marketing

All posts tagged marketing

Internalised Fathphobia is Still Fatphobia

Published May 20, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

First a tiny bit of housekeeping – thank you so much to all of those who have donated so far to my GoFundMe to get to Sydney for the Cyberhate Symposium.  Your support means so much to me!  If you’d like to know more about that, please click here.

Now, on to the topic of the day.

Yesterday I posted this to Instagram, and it struck some really strong chords with people:

I posted this because yet another high profile, supposed fat positive person in the public eye has cropped up in the mainstream media trumpeting about their weight loss surgery and how they are only doing it for themselves, their own health, their own happiness.  In a huge article in a mainstream publication where they were likely paid for the piece, if not they are going to get commercial benefit from doing so.  Simply because there is massive societal benefit in publicly trying to not be a fat person.

Sigh…

I am not going to talk here about personal choice, the pressures fat women face and I am not going to to recite the litany of evidence that shows that weight loss surgery (gastric mutilation) does not cure any illness long time, does not cure depression and has vast detrimental health risks including a high death rate.  I’ve done that before and other people have done it time and time again and it’s all easily retrievable with some simple Google searches.

What I want to talk about today is the damage that these “personal journeys” in the mainstream media do to fat people in general and secondly, the sheer hypocrisy of people who have been in the mainstream media and big business arenas selling themselves as fat positive role models, only to turn around shortly afterwards and in the same media, throw fat people under the bus with their narratives of “personal choice”.

There comes a responsibility with public visibility.  That responsibility is that you are to do your best not to do any harm to those out there that don’t have the platform that you do – be they people you have privilege over, or those you share marginalised identity with.  I take that very seriously with my small platform, and while I will inevitably fuck up, I am always working to do my best to avoid doing so, and I will do my best to own it and fix it when I do fuck up.  I take the time to think about what I am saying, to ask myself who I am leaving out, and who I might be doing harm to.

Personal narratives are important, yes.  But there is always a time and a place that must be carefully chosen.  It is not OK to just jump out into the mainstream media or major business platform with your personal narrative when that narrative is going to do damage to other people.  Having a mainstream media or business platform is a position of power that most marginalised people simply do not have, so there is little to no reply or rebuttal to damaging narratives that are given air time.

Put simply, it’s in no way a big risk to put yourself in the media and parrot the dominant paradigm about fatness.  It’s a safe bet that is going to get you support from the majority, because the majority actually do believe that fat is bad, and that one must go to any length to not be fat.  This is not a brave step, or one that has never been heard before.  It’s a safe bet that to do so you are going to have people patting your back and telling you “You go girl, good on you.”

But what is also a safe bet is that people are going to read/see your story, and regardless of whether or not you’ve put any caveats in that it’s your own personal story, they’re going to see it as a reassurance that they are right, that all fat people are unhealthy, sad, depressed, gross, sickly and miserable – you are simply reinforcing the existing narratives.

The other problem I have with these types of stories is that they are so often coming from someone who has made themselves a name, a business, a career, money and fame from other fat women – as the post that Virgie Tovar shared on her Facebook page this morning says:

Image text: These celebrities are escaping their fat bodies to more fully engage in capitalism, period. Their justifications for doing so are gaslighting defined. They were willing to utilize the language of bopo/fat acceptance to open the door for themselves. They used the right coded language to tacitly ask for our fidelity, and they’re using the same coded language to disavow/escape us all the same. It is so insidious and hurtful when things play out like this. Fuck choice feminism.

 

Meaghan O’Malley is so right when she says this.  It is a deep hypocrisy to have stood up and said “I love my fat body and I’m here for you, my fellow fat women!” to build a career and platform, only to throw them under the bus down the track by using the same coded language to declare in a highly public platform that you are taking drastic steps to not be a fat person.  Particularly galling is that some of this was in a HUGE media campaign for a major department store less than a year ago.  It’s all well and good to jump on the bandwagon to sell yourself as radical self love, build a career, align yourself with several brands using the language and works of decades of fat activists, and in fact getting several very prominent fat activists to stand beside you, only to turn up in a major tabloid magazine not even a year later saying that all of those things you said are not true.  Particularly having launched a major new product line aimed at fat women mere days beforehand.

Of course, this is only one example of a prominent fat person declaring publicly the opposite to the very things they were saying and riding to their fame after gastric mutilation (or any other type of intentional size reduction).  We’ve seen it from singers, actors, models, writers, all kinds of very public people.

Every time this happens, there are those who have absolutely nothing to do with fat activism at any other time who get themselves in the media and start screaming for the “mean fatties to leave [insert famous ex-fat person] alone”.  When we critique the messages these very public people are putting out on their sizeable platforms, we are accused of being “mean” towards the person or being “bitter and angry because we’re still fat”.  It’s fucking exhausting to constantly have to argue straw man arguments from people who refuse to listen to what we are saying.  The other particularly galling argument is that by somehow critiquing the messages put out by these narratives that fat activists lack compassion or empathy.  Fuck that bullshit – nobody wants to have compassion or empathy for the fat people they are pummelling into the dirt with their lies about health and happiness being unattainable to fat people, or their faux-moralising to hide their open loathing of us, but the minute we raise valid questions about the damage being done by those who are suddenly pro-weight loss after having built careers off our backs, we’re the ones lacking compassion and empathy.

There is no shame in feeling disappointment and hurt that yet another of the people you believed were on your team is in the media very publicly trying not to be like you.

Nobody is saying that your body is not your own to do with what you will.  What we are saying is that if you have a highly public platform, perhaps you should examine the rhetoric you are spewing out and how it harms people who don’t have the same platforms.  It’s not like you’re saying anything new with these narratives that fat = miserable/unhealthy/disgusting.  You’re saying the same thing the world has been saying about you all along, now you’ve jumped the fence and are saying them about other more vulnerable people.  You have become one of the bullies.

How anyone can wear that on their conscience, I don’t know.

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.

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!

img_6799

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.

Ashley Nell Tipton and JC Penney – Still Smashing it Out of the Park

Published September 2, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

I was in the process of writing about Melbourne Fashion Week Plus, but then I saw these videos and it was just a matter of “Dammit, I’ve got to get this out there!”  So the MFW+ stuff will be following over the weekend sometime.

Have you seen these yet?  The three promo videos about Ashley Nell Tipton working with JC Penney to bring out her new line?  No, well here you go…

THIS.  As well as the actual clothes being as cute as hell and totally my aesthetic, this is the way I want to be marketed to by the big box businesses.  This is what I want to see from major department stores.  This is what I want to see from the big businesses around the world who have got the lion’s share of the brick and mortar plus-size clothing market.  I want to see them using actual fat women in their marketing, positive, aspirational messaging that doesn’t shame fat women as though our only focus is getting or looking thin.  Marketing that shows a competent, talented fat woman doing her job and doing it well.  Clothes that are designed BY a fat woman, FOR fat women.  And a business that is PROUD of their upcoming plus-size range and putting some marketing money behind it.

I’m going to speak to the Australian businesses, but I’m sure that the ones overseas should be doing the same thing.  Where are you Target Australila, Myer, David Jones, Big W…?  I’ll add you Specialty Fashion Group – Autograph and City Chic.  Where are you right now?  Still streaming out a pile of boring, dark coloured sacks that look like something fat women would have worn 20 or 30 years ago?  Still offering half a page in a catalogue to show off your dull, dull, dull t-shirts and leggings?  Still not putting any actual fat women in your marketing material, just the same three boring size 10-12 models with no fashion styling or decent make-up, hair or photography?

It’s time to get your shit together and realise that your customers are fed up with your out-dated, poorly planned buying and marketing strategies towards plus-sizes.  It’s 2016.  You want your customer to spend money with you?  Then learn from those that are doing it well and step up your game.

 

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.

Is Radical Fat Activism Dead?

Published June 9, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

I was just reading this post over at Fatty Unbound, about why she no longer blogs about fatshion, and I was just hit with such a wave of sadness.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why she, and so many others have decided to give up blogging – I have a lot of the same feelings myself and it makes it really hard to keep blogging the way I used to.  But understanding why doesn’t mean I’m any less sad that so many amazing, bold, innovative fat activists and/or bloggers are deciding to pack it in.

The reality is, body politics have been branded and corporatised.  Companies are taking the work that we did, for generations – remember fat activism has been around since the 60’s, and they sanitise it, sand back the rough edges, take out all the radical messages and sell it back to us, as this awful, bland, homogeneous pap called “body positivity”.  And so many people just lap it up.  Many through no fault of their own – they simply haven’t seen any alternative.  The brands and those who are keen to represent them simply have volume and a bigger platform than your average radical fat activist.

And look, I get it.  It’s bloody hard work to keep up as a radical fat activist.  This shit grinds you down.  It takes a lot of emotional energy to step up and put your life out there as a fat person.  There aren’t a lot of rewards for the average fat woman to put herself on the internet and speak up for fat women’s rights – unless you’re young, white, cisgender, able-bodied, a smaller fat, have an hourglass or pear shape, have a pretty face and have access to a lot of new clothes, makeup and photography, and are willing to smile and play along with the expectations of the brands who will fund you if you’re a nice, good fatty.

There are also a lot of negatives that come with being a visible fat woman.  The constant stream of concern trolling, ignorance and sheer bigotry you have to face is so corrosive, it eats away at your energy levels and is so frustrating dealing with people who refuse to listen or think about the ignorance they’ve swallowed and regurgitated for so long.  On top of that there is the abuse and harassment.  The constant barrage of shitty little people who have nothing better to do than either wank over you or spend every minute of their time trying to find some way to hurt you.  Or in many cases – both.  The same people who profess they hate you and find you repulsive are the ones wanking furiously over pictures of you.

These things are so bloody hard to deal with.  So I fully understand why so many fat women just decide “Fuck it, I don’t want to deal with this any more.”

But… I still feel sad that this is happening.  I feel so sad that brands and haters have pushed us out of OUR space.  It is ours.  It doesn’t belong to them.  They haven’t worked and fought so hard to carve out this space in the world, despite so many telling us we’re unworthy of it.

I feel sad that there are so many fat women who are missing out on what I found all those years ago – radical fat activism that blew apart my world and shook me to the core.  That helped me give up the endless cycle of self hate and suspension of actually living that was my life.  That inspired me to take up fat activism myself, and tell my story and start showing people like me that we do not have to be classed as inferior to people who have smaller bodies than we do.

I don’t really believe radical fat activism is dead – there are still some amazing people out there doing some incredible work.  I think I’ll do a post over the weekend with some links to the ones I really love.  But the numbers are dwindling.

What I really want is for those of us who feel like we’re being pushed out of our spaces and shouted down by brands and haters that we’re not going away.  We’re not letting them shove us out of our spaces, and that all of us that don’t fit their little plastic boxes are still here, we still have voices and we’re still going to celebrate who we are.  I want all the unruly fat women, the ones that are ignored by the brands and told they’re not good enough by the haters to put on an outfit that makes them feel good (regardless of what anyone else thinks about it), hold their head up high and stick their middle fingers in the air and declare “I have the right to exist and be seen in this world too.

Here, I’ll go first.

Photo by Paul Harris

Photo by Paul Harris

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…

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 7.56.39 PM
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