fat bodies

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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.

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

Welcome, Thank You and What Next!

Published June 24, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marketing to Fat Women – This Is How You Do It

Published June 19, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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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.

A Tribute to Nurse Kellye

Published March 27, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Do you ever watch an old TV show that you thought you knew really well, and find a whole bunch of new things about it that you missed when you first watched it?  Especially watching something as an adult that you watched as a kid – you notice characters that you didn’t before, story threads that weren’t easy to pick up on unless the series was seen in order, brief roles by people who later became famous, or just understanding jokes and references that went over the head when you were a kid.

Like most people of my generation, I grew up on a solid diet of M*A*S*H – it started the year I was born and I can’t ever remember it not being on television.  It was a firm favourite of everyone in my household – which now surprises me as it’s very progressive for it’s time and I would not have expected it to be popular with my conservative parents.  If it was showing somewhere on TV, then the channel got switched over so we could all watch it.

Recently my library service added the entire collection of M*A*S*H to the catalogue, and as it had been some years since I’d even seen an episode, I decided to wade in and watch the entire 11 seasons.  It’s been MONTHS since I started and I’m only up to Season 10 right now, but I’m on the home run and while I’m sure I’d seen every episode already, I have learnt so much about the series and characters while I’ve been watching.  Like what?  Well, let’s see…

  1. It’s highly likely that my first love as a child was Major Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers) and even now, my heart still flutters at the mere thought of him.
  2. Loretta Swit never got near enough credit for where she took the character of Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan over the life of the show – from a goofy comedy foil to a nuanced, complex woman character whose storylines really pushed the boundaries of women’s roles even in the 70’s, let alone the 50’s in which the series is set.
  3. Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) can be a colossal jerk at times.
  4. The most consistently good acting (both comedic and serious) in the entire series was Gary Burghoff, who plays Walter “Radar” O’Reilly.
  5. As an adult, I like Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) more than I liked Colonel Blake (McLean Stevenson) as a kid.
  6. BJ Hunnicut (Mike Farrell) was probably the most decent character amongst the core cast.  All of the characters were flawed, but BJ seemed to always be a good guy.
  7. Klinger (Jamie Farr) was hilarious in his dress up days, but a much more nuanced character once he got out of the frocks.

But there’s one thing I’ve really discovered as I’ve watched the series.  My favourite character isn’t any of the above central characters.  My favourite character is lucky to have one or two lines per episode and her story isn’t always consistent.  In fact her name isn’t always consistent.  She is a short, chubby woman of colour.  She is Nurse Kellye, played by Kellye Nakahara.

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Nurse Kellye is probably in more episodes than anyone else, except Hawkeye, who was in every episode.  She’s always there – in the background in the mess tent, working diligently in the OR or Post-Op.  She dances with almost every major male character in the Officer’s Club at some point over the series.  In the later series, she has a line or two in almost every episode, and in the final series she has a whole episode to herself.  Her surname changes repeatedly throughout the show (sometimes they even use the actress’ real surname Nakahara for the character – it’s never really outlined what her full name is) as does her heritage.  At one point she mentions that she’s part Chinese, part Hawaiian, but later on she’s referred to as Japanese-Hawaiian.  We do know that her rank is Lieutenant at least.

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But she’s always there.  How many other women that look like Kellye Nakahara can you name in ANY television series, let alone one from the 70’s and 80’s who is always there, and is always shown as smart, competent, compassionate and professional?  How many chubby women of colour characters can you name that aren’t the butt of a joke, or portrayed as klutzy, or incompetent, or over-sexed, or silly?

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But there Nurse Kellye is, with her cute pigtails and sweet face, pretty much every episode, working beside the doctors and even respected by all of them – which is saying something when you remember Hawkeye’s attitude to the nurses.  She’s multi-lingual, a dedicated and more-than-competent nurse whom the doctors look to for information and advice on more than one occasion.  I particularly like that she was repeatedly shown socialising with Major Winchester – from being his dinner date when Klinger had set up a fancy restaurant in the mess tent, to asking him to dance (and he accepts graciously) in the Officer’s Club when a visiting USO performer strikes up a polka.  She wasn’t the butt of a joke in those scenes, she was just a woman socialising with her male colleague.

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When she does get to participate in a joke, she gets to be part of the gag, rather than be the butt of it.  Her flirting with Hawkeye when he is working in Rosie’s bar is not a joke at her expense, it’s her being cheeky to her colleague, an officer who outranks her, who has ended up serving behind the bar in the local den of iniquity, subverting the joke that has her as the GI chasing the bar-staff, rather than it being his usual role.

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In an era when women of colour were scarce on our TV screens and women who were not slim and “pretty” by conventional standards were almost always the objects of ridicule, seeing a consistently positively portrayed Asian-American woman with a short and chubby frame is SO refreshing.  We know that Nichelle Nicholls is a trailblazer in television with her role as Uhura in Star Trek, but has anyone ever acknowledged Kellye Nakahara for her 165 episodes of pure badass awesomeness in M*A*S*H?  We almost never see women like her in roles today, so there is no doubt at all that she too, was a trailblazer for her time.

Dear Ashley Graham

Published March 16, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Dear Ashley Graham,

Please stop.  Just… stop.  Look, I know you’re the hot name of the moment in plus-size models and you’re getting a lot of media and marketing attention.  Congratulations, enjoy it.  But you seriously need to knock it off with the whole thing about not wanting the term “plus-size” to be used.  What am I talking about?  Well, there’s this…

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I get that you don’t want to be called a “plus-size” model because let’s face it, you’re not a plus-size woman.  Unlike myself and so many other women who shop at the stores you collect cheques from for modelling their clothes, your body is not fat.  To anyone walking past you on the street, you’re just a woman, and a very beautiful one at that.  But when I walk down the street, I’m a fat woman.  Nobody is going to dispute that fact.  That’s where the vast chasm lies between the models who are chosen and paid to showcase clothes for fat women, and the actual women who are buying them.

AG

A plus-size model.

 

An actual plus-size customer. (Photo by Paul Harris)

An actual plus-size customer. (Photo by Paul Harris)

The thing is, women like me need the label “plus-size”.  We know that the label doesn’t refer to us or our actual bodies, but refers to the section in the store that we need to find – almost always a dingy corner in the back with no signage, poor housekeeping and terrible lighting – if we are lucky.  You wouldn’t know what it’s like to need that section because your body is catered to in most standard “straight” sized clothing ranges.  When you want to buy a swimsuit, you need to know where in the store to go to buy one right?  So you go to the swimsuit section.  Well, we need and want to buy clothes that fit our body, so we need to be able to find the section that has those clothes, and for the last century, almost anyway, there has been a conveniently named section called “plus-size” that we can seek out.  This saves us from wading through the other 90% of clothing that doesn’t include us.

When you, who have far more access to the media and marketing than we do, by the blessing of your pretty face, hourglass figure and relatively small size (compared to actual plus-size clothing customers) start trumpeting that the clothing industry needs to get rid of the term plus-size, two things happen.

Firstly, you stigmatise fatness further than it already is.  You might not be actually saying that, but that’s what many not-fat people, including the businesses who are supposed to be serving us, actually hear.  The corollary of that is that not-fat people and businesses stop listening to us.  They don’t listen to us much anyway, but your efforts are causing them to shut us out even further.

Secondly, businesses start thinking that they can “drop the plus” which means they start literally dropping plus-size product.  They downsize their collections.  They trim the size range, removing the larger sizes, which are already as rare as hens teeth.  So you are actively making it harder for many of us to find the clothing that we want and need.

While we’re at it, let’s touch on the “curvy sexylicious” thing.  I personally find it cheesy and childish, but you get to decide how you identify and you’re perfectly entitled to decide on that label for yourself.  But the reality is, the vast majority of women who actually buy plus-size clothing will never get to or want to be referred to as “curvy sexylicious”.  To start with, many of us a “boxy fat fabulous” or “roly-poly arse-kicking” or “shaped-like-the-magic-pudding awesome”.  We’re fat.  We don’t have neat little hourglass figures with a tiny tummy bump or a pair of thick thighs.  We have big, fat bodies.  Bodies that are still awesome, but they’re not being given the opportunity to model for Lane Bryant anytime soon.  Also, I can’t go to work in a lacy bra and tight skirt and call myself “curvy sexylicious” like you do when you go to work.  I need to wear something suitable for my job and call it “creative professional woman”.  Sexing up is all well and good, but we need more than lacy bras and sparkly evening wear (don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of lace and sparkle).  We need suits for the office, dresses for daytime, skirts and blouses to go to church in, smart casual gear to go to the school event in, all those sorts of thing.  When I go through my work day, I don’t make kissy faces and toss my hair – I have to answer phones and go to meetings and do a whole lot of innovative thinking, plus a lot of networking with people of all types – from management to politicians, from librarians to electricians.  That’s not exactly “curvy sexylicious” appropriate, you know?

Besides, not everything in plus-size has to be “sexy”.  In fact, not everything about womanhood has to be “sexy”.  Sexy is fun sure, and has it’s place, but women are worth far more than their worth to the male gaze.  We are more than valuable for our fuckability.  When I see models promoting plus-size clothing brands, they’re almost always naked, in lingerie or in some state of “sexyfication”.  I know why this is done – mostly for the shock value of seeing a body that has some small rolls or curves in a world where most models are ultra-thin.  We often don’t get to see the products actually showcased in the same way that straight-sized clothes are.  Which makes it so hard to shop for the clothes we want and need.  Particularly when our clothes are relegated to online shopping or badly maintained racks in the back of the store.  We need to see what an outfit will look like when we wear the whole outfit – very hard when we’re forced to shop online.  The lacy bra and tight skirt is cute on you in a promo shot, sure… but how do I know what it looks like with a jacket or blouse in the same range?   How do I know what it will look like on a body shaped like mine, rather than tall, hourglass and slim like you are?

What it really boils down to is that we need more clothing options than there currently are in our sizes, and we need to be able to see them in a way that reflects how we live, feel and look.  We need to see ourselves.  Your constant calls to lose the term “plus-size” don’t help that.  Perhaps if you don’t want to be called a “plus-size model”, it’s time for you to step back, stop collecting the cheques for jobs that are supposed to serve fat women and let some larger, more realistic to the customer, models take the jobs.

Yours sincerely
Kath
aka Fat Heffalump

Good Weekend – Corrections and Clarifications

Published January 23, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Well, hello!  There are a LOT of new people popping in to view my blog, and I can only assume that it’s because of the article published today in the Good Weekend magazine, which is a weekend addition to the Sydney Morning Herald.  Welcome to all of those who are newly discovering this little blog.  And to all of those of you returning, it’s good to see you back.

Dog Reads Newspaper?

*Deep breath*  Today has been a little intense and it’s a new kind of intense on top of an already intense week.  I’ve had a lot of people contact me today thanks to the aforementioned article, some of whom with very valid questions and critique.  Quite a few talking out their arse, but I pay no mind to those.  I just wanted to write a little something to go with the article.

Now I don’t think that Tim Elliott has written a bad article, quite the opposite.  But I have been misquoted/misinterpreted a bit, and I don’t know whether that was a communication error, misinformation or just bad copy editing (do newspapers even have copy editors any more – or were those all made redundant too?).  Generally speaking the article is far more fat positive than most pieces we see, and it’s so good to see some actual fat women represented.  I had loads of fun doing the photoshoot for it by amazing photographer Paul Harris, who was really fun to work with and seemed to just “get it”.  My hair and makeup were done by Monique Zalique who was an absolute sweetie and made me look super glam, despite it being a roasting hot day!

So, a few things I would like to set right.

Firstly, for some reason, the amazing Jessica West, at fashion organiser and advocate, as well as my friend, has not been credited at all.  She’s the mega cutie in the video with the black and gold headscarf and babely glasses.  She was interviewed and photographed for the article but it wasn’t used, but footage of her was used in the video and she is the only one whose name isn’t published!  So I want to acknowledge her first and foremost.  She has a killer instagram, go follow her.

Next I’d like to address the way I’ve been described.  The “fat prider” thing – I’ve never called myself that, though I do believe in fat pride and fat liberation.  I identify as a fat activist and my focus is on fat politics.  The article implies some kind of leadership role, but I have never called myself or inded wanted to be a “leader” in any form of fat politic movement.  Personally I believe that activism should have no leaders, because activism is about pushing and growing and evolving, not a direct hierarchy.  In Australia, there are many fat activists, doing their thing in their own way.  All of us are needed.  I’m just one that will put myself in front of a photographer or journalist and do the media thing from time to time.

I also want to correct a couple of statements.  While I have had my workplace contacted by harassers, I’ve not had one show up there thankfully.  Not that that diminishes the actual harassment that has happened.  I also did not actually catch anyone slipping an abusive note in my mailbox, though I did contact the police about it at the time, who suggested I should “just get off the internet” and “not be so confident”.  The young law student from UQ that I caught was creating fake accounts on Facebook to send me harassing messages, and I was able to link those fake accounts to her real one.  Since I named her, she has not been back to my knowledge.

As for the suggestion that fat activists harass and bully people who lose weight, by choice or accident, that is absolute bullshit.  While we may object to those who start (or return to) “fat is bad” attitudes, and we will call out those who use stigmatising and hateful language to describe fatness and weight.  Saying “It’s not acceptable to vilify fatness.” is not bullying, abuse or harassment.  Unfortunately those who promote weight loss and/or dieting refuse to accept that by it’s very nature, eliminationist rhetoric about fat, the idea that fat should be prevented, cured, eradicated, it is harmful to fat people.

What you do to your own body is your business.  When you start promoting that some bodies are better than others, then I’m going to point that out as unacceptable.  That is not bullying or harassment from fat activists, and that does not make us “neo-fascists”.

One of the biggest problems with people who have privilege pointed out (especially if it’s new privilege, through weight loss, popularity or financial gain) is they refer to anyone pointing that out as “hate”.  Hate is sending threats, telling someone they are disgusting or sub-human, or ridiculing someone for who they are.  Pointing out that someone is engaging in behaviour or rhetoric that is harmful to others is not “hate”.

And finally, there is one statement that really, really bothered me.

Indeed, many fat activists regard their battle for acceptance as akin to the civil rights movement, or the struggle for gay and lesbian equality.

I really, really cringe at this.  Yes, I understand there are SOME that still see fat activism that way and conflate it with other movements.  But here’s the thing.  Marginalisation is diverse.  Each kind stands on it’s own as a valid thing to fight.  Many people have intersecting identities that are marginalised.  Some of those identities are in more peril than others, which makes the fight for their rights crucial and urgent.  Black people and trans people are currently extremely vulnerable.  There is no such thing as “another civil rights movement” – they’re all facets of the same fight – the right for ALL people to be treated equally.   The “struggle” for equality belongs to all of us, we just have to realise that some of us have privileges that others don’t.  As a white, cis, heterosexual woman with a regular income, I have privileges that others don’t.  As a very fat woman with disability, I am not afforded the privileges of thinner people, able-bodied people and men.  There is no sliding scale.  All of this is complicated and intertwining and every bit of fighting for human rights of any kind is needed.  None of them are new or taking over.  Can we please let go of that thinking right now!

So, that’s my clarifications/corrections to the article.  Again, while there are some issues with details, I still think this is a very positive article and I’m proud to have been able to participate in this get some light shed on fat liberation in the mainstream media.

Fat Activism is Not About Your Boner – Part 2

Published November 7, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

Ugh.  It’s happening again.  There’s another round of posts/tweets/talk declaring “You can’t force me to find you attractive!” responses to fat activism.  Post after post after post from random dudes, usually crawling out of reddit or 4chan, loudly declaring that fat activism has no place in modern society because “You can’t force me to find you attractive!!”  It doesn’t matter what topic we talk about, there they are:

“The availability of a full range of affordable plus-size clothes is sadly lacking.”
“You can’t force me to find you attractive!”

“Doctors are failing to treat fat patients with dignity and respect, and this is endangering their health.”
“You can’t force me to find you attractive!”

“Fat women are paid less than thin people for doing the same work.”
“You can’t force me to find you attractive!”

“Fat women cannot walk down the street or be visible online without being abused and harassed”
“You can’t force me to find you attractive!”

“Fat women are not represented fairly in art or media.”
“You can’t force me to find you attractive!”

“Gastrointestinal mutilation is killing fat people.”
“You can’t force me to find you attractive!”

Hot tip fellas – we have never either asked or demanded you find us attractive.  It’s pretty certain that if you’re that type of dude, we don’t find YOU attractive, and we could care less whether you find us attractive or not.  Fat activism has nothing to do with your boner.  It has always been about the rights of fat people to live their lives in dignity and respect, without fear of vilification or discrimination.  Standing up and saying “Don’t treat fat people as subhuman.” does not mean the same as “You must find us attractive.”  Our demand to be able to walk down the street or be online without being abused and harassed, or to get decent clothing, medical care and working conditions has not one iota of anything to do with whether or not people find us attractive or not.

But that’s the thing isn’t it?  Many men only treat women with respect if they find them attractive.  It’s the Nice Guy phenomenon.  Those men who are only “nice guys” to the women they want to sleep with.

Which leads me to the next problem that fat women face – and that’s at the other end of the spectrum.  Men who expect us to be grateful that they DO find us attractive.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have complete strangers contact me to tell me that they find sexy, as if I’m supposed to care.  I write about fat women in fiction – skeevy dudes commenting how they like me in a particular dress, or emailing me dick pics.  I even get them creeping me on LinkedIn and GoodReads for fucks sake!  I write about harassment online, some rando messages me that he wants to lick my fat feet.  I post pictures of my new outfit, some creep follows me on Flickr and favourites hundreds of pictures of me.  I say on Instagram that I feel cute today – some dude tells me I’m a hot BBW.

Newsflash – I am not your BBW, whoever you are.  I am not your ANYTHING.  I don’t know you, and I don’t want to hear about your boner.

When women talk about how they feel beautiful or sexy or pretty, it is not the same thing as demanding or inviting other people to do so.  It’s about how we feel, our self-confidence and self-esteem.  It’s about our right to take up space and feel good about ourselves.  If I post a picture of myself and say “Damn I’m cute!” – it has NO bearing on whether or not someone else feels the same way.  It’s about how I feel and if someone disagrees, I don’t care.   I am still cute, whether you agree or not.  No need to tell me.  It’s not about you.  I’m not going to click on some strange guy’s photo and say “Dude, I don’t find you attractive at all.”  Or “You’re gross.”   One, what I think about some stranger doesn’t matter and two, it’s DOUCHEY to try to make anyone feel bad about themselves.

We don’t have to feel or show gratitude for men telling us about their boner.  Particularly when most of them would turn and sneer if some random woman who they weren’t interested in approached them.  It’s interesting how a man declaring sexual interest in a woman is something women should be grateful for, whether they are interested or not, but a woman showing interest in a man earns her scorn and ridicule if it is not reciprocated.

Because that’s how they’ve set up the parameters around fat women – we can’t win no matter what we do.  If we demand to be treated as human, we are either accused of forcing random men to find us attractive, or we’re treated as objects to fuck with no agency or humanity.

To all the fat women out there sick of either being abused or skeeved on by random men – your self-confidence and self-esteem is not determined by other people, it is determined by YOU.