Thursday, May 24

Finding your own voice


Being creative is really important to me. I find being in spaces where creativity isn’t valued to be really tough going because it’s such a paramount part of the way that I engage with an environment – it’s in my choice of clothes, my approach to work and my hobbies, even the dynamics in my relationships. However, being a creative person is also pretty tough on me – most things I do feel like an extension of me, so therefore I take criticism badly and can often shut off when I fear I might face it, which in turn can have a negative effect on me.

I wanted to talk about creativity because it’s really central to my own fat activism – I’m passionate about making things, playing with my identity and producing content (both blogging, zines, and academic writing) that creatively counters what institutions have put in place about being fat. Mental health stuff means that being able to do this is very hard on me sometimes, which explains why I am sometimes less present or vocal on here and other places – sometimes what I deal with is just too tough and I need substantial periods by myself to recoup and move on. I’ve not really spoken about mental health and depression on here before, because it’s something I’ve only just acknowledged myself.

Often I’ve felt as if the best way to counter these negative patches is to make my creative output as good as it can possibly be – however, as I’m also a perfectionist, I never seem to reach the lofty heights of my ambition, so what I actually let out into the public realm is very limited. To illustrate this, I thought about starting this blog for about three years before I actually did – I’d been a part of fatshion communities both as a participant and through selling vintage clothing on eBay (which I did alongside my postgrad degree), and always really admired fatshion bloggers, but I wasn’t confident in my own ability so I put it off. Eventually I was unemployed for a bit and I started this space as a bit of a diversion – within a couple of weeks and after a miniscule amount of self-promotion, my first readers (most of whom are still here I think!) passed on my links and images, and I had an audience which began to grow and hasn’t stopped since. This blog has become much more than I ever anticipated it could be, and the support and kindness I’ve received has always massively outweighed the critiques and fat hatred that I also sometimes receive. I’m still very much not a “proper” blogger – most of my pictures are unedited, badly exposed and generally full of questionable facial expressions – but it doesn’t matter (maybe it would if I was trying to make money out of this, I don’t know).

I love the blogging world because it’s accessible to a much wider variety of people than traditional fashion platforms – I’m not saying that anyone can blog, because I also know that it takes a certain amount of resources to be able to do so (computer, internet access, camera, money for clothes), but rather that some of the hierarchies that have controlled the production of fashion culture have been removed. It’s a more democratic space, even if there are still prevalent norms and levels of privilege that often go unmentioned. I think the fashion industry looks down on blogs now, because they’re two a penny and everyone and their dog has one. However, I think this is what I love most about it. To me, I see a connection between this method of communication and zines and other DIY methods of counter culture – I created this space because I wanted there to be a fat fashion space that was also politically engaged and budget/DIY focused, and because I didn’t know many other similar voices out there. I used to have to imbibe substantial amounts of fat hatred to get my fashion fix, but now there’s no need for that, and that in itself is awesome.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – bloggers are awesome, but we could be better. If you feel that your voice is missing from the fatshion world and you feel that you have the time and resources to change that, then do it! I’ll support you, and I know many others who will too. You don’t have to be a fashionista to write a blog, you don’t even have to be a particularly capable writer or photographer, and you certainly don’t need to look a certain way, contrary to what you might think. One of the most powerful aspects of blogging to me is the way that it has highlighted difference and variety in body shape, personal style, gender, sexuality, ability and colour – I love seeing how different people make a similar item of clothing work, because it’s such a contrast to the way I see clothes presented in shops and online (on a uniform, non-relatable body).  

I guess that what I’m saying is to myself as much to anyone else who’s gotten this far (congratulations!) – you don’t have to be perfect to have a creative output (whether that’s blogging, art, academic work, craft, music, whatever). I’ve always railed against the idea of perfection in aesthetics (being in possession of what society would determine a flawed body), and I guess it’s taken a while to apply this logic to my own creative projects too. Process is a really important part of our creative growth, and focusing on only the end point makes taking any steps towards it a very daunting prospect. If you feel you have something that needs saying, then find a basic forum to start working on it (whether this is yours or someone else’s blog, tumblr, a zine, a painting or art piece, anything) and just take it one step at a time. 

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