptance is worth far more than that.