Friday, January 4th, 2013
It’s been a busy holiday season and I know I haven’t posted much. However I was doing some housekeeping stuff on my computer today and found this picture. I have no idea where I found it so I can’t acknowledge the source, but just look it! I know it makes me smile.
Hope everyone is getting along okay. If not, treat yourself to some tea (breast shelf optional).
Sunday, November 25th, 2012
Ok, even though this post is titled “eavesdropping” I don’t think it really counts when it’s on a train and you have to stand back a little bit in order not to be deafened as said teenagers are both listening to music on shared headphones and talking extra loud at the same time. But even so.
The teenagers in question were two girls who were having the special sort of inane conversation of teenage girls (which is to say, exactly as inane as grown men talking about sports but much more viciously maligned). They were initially talking about “old music” and having fun exploring tracks on the shared iPod – and treated those of us in the carriage to a singalong rendition of Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” (is it just me or do you always think of this scene from ‘Zoolander’ when you hear that song?). Not the most considerate of public transport commuters for sure, but I was at about the same level of awareness at that age so it doesn’t usually get to me unless I’ve got a vicious headache.
Anyway, aside from the wince I had when one of the girls remarked upon how lucky it was for all us old passengers that we were playing old music because anyone under 30 wouldn’t know young music, the thing that really had me was when the conversation turned to how “isn’t it weird that there were no fat people back then?” “Oh I guess they were all busy dancing”.
1. This is why you shouldn’t base your knowledge of history on music videos. I doubt the daily level of dancing is very different today.
2. This is why it’s SO important for a true diversity of bodies and sexualities and races and abilities to be represented in media. Not only for those of us today who can feel like we’re all alone, but because we deserve better to be erased from history. People talk a lot about the ‘War on Obesity’ – well, remember that history is written by the victors.
And so I give you this image from the tumblr Old Time Fatties. We exist!
Monday, November 12th, 2012
I’ve been meaning to post for a little while (and have had a few ideas floating around in my head) but for now I just wanted to quickly share this poem I came across at my Chinese Doctor’s practise today:
Parra says in the poem “Inflación” (Inflation):
Inside the cage there is food.
Not much, but some.
Outside there are only vast stretches of
Sunday, October 21st, 2012
I did something that I don’t usually do the other day: got drawn into commenting actual real opinions contrary to the mob opinion on something that came up in my Facebook feed.
There are a few reasons why I don’t usually do this: obviously to start with I’ve self-selected my friends to a large extent and so I don’t tend to have a lot of things come up on my feed that aren’t somewhat related to my personal politics/jokes. Of course fat activism is a big (ha! No one’s made that pun before!) step beyond most people’s garden variety “real women have curves!” sort of malarkey that tends to pass for body acceptance in a lot of circles, so that’s not something I generally see, but I don’t get a lot of “straight marriage is the only real marriage!” sort of updates, for example.
Anyway, the actual thing to made me so eye-twitchy was a picture of a woman that a friend of mine had snapped on his phone and posted referring to her as a “bogan” (Australian version of a hick/hillbilly). The photo was taken from behind so you can’t see her face, but she was an average size blond white woman who was wearing a tracksuit and ugg boots (with one leg badly half tucked into the boot). Quite a few people had liked and commented shaming remarks.
My comment shaded into a bit of a rant along the paraphrased lines of: How do you know she hasn’t been with her sick baby in the nearby hospital and this is the first time she’s been out for three days? How do you know she’s not sick herself and had to choose between using her energy to shower and dress well or to go to the shops for food? How do you know she doesn’t work three jobs and hasn’t had time to do laundry? Or is it just that she’s committed the ultimate crime of daring to be female and in public without making herself suitably fuckable?” (Did I say a bit of a rant?) Anyway my friend tried to make a few jokes but I simply stated that I wasn’t trying to have a go at him personally but given how much public ridicule and shame are heaped on marginalised groups like women and poor people and people of colour that perhaps as a gay man he might understand how that would feel and he could be a better ally.
I believe in everything that I said but I have to admit I was a little bit scared. The last time I got into a FB argument all of my friend’s friends piled on and tried to shut me down (that one turned into an argument over whether you could diagnose health by looking at people and the cognitive bias was pretty painful). Also defending personal politics is always more vulnerable and emotion-inducing than trying to be an ally towards other groups. I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to call out racism or homophobia when I hear it but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to know what some of my acquaintances really think when it comes to feminism or fat acceptance.
Anyway I was angsting over this little incident when I logged onto Facebook today, and found that my friend had taken down the picture. So: win! I had a feeling that I might be able to get my point across with this friend and obviously I did. I feel so much better.
I know that when people have called me out on saying stupid shit (unfortunately I did not spring from the womb a fully formed social justice advocate) I have felt embarrassed and sometimes defensive, but those conversations have often helped me pivot my world view. One of my goals for this year is to be more politically vocal and so I feel like I’m making a good start.
How about you guys? Do you call people out or walk away? When was the last time something like this has happened to you?
Monday, October 1st, 2012
Who here has heard of Velvet D’Amour? If you follow fatshion models she’s a pretty big name, mostly because of her catwalk work with Gaultier and Galliano (thanks Wikipedia!).
Anyway, she’s a photographer as well as a model, and has some great philosophies about creating a more accessible and diverse ideal of beauty. To that end she’s created her own high fashion magazine named “Volup2″ (all issues of which you can read online for free here)
I used to be a magazine hound when I was a teenager before I became more critical about the media I was consuming (and realised how it was affecting me). But I really enjoy this magazine because I’m obsessed with issues of representation for people who don’t fit the mainstream. I’ve read all three issues and thus far I’ve seen fat women, women of different shapes, men, many different ethnicities, different abilities, the tattooed and pierced, older women, trans people etc etc etc. I LOVE seeing high fashion like this. It’s so different from what is currently out there. And once I have proper disposable income I’d love to order print copies of these mags to have on my coffee table (note to self: buy coffee table).
Anyway, for me to be able to continue to enjoy this fine magazine I’d like to offer a signal boost for her Kickstarter campaign. Currently a lot of work is being done by volunteers, and I’d love to see what they’re capable of when they’re actually being paid to focus exclusively on what’s being produced. Also if you have over five grand to spare you can model in the magazine. Or buy me a coffee table. Whatever you like.
Check out the Kickstarter here.
Monday, October 1st, 2012
Hi! I’m a new blogger. Let’s jump right in.
So last year I was lucky enough to be offered an opportunity to live and work in Fiji for a year. Naturally I jumped at the chance, but now after returning home I have the time and the inclination to start stepping up more in my social justice involvement. I specifically wanted to share some of my Fijian experiences because so many of the issues faced by Western fat people come from the culture that we’re steeped in, and it was a really interesting time to go and live in another culture that has some different nuances to weight.
But first some stuff about me. Aside from being the sort of person who jumps at a chance to move to a third world country (when I’m feeling cynical I think they refer to these countries as ‘developing’ because of all the stomach bugs, skin infections and other health problems I ‘developed’ while I was there, but that’s a topic for another post). I’m a cissexual heterosexual late-twenties woman, classically educated, fat, and extremely white. As in hey-I-wonder-if-any-of-these-freckles-will-turn-cancerous, reflective WHITE. And of course my attractiveness in the Pacific was entwined with my whiteness from a colonialist fair-is-good and white-people-have-money sort of thing. But what I really want to talk about today is the experience of fatness.
First of all: DO NOT MOVE TO FIJI UNLESS TALKING ABOUT WEIGHT IS DESCRIPTIVE FOR YOU, NOT OFFENSIVE.
Fijians are the world’s best observational comedians in training. If they’ve observed something, they want to tell you about it. Not necessarily with any commentary, just that they’ve noticed it. I’ve had people approach me to tell me their cousin saw me in the street wearing a red shirt and talking to a guy drinking a coke. No judgement, no story, just the observation. But when it comes to observing weight, Fijians are on it faster than your Aunt Francis. “Hello, you’ve put on weight/lost weight!”
It’s kind of strange, because Fiji has over recent years absorbed a lot of the health messages around weight (there is a lot of diabetes there) as well as cultural messages from the West – so comments on weight loss are often quite complimentary. But then again, comments on weight gain are often quite complimentary too, as I’ve been told gaining weight is a sign that you are happy. At least this is what I was told when my boss was confused about how his “compliment” of weight gain to my thin Australian co-worker didn’t go down as planned. I’m not sure whether a Fijian would mean it in a complimentary for me, seeing how I’m already fat. But it is refreshing to have gaining weight not be completely stigmatised, just as an observational point.
But even if someone only meets you once and therefore can make no comment on any weight change, commenting on your weight is pretty normal. I’ve had a lot of taxi drivers comment on my weight when I got in the cab – and then about half of them would go on to hit on me, so they can’t mean it too insultingly – and one masseuse who slapped me on the thigh as soon as she saw me and exclaimed “You are big! Like Fijian girl!”
(She also went on to tell me how I could seduce boys by telling them “Try me: we won’t need a mattress.” I haven’t tried that out yet but I’ll be sure to let you know if it works).
There is this strange inverted privilege that goes on about being objectified. Understandably (and rightly so!) many people don’t enjoy having all their wonderful human complexity squished down into existing simply for someone else’s sexual pleasure. However for those of us who live on the edges of the Attractiveness Spectrum, I know there have been times when I’ve wanted to get eye-stabby on friends or acquaintances who complained of being objectified whilst I’ve been struggling with sexual invisibility.
Do we all remember Gwyneth Paltrow’s comments on her experiences wearing a fat suit for her role in ‘Shallow Hal’? “People wouldn’t even look at me, wouldn’t make eye contact with me at all. I felt no sexual energy from men [on the set]. Normally, in the film, I have all these tiny little clothes on, but when I come to the set with the suit on and feel none of that, it is palpable.” Swinging between two extremes is definitely a strange experience.
Having an actual lived experience of being in a country with different definitions of beauty hasn’t been dizzying or ego-inflating (I usually have a very healthy ego: any difficulty fitting through doors is fully attributable to the size of my head, not the size of my butt). What it has been is a very refreshing reminder of how culturally constructed beauty is. I got hit on there about 400% more than I do at home, without changing anything about myself. I’m sure it’ll be a good thing to remember once I start hitting the Australian dance floor again.