Friend of Marilyn

*Fatlicious

On #notyourgoodfatty April 5, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 12:07 am

A book I’ve co-edited with Jackie Wykes and Sam Murray, Queering fat embodiment, is set to be published by Ashgate in May, 2014. My chapter in the book considers how fatness is queered in cyberspace. As our book explores, queering is a method of disrupting the norm; of challenging essentialist positions and defying constructions of the dominant culture. Within cyberspace, fat activists often engage in queering fatness by challenging the expected idea of fatness. They present representations of fat life that deviate from the norm and they encourage alternative constructions of fat identity. Whether through blogging, posting fashion photos, using hashtags, or various other social media tools, they are offering a different way of considering fatness.

For the past two days, rad fatties on Twitter have been constructing a collective schema around the ways they queer fatness using the tag, #notyourgoodfatty. The hashtag began in a conversation between @FatBodyPolitics and @mazzie, and was quickly picked up by others and achieved trending status quickly. Some of my fav examples of the tag follow here,

 

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Melissa over at Shakesville gives a great explanation for those not well versed in the language of good (or bad) fatty,

Playing the Good Fatty might entail talking about how you totally eat healthy all the time, or totally work out regularly, or totally have “great numbers” (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.), or totally make sure you wear clothes that aren’t too revealing.

It’s basically saying: I’m not one of THOSE fatties. You know, the ones we’re always hearing about, with their eating whole pizzas and destroying the healthcare system and stuff.

The transition from Good Fatty to Radical Fatty is when you decide it doesn’t matter why someone is fat. That fat people’s rights aren’t contingent on anything else but our humanity.

 

Reflecting on the use of the tag in social media, Amanda Levitt of Fat Body Politics, asserts that she is not interested in performing her fatness in socially acceptable ways. She, and the others embracing #notyourgoodfatty, are defiant resisters in the war against fat people. They refuse to be fat in appropriate ways. They are, in short, doing fatness wrong.

This campaign, and the other ways that fat activists queer fatness online, demonstrate the usefulness in the Internet in providing a space for oppositional fat politics (along with other kinds of oppositional politics. For example, see #WhitePeopleEquivalents)

#notyourgoodfatty is not the first tag to rally fat people together online. Recent memory recalls #clublardo#obeselifestyle, #IAmNotADisease, and #fatmicroaggressions. Melissa from Shakesville gifted us with #fatmicroaggressions last December. It also trended, and managed to attract the attention of mainstream media.

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Sharing the small acts of violence that are inflicted upon fat individuals everyday is powerful – making them visible is an important step in fighting back against the fat phobic culture we live in. Some may argue this is yet more slacktivism, as if low effort acts of activism that occur online are less powerful than other more traditional forms like marching or carrying a sign. In cyberspace, we are able to march the cyberhighway across the entire world. And the signs we carry are able to be adapted, crafted, and suited for a range of audiences on demand.  In queering fatness online, we are able to reject that our bodies are problems that need solutions. We are able to make our voices heard, if only in 140 characters and only for a snapshot in time.

 

On Fatshion February March 5, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 4:08 pm

 

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Every February, the Fatosphere engages in an activity, Fatshion February. Bloggers and non-bloggers alike take OOTD photos and post them in various social media forums (blogs, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc) with the tag, #fatshionFebruary. The purpose of Fatshion February is to promote conversations around fatshion, and provide opportunities for fatties to show off their rags.

I decided to participate in Fatshion February this year, partly to challenge myself to wear the many frocks I own. Somewhere along the line, the idea that dresses are only to be worn on special occasions took root in my mind (it may have had something to do with growing up a tomboy and hating to wear dresses; having to be coerced into them for special occasions). Since entering adulthood, my reluctance to engage with something other than separates remained. UNTIL! I was introduced to fatties wearing frocks.

As I came out as fat, I was exposed to fat women (in person and online) wearing dresses (super cute dresses, at that!) And slowly, my resistance to dresses, and dressing up, began to recede. And I started to purchase the occasional frock. After some time, I had amassed a sizeable collection of cute dresses (mainly sundresses)*. The problem was that I rarely worn them. Outside of Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, in fact, I never wore them. I saw participating in Fatshion February as an opportunity to challenge myself to wear my frocks while engaging in an important activity within the fat positive community.

I spent the month of February wearing a different dress (or skirt) every work day. And I managed to find people willing to take my picture every day (I failed to learn the art of full body selfie. Maybe, with time…) I know that for some, taking selfies or OOTD pics, seems a narcissistic act of a generation too consumed with itself. But I think there is a power in fat people putting forward images of themselves. If we relied on others, all we’d ever see are headless fatties. In a post about selfies, Sarah at Radically Visible writes about the value of visual representation. “What taking selfies and sharing them does is fill our immediate environment with a far more diverse visual language of bodies than we have access to otherwise.” Sarah is writing specifically about selfies (even unflattering/uncomfortable selfies), but I find that her message resonates well for Fatshion February as well.

Anytime I am able to see a fat body presented outside of a negative light is an occasion. And for me, seeing how other fats engage with fashion is exciting. I enjoy being introduced to different ways to put together outfits, and different ways to wear items I own. I also like seeing the pieces of clothing from lines, both new and familiar, on actual fat bodies. Very rarely are clothes modelled on fat bodies in catalogs or on websites (shoutout to Domino Dollhouse!)  To see how articles of clothing look on other fatties helps me further visualize what it may look like on my fat shape.

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In the aforementioned piece, Sarah concludes, “For me, taking and sharing selfies reminds me that I can challenge the received narrative of beauty my culture has given me and either place myself in it – which I’m not supposed to be allowed to do – or discard it completely as the situation warrants.” This, for me, is the most important part of an event like Fatshion February. To allow a space for fatties to produce their own images to share – ones that disrupt the normative discourse and narratives that surround fatness. And getting to share in a bit of fashion in the process? Delightful!

*My favourite places for frocks are eShakti, Domino Dollhouse, Modcloth, although I occasionally find something I like at The Avenue or Lane Bryant. Other popular places for fatshion: Igigi, Torrid.

 

On making resolutions January 5, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 3:49 pm

The beginning of a new year sees many people rushing to make resolutions; promises they make themselves and others about changes they intend to make moving forward. Often times, those resolutions are around health and health behaviours. But, as anyone who has ever made a New Year’s Resolution can tell you, veryfew resolutions see the light of February.

Some health resolutions fail because they are doomed from the start. If you make a resolution to ‘get healthy’, but measure your success by the scale, then what you’re really focusing on is weight loss, not health. And once that scale stops moving in the direction you want, at the speed you want, you may give up the health seeking behaviours and walk away from your resolution.

If you want a resolution that will improve your health and is also easy to follow, try this: toss out your scale. That’s right; pitch it in the rubbish. Rid your home of that little box that informs you of your gravitational relationship to the earth. The number on that scale tells you nothing about your digestive health, inflammatory status, or metabolic health. It tells you nothing about how you are feeling in your body. Plus, that little box is often responsible for poor mental and emotional health. (If you are interested in not just tossing out your scale, but breaking up with reduction attempts for good, check out this great post by Golda Poretsky; or the New Years ReVolution website.)

In the United States, the National Weight Control Registry tracks over 10,000 people who have maintained a weight loss of at least 13.6 kilos for one year or more. To put this into context, 108 million people in the United States are dieting on any given day, and the diet industry is worth $61 billion.

The failure of weight loss attempts (behavioural, surgical, lifestyle changes) is well documented in the empirical literature. Scientists, researchers, and doctors, alike, have failed to discover a way that produces a meaningful (more than 10 kilos) permanent (lasting longer than 5 years) method of weight loss. There are many suggestions for why weight loss is unachievable for 95% of those who attempt, including genetic and physiological.

Luckily, there is evidence that weight loss, or being a ‘normal’ weight, is not required for good health. For example, engagement in physical activity is documented to be more important for health than weight, with physically active fat people reporting better health than non-fat people who are not physically active.

Health at Every Size (HAES) is an emerging medical paradigm that proposes that all bodies, regardless of size, may engage in health seeking behaviours. It argues that weight is a poor proxy for health, and that instead of striving for reduction in weight, individuals should focus on engaging in health seeking behaviours, and be mindful that health is tied to more than just diet and exercise. Research using this paradigm has demonstrated increased health outcomes independent of weight loss. Approaches such as HAES allow for positive health outcomes, free from the common consequences of weight loss attempts such as food preoccupation, repeat cycles of weight loss and gain, and reduced self-esteem. Repeat cycles of weight loss are also a risk factor for overall health and mortality.

I’m currently involved in a research project that is using a HAES framework to investigate interventions on a single individual. Justin Doolan, our participant (who is also a member of the research team under our methodology, community action research) is a local secondary Dean. He was approached by members of staff, whom shared their concerns about his weight, and encouraged him to make an effort to lose weight. He approached Massey University, and my team presented a different approach to him: Instead of helping him lose weight, we would help him achieve better health, independent of weight loss.

Our team of researchers (pulled from the faculties of Human Development, Nutrition, Sport & Exercise, and Management) are working together to facilitate a programme that addresses Justin’s needs, likes, and goals within a framework that rejects consideration of weight.  We are monitoring his physical and psychosocial health, and working with him to adapt his health behaviours and improve his health measures. Physical health is being assessed using a range of measures, including blood pressure, arterial stiffness, bloods (lipids, glucose, IL-6, TNF-α, CRP), abdominal adiposity, as well as a range of anthropometry measures (waist circumference and body composition using a BODPOD).

Bodpod

The BODPOD measures total body composition and lean body mass.

An array of physical fitness measures are also being used, including a submaximal VO2 test, strength tests, and tests which assess flexibility. A range of food tests, and food activities, have been conducted by the nutrition team. Activity sessions have been structured that allow Justin to partake in movement he enjoys, within his schedule, that allow for lower risks of morbidity and mortality. On the psychosocial side, team members are working with Justin to explore (and often revise) his conceptualisations of fat identity, masculinity, embodiment, weight anxiety, internalized fat oppression, and other issues that arise.

The end goal of this project is to improve Justin’s overall health. We are working to improve the relationship that Justin has with food, physical activity, and his body. It is about learning to recognize the body’s signals of hunger and satiety, independent of counting calories or following a structured plan. It is about enjoying movement as a way to nurture your body, rather than a punishment or a weight loss tool. It is about acknowledging the role that psychosocial well-being plays in holistic health.

Very few of us have an entire team of PhDs behind us, but there are many small steps you can take if you wish to usher in health seeking behaviours in 2014. So first things first, toss that scale! Tossing out the scale is one way to acknowledge that your goal is not weight loss, but improved health. And if you really need a scale in your house, buy a Yay! Scale.

 

On Fatlicious Holiday Gift Giving 2013 December 5, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 12:40 pm

As the holiday season is upon us, I present to you my picks for the most fatlicious gifts of the year!

For Everybody

AC

The Adipositivity Calendar by Substania Jones on lulu

For the Fatshionista


eShaki Houndstooth

Vintage Houndstooth Check Dress by eShakti

Red Dots 2

The Story of Citrus Dress in Red Dots by Modcloth

Bird Floral eShakti

Birds in Floral Sheath Dress by eShakti

These Boots are Made for Walking

Wide Boot

Jordana Super Plus Wide Calf Boot (Black) on WideWidths

Boots

Fitzwell Bit/Extra Wide Calf Boot on 6pm

For A Bit ‘o Bling

Fat Babe Necklace

Fat Babe Necklace by TheTinyHobo on etsy

Fat Bitch Necklace

Fat Bitch Laser Cut Acrylic Necklace by BlackHeartCreatives on etsy

For Underneath

Corset

Corset by Hips & Curves Plus Size Lingerie on Danceswithfat (a fundraiser for the Size Diversity Task Force!)

Bandelettes

Bandelettes

For the Stocking 

2x4 Zine

The 2 by 4: A Fat Zine by RedBeardsCrafts on etsy

Hard Femme Zine

Hard Femme zine 1 – a zine about being queer, tough, poor, working class, fat, and femme by kirstwinters on etsy

For Keeping it Casual

Wonder Woman Tee

Plus Size Wonder Women V-Neck T-Shirt by TinyHoboTees on etsy

 

On fat being totally queer November 5, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 5:12 pm

In this post, I share a written interview with Anna Mollow. Instead of coming on my radio show, we decided on a different medium. Enjoy!

Joining me today is Anna Mollow, a disability scholar. She is the co-editor, with Robert McRuer, of Sex and Disability, and the co-editor, with Merri Lisa Johnson, of DSM:CRIP, a special issue of Social Text Online. She recently wrote a piece for Bitch magazine on the ways that fat liberation is *totally* queer.

Anna, thank you for joining me today! I LOVED your piece, and I shared it across my social media platforms as a ‘must read’! I appreciate you coming on the show, and I’m excited to have a chance to chat with you about this piece, and other work you are engaged in.

So, first up, what made you decide to write your piece, “Fat liberation is totally queer”?

Anna: Thanks for having me, Cat! I’m very happy to be on your blog. I wrote “Fat Liberation is Totally Queer” because I hate the way that fat people are treated in our society. Especially in the past decade or two, with all the “obesity epidemic” hype—I am not exaggerating when I say that every single day I hear at least one fatphobic remark. Whether it’s my doctor today referring to “how much you weigh” as a “lifestyle issue” or a thin acquaintance yesterday saying he was “too fat” and wanted to lose weight—while my wife, who is a fat woman, was sitting right there! People seem to have no awareness that these remarks are offensive. That’s what I wanted to do with my article: to put it out there that the oppression of fat people is a major social problem. And while you might expect feminists and queer folks and others on the Left to have more consciousness about this issue, that’s often not the case. The stereotypes about fat people and about queers are remarkably similar—it’s a “disease”; it’s a “choice”; it’s a danger to “the children”; etc.—and yet so many people whose politics are otherwise very progressive seem not to notice this, and to feel perfectly comfortable saying the same awful things about fat people that anti-gay pundits say about queers. In my article I was speaking to my community; as a lesbian and a feminist, I was saying, “We need to work together to fight fat oppression and make sure that we are not complicit with fatphobia.”

Cat: I absolutely agree about the everyday nature of fat hate & shaming, and I concur that it is important that we ask all groups to reflect on their own privileges. It’s an interesting intersection, that of being fat and being queer, because as you’ve pointed out, many of the same tools of oppression (it’s a disease, it’s a choice, etc) that have been used against those in the LGBTIAQ community are the ones used against those in the fat community. And yet, there is still a lot of fat shaming in the LGBTIAQ community. There was a piece I read recently, ‘It gets better…unless you’re fat’, where the author explores how he has never experienced the oppression of being gay in the same way that he regularly experiences the oppression of being fat, including within the gay community. How do you think activists and allies can begin to fight back against fat oppression within other marginalised communities?

Anna: In many ways, we already have begun this work—more than begun, in fact. It’s been forty years since Aldebaran (a.k.a. Vivian Mayer) and Judy Freespirit founded the Fat Underground. This group came out of the radical therapy and women’s liberation movements of the 1970s. Members of the Fat Underground had to fight to get other feminists and radical therapists to recognize that weight bigotry was a major social problem. It’s frustrating that so many years later, queer people still often reinforce fatphobia. Diet talk, pathologizing terms like “obese” and “overweight,” and disparaging comments about fat people are commonplace in our communities. Louis Peitzman, the author of the excellent article that you mentioned, writes that because he is fat, he is treated “like an outcast” by other gay men. Why aren’t queers of all sizes more upset by fat hate? I don’t know, but I think that fat activists and allies need to start getting angrier. Recently, I wrote a piece called “Mad Feminism,” in which I say that feminists, people with disabilities, queers, fat folks, and people of color need to form stronger alliances with each other—and that it’s time for all of us to seriously get mad.

Cat: I agree that forming stronger alliances across groups that are marginalized is an important part of progressing social justice. I guess the difficulty is often in people checking their own privilege; many people who recognize oppression for one group, have trouble acknowledging the role they play in the oppression of other groups. And I LOVE the idea of embracing the rage; I remember when Brian Stuart was doing his Agents of O.B.E.S.I.T.Y. series and Kath Read (of the Fat Heffalump) chose to become ‘The Incredible Bulk’. I wonder how we could use the anger at the injustices as a way to move our agendas forward? Any ideas?

Anna: Something I’ve learned from my wife, Jane Arlene Herman, a longtime fat and lesbian feminist activist (whom you will be interviewing on your radio show), is that if you are an oppressed person, just going through life and surviving daily insults and injustices makes you a political activist. You don’t have to be organizing marches and protests or staging online interventions. Those activities are great, of course, and crucially important, but they’re not always accessible to those of us, such as myself and my wife, who have chronic illnesses and disabilities, or to many others who may not have the time, energy, or financial resources to participate. But we can still, as you put it, use our anger “as a way to move our agendas forward.”

Some of the most important sites for fat activism in my life occur in day-to-day exchanges with people: at the doctor’s office, at the farmers’ market, at a family gathering, in a clothing store. Bringing my anger to these interactions doesn’t necessarily mean yelling and screaming; but it does mean that I’m becoming less and less willing to “let it go” when people make anti-fat remarks. When a family member says that he is watching how many calories he consumes, when the nurse at my doctor’s office insists that I “have” to be weighed, when a guy at the farmers’ market claims that he is “fighting obesity” by riding his bike, when a clothing store carries nothing that a large woman can wear, I push myself to say something. Where I live, in Sonoma County, California, most people have very good LGBT politics; they would not dream of publicly degrading queer folks in the ways that they put fat people down. And so I point this out to them. I say, “What you’re saying about fatness is almost exactly what everyone used to say about homosexuality.” I come out as the spouse of a fat woman. I launch into my explanation of scientific misconceptions about body size. I recommend Paul Campos’s The Diet Myth and Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin, and offer to lend folks a copy.

When I see people’s eyes glazing over; when they argue with me and say that they are just “concerned” about fat people’s health; when they try to change the subject; or when they say, “We can agree to disagree,” I keep talking. That’s what I mean by getting mad: I’m so tired of fat hate that I keep complaining about it, even if I annoy people. Like last week at the farmers’ market, I was all ready to buy a bag of apples from this vendor, but he would not let it go about “obesity”—and he would not listen to a single thing I said about fat oppression—and so finally I put down the apples I had planned to buy and walked away. My action communicated, “You just lost a customer because you were not willing to question your fatphobia.” Multiple small-scale interventions such as these can make an enormous difference. By showing our feelings—our anger and sadness, as well as our joy in who we are and in whom we love—we let people know that fat hate is not a socially acceptable prejudice.

Cat: So, what’s next for you?

Anna: My spouse and I will be conducting fat liberation workshops in our local community next spring. In the coming year, my main focus will be completing my dissertation in English literature at U.C. Berkeley. My thesis brings together feminism, queer theory, disability studies, and psychoanalysis. In the chapter I’m working on right now, I make connections between fat studies and disability studies. As with “Fat Liberation Is Totally Queer,” my goal is to forge alliances between fat activists and members of other disenfranchised groups. I see so many similarities between fatphobia and ableism. So often, people who are fat or disabled or both are assumed not to know our own bodies—while thin and nondisabled people are held up as “experts” whose job it is to instruct us on how to care for our health! For example, I have environmental illness, and when I tell people that products like perfume and hair dye make me sick, they often suggest that maybe I am making my illness up, or that maybe I am just “imagining” my symptoms. It’s almost exactly the same dynamic when my wife says that, actually, she does not eat a lot of food; you can tell people think she’s lying, or that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Just to be clear: I’m in no way suggesting that it’s not okay if a fat person (or a thin person) does eat a lot of food. I believe that appetite is biologically determined, and that people of all sizes should eat as much as they like. What I’m objecting to is the way that being disabled and/or fat means that the mainstream culture does not trust what we say about our bodies—whether it’s me saying that perfume really does make me sick or a fat person saying that, yes, she really is hungry.

 

On Anniversaries August 5, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 5:13 pm

Friend of Marilyn is happy to be celebrating over two years of activity this year! I can hardly believe that I have been working under this moniker for two years, and I thought I would take a moment to consider the work I have done, the people I have met, and the ways that FOM has changed my life.

 

Friend of Marilyn began as a blog and a Tumblr in 2011, as a platform for promoting fatliciousness and engaging with the larger Fat-o-sphere. The Friend of Marilyn radio show & podcast began on 15 August 2011, and has aired over 75 shows to date. With over 75 blogs highlighted, 75 pieces of fatlicious reactions, and 75 guests, Friend of Marilyn has helped shaped the conversation around fatness within Aotearoa New Zealand.

 

The connections I have made through Friend of Marilyn are invaluable. As I reflect on the people I’ve met and the perspectives I’ve been introduced to, I am overwhelmed by the opportunities I have had and the level of engagement this platform has afforded me. Thanks goes to Fraser & his team at Access Manawatu, for approaching me with the idea of a show and planting the idea in my head that my work could be developed into a larger brand. Thanks goes to Lesley Kinzel & Marianne Kirby, whose fatcast, ‘Two Whole Cakes’ inspired me for years, and made me believe that Fraser’s idea could work (TWC is back online!!!) Thanks to Marilyn Wann, who gave me permission to use her name in the moniker, and was the first guest on the FOM show. And thanks to Kath Read, of the Fat Heffalump, for guiding me, supporting me, and encouraging me. I could not do this work without the amazing support of the fat activists, scholars, and artists who work for fat social justice throughout the world!

 

FOM has raised my public profile, both nationally and internationally. This means, of course, that I have garnered a great deal more attention from trolls (both fat hating and concern), and I must admit, it sucks. But it also means that I have been contacted by many around the world who find the work that I do to be informative and transformative. And that has been worth all of the cost.

 

Friend of Marilyn is proud to be a small part of the larger fat activist community, and I am eagerly looking ahead to the years to come!

 

On fatness and safety July 5, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 1:37 pm

Growing up as a fat kid, you rarely feel safe.

You can never know when a peer is going to bully you because of your size.

Going on a school trip is a blast, until you can’t fit into the ride at the amusement park; the message is clear – this space is not for you.

You sit & wait, fearful that the movie you’ve chosen to see with your friends is going to toss out a fat joke.

You never know when a parent is going to shame you for eating or choosing to watch TV/play games instead of being active outside.

Developing as a fat teen, you are rarely safe.

Hanging out at the mall is fun, until you non-fat friends drag you into straight size stores. They fail to understand that the reason you spend all your time looking at the accessories is because nothing else in that store is meant for you.

You wonder if the teen that seems to like you is just doing it as a prank; they couldn’t possibly like your fat body – this must be a gaff for friends.

Sitting in class you are taught along with your peers that body size is controllable – the law of thermodynamics is very clear that it’s a simple combination of calories in, calories out. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t seem to work that simply in your body – this is physics. This is immutable.

Being a fat adult, you are never safe.

Turning on the television, opening a magazine, walking past an ad on the street – you are told that you are damaged and unworthy– you can never be wanted. You can never be sexy. Attraction is not something you are allowed to experience.

Politicians speak about you: obesity, they say, is a scourge on this nation; you are a drain on resources, a burden on society. You are not good; you are undisciplined and dangerous.

People around you moan about their bodies, talk of how friends have let themselves go, compare diet tips and secrets.

You hesitate to take the first step with the person you like, because they’d never find you attractive – we all learn the same lessons. If you know you’re ugly, then they must as well.

Creating safe spaces

As an academic and activist, I’m often able to create safe spaces for myself. I chose a profession that allows me to work in solitude if I see fit. I engage in online communities within the Fatosphere, surrounded by fatties who have similar lives and shared histories; fellow survivors who understand the dangers and societal pitfalls that obstruct my path. I can choose not to watch shows that capitalize on fat hate. I can select to ignore women’s magazines who wish to convince me that I am not enough. I can distance myself from relatives who shame and embarrass me. I can forgo visiting the staffroom for morning tea – escaping the fat talk of my colleagues, the moralizing of food and the excuses some may provide for not eating. I am lucky to have these choices and opportunities.

Of course, I can never truly be safe. I still overhear conversations in the hallway about diets, food guilt, and fat thighs. I am still blindsided when watching films and television (thanks, Glee & Dodgeball). If I tune in to any news, media, or political sphere, I am likely to hear fat jokes and proponents of social eugenics railing against the fatpocalypse. Even strangers offer me their advice and/or opinion on my fatness.

So am I safe? No.

Safety: It’s just one more thing denied to fat people.

 

 
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