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Natalie

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You Sound Fat: Fat Embodiment Online

Hello! I am going to start cross posting my fat related posts from definatalie.com to axisoffat.com, because as you might have noticed, I’ve been a bit quiet here! Bri from Fat Lot of Good totally revved me about this (in a good way!) and said I should cross post because definatalie.com isn’t on the Notes from the Fat-o-sphere feed and some of my posts should really end up on it! So here goes. This is the paper I presented at the Fat Studies conference in Sydney over the weekend. Enjoy! (Original post)

Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue was INCREDIBLE. I truly can’t put into words how wonderful it was but I’m going to attempt to at a later stage. There were so many fabulous people to meet and ideas to action and a buttload of fun and friendship. In the interim please accept a video of my presentation, and the paper it’s based on. I was very nervous but it seemed to go ok!

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My name is Natalie and I’m fat, I like the internet and I should preface this by telling you that I’m so unacademic I had to ask Google how to write an abstract for a paper when I was encouraged to submit something for this presentation! Gratefully, I also had the support of Australian Fat Studies academics as well as complete strangers on the internet, and I want to tell you a story about how I’ve come to be here, loving and accepting myself with the help of the World Wide Web.

Chubby teen finds the internet

I started using the internet in 1995 as a 14 year old at a private girls school. While my friends were swapping X-files fanfic and accidentally swearing at our headmistress via PM over our Novel network, I was helping other students circumvent the ban on chatrooms by using Telnet talkers. I’ve always been interested in communication and community on the internet, rather than downloading porn or music and other stuff. I sought people I could connect with because most folks just didn’t get me; I had crazy ideas that human beings should be treated equitably and I was an introvert who communicated much more comfortably via the written word.

Despite running the gamut of teenagehood and being exposed to conflicting messages about what my female body was supposed to look like, I never wanted to be skinny and I never really was. At a size 14 I felt kind of trapped between being properly skinny and properly fat. I remember many times thinking that if I was going to be chubby I ought to be properly chubby with the benefit of soft flesh and rounded bits. I was attracted to chunkier people and while I felt my thoughts went against the grain I never questioned or repressed them.

Properly fat

At 17, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and found I had to change my whole life. Suddenly I had to inject insulin four times a day and monitor my blood sugar levels in relation to what I put in my mouth. My regular meals had to be balanced, planned, measured and predictable. I had hypos in the middle of the night, and woke disoriented and pouring with sweat; the only way it could be fixed was by eating food to bring my blood sugar back up again. I put on weight even after I lost a lot of weight pre-diagnosis, even after establishing really healthful and doctor-approved, diabetic-friendly eating habits. My body became properly fat and I felt a sense of relief to belong to a group – even if it was a feared and harassed group. I started to get really curious about fat bodies. I tried to talk about fatness with friends and family but the conversations never went very far. People, mostly female, felt genuinely panicked when I brought up the topic.

My Mother was concerned about the weight gain and accompanied me to Weight Watchers meetings. I went along to a few and ate the diet, but it never felt right to me. As a diabetic, my food intake was already policed (by myself and by other people) so submitting myself to more policing and having to pay for it felt wrong and unhealthy. I never felt as if I had disordered eating, nor as if what I ate contributed to my weight gain. My General Practitioners and every Endocrinologist up until my current one would treat me as if I were some kind of terrorist, waging war against my body by intentionally putting on weight. My current Endocrinologist actually says something new: I could have Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome symptoms. Back when I was doing Weight Watchers I knew that my weight gain couldn’t be explained by my food habits and it didn’t make sense for me to further damage my relationship with food by doing a diet that reduced nutrition to numbers so I dropped out. My Mum was baffled but dropped the issue with me, while continuing to pursue various diets herself, yet always remaining the same, familiar and lovely Mum-shape. I broke up with dieting because it seemed like a crock.
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Not unless I’m swapping lifestyles with Oprah

We get a bit of mail at Axis of Fat through our contact form and a lot of the messages we get are wonderful, supportive and thankful and make us feel really good about our writing and motivate us to continue to blog about being fat Aussies. On the odd occasion there are media requests too, and Nick fields those because I’m not really interested in making a fool of myself in print or on air and he does such a fantastic job speaking as a fat advocate. I’m really proud of our blogging efforts, and even though I haven’t been blogging as much due to being busy with my other endeavours, I’m really chuffed to see the blog chugging along and continuing the conversation about being fat in Australia.

Today Nick got a media request from a current affairs program requesting one of us appear in a story that involved swapping “lifestyles” with a “gymbunny” for a period of time. The opportunity (and I use that word ever so loosely) was turned down straight away by those of us on the Axis team who have access to our emails during the day, with much booing. We found out that the journalist has approached a number of fat acceptance bloggers today regarding the same story only to be met with similar responses. No thank you. We’d prefer not to consent to being demonised on national television. But thanks. Besides, I would feel awfully dishonest pegging myself at the fat/ bad end of the good-fat lifestyle paradigm because while I am fat and I just ate lemon pudding, I also go to the gym and eat vegetables!

This kind of “lifestyle swap” story is tired and hackneyed, and I really question the value of stories like this – other than acting as stocking stuffers on slow news days. I follow Source Bottle on twitter and at least a few times a week there are call outs for fatties to participate in “lifestyle swaps”. I’m starting to think that there are very few fat journalists and producers in Australian media, because you’d have to be completely unobservant or even mired in your own thin privilege to fail to see that people of all different shapes participate in different lifestyles. Unless they’re only observing what’s published by mainstream media – in that case you’d go for months (maybe even years) without seeing any kind of positive representation of a fat person’s lifestyle.

I wrote a FA101 post on my blog just the other day and I said, “The truth is, healthful and not-so-healthful behaviours are performed by EVERY sort of body.” I guess that’s just not an interesting enough news story for these journalists, when they get more ratings out of pumping out manufactured stories that fuel hurtful assumptions about people’s body types and the kind of lifestyles those bodies lead. The media characterises fat people as lazy, disorganised and unattractive and a “lifestyle swap” story would only serve to make a fat person complicit in this characterisation, something we think is dishonest, reprehensible and irresponsible. It’s just not an accurate reflection of society. I guess “URGENT BULLETIN: WE’RE ALL DIFFERENT. In related news, fat people have heads and feelings.” is the kind of headline I can only envision in fits of mirth and delusion.

We at Axis of Fat are, sadly, rare kinds of publicly and unashamedly fat individuals, and it’s natural that we’d be approached to represent fat people. When the angle is as damaging as this, we will not be complicit. What kind of person would submit to having their character slighted in such a way? To the current affairs program we turned down – we aren’t regretful not to take part in this story, and we hope that no fat person agrees to participate in this “lifestyle swap” segment. I’m pretty sure you’ll have terrible luck scouting talent from fat acceptance blogs anyway. However, if you’ve got time to fill on a slow news day we’d love to talk to you about producing a fair and positive story about visible fatties fighting social injustice.


Amber Riley in City Chic

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Fresh out of my inbox, City Chic are bragging about Amber Riley of Glee wearing their clothes. City Chic is one of the only youthful plus size fashion labels in Australia, and while many of us groan about the prices and the quality, I’ve discovered that a lot of American fatshionistas can’t get enough of the brand, including the fantastic Ms. Riley! 

I’ve got to say, I love the dress she’s wearing in this photograph. City Chic have brought in a lot of florals this season and when I went to the Chermside store last week I was quite impressed with the range. The sizing is still all over the place unfortunately, and that’s a shame because I was almost about to drop some money on some dresses but I held back because of fit issues that couldn’t be solved by switching down a size. (For the record, the only fit issue I usually have is with pant length!)

Just for a second, can I gripe about City Chic’s usage of social media for marketing? They invite us to become friends on facebook, but their page is an actual personal profile instead of a “Page” which means I have to wait until they approve me as a friend before I can see extra info they’ve put on their profile. I was hoping to grab some photos of Amber Riley to pimp in this entry, but I can’t find any except for the tiny ones used in the email blast. 

So uh, City Chic – I’m a fashion forward fatshionista who knows how to use social media. We should talk. But in the meanwhile, give bloggers some material so they can give you [free] press! I’ve been wearing the label since you started (oh, remember Big City Chic!?) and a lot of Australian bloggers, despite being critical, will probably be more than happy to give a homegrown brand a leg up. 

Apparently it’s Cyber Monday in the US today, a thing I had never even heard about before Shop Translated approached us for the giveaway (enter here!) I wonder if Australian online retailers will jump on the November sales bandwagon in years to come? 


I like salad and I like muffins

Who’s moralising food now? Why, Sumo Salad!

Let’s get this out of the way – I LOVE salad. Don’t keel over in shock or anything, but I think there’s nothing so refreshing in a stinky hot Brisbane summer as a fresh and crisp salad. Occasionally when I’m out in a shopping centre, I’ll get a hankering for something to eat and the best out of a bad bunch will be food retailers like Sumo Salad. I’ve had it approximately twice in my life (I don’t really go shopping much!) and every time I’ve been there, their staff (teenagers) have closed down the hotplates early so they can go home on time. I’ve had to settle for the premade salad in the bain-marie those times, but last night I snapped and turned on my heel so I could write a passive aggressive tweet about it. When I’m hungry, I’m grumpy. I like to avoid being grumpy.

I felt justified in my wroth when Leigh linked to Sumo Salad’s new ads which brought on waves of non-hunger related grumpiness that can only be assuaged by blogging furiously. 

And anyway, that “cankle” isn’t even one. Fat and skinny people, and lots of people in-between, have cankles – you’re born with them and you may as well make peace with them!

Similarly, many men (from skinny to fat and back again) have “moobs” that they were born with – they weren’t made by chicken nuggets at all.

Hey, Sumo Salad! Your mascot is fat and appropriated for Maude knows what reason because none of your food is even remotely Japanese. Your salads are wilted and bland! I will now add you to the list of Foodcourt Retailers I Avoid – fear the angry fat lady’s wrath! I’m so over the body shaming and food demonising and I don’t understand how insulting your target market will entice them into your stores, unless your ads aren’t aimed so much at fat people but at people who are afraid of being fat. Sumo Salad, you are douchebags (and I like to keep douchebags away from my lady bits!)

 

 


Virginia Haussegger and the Goldilocks problem

Virginia Haussegger hates skinny women. She also hates fat women. She’s like Goldilocks, she prefers her women “just right” but I prefer to think of her as someone who hates all women.

The latest edgy op ed out of the Australian media (y’all realise this won’t make us buy more print media if it’s available online for free, right?) declares supermodels to be freaks of nature, while fat women to be part of a scandalous and [insert fat related joke re: growing] problem. Does Ms Haussegger get to decide the golden mean? Yeah right, what has two fat thumbs and thinks you’re a concern trolling fluff writer? Me (and Bob Kelso).

I’m not entirely sure what the writer (term used loosely) is trying to argue. She slags off models, most of Australia, fat people, Minister Kate Ellis’ national body image strategy without offering a single useful solution. No wait, she rails against the “health problem” and “omgbesity” and throws her hands up in the air and says THE SKY IS FALLING, no, SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

What Virginia Haussegger does not take into consideration is that:

If Virginia Haussegger were really going to be the Mother Teresa to the fatties of the world (and Mother Teresa is probably an apt role model here as an advocate of suffering) she’d start by recognising her conditioning and making headway on her fat bias. Slapping a headless fatty photo on the article does not tell me that she genuinely cares about health, it tells me that Virginia Haussegger hates fat bodies.


Greetings television viewers

Hello, welcome Today Tonight viewers! We hope that you enjoyed tonight’s story on the show, and extend a warm welcome if you find yourself sized out of straight sized fashion. You’re not alone!

If you are keen to connect with Australians who are interested in size acceptance and fat activism, please leave a comment! We have a whole heap of posts on the site since starting it a few months ago, so have a browse so you can bring yourself up to speed.

Here at Axis of Fat, we do not tolerate hate speak and fat bashing. If you are tempted to do so anyway, please leave a comment so we can delete it and block your IP address. Fat people put up with this hurtful and unproductive discrimination on a daily basis, and this is a most ineffective method of delivering your nastiness.

Cheers!


Love your body, but only if… (you have one)

I’ve seen a lot of the body image stuff that’s been happening recently in the media (magazines, news, tv) and haven’t really commented on any of it anywhere. Sometimes it’s nice to digest developments instead of bashing out an immediate response on my keyboard.

I’m very happy that body image is getting more and more play in the mainstream media, because Maude knows we’ve been talking about it online for years. The tricky thing about mainstream media is that instead of getting a bunch of like-minded people discussing the topic rationally (like in our fat-o-sphere vacuum, maybe), every person gets access to the topic and has the right to bash out an opinion even if they’ve never really thought about it before. It sounds kind of condescending, but many people don’t actually question their conditioning and resort to those pre-formed notions when talking about weight, body image, fashion and health. Let me illustrate this: a magazine hires a plus size stylist to write a column about her plus-size fashion experience and many people outside the body acceptance vacuum hammer out knee jerk opinions: What about her health? Blah blah blah health insurance! Fat people are TOTES GROCE! The hoi polloi aren’t even commenting on the actual topic: fashion. Instead they are falling back on the “go to” reaction to a fat person made visible.

So we have all this cultural conditioning, but the people outside the vacuum aren’t really aware that they have it. I’m trying to figure out if the awareness campaigns are genuine attempts to make people aware of their body image conditioning or if they’re just paying lip service to those inside the vacuum. I’m actually starting to think that the media is appealing to the masses, and limiting the scope of “acceptance” in order for people to deal with such a revolutionary notion. And that’s hurtful.

I’ve noticed that many stories on body image and acceptance also have this glaring caveat: it’s a wonderful thing to love your body, but not if you’re too fat. When Ellen had an army of plus size models on her show she bought into this notion and I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth. So, as a “deathfatty” I’m supposed to hate myself into an acceptable weight range and it’s only then that I can love myself? I don’t think it works that way Ellen! Not on a practical or academic level. It’s so arbitrary too, do I get a hand written invitation from some “deathfat” panel once I cross the threshold of acceptable body type? I will not, because as it stands no one can agree on that – well they can agree that slender is acceptable but where’s the line in the sand?

It sounds a lot like many stories in the media are aiming this body image talk at women who are at a “typical” body weight and are aiming thinner. Are fat people totally co-opting this body acceptance talk? If we are, I don’t think it’s an intrusion. There’s this awareness campaign I’ve been seeing here and there called “End Fat Talk” and while I totally agree with it, I get the impression it’s not aimed at people of my size, it’s aimed at people who think they’re fat. I don’t mind co-opting this message. Actually I don’t mind co-opting any body acceptance message. We have a great privilege as blog authors, internet connection users and people who can communicate ideas and as part of that privilege I get to discuss these things that matter to me, with you.

We can’t exclude anyone from the body talk, I don’t think that’s fair. It’s the reason why many in the FA movement reject the notion of the “Real Woman” and thin woman as enemy. We’re all in this together.


Fat in love

fat brides

1. File0040, 2. hurrah!, 3. 041_41, 4. Hitched2

Today is the day to celebrate being in love with yourself and your dearest ones! I just found this awesome new flickr pool called “Here come the Fat Brides” and I’m very pleased to see that there are heaps of beautiful fat brides who’ve already contributed.

In the same vein, Lesley from fatshionista.com has curated a most adorable Museum of Fat Love. She had initially put the idea out there as an antidote to the US series “More to Love”. Not having seen the series, I’ll have to take it from Lesley that it’s rather depressing. The idea of the Museum of Fat Love is to make visible the notion that fat people can meet, fall in love, and have successful and beautiful relationships. Being in a fat couple myself, I can only support that notion! (Totes biased, yo.)

If you’re part of a fat relationship, do submit a photo and your story to Lesley!


Things I hate about plus-size fashion

I’m in a sassy mood today, and I’ve been looking at online plus-size fashion retailers while trying to help a friend find a dress to wear to a wedding. It’s SO frustrating!  Even though the plus-size fashion market has improved, I still see a lot of things that bother me  – the most of all being that some labels and manufacturers only consider fit models with a certain body type and don’t pay a thought to those of us who do not have a “classic hourglass shape”. In the spirit of snark and temper tantrums, I bring you “Things I hate about plus-size fashion”!

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Fake necklaces

Fat women are not too lazy to put their own accessories on. This is insulting. Also, the chain is typically full of nickel, which I have an allergy to. It’s gross and insulting, way to go!

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Short dresses

Sure, tiny hemlines are progressive, if you slept through the 60s. However, some of us prefer to wear more modest hemlines when we have certain social engagements. Too many retailers are chopping off skirts on otherwise beautiful garments and still charging the same amount.

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Tops with bandeau hems or gathered waists

I have a big tummy, there is no way I want to be wrestling with elastic or a thick waist/ hip band all day. There are only two ways these styles work on me – they either slide up to sit under my boobs or down to sit on my thighs. FAIL.

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Necklines that ignore my boobs.

This is a double pronged attack – I hate necklines that are too low, and too high. There are LOADS of styles of tops and dresses that incorporate my most hated thing – the cross-over bust. It’s a cheap and nasty manufacturing ploy, because the pattern doesn’t need to be drafted as much to fit the bust through shaping and darts. It means that the neckline basically sits below the bust and shows off miles of your bra if you have larger breasts. Necklines that are too high also bother me. Do I not have a chest? Someone needs to find the Goldilocks solution to this problem so they can have all of my money.

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Giant graphic print tops

I have seen so many different abominable prints on plus size clothing ranging from news print to butterflies to “empowering” words. Gross. Get it away from me.

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Bedazzled jeans

I want to wear plain denim jeans, maybe with a rivet in each corner of the pocket. That’s all. I do not want you to harass my jeans with a bedazzler, sequins, glittery embroidery or your label’s name across my glorious arse.

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All of this

Diagonal lines, awful massive prints, sheer fabrics, etc. In the words of my friend “I really despair at TS (Australian label TS14+)”. In the words of me, “It looks like a shitty graphic designer vomited all over her”. Even their cardigans are wonky. It’s insanity.

Obviously, we all have our own list of things we’d prefer not to ever wear – and I’m fairly certain a few people will actually like the garments that bother me so much! What are your fashion hates?


On fat, exercise and anxiety

In my moments of drifting off to sleep, I like to imagine that I’m running. I run all over my neighbourhood, up the hills and through the streets without regard for any body looking at me. In my reality, I am faced with many Australians who not only wish ill on me, simply because I’m fat, but wish not to see me. On nights like tonight my imaginings turn to anxiety and I am kept awake with panic, so I’m turning to blogging to express a few things on this particular topic. Hear my rage internet, indeed!

Any online news story on fat issues, or the “OMGbesity crisis” (thanks Fat Nutritionist for that one) will have a herd of representatives from the hive mind piling crap on fat people. “What about your health?” “What about my health care premiums?!!” “TRY A DIET, FATTY!” (As if we HAVEN’T!) This abuse extends beyond the URL into the IRL – many of my fat friends have experienced abuse hurled at them from automobiles while they are literally treading the footpath. Uh, hello… is there a supplement for irony deficiency?

Right now, the issue of exercise is something I’m battling with. I can’t afford a gym membership (nor am I sure I want one), home exercise equipment is too bulky for my unit, but worst of all I’m developing a severe phobia of exercising outside by myself. If I’m honest with myself, I can admit that I have never been abused while out exercising. I’ve had beeps and yells of appreciation (at least, that’s what my self esteem registered them as!) but I’ve never experienced the horrid displays of abuse that some of my friends have experienced. Yet… I fear them.

When I was trialling the services of a personal trainer (something I don’t have access to any more, much to my sadness) I felt like it was totally ok for me to be running in public. Because someone was there instructing me, someone I trusted to back me up if I did encounter that special brand of arsehole who doesn’t want people to focus on themselves and their fitness. Now and then when my husband and I can match up schedules we’ll go out together and have a clandestine run… through patches of footpath that are heavily shaded from view of the very busy main road.

But wait – that isn’t fair. It’s not fair that, in the act of doing something perfectly normal and healthy, I feel I have to shield myself from public view. It’s not fair that I’m afraid of exercising for fear of abuse. It’s not fair that making fun of fatties is acceptable, and it’s completely screwed up that people feel they are justified in making fun of a fat person when they are exercising.

 

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Beth Ditto is on the cover of Italian Rolling Stone this month, licking her toes in a pose that requires an incredible amount of flexibility. Regardless, the Perez Hilton post is full of half-wits bleating on about how fat people are disgusting (as well as how unladylike the pose is – which is ANOTHER rant for me!) If you are honestly offended by someone exercising, stretching or using their body in any matter of ways – please GTFO off my planet. What kind of sensitive snowflake are you that you feel another person’s body should modify itself to fit your worldview?

I want to reclaim my world, my body and my health. I want to trot down the main street wearing skins (i.e: tights) and not give a shit. I know my body can do amazing things, but somehow… sometimes… I feel the world doesn’t want to see me doing them. And that’s really unfair and harmful to my mental and physical wellbeing.


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