writing

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Cat Made Me Do It

Published May 16, 2022 by Fat Heffalump

I wasn’t going to write on this blog ever again. I left it up so people could see my old posts, which I am very proud of, both for my writing itself and the work I did as a fat activist. But I was done with blogging. But then something awful happened. So awful it has taken me weeks to settle into a place where I can talk about it publicly.

One Saturday morning in March, I received a Facebook message to tell me that my darling friend Dr Cat Pausé had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. A Facebook message sent to me by her devastated father, all the way from Texas. As I typed a shocked response to him and then started working on one to her dearest friends who found her, my phone rang in my hands and another lovely friend was calling me to tell me she was gone. I was in shock. Her father gave me permission to share the news publicly, and the shocked emails, messages, tweets and posts came in and I went into “helpful” mode, trying to console others, making sure the people who mattered to Cat and whom she mattered to were informed, and looking for other ways I could be supportive and useful.

I was deeply honoured to be asked to represent the fat community at the private service for her, where I was asked to speak on behalf of the community and be one of her pallbearers. I wrote a piece that I hope expressed how much she mattered to me, to us, which I will reproduce below. I also gave a similar version at the public memorial held at Massey University the following week, where I was so fortunate to finally meet in person her lovely parents, I can’t imagine the grief they are going through. I wish there was more I could do for them, I hope that I have expressed to them how much she was loved and respected and will be missed dearly by so many people.

I still hadn’t really cried right up until I literally had my hand on her coffin at the funeral, walking it through the funeral home, to the sound of the karanga, the formal Māori call to ceremony. Even then I know I still wasn’t grieving fully, it really wasn’t until after the service when two lovely wāhine Māori I didn’t even know held me so tight until I finally let myself fall into grief and begin really mourning my beautiful friend.

And it was at that moment I knew I would be blogging again on this page. Bloody Cat, she was always pushing my boundaries, in a way that always turned out to be good for me. I have heard from others in the fat community that they also have a fire lit under them to continue their activism and work in fat liberation. She will always be an inspiration to us, even though she has been taken from us so early.

So far we have already had a clothing swap for size 24+, organised by Joanna of House of Boom (she has a new range out, go support a fatty’s small business eh?) which was an amazing event of community, seeding Cat’s beautiful wardrobe out into the community of super fatties, the group most neglected and disrespected by both fat activism circles AND the entire community. It was a delight to sit back and watch so many fat babes comfortably trying on clothes and delighting over having something, anything available to them for once. To tell these fat babes they looked fabulous (they did!) and encourage them to adopt Cat’s lovely clothes and love them as much as she did. Cat would have loved it, I could feel her presence several times. She would have been in the thick of it, throwing garments and compliments around the room, as she had in life many times.

I’m not sure what I will write, or how often I will do so, but I at least wanted to take the time to pay respect to and remember Cat and share the piece I wrote for her on behalf of the fat community mourning her loss. My world will never be the same without her, and the world in general is diminished without her in it.

Cat and I in 2012 at the first Fat Studies New Zealand conference in Wellington.

Vale Dr Cat Pausé

What do I say? There are not enough words to convey what Cat meant to me personally, let alone the fat community in general. I first met her in 2010 in Sydney at the Macquarie Fat Studies conference, where this short redhead with the biggest smile I’d ever seen appeared beside me and fan-girled all over me. I’d never experienced such adoration in my life. Once I calmed her down we instantly became friends and in that time she has been my greatest champion, fiercest protector and strongest confidant. She is the reason I finally moved to Aotearoa after talking about it for years.

When I started sharing the news with the community that we had lost her, I expected to hear back from mutual friends. But I have received hundreds of messages in the past week. Cat touched so many lives. From her students, to the listeners of her radio show, fellow scholars, activists like myself, and just dozens of people living in fat bodies who had either seen a news article she was quoted in or chanced upon her social media and been deeply moved by the work she did. I have been told of her kind words, her fierce encouragement, he raucous laugh, her astonishing generosity and mighty intellect touching people she never met, or only met by chance. There was always word at every event or fundraiser that Cat had secretly contributed a lump of her own money to enable others less fortunate to be included. She once told me that her biggest goal was that she would no longer be the go to voice for fat community, because she would no longer be needed, that we would be respected, listened to and believed enough not to need her scholarly input.

We still need her. I still need her. But she gets to rest now, and there has been nobody who has earned that rest more than she has. She was an angel here on earth while she was with us, and I have no doubt wherever her spirit is now, she’s still an angel, just the one with the loudest laugh and biggest smile.

Why I Don’t Blog Any More

Published May 5, 2018 by Fat Heffalump

You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged here for a very long time.  It’s not because I have stopped believing in the importance of fat activism, or because I’ve given up being a fat activist myself.  Quite the opposite – I believe that it is more important now than it has ever been.

I have stopped blogging because some of you make me hate you.

Some of you make me feel like a monkey being forced to dance for your amusement.  Others push me out in front of them expecting me to do all the work and take all the heat, while they benefit from it all with none of the negativity.  Some of you try to tell me how I should use my own spaces, or police my tone, demand that I am “nicer”.  Some of you don’t believe me when I speak my truths, and openly call me a liar.

A lot of you expect me to put in endless hours of hard work for free.

Why would I continue to subject myself to that? Would you put yourself in that position?

I want to make the world a better place for fat people, particularly fat women.  But I’m not willing to do so if it means that people are going to use me up and discard me the minute they find someone younger, prettier, more willing to smile sweetly and call you darling.  Someone willing to swallow the abuse, the disrespect, the bullying, the constant demands to give, give, give and do so in a way that suits everyone else but myself.

I gave a decade of my life to this, and people still show up on my social media demanding I perform for them, that I provide them a free service, that I step in front of them and square up to the bullies and get the black eye instead of them.

Fuck that.

I have met so many wonderful, amazing people thanks to fat activism.  People who I consider my dearest friends and whom I admire so much.  I wouldn’t change that for the world.  I hope you all know who you are – I love you all so very much.

I’ve also been able to find my own strength and confidence while doing so, which has been so invaluable to me.

But this constant demand, this entitlement from complete strangers who don’t even acknowledge how hard the work is for fat activists, has just burnt every good bit of feeling out of this work for me.  It has poisoned the very thing I love the most – my ability to write.

And I can’t imagine what it’s like for fat women of colour, disabilities, queer, trans, poor, and so on.  If this is happening to me, what is happening to them??

I’m proud of the work I’ve done over the past decade.  I’m proud of how often I’ve stuck my neck out, raised my hand, stood up and spoke up and took the flak.  I’ve got nothing to prove, I’ve given years of my life to this cause, lost friends, compromised on my career, given up my safety and privacy, given SO much, only to have people smack me on the nose like a naughty puppy when I didn’t perform to their standards.

Activists don’t owe you anything.  Activists are already giving FAR more to the world, which includes you individually, than should be expected of human beings.  They’re fighting to make the world a better place.  How dare anyone show up and start demanding anything from them as if they’re entitled to their attention, time, or energy.

Stop for a minute and look in the mirror and ask yourself “Am I doing anything to fix any the fucked up shit in this world?”   Pick one, pick many – poverty, racism, homophobia, ableism, fat hate, domestic violence, I could go on and on and on.  Ask yourself, are you REALLY doing anything?  Are you willing to be the one who speaks up?  Are you willing to put any time at all into making a difference?  If you are, I’m right there beside you, I value you and the work you do.  But for the vast majority of people on this planet, they’re not.  They plug along, grumbling that the world is shit and doing nothing about it, except demanding others do it in a way that they deem acceptable, and particularly demanding of those they have privilege over.

I’m tired of giving my life to people who won’t even stand up to their own families, friends and colleagues in the face of hatred and bigotry, who then whinge that I’m “doing it wrong”.

It’s someone else’s turn.

I’m done.  I’ve got a life to live.