Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
We get a bit of mail at Axis of Fat through our contact form and a lot of the messages we get are wonderful, supportive and thankful and make us feel really good about our writing and motivate us to continue to blog about being fat Aussies. On the odd occasion there are media requests too, and Nick fields those because I’m not really interested in making a fool of myself in print or on air and he does such a fantastic job speaking as a fat advocate. I’m really proud of our blogging efforts, and even though I haven’t been blogging as much due to being busy with my other endeavours, I’m really chuffed to see the blog chugging along and continuing the conversation about being fat in Australia.
Today Nick got a media request from a current affairs program requesting one of us appear in a story that involved swapping “lifestyles” with a “gymbunny” for a period of time. The opportunity (and I use that word ever so loosely) was turned down straight away by those of us on the Axis team who have access to our emails during the day, with much booing. We found out that the journalist has approached a number of fat acceptance bloggers today regarding the same story only to be met with similar responses. No thank you. We’d prefer not to consent to being demonised on national television. But thanks. Besides, I would feel awfully dishonest pegging myself at the fat/ bad end of the good-fat lifestyle paradigm because while I am fat and I just ate lemon pudding, I also go to the gym and eat vegetables!
This kind of “lifestyle swap” story is tired and hackneyed, and I really question the value of stories like this – other than acting as stocking stuffers on slow news days. I follow Source Bottle on twitter and at least a few times a week there are call outs for fatties to participate in “lifestyle swaps”. I’m starting to think that there are very few fat journalists and producers in Australian media, because you’d have to be completely unobservant or even mired in your own thin privilege to fail to see that people of all different shapes participate in different lifestyles. Unless they’re only observing what’s published by mainstream media – in that case you’d go for months (maybe even years) without seeing any kind of positive representation of a fat person’s lifestyle.
I wrote a FA101 post on my blog just the other day and I said, “The truth is, healthful and not-so-healthful behaviours are performed by EVERY sort of body.” I guess that’s just not an interesting enough news story for these journalists, when they get more ratings out of pumping out manufactured stories that fuel hurtful assumptions about people’s body types and the kind of lifestyles those bodies lead. The media characterises fat people as lazy, disorganised and unattractive and a “lifestyle swap” story would only serve to make a fat person complicit in this characterisation, something we think is dishonest, reprehensible and irresponsible. It’s just not an accurate reflection of society. I guess “URGENT BULLETIN: WE’RE ALL DIFFERENT. In related news, fat people have heads and feelings.” is the kind of headline I can only envision in fits of mirth and delusion.
We at Axis of Fat are, sadly, rare kinds of publicly and unashamedly fat individuals, and it’s natural that we’d be approached to represent fat people. When the angle is as damaging as this, we will not be complicit. What kind of person would submit to having their character slighted in such a way? To the current affairs program we turned down – we aren’t regretful not to take part in this story, and we hope that no fat person agrees to participate in this “lifestyle swap” segment. I’m pretty sure you’ll have terrible luck scouting talent from fat acceptance blogs anyway. However, if you’ve got time to fill on a slow news day we’d love to talk to you about producing a fair and positive story about visible fatties fighting social injustice.
Thursday, June 17th, 2010
To me, the crux of the “Fat Acceptance” movement is a core belief that hating yourself, and specifically hating your body, is a bad, bad thing. I see it more of a “Body Acceptance” movement, to be honest. All of us, fat, thin and everyone in between needs to be a little kinder to ourselves. None of us are doing ourselves, or anyone else any good by hating our own, or other people’s bodies.
We all know that body-hate is fashionable. Many of us in FA World also realise that body-hate is really damaging, and that it’s an epidemic sweeping our society that’s doing a heck of a lot more damage than the supposed “Obesity epidemic” the media is so fond of talking about.
Sometimes it seems as though this particular form of hate has become so acceptable it’s considered normal. So normal, in fact, that it seems it’s a suitable riff for a paid blogger on a national media site.
Case in Point: Alison Godfrey, and her recent rant on her blog “The Naughty Corner”. Her blog entry is entitled, “Third trimester pregnancy – what it’s really like.”
At the time of writing her entry Alison was 35 weeks pregnant, right in the home stretch of pregnancy. Unsurprisingly, she’s uncomfortable and cranky.
So cranky, in fact, that she didn’t have time to spell check her entry, let alone determine the difference between “your” and “you’re”, but we can forgive her these minor infractions. After all, she has a new life growing inside of her, and as any woman who’s ever been pregnant can tell you this is not only a wonderful, joyous time, but also an extremely uncomfortable time, physically.
In the third trimester, one would expect that morning sickness (who ever named it that, clearly never had it) would be well and truly over, thankfully. Unfortunately Alison seems to be choosing to continue to erupt with bile right through her pregnancy, and this vitriolic outpouring of hate directed at fat people is just as odious and unpleasant as anything that nausea-causing-hormones might make you produce.
Apparently it’s not the muscle-relaxing hormones flooding her system, causing every bone joint to loosen and ache that’s making her uncomfortable. It’s not the baby inside of her, dancing a tango on her bladder and digestive tract, altering her centre of balance and pushing her stomach acids upwards for heartburn and reflux fun that is the cause of her grief. It’s not the fact that she has a small person occupying some of the space where her lungs used to be that’s causing her to huff and puff if she exerts herself. It’s not the fact that her entire body is using all of its energy to GROW A WHOLE NEW HUMAN BEING INSIDE OF HER that’s making her feel utterly exhausted…
Oh no, it’s because she is “Fat”. And in her newly “Fat” state, she has gained an intimate understanding of what it is like for all people everywhere to be fat.
It would not take a genius, one would think, to realise that having a living, moving little person occupying your abdominal region is a vastly different physical experience to having fat deposits in various places all over your body. This simple fact seems to elude Alison. We’re treated to several paragraphs of how what she is experiencing must be in all ways similar to the living hell that any fat person must be residing in on a daily basis – in her dystopian fantasy world.
WHY would anyone choose this, she asks plaintively. Why indeed, Alison? Let’s ignore the irony that Alison perhaps chose to get pregnant and definitely chose to stay pregnant, wilfully and stubornly exposing herself to these various physical discomforts.
Why would anyone choose to be fat, when they are ridiculed, scorned, and when hating them is so accepted by society that something like this makes it to publication?
Perhaps, dear Alison, it’s because they don’t actually have a choice. Perhaps, and I know this sounds an utterly LUDICIOUS idea, but try to contemplate it for a moment.. perhaps they are accepting of the body they have, and not consumed with self-hatred. Perhaps, even.. they’re fat and healthy, and NOT experiencing symptoms day-to-day that are the same or similar as a woman in the third trimester of her pregnancy.
Some women experience the darkening of their skin when they are pregnant. This can be quite pronounced. Some women get what’s called a “mask of pregnancy”, and their skin gets all blotchy, with light and darker patches. Would it be acceptable for a woman who was experiencing this symptom to rant and rave on a national news site about how she had a new understanding of the lives of other darker-skinned people? “I’ve got a confession to make – having Cholasma faciei/melasma makes you intolerant of black people. I can’t find a makeup base to match my skintone, it’s terrible! Why would anyone choose to be dark-skinned, it’s just so hard, why don’t they do something about it?”
Would that have made it past the editors to publication? Would that induce anything but horror and rage and disbelief in all who read it?
It would have been completely, utterly unacceptable to publish – as this nasty piece of hatred should have been.
She admits in the first line of her entry that what she’s saying is blatantly discriminatory. In the same way that any sentence that needs to be begun with “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic, but…..” should not be uttered at all, let alone published, this collection of ill-informed hateful words should also never have made it past an editors desk.
Shame on you, News Ltd, and shame on you, Alison.