fat bodies

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Aspire to be More, Not Less

Published April 19, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley Nell Tipton

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

Beth Ditto

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

Melissa McCarthy

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

Magda Szubanski

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

Naomi Watanabe

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

Amina Mucciolo aka Tassel Fairy

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

Kobi Jae of Horror Kitsch Bitch

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

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

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

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

Not Now, Not Ever

Published April 8, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

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

You don’t owe anyone jack shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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.

Melbourne Fashion Week Plus – News and a Competition

Published August 10, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

I am so excited to be able to announce that I will be attending Melbourne Fashion Week Plus (aka MFW+) in just over a week!

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Let me tell you about MFW+.  This week long fashion festival is both for fat women, and by fat women.  From the MFW+ website:

The Directors of MFWPlus come from a variety of backgrounds and are united by the prospect of delivering a first class fashion festival like nothing the Australian plus size fashion industry has seen before. Inspired by the wealth of plus size fashion available and their participation in previous plus size events, they are committed to creating an event in line with other Spring Fashion Festivals that not only broadens the content to include International designers but provides plus size women with their own festival and puts Melbourne on the map as one of the hubs of plus size fashion and body positivity in Australia.

I believe that fashion, style and clothing are a vital aspect of fat liberation.  Fat people have been denied access to fashion and suitable clothing for so long that for us to participate in the fashion world is radical and revolutionary.  We have been told for so long that we’re not allowed to be fashionable and stylish until we’ve literally reduced ourselves, so the fact that a group of passionate women are building an event such as this is a real “fuck you” to all of those who have policed our bodies through denying us clothing and style.

The thing I love about fatshion is that WE create our own paths.  You don’t have to follow one particular aesthetic, you don’t even have to be into traditional “fashion” so to speak.  Fatshion is about finding your own style, your own voice through the way you dress and present yourself.  Fatshion is about being innovative, about sharing and encouraging each other, and about pushing and shifting the boundaries of clothing options for fat women.

Fatshion is also about being unapologetic about living in a fat body.  It’s about building self esteem and confidence, and representation in a world that has long tried to hide us away.

Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects of plus-size fashion (as opposed to fatshion, which I think is a subset of plus-size fashion) that is still exclusionary to a lot of fat women.  But it’s our job to critique those aspects, and push for change, not opt out of something that has been long denied us.

If you’re in Melbourne, or can be in Melbourne from 22-28th of August, I highly recommend attending some (or all) of the events.  You can buy tickets here.

I’m really proud to have been asked to attend and participate in MFW+.  I’ll be attending all of the runways, and participating in the panel on Tuesday 23rd August – Feminism, Fashion and Fat Bodies with Meagan Kerr and Sarah Harry.

And I’m also really thrilled that I can offer two tickets to the event as a competition here on Fat Heffalump!  So… if you’d like to win a double pass to the MFW+ Panel, Feminism, Fashion and Fat Bodies, which will be held at the Duke of Wellington Hotel in Melbourne, 7pm Tuesday 23rd of August for you and a friend, comment below and tell me what fatshion means to you.

Competition closes this Sunday night at 7pm Brisbane time. Winners will be drawn randomly from valid entries and notified on Sunday night. Please only enter if you can definitely attend the event (or on behalf of someone who can), as I don’t want to see the tickets wasted by someone not showing up on the night!  These tickets are limited and hot property!

And if you’re at any of the MFW+ events, keep an eye out for me and say hello!  Don’t be shy, I don’t bite, I promise.  I’ll be in Melbourne for the whole week and am looking forward to meeting a whole host of new people.  For those of you who can’t be in Melbourne for the event, I’ll be blogging and sharing updates on my social media – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr.  You can also follow MFW+ on Facebook, Instagram and the #MFWPlus hashtag on Twitter.

Now I just have to decide what I’m going to wear all week!!

Update!

We have a winner.  I used a random number picker on random.org to chose the winner, and the winner is…

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Commenter number 4 – RYOU!  Congratulations, I will send you an email in just a moment.

Thank you all for entering and I do urge the other entrants to grab a ticket or two and go along – it’s going to be a fantastic event and I’d love to meet you all.

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.

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