Friend of Marilyn

*Fatlicious

On living a fat life June 30, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 5:46 pm

Fat bodies are public bodies. They are open to comment, judgement, and ridicule.

Fat lives are public lives. They are described, proscribed, and prescribed.

“Fat people shouldn’t wear skinny jeans!” “Fat people aren’t athletic.” “Fat people can’t find true love.” “Fat people only eat fast food.” “Fat people don’t run marathons.” “Fat people shouldn’t take pride in their bodies.” “Fat people aren’t happy.” “Fat people can’t have hot sex.” “Fat people only drain society’s resources.” “Fat people don’t have the willpower to complete PhDs.”

Any fat person will be able to tell you a litany of the Dos and Don’ts of being fat. Anyone who steps outside of the list opens themselves up to shaming, hatred, and policing by self and others (let’s be honest, fat people who remain inside the list are regular recipients of the same). Whether it is being harassed on the street, concern trolled by friends or family, or simply the subject of whispers and stares – the public act of being fat is often exhausting.

Many fat people decide to shy away from being visible; some withdraw from society – others cloak themselves in the shadows of dark colours. Some actively apologise for their fatness, and spend years (often their entire lives) engaging with the weight cycle industrial complex. This may provide some protection from the shaming and hatred – at least others understand that they are trying to become someone else; someone acceptable.

Others, though, resist the pull to apologize or withdraw. They refuse to live their lives in a time-out zone; they want to do everything they want to do and they want to do it now. They don’t want to wait until they’ve lost five pounds. They don’t want to wait until someone says it’s okay for a fat person to wear a bikini, or run a marathon, or have hot sex. They want to live their fat life now. In living their lives the way they want, with little regard for how they are supposed to be living, these individuals are queering fatness. Queering fatness is a political act; an act of resistance.

My new co-edited text from Ashgate presents the perspectives of scholars from around the world on queering fat embodiment. The notion of fat as queer is not a new one; nor is the use of queering (as a method of thwarting the norm) new in considering novel ways of embodiment and performance among marginalised groups.

Sometimes groups of fat individuals come together to queer fatness. Consider those who swim in the fat synchronized group, Aquaporko. Or those who wear lingerie and dance for audiences as members of Va Va Boombah. These groups reject the accepted script of fat performance and present their own. Fat women in swimsuits; fat women in lingerie. Having fun. Enjoying their bodies being on display for others to see; scantily clad!

Within the Fatosphere there are many examples of queering fatness to be found. Sometimes groups of fat individuals come together to queer fatness using the ever awesome hastag. Take, for example, #notyourgoodfatty. Within my chapter in Queering Fat Embodiment, I consider a handful of Internet campaigns/activities that have helped reshape my own understanding of what it means to be fat; what fat may, and often does, look like. Rachele Cateyes’ “How to be a fat bitch” ecourse is a great example. It queers both fatness (as good and desirable) and femininity (bitchiness as awesome). A recent favourite of mine is Gabi Fresh’s video remake of #Flawless. Some actions of queering fatness are a direct response to a prescription or description of fatness by others (like Fuck yeah! Fat PhDs, Brian Stuart’s FATSPO Coloring Book, and Marilyn Wann’s I Stand campaign.) All of these offer a different way of understanding fatness – a way of queering fat performance and embodiment.

If you want to learn more about queering fat embodiment (both online and off), ask your library to order a copy of Queering Fat Embodiment today! Or check out the Introduction chapter, written by Jackie Wykes, that is free on the publisher page.

 

*I am very excited to share that this is the first stop on the social media for book for #QFE. Check back here to see other spots along the way!

 

On Queering Fat Embodiment & Social Media Book Tours June 5, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 12:10 am

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On International No Diet Day 2014 May 5, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 8:51 pm

These pictures were taken during #INDD14 celebration at the Wellington campus of Massey University (New Zealand)

 

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 100 shows February 5, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 6:58 pm

In the landscape of radio, there are certain milestones that a programme may reach that signify its progress on the path to world domination. One of those milestones is achieving syndication. Another is 100 shows. In early 2014, my fat politics radio show Friend of Marilyn, is closing in on both.

FOM began in August of 2011, and has welcomed 62 guests, highlighted 100 blog posts, and played music from over 30 fabulous fat artists.

 

The format of the show hasn’t changed since the beginning. I open by responding to a recent event, comment, or piece of research. I’ve talked about Samoa air proposing a ‘pay what you weigh’ fare for air travel, and Rachel Smalley’s accidental on air mic comment about NZ’s lardos and heifers. I’ve shared my thoughts on the NZ Adult Nutrition Survey, and Otago University’s NEEDNT food list. Sometimes I share a call for papers or promote an upcoming conference or event.

Next, I chat with an invited guest. Guests have ranged from fat activists across the world, to fat artists, fat performers, fat designers, and Fat Studies scholars. Marilyn Wann, the show’s namesake, was the first guest on the show. I’ve spoken with Substantia Jones, Jes from the Militant Baker, and Amanda Levitt. In the final segment of the show, I highlight a blog piece from the Fatosphere. Looking back over the last 99 shows, pieces from The Fat Heffalump, Shakesville, and Radically Visible. The show closes with music from a fat artist(Gossip, Heart, Aretha Franklin, The Donnas…)

 

Fat radio and podcasts have a fatlicious history.  Judith Stein & Meredith Lawrence made some shows in Boston back in the 80s – ‘Plain Talk About Fat’ in 1984 and ’30 Big Minutes With Fat Liberation’ in 1985. According to a piece by Charlotte Cooper, these two shows aired on International Women’s Day on student radio at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Listen here!

Moving up two decades, we’ve got Marilyn Wann & Heather McCalister co-hosting a pirate radio show in San Francisco called “Fat-A-Tat-Tat — Soundtrack for A/The Fat Revolution” from 2004-2005. I haven’t been able to track down anywhere online where you may listen – if you know of a link, please send it to me!

From 2008-2011, Dr. Peggy Elam and Pat Ballard co-hosted the Health at Every Size Radio Show on Radio Free Nashville. Other fat podcasts from the decade include the Two Whole Cakes Fatcast (2010-2011) by Lesley Kinzel & Marianne Kirby (they actually had a single show air in 2013), the The Body Love Wellness Podcast (2010-) by Golda Poretsky, and the Femme Cast by Bevan Branlandingham.

 

 

These shows provide counter programming to the normative discourse on fatness and obesity in our culture. They create/host conversations in which accepted ideas and stereotypes about fatness are challenged; drawing both praise and derision. I did an interview with the local paper about the 100th show of Friend of Marilyn, and the reporter asked whether listeners regularly sent me non-fan mail. I shared that I am blissfully unaware if people are hate listening to my show. Most of the feedback I receive outside of the Fatosphere is triggered by mainstream media attention, not what I write on my blog or say on my show.

 

100th Show

According to the metrics collected by Access Manawatu, Friend of Marilyn has around 250 regular listeners, and is ranked in the top 5 programmes produced by the station.  It’s recently been added to the Airshare Project, which allows other Access radio stations in New Zealand to broadcast the fat positive programme.

 

I’m not sure what the future holds for Friend of Marilyn, as a blog or radio show, but I hope that I continue to be in a position where I may share fat positive messages with those listening. I believe that safe spaces for fat people are important. And I’m committed to doing my part to ensure that fat people get to speak for themselves, and not just have their lives thinsplained by others. I appreciate all who have helped me along this journey; I hope they will continue along with me.

(Btw, I’ve a list of people I’d love to have as guests on the show, like Marianne Kirby, Lesley Kinzel, Paul Campos, Michael Gard, Rachel Colls, and Juicy D Light. Who knows? Maybe one of them will listen to the 100th show and send me a Tweet! And if anyone reading would like to come on my show, please let me know!)

 

 

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.

 

 
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