On fat in 2014: The year that was

As I consider my plans for 2015 and 2016, I also look back on the year that was 2014. In many ways, it was a great year for me. I was promoted, published my first academic edited text (Ashgate), and conducted a five month social media book tour. In many ways, it was an awful year for me. It seemed to be characterised by loss, as myself and many of my friends lost our beloved pets. If I narrow my focus to consider all things fat in 2014, I can point to a few key moments that resonate still. Below are five of those moments that held importance for me in 2014 as a fat woman, fat activist, and Fat Studies scholar (and one that didn’t).

The blog post: Selfies

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I love selfies. 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.” Her piece was my most favourite blog piece of the year, and I will forever direct people its way whenever the topic of selfies arises.

The tag: #notyourgoodfatty

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Throughout the year, hashtags pop-up that allow us to engage in dialogue around shared experiences. Often, these dialogues promote collective conscious-raising for those within (and outside of) the group engaging. #notyourgoodfatty, created by @mazzie and @FatBodyPolitics, was one of those hashtags (Melissa at Shakesville gives a great explanation for those not well versed in the language of good/bad fatty). #notyourgoodfatty was a schema constructed to celebrate defiant resistance to the war on fat people. 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. Those using the tag shared how they have refused to be fat in appropriate ways. They are, in short, doing fatness wrong.

The conference: Fat Activism Conference

Ragen Chastain (Dances with Fat) and Jeanette DePattie (Fat Chick Sings) hosted a three day Fat Activism Conference this year. 40 speakers covered a range of topics, including fatshion, starting your activism, health at every size, and more. There were lot of familiar faces in the line-up (like Marilyn Wann, Linda Bacon, Virgie Tovar, and Lynn McAfee), and lots of ones that were new to me. Being able to listen to recorded presentations was fantastic, as I’m outside the US on a very different time zone. I was disappointed to not see more men on the programme, and I wish there were more speakers from outside the US. It is my understanding that they intend this conference to happen annually, so I look forward to a wider group of people being invited as speakers for 2015.

The radio show: FOM 100th show

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A highlight for me this year was my fat positive radio show, Friend of Marilyn, recording its 100th show. FOM began in August of 2011, and has welcomed 62 guests, highlighted 100 blog posts, and played music from over 30 fabulous fat artists.

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. 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, the The Body Love Wellness Podcast(2010-) by Golda Poretsky, and the Femme Cast by Bevan Branlandingham.

The video: #everybodyisflawless

I love Beyonce. I love GabiFresh. Combine the two and this was one of the most exciting events of the year for me. GabiFresh gathers two other fatshionistas, Tess Munster and Nadia Aboulhosn, to produce their own version of Beyonce’s Flawless video. The fatshion is hot, the performances are fun, the video a treasure. GabiFresh writes on her blog, “you don’t have to be a certain size to claim your flawlessness. Fat is not a flaw. This video is dedicated to the mainstream media, to the fashion industry, to internet bullies, and to anyone else who thinks it’s their right to try to make us feel less than because of their insecurities. #everyBODYisflawless”. Bow down, bitches. Indeed.

The song: All About That Bass

For a lot of people this song, about relaxing beauty standards and embracing thickness, hits all the right notes. It’s an easy to understand, easy to digest, barely pushing back against the mainstream, message set to a decent bass line that makes it radio friendly. It may be what begins some people on their self-acceptance journey. And that’s great for them.

I, however, am so past that place in my own journey, that I can’t help but roll my eyes and search for earplugs. All I hear when that song invades my space is, “All the right junk in all the right places”; yet another beauty standard. Because, this embracing of thickness really only extends to “selective fatness, thickness in all the right places”, as Jillian Mapes argues. This isn’t an anthem to open up the world to fat girls like me. Oh no. I’m too fat. I’m supposed to remain out of sight. This isn’t the only song from 2014 that was argued to make the world a safer place for fat lovin (see Anshuman Iddamsetty’s The Year in Thickness for an overview), but it’s the one that came across my dash the most.