feminism

All posts tagged feminism

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.

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Fat Activism – More Crucial Now Than Ever

Published April 1, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People Die From Exposure – Pay Me!

Published October 10, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

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

Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Image credit: Pictures of Money on Flickr
As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.

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:

IMG_5997

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.

Interview with Essence Magazine – Full Transcript

Published February 14, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Sometimes I am really honoured by the things that come to me thanks to my writing and activism.  This week, I sent out a tweet (below) that was shared far and wide and ended up bringing me to being interviewed by a writer for Essence magazine, which for me is truly an honour.  I’m still a little stunned that my tweet, which was aimed at speaking to the white women writers in my sphere, could take me places like this.

I have been trying to decide if I was going to publish this interview in full here, as it was a very long interview and only an abridged version appeared, but over the past couple of days having to endure a completely tone-deaf, self-entitled campaign by one butthurt white woman on Facebook in response to the article, I think I need to share it.  Not to speak for any black people but again to speak TO white people who just don’t get it.  Who just don’t get that sometimes, art or media is not produced for us and we need to just sit down and listen to what black people are saying.  Hopefully if I can reach one other white person by sharing this full interview, it will be one less person offering a “hot take” on something that simply isn’t theirs to comment on.

tweet

So, without any further ado, here’s the interview reproduced exactly as I sent it to Aliya S. King of Essence…

What have you seen in the media that made you even think about Formation in this way? Were there other topics you felt white women tackled that perhaps they shouldn’t have? Or should have done so with more nuance or from a different place?



I’ve been a fan of Beyoncé for a long time, and over the years I’ve seen so many think pieces and “hot takes” from white writers, and men for that matter, that just made me cringe with how self absorbed they were.  One thing I’ve always believed is that not all art is made for everyone and music can be far more than something to tap your toes to.  Sometimes a piece of art is made to make a statement, or to speak to and/or for a particular set of people.  What a piece of art makes you feel is subjective and when that art is saying something in particular, if it’s not for you, then it’s best to leave the think pieces to those who it *IS* for.  

Not to mention that I’ve listened to countless women of colour write about how they are sidelined in the rush for white women to publish their hot takes.  One of the best things I ever discovered online was the work of WOC.  Tumblr and Twitter have been fantastic gateways to SO many amazing writers, artists and activists.

I know that your tweet was partially tongue-in-cheek and that you don’t really think white women can’t write about Beyoncé. But your point is plain: there are certain things (like Formation) that are so inherently steeped in a particular culture that it may be best left to those who actually have experienced it. Am I getting your point correct? 



Actually my tweet was 100% genuine.  It’s not that white women can’t write about Beyoncé and Formation, it’s that they shouldn’t.   I really do believe that in the case of this song, what we white feminists think about it isn’t important.  If we like the song, then great.  If not, it’s not for us, so time to shut up and listen to the people it is for.  I honestly believe that it’s time that in situations like these, white women writers do need to step back and shine a spotlight on the work of women of colour.  Being a writer I know lots of writers, and I hoped to reach them with that tweet.

The tweet that immediately followed that one was “Then SUGGEST some.  There are plenty out there.”  I think it’s one thing to say that someone else should write it but it’s also important to pass on names of people who are suitable.  I can suggest loads of great black woman writers who are often overlooked in favour of white women.

Have you ever backed away from writing something because you felt it wasn’t your lane? Example? 



All the time.  My work is about the intersection of feminism and fat politics, and more recently ableism, since I found myself with a chronic illness.  That’s my lane.  I get loads of media and marketing requests (some offering payment, many not) and far more of them are outside of my lane than those that are in.  It’s not my place as a cis, white, straight woman to write about issues that I am not affected by.  My job there is to signal boost the work of those who are affected.   If it’s content for my own platforms I’d rather do a link round up or something where I am sharing other’s work.  If it’s content for someone else’s platform, I know plenty of writers from a wide range of backgrounds I can recommend instead.

That said, I am 100% sure I’ve got it wrong myself in the past too.  I probably will again!  But it’s through listening to what other people have written and said that I learn and grow.

Have you ever read something that made you think: this person wasn’t qualified to write about this. He/She should have stayed in their lane. 

I couldn’t tell you how many I have.   These days they mostly get a frustrated “close browser” before I even finish them.  The number of thin people with hot takes on what it’s like to be a fat person sends me into despair.  My pet hate is thin people who put on fat suits and then write about how hard it was for them.  My body isn’t a suit, it’s me, and I think people need to actually listen to fat women, not fake it for their own take on it.

But I know that happens across all marginalised identities and I am glad I have been able to learn from other writers and activists work, rather than someone outside of that identity.

I also want to acknowledge that at the same time I sent that tweet, there were other people saying the same thing, many of them black women.  It’s no secret that often a white woman’s words will go further than those of a black woman saying the same thing, which sucks.  My intention was never to speak for black women, but to speak TO white women.

Are there references in “Formation” that you don’t necessarily understand? It’s so deeply trenched in Black culture that me, a 42 year old Black woman, had to think a minute about some of the references she was making! 



I don’t doubt some references have gone right over my head.  Not only because I’m a white woman, but also because I’m an Australian woman.  I’m pretty well versed in world politics but there are always references that are going to fly right by me.  Again, that’s where I turn to women of colour to learn from their work.

This video is such a hot-button treasure chest of issues: feminism, activism, Black-ism (I just made that up), sexuality, police brutality, governmental racism. It’s a lot to unpack. Is that part of the reason why you urged writers to allow Black women to handle the commentary and think pieces on this?



No not at all.  I’m not afraid to delve into the tricky issues – as an activist I consider that my calling.  My intention is to urge white women to allow black women to speak about art that belongs to them.   “Allow” is the wrong word though, it’s not white women’s place to give “permission” to black women… I guess I mean make space?  Hand over the stage/spotlight?  Take a seat and let someone more relevant to speak?

 Beyoncé didn’t make this song for me – except maybe to LISTEN and LEARN.

**Because** of your tweet, I feel like you absolutely could write about the video, from your own place of understanding. If someone said, tell us how YOU feel about this video and how it speaks to your experience, what would you say? Would you honestly follow your tweet and say, you know what? This is not my lane. You should speak to someone who’s lived this. 

I’m honoured that you feel that – in fact I’m honoured that the tweet has gone so far with black women in general.  I can’t tell you how chuffed I am at so many of the shares and retweets I’ve seen.  I saw Kat Blaque share it on Facebook yesterday and I was just a pile of mush!

I still feel kind of weird participating in this piece, but I’m deeply honoured as well.

  I would honestly follow my tweet.  Besides all I really have right now for it are superlatives, and that’s not earth shattering news.  It’s a killer song and video that has some incredible imagery and lyrics.  Beyoncé knocked my socks off with this one.  I saw the video of her SuperBowl performance too – also fantastic.

Why do you think so many people, (black, white, male AND female) connected so much with your tweet?

I could only hazard a guess – and probably for the same reason that I appreciate when a man, a thin person or an able bodied person steps back to let me speak – it’s so frustrating being spoken over by people who have privilege over me that when someone does speak up and say “step back folks, it’s not our turn”, it feels really good.  Plus I guess it’s nice not to have to be the one to tell white people to step back for once, you know?

What was your thought process when you tweeted it. Your account is protected so you knew it was likely going to remain in your sphere. Would you have tweeted it if your account was public? 

My account is private only to keep out the sheer avalanche of hate that a fat woman gets online.  I am happy to get new followers, I just need to keep out the randos who spend their lives harassing and abusing women online.  As a visible fat woman I deal with abuse and harassment on a daily basis – death and rape threats, being called horrific slurs, stalking and doxxing.  I simply don’t have the sanity points to deal with it everywhere so I have locked down my Twitter account for a little peace!  

I do have a lot of writers in my sphere as it is, and it was them I was addressing (the white ones at least!) but absolutely I would tweet it publicly!

What was your first thought when asked if it could be shared?

Alysse of @readytostare mentioned that she wished she could share it and I told her she was welcome to either screen cap or do the old style copy + paste share.  I don’t mind people sharing my tweets as long as they ask, as I am on private.  I was happy to extend the message to any white lady writers she might know.  I had no idea it would be shared as far and wide as it has been until another friend tagged me on Facebook and I saw the share numbers there.  I was completely gobsmacked!

How do you feel now, knowing that you literally have a role in the Formation news cycle?

I’m not sure I would go as far as a role, but as I mentioned before I am really honoured that people would share my tweet so far, especially by women of colour.  I learn so much by reading the work of so many awesome women of colour all over the world, to think I’ve said something they think is worth re-tweeting just has me glowing.

Sort of a sidebar question: What are your thoughts on Beyonce, before and after Formation. Are you a fan? Are you a member of her insanely loyal #beyhive. And what ARE your thoughts on Formation?
I’ve been a fan of Beyoncé for a very long time.  Destiny’s Child, her early solo stuff, her movie roles, she’s awesome.  I wouldn’t call myself a member of the #beyhive, because while I think she’s awesome I don’t think she’s perfect!  I’m not into all the tracks on her self-titled album (but love the ones I do like) and don’t expect her to be everything to everyone.  But she is a cultural icon in so many ways and is always pushing at the boundaries to shift the industry.

As for Formation, I’m still in full squee mode over that song.  The personal and political statements in both the lyrics and the video imagery, her brilliant choreography and that iconic wardrobe!  My first thought on watching the video was that someone needs to be awarded for that red outfit, because it doesn’t budge a millimetre on her body despite her intense dancing.  I can’t get a top to sit right on my body while sitting still, let alone a plunging neckline while dancing vigorously!

But most of all, as I said on Twitter last night, I think that anyone who says that music can’t drive serious political and cultural discourse isn’t listening properly.  Just look at how that one song and video has stirred up conversation about so many things – that’s pretty revolutionary stuff to drop as a surprise release.  More power to her for it.


 

Footnote: Here are some pieces on Beyoncé and Formation written by black women.  Read these!

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.

The Competition is a Lie

Published July 18, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello!  I’m still here, still alive (I know fat haters, you had me pegged as dying by the time I was 40!) and still keeping up with the fatosphere.  I know, I’m not writing as often as I used to – I have to focus on the boring stuff of life so much more these days, like working and paying the bills, there’s not as much time and energy to spend writing, which really bums me out.  But I am here, and I do continue to share a lot of stuff on my Facebook page.

Today I want to share some wisdom with you all.  Triggered by a couple of things really, I want to talk to all the women out there about self esteem and how you view/treat other women.  I’m currently reading a thesis I recently participated in (Tayla Hancock: Life in This Fat Body) and am hearing some of the other participants stories of how they feel in comparison to other women.  The other trigger is the almost constant surveillance I receive other women in public.  I’m sure many of you have experienced it, being out in public when you  notice a woman look you up and down (the old body check), focus on something about you (for me it’s usually my rather prodigious belly!) and then you see the expression of superiority and disdain travel across their face.  You know the look.  “Well, at least I’m not THAT fat/don’t have a big belly/fat arms/big butt etc/am prettier than her.”

I recently even had someone admit on my Facebook page that even though they’re a fat woman themselves, they find themselves looking at other women and thinking those very things.  My answer to her was “Don’t think that those women don’t know you’re doing that.  Because we do.”

I want to let you in on a little secret.  Judging other women will not fix your bad self esteem.

It won’t.  It might make you feel superior for a few minutes, but the minute you see another woman who you think is prettier/thinner/better than you, then your self esteem is going to crumble all over again.

For those of you who are subjected to the judgement of women needing to feel superior to you, take heart, their perception of superiority to you is no real reflection on your value.   Their critique means nothing.

Let’s face it – we women are taught from birth that our appearance is the most important thing about us and that life for women is a competition with each other.  To get the “best” man, “best” job, “best” home, “best” family etc we must be “better” than other women.  So it’s only understandable that we grow up to engage in those really crappy behaviours towards each other.  The reason that we do this, isn’t because we’re women, but because women are taught by our culture that we’re SUPPOSED to do this.  After all, how often do you see that in popular culture – the trope that women have to compete over a guy, or something else.  We’re not allowed to compete for things like sport or skill, as that would be “unlady-like”, but if we want the thing that’s held up to us as the ultimate goal for women – the attention of men, then we’re expected to fight tooth and claw for it.  It’s a false value system.  The truth is, the attention of men is of low value and all too abundant.   You really don’t have to compete with other women to get it, if that’s what you want.

That said, because it’s deeply ingrained and we’re taught by society that it’s how we’re supposed to behave, doesn’t make it OK.  Before we look at any benefits to ourselves, we need to be asking “Is this the right way to be treating other women?  Would I like to be treated this way?”  I’m pretty sure for most of us, the answer is a very firm no.

There is no competition.  By competing with other women, you instantly lose.  Every. Single. Time.

The way to make things better for yourself is not by pushing others down, but by recognising that we all have value and that womanhood is not a zero sum game.  The more we see value in women in general, the more we can recognise our own value.  Besides, beauty is false social economy as it does not belong to you – it’s fake currency metered out by our culture –  society can and does revoke it in a heartbeat, taking a woman from valuable to not in moments.

There are some really important facts for us to understand when it comes to our value as human beings, and to put us firmly on the path to building better self esteem.

Firstly, other women’s appearance, bodies, lives and success have absolutely no relevance to your value as a woman.  Womanhood and your value as a person is not a competition, and other women being successful or prettier or thinner than you does not make them superior to you as a human being.   Your value is something intrinsically tied to YOU, not to other people in relation to you.  There is no rank when it comes to womanhood.  There’s no real hierarchy of women.  Sure, a lot of men and society in general would love us to believe that we can be ranked and rated and should be devoting our lives to moving up that hierarchy, but it’s false.  If we are convinced to believe that, then we’re expected to compete for male attention and buy products to make ourselves “better/more worthy”.

Secondly, there will always, be someone thinner, prettier, sexier, better dressed etc than all of us.  Well, except perhaps Beyoncé.  But I can guarantee you, the most gorgeous woman you can think of still sees other women and thinks “I wish my [body part] were more like hers.”  So no matter how much superiority you build up when judging another women, it’s ALWAYS going to come crashing down when you encounter one that you decide has something better than yours.

Self esteem is built by learning your own worth, not measuring other people’s.  Seriously, the most important lesson I have ever learnt in building my self esteem is that by not judging other women, I actually stopped judging myself so harshly.  When I stopped judging other women for what they wear, how they look, the size and shape of their bodies, how they live their lives, suddenly I realised that I felt better about myself.  When you stop playing that constant comparison game, your energy is focused on so many other things and you stop being so critical of yourself.  When you are not constantly looking for someone to be better than, you also stop finding people you feel are better than you.

Finally, I think the most important thing to realise is that women are awesome.  We are.  When you learn to value other women for more than just how small their arse is or how clear their skin is, you realise that being part of womanhood is so richly rewarding.  Making friends with other women and valuing other women teaches you to value and be kind to yourself.  Once you start changing your thinking, it becomes self-perpetuating.  The more you question your attitudes towards other women and change that judgemental thinking, the better you feel about yourself, and then the better you feel about yourself, the less you feel the need to cast judgement on others.

It isn’t an overnight thing and is a learning process.  But the more you practice it, the stronger your own self esteem will get.  But I can tell you now after years of working on it, no amount of sneers at my big belly or fat arms diminishes my value as a woman.

So, the next time you find yourself looking at another woman and thinking “My ***** is better/thinner/prettier than hers.”, ask yourself why it matters.  Ask yourself how you’d feel if she was doing that to you.  And realise that so what if you’ve got a smaller arse than her or whatever.  That reflects only on you, not on her.

Or if you’re like me, and are one of the women who insecure others LOVE to treat with disdain, to use as their yardstick for their own worth, I want you to do something for me.  Next time you  notice it happening, put your shoulders back.  Hold your head up and look that woman in the face and remember that she’s doing it because SHE feels worth less, not because you are worth less.  Don’t give anyone that sense of superiority.  Smile at her, and walk away, rocking your badass, awesome self just as you are.