Right, I wanted to talk a little more in depth about the BBC3 show and some of the responses I’ve had. The experience has been completely overwhelming, and the stories I’ve heard have made me feel such a mixed bag of emotions – anger, sadness, but also joy and delight at the amount of people who’ve started thinking differently about their bodies. All I can say is that (as if I didn’t know this already) there are a hell of a lot of strong, amazing people out there who put up with bullying, abuse, harassment and physical violence because of their bodies and their identities, and that I admire all of you and that you do NOT deserve that. It’s not your body that makes it hard to be fat – it’s the treatment you face from outside society. This treatment is legitimised by institutions, media and generally oppressive attitudes, and we’re made to believe that it’s okay, but it’s not!
I’m trying to get through all my emails at the moment, but without regular net access and a full time job it may be a while before I can reply to everyone! I will do so, though. What I wanted to do is post with a few resources and recommendations to help people who are interested in finding out more about body acceptance. Also, if you have any other questions for me, feel free to post them here and I will get back to them as soon as is possible.
Some notes, strategies and advice for you all:
1. Don’t be afraid of your emotions. There’s a lot of pressure in the body activism movement to be strong and powerful, but if someone hurts you by saying something and you need to cry about it, find a spot where you can and DO (I’m strong, and I cry A LOT). I feel like, as fat people, we’re expected not to react to comments and abuse – we’re not supposed to talk about those situations, or express the emotions they trigger in us. Talking about them and expressing them helps – not only to make other people aware of what we face on a daily basis, but also to help work through our own feelings.
2. On a related note, if someone makes you sad or angry, DO SOMETHING WITH THAT EMOTION. Crying is really cathartic and I often find that my best ideas come out of those moments when I am full of angry sadness. I started this blog part out of wanting to talk about clothes and fatshion strategies for other thrifty types, and partly because I got shouted at a lot, and I wanted to talk about how that felt and share experiences. Society expects us to be ashamed and silent, bent on being as invisible as possible. I don’t believe that’s right, and so I blog about my experiences, I show pictures of myself to a wider audience and I follow and comment on other people’s blogs. Write a zine, make a piece of art, blog, write a song, wear a bright dress, form an activist group with other local misfits, tell someone you know that they’re awesome, or find any way to express pride for your body and for other people’s. It doesn’t have to be a big step, or take up lots of time – it can be any step to show solidarity and care for others who experience hatred or oppression because of their bodies or identities.
3. Try and counter any negativity you face with self-care or positive strategies. Every time someone shouts at you, make sure you do something afterwards that makes you feel good in your body. We’re taught to learn to view our bodies from a distance, as a disassociated part of ourselves, so we can focus on what is presented as an essential need for self improvement. Part of accepting my body was learning to do new things in it – things I’d been taught that I couldn’t do as a fat person – and appreciating my body in those things. For me, self care is wearing clothes I feel good in, going for a swim, cycling, cooking, walking, making music and so on. It might be dancing or singing, competitive sports, yoga, baking, sex, beauty treatments, crafting, anything at all really.
4. Read body positive literature. I used to read fashion magazines obsessively, now instead I read blogs and magazines like Bust – they’re much more diverse (though they could definitely be more so!) and engage with politics I align myself with. I also read tumblrs, zines, books and listen to podcasts.
5. Talk about FAT. Say the word fat out loud, lots, to describe your body (if you’re fat, anyway!). Fat, in itself, is not an insulting term – it just has negative implications because fat = evil monster of death in society’s eyes. Fat is just a descriptive word ultimately, and the more we say it, the more the power of it is taken away from those who oppress people with it.
6. Redefine the way you speak about your body in general. Find words to describe yourself that you like, and reclaim some that have negative implications. Words I like that maybe have horrible implications to some people include chunky, big bums, thunder thighs, tree trunk legs and so on. These words are strong in themselves – we’ve been taught to hate them because they’re what we are not supposed to be – but I think they’re powerful and reflect being a big and strong woman. Find a new vocabulary, and try to describe your body differently when you look in a mirror.
All of the blogs I read are shown on the sidebar here as well – there are amazing fat fashion blogs, feminist blogs and more general fashion blogs. I would recommend them all heartily!
And books that anyone should own:
Linda Bacon: Health at Every Size
Marilyn Wann: Fat! So?
Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby - Lessons From The Fatosphere: How to Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce With Your Body
Charlotte Cooper - Fat and Proud: Politics of Size