Friend of Marilyn

*Fatlicious

On fat hate & the Avengers April 5, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 12:17 am

Like many, I was excited to see Avengers: Endgame.I bought my tickets months ago and took satisfaction knowing I’d get to see it before most people as it opened here in NZ a day before the States (yay International Date Line!). I was thrilled that my local cinema put on a late night showing of Infinity War the night before, which I attended.

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While far from perfect, I liked Infinity War and this was the fourth or fifth time I’d seen it. And because I’d seen it before, I knew when to zone out to avoid the fat jokes about Pratt’s character, Quill. I remember, though, having the wind knocked out of me when I watched it the first time. It was completely unexpected, and it took me quite awhile to shake it off the first time I saw the film.

*spoiler alert for Endgame*

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In Endgame, the fat jokes aren’t for Quill, but Thor. When they go looking for Thor to bring him back into the fold (post finger snap), they find him drinking himself into a stupor, with lots of messy hair and a substantial beer gut. The intention is clear: Thor has “let himself go”. The obvious fat jokes (both non-verbal and not) are made, including a reference to The Dude (who Thor now closely resembles).

The idea that fat people are fat because they “let themselves go” is canon. We believe that fat people are fat because they made bad decisions, failed to exercise appropriate self-control, and were undisciplined with their bodies. Fat people are cautionary tales. We look at them and think, “I never want that to be”; “I never want to look like that”.  We lament when someone previously non-fat becomes fat; we see it as a waste, a shame, a reason for sorrow and grieving.

The fat jokes about Quill in Infinity War didn’t stay with me the entire film. I’m not particularly fond of the character, or of the actor who plays him. And I (rightly) assumed that the jokes about his size (oh no! He’s one cheeseburger away from being a fatty!), while hurtful & gross in the moment, wouldn’t continue past the scene.

But with Thor, one of the original six, I knew – just KNEW – that his size would continue to draw feedback through the film, especially as others see him and his new body for the first time. So from that first moment (which was met with hearty laughs in my screening; Thor! The Thunder God! Fat! HAHAHA), I was holding my breath waiting for the rest of the hits. And sure enough, they kept coming through much of the film. It was an unnecessary distraction, and a hurtful one as well.

Did the writers fall into the lazy narrative of fatness as shorthand for depression or unhappiness? Did they assume that they key market for the film would enjoy laughing at Chris Helmsworth in a fatsuit? Will Thor 4 explore this further; maybe Thor goes to fat camp on a planet adjacent to Ragnarok?

(I will say that Thor’s new size didn’t impact on his ability to be a badass Thunder God at all in the battles, which I appreciated)

I get that most people don’t care about this. They don’t care about fat people at all, and couldn’t care less about whether we are harmed by fat hate in our TV and movies. They definitely don’t care if fat hating material makes these spaces unsafe for us, and they won’t apologize for laughing at the jokes as the filmmakers intended. But they will be mad with me for calling it out as not okay. I’ve already seen them on Twitter, imploring me to get the fuck over it and just enjoy the movie.

But I care about this. I care that an actor I admired agreed to wear a fatsuit and make fun of a vulnerable population for laughs. I care that this bit will make the Tentpole movie of 2019 (the culmination of 22 movies across 11 years!!!) difficult to watch and enjoy for a lot of fat people. I care that the fat hate in the film will reinforce the fears that oppress a lot of people everyday.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t see the movie. Or that you aren’t allowed to enjoy it. I am asking that you be aware of the fat hate that exists in the film; and encouraging you to reflect on whether you feel it was needed. I am asking that you consider what it means when the biggest movie of the year (of forever?), weaponsises fat hate for laughs.

And if you imagine yourself a fat ally – or interested in social justice – you’ll speak up about it when you have opportunities to talk about what you liked and didn’t like about the film. I hope you include the fatsuit & fat jokes in the latter.

I also hope that you’ll support size affirming, and especially fat positive, media. New shows like Shrill on Hulu and Dumplin’ on Netflix are refreshing alternatives to the usual anti-fat bullshit we consume.

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Support the creators making positive stories about fat characters. Support the creators allowing far characters to be more than just cautionary tales. Support the fat people in your life by making sure you’re seeing more than just fatsuits.

 

On the bright lights of Broadway March 5, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 7:14 pm

I was lucky to treat myself and a friend to see a travelling performance of the Broadway musical, “Aladdin”, in Auckland earlier this year. I was super excited to attend; while I recognise how problematic Disney films are, I love them all the same and Aladdin was my favourite movie as a teenager.

I loved the sets and costumes (never have I see so much bling on stage! One review claimed the show had 337 glittering costumes including over 500,000 Swarovski crystals); the “Friend Like Me” number was the most outlandish and fantastical thing I have ever seen. Ever. The old songs were great, the new songs okay, and the call-backs to other classic Disney films of that era were fantastic (including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Mulan).

I expected to be awed, and I was – especially during the flying carpet scene of “Whole New World”. It is truly magical. And as expected, I had to remind myself to keep my mouth shut during the show; the desire to sing along with the songs was strong.

What I did not expect, though, was the amount of fat shaming material in the show. Now, as a super fat woman who studies fat stigma, I’m aware that fat hate is all around me. In every movie I watch, television programme I view, and magazine I flip through, I’m prepared to be confronted by fat hatred. I even have a sense for it; I can almost feel it coming, like a Spidey-sense. I often hold my breath to see how bad it’s going to be. But I was not expecting as much as there was in Aladdin, and the first bit came in the opening number (“Arabian Nights”). During the opening, as the Genie extolls all the wonders about the land, he includes, “’Welcome to Agrabah – land of one percent body fat!’”

As the show moves forward, the fat shaming continues, both from the beloved Genie and all his many issues and shame around food, and from others about one of Aladdin’s friends, Babkak. Babkak is fat and food obsessed; his fatness and food obsession is frequent fodder for laughs from the audience. Aladdin is not the first musical theatre foray into fat shaming and fat jokes. And I’m not the first to lament the presence of fat hating material in any otherwise delightful trip to the theatre. Others have written about this, including a harrowing story from CeCe Olisa on her blog, and a reflective piece by Maggie Rogers in American Theatre. Maggie asks,

Fatness crosses every race, creed, and culture, and you want to tell me the only people that are worth seeing onstage are thin? Please. You can get on board with helicopters landing onstage, witches flying through the air, and puppets, but not a size 22 playing a lead?

I remember speaking with my friend Sofie Hagan (of Made of Human and Secret Dino Cult fame) about our mutual love of Hamilton. She shared that when she first heard the soundtrack, she assumed that the youngest Skylar sister, Peggy, was fat. As soon as she said it, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made the same connection. Peggy, with her largely muted role and introduction of a single heavily delivered line, “And Peggy”.

Like an afterthought. Which is the common place for fat people. Both Sofie and I were relieved, in a strange way, to find the suspicion wrong. Peggy isn’t fat (of course she isn’t; she plays the love interest in the second half!), and we were glad for that. But also, a bit bummed, because how great would be to have a fat character in the new hot musical.

Because if fat performers are not allowed to play the straight sized roles (which are ALL roles unless otherwise specified, of course), then how many fat character roles are available in their fat glory in musical canon. Mama Morton in Chicago, Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, um. I’m sure there are more. Right?

 

On my 2018 academic year in review February 5, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 8:00 pm

Many academics write end of year reviews. It is a chance to reflect on goals met, accomplishments, surprises, and failures. I’ve never written one before, but felt that I should start as I enter the middle phase of my academic career. I am no longer an early career academic, but I am nowhere near retirement, either. I have big plans for myself and the scholarship I intend to complete. I have big plans for my activism and the country I now call home.

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Giving a presentation on fat stigma at the 2018 BMI Seminar Series

Reflecting on where I have been in the past year can only help me on my journey. Plus, it has the added benefit of letting others peak into the basic stats of my life as well. It isn’t meant to be a humblebrag, but I am very proud of the work I accomplished last year.

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Preparing to go on The Project and talk about fat stigma

When I completed my sabbatical in Europe, one of the loudest questions I heard from graduate students and early career academics was, “I can make an academic career out of Fat Studies?” “Yeah”, I told them, “you can. And I am.” I understand where the confusion comes from. You cannot get a qualification in Fat Studies. There aren’t many Fat Studies conferences, and a single Fat Studies journal (it’s Q1, ya know!). Fat Studies scholars are spread across the world with little more than the Internet to hold us together. In addition to being a reflective exercise for me, I hope my review may show others that Fat Studies scholarship is thriving (I’ve stuck to scholarship in this review for that purpose).

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My keynote, Does my fat ass make my Instagram look fat? Bad fatties in (cyber)spaaaaaaaace, at Politics of Volume in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Journal articles

Pausé, C. J. & Glover, M. (2018). Exploring the threats to sociable scholarship: An autoethnographic viewing of participatory news making. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 6(2), 696-710.

Pausé, C. (2018). Hung up: Queering fat therapyWomen & Therapy, 1-14.

Pausé, C. J. & Grey, S. (2018). Throwing our weight around: Fat girls, protest, and civil unrest. M/C 21 (3).

Parker, G. C., & Pausé, C. J. (2018). “I’m just a woman having a baby”: Negotiating and resisting the problematisation of pregnancy fatnessFrontiers in Sociology3, 5.

Parker, G. & Pausé, C. J. (2018). Pregnant with possibility: Negotiating fat maternal subjectivity in the “war on obesity”. Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight & Society, 7(2), 124-134.

Burford, J., Henderson, E. & Pausé, C. J. (2018). Enlarging conference learning: At the crossroads of Fat Studies and Conference Pedagogies. Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight & Society, 7(1), 69-80.

Pausé, C. J. (2018). Borderline: The ethics of fat stigma in public health. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 4(4), 510-517.

 

Book chapters

Parker, G. & Pausé, C. J. (2018). “The elephant in the room”: Naming fatphobia in maternity care. In J. Verseghy & S. Abel (Eds.), Heavy burdens: Stories of motherhood and fatness (pp. 19-32). Bradford, ON: Demeter Press.

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Me with my copy of “Heavy Burdens”

Pausé, C. J. (2018). New Zealand. In S. M. Shaw, N. S. Barbour, P. D. Duncan, K. Freehling-Burton, & J. Nichols (Eds). Women’s lives around the world: A global encyclopaedia (Vol 3, pp. 214-226). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO

 

Book reviews

Pausé, C. J. (2018). Review of Fat talk nation: The human costs of America’s war on fat, Susan Greenhalgh. Sociology of Health and Illness, 40(1), 234-235.

 

Journal reviews

Journal of Social and Political Psychology

Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight & Society

Women & Therapy

 

Media Engagements

The Project. (2018, 11 October). Fat shaming. TV3.

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Me on The Project

The Panel. (2018, 11 October). Fat stigmatising. RNZ. Retrieved from https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thepanel/audio/2018666409/fat-stigmatising

Williams, L. (2018, 11 October). Researchers calling for an end of ‘fat’ taboo. NewstalkZB. Retrieved from https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/larry-williams-drive/audio/cat-pause-researchers-calling-for-end-of-fat-taboo/

Hobbes, M. (2019, 19 September). Everything you know about obesity is wrong. HuffPost. Retrieved from https://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/everything-you-know-about-obesity-is-wrong/

Checkpoint. (2018, 23 July). Outrage over new Netflix ‘fat-shaming’ series. RNZ. Retrieved from https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018654859/outrage-over-new-netflix-fat-shaming-series

Bridge, R. & Owen, L. (2018, 18 May). GPs struggle to talk with patients about obesity. RadioLIVE.

Carter-Kahn, S. (2018, 5 January). How to advocate for yourself at the doctor as a fat person. Yahoo Sports. Retrieved from https://sports.yahoo.com/advocate-doctor-fat-person-120023980.html

 

Podcasts

Harrison, C. (2018, 15 October). How to combat fat stigma with Cat Pausé. Food Psych [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://christyharrison.com/foodpsych/6/how-to-combat-fat-stigma-with-cat-pause. Produced by Food Psych.

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Hagen, S. (2018, 10 January). I’m THAT that fat. Made of Human [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://player.fm/series/made-of-human-with-sofie-hagen/73-dr-cat-paus-2-im-that-that-fat. Produced by Made of Human.

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In the studio, making fat positive radio

Pausé, C. J. (2011-). Friend of Marilyn. [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from iTunes. Produced weekly as a radio show on Manawatu People’s Radio 999AM, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

 

Conference keynote

Pausé, C. J. (2018, 5 January). Does my fat ass make my Instagram look fat? Bad fatties in (cyber)spaaaaaaaace. Invited keynote at Politics of Volume, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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Keynote

Conference papers

Pausé, C. J. & Grey, S. (2018, 6 December). Throwing our weight around: Fat girls, protest, and civil unrest. Paper presented at Sociological Association of Aotearoa, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.

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Me drinking from a mug that says, “Without fat girls, there would be no protests”

Proctor-Thompson, S., Pausé, C. J., & Grey, S. (2018, 23 September). The gendered impact of the neoliberal project in tertiary education. Workshop presented at Women’s Studies Association New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.

Parker, G., Pausé, C. J., & LeGrice, J. (2018, 22 February). Fatness, Race & Reproduction in the 21st Century. Paper presented at Thickening Fat, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

 

Conference symposium

Pausé, C. J. (2018, May 30). Losing the love of movement: Fat kids and physical education. In R. Tinning (Chair), Critical health education and the affect of physical education. Symposium conducted at the Critical Health Education Studies Conference, Queenstown, New Zealand.

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Presenting my paper, Losing the love of movement: Fat kids and physical education, at the Critical Health Education Studies Conference, Queenstown, New Zealand

Invited Seminars 

Pausé, C. J (2018, 12 April). Fat stigma, discrimination, and bias in health. 2018 BMI Seminar Series, Transforming Research into Practice and Innovation, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand.

 

Invited Lectures (Fat Studies)

Pausé, C. J. (2018, 11 May). Fat politics, nutrition, and you. 214.131 Introduction to Food and Nutrition [30]. Massey University, New Zealand.

Pausé, C. J. (2018, 21 March). Fattening up your feminism. 175.720 Advanced Psychology of Women [25]. Massey University, New Zealand.

 

Public seminars

Pausé, C. J. (2018, 22 June). Fat like me. Hosted by the Women of the Manawatu Country Club, Clubroom, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

 

 

 

On the year in fat 2018 January 5, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 2:47 pm

Earlier this year, I did some reflecting on the year that was 2018 and what it meant for the fat community. 2018 had a lot of great fat contributions, and a fat soundtrack to boost (HELLO LIZZO!) We had the usual setbacks (*cough* looking at you Insatiable *cough*), and a viral piece that both gave and took away (“Everything you know about obesity is wrong”). There were lots of cool things that happened (on top of all the regular non cool shit we have to put up with), and I wanted to reflect on those and invite my readers to share with me what their favourite fat things of 2018 would have been!

#FatStudyGroup

My lovelies

#FatStudyGroup was started by Kivan Bay (@KivaBay) as a resource for individuals interested in building a Fat Studies community on Twitter. Regular contributors include @KivaBay, @_iAmRoyal, myself (you can find all my threads from here). I think this technically started in 2017, but it gained a lot of traction in 2018 and others started participating and contributing more to the hashtag. It’s been a great way for me, for example, to share what I’m reading in the Fat Studies literature. Plus, it’s an easy way for us to continue building our shared understanding of the discipline and the experiences of being fat.

Fat Studies MOOO

The Fat Studies MOOO is a newly launched massive online open offering hosted by me. The intention is to provide an accessible space for those interested to come together and learn and engage around a Fat Studies topic. The MOOO allows for global advancement of the Fat Studies discipline through an innovative methodology/technology to enhance scholars, researchers, and activists, working in this space. It also allows for increased public engagement with Fat Studies research and related societal issues for fat people. This will improve social welfare, and enhance the quality of life for fat people across the world. Each MOOO has a different guest scholar and topic, and up to ten people can participate in each event. In 2018, the MOOOs explored topics included weight and the law, fatness – race – and reproductive justice, and anti-racist fat politics. The 2019 MOOOs have explored disability, public health, and more – follow me (@FOMNZ, Friend of Marilyn on FB) to find out more.

 

Fat Positive Television

I’m almost 40, and I can count on one hand how many fat positive television movies/shows (or even fat positive episodes of other shows) I have ever seen on a single hand. I’m thrilled to say that number just about doubled in size like an excellent second stomach in 2018 with the introduction of Dietland and Dumplin. Both based on popular fat positive books, Dietland (on AMC) and Dumplin’ (on Netflix), give us unapologetic positive fat representation. Both have great stories – strong acting – and delightful soundtracks. If you haven’t watched them yet, treat yourself this weekend!

 

Fatshion

As a super fat person, t-shirts have long been a unicorn for me. While I would love to wear t-shirts that promote my favourite bands or show off my school spirit, they rarely (read: never) come in my size. But in 2018 that all started to change as Corissa (of Fat Girl Flow) introduced her Fat Girl Basics collection. The collection has your basic white and black t-shirts in a few styles. Plus, a few other cute fat positive shirts. I’ve gotten them in 6x and am optimistic that my t-shirt drought may be over!

 

Fatcasts

The number of fat positive podcasts continues to grow, which is so amazing! I’m afraid I cannot comment on the quality of all of the ones listed below; I immediately subscribe to any new fat podcast I discover, but I haven’t yet figured out how to make time to listen to everything!

Fat as Fuck is a podcast all about sex.

Fat Chicks on Top is a podcast about intersectional fat chicks.

Fatty Boom Boom is a podcast about all things fat in Africa and the diaspora. A favourite of FOM, this show is produced and hosted by FOM friend of the pod Whitney from South Africa, with frequent guest (and also FOM friend of the pod) Cynthia from Namibia.

Heavy Conversations is a podcast that covers many issues related to everyday living as a fat person.

Matter of Fat is a podcast about fatness with Midwest sensibilities.

Many other long running fat podcasts are still going strong, including my own, Friend of Marilyn. In fact, in 2018 FOM celebrated its 250th episode! The world tour (that started in 2016) is still going strong, with shows continuing their way across Europe in 2019.

 

SO – those of are some of my favourite fat moments of 2018 – what about you? And what are you hoping for fatness in 2019?

 

On Fatlicious Gift Giving 2018 December 5, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 8:34 am

Another year is ending; another holiday season is upon us! Every year, I try and keep track of all the cool fatlicious things that I see online so I can share and promote them with you at the end of the year. Sometimes, like with the Fatties Against Facism T-Shirt, the availability closes before I get around to putting out this Guide, but I can assure you that most of my favourite fat things of the year on still around for you to get your fat fingers on. This list doesn’t have any affiliate links; I do not get any kind of money or compensation from the items or companies on the list – it’s just fatlicious stuff you may want for yourself or someone you love. I also don’t promote stuff I cannot wear/use/etc for myself, so all of the clothes options will go up to at least 5x.

 

For the activist

“Fat is Enough” zine and pin pack from the Femme Folio

 

Thick Thigh Squad button from Archive Six

 

Fat Phobia Sticker from Siobhan Williams Art

 

Fatties Against Facism Flag from Fat Lib Ink

 

Loving Your Body Tote from Dietland

 

 

For those who love a little JOMO

Fat and Pretty TShirt from Miss Crime Scene

 

Fluff Goddess Sweatshirt from Fluff Goddess

 

Basics from Fat Girl Flow

 

Gorda, Nalgona, y Chingona T-Shirt from Nalgona Positive

 

 

For the stocking

Frosty Peach Glasses from Chubby Cartwheels

Babely Body Positive Pin from Taynee Tinsley

Adipose Issue: A Zine About Being Fat from Sparklebutch

SexFation Iemanjà Enamel Pin from Sexy Fation

Rainbow Sprinkle Ice Cream Sandwich Necklace from Plus Bklyn

Fattie Enamel Pin from Fat Mermaids

Polka Dot Pig Brooch from Fancy Lady Industries

 

For the coffee table

The Little Book of Big Babes from Rachelle Abellar

Still Breaking Normal by TaLynn Kel

 

For the home office

‘Glorify’ Fat Positive Card from Embroidery Is Vital

Adipositivity Project 2019 Calendar from Substantia Jones

Downward Dog Watercolour from Fat Feisty Femme

Tangelo from Dimmie

 

For the reader

Puddin’ by Julie Murphy

The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty

Landwhale by Jess Baker

The Body is not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor

 

For the fatshionista

Willa Maxi Dress from SWAK

Long Tutu in Blush from Society+

Ombre Star Print Georgette Sash Tie Dress from eShakti

Pumpkin Marissa Pant from Premme

 

For your feet

Heavenly Soles High Leg Boots from SimplyBe

Sling Back Block Heel Shoe from Ashley Stewart

Marcelle Caged Heel Ankle Boot from Avenue

 

Previous fatlicious gift giving guides

Fatlicious Guide 2017

Fatlicious Guide 2016

Fatlicious Guide 2015

Fatlicious Guide 2014

Fatlicious Guide 2013

Fatlicious Guide 2012

Fatlicious Guide 2011

 

 

 

On fat kids and physical education September 5, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 7:12 pm

At the end of May, I travelled to Queenstown, one of the loveliest towns in New Zealand, to attend the Critical Health Education Studies Conference.

 

It was a last minute decision; I hadn’t planned on attending. But Professor Richard Tinning (a distinguished Professor in the area of physical & health education), invited me to fill a vacancy on symposium he had organized on “Critical health education and the affect of physical education”. This invitation was an honour, and even though I knew I would have to self-fund the trip, I accepted. The symposium also included Darren Powell, lisahunter, and Michael Gard; all scholars I admire a great deal.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much relevant scholarship was shared across the three days. Standout presentations came from Melinda Webber on the role of stereotype threat and cultural identity in the success of Māori as Māori and Gareth Treharne on the need for healthcare providers to be trained to meet the needs of trans New Zealanders.

I was, as usual, one of the few fat people in attendance. And I was the fattest person who spoke across the three days. It made my topic, fat kids, ethics, and physical education, especially relevant. I realised, in that space, that I was talking on behalf of all fat kids for these physical and health educators. And this is common for Fat Studies scholars and fat activists; we are the few speaking from the position of being fat. Most research around fatness doesn’t centre fatness or fat people – this is also true for most conversations around the topic. This is why growing the field of Fat Studies is so important. And why so many of us use autoethnography in our work; it provides a method in which the researcher remembers and reflects on personal experiences through a framework of theory and literature.

 

My talk, Losing the love of movement: Fat kids and physical education, explored the violence done to fat kids in PE and the disservice we do as we teach them to associate exercise solely with the pursuit of weight loss. I considered my own experiences with movement; how much I enjoyed physical activity as a kid, until I began compulsory physical education classes. In those spaces, I lost my love of movement. Uniforms that didn’t fit, activities that haven’t been modified for my fat body, taunting from my peers, and the anti-fat bias of my teachers; the end result was a hostile environment that removed the joy associated with movement and exercise for me.

This was reinforced by the idea that physical movement was meant to produce weight loss, rather than being allowed to enjoy physical movement for enjoyment’s sake. If I wasn’t losing weight, then what was the point? I was doing it wrong. Or not enough. Or not in the right way. (This approach is counterproductive to supporting fat kids to engage in physical activity, but understandable given the obesity epidemic lens that frames how most everyone thinks about fatness, health, and activity).

 

These experiences in physical education taught me that exercise was for the purpose of weight loss, and so from then on I would engage in regular exercise only during the times of my life when I was at war with my body. And during these times, I became militant about my activity. During my last war on my body, I took no prisoners. I was exercising between 3-4hrs every day, and would berate myself harshly when I took a day off due to illness or travel. (It’s amazing to me that during this time I was also completing my qualifying exams and my PhD research).

 

While I’ve left warring with my body behind me, I’ve yet to repair my relationship with movement and exercise. On the few times I’ve tried over the years, like when I did my first (and ONLY) mini triathlon, I found myself moving into unhealthy habits and thoughts quickly. But even though I’ve yet to work this out for myself, I’m hopeful. Because I know lots of fat adults who engage in movement they enjoy. Like the members of Aquaporko (a fat synchronised swimming group in Melbourne) or fat Olympians like Sarah Robles and Raven Saunders.

I concluded the talk by imaging a different future for fat kids in physical education. Spaces where fat kids could learn new ways to move their fat bodies without shame, or ridicule, or chafing. Spaces where fat kids could use their size to their advantage when appropriate in sporting situations, and learn modifications for other activities when necessary. Spaces where fat kids weren’t left out, left behind, or left feeling less worthy, because of their fatness. I can imagine these spaces. Can you? How can we support physical educators to make these spaces a reality? How can we support fat kids to not dread spaces of physical education? How can we support fat kids to be fat kids?

 

(I’m revising my talk into a paper appropriate for inclusion in an upcoming special issue on critical health education for the Health Education Journal – submissions are due in October)

 

 

On Fatness, employment, and physical spaces June 4, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjpause @ 2:34 pm

There are a lot of challenges that fat people face in the workplace. That’s if they can get a job – as fat people are less likely to be hired than non-fat people. Once in a job, fat people earn less and are less likely to be promoted than their non-fat colleagues.

Within the workplace, fat people may be spending 8hrs a day absorbing microaggressions. The food policing & moralizing in the staffroom (“Oh, I couldn’t eat that”…”Should I be bad and have a cookie?”…”I just feel so fat today”…”I’m on this new diet that…”), the crammed boardroom with no space between the chair and the wall to squeeze through, the anti-fat attitudes of the colleagues and manager(s) demonstrated in the negative assumptions they’ve attached to fat bodies. These micro-aggressions are a form of fat stigma, which is a social determinant of health.

I’ve developed strategies to manage these indignities in my own working environment. I don’t eat or hang out in the staffroom. I work twice as hard to be considered alongside my non-fat colleagues (this is also true as a woman working alongside men; respectability politics are a bitch). I arrive early for staff meetings so I can snag a chair where others won’t have to squeeze by me – or me them if I need to leave early.

BodyPositivePoster

Outside my office door is a sign from the amazing Nalgona Positive Pride, which outlines the guidelines for entering my workspace: no diet talk. No body policing. No concern trolling. And I spent my own money to outfit my office with furniture that was accessible and comfortable for my super fat body. I’m lucky that I had the resources to do this.

But now my Institute is proposing to move its’ academic staff from private offices to activity zoned spaces. My understanding of this is a version of open plan, but with types of activity zones. These zones would be purposed for different activities, and might be arranged by noise level allowed or by types of furniture or tech in each area.

I’m horrified by the idea for many reasons, and have been protesting against this since the topic arose five years ago. I’ve pointed to the lit that demonstrates the negative impacts of this design – lower productivity, lower morale, higher stress, more sick & illness, etc.

I’m worried about having to work without privacy. Due to the collaborative & international nature of my work, I regularly have Zoom mtngs with postgrad students, research collaborators, and teaching teams. I also use Zoom (or similar tech) to run online teaching workshops, webinars, and overseas presentations. All of these activities require a closed/private space close by. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for me to receive concerned phone calls from colleagues or inquisitive phone calls from the media; these require a closed/private space close by and with some urgency.

And I’m nervous about the geography of the new space. As a super fat person, environments are not designed with my access or comfort in mind. Chairs have arms. Corridors/walkways between furniture are rather narrow, especially once chairs are pushed out to allow people to sit in them. Some modular furniture has attached benches/tables that are rarely wide enough to allow for fat bodies.

In my own space, I can ensure that my working area is accessible & comfortable for me. If a colleague’s office is too crammed for me to fit through to enter, I can hang in the doorway and chat without being awkward. My office is equipped, for example, with a chair I brought with me from overseas. It’s large & sturdy and supports my super fat body as I work.

When I’m out in public spaces, I have very little control of how accessible or comfortable I am. There are cafes I avoid because they only have booths that are immobile; when dining in small city restaurants I’ve learned to request a table by the front door when I book, knowing the likelihood of being able to make my way through the space without bothering my fellow diners is slim. It isn’t uncommon for super fat people to assess the accessibility & comfort of a space before agreeing to go someone with friends or accept an invitation. Is that now going to be my working environment?

 

I’m finding in the discussions with my colleagues (the ones excited for this new kind of space) that no consideration has been given to what these changes might mean for those of us whose bodies are different. Be they fat, disabled, old – deviant bodies interact with spaces differently than those who are “normal”, privileged. It has reminded me of a great blog about the way workplace wellness programmes can shift workspaces into hostile environments (& formerly good employees into non-compliant ones). For example,

“Not all disabilities are visible, and employers are not entitled to medical information about employees’ disabilities unless accommodations are needed to do the actual job. For example, if Susie in Accounting has Crohn’s Disease and can’t walk a mile immediately after lunch because it would take her dangerously far away from a desperately-needed toilet, her employer is not entitled to that information. So when Susie’s boss jumps on the “walking meetings” bandwagon, Susie now has a terrible choice to make: 1) She can share her deeply private and embarrassing digestive horrors with her boss; or 2) she can be labeled “not a team player” on her next annual review because she refused to participate in this “wellness initiative” sponsored by her employer. Congratulations, boss! You have taken a well-performing employee and made her body a barrier to success for no reason.”

 

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with my workplace at my employer, but I know that the new space will not be fat friendly by design without my intervention; which adds another layer to the paid work I engage in, and the unpaid labour I give my employer as well. All because spaces aren’t designed for all bodies.