self esteem

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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.

Fat Out Loud – My Piece

Published July 23, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello!  I am back from an AMAZING trip to New Zealand which of course included the New Zealand Fat Studies: Identity, Agency and Embodiment Conference.  I have SO much to tell you about the trip and the conference, and I promise I will do that soon.  Today I just wanted to share the piece I wrote for the Fat Out Loud Reading Event, co-ordinated by Jenny Lee and Cat Pausé, which was held at the Palmerston North Public Library the night before the conference.  It was an AMAZING night, with some incredible pieces presented.  Any that I can post online sources to, I will do so on my Facebook page.  I’ve already shared the video of Gurleen Khandpur delivering her awesome piece.

I’m not sure if there is any video of me giving my piece, but here’s a photo my friend Kerri took of me doing so:

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So… you wanna read it?  Well, here you go.  I call it…

Hey, Baby

I feel your thigh press along mine under the meeting room table.  I steal a glance at you and you are smiling, your eyes flick towards me and you wink.  Later over a coffee to discuss the meeting, your hand drifts to my thigh under the cafe table. You are all bedroom eyes and innuendo.   Time and time again you offer secret touches, suggestions of private meetings, sneaky travel together to places far away, out of sight.

But as soon as I suggest we are seen in public on a social level, you make excuses.  You’re busy, but never too busy to suggest we meet secretly.

We are 15.  You come to my house on weekends and sometimes after school.  We lock ourselves in the downstairs bedroom, telling my mother we’re playing computer games and keeping my annoying little brother out.  We make out, every time.  At school, you tell your friends we are “great mates” and flirt with the popular, thin girls in front of them and worse, in front of me.

In the dim hallway of a bar and restaurant, you stop me coming back from the ladies room, and the hot kisses you bestow along my neck, behind my ear, whispering “You turn me on so much.” before reaching my lips promise of something exciting.  

But as soon as another person turns down the hallway, you leap away from me, as if you’d just been caught stealing.  In the light, where other people can see us, your tone is brisk and business-like, as though I was unrecognisable from all the other party-goers in this venue.

I am 17 and at a new school.  You come up to me and sit with me at lunch time, and are talking to me.  I feel awkward and uncomfortable, I hate this school and very few people are nice to me.  I start to relax, thinking maybe I’ll make a new friend.  Your friends all turn up.  Everyone is talking and laughing, when one of the girls says “Will you go out with Damien?”  Before I even draw breath to answer, everyone is roaring laughing and the girls are cackling “As if!!”  You never speak to me again, except to humiliate me in front of your friends.

I’m on a blind date at the football.  It’s not going well.  You’re sitting behind me and over one, with a small boy who calls you Daddy.  Despite the fact that I’m on a date, every time I turn to the right, I can see you looking down the front of my top.  When I get up at half time, I see you looking right at my chest, and you look up to meet my eye and lick your lips.  At the end of the match, your little boy says “You’ve got big fat boobies.”  I respond “I know, your Daddy has been staring at them all night.”  You go beet red and my date says “I doubt that.”

You stagger, smiling drunkenly, up to me at the bus station as I wait for the bus home from a funeral.  I am red-eyed and sagging, emotionally exhausted.  You gesture for me to take my ear-buds out so you can speak to me.  I lip read you saying “Hey gorgeous.”  I say “No thanks, I’m not feeling well.” hoping you’ll leave me alone with my grief.

But instead you scream “You fucking ugly fat slut!  You know what a real woman looks like?  This is what a real woman looks like!” and you hit me in the face with a porn magazine, open to a page with a silicone-breasted and collagen-lipped porn actress, spread-eagle and open-mouthed pouting.  Of the hundreds of people standing around, nobody asks if I’m OK, they all just look down and shuffle their feet.  I call the police, you run away.

I’m on the train home.  It’s really crowded because the buses are out.  I’m standing in the aisle, everyone is fairly closely packed, but I feel your breath on the back of my neck.  Then I feel your erection pressing against my arse.  You rub against me, out of rhythm of the jostling of the train.  I say “Ew, get off me you creep.”  Two guys in front of me laugh and say “As if, ya fat dog, who’d hump you?”  Several people laugh.

“Hey baby!  Hey honey!  Baby, you gonna talk to me?”  I don’t know you, but you’ve decided that you want to talk to me as I walk to work one morning.  When I shake my head and hurry towards the train station, you scream “You fat fucking moll, I wouldn’t fuck you with someone else’s dick!  I just thought you’d gobble on my cock, like all fat cunts!”

Everybody and nobody wants the fat girl.  They want to fuck us but don’t want to be seen with us.  We’re everybody’s dirty little secret.

Except not any more.  Not me.  If you can’t be seen in public with me, proud of me by your side, then you don’t get access to me.  Your shame is not my problem.  You’re the broken one, not me.

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

Plus 40 Fabulous – What Makes Me Happy

Published February 20, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

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Another month has rolled around and it’s time for my latest Plus 40 Fabulous post!  This month’s theme is “What Makes Me Happy”.  One of the things about fat activism work is that you’re dealing with SO much bullshit – from the media and government pushing out anti-fat propaganda, general arsehole behaviour from strangers, dealing with the frustration of not being able to find suitable clothes to outfit you for life, medical professionals that treat you like a child and refuse to give you fair health care, and a myriad of other things, that it can be extremely wearing on a fat activist.  And because you’re almost always responding to that bullshit, it can also seem like we are all just one dimensional angry fat ladies!

There’s nothing wrong with being angry at injustice, but it’s not the only aspect of me or any other fat activist as a person.  Quite the opposite, generally speaking I’m known for my sense of humour, my laugh and for, as a colleague puts it, the look of mischief in my eye.

When you’re dealing with social activism of any kind, you have to be able to find the joy in life easily, or you’re going to burn out very quickly.  There has to be someone, and some things, that make you happy, and you have to be able to access them when the activism starts to get you down.  It’s all part of self care, which is VITAL for all of us, let alone those of us engaging in activism.

So what makes me happy?  Well, it’s a number of things.  But first and foremost, for me it’s my friends.  I have THE most amazing friends – the local ones, the not so local ones and the ones around the world that I’ve been brought to by my activism and other interests.  I’ve never been one for huge groups of friends, preferring the company of one or two people at a time, but the ones I have are so amazing.   Whether it’s the very pragmatic duo of future fellow Golden Girls (apparently I’m Sophia) that I have locally who share my love of superhero movies, brunch and conversation over coffee; the quiet but razor sharp friend who I only get to see a few times per year but she always knows when to send me Adventure Time gifs and pictures of her ridiculously spoiled cat, those that I only get to catch up with occasionally who I feel like I’ve only been away from for five minutes, or the multitudes of friends I have made online (some of whom I’ve met in person and others I’ve not met yet) who have always got a kind word, an internet hug or a naked picture of Tom Hiddleston for me, my friends are the real source of joy for me.

A favourite photo of me taken years ago by my friend Kylie.

A favourite photo of me taken years ago by my friend Kylie.

Next on the list would have to be my day job.  I’m not in a job that brings fame or money, I’m in one that means something to me, I work in public libraries, specifically library technology.   I find it constantly challenging and thought provoking, and there is nothing more rewarding than setting foot in a library that is full of happy, excited, engaged customers.  Especially children.  When I was growing up, the library was sanctuary to me, and I love the thought of being able to give that back to subsequent generations.

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Another thing that makes me happy is Lego.  I can spend hours on it, just calmly sorting and then building.  It is one of those activities that immediately renders me calm.  I really love big kits, that I can spend weeks coming back to for an hour or so at a time, watching the build grow and take shape.

Here I am VERY excited about the Simpsons House which I saved up FOREVER for.

Here I am VERY excited about the Simpsons House which I saved up FOREVER for.

And finally, something that always makes me feel so much better and brings me such joy, is the ocean.  I am so lucky to live within spitting distance of the ocean (literally, it’s seven houses down) and can head down to the waterfront any time I like.  There is nothing like sitting by the ocean with a good book and a coffee, just enjoying the sea breeze as it lowers my blood pressure!

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Whatever it is that makes you happy, I hope you take the time to find it and recharge your batteries.  Self care is important!

Plus 40 Fabulous – An Introduction

Published November 14, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

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I am thrilled to participate in the Plus 40 Fabulous project created by the lovely Leah and Mookie.  Leah and Mookie wanted to claim a space in fatshion/plus-size blogging for people over 40, which considering the way women are relegated to the sidelines as they get older, is a fantastic idea.  There are plenty of perky young lovelies blogging in the fatosphere, and good on them, but there is no reason that women have to stop enjoying dressing and feeling good about themselves as they get older.  I believe strongly in visibility and representation, and if my participating in Plus 40 Fabulous gets one 40+ fatty putting on a fab outfit and feeling good about herself, then it’s more than worth it.

So I know a lot of you already follow my blog and other online presence, but as this is an introduction post for the project and will be linked through the #plus40fabulous tag, there may be new people who have not read my work before.  To those, I say a hearty welcome!  To the rest of you champs who have been around a while, it’s good to see you again!

Introduction

Well, my name is Kath and I recently turned 43 years old.  In my day job I’m an IT librarian in Brisbane, but by night (well, it’s not restricted to just night any more!) I love to put on my rainbow tights and sparkly dress and have been a fat activist for about six years now.  Mostly I concentrate on the rights of fat women, because I am royally fed up with being treated like a second-class citizen because of my size, but I do believe that every day things like the access to attractive clothing and being represented in a positive light as a fat woman are actually radical acts of fat activism.  Not apologising for who I am is one of the most powerful things I have learned to do.

It me!

It me!

My Style

There is a running joke amongst my friends and I that I’m trying to bring in “toddler style” as a thing.  I’ve been walking through a shopping centre and said to my friend Kerri “Why can’t I have HER outfit?” and she has replied “Kath, she’s four.”  But why should little kids get all the fun stuff?  If I could, I would be all about the rainbow tights, sparkly dresses, ladybug shoes and fairy wings.  I’m on a quest to smash the idea that women have to get dull as they mature and that a wardrobe has to be conservative to be professional.  What I wear has no bearing on my intellect and my ability to do my job, but it does show how creative and passionate I am.

I have been fat for most of my life (I prefer the term fat to any other euphemisms, it is in no way derogatory, simply a descriptor like tall or brown-eyed) but only really started developing my own style in my late 30’s.  Prior to that, I really felt that I didn’t deserve nice things, and besides, they were much, much harder to find back then!  But after I found fat activism, built my confidence and self esteem, I realised that I loved playing with style to express who I am.  Where once I tried very hard to be either a brown sparrow who disappeared into the background, or did the whole grungy-goth anti-fashion thing, I realised that the one thing that defines my taste most is my love of colour.  Brown, grey and black have their place in my wardrobe, but mostly I am bored by them when it comes to clothes.  I love colour in all aspects of my life and will always gravitate to either the brights, the bolds or the pretties.  I love quirky prints and fun accessories.

I’m in no way beholden to fashion as an industry – mostly because it has never cared a jot about me or my money – but I do love clothes and style, and I wear what makes me happy.

She's got cooties!

She’s got cooties!

How I Feel About Being Over 40

Personally, I’m loving being over 40.  I hear a lot of people dreading turning 40, or hiding their age, saying they’re 29 again etc.  But life just keeps getting better.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect, and things change physically a bit as you get older, but I’m far more content and definitely more confident now than I have ever been.  I think a lot of people see high school or their 20’s as their peak in life – but to me that’s sad.  If you peak that early, what are you doing with the rest of your life?  The only thing that really bothers me is that my hearing and eyesight are deteriorating a bit more (they’ve never been great anyway), which is frustrating.  But I haven’t had my natural hair colour for over 20 years, preferring to change it to something more fun, so greys don’t bother me and fat doesn’t wrinkle much anyway!  I’m proud of my age, and wish more women would embrace the years they have lived.

Oh, and I wish menopause would hurry up, I’m not using my uterus, it can just retire!!

Inked Up and Fabulous!

Inked Up and Fabulous!

How Society Treats Older Women

This however, is a different matter.  I’ll start by saying I don’t buy into the “We just get invisible.” thing, because fat women are mostly invisible at any age.  As are other marginalised people – we don’t exist unless it’s to be ridiculed or vilified.  However, there is a courtesy paid to young women, even marginalised young women, that older women don’t get.  Once you pass a certain age, you’re seen as either an inconvenience or a drudge.  Even the most talented and passionate woman stops being referred to as “dynamic” the minute she turns about 35.  Add to that the fact that older women are just not visible in the media and entertainment in the same way that older men are.  Look at Maggie Gyllenhaal, being told she’s “too old” at 37 to play the love interest of a man in his 50’s!  With a few notable exceptions, older women are mostly relegated to being mothers or grandmothers or crones.  Which is so unlike the reality of  all the older women I know – who are vibrant, funny, gifted, intelligent, compassionate, talented and just downright interesting, if you bother to take the time to know them.

Always subtle.

Always subtle.

I’ve always been someone with friends of all ages, right from when I was a teenager myself.  I still have friends who range from a 21 through to their 60’s who are all different and interesting in their own way, and they find me interesting.  If we only surround ourselves with people at our own small age group, then we’re missing out on all the different perspectives in life.  I am eternally grateful to the older friends who have imparted wisdom on me over the years, and now I hope I can do the same for my younger friends, in my own way.  My wisdom usually consists of “Fuck it, you only live once!”

Which brings me to…

Fashion Advice and Inspiration

Clash those prints!

Clash those prints!

Fuck it, you only live once!

It’s true though.  You can spend your life worrying about what other people think, or you can just wear stuff that makes you feel happy and confident.  It might not be the same for you as it is for me, but whatever it is for you, just wear it.  As I said before, I don’t care a damn about the fashion industry, and I’m not interested in following trends to the letter.  I pick and choose the bits I like and ignore the rest.

As for inspiration, mostly toddlers.  I’m only half kidding there – I mean I do love other sources, like Advanced Style, Arched Eyebrow, Cupcake’s Clothes and The Curvy and Curly Closet –  but for anyone who has been around toddlers for any length of time, you’ll know that they demand to wear what they want to wear, even if it doesn’t match, isn’t considered “appropriate” for the occasion, or isn’t practical.  They don’t care if it’s their Auntie’s wedding, they’ll wear purple gumboots, shorts with frogs on them and a stripey turtleneck if that’s what pleases them.  We all have that innate desire to just say “Bugger it.” and wear what we like, but it’s wheedled, teased and bullied out of us most from a very young age and perpetuates throughout most of our lives.  Sometimes you just have to put on that sparkly dress and rainbow tights with your shoes with the flowers on them and rock your own sweet style.

Style is all attitude.

Style is all attitude.

If you’d like to see more of Plus 40 Fabulous, you can find the posts and info on the social media accounts:

And if you’re posting about the project, be sure to use the hashtag #plus40fabulous

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.

Not Like Other Girls?

Published February 17, 2015 by Fat Heffalump
Comic strip by Kate Beaton aka @Beatonna

Comic strip by Kate Beaton aka @Beatonna

Once upon a time, I was the young woman in this cartoon.  I was the one that professed to be “not like other girls”.  I told anyone who would listen that I preferred men as friends, that I found “other chicks” shallow and boring.  My guy friends always told me I was “Cool, not like other chicks.”  They said they could hang around me because I didn’t “cause drama” like other women, and that I didn’t take things “so seriously”.

That was partly because I’d been taught that fat women weren’t the same as “normal” women.  I believed that I wasn’t included in womanhood, so I figured the best bet was to just join the boys and to turn my nose up at “other chicks”.

Another part was self preservation.  As long as the guys liked me, they weren’t calling me a “crazy bitch”, or making fun of me, or treating me like a piece of meat.  It was easier to fit in with the guys, than to risk their wrath.

The rest was internalised misogyny.  All my life I’ve been told women were lesser beings than men, they weren’t as important or worthy.  I was taught that women were overly emotional, too sensitive, irrational, shallow, uninteresting… the list goes on.  So I internalised that and spent my time trying to be not like what I had been taught “other girls” were.  I didn’t want to be seen as any of those things, so I went along with the guys attitudes and spent my time trying to prove I wasn’t like that.

But then something happened.  I disagreed with one of those guys who told me I was “cool, not like other chicks”.  He said something hurtful and I told him it was hurtful, and asked him not to do it again.  And boy, he and the other guys didn’t like that.  Suddenly, I was “just like all those other crazy bitches”.  I needed to “calm down” and “stop making drama”.  He told me “Everything is about you, making you happy, isn’t it?”  Thing is, he wasn’t the only one.  Every guy who has ever called me “not like those other chicks” has eventually turned on me when I stood up for myself, or did something they didn’t like.  They didn’t just tell me they disagreed with me because of X, instead they implied I was over-sensitive, or irrational, or selfish, or “crazy” (which is ableist as fuck as well as gaslighting).

All those male friends started turning on me.  I was getting “too opinionated”.  One by one, the minute I disagreed with them on anything, or asked them not to do something that hurt or upset me, they’d decide I was just like other girls, and it was too much effort to have around.  Even those I had devoted YEARS to making happy, got pissed the minute I expected to be treated with respect, or asked not to do something that upset me or someone around me.  As much as you think you’re playing it safe by being the “cool chick” around guys, they will turn on you the minute you do anything they don’t like.

At the same time this was happening, my self esteem was growing.  I started to feel like a worthy human being, who had the right to be treated with respect, and who had needs and wants too.  My confidence grew too.  Instead of being quiet and “not making a fuss” when I believed something, I spoke up.  Instead of backing down at the first sign of resistance, when I believed that something was unfair, or that I deserved better, I stuck to my guns.

As my self esteem and confidence grew, I noticed more and more that guys didn’t like me as much as they used to.  I started to question why that was, and I found feminism.  I started to understand misogyny and how deeply entrenched it is in our culture.  I learnt how many women, as a self preservation method in a misognynist culture, decided to join ‘em because they can’t beat ‘em.  That they took those messages that said women were lesser and internalised them, and regurgitated them as “I’m not like that.”

As a result of my growing self esteem and bourgeoning feminism, I realised something incredible… women are awesome!  Women are smart, funny, thoughtful, kind, and strong.  Women are great to be around.  Particularly feminist women, who tend not to talk down to other women, and instead support and build women up.  We listen to each other.  We don’t dismiss each other’s feelings as being irrational or silly.  We don’t let our egos get in the way of admitting we made a mistake, or that we don’t know something.  We share.

Consequently, I now find myself with the most amazing women friends.  Friends who treat me as their equal.  Women who are unbelievably strong and who stand up in the face of a whole lot of bullshit from a society that sees us as lesser beings.  Women who value each other.  Who support each other while supporting themselves in a lot of ways.  I can’t tell you how awesome the women in my life are these days.

I know it feels easier to play along with the guys.  To dismiss your feelings as unimportant in the scheme of things, so long as the guys think you’re cool.  It’s easy to convince yourself that other women’s feelings are irrational, overly-emotional and silly, and that you’re not like them.  I know it’s easy to not make waves, not cause a fuss, don’t “get emotional”.  It’s easier to suppress your feelings, to push things down and swallow your words and your emotions than “upset the boys”.  You want to see someone “get emotional”?  Say “No” to a man.  They go from zero to “You fucking bitch.” in seconds.

If a man can’t handle you at what he perceives is your worst, then he doesn’t deserve you at your best.

Let me assure you, articulating your feelings, and expecting to be treated with respect is not causing drama or making a fuss.  You have a right to be heard, to express your needs as a human, and to expect the same respect you put out in the world returned to you.  Being hurt by someone in your life not speaking up for you, or by expecting you to not speak up for yourself is completely valid.  It is not “over sensitive”.  You do not have to tolerate cowardly men who would rather be liked by acquaintances than stand up for the women in their lives.  You do not have to tolerate cowardly men who see their own comfort levels as more important than your wellbeing.  You do not have to tolerate cowardly men who stand over you and bellow their opinions, while they think a woman’s convictions are “selfish”.  You do not have to tolerate cowardly men who act like owning up to a mistake is a fate worse than death.  You don’t have to put up with these things to prove you are “not like those other chicks”.

I am proud to be a strong, independent woman who stands by her convictions and takes responsibility for her words and actions.  A lot of people like to call women like us “bitches”.  Well, I’ll leave the response to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler:

bgsd
I am so thankful for the strong, outspoken women in my life.  To every one of you, be you near or far, close friends or fellow feminists, you make me a better person.  I’m proud to be “one of those chicks”.