You Can’t Ask That!

Published August 7, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello.  What a week it has been.  A TV show I recorded a segment/interview/session – whatever you want to call it – for back in November went to air and what a whirlwind it has been.  I mean, this show was originally meant to go straight to the web and now it’s running on the ABC straight after one of their most highly rated TV shows, so it’s getting a lot more attention than originally thought.  Which is fantastic!

What I really didn’t expect was to open iView, the ABC’s streaming website, to see myself as a header for the programme!

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Damn I’m cute.

So the series is called You Can’t Ask That! and the concept is that a bunch of marginalised people, for various reasons, answer questions submitted anonymously online.  My episode of course is about fat people, but there are also eps about sex workers, Indigenous people, Muslims, terminally ill, wheelchair users, and several other themes.  When the producer/directors originally contacted me with the idea, it was based on a UK segment done with transgender people, which featured Paris Lees, who I have a lot of admiration for.  I loved the idea and was on board really quickly.  I believe they had a little trouble finding other fat people willing to participate, but that’s likely because we’ve been stitched up before by the media.  However Kirk and Aaron were always considerate and open minded and I felt respected by and comfortable with them from the get go.

So far, I’ve watched about half of the series, and it has been fantastic.  I found the one with terminally ill people particularly moving to watch, but have really appreciated watching people who otherwise aren’t represented (or are only represented negatively) speak about their own experiences and highlight just how ridiculous some of the questions we get asked are.  I personally found it so cathartic to answer those bloody annoying questions in a way where I had the floor – I wasn’t being expected to give rebuttal to someone who believes I don’t have a right to exist.

Unfortunately at this stage, the show is only available to stream within Australia (now the rest of the world knows our pain of being geoblocked!), and you can find it here on ABC iView, but I have asked the producers if it is going to be opened up at all to the rest of the world, be it either on iView or via YouTube.  But you can see a little teaser:

I highly recommend you watch the whole series, not just the episode I’m featured in!

As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.

There’s No Comfort Like Community

Published August 1, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Tonight I want to talk about the the very complicated feelings that attending and participating in the New Zealand Fat Studies: Identity, Agency and Embodiment (FSNZ16) conference last month.  As a fat activist and fat woman, there is no clinical distance for me for this topic, it’s not an abstract concept that I can divorce from my lived experience.  So attending and participating in a conference like this is never going to be just another part of my job, or an academic learning experience for  me.  Talking about fat bodies and fat people’s lives is talking about me, and people like me.

Which is why I appreciated that the theme of the conference was “Identity, Agency and Embodiment”.  Because no matter how much people attempt to be theoretical about fat bodies, it doesn’t work that way.  Fat bodies belong to fat people, and this is our lives that are being discussed.   So I expected this to be an emotional experience for me – previous fat studies conferences that I have attended have been, and my feelings about living in a fat body have only got more complex over the years.

It is amazing to be able to listen to people who have spent as much time thinking about and exploring the topic of fatness that I have, if not considerably more.  It’s a sad reality of fat activism that the dominant voices one hears are self proclaimed “experts” who have absolutely not one iota of qualification to speak on the topic.  Everybody is a bloody expert on fat bodies. So many random nobodies you encounter feels the need to expound at length on your body and what it is like to live in a fat body, when the vast majority of them have never experienced life in a fat body.  You can’t avoid it – everyone has an opinion on your body when you are fat – your family, colleagues, friends, random strangers.   Plus how many “obesity” conferences happen around the world every week that do not invite a single fat person to speak on their own experiences?

That’s not to say that I agree with all of the perspectives put forth at FSNZ16.  I did feel some presentations missed some important points, and others challenged me to think differently about certain topics around fatness.  Of course, there can be valid points amongst something I fundamentally disagree with, and when a group of academics and activists are looking at a topic through the lens of fat identity, agency and embodiment, there are always going to be lessons to take away from every presentation, even if generally one disagrees with them.

But most of all, what I valued the most was the community.  This was a room full of people whom I did not have to educate from scratch.  This is almost unheard of for me – I spend the majority of my time engaging in Fat Activism 101, where I constantly have to justify the right of fat people to have a life of dignity and respect – something I have been doing for almost 8 long, long years.   I did not have to explain to any of the attendees the basic tenets of fat activism.  We spoke a common language, and are approaching the topic from a similar direction.  Not to mention, generally speaking, people engaging in fat studies are not looking to eradicate, cure or prevent fatness.  They’re looking at what it means to live in a fat body, how society treats fat people and how we can maintain fat people’s rights.

It’s not just within the actual conference either – the events around it, even the meals shared with the other participants are a refreshing change from every day life.  Topics of conversation were not about dieting, or how virtuous or sinful anyone was for their bodies, health, fitness or eating habits.  Do you know how often that happens to me in daily life, to be in a space where I’m not bombarded by those narrow topics?  NEVER!  I literally have to isolate myself from almost  person I know to be in a space where we aren’t discussing a diet, or a fitness regime, or how “naughty” someone is for having a piece of cake.  To be able to have a meal and talk about ANYTHING other than those topics is so refreshingly interesting.   Fat studies scholars are fascinating people, because they don’t talk about diet, weight and exercise all the time!  To be able to eat lunch and have general conversation about travel, or the different plants that grow in our home towns, or funny stories about what we did on the weekend, or our pets or a million other topics was so interesting!  Not to mention that I could relax and eat a meal without feeling judged for every morsel that passed my lips.  And we could talk about food without judgement, discuss things we had tasted and what the food was like in comparison to that in our hometowns.   I don’t think I’ve ever been to dinners as interesting and relaxing as the two nights I went out to dinner with my fellow fat studies scholars.  We laughed, we discussed politics, we talked about people we knew in common, we laughed, we talked about and made inside jokes about fatness that weren’t tutted over or turned into awkward silences.

I wish I could be around these fascinating people all the time.

There is nothing quite so comforting as a community that you feel you belong to.  As a fat woman, I’ve been excluded from so much of society by people who judge me as inferior to them simply because of the size and shape of my body.  To be at an event where I felt both challenged/stimulated and included was incredibly powerful for me.  I only wish that we all lived closer to one another so that we could do it more often.

As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.

Plus 40 Fabulous – July – Holiday Memories

Published July 27, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Well how fortuitous is this?  It’s time for the Plus 40 Fabulous post, and the theme is Holiday Memories, and I’m just back from a mega holiday!  I’ve missed a few months of Plus 40 Fabulous, both because I was away and also because I was sick and in the middle of big work projects before I went on holidays.  It’s good to get back into the swing of things now that I’m home.

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The theme for this month is “holiday memories”.  I don’t really have any good holiday memories from my childhood, so I decided I’m going to write about the clothes I wore on my recent holiday to New Zealand, and share some of the tips and tricks I learned about packing and travelling as a very fat woman.

When I was packing for New Zealand, I really didn’t know what to take, for a few reasons.  Firstly, it’s cold in New Zealand, a lot colder than I experience here in Brisbane, so I had to think about clothes that were going to keep me warm, which I don’t have many of!  Then I found that packing up warm clothes for almost a month in a cold climate is no easy feat.  Plus-size clothes, particularly winter plus-size clothes, are big and bulky and take up a lot of room.  But after asking around some fellow fat travellers, I was able to put together a travel wardrobe that was both going to keep me warm and comfortable, and be convenient to carry around for weeks on end in a suitcase.  It helped a lot that my friend Kerri and I were travelling around by hire car so we didn’t have to lug stuff on and off buses, trains and planes any more than to and from the country.

When we first got to Wellington, we found it was quite a bit warmer there than we expected – fairly comparable to Brisbane.  Our first morning, all I did was added a warm cardigan to an outfit I would wear at home.  Bright coloured leggings, a block coloured tunic top, my much loved (and comfortable) Mary-Janes and a cuddly cardigan did it for me.

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These are the only trolls I like.

I lived in leggings while I was over there.  They roll up small in a suitcase, and can be mixed and matched with various tops and dresses.  They’re also good and warm.

I did have a couple of days where I got to get into some fatshion, which was of course at the New Zealand Fat Studies: Identity, Agency and Embodiment conference.  I wanted to wear something that was both cute and expressed my style, but also that said “Unapologetic Fat Woman Here!”

Day One I went with my Candy Strike bug dress:

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I thought I was going to need to get really warm, and had a black fuzzy bolero and black scarf to wear with it, but the venue turned out to be REALLY warm, so I was able to pare down to just a mesh top underneath the dress and some black leggings, and those trusty Mary-Janes again.

I was presenting on the second day, and I had been saving a new dress for AGES for it to be finally cold enough to wear, so I thought that this might be the day to wear it.

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Now you see why I describe my style as “obnoxious toddler”.  I love this outfit, Little Orphan Annie dress, white tights, saddle shoes and my red and white striped McDonald’s socks (yes, I did get them from McDonald’s!)  I was also wearing Divine earrings.  Literally, my earrings were Divine.  They’re cutouts of this photo…

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My paper was called “Hey, Fat Bitch!” so I figured what better occasion to wear the patron saint of fat bitches hanging from my ears.  Divine should always be present at powerful moments in fat history.

Unfortunately, that evening as we were leaving to go to the launch of Substantia Jones’ exhibition at Te Manawa, I slipped on the path at the front of the house we were staying, and rather spectacularly sprained my ankle.  So I missed the launch, and missed saying goodbye to all of the people from the conference.  Luckily the lovely Gabrielle, our host while we were in Palmerston North, plied me with hot water bottles, and naughty cats (she has the naughtiest cats) that night, so I could get some healing in before we left for Rotorua the next day.

Having a sprained ankle certainly slowed me down, but it didn’t stop me.  We went up to Rotorua and the first thing on our list was a trip to Hobbiton to do the movie set tour (it’s out at Matamata, which is about an hour and a bit out of Rotorua).  Luckily I could get my hiking boots over my swollen ankle, and was able to slowly walk the hilly but stunning landscape that is the Hobbiton movie set.

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It was much colder that day, so I had several layers on.  Layers are the key for travelling in colder climes I find.  Leggings, dress, long sleeve t-shirt, light cardigan, hoodie, scarf and beanie!  You can shed bits if you need to, but otherwise it keeps you toasty warm.

If you are going to New Zealand, take your swimsuit.  Especially if you are going to Rotorua.  Recommended by several fab fats who had already been travelling in New Zealand before the conference, and the lovely Cat Pausé who is now a local, we went to the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, and I credit my relatively speedy ankle recovery to the Priest Pool – a hot thermal pool that is full of minerals.  All of the thermal pools were amazing and felt fantastic on my poor ankle, not to mention all the other aches and pains from the fall, but the Priest Pool, I have no words for how healing that was.  The very second I got into it I felt fantastic and did not want to get out.

But I found there were hot spas all over the country – we also went to one in Franz Josef that was heated glacier water, and I’m so glad I took a swimsuit with me – not something I can easily source while travelling.

A couple of days later, while we were on the road travelling down the west coast of the North Island, we stopped off at a diner in New Plymouth that the owner of the motel we had stayed at recommended, called Deluxe Diner.  Now this diner was awesome.  Fabulous US retro in style, with the most adorable waitresses in 50’s style uniforms, and food to die for, we loved it on sight.  But the morning we were there, we were lucky enough to encounter some Nuns Having Fun – the cast of Sister Act for the New Plymouth Operatic Society.

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My choice of outfit for days where we were on the road a lot was soft pants (with pockets!), comfortable top and trusty cardigan.  Chuck a big ass flower on the head and those infernal hiking boots on, and we’re off.

On our way down the west coast of the South Island, we stopped off at a little town called Hokitika, also recommended by fab fats who went before me.  What a gorgeous little town!  I found this sculpture down by the sea, and had to have my photo taken chilling in it.

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Still in my trusty cardigan, and the hiking boots that I grew to loathe (my other shoes wouldn’t fit on my bung ankle!) with a long tunic and Lumpy Space Princess leggings.

When we were in Dunedin, I called up a local bus tour company to book a half day tour out to Larnach Castle.  The lovely woman who answered the phone said “I can’t get you on a bus, but for the same price I can send you a limo for a private tour.”  Ummm… HELL YES!!  So Kerri and I had a half day private tour of Dunedin and Larnach Castle, with our fabulous tour guide and driver Ron, in a 7.2m white stretch limousine!!

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It was a bit nippy out, so I went for soft pants and a tunic top, and my trusty hoodie.  My grey cardigan and red hoodie sure got a workout on this trip!

On our way up to Christchurch from Dunedin, we were invited by an international YouTube celebrity, Scooterman, to stop in Timaru and have cameo roles in his next video.  Meeting John was an absolute delight, and I enjoyed spending a couple of hours with him.

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Again, you can’t go wrong with leggings and a tunic top, and chuck a cardie over the top.  And look, finally I could fit back into my Mary-Janes, the swelling had gone down!

We only had one night in Christchurch, so the next morning I booked us a 3 hour tour of the city and surrounds on a London double decker bus.  Christchurch is an amazing city, so resilient after the devastation of the Feb 2011 earthquake.  I urge you to go there and do some touring, either on your own or with an organised tour.

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Back in purple again – tunic top, leggings and my trusty hoodie.  But I added some rainbow socks to my Mary-Janes and an infinity scarf.

Finally, a couple of people asked me before I left if I was going to shop while in New Zealand for clothes.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the budget, and size 26-28AU clothes are scarce in New Zealand, so there was no shopping for me.  But one thing I did pick up was an amazing infinity scarf from Global Culture, a company based in Christchurch that make all of their products locally, which I was SO happy to support.  I wore the HELL out of that thing!

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This was on the ferry from Picton to Wellington, where it was super windy and cold.  I just wrapped it around my head, looped it around my neck a couple of times and Bob’s your uncle!  Warm ears, head and neck.  I loved this scarf so much I went to a Global Culture shop in Wellington the next day and bought another one, and one of their neck socks too, which can be worn as a head band or hair wrap or scarf or anything else your imagination comes up with.

So there you have it.  My holiday fatshion memories of my trip to New Zealand.

If you’re interested in reading any other of the Plus 40 Fabulous posts, you can follow the Facebook group here or on Twitter here.

As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.

Fat Out Loud – My Piece

Published July 23, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello!  I am back from an AMAZING trip to New Zealand which of course included the New Zealand Fat Studies: Identity, Agency and Embodiment Conference.  I have SO much to tell you about the trip and the conference, and I promise I will do that soon.  Today I just wanted to share the piece I wrote for the Fat Out Loud Reading Event, co-ordinated by Jenny Lee and Cat Pausé, which was held at the Palmerston North Public Library the night before the conference.  It was an AMAZING night, with some incredible pieces presented.  Any that I can post online sources to, I will do so on my Facebook page.  I’ve already shared the video of Gurleen Khandpur delivering her awesome piece.

I’m not sure if there is any video of me giving my piece, but here’s a photo my friend Kerri took of me doing so:

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So… you wanna read it?  Well, here you go.  I call it…

Hey, Baby

I feel your thigh press along mine under the meeting room table.  I steal a glance at you and you are smiling, your eyes flick towards me and you wink.  Later over a coffee to discuss the meeting, your hand drifts to my thigh under the cafe table. You are all bedroom eyes and innuendo.   Time and time again you offer secret touches, suggestions of private meetings, sneaky travel together to places far away, out of sight.

But as soon as I suggest we are seen in public on a social level, you make excuses.  You’re busy, but never too busy to suggest we meet secretly.

We are 15.  You come to my house on weekends and sometimes after school.  We lock ourselves in the downstairs bedroom, telling my mother we’re playing computer games and keeping my annoying little brother out.  We make out, every time.  At school, you tell your friends we are “great mates” and flirt with the popular, thin girls in front of them and worse, in front of me.

In the dim hallway of a bar and restaurant, you stop me coming back from the ladies room, and the hot kisses you bestow along my neck, behind my ear, whispering “You turn me on so much.” before reaching my lips promise of something exciting.  

But as soon as another person turns down the hallway, you leap away from me, as if you’d just been caught stealing.  In the light, where other people can see us, your tone is brisk and business-like, as though I was unrecognisable from all the other party-goers in this venue.

I am 17 and at a new school.  You come up to me and sit with me at lunch time, and are talking to me.  I feel awkward and uncomfortable, I hate this school and very few people are nice to me.  I start to relax, thinking maybe I’ll make a new friend.  Your friends all turn up.  Everyone is talking and laughing, when one of the girls says “Will you go out with Damien?”  Before I even draw breath to answer, everyone is roaring laughing and the girls are cackling “As if!!”  You never speak to me again, except to humiliate me in front of your friends.

I’m on a blind date at the football.  It’s not going well.  You’re sitting behind me and over one, with a small boy who calls you Daddy.  Despite the fact that I’m on a date, every time I turn to the right, I can see you looking down the front of my top.  When I get up at half time, I see you looking right at my chest, and you look up to meet my eye and lick your lips.  At the end of the match, your little boy says “You’ve got big fat boobies.”  I respond “I know, your Daddy has been staring at them all night.”  You go beet red and my date says “I doubt that.”

You stagger, smiling drunkenly, up to me at the bus station as I wait for the bus home from a funeral.  I am red-eyed and sagging, emotionally exhausted.  You gesture for me to take my ear-buds out so you can speak to me.  I lip read you saying “Hey gorgeous.”  I say “No thanks, I’m not feeling well.” hoping you’ll leave me alone with my grief.

But instead you scream “You fucking ugly fat slut!  You know what a real woman looks like?  This is what a real woman looks like!” and you hit me in the face with a porn magazine, open to a page with a silicone-breasted and collagen-lipped porn actress, spread-eagle and open-mouthed pouting.  Of the hundreds of people standing around, nobody asks if I’m OK, they all just look down and shuffle their feet.  I call the police, you run away.

I’m on the train home.  It’s really crowded because the buses are out.  I’m standing in the aisle, everyone is fairly closely packed, but I feel your breath on the back of my neck.  Then I feel your erection pressing against my arse.  You rub against me, out of rhythm of the jostling of the train.  I say “Ew, get off me you creep.”  Two guys in front of me laugh and say “As if, ya fat dog, who’d hump you?”  Several people laugh.

“Hey baby!  Hey honey!  Baby, you gonna talk to me?”  I don’t know you, but you’ve decided that you want to talk to me as I walk to work one morning.  When I shake my head and hurry towards the train station, you scream “You fat fucking moll, I wouldn’t fuck you with someone else’s dick!  I just thought you’d gobble on my cock, like all fat cunts!”

Everybody and nobody wants the fat girl.  They want to fuck us but don’t want to be seen with us.  We’re everybody’s dirty little secret.

Except not any more.  Not me.  If you can’t be seen in public with me, proud of me by your side, then you don’t get access to me.  Your shame is not my problem.  You’re the broken one, not me.

As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.

Welcome, Thank You and What Next!

Published June 24, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Wow!  Since my last post, I’ve had a huge influx of new followers and readers of my little blog.  Welcome to you all!  And thank you to those who took the time to share my last post.  I’m also really pleased to see so much positive response to the JCPenney campaign, that’s what we need to see when fat positive stuff gets done well – it shared, spoken about and promoted!

So what’s happening?  As many of you know, I’m off to the New Zealand Fat Studies: Identity, Agency and Embodiment conference next week.  I’m officially on leave from my day job now and am gearing up to head over to New Zealand, thanks to so many people who pitched in to my GoFundMe campaign!  I will be speaking on Day 2 of the conference, I’m in the process of finessing the presentation now, just the shiny bits to go with the actual paper.  Thank you to all who helped me out with content for that as well.  I am SO excited about the conference, about taking one of my BFF’s with me to introduce her to the amazing community that happens around Fat Studies conferences and catching up with rad fatties from all over the world who will be attending.  Some of whom I haven’t seen in person for six years!

Don’t forget you can register online for the conference, which will give you access to the live-stream and to on demand videos after the conference.

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I’m also doing a reading/spoken word piece at an event at Palmerston North Library the night before the conference.  This event is being organised by Dr Jenny Lee of Victoria University and promises to be a fantastic event.  I hope to be able to publish the piece I have written for this event here on my blog afterwards, so that you can all read it.  I will do the same for my conference paper if possible as well.

I’ve also got a couple of other projects on the boil which I can’t tell you about yet, but I will as soon as I can.  2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year!

The next thing I want to do today is give a shout out to some other fat activists that are doing amazing work lately.  As I spoke about in a post the other week, it is getting harder and harder to find and hear actual radical fat activism, the stuff that really challenges the status quo, amongst the sea of “body positivity” coming from the mainstream right now.  But there are people doing amazing work, and I just want to highlight a few right now.

Ali Thompson has written this amazing piece for Everyday Feminism titled 4 Ways Fat People Need to be Included in Reproductive Justice.  I know Ali has done a LOT of research on this topic and really worked hard on this piece – and it shows.

Alysse Dalessandro does consistently good work on multiple platforms, both as a businesswoman with Ready to Stare, her indie fashion store, and with her writing.  This piece she wrote recently interviewing a whole host of people about body positivity is exceptionally good (and includes yours truly!)

Aarti Olivia Dubey of Curves Become Her is also another consistently strong voice, and covers an incredibly broad range of topics.  Plus she’s as cute as hell with her fatshion!

Michelle Allison aka The Fat Nutritionist never ceases to rock my world with her work on food and the culture around food.

Kelli Jean Drinkwater recently gave a fantastic and powerful talk for TedX Sydney.  Don’t miss it.

Finally, there are two fat podcasts I never miss.  Cat Pausé of Friend of Marilyn has a fantastic podcast which brings good value every week, including guests from all over the world.  And if you’re not listening to Ariel and KC of Bad Fat Broads, you’re missing out on so much.  Entertaining, thought provoking and sharp as hell.  And Ariel manages to make me laugh out loud on the train at least once per podcast.  I love you Ariel!

There are others out there, but these are the ones I’m really, really into at the moment.

Finally, I’m adding a donate function to this blog.  Cos I wanna do more activism stuff and I can’t do it without fundage.  I’m not going to harass people to donate and I don’t expect anyone to give if they can’t afford it.  I’ll keep it to a donate button on the page and a note in the footer of each post.  But if you can help, and want to support me in doing more activism work, I’ve got a GoFundMe here, or the donate button over there on the right side of the page.

Marketing to Fat Women – This Is How You Do It

Published June 19, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Oh. My. Glob.  Have you seen the new video from department store JCPenney “Here I Am”?  No?  Ok, watch this…

I mean what can I say?  It’s wonderful!  Including actual fat women, including fat women of colour.  Doing kick-arse stuff.  With nary a word about “health”.  No “plus-size” models that wouldn’t actually wear the plus-size range.  No faux-bo-po slogan accompanied by a bunch of tall, hourglass, white women.  Fat women actually speaking about themselves and their own experiences.  Fat women showing that you can have an amazing life, exactly as you are.

I am not ashamed to admit that this made me cry.  In a good way I mean.  I was just so overjoyed to see how fat women are represented in this video, I burst into tears.  Which is really saying something.  I don’t cry about fat stuff any more.  None of it ever reaches me emotionally – I’ve grown so jaded and frustrated at the way we’re portrayed, the way nobody has listened to us, the way businesses insult and disrespect us and then expect us to give them our money.  I’ve never felt represented by marketing that was supposed to be aimed at me, and certainly not by the media.

But this… this is everything I’ve been banging on about for YEARS, trying to get brands and marketing to understand.  That they can market to us in a positive, aspirational way that INCLUDES us.  That says “We see you, and here are some products that we’ve got for you.  We’d like you to shop with us.”

It shouldn’t be that hard.  I mean we’ve known for years what we want from them.  We’ve been saying it for so long, and until now, none of the major brands and marketers have bothered to actually listen.

I really hope that JCPenney continue this kind of marketing, and that they don’t fold at any of the bullshit criticism that you KNOW will come.  All that crap about “glorifying obesity” and “unhealthy lifestyles” – as though a group of amazing, accomplished fat women are somehow a danger to society.  As though fat women don’t actually need clothing to suit their lifestyles right here and now.  I know the hot takes are going to be coming out very soon, all the armchair experts are going to crawl out of their holes and try to shout JCPenney into ditching this campaign.

Well, we’ll just have to be louder.  Tell JCPenney that they’ve done good things with this, use the hashtag #HereIAm to share your posts, pictures, outfits etc.  Tell other brands that you wish their marketing could be like this campaign.  And if you can, buy stuff from JCPenney – especially Ashley Nell Tipton’s new range when it comes out, which I believe will run to a size 34US, which is bloody amazing.  They also have another range I understand goes up to a 5X.  I know I will be shopping from them as soon as I can, even if they don’t have something totally my style, I’m sure I can support their plus-sizes somehow!

Well done JCPenney – keep up the good work, and thank you to all those involved in this campaign, especially the amazing fat women who have put themselves front and centre to represent us.

Is Radical Fat Activism Dead?

Published June 9, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

I was just reading this post over at Fatty Unbound, about why she no longer blogs about fatshion, and I was just hit with such a wave of sadness.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why she, and so many others have decided to give up blogging – I have a lot of the same feelings myself and it makes it really hard to keep blogging the way I used to.  But understanding why doesn’t mean I’m any less sad that so many amazing, bold, innovative fat activists and/or bloggers are deciding to pack it in.

The reality is, body politics have been branded and corporatised.  Companies are taking the work that we did, for generations – remember fat activism has been around since the 60’s, and they sanitise it, sand back the rough edges, take out all the radical messages and sell it back to us, as this awful, bland, homogeneous pap called “body positivity”.  And so many people just lap it up.  Many through no fault of their own – they simply haven’t seen any alternative.  The brands and those who are keen to represent them simply have volume and a bigger platform than your average radical fat activist.

And look, I get it.  It’s bloody hard work to keep up as a radical fat activist.  This shit grinds you down.  It takes a lot of emotional energy to step up and put your life out there as a fat person.  There aren’t a lot of rewards for the average fat woman to put herself on the internet and speak up for fat women’s rights – unless you’re young, white, cisgender, able-bodied, a smaller fat, have an hourglass or pear shape, have a pretty face and have access to a lot of new clothes, makeup and photography, and are willing to smile and play along with the expectations of the brands who will fund you if you’re a nice, good fatty.

There are also a lot of negatives that come with being a visible fat woman.  The constant stream of concern trolling, ignorance and sheer bigotry you have to face is so corrosive, it eats away at your energy levels and is so frustrating dealing with people who refuse to listen or think about the ignorance they’ve swallowed and regurgitated for so long.  On top of that there is the abuse and harassment.  The constant barrage of shitty little people who have nothing better to do than either wank over you or spend every minute of their time trying to find some way to hurt you.  Or in many cases – both.  The same people who profess they hate you and find you repulsive are the ones wanking furiously over pictures of you.

These things are so bloody hard to deal with.  So I fully understand why so many fat women just decide “Fuck it, I don’t want to deal with this any more.”

But… I still feel sad that this is happening.  I feel so sad that brands and haters have pushed us out of OUR space.  It is ours.  It doesn’t belong to them.  They haven’t worked and fought so hard to carve out this space in the world, despite so many telling us we’re unworthy of it.

I feel sad that there are so many fat women who are missing out on what I found all those years ago – radical fat activism that blew apart my world and shook me to the core.  That helped me give up the endless cycle of self hate and suspension of actually living that was my life.  That inspired me to take up fat activism myself, and tell my story and start showing people like me that we do not have to be classed as inferior to people who have smaller bodies than we do.

I don’t really believe radical fat activism is dead – there are still some amazing people out there doing some incredible work.  I think I’ll do a post over the weekend with some links to the ones I really love.  But the numbers are dwindling.

What I really want is for those of us who feel like we’re being pushed out of our spaces and shouted down by brands and haters that we’re not going away.  We’re not letting them shove us out of our spaces, and that all of us that don’t fit their little plastic boxes are still here, we still have voices and we’re still going to celebrate who we are.  I want all the unruly fat women, the ones that are ignored by the brands and told they’re not good enough by the haters to put on an outfit that makes them feel good (regardless of what anyone else thinks about it), hold their head up high and stick their middle fingers in the air and declare “I have the right to exist and be seen in this world too.

Here, I’ll go first.

Photo by Paul Harris

Photo by Paul Harris