conferences

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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!

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.

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.

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.

Online promotion flyer 1

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.

Winners – Online Registration for Fat Studies: Identity, Agency, Embodiment Conference

Published May 22, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

As promised, I’ve just drawn the two winners for the online registration for the Fat Studies: Identity, Agency, Embodiment conference!

I had 11 entries (one commenter asked not to be entered to the competition) and used an online random number generator to pick the two winners.  The first one is…

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Number 9 – spunkysarsapirella

And the second one goes to…

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Number 3 – Dizzyd

I will be in touch with you both shortly to arrange your online registration.  Congratulations!

For the rest of you who are interested, you can still get online registration here for the conference.  It’s a bargain at $50NZ, you get access to all of the presentations via both livestream and on demand.  It’s the next best thing to being there in person!

Get on it, it’s gonna be awesome!

Online promotion flyer 1

Competition! Win an Online Registration for Fat Studies: Identity, Agency, Embodiment Conference

Published May 15, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello!  It’s all happening here – thanks to those of you who donated, promoted and shared my GoFundMe campaign, I raised a neat $2000 to get me to New Zealand to present my paper at the 2016 Fat Studies: Identity, Agency Embodiment Conference next month.  I am SO excited about being able to attend and present this year, I did so four years ago at the first conference, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.  Not only to go and be amongst scholarly thinking about fat but also to be amongst a community of fat people and allies.

I am also completely gobsmacked at just how generous and supportive so many people have been in getting me there.  It’s been a big couple of months for me, as well as all of this, my Grandad passed away, and I’m working on a really big project with my day job, and having so much support and encouragement for my activism has really help shore me up in an otherwise intense time in my life.  So to all of you who contributed in whatever way, thank you so much.

Now, on to the meaty stuff of this post!  One of the awesome things about this upcoming conference is that for those who are unable to travel to New Zealand, there will is an online registration available.  This gives you access to both live stream and view on demand professional video recordings of the event (including each of the presentations) and the conference programme.  It’s a bargain at $50NZ and you can get it here.

Also, I’ve got two online registrations to give away!  So two of my lucky readers will be signed up for online registration, and get to enjoy the conference and all the on demand videos!  How cool is that?

And look at what you get to enjoy!  Keynote speakers Katie LeBesco and Substantia Jones.  And two days full of speakers like Jenny Lee, Amy Farrel, Xavier Watson, Hannele Harjunen and Cat Pausé of course!  Oh, and me!

Online promotion flyer 2

Online promotion flyer 1

Now, I know you want to know how to enter.  I’m gonna make it pretty easy for you.  All you need to do to qualify to go in the draw is leave a comment below answering this one question:

What one thing would make you feel liberated as a fat person?

There is no correct/winning answer, I just want to know what liberation looks like to all of you (and it helps me weed out the trolls).  It could be anything, what matters to you is different to what matters to the next person, though I daresay we probably share a lot of them!

Here, I’ll even give you some help, here’s my answer.

I’d feel really liberated as a fat person if I could exist in the world without the constant surveillance I am subjected to.  Without people staring, ogling my food choices and grocery shopping, sneaking photos of me in public, nudging each other to point me out and poring over my online presence out of some perverse need to watch me at all times.  It would be so freeing to not have to deal with that every day.

Entries are one per person and you have a week to enter – I will draw the winner (by numbering all valid entries and then drawing a random number) next Sunday night, 22nd of May, 2016 and I will contact the winners by email (so please make sure to use your emails in the comment login field in WordPress!)

So there you go.  Good luck and I can’t wait for the conference to happen so that I can tell you all about it.