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Genuine Concern vs Concern Trolling

Published January 4, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Quick housekeeping – I’ve started a Tumblr for all of the troll comments I get here on Fat Heffalump.  Behold – Trollapalooza.  Be warned though, you may find it triggering, as there is an awful lot of fat hatred, threats of violence, healthist bullshit and general nastiness that comes my way.

Now, on to today’s post!

I think it’s time to talk about concern.  I’ve noticed a phenomenon, one where people don’t seem to recognise what is legitimate concern for someone’s wellbeing, and what is concern trolling for the sake of sticking your nose up in someone’s business, or using it as an excuse to shame them or make oneself feel superior.

So let’s talk about it, and learn to recognise what is genuine concern, and what is concern trolling.

Genuine concern is ok.  In fact, it’s part of what bonds us as social beings.  When someone we care about, a family member or friend, or even a colleague, is not their usual selves, when something just doesn’t seem right, or when we actually know they are unwell, and we are worried about them, we are genuinely concerned about them.  That friend who seems to have lost their energy, the colleague who has gone from calm and productive to stressed and struggling, the family member who just isn’t their usual self.  Or someone you know who is actually suffering illness (because they’ve told you they are).  It’s perfectly acceptable to ask after their wellbeing.  Things like:

  • Are you ok?
  • You don’t seem like your usual self, is everything alright?
  • Can I help with anything?
  • If you want to talk, you know I’m available for you ok?
  • How are you coping with [insert illness or injury they have told you about here]?

Do know, that you shouldn’t do it because you’re curious, but because you genuinely want to help.  And also know, that if someone says they’re fine, the answer is not to nag them about it, but to say “Please know that I’m here to listen/help if you need it ok?”  Sure, sometimes “I’m fine.” is a way to fob you off when someone doesn’t want to bother you, or because they’re ashamed/embarrassed about needing help, but sometimes it’s also just “I’m fine.”

However, it is not ok to suggest someone has an illness, or that they might get an illness due to their behaviour or body.  It’s not ok to say to that friend eating a donut “Be careful, you’ll get diabetes.” or any other illness or injury.  Even if you know someone has an illness or injury, unless they have spoken directly about it in your presence, it’s not ok to question them on it.  For example, I can’t tell you the number of people who have actually asked me what my blood sugar readings are like since they found out I am diabetic.  NONE OF YOUR FUCKIN’ BUSINESS PAL!

Now, on to what constitutes concern trolling – a little 101 on how to prove yourself nothing but a trolling douchebag who doesn’t give a shit about anyone’s health but wants to shame people for their weight:

  • Stating that someone being fat is unhealthy – and then suggesting they kill themselves to save us all money.
  • Stating that someone being fat is unhealthy – and then bitching about how much it costs the taxpayer money.
  • Stating that someone being fat is unhealthy – and then diagnosing by looking at them (or a photograph of them) that they are going to explode from hernias, high blood pressure, heart attacks, arthritis and any other number of illnesses often correlated (but never causally linked to) fat.
  • Shaming someone for suffering any injury or illness by pointing out that they “caused” it because they are fat.
  • Stating “I’m concerned about your health!” without knowing ANYTHING about that person other than they have a fat body.
  • Attributing laziness or gluttony to someone just because they have a fat body.
  • Accusing someone of being irresponsible about their health because they have a fat body.
  • Demanding people prove their health, or give you information about their health and wellbeing.
  • Claiming people are “in denial” about their health, or their future health.
  • Insisting that you know about their health better than they do.

If you do any of the things that I’ve just listed above, you are nothing more than a bully and a troll.  There, I’m saying it out loud and clear.  I’ll say it again:

If you engage in any of the behaviours in the list above, you are a bully and a troll and you need to stop that shit right now.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I have to keep saying it over and over and over again – If it’s not your body, it’s not your business.

It’s not a difficult concept.

Next time you feel like commenting on or judging someone’s health or wellbeing, ask yourself “Is it my body?”  If the answer is no, then shut the fuck up and mind your own business.

Fatties – the next time someone tries to concern troll you, just ask them – “Is it your body?” Again, if the answer is no, tell them to shut the fuck up and mind their own business.

You don’t have to be nice, be polite, be pleasing, to anyone who concern trolls you.  You don’t have to tolerate their behaviour.  You don’t have to “respect their opinion”.  You don’t have to “not rock the boat”, or “don’t take it seriously”.  If someone is up in your business telling you what to do with your body and your health, rock the damn boat all you like, and take it as seriously as you feel you need to.  It’s YOUR body, YOUR health and YOUR life.  You get to choose what you do with it, and who you allow to have any interaction with it.

Take no fucking prisoners!

How Does Dieting Benefit Our Health?

Published September 29, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

**Trigger warning, topic is about weight loss diets and disordered eating.**

I got a fantastic question on my Tumblr yesterday, that got me thinking a bit about diet culture and the constant calls for fat people to go on diets “for their health” and “take care of yourself”.

I was thinking about my own life of dieting, and how I felt all those times, and what my own health was like in those years.

When people say fat people should go on diets “for their health”, they’re not factoring in a) how dieting  affects the body and b) the mental health of the fat person.  Even if they are genuinely concerned for someone’s health and not just using concern trolling to police fat bodies because of their appearance, how much thought do they give to what dieting turns people into?

Now let’s just establish here that we know that fat people aren’t lazy gluttons and that we’re not all stuffing our faces 24 x 7 and that “dieting” doesn’t equal “just eating healthy”.  I know that’s the rhetoric that is spouted at us all the time, that we just have to “Put down the donut/cheeseburger/whatever.”  Let’s make it nice and clear that I’m talking about food restriction or replacement, rather than the mythical “just eat healthy” that the anti-fat seem to think we are not doing already.  When people say “Just eat healthy.” they don’t actually mean that, they mean diet, because hey, there’s no possible way a fat person can already be “just eating healthy”.  I’m talking about weight loss diets.  Calorie counting, no carb, no fat, no sugar, cabbage soup, replacement shakes, Atkins, South Beach, Pritikin, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, grapefruit, high protein, high fibre, high cardboard… whatever the fuck diet we were on at the time.  And this includes any of the disordered eating habits too – bingeing, purging, starvation, laxative abuse, diet pills, exercise bingeing, and even weight loss surgery.  Anything that is designed to restrict, reduce or purge for the supposed purpose of making us thin.

Can I ask… have any of you ever known a person, fat or thin or somewhere in between, who has been on a weight loss diet/programme, who is/was actually HAPPY while they are doing so?

*crickets chirping*

I know I was never happy.  I always felt like shit.  Having to measure every bit of food, count points, calories or grams, having to think about what I was going to eat every minute of the day.  I couldn’t just relax and spend time with friends, because I’d have to think about what foods met my diet.  Organising lunches for work was a headache and I was always on my guard for people questioning my eating habits (or lack of them).  Grocery shopping was even more nightmarish than I find it now (and I hate it now, thank God for online grocery shopping!) because almost everything was “forbidden” on whatever diet I was on at the time.  I was always hungry.  When I did get to eat, it was shitty.  Either it was really bad food (cabbage soup?) or it wasn’t even food at all, it was some powdery substitute or rubbery/cardboard diet version.  I never wanted the things I was “allowed” to eat, and yet I was so unbelievably hungry all the time that I had to eat them when I could.

Physically, my body fought me all the way.  I was constantly sick with every cold and virus that came around.  My skin was bad.  My teeth were terrible.  I constantly had to fight bad breath and diarrhea.  I had constant hayfever and headaches.  I never had any energy and never slept properly.

Emotionally, I was depressed, anxious and obsessive.  Depressed because I hated being hungry all the time and having to eat things that tasted like cardboard or rubber, depressed because no matter what I did, I could never lose weight and keep it off.  Anxious because I never knew where I could get “suitable” food, and I hated anyone knowing I was on a diet.  Anxious because my blood sugar was always low and I was shaky and couldn’t concentrate.  Obsessive because food might actually GET me, if I let down my guard.

Yet all of this was supposed to benefit my health?  How?

We all know that diets fail on the long term in 95% of cases, with weight regain plus more, but we never talk about how bloody miserable dieting is.  How nobody is actually happy while they are dieting, and because 95% of them find diets fail, they’re not happy in the long term either.  The whole diet culture just sets people, particularly women, up to be miserable all the time, both during dieting and then when it inevitably fails.

And this is supposed to be for our health?  This is supposed to be “taking care of ourselves”.

I call bullshit.

Instead, we can put all that crap behind us, re-learn to eat to nourish us, let go of exercising as some kind of penance and learn to find activity that we enjoy and live our lives to the fullest no matter what our weight.

I know which sounds like taking care of myself to me.

You Have No Power Over Me – The Futility of Trolling

Published September 1, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

The bulk of this post was written a week ago, and I had intended to publish it then.  However with my coming down with some kind of stomach bug at the end of last week, and then other topics coming up, it waited patiently in my queue, ready to be posted when I got a moment.

However, over the past 48 hours, I’ve been hit by a wall of trollery both here (mostly at people pissed off that I and others keep saying that no matter how fat someone is, they still deserve nice clothes) and on other social media sites of mine – particularly my Tumblr.  So this topic became all the more relevant for me.  I was also preparing to post it tonight when I read this beautifully honest and heartfelt piece from Gluten-free Girl, which I cannot resist linking back to here.

So, I’m going to talk about a subject that is often considered taboo in Fat Acceptance spaces.  It’s often taboo in many social justice spaces.  That is the subject of trolling.

I bring this up because of a comment on an earlier post about someone being attacked by trolls, and because I read this excellent piece by Melissa over at Shakesville about the level of hate that is aimed in her direction, and Ragen from Dances with Fat often mentions the same issue.

There is this unspoken (or rarely spoken) understanding that to talk about the amount of hate and trolling that we get, we are somehow feeding the trolls, that by acknowledging their presence, we’re encouraging them to continue their shitty behaviour.  However, what nobody acknowledges is that they troll anyway, whether you ignore them or out them, whether you keep silent about the hatred or you speak about it.

Just existing feeds the trolls.

To me, this results in a real feeling of solitude, as though we stand alone in dealing with this.  But the truth is, we don’t.  It happens to all of us in the Fatosphere at some point, and the more visible you are, and the more you stand up and speak out about the injustice of fat stigma, the more they do it.

The real irony to me is, it seems that the happier you are, the more comfortable you are in your skin and in your life, the more vicious and nasty the trolling gets to be.

That’s the bit that I don’t understand.  I actually have people, not just random anonymous trolls who pop up for a bit of “You suck, fatty boombaladah!”, but people who have met me somewhere (either through work, or through friends or other things I’m involved with, or they know who I am through someone else) and they are so angry that I’m happy, that I’m confident and have strong self esteem, that they have to troll my blog, and various other social media sites and try to tear me down.  They spend their precious time (and I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have enough hours in the day!) watching my every move, keeping notes on what I say on Twitter, Tumblr, here on my blog and other places, and saving them up to try to use them against me to make me feel bad or something.

These people have so much time on their hands, and are so fascinated by me and my life, that they spend inordinate amounts of time following everything I do, trying to find a way to make me angry or feel bad or something.  Here are some examples of things I’ve discovered my own little posse of trolls doing.

  • They go through BOTH my entire Twitter streams (I have two Twitter accounts, I keep a separate one for work stuff) and catalogue every single time that I mention I’m tired and any other statements they can use to try to prove that I’m unhealthy, and tried to fling that back at me.
  • They spent several hours one evening signing me up to every weight loss clinic, gym, diabetes organisation, personal trainer and diet company they could find in Brisbane.  Those poor businesses had so much time wasted in contacting me back, but I was happy to hand the culprit’s IP address over to their internet service provider’s fraud investigation team, as I’m sure the businesses I gave that IP were too.
  • They spam my Tumblr and Formspring with the most boring, inane questions, like “How much do you weigh?” and “How much time do you spend on the computer?” (Zzzzzzzz)
  • They send childish, passive-aggressive notes, pretending to be my “friend”.  Bwahahahaa!
  • They Google my name and find out as much information about me as possible, and then they troll me saying they hate everything about me (and list it off, every bit of it!)
  • They search for where I have commented on other blogs or news articles, and leave personal comments hating on me.
  • They go through my Flickr stream and look at every photograph of me, leaving insults and bitchiness on my photographs.
  • They comment on Facebook pages for anything about obesity saying that there is this horrible blog called Fat Heffalump that is hating on thin people and “promoting obesity” and urge people over here to “Stand up against this bully!” and troll me further.
  • They are even stupid enough to log on using their work email or on their work internet access to leave nasty comments here on Fat Heffalump… where I can see their IP address, and can put in a formal complaint about them to their employers with concrete proof!  You can get fired for trolling people’s blogs and websites on your work internet.

And these are just some of the examples of just how much time and energy these people put into directing their hate at me.

Here you go darlings.  You don’t have to pour over my Flickr or Tumblr or Twitter, here’s a photo JUST for you:

Check out my big fat middle finger Trolly McTrollerson!

My experience with being trolled is by no means isolated.  Many in the Fatosphere experience all of this and more.

However, do you know what I think?  When people do this kind of stuff at us, they don’t hate us at all.  I know I don’t actually hate anyone (nobody is worth that kind of passion if I don’t like them) but I can’t imagine spending hours and hours examining someone online, looking for any little thing you can pick at them on, reading everything they write and share and looking at every photograph of that person in detail when I don’t like them.  The first thing I do if someone gives me the shits is block them, wipe them totally from my view and move on with my life to all those awesome people I do really love and enjoy.  I don’t have enough time in the day to keep up with all the awesome people and stuff out there, let alone waste it on those I don’t like.

But these trolls, they spend hours pouring over every thing they can find, compulsively checking every single iota of online presence.

I think they actually admire us, but they’re too scared to admit that they’re not happy and wish they could be like us.  I think they fear us, and worry that somehow, by our being happy and confident, they are missing out on something in life.   I think they are jealous of us, because they see our happiness and joy, our successes, the praise we receive, the community we hold and the fact that we simply refuse to hate ourselves because of what other people say about us and they want that.  I think they wish they could be as outspoken, passionate, funny, intelligent, respected, honest, confident and bold as we are.

I think they are sad, frightened, angry, lonely and envious.

That must be the case, because I can’t for the life of me think of any other feasible reason why someone would devote so much time and energy to reading, viewing and interacting with someone they actually didn’t like, let alone supposedly hated.  I’ve said it before, but people with full, happy lives don’t need to hate on others.  They are too busy, too otherwise engaged to do that.  They don’t feel hate in their hearts, or feel the need to make others feel bad.

We fascinate them, we fatty unicorns.  That’s what we are, those of us who refuse to buy into the fat loathing and hate ourselves for being fat, those of us who stand up and say “I won’t apologise for my size, and I deserve the same rights as every other human being.”  We’re fat unicorns.  There aren’t that many of us in comparison yet (though we’re breeding rapidly, which must be a mix of terrifying and fascinating to these people) and we have special powers.  We have the power of confidence and self esteem.  We have the power of the Fatosphere, our very own community of fatty unicorns around us.  We have the power of self respect.

I know, that it gets hard dealing with these people sometimes.  In the past it used to hurt me terribly when I got that kind of crap turning up on my blog or social media pages.  Nowdays I mostly find it funny, or just ludicrous that someone would spend so much time watching me so closely.  But the thing that really twigged in my head a while back was that these people have no power over me.  For all they think that they’re going to bully me into hating myself, or shut me up from talking here on my blog or any of my social media accounts, or change who I am or what I do, they have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually doing any of that.

Because they are completely powerless.  That’s why they do it – they know they have no power in their everyday lives, so they try to exert power over us online.  But it’s completely redundant.

The only person who has the power to make us change anything about ourselves, is ourselves.  Promise me you will never forget that lovelies.

On Being an Argumentative Killjoy

Published March 13, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

So I read this piece on Tumblr recently:

You know, the “PC” one? Who “has a problem with every little thing”? And “Doesn’t have a sense of humor” and “doesn’t get that it’s just a word,” etc.? Her? Yeah. I hate being her. I mean, I’d rather be straight up hated, really, than perceived as a nuisance and cause for avoidance and eye rolls and resented and thought of as someone who thinks she’s better than everyone else.

I mean, if you’ve been That Person, you know The Look. The one that everyone gets on their face when you start to take issue with something fucked up they’ve said AGAIN, and the way they all look at each other like “Oh. Her. There she goes again, being all ‘political’! Sigh. Is she done yet?”

I don’t know why that look terrifies me so much. It’s a lot worse than a snarl and a combative stance, to me. I can yell back and argue with the best of them, if I want to. But that sense that I am just a giant pain in the ass and it’s best to just ignore me and why can’t I shut up and stop making everyone uncomfortable already … just inevitably makes me feel so small.

That means I’m often bad at saying something when I want to. Fear of that look. Even online — no, especially online, because where The Look happens in real life or not, I won’t know, and so will just assume that it has happened anyway. And then, inevitably, I end up hating myself for it.

by Cara aka Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies

I totally understand where Cara is coming from.  I too have been That Person.  No, not have been, I AM That Person.  I’m the one that people consider a killjoy because I call them on what they say.  Even when they are “just making a joke”.

I understand The Look.  The eye rolls, the sighs, the face like you’ve taken a shit on their dining table in the middle of dinner.  I’ve heard all the lines too:

“Calm down, he/she was just making a joke!”
“Why do you always have to start arguments?”
“Why are you picking on me?  Why are you making me look so bad?”
“You’re so ANGRY all of the time.”
“You’re making something out of nothing.”
“Stop being so political.”
“Nobody can have fun when you’re around.”

Sigh.

The onus is always back on those of us who call it out.  Like we’re the ones with something wrong with us, like we’re the ones who are behaving in a way that harms people.  When the fact is, making a comment or joke that is at the expense of others is just plain shitty behaviour.  The only person causing friction, the only person making something out of nothing, the only person stopping the fun, the only person making anyone look bad, is the person who is saying the inappropriate thing, be it joke or not.

Like Cara, there are times that I think to myself that perhaps it would be just easier to shut up and go away.   That it would be easier for myself, not just other people, if I wouldn’t point out when people are saying something that is at the expense of someone else, joke or not.

But I can’t.

I can’t live with myself when I just shut up and go away.  I can’t let go of the feeling that it was wrong of me to just sit there and not say anything.  I can’t carry that on my conscience, because I know that when I just shut up, and don’t say anything, people think I AGREE with them.  They think that I feel like they do, that it’s OK to make jokes or statements at the expense of others.  When I “let it slide”, I feel like I’m sanctioning that racist comment, that joke at someone’s body shape/size, the sexist statement, the classist jibe.  And those who are suffering at the expense of those comments/jokes, are hurt by my silence too.

Just like I’ve been hurt when someone has made a fat joke or sizeist statement in front of me, and everyone has sat there silent, even though they clearly know it was the wrong thing to say.

I read the Tumblr blog Microaggressions every day.  It serves to remind me just how little comments, a “bit of a joke” hurts people every single day.  It reminds me that the reason I do speak up, the reason I risk The Look or any of those jibes about being humourless/argumentative/angry/political etc is because these little comments and jokes hurt people.  And they permeate our culture so thoroughly, that people think it’s ok to behave and think like that.

It is NOT OK, it’s not funny, nor is it acceptable, to make jokes, assumptions or comments at the expense of ANY other human beings.  Ever.  Don’t fucking do it.  Think about what is coming out of your yap before you open it.  The same goes for things you post online.

It doesn’t make you a killjoy to think before you make a joke.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a laugh, or be silly.  It just means using your damn brain before you open your mouth.  You can still have a wicked sense of humour, you can still laugh at the absurdity of human behaviour, you can still make fun of yourself.  But when it comes to making jokes about other people, are you making a joke about how someone looks?  The colour of their skin?  Their religion?  The shape of their body?  Their gender, sex or sexuality?  Their race?  The clothes they choose to wear?  Their health, physical abilities or mental state?  If the answer is yes to these (or anything else about a person’s general state of being), then don’t fucking do it.

As for any other statements, think about what you’re saying/writing.  Are you using language that belittles someone or a group of people?  Are you perpetuating a stereotype that harms someone?  Are you making assumptions about someone based on their state of being?  Then don’t fucking do it.

But most of all, when you do screw up, and yes, we ALL do it, own it.  Take responsibility for how your words affect other people.  If you don’t know the correct way to talk about something, say so.  Use the best language you know how, in the most respectful way you can and if someone gives you advice on how to do it, then learn from it.  We’re all learning, finding our way.  I look back across things I used to say and think, and cringe at how ignorant I could be.  I know I have a long way to go.  We’re all learning about how other people experience the world we’re in, and we can’t get it 100% of the time but we can all put the bloody effort in.  Anything else is willful ignorance.

If that makes me somehow unpleasant to be around, an inconvenience to little jokes and conversations, if it makes someone feel uncomfortable, then tough.  I’d rather be known as an argumentative killjoy than sit back while others say things that hurt others.

Silk or Leather, Or a Feather

Published February 25, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I just found myself having a little surprise cry.

Every night I scroll through Tumblr and have a look at all the bits and bobs people post.  I love Tumblr*, it’s full of inspiration, cuteness, discussion, news, cupcakes, fat positive photographs, laughs and food for thought.  So tonight I was scrolling through and came across this post from Marianne Kirby**, where she explains what she would like to have as her next tattoo.

I read the sentence that she has chosen to be part of her next tattoo, and my world stopped still just for a moment:

 

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

 

For those of you who don’t recognise it, it is a lyric from an Adam and the Ants song, Prince Charming.

As I read that sentence, something in me just clicked.  My 13 year old heart started beating so hard in my 38 year old chest.  A flood of memories came back to me, and I was almost instantly transported back to the early 80’s and my pre-teen/early teens.

And I cried.  I’m still crying on and off as I write this post.

I am not sure how I came to forget that sentence, that lyric.  It meant so much to me once.  I clung to it so hard, I repeated it over and over and over in my head.  It’s no secret that I was a bullied kid, nor is it a secret that I came from a background of domestic violence.  And I remember.  Oh how I remember, the feeling that nobody in the world cared about me, that everyone was cruel and hateful and that I was worthless.  But I also remember the lifeline that song threw me with that one lyric.

 

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

 

When I was feeling at my very lowest.  When I was being beaten, bullied, humiliated, shamed… that lyric would pop into my head, and I would hear that song in my mind, and I would just escape.  Escape into a world of dandy men and powdered and pouffed women, with their faces painted in bright colours, a world of silk or leather, or a feather.  A world that was bright and beautiful, a world where ridicule was nothing to be scared of.

I think that part of me shut that memory out.  It hurts so much to remember that time.  Because the PTSD is always close to the surface and sometimes it’s easier to forget than acknowledge things and let the emotions come back.  Thing is, something as simple as a lyric, or an image, or a piece of music, or a scent, brings it all flooding back.

But the thing is, that lyric STILL means a lot to me, just for different reasons.  Because after a lifetime of using the lyric to escape, I realise now that it’s reality, not escape.  Ridicule IS nothing to be scared of.  I used to be terrified of people making fun of who I was, so I hid in a persona that was not me.  I dressed how I thought others wanted me to dress.  I behaved how I thought others wanted me to behave.  Only to be absolutely miserable, and people ridiculed me anyway.  So I came to a point (with thanks to therapy and the Fatosphere) where I figured if I was going to be ridiculed, then I may as well be ridiculed for being, wearing and doing the things I love. The surprising thing was that being ridiculed ceased to be painful.  It became a reminder that I was doing something that was important to me.  Even if I had forgotten the source of that belief, the lyric that taught me that no matter how much fun people made of me, if I’m doing something that makes me happy, there is no reason to be afraid of that ridicule, to be shamed by other people’s narrow-mindedness.

And that’s what makes me able to get tattoos of fat ladies, shave my head for charity and wear bright colours and kitschy accessories.  I’m confident enough to wear silk or leather, or a feather.  Thanks to the knowledge that ridicule really is nothing to be scared of.

So thank you Marianne, for sharing your next tattoo idea.  I have to apologise though, because at some point in the future, we’re going to have the same sentence tattooed on us.  I feel like I can’t not get it permanently marked on me now.  But I promise that it will look nothing like yours and I’ll tell the story of how an old memory was brought back to me and reminded me of my strength.

Oh look, have the song while we’re at it.  It’s so camp and theatrical, I still love it:

*This is my Tumblr blog if you want a look.
**Marianne’s main blog The Rotund can be found here.  It’s one of the best blogs you will read.

More Barrel than Apple

Published February 5, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

So I’m being plagued by the black dog.  To be honest, I think it’s the heat, I never cope well with hot weather.  I’m happiest when I’m sitting steaming in two feet of snow.  Yeah I know, I’m on the wrong side of the planet.

One of my strategies when it comes to dealing with bouts of depression is to immerse myself in the Fatosphere, reading and viewing as many positive posts and images about fat people that I can.  It is just something that I know works to lift me out of that dark place, and get me back on to the road to my regular moods and ways of thinking.

I have been watching Fatshion February unfold on Tumblr, and the topic of representation of “death fatties” came up.  Now for any of you who are unaware, “death fatties” is a term coined for those of us who are classified as “morbidly obese” on the BMI scale, which is an arbitrary measurement of someone’s height to weight ratio, but is used by the medical field (and insurance industry)  to classify the fatness, and therefore health-by-their-measurement.  In reality, BMI does not at all give an accurate representation of someone’s health, only their height to weight ratio.

There was a mention of the scarcity of deathfatz posting Fatshion February photographs, and then a whole big discussion of whether or not “fat is fat” fired up, whether there should be any blogs or spaces that are dedicated just to deathfatz (there are) and whether this is excluding “smaller fats”.  I won’t get into that whole topic, and besides, Marianne Kirby has said it all beautifully on her Tumblr repeatedly, so it’s no use me rehashing it here.

But what I have got thinking about, is why I haven’t submitted any Fatshion February photographs.  What I’m struggling with is the fact that not only am I considerably bigger than most of the posters (it’s true, the deathfatz are under-represented), but regardless of the size of the posters, I see a whole lot of traditionally “beautiful” shaped women there.  All those hourglass figures, with breasts and hips that are bigger than their bellies.  Which in no way represents me.

There is a whole lot of celebration of “curvy” women.  Well I’m simply not curvy.  I am more… lumpy.  I do have big breasts, but my belly is clearly the largest part of my body.  I get it from my Grandma, she’s the same shape.  I look like I am heavily pregnant with triplets.  According to most plus-size fashion retailers, I don’t exist.  They’re all about the curves.  When they do actually use plus-size models, they’re flat bellied ones with small waists.  They’re women whose bodies stay the same shape when they sit down.  When I sit down, my belly shifts and becomes even bigger, resting on my lap.  Some plus size fashion even cut off before my size, despite my size being the usual top size of plus-size fashion.  City Chic?  Asos Curve?  I’m looking at you two in particular.  Not to mention all of the other lesser known brands that top out at Size 20, or 22.

Then there’s all this talk of apples, pears and hourglasses.  What about those women like me, who are shaped more like barrels?

Where are the true diversity of body types?

It becomes a spiral.  We don’t see bodies like ours represented anywhere, so we become too ashamed to share our own pictures.  Therefore, there are no bodies like ours being posted.

Just because my body shape isn’t considered “beautiful” or “fashionable”, doesn’t mean I don’t want to dress fashionably and enjoy dressing and styling myself.  Nor do I want to spend time finding things that “flatter” me and give an illusion of the shapes that are considered beautiful/fashionable.  My body is shaped like a barrel, and no amount of styling is going to change that.  I want to dress and adorn my body as it is, not disguise it as something else.

I’m thankful that there are those who put themselves out there.  I’m thankful that there are deathfatz like me who post their pictures and talk about their experiences.  Those of you who are at the top or beyond a standard plus-size range for your region.  Those of you who have big bellies, or any other body shape that doesn’t fit the predominant “curvy”.  Those of you who are extremely limited as to where you can get clothes to fit your bodies.  There aren’t many of you, but to those that are out there,  I admire you so much, and you make a difference to how I see myself, and what I am able to do with the limited fashion choices available to me.

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: