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.
Thursday, September 27th, 2012
If you’re not already aware that this week is weight stigma awareness week then you’d better hurry up and jump on the wagon! Especially since the organization, BEDA (the binge eating disorder association), sponsoring this week has suggestions on how you spend each day. Yesterday was to make art that helps you in your body acceptance journey. Me, I made a painting (primitive, but nice, yes?) According to BEDA, their goal is “to bring awareness to a common and entrenched social injustice that often results in serious physical and mental health consequences for those affected”.
Serious physical and mental health consequences. Let’s get serious for a moment. Teens who even think they’re fat are more likely to attempt suicide and, let’s face it, the fat hate starts early and children as young as three years old show weight bias against heavier people, attributing things such as being ugly, lazy, and stupid. By three years old, people. That’s some seriously early weight hate indoctrination. One study shows that children 5-11 prefer underweight friends and react more positively to underweight stimuli than overweight stimuli (which they, of course, reacted negatively to).
So today is “reclaim” day. Reclaim your body image, reclaim your mental health. Reclaim yourself. Post sticky notes on your bathroom mirror. Make a pin board as BEDA suggests, lf body love quotes and images. Surround yourself with fat art, with fat blogs, with fat people, whatever! Just remember that today is a day for loving yourself absolutely and unconditionally. And don’t forget to look at the upcoming days: recommit and celebrate! Recommitting means committing to take care of yourself, to challenge thin privilege and the weight based industry, to challenge negative thoughts about yourself and others and to recommit to being a fat acceptance activist and participant. And, finally, end the week by celebrating you. Simply you and how wonderful and amazing you are. Get your spouses and friends and family and children involved! Make a list of all the great things about yourselves and pin it to the fridge or in your office. Or just take a you day and relax with some hot tea.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to tell people about weight stigma awareness week- that’s where the awareness part comes in!
Monday, July 5th, 2010
“Wow, you look amazing! Have you lost weight?”
I’m sure it’s a phrase that everyone has heard or used at some stage in their lives. It’s actually something that gets said to me a fair bit these days (coming from those few who don’t know i’m involved in the Size Acceptance movement, mainly) and it really irks me. The main reason is annoys me as much as it does is that I’m fatter now than I ever have been. For the record, it’s not my lack of fat that’s making me look awesome; it’s the fact that i am confident and in love with the person I am. I’m sexy and attractive and cute and funny and beautiful and smart and happy. And whether they realise it or not, that’s the change that people are seeing in me. I look great because I love me. I’m happy with who I am.
One of my close friends has recently shed a buttload of weight, and i hadn’t seen them in a while. When i saw them I was a little shocked – I said “Wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight!” and I didn’t mean as a compliment at all. I honestly thought they might’ve been sick – dramatic weight losses/gains are signs of illness in my world, and I was instantly worried. But when I commented, there was a look of triumph in their face as though they had finally beaten a huge demon – the weight’s off, finally i can love myself!
I love that my friend now thinks they’re worthy of love, but the reality is that they always have been. I don’t want to take away their happy feelings in the slightest, and believe me, I love compliments as much as the next person. And I love giving people compliments too, my mum brought me up to be this way! Whenever I see someone whose outfit I particularly like, or if they have great makeup/skin/whatever I usually tell them – even if they’re a complete stranger.
But the thing of it is…. the measure of a person’s worth does not lie in their looks. I’m sure we all know people who are really physically attractive (whatever that means to you) that are total douchenuggets. I know I do. And it’s good to remember that what society deems attractive this month has nothing to do with your worth as a living creature. As part of the size acceptance community, it’s important to discuss when someone talks in generalisations about weight. Or appearance in general, actually. Nobody has a right to speak to you about how good (or conversely how bad) being a certain size is. We are a diverse society in which there is no “right” way to be. You are who you are, and that is perfect.
How do you deal with these sorts of “compliments”, both to yourself and others? Am I over-analyzing again? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Friday, February 19th, 2010
If you have a blog, or you tweet, or even if you just like telling stories to your friends.. you’ll probably have had this experience..
Something bad, or embarrassing, or both happens.. and AS IT IS OCCURING, you think.. “Whoah boy, this is going to make a GREAT blog entry/story later…”
I have had a couple of dates like that lately.
As has been previously mentioned on this blog, I am poly people. This means I engage in more than one romantic entanglement at at time. No one gets lied to, everyone’s informed, and all is well… (if you’re wanting more information, wikipedia is a good place to start.)
It means that while I am currently living with someone utterly wonderful, who I am head-over-heels smitten for.. I am also dating.
And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that sometimes, dating SUCKS. And when you’re fat? It can have a whole fresh layer of complications attached.
I meet lots of new people through the internet – new friends, new hobby-mates, and new people to date. When I am dating someone I met online, I like to make sure they have seen pictures of me. Including pictures of my whole body (clothed! gesselouise, people!) . I feel after seeing those pictures, there should really be no surprise when they show up and realise they’re on a date with a fat girl. I make sure the pictures I show them are realistic. I think this saves me some angst.. if they look at the pictures and they don’t like what they see, well, I’ve just saved us both a lot of time.
Perhaps it’s foolish of me, but I have assumed that, having gone through this process, if the guy (girl, alien from the planet awesomo) then asks me out on a date, the “fat” issue is put to one side. Settled. A non issue. They’re okay with it, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. It’s the same as my crazy hair – you can see it in the picture, right? I don’t then expect to show up to the date and have the other person yell “OHMAGAWD WHATS WITH YOUR HAIR IT IS BRIGHT RED!”.
Turns out this isn’t always the case, though. One guy seemed.. more nervous than he ought to, and then spent almost the entire date talking about his amazing personal trainer, PJ, and the amazing thing he did, where he gained a whole heap of weight on purpose and then lost it all again, just to prove it could be done… and proceeded to repeat this personal trainer’s odious and misinformed views along the lines of “all fat people are just lazy and could lose weight if they wanted to..”
Afterwards, he contacted me, keen for another date. Me? not so keen! I explained that what he said was pretty offensive, not to mention TOTALLY UNTRUE. He couldn’t understand why I had taken it so personally!
I couldn’t understand why he thought I’d go out on another date with him after he showed himself to be such an insensitive idiot.
The other one – we went on two lovely dates. Lots of flirting, laughs and great conversation. I thought this had real potential! Then I didn’t hear anything from him for ages. Oh well, I thought. Guess he changed his mind.
Eventually he contacted me and said he was feeling really conflicted about how attracted he was to me, and he thinks it’s probably because I am “a bit chubby”. He explained that sometimes he felt really attracted to me, and then other times, he felt repulsed/indifferent and it was all very confusing, and he needed to think about it.
I let him know as kindly as possible that he could think about it all he liked. Far, far away from me.
Now I’d like to be able to tell you that both of these unpleasant experiences were very easy for me to shake off, just like water off a duck’s back. I’d like to be able to tell you that I shook my head, secure in the knowledge that it was them, not me, with the problem, and I haven’t thought about it since.
I’d like to be able to tell you that, but it wouldn’t be true.
I know the next time I am talking to someone online, and they ask me out on a date, it is going to take every ounce of self-restraint I possess not to ask them “So, you know I am fat, right? And you’re okay with that?” ….
Stupid thing to ask! Stupid thing to say! It smacks of insecurity and assuming the other person is stupid. So.. I’m not going to ask it.
But after these.. interesting.. experiences, you can be sure I’ll be wondering about it, anyway.
..where’d all the nice smart cute funny poly-friendly curve-loving men go? huh?
Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
I’m currently a public sector employee and I’ve been in the sector since 2002. Up until then I was either unemployed or working part time jobs like Chinese Food Delivery Driver or Franklins Checkout Chick. I was lucky to get a traineeship with the State Government and my career world has expanded from there. (Lucky I was a male – I seemed to fill a required quote!)
Seven and a bit years on, with only a three month foray as a temp in the private sector, I’ve done pretty well for myself. I don’t have a university degree, but I have a degree in “working your way up through the public sector.” My Year 12 (final year) high school Accounting has become very handy over the years, and I’ve gone from an Administration Officer, Procurement Officer, Senior Procurement Officer (titles are everything!), Assets Officer, Finance Officer and now Senior Finance Officer (there’s that title thing again!). At the moment I’m an Acting Team Leader. I think that’s pretty ace.
So now that I’ve given myself a massive ego trip, onto the point of my post. I feel like I’ve achieved a lot in my career. I worked hard and taken some knocks. It took five years to get myself a permanent position rather than hanging onto my career by a thread. Another two to get a permanent promotion. And yet I’ve been FAT all the while.
There is this idea that there is a glass ceiling that if you are fat you will never succeed in business. You never see fat men and women in movies or on TV running corporations or even being middle management. Usually the fat guy is the one middle management are picking on. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I have some tips to help you in order to success in your career while being fat and fancy.
- Always be fancy. By that I mean dress well, make sure you have well fitting clothes that suit your figure. Don’t show too much skin and dress according to the general feel of your working environment. A couple of days in any organisation will show you what is expected. (You could always ask – no one will bite!)
- Be confident in your abilities. You were hired because they thought you would be good at your job, so be good. Do your best and ask for help. Don’t get into the mindset that you have to work it all out on your own. Sure, show some initiative but you need to get stuff right.
- Don’t play the fat card. You know what I’m talking about, and I’ve done it plenty of time. This is where you are all talking in a social situation and you are talking about this and that. “Oh, I’ve never done that – but I can’t cause I’m too fat!” Perhaps be honest and say “It’s never really interested me” or whatever the truth is. Also don’t do the fat jokes. Been there, and people aren’t laughing with you – they just feel sorry for you.
- Be yourself. You have to be there eight hours a day. If you want to have that chocolate bar, have the fecking chocolate bar. If you want to go for a walk at lunchtime, go for a walk. The only caveat here is that if you like to chat with your workmates a lot, don’t let it impact on your work. In fact, nothing should impact on your work.
Actually when I think about it, just about all that could be used for non fat people too. Just replace any reference to fat with skinny or normal or whatever defining word you want to use and it still makes sense.
So in conclusion, being fat doesn’t make you a poor employee, so don’t sabotage yourself, get in there and work hard. If you get knocked back for that promotion, ask why. Get feedback. Find out what things you need to improve on to get to the next level. They cannot deny you because you are fat, so don’t give them any other reason to say no.
I note reports that fat women have more issues in the workplace than fat men. This could be true but I’m not really in a position to comment myself. If you feel that this is the case, leave me some comments. If there is enough feedback perhaps I can form it into a future post presenting a female perspective on this topic.