Fat Activism – More Crucial Now Than Ever

Published April 1, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

The world is in a terrifying state, there’s no doubt about that.  With the USA imploding under the rule of The Great Orange Narcissist, fascism having gone mainstream globally, the UK opting for xenophobia and segregation from Europe, the mass Western rejection of our responsibility to assist people fleeing from harm and conservatives adopting The Handmaid’s Tale as some form of user manual, we live in very dark times.  There is no question about that.

However, I have heard some quarters saying that to continue the fight for fat liberation is somehow frivolous or irrelevant in the face of all of the other issues that are happening in the world.  This to me sounds exactly the same as those who decried “identity politics” after the US presidential election, blaming those of us who spoke up for the oppression of marginalised communities for somehow “alienating” voters who got tired of hearing about people who were different to themselves.  Which is utter bullshit.

Those people who were privileged enough not to have to worry about their human rights were never interested in voting for anyone but themselves in the first place.  That is the core of privilege – the ability to ignore issues that do not affect you directly.

Now more than ever, the focus of righting all the wrongs that are in the world has to be on people – human beings.  The right of human beings to live their lives in peace and with respect, without discrimination and vilification for their skin colour, race, religion, gender, sexuality, health and physical abilities, income level and indeed, bodies.  This includes climate change as well – the right of all human beings to have clean water and food now and into the future, not just the elite.

Unfortunately, marginalised people have been banging on about the issues around xenophobia and discrimination, which boils mostly down to white supremacist patriarchy, for all of history.  More recently, women and other marginalised people have been warning about the rise of violence towards them from the same sector of society that are now in power across the globe, only to be told that we’re over-sensitive, or that we’re making a mountain out of a molehill.  Well the mountain is now visible to the rest of you, just like we said it would be.  The mountain has always been there – many have just refused to look up and see it right in front of them.

How does fat liberation fall into this?  Now more than ever, it is important to keep up the fight about body autonomy, the dehumanisation of some people because of their bodies, and the basic human rights of all people regardless of their body size, shape, ability or arbitrary measure of “health”.  When it is already difficult for fat people to get adequate health care, then the fight for health care rights must highlight those who are already excluded, and not just those who are at risk of being excluded later.  When fat people face discrimination and lower wages in the workplace, then rights for those who are already discriminated against need to be at the forefront of  worker’s rights.  When fat people are denied bodily autonomy – the pressure to punish and reduce their bodies, lack of access to effective contraception, the overwhelming push to force fat children into harmful diets and fat people in general into gastric mutilation against their will – then the fight for bodily autonomy must focus on those who are at the highest risk of losing that autonomy.

By this same token, that goes for ALL marginalised people – when we fight for the rights of human beings, then we must put those who are the most oppressed at the top of the list of the people we are fighting for – not shove them down at the end like an addendum, a last thought if there is anything left after the “more important” white, male, able-bodied, thin, heterosexual, Christian, affluent cisgender have got their share.  The privileged are already getting the lion’s share of everything, first dibs at things that we should be able to find resources for all humans, not just the privileged.

Not to mention that across almost many marginalised identities, people of colour, poor people, disabled people, trans people, women and so on are more likely to be fat, AND they’re more likely to be further marginalised within their own communities.  Ask almost any fat woman who belongs to any other minority how her identities intersect and how she is treated within her own communities in her fat body, and see just how important it is to her that her fatness is included in the fight for her freedom.  Marginalisation is intersectional – a person is never just marginalised for one aspect of their lives when they fall into multiple minority categories.

In these times where hatred, greed and xenophobia are getting stronger and stronger, now more than ever we need to stand up for our rights as human beings, and for the rights of those who do not have access to the privileges that we access.

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Got Fat Arms? Big Hands? Have I Got Something for You!

Published March 26, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

Heya peeps!  Yeah I’m still here, I’ve got a bunch of posts I’m working on at the moment, now that I’ve finished a big project in my day job and can breathe a bit again.

Today I want to tell you all about an amazing small business right here in Australia that serves we fatties like no other I can find.  When I was in Melbourne last year, I got to meet the gorgeous purveyors of plus-size arm candy (no, sadly they’re not procuring hot chunky dates for us), the babes from Ample Armoury.  I bought a couple of very cute second hand dresses from their stall at the A+ Markets but alas I was on a budget at the time and wasn’t able to buy any of their gorgeous plus-size bangles.  I have however been watching them via their Instagram account and have been plotting and planning for what ones I would buy when I have some dosh again.

                                                                       
The two super cute dresses I bought from them.

Imagine my delight a short while ago when I found out I was the winner of their Instagram competition!  Now while I’ve been away working on a big day job project, I wasn’t able to collect my mail, but I finally got to the post office last week and there was a lovely package waiting from them.  They sent me four bangles – two chunky matte ones, two narrow glossy ones.

The light in Le Bon Choix at Paddington is gorgeous for photographs.

 

Jazzing up my cupcake dress.

I can tell you, not only do these bangles fit my chunky arms beautifully, they’re SO comfortable to wear, light but still have that satisfying clatter when you move them together.  Yes, I firmly believe that the best jewellery and accessories are noisy ones.  I like to jangle, baby.

These bangles are generous on me and go over my hand with ease – though I will point out that I do have rather small hands compared to the rest of my glorious fat body.  You can check out their sizing and buy some pretties for yourself on their Etsy store.  I do believe they do custom orders from time to time, but they’re in hiatus from those at the moment.

As well as these bangles, they also sent me THE MOST ADORABLE fat lady brooch.  I mean seriously, check it out:

SHE LOOKS LIKE ME!!

How cute is that?!  So if you find regular bangles are too small for you, or you want a fabulous fat lady brooch like this one, check out Ample Armoury.  They can be found at the A+ Markets in Melbourne when they are on, or again, check out their Etsy Store and watch their Instagram and Facebook for other sales and events.

Here, have another photo of them on my arm, along with my FABULOUS nails by Cara at Kawaii Klaws.

 

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.

Nostalgia is a Luxury

Published March 5, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

I really hate those “Remember back in the old days when things were better and we weren’t so precious.” kinds of posts.  You know the ones that crop up on Facebook all the time.

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By CeesOutlook on Flickr

I do remember the old days. I remember having the living shit beaten out of me while friends, teachers and neighbours “minded their own business”.

I remember going hungry because teachers didn’t check that kids had reasonable lunches.

I remember being not being able to afford decent shoes, school uniforms or to participate in school activities.  I remember the constant worries about how bills would be paid, how food would be on the table.

I remember two boys dying in one year from head injuries while on their bikes, because helmets were not mandatory.

I remember the boy who broke his arm in the most HORRIFIC way playing on shonky playground equipment because there were no regulations then and has never lived the same since.

I remember when nobody on television looked like the people I knew in real life – they were ALL thin, white, straight, able bodied and affluent.  They had nice clothes, cars and homes and didn’t have to worry about paying the rent or the electricity bill.

I remember when I got food poisoning at a Brownie camp because there were no regulations to ensure the kids were fed decent food.

I remember when women were treated like shit in the workplace and not only had no way to challenge it, but it was ENCOURAGED by management.

I remember being discouraged from pursuing tertiary education, because I was a girl.

I remember when the Indigenous kids in my class were told that they “came from savages” and there was nothing here before white people came.

I remember when people with disabilities were locked up and then had to endure school trips of abled kids coming to “Visit the poor cripples.”

I could go on and on and on. But frankly, it’s exhausting to have to constantly educate people on how their rosy past only applied to a tiny portion of the population.

Nostalgia for the past is for the privileged. The rest of us are desperately glad the world has changed and can’t wait to keep pushing more of those changes through.

You Are Not Subtle With Your Hate

Published February 20, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

Inspired my my dear friend Ali over at Mean Fat Girl, I want to expand upon her post That Thing Thin People Do.  The thing is, we see you, thin people.  You think you’re being OH SO SUBTLE in your little judgements and smirks and insincerity towards us, but there’s one thing I can promise you – you’re not subtle.  You’re not even original.  Because when I sit down and talk to other fat people, particularly fat women, I hear the same things over, and over, and over again.  So perhaps if I lay them out in a nice, easy to read list, you can all see just how blatantly obvious you are with your cruddy behaviour, and maybe you’ll understand why so many of us simply don’t trust you, or even like you.

Oh you might not do all of these things, nobody is saying that.  But I’m quite sure you do some of them, because I and other fat people have seen you do it.  Time and time and time again.  And if you are one of the few who DON’T do these things, then this is not about you.   Don’t get all “not all thin people” at me – it’s no different to #NotAllMen or #NotAllWhitePeople

Things Thin People Do

  • Expect their fat friends to hang out with them for hours on end while they try on clothes that are not available to them, without ever returning the favour, or being cognizant of how fat people are excluded from clothing
  • Scowl at fat people in public
  • Laugh at the idea of fat people dating, being in love, having sex.
  • Laugh at fat people in public
  • Assume that fat people are all lazy gluttons
  • Decide how much and what fat people should eat.  Those “Are you sure you want that?” comments.
  • Nudge their partners, friends, family and point out fat people in public
  • Take photographs of fat people on their mobile phones
  • Talk about our bodies to other thin people, particularly about whether you think we are lazy or gluttonous.
  • Say things like “If I ever get like that, kill me.” In reference to our bodies
  • Inspect our shopping carts and baskets
  • Watch us eating, staring, following every morsel of food from our plate to our mouths.
  • “Compliment” us only when we wear dark colours, or clothes that hide our bodies, but if we wear anything colourful or that shows skin, you’re suddenly silent.
  • Talk about how fat you are, in front of us, like being fat is the worst, most disgusting thing you could be.
  • Use us to make yourself feel better about yourself – “at least I’m hotter/better/thinner than her.”
  • Speak to us as if you’re our intellectual superiors.
  • Assume we’re exaggerating or over-sensitive when we talk about how rude and hurtful people are to us.
  • Talk over us about fatness, bodies and eating disorders, as if you have more expertise on our bodies than we do.
  • Tell your children “You wouldn’t want to get fat now.” Right in our hearing, again, as though that’s the worst thing that a human being could be.
  • Laugh when your children parrot the hateful things to us that you have taught them.  As if saying something mean to a fat people is funny or cute.
  • Do absolutely nothing when someone says something hurtful or hateful about fat people in front of you.

And most tellingly;

  •  Get offended when fat people point out the many ways that you behave rudely or hurtfully towards us.
  • Make excuses for all of the above.

That’s right.  Ask yourself right now – has the list above pissed you off, or offended you?  If the answer is yes, then I’m talking about you.  If you’re bothered that I and others are pointing out all of these appalling behaviours, then perhaps ask yourself why you’re so invested in being “allowed” to treat fat people with such disrespect and hate.  What kind of person are you that you think any of the above behaviours are acceptable towards another human being?  Would you accept people behaving like that towards you?  Would you respect, trust or want to be around people who exhibited those behaviours towards you?

As I said at the beginning of this piece – fat people see you doing this stuff.  It’s not subtle at all, you’re not sneakily engaging in something that nobody will notice.  We see you.  And instead of internalising your disrespect and hatred of us, we’re learning to shine a spotlight on it for what it is.  That might make you feel uncomfortable, or ashamed.  Good – that’s how you’ve been making us feel about our own bodies for so long.  The difference is, our bodies are not harming you, they are just that – OUR bodies.  None of your business.

Still Here, Still Fat, Still Awesome

Published January 22, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

Hey y’all!

I’ve got a few lovely messages this week from people asking me if I’m OK, as I haven’t blogged in a while.  So first up, yeah I’m good, thank you to all who asked.  Nothing hugely dramatic from preventing me from blogging, just a bunch of little things that add up, you know?  I’m never very creative in the hot months, as hot weather just saps any creativity out of my brain.

Add to that a shoulder injury that I incurred back when I was in New Zealand in June/July – I took a spectacular stack on some mossy concrete and sprained my right ankle in a magnificent fashion (pics below) and made my whole body hurt.  Once the ankle healed (remarkably quickly, thanks to the hot thermal pools in Rotorua I believe!) and the residual soreness of the rest of my body eased, my shoulder has continued to be a problem.  Got it checked, ran it through some time to heal, no joy, so back to the doc I went this week.  I’m waiting for the results of my X-rays and ultrasounds to see if I’ve buggered the rotator cuff, or whether it’s just bursitis.  As unpleasant as bursitis sounds, it’s the lesser of the two evils, because a buggered rotator cuff may mean surgery.  GAH!

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And generally I’ve just been really busy!  The Christmas/New Year season, work stuff, friends, life in general.

But I am still around and still fat (yes loser troll, I am still fat, and still more awesome than you!) and still pissed at the way fat people, particularly fat women, are treated like we are sub-human.  I still have a lot to write about, just not a lot of time to do that writing.

I’m really glad people care and check in with me, it’s lovely!

People Die From Exposure – Pay Me!

Published October 10, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

In one day last week I had to answer three separate emails requesting my time and considerable work for free (or a $10 gift card!).  All in the space of one day, I had two for-profit businesses and a researcher (who mentioned she had been given a grant for her research) ask me to do considerable work for them, for free.

All three of them claimed to be about “empowering women”.

Sigh… is anyone else really, really sick of this shit?

Money

You want to “empower women”?  Pay us for the work we do.  And pay us fairly – not in bloody $10 gift cards that are useless to us.We know that women are underpaid.  Women on average do four years extra work than men in their lifetimes (which is compounded when you add other marginalised identities) and earn AT LEAST 25% less than men for doing the same work – white women on average earn 25% less than white men, again, compounded when you add other marginalised identities – ie black women earn at least 40% less than white men.  That doesn’t include the frankly phenomenal amount of domestic and emotional work that women are expected to provide, for free, across our entire lives.

Yet still, businesses, organisations and academics constantly make requests of women to give our time and skills for free.  As though we don’t already have more than enough piled on us both in the workplace and unpaid in our private lives.

Look, if I’m contacted by a non-profit organisation, and it’s a cause or concept that matters to me, I’ll volunteer, if I have the time.  Because that’s what volunteering is about, supporting things that matter to you and contribute to society.  If it is something that means I’ll have to travel, I appreciate assistance with my travel and accommodation, so that it’s not a financial burden on me to participate.   I’ll even negotiate rates for small and emerging businesses, if they don’t assume that I’m just going to work for free for them.  But if I have businesses contact me, tell me about how successful they are and then ask me to do work for them – and please, understand that what I do is WORK, it’s not a hobby – and then tell me that they’re not willing to pay me, that’s exploitation.  That’s furthering your own agenda at the expense of someone else, and it’s wrong.

I’m not talking about being slung a few freebies in exchange for a review, I mean actual work – speaking at an event, writing articles or papers, something that takes my time and skills.

Of course, there are always those that claim that women are being unreasonable for expecting to be paid for their time and skills, that it’s somehow “selling out” to expect payment for work.  I’ve even had it suggested to me that I’m somehow prostituting myself for expecting to be paid for my work.  Nobody calls a man who expects to be paid for his work a prostitute.

Both businesses responded to my query about payment for my work with “The exposure will be great for you.”  I don’t need exposure.  Y’all found me OK didn’t you?  You knew my name and where to find me.  I’ve just been on a national TV show that has been a massive success – people have been stopping me in the street to tell me they saw me on telly.  I can find my own “exposure” thanks.

Not to mention that as the saying goes, “exposure won’t pay my rent”.  Exposure isn’t going to pay the bills that all of us have in our lives.  We can’t live off exposure.  Let’s face it, people DIE from exposure.

If you are in the position that businesses and other funded organisations are requesting your time and talent, ask yourself “Is this work?  Shouldn’t I be paid for working for someone?”

And if you’re a business or other organisation that is looking for someone to do some work for you, at least ask them their rates, don’t turn up expecting them to work for free.  One would hope that you’d pay your staff, so pay people who do short term work for you too.  Especially if you’re going to trade off their name and reputation.

*Image credit: Pictures of Money on Flickr
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.

Melbourne Fashion Week Plus – The Political

Published September 11, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

What a whirlwind 10 days I had in Melbourne for Melbourne Fashion Week Plus (MFW+).  I think I’m still reeling a bit from just how full on it was, I know I’m still processing a lot of the feelings that bubbled up during the entire week.  I’m going to split my rundown of the week into two posts, this first one is going to talk about the politics and my own feelings about the event, and then I’ll follow up with the pretty fashions later, because I’m still putting together the photos and videos I took – I took a LOT!

I’m going to cover a lot in this post, so strap yourself in for a bit of a long read!

I had a lot of really intense feelings about being invited as a special guest to MFW+, mostly for two pivotal reasons.  Firstly because I’m not a fashion blogger in any stretch of the imagination – I love clothes, and expressing myself through the way I dress.  I love colour and texture and shape and I love the way putting an outfit on can make me feel.  But my focus as a fat activist is changing the way that fat people are both perceived and treated.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe clothing and fashion are important in fat politics – after all, access to suitable clothing is important to be part of society and because fashion and clothing can be really empowering, especially to those of us who have been denied access.  But to be invited and supported by MWF+ as an activist to be part of the event, knowing that they wanted my very political, feminist, fat active perspective to be included in the event means a lot to me.

Secondly, because despite being an almost 44 year old badass angry fat bitch who takes no shit from anyone, there is still deep inside me that heartbroken teenage girl who sobbed into her pillow because the popular girls had laughed at her and told her that she had no place even trying to wear nice clothes, because fat girls should never be seen and would never be as cool as thin girls.  There is still that tiny kernel of her in there and the thought of attending an event full of fashionistas, even be they fat ones, brought on a massive bout of imposter syndrome.  Even though I know rationally that it really matters nothing in the scheme of things in my life, those feelings are deeply formative and there’s still that moment of “All the popular girls are going to turn their noses up at me.”

The reality is, they didn’t (well, the vast majority of them didn’t, I did spot a couple of noses in the air though!) and the rational part of my brain is strong enough to remind me that I honestly don’t give a fuck!

So I flew down on the Saturday before the soft launch started and stayed a couple of days with the lovely Sonya Krzywoszyja (aka GannetGuts) and her famous kitty Dodge, who is now my BFF (best furry friend) who got me completely addicted to Melbourne coffee within 24 hours and was with me when a lovely woman in Brunswick stopped me in the street to tell me how much she had loved my appearance on You Can’t Ask That.  You haven’t lived until you see someone literally drop their phone with a “OMG gotta go bye!” and stop you in the street!  (Waves to Sarah, if you happen to read this – you made my day!)  We were on our way to the soft launch of MFW+ when that happened, and it was the first of many times I was recognised in Melbourne.  Both from within the fat community and from random people on the street – or in candy shops – I walked into a shop and the young woman behind the counter went “OMG YOU WERE ON TV!!”  It’s a really weird feeling but it’s so lovely to get some positive responses to my work instead of the usual garbage that hits my inbox!

It was wonderful to be able to actually speak to some of the designers and other people from the brands who were involved with MFW+.  I am sure some of them didn’t expect to have a middle-aged pink-haired mega fatty bending their ear on how the industry is failing so many of it’s customers.  But I wasn’t there to build people’s egos, I was there to agitate for change!  There is some amazing stuff happening with plus-size fashion in Australia, but there are also some really horrible gaps in the market that are ignoring the customers who have the most at stake when it comes to finding clothes that are suitable and desirable for their bodies.

One of the best experiences for me for the whole week was the panel I was lucky enough to be on, Feminism, Fashion and Fat Bodies.  Not only were my fellow panelists Sarah Harry and Meagan Kerr amazing women who approach fat activism from different perspectives but similar politics to me, but the general atmosphere of the event was incredible.  Several women came up to me after the panel and told me that they were amazed to feel welcome and included in a fashion event.  This is what we should always strive for – to right the wrongs of mainstream fashion, starting with inclusivity.

Meagan Kerr, Sarah Harry and myself at the Feminism, Fashion and Fat Bodies panel.

Meagan Kerr, Sarah Harry and myself at the Feminism, Fashion and Fat Bodies panel.

I’m a firm believer that not only can we be better at inclusive and ethical fashion, but we already are.  That’s not to say that there isn’t room for improvement – there’s a lot of room for improvement.  But I do see that fat fashion is willing to question where our clothes come from, who they are accessible to, who made them, who is making money from the customer and why some customers are left out.  We’ve taken more steps towards building a more equitable industry.

There are two areas that we do have a lot of work to be done though.  Size representation and affordability.

Unfortunately way too many “plus-size” brands are excluding the larger sizes still.   There is no valid excuse for this.  I hear a lot of brands say they want to expand into larger sizes, but the truth is that brands should be STARTING with the larger sizes.  This is the most under-represented demographic and a clientele that is clamouring for options.  Want to jump ahead from the competition?  Provide what your competition isn’t providing.  It was dispiriting to see so many brands at MFW+ who simply do not cater to my size, a 26/28AU.  The few who did really stood out and they have a captive audience of women who literally have almost no other options.

I know the MFW+ team worked really hard to find brands that both included larger sizes and would use models over a size 16, and that there are simply very few out there.  The thing I want to say to all of these brands who refuse to cater to larger sizes is that you’re not doing anything revolutionary by creating a plus-size range that only goes to 20 or 22.  There are so many brands doing that, just in Australia alone from all kinds of types of fashion and price points.  Size 16 or 18 or 20 is in no way cutting edge, revolutionary or radical.  It’s the status quo and it’s incredibly disappointing that so many of you do not have the courage to step up and do something really radical, which is create beautiful clothes for larger fat women.

Affordability is the next issue.  Now this isn’t a criticism of the brands who are providing quality clothes at a good range of sizes directly – they’re needed.  We need premium product.  But the issue is, we also need product from ALL price points – and that means high end fashion as well as a range of budget options.  As much as I would love to throw down $300 – $400 on a dress, it’s simply not possible.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have premium product out there – it means we need the diversity that is available in straight sizes.

I guess that is what it all boils down to – diversity.  Diversity of style, diversity of size, diversity of price point, diversity of range (ie everything from activewear to formal wear and all in between!)  Until we see diversity, the plus-size market is failing it’s customer.

The second panel on the Sunday was an industry one, comprised of brands and the head of a model management company.  I’m not going to name names, but frankly it was SO frustrating to have the head of the model company speaking over all of the designers, pushing to “drop the plus” and crowing that she was a “proud size 16” who wants to get rid of the labels, without acknowledging the reality that larger women do not have the options she does.  All of the brand reps there mentioned that they couldn’t get professional models over a size 20 and that they mostly sourced amateur ones to use, and the woman from the model company kept saying that no brand wanted models over a size 20, and then when the brands said they do, she told them that they should use “professional models because they’re so much better”.  That would be the professional models you don’t have because you say they won’t get work, forcing the brands to use amateur ones.   Frankly I was glad when the panel was over so we didn’t have to listen to her voice any more.  I felt deeply for the other panelists and for the panel chair!  I was so glad to be sitting next to the delightful Kobi Jae of Horror Kitsch Bitch so we could groan in frustration together!

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I mean, damn, look how cute we are! #SpaceChips

And then of course, there were the runways, with all those fashions.  I had so many feels.  While yes, it is disappointing and frustrating to be excluded from so many brands because they refuse (or consider it too hard) to cater to my size, there is something incredibly powerful about seeing fat bodies walking down a runway.  MFW+ worked like hell to get a diverse range of bodies down that runway, and while I know they got considerable resistance from some brands, to see women with bodies that looked like mine, or shared some of the features of mine was so powerful.  Round tummies, thick thighs, dimples, wide hips, big boobs, round faces… they were all gorgeous!  It felt so good!  All of the models, professional and street style, did an amazing job and kudos to the MFW+ team for their hard work to really make a difference.

So there you have it, a rundown of my thoughts on the political side of Melbourne Fashion Week Plus.  I am still working all on my photos and videos of the runways so I can share with you the actual fashion, but it’s important to talk about the way that plus-size fashion is changing the world and the way fat women can represent themselves.