The Hoopla

All posts in the The Hoopla category

Holy Crap – What a Roller Coaster!

Published April 27, 2012 by Fat Heffalump


I know, it has been awhile since I blogged last.  But this post is going to be all about what has been going on in my life since the whole Hoopla debacle and I want to clear a few things up too.

So, things have been kind of chaotic for me.  The big thing is that I’m moving house in a week’s time.  Which for me is a seriously big deal – I’ve lived in my little place here for fourteen and a half years – the longest I have lived anywhere in my life.  But I’m also moving across the city, not to mention doing almost everything on my own (but I do have a couple of awesome friends who have been really helpful – love youse!) and I’m moving because my current landlord is kicking me out, not for any negative reason, but because I no longer meet their criteria to rent one of their properties, which really sticks in my craw.  So the whole thing is really massive for me.  That said, I have a lovely new place lined up to move into that has lots of fabulous things that I don’t have here.  My own private laundry!  An east facing balcony!  A lock up garage (lots of storage for me because I don’t drive)!  Proper wardrobes, linen cupboard and kitchen pantry!  Just the storage alone is making me excited.  But best of all, I will be living by the sea.  I am moving to a bay side suburb, and my new flat is only metres from the foreshore.  I can’t wait to be able to ride my bike and walk up and down the waterfront at any time I choose.  Not to mention those gorgeous sea breezes.

Yeah, so that’s the biggest upheaval.

But as well as going through a full residential relocation, I’ve had so much else on in the past few months.

There’s the shiny new library we opened at the end of March.  I always think bringing a new library into the world is somewhat like bringing a new baby into the world.  There is a long, uncomfortable gestation, then a difficult labour and intense birth, but then you have this beautiful newborn that you love like no other and are already beginning to think you might like another one!

I also sprained my ankle a couple of weeks ago.  Walking to my bus stop, moved aside to let a cute little old couple that looks like Santa and Mrs Claus by on the footpath, hit an uneven bit of concrete and turned my ankle.  Went down like a sack of spuds, landed on my right knee and sprained  my left ankle.  I’m healing ok, was very limpy for a couple of weeks there and am stuck in a compression bandage for another two weeks yet, but I’m thankful I’m strong and in robust health so that I can heal well.

Y’all know about the Hoopla drama.  And in the thick of all of that, an interview I did back in January was published in the Sun Herald (Sydney).  I had seen the online version, but when a friend left me a message to tell me that there was a “huge” photo of me in the print version, I was kind of “Oh yeah, that’s nice.”  Then she sent me the paper copy:

That’s a library card sitting on top of the paper to give scale (same size as a credit card).  I’m about half the page!!  I sent it to my Grandma, she was tickled pink.  I like how it shows off my gold We Love Colors tights and the leopard print Chucks my friend Kylie found for me in the UK.

And then there has been more media interest… Kelli Brett from ABC Radio Melbourne’s The Main Ingredient interviewed me for her programme.  The podcast hasn’t gone up live yet but I’ll share when it does.  Plus a news editor from the Australian Women’s Weekly interviewed me a couple of weeks ago, for a piece that I think will be in the June or July edition.  More on that in a minute.

I do just want to clarify something.  There has been some suggestion from several people that The Hoopla publishing my piece some weeks ago is the reason that these media gigs have been coming my way.  I would just like to make it very clear that this is not true.  I was interviewed for the Sun Herald back in January (on Australia Day, January 26th, to be exact, and photographed in the first week or so of February) and any subsequent media contact has come from either this blog or that Sun Herald article.  One of the recent interviewers had never even heard of The Hoopla, the other wasn’t interested in it.  As much as there might be people that would like to claim that they are the reason for my “overnight success” (after over 3 years of slogging away at this stuff as a second, unpaid, full time job), it is simply not true.  The Hoopla did not “discover me”, I contacted them and asked if they would publish my writing.

Right, now that we’ve got that out of the way!  I am very lucky to get these opportunities, but that luck is coupled by my own hard work.

As well as being interviewed by the Australian Women’s Weekly, they have set up a photo shoot on Monday, which I am both nervous and excited about.  They’re going the whole kit and caboodle with a studio shoot, with fashion stylist, make-up and hair and Autograph Fashion are kindly loaning us the clothes for the shoot.  I am so excited, because what fun is it to get all dolled up!  But I am very nervous and anxious, as I’m suffering some impostor syndrome about it all.  I’ve been labelled the “ugly fat chick” my whole life, and it’s just bizarre to think that I’m doing a photo shoot with AWW, a magazine that I read my mother’s copies of as a kid.  As I said on Twitter this evening “I’m in your magazines, smashing your beauty standards!”

And the other big, exciting news for me is that I’ve found a way to wangle the finances to attend the Massey University, Palmerston North Fat Studies: Reflective Intersections Conference in New Zealand!  I am SOOOO excited, not only am I taking a holiday (two beautiful weeks) to New Zealand, but I’m going to be able to get all fab fatty at the conference.  I’ll get to see friends I made at the last conference, and hopefully make some new friends.  It’s worth putting myself into hock for!  Of course I promise to blog all about it, take lots of photos and I have also submitted an abstract for a paper I am writing.  Cross fingers it gets accepted so I can present it.

So, there you have the absolute roller coaster of chaos that my life is at the moment.  I’m knackered, a bit sore, sneezy from all my allergies stirred up by packing and cleaning, and in desperate need of a decent night’s sleep and a couple of days relaxation.  But I’m also  excited, challenged and happy.

Hope you are all in positive places in your lives too!

An Open Letter to Wendy Harmer and The Hoopla

Published April 12, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Dear Wendy Harmer, the Hoopla Team,

I am writing to you here, in an open letter on my blog, because I have to have control over the environment that this is published in, and what kind of content is posted in the comments.  I don’t do this to prevent anyone from having their say, they can already do that in their own space.  I do it because I am a human being, and I need to have SOME space in the world that I am protected and feel safe.

I am deeply, deeply offended at your decision to publish the piece today by Philip Barker*.  Not simply because he chooses to further stigmatise fat people by repeatedly implying that we are sedentry, gluttonous, unwilling to take personal responsibility  and out of control – people say that all the time about fat people, we’re used to it.  I am deeply offended because you allowed him to use me, to comment on me and my life, in a way that connects anti-fat rhetoric to me personally.

If Philip Barker had simply written an op-ed piece about how he believes weight stigma is wrong, but continued stigmatising fat people, I would have been annoyed, but not personally offended.  It’s ridiculous that he would, because he is not a fat person, nor does he have any expertise on weight or health, so why is he having his opinion on the matter published by a major online magazine such as yourself?  Why is some guy who works in marketing given space to give his opinion on obesity?  What relevance is obesity to Philip Barker?

To be honest, I could care less about Philip Barker – he is no authority on anything to do with weight or health, he is just a marketing man who thinks he has the right to define which bodies are “ok” socially and which bodies are not.  I am sure Philip Barker could find better ways to use his life… or maybe he can’t, I don’t know.

But you published, and included my name and photographs, a piece that does absolutely nothing but minimise the vitriolic anti-fat rhetoric aimed at myself and people like me, which will directly affect me.  Already, just in the comments of the piece alone, people are making assumptions about my health, how my body feels and works, and who I am.

You are not just “encouraging a conversation” when you publish pieces like this.  You are making the lives of myself, and people like me even more difficult than they already are.  You are putting already vulnerable people right in the line of fire of some horrible, horrible hatred.  You are contributing to an environment where people think it is perfectly acceptable to tell me to kill myself, to tell me I am revolting, to publicly harass me, to send me death and rape threats, to contact my employer to make vexatious claims, to send me anonymous messages of hate and to harass me in my spaces online.

And because of your allowing a piece that directly names and stigmatises me personally, you directly cause these things to happen to ME.

You have a duty of care as high profile media professionals to ensure that your publication does not cause anyone direct harm.  You have power that I do not have to match you with.  You are a media organisation, headed by a high profile media personality.  I am an IT librarian from Brisbane who has a blog.

The thing is, this fat activism business is not a hobby I do just to fill my time.  It is my fight to live.  It is my fight to keep my self esteem and not be completely crushed by the hatred that is spewed in my direction for simply living in a fat body.  It is my fight claim the space I need to live my life to the fullest with whatever cards I am dealt in life.  I don’t do this because I need to fill time and enjoy it – I do this to keep myself strong, healthy, happy and alive.  The alternative to my being a fat activist was crippling depression and absolutely no self esteem, which led to my attempting to end my life on more than one occasion.  It’s only that I found fat activism that I am alive today.  It’s only because of fat activism that I continue to thrive and live my life to the fullest – mostly because of my community of fellow fatties who understand what it is like to be hated for your body, and who are always there to listen and offer support.  They are my family.

It is my life we’re dealing with here.  Not conversation, not debate, not public interest.  My own life.  And my life is representative of many other people who live in fat bodies just like mine.

It is my greatest wish to be able to hang up my fat activist hat and never have to write or lobby about this subject again.  It is my greatest wish that there would be nothing for me ever to write about on the subject of fatness.  Because for that to happen, it would mean that I, and people like me, would be treated as human beings.  That we would never open a magazine or newspaper or turn on the news and see an article vilifying us.  That I could go through my life without being publicly scrutinised, judged and abused.  That I could find everything I needed without it being suggested that I am “promoting obesity” by wanting clothes that fit, equal access to public transport without being bullied for “taking up too much space” or by just living my life comfortably and happily.

By publishing that piece today, you took that away from me for even longer.  You made the fight all that much harder.  You made my life that much more of a fight for dignity and respect.

I think I deserve an apology.  I certainly deserve to be acknowledged as a human being whose life today was impacted negatively by your publication of that article.

*I will not be linking to The Hoopla until further notice, as I do not believe in giving web traffic to a site that directly causes me harm.

Food Freedom

Published March 23, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Well what an exciting day or so I’ve had.  What with my piece being published in The Hoopla, I’ve had a whole lot more attention here, on Twitter and of course in the comments on The Hoopla.  Mostly people are pretty cool, they get just how damaging fat stigma is.  Sadly, many of them experience it themselves, which is always heartbreaking.  Of course, there are always a few who are willfully ignorant who go down the route of “BUT THERE’S AN OBESITY EPIDEMIC AND YOU’RE GONNA DIE FATTY!!” and just will not be swayed otherwise.  I even got my regular hater cropping up there too, how special do I feel to have someone who hates me so much that they go through all of my online accounts and search for clues of my health/eating/lifestyle?

Anyway, the message I keep seeing repeated by those who just don’t get it is that fat people all overeat, we’re lazy and we clearly have no idea to take care of our bodies.  These comments have a definite purpose – they’re designed to make us justify our bodies, our lives, our health and our choices.  The purpose of those comments is to make fat people say “But I eat healthy!!” or “But I’m on a diet!” or something along those lines.  It’s another control mechanism to make us jump when they say so, so that they can feel superior.

But of course – we unconsciously do it.  We don’t talk about the food we eat, or if we do, we justify our eating, making it clear that it has been ages, or we’re eating “good” foods, or whatever.  We’re careful about talking about needing to rest or sleep, always sure to be clear how hard we’ve worked so that it’s clear we’ve “earned” that rest.

Well, I’ve had enough of that shit.  Eating is not unhealthy. Not even for fat people. Nor is sleeping. Every human being must do both.  Nobody, not even fat people, owe anyone an explanation or declaration of their health. It’s irrelevant to almost everything.  Fat people do not have to prove that they are “worthy” of basic human respect and dignity to be allowed to live.  All of us except a very small few are not “addicted to food”, no more than we’re “addicted to breathing”.  We need food, rest and sleep to survive.  Every single one of us.

It’s time to set ourselves free of the need to justify the things we need to do as human beings, particularly eating.  It’s time to set ourselves free of the urge to prove that every morsel we eat is “healthy”. We have to stop letting other people determine what we should and shouldn’t be eating or doing with our own bodies and lives.

So I started tweeting with the hashtag #freefatty earlier today, and urged other people to do the same.!/Fatheffalump/status/183044928421634049!/Fatheffalump/status/183045064795242496

Some of the responses I got back were:

I even decided to tweet a picture of myself eating something that would be labelled “unhealthy”, check it out:

Om nom, lolly snake.

I know, I know, how dare I put anything in my mouth that is not, as Kate Harding would say, Splenda flavoured air!  How dare a fat, Type 2 diabetic eat a lolly!  I tweeted a picture of the piece of birthday cake that I ended up having too, after my boss went and got one for my colleague.  Look:

Happy Birthday Kellie!

It is my colleague Kellie’s birthday, and we wanted to celebrate that.  I think this was raspberry coconut cake, I forgot to ask.  It was made with real butter, eggs and sugar.  I didn’t talk about how “sinful” it was for me to have a piece of birthday cake, I didn’t apologise for joining in the celebration and I didn’t make a comment about how it would go straight to my hips/thighs/waist.  I just accepted a piece like everyone else, wished Kellie a happy birthday and enjoyed a little down time with my team.

And you know what?  Here’s my dinner tonight:

Yup, that’s a real bagel, with real cream cheese (not light), ham and roasted capsicum.  It doesn’t come in a box marked “Lite”, there are no points on it, it’s not powdered and intended to “stave off hunger pangs”.  The bagel is the authentic deal, not low carb or gluten free.  I don’t have to make sure everyone knows I “earned it” because I exercised or had a busy day.  I don’t have to make sure people know it is “diet” or “healthy”.  I don’t have to promise I’ll “be good” tomorrow to justify it for my dinner.  It’s dinner time, I have beautiful fresh, real-deal bagels and fresh fillings, I’m hungry and it tastes good.

None of us have to play those games around food, sleep, rest and health any more.  We don’t.  If someone passes comment, reply “Well lucky I’m eating it and not you then.” or “It’s food, not the anti-Christ, you won’t go to hell.”  Or simply “Please don’t place judgement/comment on my food or my body.”

I am free to eat my dinner, relax and live my life.  And so are you.