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Fat Liberation is for Fat People with Disabilities Too

Published July 30, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

So if you read my previous post, you’d know that almost two months ago I had a rather spectacular fall (total dignity stripper) and did myself some considerable injury, including a fractured ankle, which has me in a moon boot. I’m really lucky, I’m not in a huge amount of pain, more sore than acute pain, and I’m pretty mobile despite the moon boot. I can walk fairly well, and though my mobility is somewhat compromised, I can still get around and live my life not all that much differently to I was pre-fracture. I’m embarrassingly slow up and down stairs is the worst thing.

However, even in my privileged position, I have experienced some issues with other people’s attitudes and behaviour since my mobility has been compromised. People walking at me or into me, some make snide comments about my ankle injury being “because she’s so fat”, an old woman on the bus asking me if I fell because I’m fat and then saying, “Well with your size I bet you went down hard.” (FYI, I fell because a patch of footpath was old and lumpy.) Or people kvetching because I’m so slow on stairs when I can’t avoid them altogether. You try walking up or down stairs in a huge boot when your ankle doesn’t bend.

I can only imagine the garbage that other fat people with disabilities (fat PWD) are subjected to.

People with disabilities (PWD) already have to deal with enough stigma, discrimination and general douchebaggery from non-disabled people, but add fatness to the equation and a whole raft of new shittiness is added.

Fat PWD are accused of “causing” their disabilities because they are fat, are accused of “just being lazy” or treated like even more of an inconvenience than thin PWD. It’s hard enough for PWD to get the equipment and services they need, and for many of we fat people to get equipment, clothing and services that fit our bodies – the two issues compounded make it even more of a burden for fat PWD to bear.

Just as a small example, a friend mentioned to me when I said that I had to get a boot to be aware that it may be difficult to get one to fit me, as she had trouble finding one that would fit her calf, and that eventually they had to pad a very large boot out in the foot for it to fit her calf. I’m fortunate there, I have big feet, which means a bigger boot, and my legs are proportionately smaller than the rest of me. But I know how hard it is for many fat women to find regular wide calf boots, let alone medical ones!

I have another fat friend who has a chronic health issue that means she needs access to disability toilets. She’s not visibly disabled, so she cops a lot of heat from strangers who make comments about “you’re fat, not disabled”. Nobody should have to justify their use of accessible toilets to bloody strangers! She has the same issue with disabled car parks.

Fat people are already beaten over the head with the health stick, throw disability and/or chronic illness into the mix and we just can’t win. Even though many chronic illnesses and disabilities can cause or are correlated with weight gain, our bodies are scrutinised further simply because of their fatness, regardless of our physical ability or levels of health. We’ve all had medical professionals prescribe weight loss for things wholly unconnected to weight (sore throats, injured bodies, reproductive system issues etc), how difficult must it be for fat PWD to get proper diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, injuries and other conditions.

As part of the fight to have the full humanity of fat people recognised by society in general, we need to make sure we are including fat PWD. Fat PWD should be able to advocate for themselves, get adequate medical treatment and suitable equipment to fit their bodies, as well as the basic dignity of being able to exist in society without stigma or vilification for their bodies for either disability or fatness.

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A Quick Update

Published July 16, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I am going to work hard to remedy the dearth of posts over the coming weeks.  I miss writing here so much, I need to re-focus on it.

So what’s happening?  Well, firstly I want to thank everyone who contributed to my GoFundMe for the Sydney Cyberhate Symposium.  It was a success and I attended last week and gave papers at both a panel for ANZCA at Sydney University, and the symposium itself.  I deliberately remained fairly quiet about it all before the event, as I and others were understandably nervous that giving away too much information might draw some fresh abuse and harassment either at the events themselves, or online in general.  Both events were amazing and I will be writing more about them shortly.  I am also hoping to get a copy of the video recording of my keynote so that I can share it.

The other big happening in my life is that I’m hobbling around in a “moon boot” after taking a rather spectacular fall about six weeks ago.  I mean the fall itself wasn’t spectacular, unless you count spectacularly embarrassing (thankfully the construction workers I fell in front of were really nice), but the injuries kind of were.  Chipped a bone in my wrist, broke the tip off my fibula, turned my right palm and left knee into bloody pulp and sprains in both the wrist and ankle.  We didn’t discover the fracture in my ankle until a couple of weeks after I did it, when it didn’t heal.  Then it was moon boot time.  I of course, could not leave the moon boot in it’s original grey form, so I decked it out with some woodland creature themed stickers.

I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to have to wear the boot, I can honestly say I’m quite sick of it already!  It has really reinforced to me just how little of our world is made easily accessible for people with disabilities – but I think that should be a whole post of it’s own.

Otherwise, some things I think you should all catch up with if you haven’t already:

Catch you all again soon!

Internalised Fathphobia is Still Fatphobia

Published May 20, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

First a tiny bit of housekeeping – thank you so much to all of those who have donated so far to my GoFundMe to get to Sydney for the Cyberhate Symposium.  Your support means so much to me!  If you’d like to know more about that, please click here.

Now, on to the topic of the day.

Yesterday I posted this to Instagram, and it struck some really strong chords with people:

I posted this because yet another high profile, supposed fat positive person in the public eye has cropped up in the mainstream media trumpeting about their weight loss surgery and how they are only doing it for themselves, their own health, their own happiness.  In a huge article in a mainstream publication where they were likely paid for the piece, if not they are going to get commercial benefit from doing so.  Simply because there is massive societal benefit in publicly trying to not be a fat person.

Sigh…

I am not going to talk here about personal choice, the pressures fat women face and I am not going to to recite the litany of evidence that shows that weight loss surgery (gastric mutilation) does not cure any illness long time, does not cure depression and has vast detrimental health risks including a high death rate.  I’ve done that before and other people have done it time and time again and it’s all easily retrievable with some simple Google searches.

What I want to talk about today is the damage that these “personal journeys” in the mainstream media do to fat people in general and secondly, the sheer hypocrisy of people who have been in the mainstream media and big business arenas selling themselves as fat positive role models, only to turn around shortly afterwards and in the same media, throw fat people under the bus with their narratives of “personal choice”.

There comes a responsibility with public visibility.  That responsibility is that you are to do your best not to do any harm to those out there that don’t have the platform that you do – be they people you have privilege over, or those you share marginalised identity with.  I take that very seriously with my small platform, and while I will inevitably fuck up, I am always working to do my best to avoid doing so, and I will do my best to own it and fix it when I do fuck up.  I take the time to think about what I am saying, to ask myself who I am leaving out, and who I might be doing harm to.

Personal narratives are important, yes.  But there is always a time and a place that must be carefully chosen.  It is not OK to just jump out into the mainstream media or major business platform with your personal narrative when that narrative is going to do damage to other people.  Having a mainstream media or business platform is a position of power that most marginalised people simply do not have, so there is little to no reply or rebuttal to damaging narratives that are given air time.

Put simply, it’s in no way a big risk to put yourself in the media and parrot the dominant paradigm about fatness.  It’s a safe bet that is going to get you support from the majority, because the majority actually do believe that fat is bad, and that one must go to any length to not be fat.  This is not a brave step, or one that has never been heard before.  It’s a safe bet that to do so you are going to have people patting your back and telling you “You go girl, good on you.”

But what is also a safe bet is that people are going to read/see your story, and regardless of whether or not you’ve put any caveats in that it’s your own personal story, they’re going to see it as a reassurance that they are right, that all fat people are unhealthy, sad, depressed, gross, sickly and miserable – you are simply reinforcing the existing narratives.

The other problem I have with these types of stories is that they are so often coming from someone who has made themselves a name, a business, a career, money and fame from other fat women – as the post that Virgie Tovar shared on her Facebook page this morning says:

Image text: These celebrities are escaping their fat bodies to more fully engage in capitalism, period. Their justifications for doing so are gaslighting defined. They were willing to utilize the language of bopo/fat acceptance to open the door for themselves. They used the right coded language to tacitly ask for our fidelity, and they’re using the same coded language to disavow/escape us all the same. It is so insidious and hurtful when things play out like this. Fuck choice feminism.

 

Meaghan O’Malley is so right when she says this.  It is a deep hypocrisy to have stood up and said “I love my fat body and I’m here for you, my fellow fat women!” to build a career and platform, only to throw them under the bus down the track by using the same coded language to declare in a highly public platform that you are taking drastic steps to not be a fat person.  Particularly galling is that some of this was in a HUGE media campaign for a major department store less than a year ago.  It’s all well and good to jump on the bandwagon to sell yourself as radical self love, build a career, align yourself with several brands using the language and works of decades of fat activists, and in fact getting several very prominent fat activists to stand beside you, only to turn up in a major tabloid magazine not even a year later saying that all of those things you said are not true.  Particularly having launched a major new product line aimed at fat women mere days beforehand.

Of course, this is only one example of a prominent fat person declaring publicly the opposite to the very things they were saying and riding to their fame after gastric mutilation (or any other type of intentional size reduction).  We’ve seen it from singers, actors, models, writers, all kinds of very public people.

Every time this happens, there are those who have absolutely nothing to do with fat activism at any other time who get themselves in the media and start screaming for the “mean fatties to leave [insert famous ex-fat person] alone”.  When we critique the messages these very public people are putting out on their sizeable platforms, we are accused of being “mean” towards the person or being “bitter and angry because we’re still fat”.  It’s fucking exhausting to constantly have to argue straw man arguments from people who refuse to listen to what we are saying.  The other particularly galling argument is that by somehow critiquing the messages put out by these narratives that fat activists lack compassion or empathy.  Fuck that bullshit – nobody wants to have compassion or empathy for the fat people they are pummelling into the dirt with their lies about health and happiness being unattainable to fat people, or their faux-moralising to hide their open loathing of us, but the minute we raise valid questions about the damage being done by those who are suddenly pro-weight loss after having built careers off our backs, we’re the ones lacking compassion and empathy.

There is no shame in feeling disappointment and hurt that yet another of the people you believed were on your team is in the media very publicly trying not to be like you.

Nobody is saying that your body is not your own to do with what you will.  What we are saying is that if you have a highly public platform, perhaps you should examine the rhetoric you are spewing out and how it harms people who don’t have the same platforms.  It’s not like you’re saying anything new with these narratives that fat = miserable/unhealthy/disgusting.  You’re saying the same thing the world has been saying about you all along, now you’ve jumped the fence and are saying them about other more vulnerable people.  You have become one of the bullies.

How anyone can wear that on their conscience, I don’t know.

Cyberhate Symposium – Can You Help?

Published May 14, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

Sometimes I can’t believe where the world has taken me.  Sometimes I have to stop, blink and ask myself whose life this is that I am living.  Sometimes I need to remind myself that I’m not a frightened kid who doesn’t fit in and that I have come so far in my 44 and bit years of life.

Being a vocal and public feminist and fat activist is never easy.  Families get angry, friends turn their back on you, you have to put up with a lot of ridiculous demands on your time and energy, people sometimes push you out in front of them to fight their battles for you, and it draws you a lot of abuse and harassment.  Abuse and harassment that you never would have had if you hadn’t put your head above the parapet and said “This is not acceptable.”

But that said, it has brought me to so much more than it has taken away.  I have found stronger friendships that give so much to me.  I’ve had so many amazing opportunities to work with incredibly talented and dedicated people, and it has given me a sense of confidence and accomplishment that I never had before.  So while it is not easy, it is always worth it.

And sometimes, the whole thing goes full circle – you engage in activism, it draws you harassment and abuse, amazing people who are also subjected to that harassment and abuse ask to work with you, and then new opportunities for activism come your way.  This is how I came to be involved with The Cyberhate Project.  Some time ago, I heard about Dr Emma Jane from the University of NSW and The Cyberhate Project and that she was conducting interviews with Australian women who had experienced online abuse and harassment.  Emma is doing some amazing work on this project and you may have already seen her book Misogyny Online, and if you’re in Australia, the TV series on the ABC, Cyberhate with Tara Moss.  Not to mention a whole slew of papers and events, more of which you can find out about here.

Recently, I was invited by Emma to participate in the upcoming Cyberhate Symposium, in Sydney in July.  After we discussed the possibilities of my attending, Emma has asked me to be one of the keynote speakers at the symposium, something that I consider a great honour.  Cue one of those “whose life is this?” moments!

I am planning on attending and speaking about my experiences with dealing with online abuse and harassment as a feminist and fat activist, with particular focus on the long term impact that it has on those of us who are subjected to it, and how far we have yet to push the law and technology to meet the changing nature of the abuse and harassment of women – both online and off.

However, financially I am not in a position where I can afford to cover my own costs to fly to Sydney and for accommodation.  This is where you come in dear reader – I am starting off a GoFundMe page to help me cover these costs.  In return, I hope to be able to publish my symposium piece here (or at least be able to share with you where it is published) and will write about the symposium here on my blog.  I hope to be able to network with other participants and that this may open up more opportunities for activism, so that we collectively may be able to shift how the abuse and harassment of women online (and off) is both viewed by society in general, and more specifically be part of making changes to the law and technology to protect women and other minorities, while also putting in place more suitable repercussions for those who do engage in this abuse and harassment.

I would also like to have a fatty meet up in Sydney while I am down there, so that we can both make community connections with each other and generally just hang out in our fabulous fatness together!

I don’t make money from my work as a feminist and fat activist, and a lot of the time it is a full time job on top of my day job.  I have consciously chosen not to monetise this blog and the only time ads appear are the ones that WordPress puts at the bottom of this page (which can be removed by signing up to WordPress and remaining signed in to that account BTW) which I receive no revenue from.

So it would mean a lot to me if any of you could help – particularly those who have stuck by me for about 9 years now of doing this work.   I have set up a GoFundMe page here, and if you can help me meet this goal – anything you can afford is definitely appreciated.

Aspire to be More, Not Less

Published April 19, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

I dunno if y’all have seen the garbage fire that has been happening around Modcloth lately, but in case you haven’t, the bottom line is, Modcloth have been sold off to Jet.com, who are owned by Walmart. People are not happy, because Walmart have had some pretty serious question marks over their ethics and back in the day, Modcloth was known for being a progressive company whom a lot of women were happy to give their money to, knowing that it was a company that paid their staff well, actually catered to plus-sized customers beyond the same old drab tat many other retailers offered, and had some positive marketing strategies around women, trans folks and bodies in general. I’m not the only one who has noticed that sliding downwards over the past couple of years or so – the first death knell was their BIZARRE decision to remove the term “plus-size” from their online store and mix in the considerably smaller amount of plus-size stock in with the rest. Which for me, meant that I had to wade through endless garments that I was excluded from to find the small percentage that did come in my size. I’m sure I’m not the only one who found Modcloth much harder to shop with as a plus-size woman after that bizarre decision.

Since the sale of Modcloth to Jet.com, there have been allegations from former and current staff that the CEO, Matt Kaness, has had some concerning attitudes towards plus-size customers. The most telling of which is the disapproval of using plus-size models, either on their own or with straight sized ones, as plus-size models are not “aspirational”.

Can we please, PLEASE kill that belief right now? That plus-size models are not “aspirational”? And that “aspirational” means “thin”? Because I don’t know about you, but insisting that I would never inspire to be like any plus-size woman is complete and utter bullsh!t.

Aspirational does not equal thin. I know, I know, marketing executives and diet companies have been trying to force that on women for decades, but it’s not actually what the vast majority of women really aspire to. So much that it’s convinced both businesses and customers alike that there is nothing else that can be considered aspirational. But I’m here to say that really, most of us aspire to SO MUCH MORE than thinness. We aspire to happiness, success/talent (in many forms – career, education, creativity, family…), friendship, love, style, kindness, compassion, intelligence… I could go on and on. All of those things are achievable regardless of your size and/or weight, but because there is money to be made in peddling weight loss too, marketing executives have been feverishly working to convince us that the only thing we can aspire to as women is thinness.

But we are worth so much more. Women are worth so, so much more than that.

I do find fat women aspirational. Lots of them. So I thought I’d share some of them here, so that they as fat women can be celebrated and that all of you can see you can aspire to all kinds of things without having to reduce the size of your body. There are so many, but here are a few that currently hit my “aspirational” buttons.

Ashley Nell Tipton

I didn’t even watch Project Runway – I’ve followed Ashley Nell around the internet for ages now, read her blog, followed her on Instagram and seen her crop up in plus-size fashion articles being all fabulous all over the place. But I did follow the news about her on Project Runway and was SO PROUD of her for winning it and for all the things that she has achieved since. Not only is Ashley Nell living her dreams, but she’s one of the most stylish women on the planet. She has a style that is so unique to her, and she’s able to translate that into marketable ranges for JC Penney and Simplicity. Not to mention that she does all of this in a fat positive manner, every step of the way.

Beth Ditto

Beth has soared through the world of punk rock and straight into fashion. She has never apologised for her size – quite the opposite, she has flaunted her body proudly and created some really iconic imagery along the way. A talented singer and songwriter, and now fashion designer, she’s outspoken and bold. I read her book a while back and was really struck with how she had taken a tough background and turned it into art and style and followed her dreams.

Melissa McCarthy

This woman makes me laugh. I wish I was a fraction as funny as she is. If you haven’t seen Spy yet, you need to watch it, and I’m sure you’ll almost rupture something laughing like I did. Watch the out-takes too – I nearly threw up she made me laugh so hard. I love that it’s not funny at the expense of her fat body, but that she so perfectly inhabits her body and uses it and that wicked brain of hers to make people laugh.

Magda Szubanski

While we’re on funny women, Magda has been one of my favourite funny women for decades now. Her humour is something special, she brings such depth to her characters so that you feel like you know them, sometimes you feel like you might be one of them. Again, her body is not the punchline, but she is another fat woman who is filled with life and a wicked brain.  Her public campaigning for LGBTQI rights has been inspirational. I recently read her book too, and was deeply moved by her life and perspectives. She writes beautifully.

Naomi Watanabe

OK Naomi Watanabe is hilarious too, but for me, I am blown away by her style. I LOVE the way she dresses, her makeup, everything about her look. Her fashion label Punyus is ridiculously adorable.

Amina Mucciolo aka Tassel Fairy

Amina has actually modelled for Modcloth, and I LOVED seeing her on their site. Another plus-size woman with an amazing sense of style and a mastery of colour that fills me with glee.  I have been following her blog, shop and Instagram for some time too.

Kobi Jae of Horror Kitsch Bitch

I’m proud to call Kobi a friend of mine but I also adore her sense of style. If I could find a wardrobe a fraction as awesome as the one Kobi has, I’d be a happy, happy fatty.  Kobi blogs at Horror Kitsch Bitch and I believe there is a fashion range in the making!

These are just a few of the fabulous fat women that I find incredibly inspirational. It’s not hard to find inspirational fat women, and actual plus-size models (who have fat bodies, not just ones that are a couple of sizes over the usual model measurements) are both beautiful AND they showcase clothes in a way that I aspire to own and wear them. It’s pointless for me to look at clothes that come in my size (26-28AU or a 4X) modelled by small bodies – those clothes aren’t going to look the same on my body as they would on some tiny model. When I look at a model wearing clothes, I don’t aspire to have their body, I aspire to have the clothes that they are wearing them, and wear them in a way that they are styled.

I don’t aspire to be less of myself – I aspire to be more.

It’s not a difficult concept, it’s about bloody time those in the business of providing and selling clothing to fat women bothered to understand it.

Nothin’ To See Here Folks

Published April 17, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

Apparently a nest of you has been stirred up again, and y’all think turning up here and yelling “TRIGGERED!!” is some kind of ace slapdown that showcases the best of your wit and intellect.

Yawn.

Look, I know you probably feel WAY AWESOME COOL coming over here to leave some sad little hate masturbation on my page.  But not one of you is original, nor are you even entertaining.

I have heard it all before.  No seriously, I have.  Look…. Frequently Heard Asshattery.

Get a hobby.  Meet some people.  Perhaps try some therapy.  Life is so much more interesting and fulfilling than spending your day masturbating over your keyboard.

 

Not Now, Not Ever

Published April 8, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

Sigh… my dear fellow fats, there’s something you all need to know…

You don’t owe anyone jack shit.

No seriously, you don’t.  You don’t owe anyone any of the following:

  • An excuse for your body/health/size/weight.
  • Justification for your existence.
  • A “debate” (or argument, whatever they want to call it).
  • Justification for your fatness.
  • Proof of your “health”.
  • Proof of what you eat, or what physical activity you do.
  • Apologies for taking up the space your body happens to take up.
  • Answers to any of the private information people demand of you.
  • Proof that you are “happy”.
  • An education into the human rights of fat people.
  • Corrections for dodgy science.
  • Politeness or respect when they demand any of the above.

Further to Lindy West’s excellent piece in The Guardian this week, where she quite rightfully points out that after having answered the same question publicly for six years, she’s no longer going to bother responding to it any more, I think it needs to be expanded upon to include refusing to engage in any of the above activities with people who demand you jump through hoops for them, and then completely disregard your response anyway.

We’ve just got to stop doing this.  And we’ve got to stop tiptoeing around the people who demand we do this.  We’ve not only got to start saying “No.” but also we’re completely justified in telling them exactly where to shove their intrusive questions and demands.

Oh I know, those same people demanding you do all of those things will say “Well you’ve clearly got no argument then.”  Or they’ll say “I’ve approached you respectfully and now you’re being RUDE to me.” while clutching their metaphorical pearls in horror.

Here’s the thing.  Demanding fat people justify our existence, asking intrusive personal questions, trying to force us to “debate” them about your rights as a human being, and expecting us to educate them are all acts of violence towards fat people.  These intrusive, disrespectful behaviours are deliberate attempts to push us into a “lesser” category of humanity, to waste our time in repeatedly answering their demands with absolutely no intention of either believing us or allowing us to move on and to generally just be disrespectful.  It is NOT polite or respectful discourse to demand or expect you to respond to these things, and therefore you’re not beholden to some kind of polite response.

Tell them where to shove their damn demands for you to justify your existence.  Because the truth is, even if you were to respond, you’re not going to change their mind anyway.  Trust me, I’ve been doing this for YEARS now, rapidly approaching a decade, and I have never, ever had anyone who came at me expecting me to either justify my existence or prove my life to them in any way, actually change their mind and start recognising my right to exist in this world as I am, a fat woman.

The people who are genuinely going to change their minds actually just listen – they don’t demand you jump through hoops for them.  The people who are going to respect you are going to take their time to do their own reading/research.  They’re going to listen to you when you speak in the first place.  They’re not going to demand you politely respond to their intrusive grilling of your right to exist fully as a human being.  This constant waving of “Well I WAS going to consider your argument but… “ under our noses as though if we just answer them the right way, and show them the right aspect of our humanity, they’ll treat us with respect, is so false.  You’re not going to get respect from anyone who expects that of you.  Not now, not ever.

What you do owe is to yourself.  You owe living your life to the fullest you can, in whatever circumstances you find yourself in.  You owe yourself kindness and value for your body, even if it doesn’t always look or behave the way you want it to.  You owe yourself the right to exist in the world, as you are, right now, no matter what changes might or might not come in the future.