women

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Aspire to be More, Not Less

Published April 19, 2017 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley Nell Tipton

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

Beth Ditto

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

Melissa McCarthy

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

Magda Szubanski

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

Naomi Watanabe

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

Amina Mucciolo aka Tassel Fairy

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

Kobi Jae of Horror Kitsch Bitch

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

A Tribute to Nurse Kellye

Published March 27, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Street Harassment – An Update

Published March 20, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Just a quick place holder and update for anyone who is interested.

The man who harassed me on Friday afternoon has been positively identified by police and I am happy with their handling of the case, so I have closed down the post seeking his identification.

This was my aim, to find out who he was, and ensure that he was held responsible for his actions.  As that has now been achieved and I have been given good advice by the police of what to do should he approach me in any way in the future, the post has achieved it’s aim and is no longer required.

I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to all of you who reached out with support (it has been overwhelming – hundreds of you!) and who shared the info in the hopes of identifying the man responsible.  But most importantly, I would like to thank the brave people who contacted me to tell me that they knew who he was, and told me their stories.  You are all incredible and I am honoured that you would speak up for me.

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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!

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.

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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!