Wednesday, December 15

Self Love and Fat Acceptance

So this week, I've been re-reading Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity on the train to work and on lunch breaks. I had only really skimmed through it for my MA dissertation in 2009, so reading it cover to cover has been a new experience. I'm pretty hardened in general, but it's brought tears to my eyes on a number of occasions and generally meant that my walk to the office has entailed lots of looking at the floor and repeated blinking to straighten myself up for the work day. It's been a week of self reflection, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about my own history, which I'm often a bit scared of doing.

Part of my relation to the stories in the book comes from the growing up and needing to be fiercely independent, and from knowing that I had to support myself because I haven't always had the traditional support net of friends and family that others can rely on emotionally and otherwise. Anyway, I got thinking about fat acceptance and the act of self love (here I mean the act of providing this emotional support and care to yourself), and the ways they are interconnected. The act of radical self love is written about a lot by Bevin of Queer Fat Femme fame, and is something that I feel is the hardest, but ultimately the most rewarding, part of body acceptance.

I read a lot of stories online, on communities and blogs and whatnot, ways of coming to accept yourself, and sometimes I feel like too many people begin their acceptance journeys with a lover or an engagement or through someone else's acceptance of their fat. There's nothing wrong with this I guess (I'm all for fat love and fat sex, fat friends and allies), but to accept yourself seen through someone else's eyes sometimes feels like you need the approval of another person (and often these dialogues are heterosexual love stories) in order to accept yourself. It sometimes strikes me as very normative - like getting "socially acceptable in the big wide world" or "LOOK, SOMEBODY LOVES ME" stamped on your hand - I've been there, I know it really helps, but sometimes the most radical form of love comes from loving yourself whether you are alone, in a relationship, surrounded by friends or lonely as fuck. It comes from loving your very unacceptability. It comes from not changing just because your lover would rather you lost a few pounds or wore matching underwear or always shaved, or would rather you didn't wear that dress out of the house, or would rather you were the "marrying kind". It comes from not settling for second best, even if the world tells you that you ought to.

Because, ultimately, loving yourself is a pretty radical stance to take. Society tells you constantly that you need another person - and that person completes you, and allows you to function. Being single is a temporary state, monogamy, babies, marriage and the family unit are the ultimate goal. We don't celebrate our individual selves (beyond birthdays) at any point in our lives, however we celebrate union in endless ceremonies - marriage, christenings, engagements etc etc. We never really celebrate being alone, even if it's good for us. Refuting this, choosing yourself over a relationship that hurts you (something I never did when I was younger, and which caused me a huge amount of self-hate) even when the world tells you that the clock is ticking, is an amazing stance. It works both ways too, sometimes for me it has meant allowing someone to love me or to get closer to me than my defence mechanisms will normally allow.

I guess to me, the radical nature of self love kicks in when I get heckled. I remember once last year I was on my way to a sorting office. A guy walking across the street from me starting shouting "excuse me, excuse me, excuse me" repeatedly. I am still unable to gauge whether this will be an innocent request for directions or a bastard. I have faith in humanity and respond. I can't even remember what he said exactly, but I know the words fat, whore, desperate and suchlike were mentioned. It was a torrent of abuse that shocked me. He was with his mother too, who was embarrassed but I think ultimately still oppositional to me, because she didn't tell him off (which to me is indirectly condoning his behaviour). I told him to fuck off and went on my way.

Also, at one point last year I remember my boyfriend got egged out of a car when we were walking home in Leeds. We lived in a fairly rough area, and he's super skinny, and has long, unruly hair and an equally unruly beard. He dresses in jumpers, shirts, tees and jeans that are older than our relationship, and generally falling apart (I call him a semi-hobo). It's why I love him, and it gets him a lot of shit. Normally if someone shouts something, I'll generally stick my finger up or something, but you can't do that with a flying attack in a car. It's why people who shout out of cars are the biggest cowards - it leaves no chance for retaliation.

Anyway, both instances were horrible, and if it happened to me when I was a kid I would've locked myself inside for days and bawled my eyes out. But these times, I walked away and the first thing I thought (beyond the initial GWARGH WHAT A STUPID ARSEHOLE anger) was essentially to remind myself that essentially I'm fat and awesome (and my boy is the hottest scruff in Leeds), and that I don't really give a fuck about the opinion of someone who needs to validate their existence by shouting at strangers or throwing things out of cars. And that in fact, if people are throwing things at us, then I must be doing something right, because I'm not just blending in. I'm not necessarily acceptable, and that's a good thing. And it is that love that acts are my safety net.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, for me, fat acceptance has to begin with your self. It begins with a self portrait (as discussed in this amazing post at The Busty Traveller, which seriously, you all need to follow), it begins with seeing yourself through new eyes. It begins with accepting the facets of yourself that you thought you could never accept, until you look at them differently. Fat becomes power, strength, curves, rage, energy, excitement. My body has become my own safety net.

I guess to come back to Brazen Femme, I think the messages that I took from it, the messages which resonated so hard with my teenage self, who was (and still is) a survivor, tough as boots and often angry as hell, was essentially this... Don't wait for someone to love you. Don't rely on anyone, and don't need anyone in order to survive. Don't wait to become who you want to be. Realise that, beneath everything, you already are the person you want to be. Love yourself.


  1. great post - thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    i'm so--i don't know the right word--appalled, i guess is close, at the behavior of those people who egged/verbally attacked you on the street. it's hard for me to wrap my mind around decisions people make, sometimes.

  2. You are RIGHT! Loving yourself is radical.

    I love that you brought in topics like family and partner expectations here. Sometimes I think everyone is so goddamn scared of being alone that they'd rather perpetuate a cycle of hateful behaviors (outward and in) than take the opportunity to feel themselves and consciously step in the direction that they choose, rather than is expected, no matter the risk or assumed outcome.

    I'm glad you shared that had this happened in the past, you would have recoiled for days. However now you are to a point where you can say, with confidence, you don't change my opinion of myself.. and also my boyfriend is the hottest scruff in Leeds <3

    You're a great writer! Keep it up. Thank you for sharing and thanks for linking to my blog, I'm totally flattered ^-^

  3. Hello, I've been (creepily?) reading your blog for a while now, and I finally decided today, after reading this entry, to tell you how awesome you and your blog and your style all are. Your level of style and boldness is truly aspirational for me, you wear clothes that are special and sometimes flashy and always amazing without it looking costumey, and you are also so smart and generally awesome. I hope this doesn't sound patronizing because I really mean it- you always have such a positive and thoughtful outlook on life and it really is something I admire.

    Okay so, I started to write out my whole story of finding out how to self love, but then I realized it was waaaaaaaaaay too long for a comment. So, If you'd like, I posted it to my blog and you can read it. But if not, that's okay too- I realize this is pretty intense.

    Speaking of creepy and intense...I have also seen your posts on etsy and fatshionista sales which are really great too. I thought I would just get it out in the open, so I don't seem like a stalker murderer type or something.


  4. Beej, thank you! I agree about people getting caught in vicious circles with bad relationships, it's something that happened to me at some points... and your blog is amazing! I'm so glad you have one now, you were always one of my favourite posters on fatshionista :)

    Liz, thank you! You aren't a stalker! I read lots of people's blogs and posts without commenting, but I appreciate yours as it reminds me why I started. Also, I read your story and it's amazing also, I'm glad that you've gotten to such a positive point in your acceptance :)

  5. This post is fabulous. I love that you brought up finding acceptance through heterosexual partnerships because it has been an issue that I've been thinking about a lot lately. Because you're right acceptance cannot be based on anyone else's opinion but your own. Also, I have a hard time with some of the heteronormativity within the current fat acceptance movement, or even just the emphasis on relationships in general, heterosexual or not, is given precedence that I'm not comfortable with.

    Also, I am appalled at the actions of those people! I am glad you are strong enough not to let it affect you, I'm not quite sure if I would be to be honest!

  6. This post is awesome, it made me cry! Thank you for writing it! The ignorance of some people makes me want to shake them into reality.

  7. Interesting.

    I think what is important for total acceptance is to accept out nature. We fatlings are gluttons and until we admit and embrace our gluttony we will never fully accept ourselves.

  8. Amazing post....! really enjoyed reading it...such true words about accepting yourself and loving yourself first, it really helps you to cope with the shit, life inordinately chucks at us x

  9. Great post, Kirsty!
    I found your blog through a translation of your "Cycling fatty" post. I really liked it, and hope you're still cycling!
    These people who say nasty things to or egg other people are just stupid brats who need to grow up.
    You have matured from those days when you'd want to hide from the world when you heard things like these. Those people deserve nothing but our pitty. Maybe someday they will grow up, too.
    You ARE fat and awesome! You're gourgeous and have a fabulous style. So never let them get to you!