Archive for the ‘body shaming’ Category

This Week In Fatness III

THIS WEEK IN FATNESS…

…In Blogs

 

…On Tumblr

 

…In Action

  • Ragen explains why “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine” is a misnomer and suggests emailing them to explain why their fat shaming ad is irresponsible. (Details at the bottom of the post)
  • Dr. Patty Thomas relays a request for interviews with people who have been told they are “pre-diabetic.”

 

…In the News

 

…In the Spotlight

This week’s highlighted site is Fit Fatties, a site which is focused on creating a safe space for fat people who are interested in discussing fitness. According to the site’s description, “people of all sizes, ages, abilities, and activities have a place here.”

Sound like your kind of thing? Then check it out.

Please, email us your links, suggestions and feedback!

Previous Weeks In Fatness: 1, 2.


The Rhetoric of Personal Responsibility

Guys.

Guys.

I was reading this article that Doc Samantha tweeted earlier. And after reading Coddington’s argument that I’m fat because I’m incapable of taking responsibility for my own actions, it finally clicked for me. I looked at that photo of yet another headless fatty and wished that my skin was that blemish-free and I was less pale and, oh, wait… I had a moment of clarity. An epiphany, if you will!

Right here and right now, I want to declare to the world that, all potentially contributing factors aside:

I am fat and I take personal responsibility for that!

Wow. I mean, really…wow. That was a cathartic moment for me. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders – only not literally, of course, because I’m still fat. Haha!

*ahem*

The fact is, whether I take personal responsibility for my fatness or not has no material effect on my fatness. I suppose it could, if it then lead on to me making changes to my life that could potentially cause weight loss (although previous experience with exercise regimes and diets tends to suggest otherwise), but that’s really another matter entirely. The act of accepting personal responsibility in and of itself is really inconsequential; it doesn’t mean anything.

Coddington clearly doesn’t agree with this. According to her, if I were not to accept personal responsibility for my fatness, it would have to be because I’m “mentally incapable of choosing what’s right and wrong when it comes to putting food in [my] mouth.” Further, she goes on to sugest that, as a fat person, I’m obviously “too dumb to discern healthy food from bad food” and I must be blaming my fatness on the idea that I’ve been “brainwashed” into wanting bad food by “big institutions and the market.” Because if I were accepting personal responsibility for my fatness, obviously I wouldn’t be fat.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment. I mean, if you’re fat like me, you’re going to need the extra time, amirite!? *badum tish*

Guys.

Guys.

I hope you’re not getting the wrong impression about Coddington as you read this vitriolic tirade well-reasoned argument. She cares.

Every day, in every town and city, we all see fat people waddling along, heaving themselves into planes and cars, but are we allowed to comment on this, the way we were encouraged to shame smokers into quitting (who also cost taxpayers dearly in terms of the public health bill)?

Do you see what I mean? She only has your best interest at heart, because she doesn’t want to see you being a public health nuisance by…uhm…blowing your fatty breath into other people’s faces? Knocking other people over as you waddle about the place? Infecting others with your zombie-like compliance to eating unhealthy food when you mistake them for food and try to eat them?

Guys.

Coddington isn’t saying anything new here – and neither are the numerous commenters voicing support for her. I think that in and of itself is rather telling, because it gets down to the heart of what “taking responsibility” for your fatness really seems to mean: that is, they want you to accept that you’re bringing these negative comments on yourself by being fat.

You are fat, ergo, it’s your fault that Coddington and her ilk feel the need – nay, the responsibility – to all but chase you down the street screaming “FATTY FAT STUPID FATTY!!” at you as you go. Because, guys, to do anything else would simply be “patronising and silly,” which would basically be putting academics out of business. And do you want to cost people even more money!? God, what is wrong with you!?

Of course, it would be a bit problematic for you to just stop eating all that food that you’re endlessly shoving down your gob. I mean, obviously we wouldn’t want anyone to think that “the food industry [is] conspiring to make us obese,” because that would just be stupid! So what if we’re increasingly inundated with advertising that tries to tell us that the only way we can be happy is to be good little consumers – and that advertising for fast food in particular tends to push the unrealistic notion that you can all but live on a diet of [insert brand here] while prancing around on at the beach with your equally attractive and svelte friends. Never mind that fast food is generally a lot cheaper, more accessible and easier to deal with when you’re running against the clock. Because the ever-increasing proliferation of these things doesn’t mean that the food industry is trying to make us obese! Duh. It’s just trying to get as much money out of us as possible – and these are entirely different things!

Jeez, stop being so stupid, fatties.

As Coddington says, “individuals need to be held accountable and stop blaming food and its makers for their problem.” And, I’ve gotta tell you, all of this taking on of personal responsibility has sure made me work up an appetite! I think I’m going to go and grab myself some Burger King. Or maybe some McDonalds.

I could totally go some KFC…

*shrugs*

I’ll just go wherever’s closest, because I am feeling especially lazy today.

See you later!

Guys.


Toxic shopping

Owning my own clothing shop was a real eye-opener.

Pre-shop (and pre-Fatosphere) I hated clothes shopping. Loved clothes, just hated having to find them. You know, going into every shop in the mall and not finding ONE single nicely fitting garment, berating myself for not fitting into the clothes, believing the fault was somehow in my body rather than some randomly-sized piece of fabric. Finishing the day purchase-less, depressed and full of self-hatred.

Oh, I used to come out with some pearlers. ‘It will all be fine when I’ve lost the weight!’, I’d moan, trying unsuccessfully to zip up something that said it was a size ‘curvaceous’ but actually looked like a cylinder stretched over a large pear. ‘If only my stomach wasn’t so fat!’ ‘I’m so vile!’ ‘I’m so gross!’ Blah blah blah – none of it was true and it didn’t achieve anything except to leave me miserable.

Then I discovered body acceptance, located a few good plus-size designers who made clothing that I liked and fitted me well, and concluded that actually I LOVED clothes shopping. I loved trying on clothing that was made for a body like mine. I had no problems when things didn’t fit because clearly it wasn’t anything wrong with my fantastic bod, but just the cut, style, size or fabric of an inanimate object made by somebody far away who had never met me. Oh, but when I found something I loved that did fit? It was heaven. It was magic happy-land, full of fantastic wardrobe selections, being appropriately dressed for any occasion and people saying agreeable things like ‘I love your outfit! I really like your style.’

Somehow from there I fell into clothes shop ownership.

And had a revelation.

Back in those sad shop-hating days, I was not the only person in the world who had loathed finding clothes! I wasn’t the only human in Australia who would make unkind, hate-filled comments about my own body! In public!

Working in the shop some days is like watching a bizarre reality show called ‘When Social Convention Attacks’. It’s a stream of fabulous people from all walks of life, all shapes, all sizes, all abilities, all backgrounds … all coming into the shop looking AWESOME and then just uttering hate all over their amazing selves.

From my body-acceptance viewpoint I find it really hard to hear, even though I once came from the same dark place. The thing I find most amazing is that there is no real similarity in the people who utter such things, except that they are all human people. Fat, thin, short, tall, all the gender permutations, all the cultural backgrounds, all the abilities. All doing the socially-acceptable thing of hating on themselves. Yes, even the women who happen to perfectly fit the social beauty ideal, still come into the shop and say dreadful things about their poor bodies.

Initially I was prepared to be offended. I now admit that no amount of self-acceptance will ever entirely reconcile me to a thin person asking me ‘Do I look fat in this?’ I tell the truth: no. (One day a very thin woman looked my fat body up and down, her gaze lingering on my hips. ‘Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you?’ she sneered. That was a tough moment for keeping my professional calm but I managed. I told her the truth again: ’That dress does fit you well.’)

It’s hard to know what to say when somebody asks me if they look fat in the dress and they do, because they are, and they also happen to look great. I am happy to describe myself as fat, but I know many people don’t take it so well. I usually prefer to focus on the fit of a garment, as above. I tell the customer ‘the dress fits you well’ or ‘I think I can find something to fit your shoulders more comfortably’. Oh, I long for the day I can say ‘Yes it makes you look fat: you look GORGEOUS in it!’ and the customer won’t be offended.

I have worked out that there is no point in me showing offence just because somebody has made one of those two-edged insults (my dear, if you think YOU’RE too fat to be allowed out, what do you think of ME?) Sometimes the comments are clearly aimed to offend, in which case it’s their problem, not mine; and just as sensible for me to ignore the jibe and get on with the job. More often, it’s not meant to offend at all. It’s just one of those things that we have been taught to do to ourselves, to punish ourselves to not living up to the impossible ideals of a Photoshop society. Any anger I feel needs to be directed against society as a whole and not individual people.

Most often it’s just dispiriting. When customers blame themselves if a frock doesn’t fit I remind them about the Shop Rule: ‘It Isn’t You; It’s The Clothes’. If a dress doesn’t fit, either the size or the cut is wrong. We simply turn our efforts to finding something that does fit. Why should a wonderful, complex, living body be blamed if a piece of sewn-together, randomly sized fabric doesn’t fit it?

Most people joyfully embrace the Shop Rule and get into the vibe. Some people simply don’t get it.

We understand that everybody is at a different stage in their journey of self-acceptance. It is up to us as the shopkeepers to encourage an accepting and positive environment, and that means finding nice ways to remind people to join in. We tell people about the Shop Rule; we stock different sizes as much as we are able; we use body-positive language; we ask friends and customers to model clothing for us so that the garments can be viewed on lots of different bodies.

We do get people who want to buy a garment that is too small for them because they are ‘losing weight, and it will be inspiration’. While that makes us really uncomfortable, we can’t make customers’ decisions for them, but we usually recommend that people buy in their current size so they can enjoy the garments right now. Our dresses are like puppies – they want to be loved now, not put aside to feel lonely!

We don’t buy into customers’ negative comments about themselves. If somebody says ‘I can’t wear that style until I’ve lost weight’ we tell them up-front to go ahead and try it on, since they’ll look just as lovely at any size. If somebody loves a dress and it makes them happy but they are scared to wear something sleeveless, we will always point out that there are no laws against bare arms in Australia, and tell the customer the truth when they just look really comfortable and good in a garment. And we always come down to Shop Rule no. 2 – You Must Feel Comfortable – by which we mean if you want to wear the garment then you jolly well should!

Having said all this, there is one thing I just can’t bear to hear: negative comments about other people. It’s bad enough hearing perfectly good people trash themselves, but it’s frightening when that negativity is directed outwards.

Some people are just toxic. Two women once looked at our shop sign which mentions sizes 6 to 34, and said very loudly ‘We didn’t even know there was such a THING as size 34!’ (I was scandalized but my business partner calmly replied ‘Of course there is,’ and left it at that, which actually did the trick.) One fantastic customer who we adore, often comes in with her mother, who tells her that she looks ugly in everything, and criticises individual parts of her body non-stop. It’s horrible to hear. And every now and then somebody will come in with a toxic friend or partner who will attempt to vet everything they choose, and try to stop them selecting clothes they love: in the words of one toxic husband ‘You can’t have that, it makes you look porky’ (Grrr, that comment nearly did make me lose my cool). Sometimes a group of friends are dominated by one cruel person who will hog all the time and energy of others while making oh-so-funny comments that undermine their friends’ confidence.

You know, it is amazing how often people creep back later, without their toxic friends, to try things on again in peace and tranquility. Toxic friends don’t win anything in the end …

Trying to keep our little business positive can feel like a losing battle when gorgeous customer after gorgeous customer plays the ‘I’m so …’ game. A game that we are taught to play from a very early age, and which some unscrupulous people use as a weapon to hurt others. It is so prevalent, even people who desperately want to be body-confident sometimes find themselves doing it subconsciously.

Interestingly though, knowing how prevalent it is can actually be helpful. Understanding that nearly everybody does it – seeing it played out again and again and again and again – this helps it to become more visible, more recognisable. Seeing that all kinds of people succumb to self-hatred, that there is no connection whatsoever to what they say about themselves and very evident reality: this has turned out to be valuable in my own struggles not to give in to it.

Next time you’re in the dressing room struggling with a zipper on some garment that just wasn’t cut out for you, try to remember that you’re not alone. All over Australia, people of every conceivable shape and size are doing the same thing, and blaming themselves, and feeling awful about it. Remember that, then take some soothing deep breaths, get dressed again, leave the dressing room, go find your shop assistant and explain that the garment didn’t fit. Ask for something that fits your perfectly good body. And repeat after me: ‘It Isn’t Me: It’s The Clothes’.

And don’t bring a toxic friend shopping!

 


80 Calorie Princesses… BARF~!!!!

Hello my Fatabulos Princecesses and Princes,

The last few weeks I have been culminating an ever growing list of things I wanted to share with you as my emancipation from size-ism is asserting itself in ever greater ways and with firmer resolutions that indeed this is the path that is the salvation of my fat soul.
I am going to Masters classes full time, I graduate this May AND working on my thesis proposal which includes research AND working more than full time… needless to say blogging take some time management finagling of a fine degree.
So while telling myself I just don’t have the time until semester ends in early December, something crossed my path that I just HAD to share with you. My incredulity about what I witnessed… led me gaping in the granola bar aisle…

So in the midst of shopping for the week and enjoying my new HAES lifestyle (buying peanut butter and more than 150 kcal cereal in YEARS… because I, you know in my logical dysfunction, thought that was somehow maintaining my weight… ha but I digress) I turned from my granola bar perusing to see a series of chocolate snack packs marketed for children.
When you look at the box here (snapped from my cell phone) you can see its three very skinny very white  under BMI Disney “Princesses” who have even greater disproportionate hip to waist ratios than Barbie by the way… standing approvingly under a HUGE ribbon-entexted ’80 CALORIES!’ In fact that 80 calories sign is greater than any other text on the damn box. Under it in much smaller text is Chocolate pieces snack packs.

Wow…where the FUCK do I start here??? When we hear studies which show that girls the  AGE OF FIVE are already worried about their weight. Where girls the age of 8 are in proto-dieting mode. Where girls are placed on diets by their very mothers…Where most women hate their bodies, are ashamed of their bodies and the first predictor for girls is to count calories and restrict foods… this box seems designed to not only  make eating disordered thinking OK but in fact enables it where it may have not existed previously;  it teaches girls it doesn’t matter what KINDS of foods are healthy but rather its all about the calorie count, the waist, the looks, the CONFORMITY pounded into young precious minds and hearts be it fat or thin. When I was young I loved the Little Mermaid, thin, beautiful Ariel vs. Fat, undulating BAD Ursula… back then at least it wasn’t fucking spelled out but the absolute DISGUSTING, LOATHSOME AND VILE marketing of Disney and Frankford Candy Co just to make a BUCK…The pressure to be thin will be greater than ever before. The pressure to hate and shame oneself will be greater than ever before. My friend who has little girls tells me Disney Princesses are more for the girls 2-6 years of age…. really? So…either… lets break down the levels of horrid dysfunctionalism, shall we?

Little girl equates dieting and calories with acceptance before they start school. OR if they cannot read the box then MOM is worried about their TODDLER and PRESCHOOLER gaining weight enough to start them on a calorie regimien. Really? Reallly?!?!?!!?!? I am flabbergasted.
Protect your girls. Protect them with all your might. The candy above is being produced and marketed by frankfordcandy.com… a company outside of Philadelphia. I suggest you email them and tell them how horrible this candy is and let’s get it pulled from the shelves!!!!
Where is the social outrage? Would this marketing have been ok in our feminist late 60s hay day? Or 70s? 80s? No, only under the junk science hubris that weight is linked to death is linked to unhealthy is linked to epidemic which you and I know is (and I do not have hours to site all the scientific studies which completely and absolutely debunks these politically driven agenda) this kind of hysteria…. enjoys a diplomatically immune place which endeavours to damage very souls.
It’s just when my disgust and saddness level feel full to overbrimming, sweet serendipity blows my be calmed boat back on the course aright. I went to Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey today. If you are within mild driving distance, really you MUST go to this wonderful play land full of sculptures and secret hammocks where you can shut the door and make out in a hillock of pines. Also there are curve loving works like this one. Which again brings me back to myself…sigh… yes this is the right.

Please email comments or call Frankford candy and let your outrage be known!


I am your mother

(This post mentions sexual abuse, eating disorders and other sensitive subjects that some people may find triggering.)

Wait. Stop. Think. Before you make that comment about fat people, think about who you’re saying it to.

I am your mother, who gained 20kgs in pregnancy and never lost it. I am your father, who sat 20 years behind a desk so that you had food and clothes and education.

I am your sister, who was sexually abused as a child and uses her fat as a cushion to protect her from the world. I am your brother with a metabolic condition which means I am unable to process food normally.

I am your friend who grew up in an impoverished family and was forced to eat unhealthy, processed foods, or not eat at all. I am your neighbour who eats and exercises just like you, but who can’t manage to shift the weight.

I am your colleague, who was bulimic as a teenager, and has worked 10 years to fix their relationship with food.

I am your daughter, who just wants your acceptance and love, no matter my shape. I am your son who cries himself to sleep because the world hates him.

I am the possibility of who you could have been, had life given you a different path.

Now, what was it you wanted to say?


Note to Women: Please Think About Something Other Than Dieting to Talk About!

why is it when you get a room of 3 or more women the discussion almost invariably turns to food, dieting, body shaming? It drives me insane. If I were a man and I saw this vapid, shallow conversation women often participate in I would conclude that one half of my species does not have a lot to offer in the brains department.

In fact, now that Ive opted out of diet talk and body shaming language there are times when I feel like an outcast of my gender. I no longer commiserate with or enter in conversations about good food vs bad, restricting, joining fucking weight watchers; I no longer nod in approval at these hopeless attempts nor do I praise for “successes”. In most groups of women I feel that my withholding from joining this womanly team building experiences and pipe up my own body and food issues means that I am somehow less of a woman;  less feminine  that I don’t join in what is now sadly, quintessentially a female diversion, we don’t talk about the weather anymore, we talk about what we shouldn’t be eating…. how. fucking. sad.

I wonder what these women think about me, when I am silent. I am no longer a good girl, no longer partaking in self loathing and hate no longer making food and eating a main component of my conversation (unless its couched in positive terms). When I opt out of conversations and sit or stand there silently while the women all chime in, I wonder how they perceive me; is it the knee jerk reaction of viewing me as a hopeless fatty? lazy? a loser? A woman who has “given up and let herself go?”
Sometimes I get enraged I want to just shake these women and tell them, “Do you know how shallow and ridiculous you sound? Do you think men sit around talking about this stupid shit? Cant you find something more interesting to talk about (oh I don’t know, global warming, stock options)I don’t know ANYTHING else to bond with your fellow women other than the size and shape of your bodies?”
Its so infuriating to know what I know now but feel completely impotent with questions about what to do what to say or how to share how harmful this is and how incredibly harmful it is to them…. and to me. Talk like this (and in this instance it was in a classroom that is filled with only women a graduate level course for chrissakes so I am in effect an unwilling witness to this weekly conversation) how can I tell them in what ways this talk triggers me in such bad ways. It is like I am in a permanent post traumatic stress syndrome running from a life of somehow failing to be what the world wants women to be, what this culture “values”.

And after the talk I started to think thoughts which were rolling downhill fast. I am “getting up there” in age and in fact am at this point where the talk from others about “when am I going to settle down and get married” have pretty much stopped. It is something I am working through and a strange place to find myself suddenly the last person I know who is reasonably not crazy or antisocial yet never married. It makes me wonder at times what is wrong with ME……so anyway after these conversations above and we begin the lecture I notice on every woman’s hand… all the ones near my age I see big wedding bands, engagement bands, children talk and I wonder (caught myself actually) is it because I am fat that I don’t have someone and they do? Am I an unloveable person, a rejection, a blight upon society? In the past these thoughts would have fired at will but today I caught this line of thinking in time to stop it. So I guess in this way, there is a small victory.
I wish these women really really knew -how these words hurt them and others around them. Every sentence is a knife cutting one more line on this poor body already full of scars. Most of the time I come off very competent and sure in my speech and actions laughing off the pain, which person who grew up fat hasn’t an array of defenses of self preservation? On the exterior we laugh it off with a quip and continue on our way but the interior winces at another sprung leak and finds a way to keep the boat from capsizing. Some days…. sigh…some days its just like that.

post script:

And after I wrote this feeling very very… bereft. I went to www.postsecret and this was one of the “secrets” , it gave me joy, and restored me.


a little fat activism makes a girl go BOOM!

Hi there my fatabulous friends :)

Today has me smiling and a need to write off a quick post about my latest and greatest fat activism :) I get migraine headaches and have learned that acupuncture takes care of them like nobodies business so I am a regular patient at a local Community Acupuncture clinic that works on a sliding scale and works to be accessible to all who need it regardless of income… a very cool thing. After your session in a big communal room you can sit in the anteroom area drink some herbal tea and browse the book selection. On one wall is a community announcements board which includes things like intuitive readings, eco-conscious living workshops and the like. I was buzzing on my natural post-needle relaxed state when I saw an advertisement which stopped me dead in my tracks, it was for a new local yoga/gym outfit and the flyers had big quotes screaming “Shake (OFF) what your mama gave ya” and if that was not bad enough the flyer next to it said, “I wanna rock right now! (I gotta big butt I cant wait to slim down)”.

Now that second one? Does not even make any sense unless I am missing a cultural reference here. But right below it was a comments box so I took the time to pen down a note like this, ” I love your clinic! However I feel oppressed by the comments re above. I work for body acceptance and Health At Every Size and find comments above to be unsafe and body shaming which hurts men and particularly women. As a clinic which works to promote an atmosphere of social justice please have these removed.”

I am marvelling at myself…and I do like what I see yes indeedy. A few short months ago I would have looked at that and responded with a head nod and some shameful thought about my body and putting myself down. A few short months ago these signs would have kicked off a guilt-feed fest about how I have not been going to the gym and those nachos I ate the other day; just a heaping helping of self flagellation. In short, I would have swallowed those horrible hateful, ugly comments but today the new and improved me sees those and fights the fuck back.  I am no longer swallowing the lies and now I am actively working to change the message for everyone. I deserve a gold star, people!

I will probably go back to the clinic in a week or so and I will update you on the progress. Let us hope real free thinking humans like they advert are actually working there. In fact now that I think about it maybe I should pen a letter to the actual gym… you think it will be received well….ha ha ha!!!  Fatty thighs crossed!


Fat Book Reviews: “No Fat Chicks” – Margaret Clark

It’s no secret to those who know me that I’m a voracious reader. I’m the child who got told off for trying to read at the dinner table, who was teased mercilessly in grade five for spending my lunch time reading, who carries a book with her everywhere she goes. I buy handbags based on whether or not they’re big enough to fit a book in or not.

Specifically, though, I adore Young Adult fiction – always have. And I have very fond memories of Australian teen writer Margaret Clark, so when I wandered into my local second-hand bookstore and spotted a copy of “No Fat Chicks” for $10AUD (this is cheap, fyi – books in Australia are very expensive), I thought it would be the perfect subject for a review.

No Fat Chicks (cover)

This is the blurb on the back:

“No fat chicks? When Mandy Miratoosi sees that bumper sticker on her brother Mark’s car, she’s ready to pluck his cocksure tail feathers once and for all. Mandy’s a big girl, and Mark’s mates need to know that lean is not always dream material. Featherweights and bantamweights beware. Mandy is out to show that big chicks can be winners!”

Clark’s writing style is simple, fresh and engaging, and while this book isn’t perfect, it’s about as close as I’ve read to a pro-fat acceptance message in Young Adult Australian fiction.

The premise is straightforward: Mandy Miratoosi is fifteen, an ace at maths, and a big girl. Her mother died when she was three, and her father remarried, his new wife bringing three kids from her previous marriage into the family. Bennet is quiet, friendly and sweet, studying second year Arts/Law at university. Markerton, Mark for short, is seventeen, conventionally very attractive and, frankly, a fuckwit of the highest order who makes Mandy’s life hell. Then there’s seven-year Babeth, a gorgeous child model and pageant attendee, seemingly at the behest of their mother. The story revolves around Mandy coming to grips with her intelligence and her size with charm and humour.

Mandy refers to her stepmother as ‘mum’ and her stepbrothers and stepsister as brothers and sisters, and clearly has a lot of affection and love for Pandora (mum), Bennet and Babeth, and even Mark, despite the way he constantly torments her.

In chapter one, Mandy wakes up to find her brother Mark has plastered a “No Fat Chicks” bumper sticker to her mirror, and shortly afterwards discovers she’s topped the state in the Maths Competition, and the action snowballs from there.

Let’s talk about the positives. This book shows real depth and nuance in articulating fat acceptance for teens, particularly in the way it intersects with feminism, and Mandy is remarkably self-aware. When Mark insults her for eating a croissant, Mandy knows it’s pointless to argue with him (p6). And on page 7, she thinks:

I was over it with all the references to my shape. It wouldn’t matter how little I ate. I’d still be big large with big bones. Maybe covered with a bit less fat, but still big.

Mandy tries to rip the sticker from her mirror, but only manages to tear of the ‘N’ of ‘No’. So she grabs a texta and scrawls a ‘G’ next to, creating the slogan ‘Go Fat Chicks!’.

I’ll resist the urge to go through the plot chapter by chapter, so here’s some choice quotes:

We had netball practice at the civic centre which is in a large park only a short walk from Newberry [High School]. Both Krys [Mandy's friend] and I play for the Dodgers, nicknamed the Podgers by Mark because there’s five fairly hefty girls on the team including our friend Lexie. But we’re running second on the summer premiership ladder, so maybe strength and stamina count.

I love this – it’s so matter-of-fact: of course these girls play sport, they’re active! For those who haven’t heard of netball, there’s a summary here. I played it for about eight years, and let me tell you, it’s not for the faint-hearted. Mandy’s friend Lexie, who’s mentioned here, is also a fantastic amateur car mechanic, and this is used to great comic effect later in the book.

When the girls at Newberry High discover that the NFCC (No Fat Chicks Club) have plastered No Fat Chicks stickers all over their lockers, Mandy steps in amidst the bickering:

“There’s only one to deal with this,” I said. “We have to form our own vigilante group and get our own stickers to plaster over theirs. This is war.

[…]

“It’s action time. Pass this message,” said Roxy. “All females a size 14 and over are to meet in the Girl’s Common Room at lunch time.” (p76)

We get a little dose of how fat is a feminist issue, too, when the girls discuss how their English teacher and one of their male classmates are fat and don’t have the same campaign against them. In fact, scrawled beneath the sticker on Mandy’s locker are the words “If you can’t root ‘em, shoot ‘em”. (‘Root’ is Aussie slang for ‘fuck’ in the sexual sense). This is incredibly frightening. Advocating murdering fat women simply for the heinous crime of not being fuckable. So, so disturbing.

This meeting is one of the greatest things I’ve read depicting fat acceptance, or even any form of social justice.

At lunchtime Lexie, Krys and I hurried over to the Girl’s Common Room. It was crowded. I hadn’t realised there were so many size fourteens and over in our school. And of course a whole lot of them hadn’t come: either too embarrassed to say that they were size fourteen, or not into attending radical meetings. There were also a few thin girls in the crowd. That was okay if they wanted to listen in. (p80)

Straight away, Clark makes it clear that this is about the fat girls, but that they’re inclusive as well. It’s like holding up a little mirror for what I hope thin women see in FA – a movement that includes them, but asks them to check their privilege at the door.

There’s discussion about how ‘No Small Dicks’ would be a good comeback, and here Clark surprises me again:

“We know it’s sexist and rude and thoughtless for guys to have a No Fat Chicks club and stick labels all over the place. It’s a put-down. Now, we could do the same: say we don’t want small dicks, or thick ones, or whatever. But then we’re stooping to their level of mentality.” (p81)

I’m thrilled to see the sexism connection, and we get a great moment where the meeting disintegrates into shouting, but Mandy takes charge. Much discussion occurs over whether men should be allowed to join their club, or thin women, what sort of slogans to have, how they’ll pursue their agenda, but the main thrust is that it’s collaborative, and that these high school girls have serious agency. I approve.

This may be my favourite quote of the novel (sorry about the length, it works better in context):

“What’s all this crap I hear about you starting an all girls’ fat club?” asked Mark at the dinner table that night.

“That’s a good idea,” said Mum. “Healthy eating and exercise. I’m proud of you, Mandy. I can get some of my modelling friends to come along and give your club some tips on how to minimise your size by wearing the correct colour combinations and give you some make-up lessons if you like.”

“Mum, it’s not that kind of club,” I said. “We’re promoting the right of women to be large.” (p86)

This is AMAZING. No ifs, no buts – the right of women to be large. Not only does Mandy stand up to her mother, but is incredibly matter-of-fact about it. Love love love.

In the middle, Mandy has a discussion with her horrid brother Mark about why he does these things, and it’s a fantastically, frighteningly accurate portrayal of the way increasing numbers of men view women – as hilarious playthings for their amusement:

“It’s just a bit of harmless fun. You girls get all wound up. That’s why we do it.”

I sighed.

“Why do you want to wind us up?”

“I told you. It’s fun watching you all spin out. It was fun watching Krys try to impress me. [...] It’s fun driving down the road with ‘No Fat Chicks’ written on a bumper sticker. Nothing bad or evil. F-U-N.”

“So you’re causing all this aggro and grief to people because it’s fun,” I said. “You’re stucking offensive signs on lockers at school because it’s fun [..].”

Terrifyingly on point. Clark illustrates perfectly how thoughtless these tormentors can be.

The book isn’t perfect – there’s talk about how Mandy wears a black dress because it’s ‘slimming’, references to women as ‘females’ and a couple of other things that set my radar off, but these are minor issues in the scheme of the overall themes of the book.

There’s so much more to this novel than I can give justice to in a blog post, so I really encourage you to seek a copy out if you can. It’s an easy 200-page read, and given its shortness, deals with the issues of being smart, the beauty culture and being fat in a remarkably nuanced way. It may be difficult to procure for international readers, but Australians will have a good chance of finding it in a library or second-hand bookstore.

One last quote to end with, after Mandy wins a waterslide competition at Wet’N'Wild:

“On behalf of all large females I will use this victory in my campaign to fight against the ‘No Fat Chicks’ mentality,” I shouted into the microphone.

If that isn’t activism, I don’t know what is. Love ya, Mandy.

No Fat Chicks by Margaret Clark

Published by Random House Australia, 1998


My Phat Philosophical Philandering

Being new to the FA movement I’ve come to realize that I have not reached what I thought would be a peaceful conclusion. I thought that I had finally reached the summit of what was the climb of my life only to see that this mountain is only the first of a whole chain of them stretching out to the horizon. I’ve just begun this journey. What I used to accept as the truth (I am fat because I: am lazy, lacking in will, gluttonous, etc) there by being like other women who are  pinching, proding themselves whilst talking about the endless hunger of dieting, a famine of the mind, as long as I bought into that I would be accepted even as I was the flotsam of failed attempts washed up on the shore of constant striving.

But now that I have awakened to see the illogical fallacies around me, as I struggle to truly be free, I am coming to other questions and wonder if they are part of “my process”. For example, an old friend of mine facebooked me and out of the blue proceeds to tell me she is a health coach who has herself lost 45 pounds and, “15 to go yay me!’ and wants me to help promote her new job to my friends.

Now, how do I handle this? Do I simply ignore the note? If I do that then what is my role in the FA movement and what does it mean if I stand silent? Do I simply work on myself to the exclusion of interfacing with greater society about the conclusions I have reached? Do I send her a note in response and if so how can I tell her that I think the very thing she is so excited about is a lie? And it is not only her, what do I do with the nameless masses around me who make countless statements and opinions where hate is tossed in as easily as one requests a coffee? Do I attempt to insert my FA mind set? And if so, will I lose friends or even hurt them in the process? If I tell them what I believe will their opinion of me change?

Over the last few months I have mentioned to a couple of friends about  my transformation and the responses I got were guarded skepticism at best, polite disagreement or just changing the subject altogether. Not once was the response, “How interesting please tell me more.” And while I can quote and fling reams of data which support my choice it is met with crossed arms, slight head shakes and stiffening jaw lines.

Its with some saddness that the joy and relief I feel at getting off the rollar coaster and loving myself as I am is truly lonley here in my real world, away from the comfort of like minds on the internet. I truly wish my friends and family would join me here but instead of getting warm hands to pull up into my new world view I find resistance, disagreement, disgust even.

Ever see that move, What Dreams May Come? In that movie, the husband played by Robin Williams goes to heaven while his wife goes to hell but in this movie hell is a place of one’s own making, built out of one’s illusions and negative thoughts. The husband makes it his mission to try to convince his wife to change her point of view in order to save her. I guess this analogy is like the FA movement. We have come to a place where we find some measure of peace but it is often a lonley meadow. We watch our loved ones continue to hate themselves or others or keep trying to use a tool like dieting that always fails in the end. How can we bring these people lost within false illusions to the place where they may find acceptance and understanding? Is it our job to even try?

Sigh… I do not know the answer hence the mountain range I must continue to navigate… endless challenges for ourselves and for our fundamental beliefs as to our responsibility to others. So I place this question in your hands: what would you do and what are you doing, if anything, to advocate for the FA movement to intimate friends and family. The unawakened ones?


T-Shirt Activism

Yesterday I caught up with a good friend to tour some of the buildings that were opened to the public for the inaugural Brisbane Open House. Since we would be doing quite a bit of walking, I built my outfit from the shoes (purple Converse hi-tops) up.

Flicking through my tops, I pulled out my “I’M FAT LET’S PARTY” t-shirt.

Sorry for the poor webcam quality, my camera's borked.

I looked at it thoughtfully. Bright, fire engine red, with huge white block letters emblazoned across my chest. Since I bought it about six months ago, I’ve only been brave enough to wear it down to the shops, and to the movies under a buttoned cardigan. I’ve been afraid that people might heckle me, might yell nasty things at me, or just give me that look, that “What is she thinking?” look. I’m still on my fat acceptance journey, and wearing something that might invite such comments seemed to me to be tempting fate a little bit.

That was six months ago, though. I’ve come a long way since then!

Wearing a t-shirt like this when you’re thin (and it is available in sizes from an S) is no doubt amusing for the wearer – “Haha, oh I’m SOOO FUNNY, this is IRONY YOU GUYS”. Wearing it when you’re actually fat, I think, becomes almost a little activism. T-shirt activism.

So I put it on, with a flippy grey skirt and my purple Converse, and an open grey cardigan. It felt really good. Yes, I’m fat, what are you gonna do about it? I felt almost like I was subversively calling people out as they slowed to read what that fat girl was wearing written across her chest.

I met my friend, who grinned at me, and told me that she loved my shirt. The barista who took our coffee order squinted at my chest, and asked what it said; she smiled broadly and told me “That’s awesome!”. When I went to pick up the maxi dress I’d left at the alteration shop to be hemmed, the woman serving me said my shirt was great too.

I’m sure there were plenty of people who read my shirt and thought to themselves that I was revelling in my gluttony, or giggled to their friends about the shameless fat girl, or gave me the side-eye. But that doesn’t matter to me. Because I’m sure that there were people who smiled, or thought to themselves that their fat friends were wonderful no matter their size, or that maybe not all fat people were lazy, stinky and stupid. I count that as a win for fat acceptance.

Would you wear something proclaiming your size acceptance beliefs in public? Tell me what you think!


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