Sunday, 31 July 2016

Trope Deep Dive: Fat Boys and Thin Girls: Angus (1995, dir. Patrick Read Johnson), The Motel (2005, dir. Michael Kang), Terri (2011, dir. Azazel Jacobs)

My intention with this series of posts about romantic storylines featuring fat men and thin women was to choose films using a specific parameter:  fat men and thin women who start a relationship during the course of the film and are still together when it ends.  This time around, that ended up being more of a hindrance than help.  I wanted to focus on adolescent characters, so I watched three films with fat male protagonists and plot summaries that suggested romance– AngusThe Motel* and Terri.  None of the three ended with the hero happily coupled with the object of his affections; The Motel and Terri end in explicit rejection.  This surprised me.  Certainly not all coming of age films focus on romance, or even use beginning a relationship to signify maturation.  Neither film I watched last summer with fat boy protagonists, Chubby and Heavyweights, had romantic storylines for their protagonists, though I suspect that’s more to do with the protagonists being closer to childhood than young adulthood.  I wanted stories of fat characters learning to believe in themselves to include at least some subversion of the assumption that they wouldn’t be able to find willing romantic partners. But as I have a prolific once-per-month posting average to maintain, plus these films have some interesting similarities and center fat characters more than most, I figure they’re worth talking about. 

As is required by the genre, all three young protagonists need to learn important life lessons in order to confront or transcend the difficult situations they find themselves in at the beginnings of their respective stories.  All three are outsiders.  Terri (Jacob Wysocki) and Angus(Charlie Talbert) are bullied and unpopular explicitly because they are fat.  This isn’t as much the case for The Motel’s Ernest (Jeffrey Chyau), although he is not shown at his school nearly as much as the other two boys.  He is nonetheless othered due to his ethnicity and class status, as part of a Chinese-American family who eke out a living running a cheap motel.  It’s worth noting that all three have nontraditional family structures.  In addition to the dynamic of the family business and having a home culture that’s markedly different from that of the society around him, Ernest’s father abandoned their family.  Angus’ father died soon after Angus was born; his family consists of his tough-as-nails trucker mom (Kathy Bates) and his tough-as-nails grandfather (George C. Scott).  (Worth noting: in the short story that Angus is based on, “A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune,”  his mother and father are both gay and remarried to stepparents of the same gender.  Moviegoing America apparently wasn’t ready for that particular configuration of loving but alternatively-structured family in the mid 90s.)  Both of Terri’s parents are MIA; his only family member is an uncle (Creed Bratton) who has an unnamed illness.  As part of their atypical families, the boys all must take on atypical roles for teenage boys.  Terri and Angus act as caretakers for their elder male relatives, while Ernest works housekeeping duty at the motel.  Not only are these roles feminized and serve to detract from any hope they have of conforming to romantic male lead standards as much as being fat does, but also detract from the amount of time they have to spend with their peers (and therefore mean fewer opportunities to meet and interact with girls).  

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Melissa (Ariana Richards) and Angus (Charlie Talbert), the Winter Ball Court/Unwilling Spectacle

Angus also features an interesting story beat around othering and feminization in terms of clothing.  Fat bodies in movies (and also in, you know, society) vacillate between invisible/excluded and hypervisible/spectacle.  When Angus is elected king of the Winter Ball as a prank, he is suddenly recategorized, going from having his achievements on the football field ignored to facing having to dance with his long-time crush in front of the whole school.  The intent/expectation that he will suffer humiliation is compounded when he has to rent a tuxedo, but despite protests that he wants a “socially acceptable” black tuxedo, his only option is purple.  But what seems like a cruel parody of the role he is supposed to embody becomes a symbol of his defiance, a dare for people to accept him instead of an invitation to mock him.  Terri and Ernest both have specific clothing, but it reinforces their invisibility.  Terri wears pajamas 24/7 (which I took as a symptom of depression), but nobody notices or asks except when his assistant principal makes him a special project.  Ernest tends to wear t-shirts that are garish, especially when compared to his mild personality; without saying anything, it’s obvious that they were purchased from a thrift store.

The combination of social isolation and difficult personal life also make the protagonists’ relationship with an older male figure important to their maturation.  Terri has a tenuous relationship with Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly), the assistant principal who can act thoughtlessly at times, but also models the self-confidence and tenacity that Terri lacks, opening up to the depressed student before he himself is willing to open up.  Angus has Grandpa, whose motto is “screw ‘em.”  He is marrying a woman thirty years younger than him; his stubborn refusal to let others’ judgments sway his decisions and his ability to woo a beautiful woman despite being old and fat both inspire Angus and foreshadow his success with the girl he has a crush on.  Ernest’s grandfather (Stephen Chen) takes a very hands-off approach to parenting (but does pick on his weight).  Luckily for Ernest, he is the main character in an indie dramedy and is therefore destined to cross paths with an eccentric loose cannon who brings some fun and freedom into his seemingly hopeless life, Sam (Sung Kang).  Sam tries to be a surrogate father figure, teaching him how to drive and trying to convince him to stand up for himself.  However, Sam is also more toxic than Grandpa or Mr. Fitzgerald, as a self-destructive divorcee who manipulates Ernest into letting him stay at the motel without paying.  

 

In addition to older male characters who teach the protagonists how to navigate being an outsider, the love interest characters are also outsiders in their own rights.  Despite being a popular cheerleader, Melissa (Ariana Richards) is as much a victim of bullying as Angus, as her boyfriend Rick (James Van Der Beek) uses her as a pawn to try and humiliate our hero.  During the climactic scene at the school Winter Ball dance, she admits to Angus that not only is she as nervous as he is about being publicly humiliated, but she is also bulimic, something she had never told anyone else.  “Do you ever get tired of who you are?” she asks him.  “Do you know who you’re talking to?” he responds.  Terri has a crush on Heather (Olivia Crocicchia), who becomes a social outcast when a classmate fingers her in class.  This is partly Terri’s fault: his outsider status allows him moments of quiet observation where he sees the otherwise surreptitious sex act, his other classmates then see what he’s looking at and make a scene.  He does, however, attempt to make things right by defending her to Mr. Fitzgerald, who wants to expel her, and detracting unwanted attention from her in subsequent classes.  His support builds their friendship and gives him a shot with her when she suggests they hang out together after school.  Despite being conventionally attractive, in contrast to the protagonists, Heather and Melissa both have bodies that require regulation, Heather through slut-shaming and Melissa through an eating disorder.  In this way, they find empathy and companionship through the boys who are social pariahs for their own unruly bodies.  In The Motel, however, similarity is a problem.  Christine (Samantha Futerman), like Ernest, is part of a Chinese immigrant family and has an atypical childhood for an American kid, working at her family’s business. Unlike the other two films, their similar outsider status may be what prevents any potential romance.  When giving Ernest advice on romance, Sam tells him that Christine won’t want him because he reminds her of her upbringing, and she wants a boyfriend who will offer her escape.

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Ernest (Jeffrey Chyau) and Christine (Samatha Futerman), finding relief from their jobs together

Perhaps because of empathy gained from being an outsider, or because of the feminized roles they play in their family lives, the protagonists treat the girls with more respect than do their male peers.  (Given that there is no culmination in romance, especially for Ernest and Terri, The Motel and Terri risk a “nice guy” dynamic.)  While Terri protects Heather and respects her boundaries, his friend Chad plans to get her drunk and have sex with her because he thinks she’s an easy target due to her reputation. As mentioned above, Rick uses Melissa in a plan to humiliate Angus without her consent, then gets mad at her when she teaches Angus how to dance instead of allowing him to fail. Ernest stands by while three classmates of Christine’s trespass on her family’s property to skate and try to get her to give them free food.  She hesitantly agrees, uncomfortable with the idea but longing for their approval.  Even outside a romantic context, there is a tacit trust and intimacy between each pair that the female characters lack in other interactions with male peers.

Angus is the only film of the three that ends with ambiguous potential for romance.  Notably, Angus is also the most idealized protagonist. He makes a lot of self-deprecating comments about being fat, but he is on the football team, being considered for a prestigious magnet school, and is able to stand up for himself. He is able to physically overpower Rick, but can’t because he faces suspension. His character growth is about replacing his fists with words, naturally culminating in a speech that is the best moment in the film.  The last scene of the film is Melissa giving him a kiss on the cheek after he walks her home.  What’s to come of this we don’t know, but in all fairness, she did just get royally screwed over by her jerk boyfriend.  Some time to herself would be healthy.  Both Heather and Christine also deal with external circumstances that affect any desire for romance with Terri or Ernest, fatness not ever being an explicit factor.  Heather’s classmates have ostracized her due to being sexually active.  Terri has a chance to have sex with her (he doesn’t) because she is drunk.  She leaves a note for Terri asking that he not talk about the incident at school and emphasizing that she is his friend.  And in The Motel, as previously noted, Christine’s lack of attraction for Ernest may be due to associating romance with escape from her family life.

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Terri (Jacob Wysocki), concerned for Heather’s (Olivia Crocicchia) wellbeing

Although none of the films end happily with romance, they do end on hopeful notes as we see signs of maturation in the protagonists. Ultimately, the resolution has more to do with their relationships with their older male role models than their female love interests.  Angus, as previously noted, learns to solve his problems with dramatic speeches instead of violence and  discovers that idealized Melissa is a vulnerable human being, because he takes Grandpa’s advice to “screw ‘em” (repeated to him by Melissa) and does what he wants despite potentially being judged by others.  “I’d had my moment,” he tells the audience in the ending narration, “and then I heard my grandfather’s voice say to me, ‘Go have another.’”  After being rejected by Heather, Terri spends a day with Mr. Fitzgerald, not only for his own benefit but also to give the older man company, as he is separating from his wife and sleeping in his car on school grounds.  “She’s embarrassed,” he tells Mr. Fitzgerald.  “I’m not going to say anything if that’s what she’s worried about… I don’t think I’m read for all that stuff yet, anyway.”  “Who is, you know?” Mr. Fitzgerald responds.  The last shot is of Terri walking through the woods by himself, looking content.  The Motel’s climax sees Ernest confronting Sam, refusing to be manipulated and telling Sam that he has to leave the motel if he isn’t going to pay for his room.  Instead of having to passively accept that his father left him, he is able to actively reject a dad-analogue figure for not treating him with respect.  The boys all learn to value themselves despite the fatphobic (and in Ernest’s case, racist) rhetoric thrown at them; even if the expectation that a fat boy would fail at a romantic endeavor isn’t necessarily subverted, the expectation that a fat boy would fail to love himself is unquestionably skewered by all three films.

*If discussion about The Motel seems less detailed than the other two films, it’s because it was the first of the three I watched, and I lost my notes.  It’s definitely worth watching, though.



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Saturday, 30 July 2016

Fat news through July 27, 2016

We’re back, and talking about fatties again!

July 20, 2016: Emily Baines discusses a run-in between Whitney Way Thore (star of My Big Fat Fabulous Life) and comedian Kerryn Feehan (first link), when Feehan made some fat-phobic remarks during a guest appearance on a radio show where Thore interned. Thore continues to be an activist for positive body image and has a TedX talk on the subject (second link).
http://ift.tt/2al0rUX
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaXBYcfVYZM

July 22, 2016: People with lipodystrophy, a rare genetic disorder, are thin but suffer from the same conditions that are associated with being fat such as high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, and type 2 diabetes. Scientists have found a clue into why some fat people are metabolically healthy and how this knowledge could help everyone be healthier.
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July 24, 2016: Laura Bogart is fat, and she is okay with that. She shares her journey to fat acceptance and the lessons learned along the way. (Comments on this page are the usual sort of fat shaming, though.)
http://ift.tt/2al0rnO

July 27, 2016: Ka Leo O Hawai’i, the campus newspaper of the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, explains that the body positive movement is not the promotion of fatness, but rather a “feel-good cause” for people who don’t fit society’s ideal.
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Singer JoJo’s Extreme Diet – Why Isn’t Talent Enough?

Actual SizeIn an interview with PopSugar, Singer JoJo has bravely decided to talk about the pressure that she was under to lose weight early in her career.  She explains:

Here’s something that I agreed to do that ended up messing with me psychologically…I was under a lot of pressure with a company I was at previously, and they wanted me to lose weight fast. So they got me with a nutritionist and had me … on all these supplements, and I was injecting myself — this is a common thing ‘the girls’ do, by the way — it makes your body only need certain calories, so I ate 500 calories a day. It was the most unhealthy thing I’ve ever done.

First of all, who the fuck is this nutritionist? It’s bad enough that Dr. Oz endorses crap like this, but at least he got called before Congress and labeled a scam artist.  For all we know this nutritionist continues to starve pop stars for profit.

There is no injection that makes you only need certain calories.  While she doesn’t disclose what kind of injections, this sounds like the HCG diet.  Victims of this scam inject themselves with the hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), which is produced during pregnancy and legitimately prescribed as a fertility medication. In addition to the injections they are restricted to 500 calories a day.

As you might have guessed, there is no research to suggest that this leads to sustained weight loss, but there are side effects which include gallstone formation, irregular heartbeat,  fatigue, irritability, depression, edema, gynecomastia, gallstone formation, irregular heartbeat, electrolyte imbalance,and the risk of blood clots forming and blocking blood vessels. All that risk for an approximately 0% chance of long term weight loss.

Regardless of what type of ridiculous and dangerous diet she was on, nobody was suggesting that it would improve her singing voice or her health, and that’s an issue. In our culture, talent isn’t enough.  For the vast majority of people who want to be singers (or dancers,or actors, or in the public eye in any way,) fitting the stereotype of beauty is the golden ticket that they must have in order to chase their dreams, because in our culture very often we choose our singers, dancers, actresses etc. based on their ability to approximate the stereotype of beauty first, and their talent second.  And that sucks.

How many talented people do we miss out on because they didn’t happen to fit some ridiculous, incredibly narrow standard of beauty?  How many bullshit “Nobody Could Have Believed” e-mails do we have to endure?  How many talented people put their health and even their lives at risk trying to reach that stereotype of beauty?  This needs to stop. Talent should be enough, and the entertainment world should reflect the diversity of the real world.

REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE! 

Earlybird registration ends July 31st so hurry to get the earlybird rate

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

 



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Thursday, 28 July 2016

New open access Fattylympics chapter queers public health

I'm delighted to announce that a chapter I co-authored with Bethan Evans is now available to download for free!

Reframing Fatness: Critiquing 'Obesity' is a piece in The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities edited by Anne Whitehead and Angela Woods, which has just been published. In our chapter we use the Fattylympics to talk about fat activism and queering public health.

The book retails at an eye-watering £175. I doubt that many activists would ever have access to this collection at this price. Only the most elite and inaccessible libraries will be able to afford to buy copies. Amazingly, the ePub is also the same price. Nevertheless, the University of Liverpool have paid for the chapter to be open access, for which I am grateful. Their actions mean that you can get it for free.

For the uninitiated, this is how academic publishing works nowadays. You may wish to check out The Para-Academic Handbook for alternative academic strategies.

Evans, B. and Cooper, C. (2016) 'Reframing Fatness: Critiquing 'Obesity'' in Whitehead, A. and Woods, A., eds., The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Wardrop, A. and Withers, D. M., eds. (2014) The Para-Academic Handbook: A Toolkit for making-learning-creating-acting, Bristol: HammerOn Press.







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100 Fat Activists #17: 1980s Fat Feminist photography

By the early 1980s fat feminism was spreading through a number of groups in the West, though fatphobia remained a big problem within the women's movement and society in general. Radical lesbian feminism of the period, including separatism, helped to establish an infrastructure of organisations, venues and businesses where fat feminism could be explored.

One of the ways in which lesbian feminists of that time did this was through photography. During my research travels to the archives for my book, I came across startling and powerful photographs of fat lesbians by Cookie Andrews-Hunt, Cathy Cade, Zoe Mosko, Lynn Levy and Judith Clarke. Vida Gallery in San Francisco hosted Fat Fridays for a period, and showcased images of fat lesbians. I have included blurry me-in-the-archive phonecam images here but would encourage readers to try and find the originals.

Andrews-Hunt, a leather dyke and photo editor, produced Images of Our Flesh in 1983, a calendar featuring pictures of The Fat Avengers, a fat lesbian feminist group from Seattle. Perhaps this influenced later activism such as the calendar produced as a fundraiser for Heather McAllister when she was undergoing cancer treatment, or the annual Adipsitivity calendar.

Cathy Cade's A Lesbian Photo Album from 1987 documented fat feminist community in the Bay Area, including Judy Freespirit. Her photograph of Pandoura, which I think may be from Images of Our Flesh is a rare glimpse of a fat lesbian of colour from that period.

My favourite photograph from Images of Our Flesh is Judith Clarke's portrait of Banshee. She is wearing a Fat Liberator t-shirt (Stop Fat Oppression: Support Fat Dykes) and looks so contemporary, meaning of her time as well as timeless. I can imagine bumping into her in queer community today.

Some of these photographers are now dead, some of this work is sadly obscure and exists only in the archive. But they resonate so strongly for me because they are visual depictions of community, of those who came before, they remind me that I am part of a movement, and they look absolutely fantastic.






Cade, C. (1987) A Lesbian Photo Album: The Lives of Seven Lesbian Feminists, Oakland, CA: Waterwoman Books.

Andrews-Hunt, C. (1983) Images of Our Flesh, Seattle: The Fat Avengers.



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Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream Float Recipe

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SoHoppinGood #TopYourSummer #CollectiveBias Hi friends! I have the easiest and most delicious...

Read more here!

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the HAES® files: Confessions of an Olympian Wannabe

by Dawn Clifford, PhD, RD

In a former life, I was a competitive swimmer. Through the sport of swimming, I learned many life lessons including commitment, determination and teamwork. I credit my swimming career for my professional work ethic. However, perhaps one of the most important lessons learned from the world of competitive sports, is the influence of genetics and privilege.

I endured a fairly fruitful and rewarding swimming career complete with a full ride scholarship to college, much to my parents’ delight. However, in some respects it was a disappointing career because I had my sights set on the Olympic games, of course, and despite muscling through over 20 hours of training each week, was never able to meet the time standards to compete at the Olympic Trials.

I’ll never forget that day in high school when my coach sat me down after a disappointing performance at a major swim meet and explained the reason my times were no longer getting faster. It was my height. I was too short.

At 5 foot three and three-quarters inches, faster sprint freestylers towered over me.

Fast-twitch muscles? Yep, I had that.

Buff biceps and broad shoulders? Check and check.

Dedicated work ethic? Yes!

Emotional and financial support from my parents? I had that too.

In just lacking those few vertical inches, I had to accept that I would have to settle for competing at the national and collegiate level, but never at the international level.

What felt like the end of the world at the time (Ha!!), became the perfect priming for the Health At Every Size messages I was exposed to over a decade later.

Like athletic ability, body weight, shape, and size are largely genetically driven. And those with certain genetics for thinness are admired, congratulated and affirmed, as if they are personally responsible for their good fortune, while those with pre-disposition to fatness are shamed and blamed.

As a child, I put professional athletes up on a pedestal and admired their hard work, dedication, and drive. The truth is that many athletes and non-athletes have these exact same admirable qualities and never make it into the limelight. And really, the only difference between an Olympian and me is a few strands of DNA.

An Olympian may have the extra long torso that might be useful in a sport like swimming, or the short and compact body that is best for the sport of gymnastics. For a track athlete or basketball player, it might be a matter of having the longest legs. In many sports, I suspect those who are most competitive have tendons and muscle fibers that are more resistant to overuse injuries. In many ways, athletes with these specific body features are no more deserving of their success than any other hard working individual.

I shake my head at my younger self for not realizing that everything I was even able to accomplish was due to aspects of my life I had no control over. I grew up in an affluent white household with parents who could afford swim team fees and travel to meets. My genetics made me coordinated, buff and fast, to some degree, but I did nothing to even deserve those attributes. I was offered a full ride scholarship, even though my parents could afford to pay for college. All of this wasn’t my doing, but rather because of privilege and a genetics lottery. While I didn’t win the big ticket Powerball in the genetics lottery of a swimmer, I guess you could say I won a few Scratchers Games.

It’s not that I resent Olympians or the Olympics. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love watching sports. This Olympics will be no different from previous Olympics. I will stay up too late to watch the thrills of victory and the agonies of defeat, even though I know the true stories surrounding the making of an Olympic athlete.

Now I watch sporting events through a pair of lenses that help me understand that Olympians are simply individuals who won the genetics lottery and I will cheer them on to victory while also giving credit to those who have overcome adversity to compete.

Whether we’re comparing recreational athlete to athletic superstar or thin body to fat body, the genetic variation piece sits center stage. Two people with similar lifestyle patterns may have completely different genetic predispositions and therefore different body shapes and sizes. Similarly, two people may be born into completely different social classes and, as a result, are faced with environmental factors completely out of their control that can influence health and well-being.

So much of our accomplishments, achievements, health and well-being, at the end of the day, are out of our control and are decided for us. That doesn’t seem to stop people from praising those who win the genetics lottery and oppressing and marginalizing those who don’t. It will take each of us to join together to change the perception that body shape and size is a matter of choice and we must not stop until we’ve succeeded.

Now I have the opportunity to play the genetics lottery with my son. I married another sprint freestyler who I met on my college swim team and he happens to be much taller. Perhaps our son will win the genetics lottery? As they say, you can’t win if you don’t play!

But regardless of whether my son grows up to be an Olympian, I promise to expose him to sports for the sole purpose of helping him find enjoyable and rewarding ways to move his body. While he may never win Olympic gold, he will likely win an appreciation for endorphins, a healthy coping tool for stress, and a life of fun and fitness…which might actually be the better deal in the long run.

 


_DSC3722, smallDawn Clifford, PhD, RD is an Associate Professor and Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at California State University, Chico. In addition, she co-founded and is the current director of FitU, which is a peer mentoring nutrition and exercise counseling program on campus. Dr. Clifford conducts research and is an accomplished speaker in the areas of motivational interviewing and Health At Every Size®. She is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers and recently authored Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness. In addition, she is the current chair of the ASDAH Education Committee.



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Kerryn Feehan – Every Fatphobia Fallacy In 3 Minutes

WTF are you doingActress and comic Kerryn Feehan decided to use a publicity opportunity on KISS 95.1 FM to go after KISS intern/My Big Fat Fabulous Life star,Whitney Way Thore.

In a “whoever talks the loudest wins” style that she seems to have copied directly from famous-only-for-being-a-fatphobe MeMe Roth, Kerryn manages to commit every fallacy of fatphobia in less than three minutes.

It would have been impressive if it wasn’t so horrifying.  I wrote about it for Ravishly.com, you can read all about it at:

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REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE! 

Earlybird registration ends July 31st so hurry to get the earlybird rate!

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.



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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Plus 40 Fabulous – July – Holiday Memories

Well how fortuitous is this?  It’s time for the Plus 40 Fabulous post, and the theme is Holiday Memories, and I’m just back from a mega holiday!  I’ve missed a few months of Plus 40 Fabulous, both because I was away and also because I was sick and in the middle of big work projects before I went on holidays.  It’s good to get back into the swing of things now that I’m home.

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The theme for this month is “holiday memories”.  I don’t really have any good holiday memories from my childhood, so I decided I’m going to write about the clothes I wore on my recent holiday to New Zealand, and share some of the tips and tricks I learned about packing and travelling as a very fat woman.

When I was packing for New Zealand, I really didn’t know what to take, for a few reasons.  Firstly, it’s cold in New Zealand, a lot colder than I experience here in Brisbane, so I had to think about clothes that were going to keep me warm, which I don’t have many of!  Then I found that packing up warm clothes for almost a month in a cold climate is no easy feat.  Plus-size clothes, particularly winter plus-size clothes, are big and bulky and take up a lot of room.  But after asking around some fellow fat travellers, I was able to put together a travel wardrobe that was both going to keep me warm and comfortable, and be convenient to carry around for weeks on end in a suitcase.  It helped a lot that my friend Kerri and I were travelling around by hire car so we didn’t have to lug stuff on and off buses, trains and planes any more than to and from the country.

When we first got to Wellington, we found it was quite a bit warmer there than we expected – fairly comparable to Brisbane.  Our first morning, all I did was added a warm cardigan to an outfit I would wear at home.  Bright coloured leggings, a block coloured tunic top, my much loved (and comfortable) Mary-Janes and a cuddly cardigan did it for me.

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These are the only trolls I like.

I lived in leggings while I was over there.  They roll up small in a suitcase, and can be mixed and matched with various tops and dresses.  They’re also good and warm.

I did have a couple of days where I got to get into some fatshion, which was of course at the New Zealand Fat Studies: Identity, Agency and Embodiment conference.  I wanted to wear something that was both cute and expressed my style, but also that said “Unapologetic Fat Woman Here!”

Day One I went with my Candy Strike bug dress:

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I thought I was going to need to get really warm, and had a black fuzzy bolero and black scarf to wear with it, but the venue turned out to be REALLY warm, so I was able to pare down to just a mesh top underneath the dress and some black leggings, and those trusty Mary-Janes again.

I was presenting on the second day, and I had been saving a new dress for AGES for it to be finally cold enough to wear, so I thought that this might be the day to wear it.

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Now you see why I describe my style as “obnoxious toddler”.  I love this outfit, Little Orphan Annie dress, white tights, saddle shoes and my red and white striped McDonald’s socks (yes, I did get them from McDonald’s!)  I was also wearing Divine earrings.  Literally, my earrings were Divine.  They’re cutouts of this photo…

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My paper was called “Hey, Fat Bitch!” so I figured what better occasion to wear the patron saint of fat bitches hanging from my ears.  Divine should always be present at powerful moments in fat history.

Unfortunately, that evening as we were leaving to go to the launch of Substantia Jones’ exhibition at Te Manawa, I slipped on the path at the front of the house we were staying, and rather spectacularly sprained my ankle.  So I missed the launch, and missed saying goodbye to all of the people from the conference.  Luckily the lovely Gabrielle, our host while we were in Palmerston North, plied me with hot water bottles, and naughty cats (she has the naughtiest cats) that night, so I could get some healing in before we left for Rotorua the next day.

Having a sprained ankle certainly slowed me down, but it didn’t stop me.  We went up to Rotorua and the first thing on our list was a trip to Hobbiton to do the movie set tour (it’s out at Matamata, which is about an hour and a bit out of Rotorua).  Luckily I could get my hiking boots over my swollen ankle, and was able to slowly walk the hilly but stunning landscape that is the Hobbiton movie set.

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It was much colder that day, so I had several layers on.  Layers are the key for travelling in colder climes I find.  Leggings, dress, long sleeve t-shirt, light cardigan, hoodie, scarf and beanie!  You can shed bits if you need to, but otherwise it keeps you toasty warm.

If you are going to New Zealand, take your swimsuit.  Especially if you are going to Rotorua.  Recommended by several fab fats who had already been travelling in New Zealand before the conference, and the lovely Cat Pausé who is now a local, we went to the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, and I credit my relatively speedy ankle recovery to the Priest Pool – a hot thermal pool that is full of minerals.  All of the thermal pools were amazing and felt fantastic on my poor ankle, not to mention all the other aches and pains from the fall, but the Priest Pool, I have no words for how healing that was.  The very second I got into it I felt fantastic and did not want to get out.

But I found there were hot spas all over the country – we also went to one in Franz Josef that was heated glacier water, and I’m so glad I took a swimsuit with me – not something I can easily source while travelling.

A couple of days later, while we were on the road travelling down the west coast of the North Island, we stopped off at a diner in New Plymouth that the owner of the motel we had stayed at recommended, called Deluxe Diner.  Now this diner was awesome.  Fabulous US retro in style, with the most adorable waitresses in 50’s style uniforms, and food to die for, we loved it on sight.  But the morning we were there, we were lucky enough to encounter some Nuns Having Fun – the cast of Sister Act for the New Plymouth Operatic Society.

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My choice of outfit for days where we were on the road a lot was soft pants (with pockets!), comfortable top and trusty cardigan.  Chuck a big ass flower on the head and those infernal hiking boots on, and we’re off.

On our way down the west coast of the South Island, we stopped off at a little town called Hokitika, also recommended by fab fats who went before me.  What a gorgeous little town!  I found this sculpture down by the sea, and had to have my photo taken chilling in it.

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Still in my trusty cardigan, and the hiking boots that I grew to loathe (my other shoes wouldn’t fit on my bung ankle!) with a long tunic and Lumpy Space Princess leggings.

When we were in Dunedin, I called up a local bus tour company to book a half day tour out to Larnach Castle.  The lovely woman who answered the phone said “I can’t get you on a bus, but for the same price I can send you a limo for a private tour.”  Ummm… HELL YES!!  So Kerri and I had a half day private tour of Dunedin and Larnach Castle, with our fabulous tour guide and driver Ron, in a 7.2m white stretch limousine!!

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It was a bit nippy out, so I went for soft pants and a tunic top, and my trusty hoodie.  My grey cardigan and red hoodie sure got a workout on this trip!

On our way up to Christchurch from Dunedin, we were invited by an international YouTube celebrity, Scooterman, to stop in Timaru and have cameo roles in his next video.  Meeting John was an absolute delight, and I enjoyed spending a couple of hours with him.

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Again, you can’t go wrong with leggings and a tunic top, and chuck a cardie over the top.  And look, finally I could fit back into my Mary-Janes, the swelling had gone down!

We only had one night in Christchurch, so the next morning I booked us a 3 hour tour of the city and surrounds on a London double decker bus.  Christchurch is an amazing city, so resilient after the devastation of the Feb 2011 earthquake.  I urge you to go there and do some touring, either on your own or with an organised tour.

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Back in purple again – tunic top, leggings and my trusty hoodie.  But I added some rainbow socks to my Mary-Janes and an infinity scarf.

Finally, a couple of people asked me before I left if I was going to shop while in New Zealand for clothes.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the budget, and size 26-28AU clothes are scarce in New Zealand, so there was no shopping for me.  But one thing I did pick up was an amazing infinity scarf from Global Culture, a company based in Christchurch that make all of their products locally, which I was SO happy to support.  I wore the HELL out of that thing!

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This was on the ferry from Picton to Wellington, where it was super windy and cold.  I just wrapped it around my head, looped it around my neck a couple of times and Bob’s your uncle!  Warm ears, head and neck.  I loved this scarf so much I went to a Global Culture shop in Wellington the next day and bought another one, and one of their neck socks too, which can be worn as a head band or hair wrap or scarf or anything else your imagination comes up with.

So there you have it.  My holiday fatshion memories of my trip to New Zealand.

If you’re interested in reading any other of the Plus 40 Fabulous posts, you can follow the Facebook group here or on Twitter here.

As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.

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Sunday, 24 July 2016

In Praise of Thin Allies – Say Something Sunday

AllyThe idea of a “thin ally” within fat activism is a complicated one- both because classifying body sizes can be difficult, and because (though relative privilege because of size is a real thing) the culture of fat hatred hurts people of all sizes. For the purpose of this piece I’m talking about people who don’t identify as fat who engage in fat activism (everything from retweeting size acceptance stuff or attending rallies.) I also want to point out that, as always, I’m speaking for myself here and other fat people may disagree with what I’m about to say.

First of all, I want to talk about why I think having thin allies is important:

They aren’t subject to the “you are only trying to justify your fat!” argument

In an ideal world people would understand that our bodies need no justification. But this isn’t an ideal world and the truth is that an entire panel of fat people can have their message dismissed in less than a minute by this (totally bullshit) derailment technique and the bigotry upon which it is built.

Their privilege can mean that they are listened to

In an ideal world people would listen to fat people about our experiences and what we think is best for us. But this isn’t an ideal world and sometimes people whose prejudices get in the way of hearing what fat people are telling them are able to process the information when they hear it from a thin person.

Is this incredibly frustrating? Yes. Is it totally bullshit? Yes. Is it theoretically how social justice is supposed to work?  No. Is it how it often works in real life?  Yes. And I’ll point out that good allies also center fat people’s voices and work as part of their ally work and/or to give people information for future study.

It’s just nice to have someone stick up for me

As a fat person I have had tons of bad experiences with fat phobia and fat bashing where other people either joined in or sat by and did nothing while I was forced to fend for myself. So it feels really nice when someone sticks up for me, even if they are doing it “imperfectly.”

This is especially true considering the difficulties and challenges that allies face:

They put themselves in harm’s way

The fat hate trolls who are always yammering on the periphery of fat activists also target our allies with the same range of cyberbullying to threats on health, safety, and family. Many fat people avoid activism to avoid dealing with this (which is a completely legitimate choice!) so when people open themselves up to this horrific treatment to help dismantle a system that actually privileges them, I appreciate that.

Many thin allies suffer professionally in terms of professional respect, accolades, and even promotions and pay.

They will never “do it right”

Fat community is not a monolith, and members of the community have very different ideas about our goals, and how we should accomplish them.  That means that every single thing someone does as an ally (including what they have been specifically asked to do by some fat activists) other people in fat community will disagree with.

Call Out Culture and Kick the Puppy Syndrome

The issue with never pleasing all the activists can become more difficult because of call out culture – where activists are often very quick to criticize someone doing what they see as imperfect ally work, sometimes harshly and very publicly.  And even though allies are theoretically supposed to roll with this form of education, in the real world it can definitely hurt, and it can definitely make someone less likely to do ally work.

This can be further intensified because our allies are around and open to listening to us, while the people who are actively and purposefully engaged in fat oppression are not around and are unwilling to listen to us. When we can’t take out our frustrations on our worst oppressors, we sometimes take them out on our best allies which makes them less likely to be allies and/or puts them in a state of paralysis where they are scared to make a mistake that will not only lead to public humiliation but, they fear, actually make things worse instead of better.

I’ve definitely been guilty of unnecessarily harshly calling people out, and taking out my frustrations on allies, and it has never benefited me or my activism.  The theoretical argument says that allies should just suck it up because they are not in as bad a position as fat people are, but I’m not sure that’s realistic or entirely fair, or helpful.

 

No cookie for you

There is a school of thought that allies shouldn’t be praised or rewarded for being allies because it’s what everyone should do.  This is often expressed as the idea that you don’t get a cookie for doing what’s right.

In terms of the way that I interact with allies, I disagree with this emphatically.  I think that even if it’s true theoretically, the reality is that it definitely isn’t what everyone does, and it’s difficult work with real negative consequences.

I also think it’s important to remember that allies don’t have to do this, they can stop at any time and their lives may well be better and easier for it, and often their ally work is about dismantling systems that are currently benefiting them.

So I don’t want to take allies for granted and I really appreciate people who take on ally work and I’m happy to give allies a cookie (though it will be store-bought because I can’t bake for shit.)

It doesn’t cost me anything to appreciate people, in fact it often makes me feel better to recognize people who are helping. And not for nothing but it’s certainly been my experience that giving positive feedback to my allies increases the likelihood of continued ally work (and shows other people that doing the right thing has benefits) which is something that ultimately benefits me and my work.

If You Are An Ally

Being an ally can be difficult, but that’s also part of the deal.  While I stand by everything I said, I also want to be clear that none of that is a “get out of jail free” card to not be constantly educating ourselves, centering the voices of the oppressed communities we are trying to work in solidarity with, doing our own research, trying to use incidents of being called out as educational opportunities, and trying to have compassion for people who are having a difficult time and taking their frustrations out on us.

So, for Say Something Sunday this week, I recommend you thank an ally! And if you are someone who is/wants to be an ally find a way to be an ally today – post something fat positive, challenge a fat phobic remark, spend some time researching questions you have about how to be an ally to fat activists. Speaking of research, if you want to hear a bunch of amazing speakers talk about fat activism from an intersectional perspective, then the Fat Activism Conference is for you!

REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE!

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.



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Saturday, 23 July 2016

A Behavioral Theory of Bisexuality Part Two: The Allied Powers and the Axis of Evil in the War on Women

Here begins part two of my series on bisexuality, where I talk about hetero-leaning bisexuals (hence known as HelB, as opposed to the homo-leaning HoLB) or what many lesbians refers to as straightbians, pretendians, LUGs, etc. Much has been made in certain corners of the lesbian community about hetero-leaning bisexuals, how they use lesbians for… More A Behavioral Theory of Bisexuality Part Two: The Allied Powers and the Axis of Evil in the War on Women

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Health, Confidence, and Worthiness

Nothing to proveThis piece is part of the awesome Body Confidence Blog Carnival that Victoria Welsby has created.  When I first suggested the topic, I was planning to write about it in the abstract but shit has, as they say, gotten real.

Two weeks ago I got sick with some kind of stomach virus.  Just as I started to feel a little better it was time to travel to a friend’s wedding (Mazel Tov y’all!) and I came home with a nasty cold/sinus thing that makes is hard for me to breathe, and makes me weak, tired and dizzy.

Normally this would just suck, but currently I’m in the last four months of a two year journey to complete an IRONMAN Triathlon, and so this has meant a bunch of missed or incomplete workouts, and workouts completed when I’m definitely far from at my best which is the last thing I need right now.  This is a journey that I started specifically because I’m not good at endurance athletics and I wanted to push outside my comfort zone. It’s not been an easy journey for me physically or emotionally and, as with nearly everything I do, it has been accompanied by daily bullying and harassment by internet trolls.

Earlier in my life this situation would have found me with my self-esteem down around my ankles. And in truth, I probably wouldn’t have even tried something like an IRONMAN because I tied my self-esteem and self-confidence to things like athletic success and the fear of failure (and all the subsequent troll rejoicing,) and how devastating that failure would be to my sense of self – might have stopped me before I started.

But on my journey to fat acceptance and body love I learned something that changed everything: I can love my body no matter what.  I can have high self-confidence no matter what. I can have high self-esteem no matter what.

It’s not magic, it’s been a long and difficult journey to get here because, like everyone, I grew up in a society that is steeped in sizeism, healthism and ableism (as well as racism, ageism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and more.)  A society that tries to tell us that we’re not inherently good enough or worthy, that we must always and forever be “proving ourselves,” including and especially if we are fat.  A society that tells us that we should judge ourselves and others based on things like body size and health and physical ability.

In fat activism community this is often called the “Good Fatty Bad Fatty Dichotomy” and it’s absolute crap, but I bought into it hard. I would say things like “I’m fat but I’m healthy, here are my numbers…” or “I’m fat, but I’m active” feeling like I was allowed to like myself “even though” I was fat, because I was “healthy,”  because I was achieving athletically.

This wasn’t about telling the truth about weight and health – which is important so that people can understand their options.  It was not about creating a space for fat people to have the right to choose to be involved in the fitness world without shaming, bullying, stigma, or harassment – which is also important because of the double-edged sword of being a fat athlete where some treat you better because you’re involved in fitness, and other people throw eggs at you.  This wasn’t about any of that, it was only about tying my self-confidence, my self-esteem, and my self-worth to outside achievement, and to things that weren’t entirely within my control. And that was a terrible idea.

The truth is that health is not an obligation, barometer or worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstance. The truth is that we should all have the opportunity, but never an obligation, to participate in fitness/athletics/movement at any level we choose. The truth is that we don’t have to make our self-confidence,  our self-esteem, or our self-worth  contingent on our health, our participation in fitness, or anything else. The truth is that the trolls can (and will) yammer on, but we don’t have to care what they say. The truth I realized for me is that I am the only person who can decide how I feel about myself and my body. The truth is that  we are worthy, no matter what.

REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE!

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.



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Fat Out Loud – My Piece

Well hello!  I am back from an AMAZING trip to New Zealand which of course included the New Zealand Fat Studies: Identity, Agency and Embodiment Conference.  I have SO much to tell you about the trip and the conference, and I promise I will do that soon.  Today I just wanted to share the piece I wrote for the Fat Out Loud Reading Event, co-ordinated by Jenny Lee and Cat Pausé, which was held at the Palmerston North Public Library the night before the conference.  It was an AMAZING night, with some incredible pieces presented.  Any that I can post online sources to, I will do so on my Facebook page.  I’ve already shared the video of Gurleen Khandpur delivering her awesome piece.

I’m not sure if there is any video of me giving my piece, but here’s a photo my friend Kerri took of me doing so:

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So… you wanna read it?  Well, here you go.  I call it…

Hey, Baby

I feel your thigh press along mine under the meeting room table.  I steal a glance at you and you are smiling, your eyes flick towards me and you wink.  Later over a coffee to discuss the meeting, your hand drifts to my thigh under the cafe table. You are all bedroom eyes and innuendo.   Time and time again you offer secret touches, suggestions of private meetings, sneaky travel together to places far away, out of sight.

But as soon as I suggest we are seen in public on a social level, you make excuses.  You’re busy, but never too busy to suggest we meet secretly.

We are 15.  You come to my house on weekends and sometimes after school.  We lock ourselves in the downstairs bedroom, telling my mother we’re playing computer games and keeping my annoying little brother out.  We make out, every time.  At school, you tell your friends we are “great mates” and flirt with the popular, thin girls in front of them and worse, in front of me.

In the dim hallway of a bar and restaurant, you stop me coming back from the ladies room, and the hot kisses you bestow along my neck, behind my ear, whispering “You turn me on so much.” before reaching my lips promise of something exciting.  

But as soon as another person turns down the hallway, you leap away from me, as if you’d just been caught stealing.  In the light, where other people can see us, your tone is brisk and business-like, as though I was unrecognisable from all the other party-goers in this venue.

I am 17 and at a new school.  You come up to me and sit with me at lunch time, and are talking to me.  I feel awkward and uncomfortable, I hate this school and very few people are nice to me.  I start to relax, thinking maybe I’ll make a new friend.  Your friends all turn up.  Everyone is talking and laughing, when one of the girls says “Will you go out with Damien?”  Before I even draw breath to answer, everyone is roaring laughing and the girls are cackling “As if!!”  You never speak to me again, except to humiliate me in front of your friends.

I’m on a blind date at the football.  It’s not going well.  You’re sitting behind me and over one, with a small boy who calls you Daddy.  Despite the fact that I’m on a date, every time I turn to the right, I can see you looking down the front of my top.  When I get up at half time, I see you looking right at my chest, and you look up to meet my eye and lick your lips.  At the end of the match, your little boy says “You’ve got big fat boobies.”  I respond “I know, your Daddy has been staring at them all night.”  You go beet red and my date says “I doubt that.”

You stagger, smiling drunkenly, up to me at the bus station as I wait for the bus home from a funeral.  I am red-eyed and sagging, emotionally exhausted.  You gesture for me to take my ear-buds out so you can speak to me.  I lip read you saying “Hey gorgeous.”  I say “No thanks, I’m not feeling well.” hoping you’ll leave me alone with my grief.

But instead you scream “You fucking ugly fat slut!  You know what a real woman looks like?  This is what a real woman looks like!” and you hit me in the face with a porn magazine, open to a page with a silicone-breasted and collagen-lipped porn actress, spread-eagle and open-mouthed pouting.  Of the hundreds of people standing around, nobody asks if I’m OK, they all just look down and shuffle their feet.  I call the police, you run away.

I’m on the train home.  It’s really crowded because the buses are out.  I’m standing in the aisle, everyone is fairly closely packed, but I feel your breath on the back of my neck.  Then I feel your erection pressing against my arse.  You rub against me, out of rhythm of the jostling of the train.  I say “Ew, get off me you creep.”  Two guys in front of me laugh and say “As if, ya fat dog, who’d hump you?”  Several people laugh.

“Hey baby!  Hey honey!  Baby, you gonna talk to me?”  I don’t know you, but you’ve decided that you want to talk to me as I walk to work one morning.  When I shake my head and hurry towards the train station, you scream “You fat fucking moll, I wouldn’t fuck you with someone else’s dick!  I just thought you’d gobble on my cock, like all fat cunts!”

Everybody and nobody wants the fat girl.  They want to fuck us but don’t want to be seen with us.  We’re everybody’s dirty little secret.

Except not any more.  Not me.  If you can’t be seen in public with me, proud of me by your side, then you don’t get access to me.  Your shame is not my problem.  You’re the broken one, not me.

As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.

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Friday, 22 July 2016

100 Fat Activists #16: The Social Model

In her excellent book, Fat Rights, Anna Kirkland lays out a number of arguments that fat people and their representatives might use to fight discrimination in a US court of law. She draws on anti-discrimination theories that emerged from anti-racist and anti-sexist legal work, and disability law in particular. I first came across the Social Model of Disability in the early 1990s through the work of Mike Oliver, but I am including it here because it has been around for some time and has important overlaps with these earlier attempts to shift the focus around discrimination.

What do I mean by a Social Model? It is an alternative to the belief that the individual should be held responsible for the discrimination directed against them. This belief is directed at fat people in this way:

Fatty: I am discriminated against because I am fat.
Society: You should just lose weight and then you'll be fine.
Fatty: It is almost impossible to lose weight and keep it off forever and it will damage my health and wellbeing if I try and do that. Here's a load of stats and proof.
Society: Too bad! You'll just have to keep trying. Plus it makes quite a lot of money for us and gives us people to scapegoat. Hurrah!

With a Social Model the burden of responsibility for dealing with discrimination is shifted towards society in general:

Fatty: I am discriminated against because I am fat.
Society: We recognise that losing weight is not a solution to this problem and we should change our systems, values, institutions etc so that no one is discriminated against for being fat (plus points: no one is discriminated against for a host of other reasons too).
Fatty: Yippee! Let's get this shit going!

It is my belief that a Social Model is crucial to fat activists. Operating under the assumption that social attitudes are the problem, and not the individual, enables fat activists to identify those places where discrimination surfaces and do something about it. It is much harder to get organised if we are to believe that discrimination is our own fault. Perhaps this is one reason why weight loss proponents and anti-obesity people continue to promote the idea that weight loss is the only way forward, they want to keep us in our place, invested in a losing game, to stop us from becoming disruptive.

I wrote primarily about the Social Model of Disability and fat identity in my first book, Fat and Proud and I say a bit more about it in my recent book. But although others have built on that work, it's quite rare to find the Social Model spelled out in the archive and in fat activist communities. I think this is because it is most associated with disability activism and reflects the infuriating divisions between fat and disability activists, which are only now being eroded. But it remains an important ways of thinking about fat activism, it is an activist-based theory that has foundations in anti-racism and anti-sexism. It is a key tool for the liberation of all people, in my humble opinion. I'm perplexed why it isn't invoked more often and would encourage readers to find out more about it.

Cooper, C. (1998) Fat & Proud: The Politics of Size, London: The Women's Press.

Cooper, C. (2016) Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement, Bristol: HammerOn Press.

Kirkland, A. (2008) Fat Rights: Dilemmas of Difference and Personhood, New York: New York University Press.

Oliver, M. (1990) The Politics of Disablement, London: Macmillan.


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Dieting Is Not the Same Thing As Brushing Your Teeth

facepalmThere are some things I can’t believe I have to say, and it appears that this is one of them. Yesterday I blogged about how my life changed after I found out that research shows that, while most people can lose weight short term, most people gain it all back (with the majority gaining back more than they lost) in the long term. Nearly every time I bring this up, I get comments like the one I received this morning:

shower, brush teeth, diet

Pictures shows a comment by “Barry” that says:

So why bother with anything? Why shower? Why brush your teeth? Eventually they’ll get dirty again, might as well just give up right?

My first thought is that if someone really can’t tell the difference between showering, brushing their teeth, and trying to manipulate their body size in a way that the research shows is nearly impossible and may harm your long term health, then I recommend they go ahead and stop showering and brushing their teeth and see if that helps them figure it out.

Seriously though, one of the things that holds a toxic, and sometimes deadly diet culture in place is the fact that people think giving your body so little fuel that (you hope) it will eat itself and become smaller, is roughly the same as brushing your teeth. That’s the world that diet culture has built.

Dieting can be a physically brutal, emotionally difficult, and expensive process that is often undertaken by those who have been misinformed – typically by the people selling the diet – about it’s likelihood of success either at making them thinner or healthier (which are two separate things,) and/or those who are trying to find a way out from under the soul-crushing horror of weight-based shaming, stigmatizing, bullying, harassment, and oppression that exists in our culture.

If we are to give fat people their rights to basic human respect, if we are to have any hope of a productive discussion about public health, then we have to stop normalizing dieting to the point that people consider attempts to manipulate our body size to be the same as basic hygiene.

REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE!

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

 

 



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Thursday, 21 July 2016

Road Trip Ready: Oatmeal Cookie Trail Mix Recipe

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RoadTripOil #CollectiveBias Hi friends! Who’s ready for summer road trip season!? Just...

Read more here!

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the HAES® files: Health Food vs. Healthy Relationship with All Food

by Carina Chiodo, B.A.in English, minor in Psychology

Rewind to 10 months ago when I am eagerly about to start graduate school. I was proud to boast that the Masters of Science degree I’d be working to earn would be in Nutrition & Food Science and that I would go on to become a Registered Dietitian. I was ready to finally be surrounded by fellow nutrition nerds who I hadn’t met yet, but was so sure I was destined to bond with over our ‘secret knowledge’ that all food serves a purpose. I had been infected by a revelation that society’s popular diet culture was totally bogus. I was fervent about joining any movement emphasizing that food is not to be feared such as Health At Every Size® (HAES) and Intuitive Eating. They spoke to me because they highlighted that food is one of life’s great pleasures and we deserve to nourish ourselves with it.

Fast forward to now, and I look back at myself as naïve; and very much unprepared for the criticism, conflicts, and difficult debates I would be having, many with the very peers who I had been so sure would be kindred spirits. I had no idea that nutrition is as controversial as politics.

I chose Nutrition & Food Science quite randomly, in a way far too complex for me to describe briefly when I’m asked why I chose my major. Long, long (long, long, long) story short: when I was an undergraduate in English and Psychology, I avidly espoused the idea of becoming a food writer. I grew up in a kitchen-table-centered household where meals are cause for celebration, so the culinary obsession came naturally to me. I loved to write and I was fascinated by the way the human mind works around food—hence my academic concentration.

I attended school in L.A. to chase this dream- the city of celebrities, smog, beautiful beaches, and trendy restaurants. I would come to find out that it was also a place where flaws are microscopically examined; and where there is an oversupply of trends that come and go so quickly it takes talent to stop to follow one. Oh, and did I mention that everyone wants to be thin? I put all these factors together one day and realized that I was a major victim of society’s notion that one size = “healthy”, meaning a 25-inch waist and thighs that don’t touch.

I had a breakthrough by recognizing that I was chasing unattainable ideals in a VERY unhealthy way, both physically and mentally. I did my research, and realized that nutrition- the real science of food, versus popular fad food claims, resonated with me. I had a fair number of internships for culinary journalism companies under my belt, so as a self-proclaimed ‘foodie’, I already knew a lot about food. When I delved deeper, beyond the entertaining restaurant reviews and into the scientific facts, I was captivated by learning that our bodies actually need every single type of food, despite all the low-carb, nonfat, gluten-free jabber I had been overwhelmed with.

I now had a passion for debunking the diet myths that society had fed me all my life; and was ready to change the conversation towards trusting our bodies and building healthy relationships with food. Yep, I was going to be the new celebrity nutritionist and I was ready to bring this Intuitive Eating subculture I now knew I was part of into the spotlight for the world to know and embrace.

Ok, so that wasn’t a very short story. After a year in a graduate program in which I couldn’t be happier, I realize that not everyone pursuing nutrition wants to be a part of the ‘subculture’ I thought I was a part of. While the Intuitive Eating and HAES enthusiasts like myself definitely exist, there are others who are on quite the opposite side. I found this out one day while I was eating lunch in class when a fellow nutrition classmate pointed out that my meal wasn’t balanced because it didn’t include fruit. And I had been quite proud of toting my little Tupperware container of steak, black bean, and quinoa salad to campus! That was just the first of an onslaught of remarks I’d receive: the disbelief that I eat Top Ramen when a noodle craving kicks in, have red meat at least once a week, see nothing wrong with drinking regular 2% milk that comes from cows not almonds thank you very much, and eat ice cream almost every single night.

Next came those very keen to tell me about their ‘healthy’ habits once they found out I was off studying nutrition. I quickly grew irritated when people came to me specifically, to brag about how much they love the new, 9-calorie-per-ounce, cashew-milk “ice cream”. It bothered me. A lot. But I couldn’t figure out why it bothered me so much. Was it because I had to feign interest when I was secretly laughing in my head? For a while I thought I was just sick of having to fake it and then I realized I was frustrated that our culture was making my peers think the way they did: that being ‘healthy’ is following the new fad diet, swearing off carbs, and claiming to be obsessed with the new 9-calorie “ice cream” trend that everyone knows doesn’t replace a pint of genuine, premium, vanilla bean Haagen-Dazs ice cream (in its full-fat, sugar-sweetened, dairy-only glory).

The conversation about nutrition needs to change, and even some of those who are educated about nutrition still tout whichever nutrition-related statements make it to popular media headlines. It’s hard not to when we learn certain “facts” about what can increase the risk of certain health problems. I do subscribe to the idea that some types of foods might be better options than others, based on the specific needs and health of each individual. However, I do not even attempt to acknowledge the paradigm of moral categories pertaining to food, designating which are “good” and which are “bad”. Too much or too little of anything is not a good thing if it replaces balance and variety which I know all my peers in the nutrition field can agree on. That being said, I have chosen to eat with no foods off-limits, while keeping my individual needs in mind and based on my unique lifestyle, health, and cravings.

Trends persist because they are new and seem sexy. What has been tried and true for millions of years is not new, nor sexy, and thus the age-old ‘tricks’ are forgotten. Listening to our bodies’ needs has been the tried and true way to maintain a healthy relationship with food since…well, forever. It’s not exciting, juicy, or magic, but there is no doubt that it works. Honoring our hunger is the no-nonsense key to having a happy food life and the healthy eating habits follow from there. A broken relationship with food will cause far more drastic problems, like eating disorders, than eating gluten, carbs, meat, GMOs, or any other ingredient that has a bad reputation ever will.

It can and will continue to be difficult to embrace a lifestyle and set of values that society is slow to pick up on. I have hope, however, that everyone, not just those in that somewhat small subunit of the nutrition field, will accept food for what it is without feeling bad about consuming a variety of all types. And, of course, that no one would ever try to replace a genuine extra-hot-fudge ice cream craving with 9-calorie frozen, cashew milk. Gross.

 


Carina Chiodo is a graduate student in the Masters of Science program for Nutrition & Food Science at California State University, Chico. She is originally from the Bay Area in California and has also lived in Los Angeles and Florence, Italy. Carina is currently working on developing her graduate research project on mindful eating, food attitudes, and body image differences between American and Italian university students. During the academic year, she is a nutrition educator for Butte County elementary schools and a regular contributor to the American Culinary Federation’s Culinarian publication. This summer she is walking the Avon 39 for Breast Cancer in San Francisco with her mother, a cause she is passionate about. Carina plans to become a Registered Dietitian, specializing in women, teen, corporate and athlete nutrition. She will never tire of trying out new restaurants, reading, or going to stand-up comedy shows—and her current favorite ice cream is Northern Oregon Blackberry from Marianne’s in Santa Cruz, CA.



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What If Nothing Made You Thinner

Actual SizeA member of Rolls Not Trolls – a Facebook community that I created to put body positive comments in body negative discussion on the internet- let me know about a more-ridiculous-than-usual weight loss article (and that’s saying something.)  The article’s title suggested that it would be about how having sex doesn’t make people thin. So already this is really inane, and it’s about to get worse. (By the way, I’m not linking, there’s no way I’m giving traffic to that tripe.)

It starts out not talking about sex at all.  In fact we have to wade through 12 paragraphs of questionable statistics and “facts” about fat people and weight to get to the only two paragraphs in the entire piece that talk about sex. So the clickbait trifecta of sex, weight loss, and myths has been activated to make sure that people get their daily dose of justification (however shitty it might be) for fat hating. Charming.

But it reminded me of a really important part of my journey out of dieting hell. One of the things that I realized when I finally got off the diet roller coaster was how much of my time, money, and energy had been dedicated to trying to get thin – from reading articles and books about how to get thin, to doing things that were supposed to make me thin, to measuring how I was or wasn’t getting thinner and more.  It didn’t leave me happier, or healthier, or thinner, it just made me miserable and it had wasted an astounding amount of time.

I found out that the research showed that while almost anyone can lose weight in the short term almost everyone gains it back and the majority gain back more than they lost. That was certainly my experience. That led me to ask a simple question that helped my life open up in all kinds of amazing ways:

What if nothing will make me thinner?

It was a revolutionary way to look at my life because for years I poured my time, energy, and money into trying to figure out what would make me thinner and doing that no matter what the consequences to my happiness, my health, or my life. The idea that nothing would make me thinner meant that the whole world opened up for me.

Instead of viewing working out as punishment for having a fat body, I could move in ways that I enjoyed, and set goals on my own terms. Instead of hating my body for what it wasn’t I could love it for what it was. Instead of eating as a way to manipulate my body size, I could choose food based on what tasted good and what made me feel good.  Whether or not [sex, dancing, salads, etc.] would make me thinner no longer factored into my decision making process.  Instead I asked myself questions like:  Do I want to do this?  Why? Are there downsides?  Will this make me happy? etc.

I think it’s basically impossible to describe exactly how much better my life got when I started to make decisions based on what makes me happy, what makes me feel good, and what I want, instead of making them based on whether someone said that something will, or won’t, make me thinner.

REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE!

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.



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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A Behavioral Theory of Bisexuality Part One: Introduction

For years now, the gay rights movement has been the LGBT movement, and it is the B in that acronym that I want to explore. Much has been said, largely negative or skeptical, about the presence of bisexuals and bisexuality in gay/lesbian politics. The criticisms usually center around the following themes: Is bisexuality real? Is… More A Behavioral Theory of Bisexuality Part One: Introduction

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Q&A/Open Thread

Hi, guys! I’m posting an open thread for you to post anything you want, or to ask me questions. Say or ask anything you like. No holds barred, don’t worry about being offensive. Thank you, and look forward to hearing from you!

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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Influence of Obesity Stigma on Breastfeeding Rates


Artwork by Lajos Tihanyi, 1908
Image from Wikimedia Commons
A number of studies over the years have consistently found lower breastfeeding rates in high-BMI women. The question is, why? 

Typically, most authors speculate that there is some biological disturbance and that this is the main reason for lower breastfeeding rates in "obese" women. In other words, as always, researchers see our bodies as defective and blame our weight for every problem we encounter. 

However, a recent study found that there may be subtle obesity stigma at work as well. In the study, high-BMI women were consistently given less information about breastfeeding, less help in getting breastfeeding started, less opportunity to breastfeed within the first hour after birth, less access to breastfeeding support resource phone numbers, less rooming-in, and less encouragement to breastfeed on demand. 

My best guess is that there are multiple factors at work in lower breastfeeding rates in heavier women. Although many women of size breastfeed without any problems, it's possible that for some there may be biological factors like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or other hormonal differences that impact milk supply.

In addition, researchers rarely control for the effect of birth interventions on breastfeeding rates in obese women, despite the fact that unconscionably high cesarean rates in this group may be a strong factor impacting breastfeeding rates as well. Furthermore, as we have written about before, other factors such as subtle thyroid disturbances, greater postpartum blood loss leading to increased anemia, and psychosocial factors may also influence breastfeeding rates in obese women.

In all likelihood, the breastfeeding rate in women of size is influenced by many complex factors. No one answer is likely to fix the rate completely.

But one factor that would be easy to fix is improving the consistency and quality of breastfeeding support offered to high-BMI women. 

How sad that differences in quality of support even exist in the first place.

Reference

Matern Child Health J. 2016 Mar;20(3):593-601. doi: 10.1007/s10995-015-1858-z. Obese Mothers have Lower Odds of Experiencing Pro-breastfeeding Hospital Practices than Mothers of Normal Weight: CDC Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), 2004-2008.
Kair LR1, Colaizy TT2. PMID: 26515471 DOI: 10.1007/s10995-015-1858-z
OBJECTIVES: This study examines the extent to which a mother's pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) category is associated with her exposure to pro-breastfeeding hospital practices.  METHODS: Data from the 2004-2008 CDC PRAMS were analyzed for three states (Illinois, Maine, and Vermont) that had administered an optional survey question about hospital pro-breastfeeding practices. RESULTS: Of 19,145 mothers surveyed, 19 % were obese (pre-pregnancy BMI ≥ 30). Obese mothers had lower odds than mothers of normal weight of initiating breastfeeding [70 vs. 79 % (unweighted), p < 0.0001]. Compared with women of normal weight, obese mothers had lower odds of being exposed to pro-breastfeeding hospital practices during the birth hospitalization. Specifically, obese mothers had higher odds of using a pacifier in the hospital [odds ratio (OR) 1.31, 95 % confidence interval (CI) (1.17-1.48), p < 0.0001] and lower odds of: a staff member providing them with information about breastfeeding [OR 0.71, 95 % CI (0.57-0.89), p = 0.002], a staff member helping them breastfeed [OR 0.69, 95 % CI (0.61-0.78), p < 0.0001], breastfeeding in the first hour after delivery [OR 0.55, 95 % CI (0.49-0.62), p < 0.0001], being given a telephone number for breastfeeding help [OR 0.65, 95 % CI (0.57-0.74), p < 0.0001], rooming in [OR 0.84, 95 % CI (0.73-0.97), p = 0.02], and being instructed to breastfeed on demand [OR 0.66, 95 % CI (0.58-0.75), p < 0.0001]. Adjusting for multiple covariates, all associations except rooming in remained significant. CONCLUSIONS: Obesity stigma may be a determinant of breastfeeding outcomes for obese mothers. Breastfeeding support should be improved for this at-risk population.


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