When I started this blog, I wrote imaginary letters. It was an amusing rhetorical device, kept me entertained – and, more importantly, it preserved the idea I had that, really, I’m just sitting here, talking to you as an individual. That was, and is, important to me because I believe activism in this format is most effective when we have a connection, when we see each other as human beings living unique experiences.
I’ve been so proud, over the years, to be part of the fat acceptance movement, to be part of the fatosphere. Some amazing things have been accomplished. Every email I get or person who tells me they have decided to stop hating themselves because there are other options, better options… That is transformative.
But from the beginning, the fatosphere has struggled with intersectionality. Specifically, the fatosphere has struggled with racism. There’s enough overlap between the worlds of fatness and disability (though I do not support the conflation of the two) that people seem to be good about acknowledging the intersections there. But fat acceptance has proven remarkably awful – I’d say almost as awful as mainstream feminism – at being sensitive to issues of race.
This is unacceptable to me. I have worked, here at the Rotund, to be as inclusive as possible – and I’ve also fucked up plenty of times. I’ve not done as much as I could to make this space inclusive. That is totally on me.
But what I have tried to do, as much as possible, is at least not let racist shit slide.
And, y’all, my supposed allies in fat acceptance, I have to say very honestly and with sincerest regret that this letter is necessary, some of y’all are fucking this up.
If fat acceptance is a safe haven for racism in the name of solidarity and keeping the movement together, then I gotta tell you the truth: we’re doing it wrong. And not just a little wrong. If we are building a fat acceptance that supports racism then we are doing social justice fundamentally wrong on so many levels I cannot even.
I am debating with myself whether or not to link the post that has me all up in arms – I’ve long believed that we trade in pageviews on the internet. I don’t want to be cryptic by any means, but I also don’t want to drive traffic to sites that flat out don’t deserve it based on their own words and actions.
Let me explain – no, there is too much, let me sum up.
The Strong4Life campaign in Georgia is pretty much a bunch of gross fat hate. As so many of these initiatives prove, the path to hell really is paved with good intentions about saving the children. There was a response from the fat activist community – which I was really glad to see, even though I did not have the time or energy to participate myself. That’s the great thing about community – we don’t all have to fight every single fight.
I tell you that I didn’t have the time or energy straight up because I am not ashamed of that. We all have to balance our lives and our activism. And I also tell you because Shannon Atchka emailed me one day and basically threatened to “out” me in some fashion for being unwilling to help him. I’ve had my minor run ins with him before but I tried to have a fairly reasonable email conversation about how I wasn’t avoiding the campaign because of him – but my life was in a little bit of psychological shambles at the moment and I needed to focus on that. That didn’t go so well.
My plan was to just write it off as another difficult conversation with someone who essentially means well.
But now Shannon Atchka has decided to have a pity party and, frankly, some people have joined him in comments on his post about the matter.
Some of the comments on his post make me actively ashamed to be associated with fat acceptance as a racist movement – and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit quietly with that. Because fat acceptance belongs to me, too, just as much as it belongs to people making racist comments about how tired they are of being called out on their white privilege.
Listen, if you’re tired of being called on your privilege, consider that the people of color around you are probably EVEN MORE TIRED of having to deal with it. Plus they have to deal with living in an inherently racist society!
Yes, it absolutely sucks, my fellow fat white people, to be told that you have certain advantages. White privilege is a difficult concept for a lot of people.
But here is a basic fact of life: the people who most need to hear about something are the people who most protest hearing about it.
That means if you are kicking and screaming because someone called you out for doing or saying something racist… you might want to consider that the reason it feels so very awful is because YOU DID OR SAID SOMETHING RACIST.
Being called out is a favor, an act of kindness – someone is letting you know that your internalized racism is showing and getting all messy all over everything. It doesn’t feel very good at the time, but being corrected NEVER does. The key, the most important thing for you to do when you are called out, is to not freak out on the internet where you will only make things worse.
That’s what Shannon Atchka is doing. Atchka is calling out Julia Starkey because she dared to say something critical about Stand4Kids – the fat acceptance response to the Georgia campaign.
Now, I think Stand4Kids is a pretty cool concept. But I also accept and acknowledge that Julia was correct in her questions – and doing the people involved a favor by giving them a chance to explain what was going on.
It’s totally understandable to me, as a busy person, that the people involved in Stand4Kids were volunteers. And I definitely understand when people lack knowledge. But google exists for a damn reason. And creating a project or atmosphere of any kind that is welcoming to people of color involves more than an invitation to participate. That’s the tiniest step you can take in getting people of color involved. What you actually have to do – and if you don’t know how, that’s again why google is so very useful – is make your project or atmosphere actually welcoming. You have to create a space that invites diverse people to participate without fear of ridicule or hatred.
That is hard damned work. And I don’t think anyone is perfect at it.
The really great thing though is that no one is really expecting perfection. A genuine effort and a willingness to listen when we screw up is half the battle that we as fat white people trying to create diverse spaces have to fight. Screwing up is not the end of the world! It’s uncomfortable – we’re embarrassed and our feelings get hurt and we kind of flail around a little wishing no one had scolded us – but discomfort isn’t going to kill us. In fact, discomfort is a really great teacher, if we pay attention to it.
I see a lot of objection to the idea that people of color are not responsible for educating the people they call out. I get it, I do. It’s easy to think that if someone is going to call you out, they should put in the effort to tell you what you did that was so wrong and why it was so wrong. The problem with that is the obligation it places on the person who was offended or injured in the first place. The problem with that is that we as fat white people can, as I mentioned earlier, use google. Or we can talk to other fat white people! We are resources for each other in so many other things; we can help each other with this as well.
In fact, I’m going to volunteer to field racism 101 questions here – if you’ve been called out and you don’t understand why, you can ask me about it instead of the person of color who called you out. How about that?
There is a difference between saying a person of color is welcome to participate (and solve the diversity problem their own damn selves) and saying that it’s something that will be addressed. One is a deflection of responsibility – the other is an acknowledgement that it hasn’t happened yet but we want it to, we’re trying to make it happen.
I don’t beef on the internet. I have too many other things to do (fat things! and clown school!) to spend my time stirring up online drama. I love y’all and I want our time here together to be productive. I want us to feel empowered and amazing. I very very rarely post angry – mostly because I always feel bad for being all pissed off after the fact. But this is worth it, this is worth posting and waking up to dissenting opinions in the morning. Because I do not want to be part of a fat acceptance that claims it is divisive to point out racism. I do not want to be part of a fat acceptance that defaults to a white perspective, a white experience. A white face.
The strength we have is in our diversity, is in the uniqueness of our experiences. Our strength is in the summation of our identities, as varied as they are. Intersectionality is vital because it keeps us invigorated, strengthens us, teaches us.
I know that white people get tired of talking about racism. And sometimes it feels like we can’t get anything right. When that’s the case, we need to sit down and shut our mouths and listen. It’s difficult – but it’s worth the effort because we have so much to learn, so far to go. Because it is complete and utter bullshit that our social justice movement can be derailed by the racism of white fat activists.
This is the link I want you to follow:
a response to white fat activism
from People of Color in the fat justice movement
Please, my fellow fat white people. Let’s stop fucking this up.
June 30, 2009
| Posted in Discussion, Media
I feel a certain amount of guilt for this because I know a lot of people think she is amazing – and I’m glad she is enjoying so much popularity and that people are looking up to her as a fat role model.
But I can’t stand Adele’s music.
There, I said it. Also? I don’t like Mika’s music one little bit.
I do like the Gossip for the most part, at least. *grin*
Ultimately, I am so so glad that we do not have to all like the same things – I just feel kind of bad that I have the chance to support a fat musician and I can’t do it because the music itself just isn’t working for me on any level.
Are there fat icons that you want to love but just can’t because you don’t enjoy their artistic product?
June 30, 2009
| Posted in Body Image, Discussion, Make Up
So, I had a blast in Minneapolis – it’s a really nice city – at least when there’s no snow – and I got to meet some very totally awesome people. The reading was fantastic and there was some great discussion that has sparked some upcoming blog posts, too.
But the reason I was there in the first place was to go to Kate’s reception – which I did, which was great. And on Saturday, as part of getting ready for the evening reception, I went and had a manicure and pedicure.
Now, maybe I’m just more self-indulgent than most, but it always surprises me when someone I know has never had a manicure or pedicure (for reasons other than economic – this is, unfortunately, a self-indulgence that is only accessible at a price). And the reason it surprises me is because it’s kind of totally awesome.
It’s a moment (or a couple of hours) when you have to sit still and let someone do something for you, something specifically to and for your body. For a lot of people, not just fatties, this can be really stressful because how many times are we told we don’t deserve that sort of thing, how often are we grossed out by something as simple as our own feet?
I know I’ve written about this in a massage/spa treatment context before – at least I think I have. And the tips for that sort of thing remain the same: call ahead to inquire about robe sizing and get a sense of the fat-friendliness of the spa, request a specifically gendered massage therapist if that aids your comfort level, rule of thumb: most massage tables are rated to at least 500 pounds and you can ask if you aren’t sure.
Going in for a manicure and pedicure doesn’t even require that kind of pre-req work, as a general thing. If you’re going for a super fancy pedicure, you can always call and inquire about the seat sizing ahead of time, but for most regular spa pedicures, at least as far as research and personal experience have led me to believe, you’ll be just fine. Let the nail tech know if you are nervous or ticklish or particularly sensitive or anything like that.
Getting a mani/pedi is not an imperative. You don’t have to pay someone to polish your nails – or do them yourself or care one whit. But if you’re into this sort of thing, being fat (or being nervous because of inexperience or perceived class differences) shouldn’t stop you. It’s the nail tech’s job to put you at ease. You can get recommendations from friends, you can call and talk to people on the phone beforehand. You can throw caution to the wind and grab a walk-in appointment (which is actually what I generally do).
Though I can totally recommend Juliana at the Ivy Spa Club in Minneapolis, Minnesota as someone who did not make me feel like I was imposing my unshaven legs and tragically neglected cuticles on her. *grin*
I just…. I see so many people walking through the world who think they do not deserve nice things. Often, it is because they are fat. Because a lifetime of abuse has left them with a certain attitude. It’s the sort of thing where we are all too good at policing each other for things Fat People Just Don’t Do – like when we get catty about “well, fat girls just shouldn’t wear skinny jeans” or whatever the latest hot nonsense is.
Let me tell you this: being fat is no good reason not to do something nice for yourself. I’d put together a fatty pedicure party if I were able – a bunch of fatties all hanging out while this little piggy gets polished Russian Navy and this little piggy gets a french manicure.
So, I posted about The Morrissey Dilemma and then I went shopping. Because the universe has a sense of humor, I found two pairs of jeans with no problem for under $60 – not per pair but total (also, Avenue’s sizing is even more wack than usual). I found a fancy dress for a wedding reception this weekend that fit great, a neon yellow shirt, and even a pair of bathing suit separates that should kick butt once my size comes in (already ordered – and on sale, bonus, Torrid is turning into my go-to store).
This is one of those crazy situations where I am finding the stuff I need – and Lane Bryant is even having their annual bra sale. This is the time to strike while the fatshun is hot!
That’s often how it goes – there’s good stuff and then nothing (these waves of plenty vary in timing according to personal taste); it’s one of the major problems with the inconsistent availability of basics. So, if they can, a lot of fats practice fashion hoarding. But if you’ve not got the available funds to stock up, you’re up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
In other words: Poorer fats can’t hoard.
Well, poorer fats can’t hoard as easily – I’ll offer the qualifier because there is always the person who comes in and says “well, they can save up!” as if it’s just that easy.
ETA: I am inserting a note about thrift stores: Fat clothes in thrift stores are like diamonds, dude. Hard to find, hard to recognize, impossible to count on. My personal theory is that because fats tend to hoard their clothes, fewer things get sent to thrift stores to begin with. And the larger you are, the scarcer the thrifting gets. Thrifting is also not a viable option in all areas.
At various points in my life, especially when I was fresh out of college, buying a new bra was an expense that I had to plan for months in advance. I lived in actual fear of my bras wearing out, of underwires breaking, of elastic giving up.
When I hear criticism of fashion choices made by fat people, especially when those criticisms are offered by young, smaller fats with some degree of economic privilege (which is not to dog on young, smaller fats with economic privilege – I’m just talking about my own issue here), I often wind up really angry. Not because there is a difference of taste but because that difference in taste eclipses and obscures the very real differences in available resources.
In the last few years I’ve had more resources at hand. But I remember with perfect clarity digging through big black garbage bags of second hand clothes that people would bring me – stuff their fat family members had dug out of their closets because they didn’t want it anymore. There’s a certain smell to clothes that have been bagged up and brought to you as charity, I tell you what. It isn’t precisely a bad smell but it’s there and it lingers.
It lingers in my outlook, too. I can afford to stock up on bras a bit more now. But that attitude of making do, that sticks around, too, and I think that’s why it can be so frustrating to hit the brick wall of “I need shoes” or whatever it is.
I realize this is kind of rambly, but I think it has to be because there are no easy answers to how to negotiate this. There is no magical source of stylish, well-made clothes that exist at an accessible price point for everyone (hell, sometimes that is true no matter what your price point, it seems). But the style standards for fatties – often enforced with particular stringency inside the fatty fashion community – are even more exacting that standards for straight sizes. I feel like there has to be a way to build our community with the understanding that socio-economics and class are real issues that intersect and complicate the already thorny issue of fatshion. Throw in other intersections of oppression and it gets even MORE complex.
And I think we should not shy away from that complexity. I don’t talk about fashion a lot here because my style is, to borrow a phrase from HGTV, taste-dependent. But also because a lot of my fatshion is built around clearance items and things scrounged from the back of my closet that are 10 years old. I mean, that sort of thing is not really useful to a lot of people.
But maybe it is. There are a variety of projects online, like The Uniform Project, Brown Dress, Wardrobe Refashion, and Wardrobe Remix that address the issue of sustainable fashion but none of them address the issue of sustainable FAT fashion.
Maybe it’s time we start talking about that for ourselves.
Another ETA: Unapologetically Fat has been posting a really great Sewing At Any Size series that I wanted to link to. I do want to emphasize, though, that sewing is not a cure-all. I totally recommend that people learn to sew but even gaining a new, resource-intensive skill can tax already stressed finances beyond the breaking point. Sewing used to be a far more economical way to outfit yourself but there’s a lot more emphasis on sewing as an indulgence, as a luxury – and that’s reflected in the cost of supplies. So, totally, if you have the resources, it will make a huge difference but please don’t assume it isn’t something anyone can just pick up.
You know what? We’ve had a busy week. Lots of stuff going, lots of good conversations.
And now, it is Friday. So let’s talk about awesome stuff.
First, even though it’s in the 90s here on a regular basis (averaging between 33 and 36 Celcius for my friends using that scale), I am jonsing for some of the new colors that We Love Colors has released. I am particularly interested in the Electric Blue and the Amethyst. And if you’ve never tried We Love Colors, Elle In Wonderland has a contest going on that you might be interested in entering.
Second, what do YOU think death fat means? Lesley wrote a great post about it. Because she is excellent and came up with it in the first place.
It’s been interesting to see the phrase spread – and to see smaller fats use it. That has kind of confused me because it refers to people classed as “morbidly obese” – I tend to think of it roughly as the 300+ pounds club. So I’m really intrigued by the way it resonates with other people. I was stoked to see that it has made it into most of the articles and interviews we’ve done, though.
Third! Because good things come in threes or so I’m told. Kate and I have a reading coming up:
6/28: Minneapolis, Magers & Quinn, 3038 Hennepin Ave. S., 6 p.m.
AND Full Figured Fashion Week is going on that same weekend in NYC! It kicks on on Thursday, 6/25. I am bummed that I won’t be there (while being totally excited about Minneapolis) but I can’t wait to hear how it goes.
I’m spending a lot of today writing – I’ve got some fiction that I’m working on. In between scenes, though, I am pretty sure I’ll be haunting the We Love Colors site. *laugh*
Shall we declare this an open thread? *grin*
June 16, 2009
| Posted in Discussion, Events, Links
I just got off the phone with the Dave Ross Show from Seattle. Talking to Dave was a really great time and I appreciate the airtime and blog/book promotion. About halfway through the call, Dave posted a picture of me to his website. You can see that entry right here.
There are already a few comments – one of which is from a person who doubts my ability to clean myself. Nice. But, really, the only thing he’s basing that on is a number. That’s the danger of getting caught up in One Idea of Fat.
The podcast of the segment should be available soonish – by 3pm Pacific time. That’ll be here.
There was a lot of discussion of my mobility. Which I honestly don’t mind because, hey, if people think 300 pounds equals automatically bedridden, this might make them think a bit. I had a bit of an airline rant where I meant to bring it back around to health not being a moral issue but I’m starting to think radio is not going to be the forum for that discussion. Which, grrr, but I’ll cover it here as usual.
Dave was great, and so were some interesting callers. But, as is typical with some people, I get the feeling they didn’t really LISTEN sometimes. Like the guy who lost weight by being active – in the Marines. I don’t have time in my life to take part in a military fitness program and I’m already an active person. It just hasn’t resulted in weight loss. And that’s okay. It’s okay that his activity did and it’s okay that my activity didn’t because bodies are many and varied.
There was one caller, I won’t call him angry, who suggested that because I am fat and he was charged $35 for his baggage being overweight, that I should have to pay more. Of course, I don’t check bags at all so chances are good the total weight differential between the two of us was a lot less than he suspected.
Interacting with callers has been, well, I’ve not been DREADING it but since I’d never done it before there was a certain amount of nerves. I was pleasantly surprised. I really appreciate the callers who, even if they weren’t fat, called to back up the FA message. That really rocked.
I would love to hear what y’all think, when the podcast goes up!
June 16, 2009
| Posted in Discussion, Links
Yesterday, Kate linked to her post over at Powells.com (and to some other really stellar writing she has done in the past few days) that kicked off our week of blogging over there.
Today it was my turn. And I have to laugh at myself because man, oh, man, can I ever be wordy and geek out about literary theory. *laugh*
Lit Crit Made Me Do It: Crossing the Media Streams of Books and Blogs
There are references to both Roland Barthes and Tim Gunn, so it can’t be all bad, right?
So, okay, I admit it. I was watching tv. Not only was I watching tv, I was watching reality tv. I was watching The Fashion Show on Bravo.
It was a rerun and I don’t know if it’s current – they just designed clothes based on freaking fabulous shoes.
So, the preview for the next episode comes on. And Isaac Mizrahi is talking about how you don’t design for models, you design for real people so these are the real people for whom the designers must design. There’s a montage – none of these people are very fat but they look like they have very regular bodies.
And then it all goes sideways. One of the designers goes off on the 43 inch hips of her person and another person is all, omg, my person has 45 inch hips like it’s the end of the world. And that’s when it happens.
Isaac Mizrahi – designer for Target-That-Broke-My-Heart – busts out with “Frankly, I think you’re being very sizist.”
Like, he used the word SIZIST. I am all a-flutter! Dude! I know it’s just a preview, but it seemed like it was a part of a larger chewing out. Dare I hope that this was an actual factual fat positive (or at least general body positive) moment on television?
Has anyone seen this? Does anyone know what I’m talking about?
I mean, maybe it’s ridiculous to be excited that an amateur designer gets metaphorically smacked for being sizist and nasty about someone’s body on a Tim Gunn sort of rip off show. But this may be the most fat positive thing I’ve seen all day and it was ONE SENTENCE.
May 18, 2009
| Posted in Discussion, Media
So, I went to see Wolverine this weekend and, by and large, it was a great time. As long as I don’t think about the plot too much, it holds up nicely. Hugh Jackman, if you’re into that sort of thing, spends a lot of time flexing and screaming in the classic Wolverine pose. Deadpool is kind of tragically under-utilized and we also need moar Gambit.
Unfortunately, we also need less fat suit.
Okay, if you don’t the X-Men, I will give you a super quick primer on The Blob of the comics world. The Blob, Fred Dukes, was pretty much a big bully. He was invited to join the X-Men, couldn’t get on board with the whole idea of a team, and wound up as part of Magneto’s camp (Magneto being our primary villain). The Blob’s powers are related to his mass – his super duper mass. He’s nearly indestructible and incredibly strong. He’s also very fat.
Over the years, in comics, the Blob has served as a pretty decent opponent for Wolverine but also as a source of cheap and easy humor. Writers actually had him sit on Wolverine at one point.
Seriously, y’all, the writers had the fat guy SIT on Wolverine as an offensive maneuver.
I’d forgotten about the Blob, honestly. So when Fred Dukes showed up in the Wolverine movie, I didn’t brace myself for it. And, oh, I should have.
Because, dammit, Marvel is still going for the cheap and easy laugh. Good grief.
The Blob is super strong. He’s no acrobat but he consistently surprises his opponents with his agility. He’s pretty much immovable.
He’s no genius but he’s no shuffling idiot either.
And, seriously, in the movie? When Dukes becomes the Blob, he’s a shuffling idiot. A shuffling idiot in a fat suit.
The Blob has never been my favorite character. He’s a fat joke, you know? But at least, in the comics, he’s a fat joke that packs a serious punch. People underestimate him because of his size and then he beats in their face (well, he IS a bad guy). In the movie, he’s really only there for laughs (and did you know eating disorders are funny? Apparently, in this movie, if you’re talking about a fat guy, then they are). He smacks Wolverine around a little bit but the implication is that his powers are lessened by his bulk (there’s a lot of joking about not mentioning his weight to him).
You know what the problem REALLY is for me, though? It’s that the fat suit isn’t even GOOD. Duke’s head is too small for his massive body – which is seriously tall as well as broad. The body – the foam rubber, really – lacks the mass that is the source of Fred’s powers. He has a rubbery belly that projects forward but it’s a caricature. It doesn’t seem to actually be part of his body.
Kevin Durand, the guy who plays Fred Dukes, is 6’6″ – and that’s a step in the right direction. But look at the art above and then look at this:
Hands are always a problem for fat suit-wearing characters. The boxing gloves are an effort to avoid the issue. Oh, look, it totally fails.
On the one hand, fat mutant, which is kind of cool from an “at least there is a presence” perspective. On the other hand, am I really supposed to be sitting here feeling grateful that they didn’t tap into the powers he developed in Ultimate Blob (supereating with a touch of cannibalism!) as a source of joke material? Ugh.
May 14, 2009
| Posted in Body Image, Discussion
There’s a lot of great stuff on Notes from the Fatosphere so I think you should definitely be reading all of that. But, here, right now, I want to talk about borrowing clothes.
When I was still just dating my now-husband and he lived in NYC, the distance totally sucked. We hung out on the phone and on IM and via text message, but nothing really tops time spent in person, you know? So, when I texted him that I was actually AT the Orlando airport to visit a shop with some friends (okay, it was Lush – the only store was in the airport for a while but now there are, thankfully, a couple of stores that are more easily accessible), he texted me back that I should just get on a plane and come visit. I told him I didn’t have any clothes to go visit and he told me that I could borrow a pair of his jeans.
Which, you know, kind of made me love him even more but also kind of broke my heart because that is just not ever going to happen. My butt being rather a bit larger than his, you know? His totally precious remark was actually kind of bittersweet.
When you are fat, especially when you are located higher on the fat spectrum, the idea of borrowing clothes seems like this far off wonderland – a place people only visit in movies.
But this weekend, in Boston, it was cold and I wasn’t adequately dressed. And Lesley lent me her jacket.
It seems like such a simple and small thing. It IS such a simple and small thing. But, like so many things when you’re fat, being able to do this simple and small thing is actually a really big freakin’ deal. And I didn’t even realize it until I was adjusting my shoulders and putting my hands in the jacket pockets.
There was no moment of hesitation. There was no wince as I tried to gauge just how badly this garment was going to not fit. She offered, I accepted, and bam, I was wearing someone else’s jacket.
I realize how ridiculous that sounds. But when you’ve never had that moment of utter normalcy, it is kind of a big damn deal.
Body diversity is amazing. I love being surrounded by bodies of all shapes and sizes and other descriptors. But I think there is also value in fat community, in having other fat friends. This is one reason I love the online fat communities in which I participate.
Like I said before, though, there’s nothing quite like time spent in person. And so the challenge becomes creating fat/body/size positive spaces in our geographic locations.
Which, honestly, if you don’t already have a supportive group of progressive, body-positive people around you, is hard. I’m trying to figure it out as I go, too. I’ve got an email to respond to about an organized dinner, and I have a friend I only know online that I want to meet up with for some rollerskating.
How are you building fat/body pos community in your own space? What differences are you finding between online and in-person spaces? For example, it’s a lot harder to find FA-living fats in Orlando than it is online because I know where to look online! *laugh*
But it feels important. Because I don’t want the only time I see bodies like mine in person to be when I’m visiting the (way too cold) northeast! And because I want all of us to have that moment of reaching, without hesitation, for an offered garment, knowing it will fit.