On being heartless

The battle of the bulge is back in the headlines in New Zealand as we head to the polls to elect our next government. This was kicked off by One News story about Uaina Pupulu, a super fat man, who allowed cameras to follow him for over a year as he moved from his family home to a nursing home for weight loss care (the story notes that the District Health Board was involved, but it is unclear if he and his family made this decision themselves, or if this was a forced intervention). He decides to have weight loss surgery with hopes he can return home after addressing his issues with physical mobility.

Uaina Pupulu

Uaina self identifies as being addicted to food, and “ate his way” to 300kg; the narrative bellies into the trope that the act of feeding is a love style in South Pacific cultures. The story speaks to his limited physical mobility, and attributes his health issues (like diabetes) to his weight. He is understood to be a burden on his family, and a burden on the larger society. His wife cries as she speaks of the neglect to their children as the family has been focusing on his needs; his teenage son tells of the harrowing experience of having to lift his father off the shower floor after a fall. His bariatric surgeon speaks to the resource cost of having the equipment in the hospital to be able to provide care to super fat patients.

The next morning, National leader Judith Collins was invited to comment on the piece and she responded that obesity was a matter of personal responsibility. When I was invited to speak to Collins’ comments on NewstalkZB later that day, my aim was twofold. First, to note that Collins is simply reproducing the same neoliberal line that conservatives have been using for decades: fat people are fat because they make bad choices and they deserve the bad things that happen to them. Not our problem or responsibility. Before you begin thinking that liberals are any better, I assure you this isn’t the case. From the left we get a paternalistic fatphobia: Fat people are fat because they are unable to make good choices; poor fatties just don’t know any better or cannot afford better food or to exercise.

The paternalistic attitude in action can be found in the Uaina Pupulu story on One News, thanks to the contribution of Professor Boyd Swinburn. Swinburn insists that New Zealanders are getting fatter and yet the country is not doing anything to address what he frames as the ‘obesity epidemic’. Swinburn acknowledges the negative stereotypes associated with fatness and suggests that individuals are not responsible for their food choices (and resulting fatness) in the current environment. He speaks to the cost of fast food vs the cost of fresh food, the advertising of fast food, and the number of fast food outlets found in lower income communities.  While rejecting the neoliberal positioning of fatness as a result of fat people making bad choices, he instead adopts the paternalistic positioning of fatness as a result of fat people being unable to make good choices. Professor Swinburn has made several media appearances since the remark from Collins, and he keeps pushing her to explain the “global collapse of willpower” that has led to increased rates of fatness around the world in the past several decades.

As I try to dodge the additional news coverage, the fatphobic messages continue to seep through my shields and I hear the common messages we always hear about fatness. Fatness is bad. We are too fat. Who will think of the children?!

An image from The Simpsons: The pastor’s wife is clasping her hands and pleading, “Won’t somebody please think of the children”

What has been absent from the narratives in the media is that when we talk about obesity, we are talking about fat people. People. Your fat family members, your fat friends, your fat neighbors, your fat members of Parliament. These are people we are talking about, not a talking point or a political football. A war on obesity is a war on fat people.

A screenshot from NewstalkZB

Which brings me to my second purpose in responding to Collins– and what really mattered to me as a superfat person, Fat Studies scholar, and fat activist – which was to highlight how heartless her response was. Uaina allowed us into his life to share his experience – and the bravery that takes, knowing that he will be met with disgust and scorn, is incredible. But his bravery is ignored. As is his pain. His very humanity is overshadowed by his physical size for Judith Collins. She pays him no attention in her rhetoric; not his pain, his needs, his life. Only his size is relevant as a talking point. It is heartless to be confronted with a person who is in pain, physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain, and to have no empathy for them.

The One News story relies heavily on dehumanizing imagery of Uaina; we see him being negotiated into an ambulance, as he makes his way to a nursing home for care. At the nursing home, we see his naked body being washed by a carer. When he travels to see the anethestis, his wheelchair cannot fit through the office door (and the it breaks under the stress of his size). He is shown only as his bulging abdomen during the surgery, with laparoscopic tools impaling him and amputating his stomach.

The dehumanization of fat people by the media is common; fat activists even have a name for the image that usually accompanies stories about fatness: headless fatties. The headless fatty is the fat person who is presented without heads, often only as a bulging abdomen. Take a look at most of the stories in the news about this very story, and that’s what you’ll see as the cover image or used as b roll. These images dehumanize fat people, which contributes to fatphobia and fat oppression. Politicians, talking heads, and lay people, alike can share their opinions and thoughts about fatness without ever thinking about fat people because we have stripped them of their humanity.

In stripping away their humanity, fat people become less than human: they become a problem to solve. And many believe the solution to this problem is amputation. Like many, Uaina makes the decision to be amputated; many super fat people see this as their only way to humanity. The bariatric surgeon in the piece, Dr. Richard Barbor suggests they do around 150 bariatric surgeries a year at Auckland Middlemoore hospital; there are approximately 600 people on the waitlist. He argues, “Unless we do something about it, they are going to have short and miserable lives”. The “they” he speaks of is assumed to be fat people. The evidence to support his statement is unclear. Others have made similar claims; perhaps most famously were Dr. William KIish of Texas Children’s Hospital and scholars Jay Olshansky and David Allison.

Dr. Klish told the Houston Chronicle in 2002, “If we don’t get this epidemic [of childhood obesity] in check, for the first time in a century, children will be looking forward to a shorter life expectancy than their parents”. When he was asked by the Center for Consumer Freedom for the evidence to support his claim, he had to admit that it did not come from any evidence, but his gut. Three years later, Jay Olshansky, David Allison, and colleagues published a piece in the New England Journal of Medicine that claimed obesity would cause, “youth of today may, on average, live less healthy and possibly even shorter lives than their parents”. The scholars did not provide evidence beyond their “collective judgement”. When pressed for evidence for an article in Scientific American, David Allison hedged, “These are just back-of-the-envelope, plausible scenarios…we never meant for them to be portrayed as precise”. I’m not planning to ask Dr. Barbor for the evidence that supports his claim, but who wants to guess that it’s his collective judgement (or maybe his gut) speaking, rather than empirical evidence?  

A screenshot from RNZ

 In the days since the initial interview, Collins has doubled down on her message: fat people are weak people and need to take responsibility for their fatness. Anything negative they experience due to their fatness is their own fault. Various news outlets are running stories about additional comments made by Collins, and the responses from other politicians, including the Prime Minister, about whether they believe fat people are irresponsible and weak (all of the responses given can be categorized into the neoliberal or paternalistic buckets; all of them accept the framing of the question that fatness is a problem to be solved, and to solve a problem, you need to understand the origin(s)).

A screenshot from The Guardian UK

It’s all fatphobic nonsense to me, as the real question is not whether fat people are responsible for their fatness, but how can we as a society ensure that fat people have equitable access to healthcare, to employment, to housing, to clothing they love, and hobbies they enjoy? How can we ensure that fat people are allowed their full humanity in New Zealand? Which party will commit to amending the Human Rights Act of 1993 to include physical size? That’s a question worth asking each political party this election season.

On getting a CT scan

I had my first CT scan today. I’ve lived a rather blessed life when it comes to my health: I’ve never needed diagnostics like a CT or MRI, I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve had one outpatient surgery during my PhD to get my tonsils out, but that’s it.

My GP ordered a CT scan to check my kidneys. I’ve had an intermittent acute pain in my lower back on the left hand side, and she wonders if perhaps I’ve got some kidney stones (I see you Substantia with your gall stones!). I did blood work, and then headed to the radiologist today for a CT scan.

My knowledge of CT scans was minimal. I knew it was a series of X-rays that would provide a comprehensive picture of the area in question. I knew it is often called a CAT scan on TV shows. In my mind I thought it would be much like a normal X-ray, just with different positioning and more machines. Of course, most of my knowledge about medical things comes from decades of watching China Beach, E.R., Scrubs, and Grey’s Anatomy. Turns out, I had no idea what a CT would be like.

They had instructed me to drink loads of water beforehand. You’re allowed to use the restroom at any time during the day, but they want you to be loaded up on water. I arrived at the office with my own robe in tow. I assumed that I would need to be in a gown, and I assumed that they would not have one that would fit my fat body.

My robe

After a basic health questionnaire, Cindy brought me back to the room where the CT would take place. As she directed me to the change room, I saw a large machine in an adjoining room and asked if it was for MRIs. Cindy smiled and told me that no, that it was in fact the CT machine; she said they called it the donut.

The donut

Whoa. Nothing at all like what I expected, and honestly, my first thought was the episode of Scrubs where they have a super fat patient that cannot fit into the imaging machine (no idea if that was a CT or MRI machine). Not a helpful thought, of course, as I tried to size up the size of donut hole to see if I was going to fit or not. It turns out that a CT uses rotating X-ray machines inside the donut to take the imaging, and can be used to image any part of the body, from the head to the toes.

An MRI machine, which is more of a tunnel that could fit your whole body

In the changing room, they clarified some questions on the questionnaire, and invited me to remain in the dress I arrived in for the CT (eShakti cotton knit empire maxi dress); I only had to remove my bra (due to the underwire). When I was ready, they led me into the CT room, and I lied down on the strip of bed provided. The tech asked me to raise my hands above my head and asked if I would be comfortable to keep them there during the procedure. I’m not sure if the arm placement was about fitting into the machine, or concern that arms could get “caught” at the edge of the machine and they ask everyone to do this? It was fine and I settled into position.

The not-designed-for-a-fat-body “bed”

The tech left the room, and the bed was raised to then slide into the donut. A mechanical voice instructed me to take a deep breath in and hold it, then several seconds later, as the bed slid out of the donut, the same voice told me I could breathe. This happened three times, and then it was over. A doctor looked at my scans and was happy with the quality, so there was no need for them to inject me or ask me to drink any contrast (a material that would appear white in the X-rays and provide additional definition of the area if needed). The entire thing took about 10 minutes from the time they invited me back to the room to the time I left.

I fit into the machine just fine, and it would fit someone much larger than me. There were no loud noises, either, which had been a concern once I realized I was going into the donut. There was a clicking, but it was not too bad and it did not raise any anxiety for me. Because they were only scanning my abdomen, it might have been possible for me to have on headphones to distract me or block out the noise of the machine, if needed. If you think that might help you, better to have them with you and ask, right?

I am grateful to the radiology team, Sam and Cindy, for being so lovely during my time with them. And not laughing when I asked to take pictures of the donut afterwards. I’m glad to have had a positive experience with my first CT, and perhaps by sharing my experience (and unfounded fears) I will help reduce the fear and anxiety of other fat people who may need a similar test. Have you ever had a CT? How did it go? Let’s chat on Twitter or Facebook!

On FSNZ20 – the Press Release

FSCNZ20 logo -revised date

MEDIA RELEASE

New Zealand conference exploring fatness in society goes global

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a Fat Studies conference – an emerging field that confronts mainstream ideas about fatness – to go online.

The third Fat Studies New Zealand conference was scheduled to take place on the Auckland campus of Massey University on June 18-19, 2020. Instead the conference will now be hosted online during a three-week period, starting June 18.

The previous fat studies conferences have been well received and established New Zealand as a global leader in fat studies scholarship, says conference organiser Dr Cat Pausé, a senior lecturer at Massey’s Institute of Education and well-known New Zealand-based fat studies scholar and activist.

“The purpose of this year’s conference, Fat Studies: Past, Present, Futures, is to reflect on the history of the relatively new discipline, consider the present state of the scholarship, and imagine what the future might hold,” Dr Pausé says.

Dees photo of me 2020 cropped
Professor Esther Rothblum

The keynote speakers are Professor Esther Rothblum, editor-at-large of the Fat Studies journal and Sonya Renee Taylor, founder of The Body is Not An Apology, a digital media and education company promoting radical self-love and body empowerment as the foundational tool for social justice and global transformation. Renee Taylor is currently in New Zealand as an inaugural Edmund Hilary Fellow.

Renee Taylor’s keynote is entitled, “Fat black futures: Visioning a world beyond fatphobia and anti-blackness”. She notes, “as we seem to be moving into a greater collective awareness regarding the systems and structures of oppression it feels prescient that we address the experiences of fat people, as fatness intersects with nearly every axis of marginalization.

“There is much to be illuminated in this season and I believe this event is part of that essential light. The Fat Studies conference is a necessary endeavour and I am excited for what it will deepen in all of our pursuits for justice.”

Sonya-3
Sonya Renee Taylor

 

Topics scholars will discuss include weight stigma and discrimination in Australia, the genetification of fatness, public health ethics and weight stigma, and embracing fatness as self-care in the era of Trump. Thirty speakers from ten countries will round out the three-week programme. Each week, a keynote and a set of panels will be available on the password protected site. Social media events across Facebook, Twitter, and Zoom will allow opportunities for the more than 350+ attendees to engage in real time discussion and networking.

Professor Rothblum says hosting the conference online has made it accessible to delegates and speakers who would not be able to attend because of the COVID-19 and travel restrictions.

“Putting on this important conference virtually allows fat people and their allies around the globe to participate. The field of fat studies critically examines society attitudes about body weight and appearance, and advocates equality for all people with respect to body size.

“Fat studies scholars ask why we oppress people who are fat and who benefits from that oppression. At a time when many of us are sheltering in place, it is delightful that we can get together virtually and throw our weight around,” Professor Rothblum says.

 

Registration remains open until 1 July 2020 www.fsnz.online

For additional background:

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Fat Babe Pool Party (Auckland, NZ, 2020)

Long before CV19 changed the way we lived in Aotearoa New Zealand, there was a pool party. A fat babe pool party. The first of its kind in NZ, as far as I know, the Fat Babe Pool Party was hosted by Lissy Cole and Ema Tavola. It was one of the many #FATFEB events organized by Vunilagi Vou.

Image credit: House of Boom

The Fat Babe Pool Party took place at the Mount Richmond Hotel in Ōtāhuhu and was supported in part by the Auckland Council as part of the Pacific Arts Programme. Lissy and her team did an amazing job with the decorations and gifted some of us with special flower headpieces. I kept mine on all day. And I often tossed it on during the CV19 lockdown to brighten my spirits.

Me & Lissy

In a similar spirit, I thought I would write about the Party for my blog; I am not the first fatty to attend a fat pool party, nor the first to write about a fat pool party experience (check out these pieces about fat pool parties in Los Angeles, Columbus Ohio, Minneapolis Minnesota, Brooklyn, Montreal,  Toronto, New Orleans), but I wanted to share my experience on the day and reflections I’ve had since the event.

Image credit: PATI SOLOMONA TYRELL (used with permission)

The party is itself was a huge success. The tickets sold out, and the Mount Richmond Hotel was a lovely space to hold the party; their pool area is gorgeous.

Mount Richmond Hotel Pool

The outdoor area was a lovely space; it was surrounded by covered patio, where people could take shelter from the sun at comfortable table and chairs. The hosts of the events had secured the use of additional fat friendly sized restrooms across from the pool area. The party area was decorated in bright colours and there were several floaties in the pool before anyone arrived; there were moments I felt I was in a movie.

Image credit: Lissy Cole

For even more about the party, you can watch a cool video about the party here! And read this great piece from Elizabeth Heritage in The Spinoff.

In addition to the pool party, the hosts had organized a panel and a meal. The food was yummy, and there was plenty of it. The panel was three local fat women working in the space of fat activism: I was honored to speak on the panel at the event alongside fatshionista Meagan Kerr and artist Coco Solid. We each answered questions from the hosts and the audience.

Image credit: PATI SOLOMONA TYRELL (used with permission)

Throughout the entire day there was a great energy in the air; everyone knew this was something special and we were all thrilled to be part of it. I have never had the pleasure of being around so many fat people at one time. And all of these fat people were somewhere along the journey of fat liberation; what an amazing thing.

Image credit: PATI SOLOMONA TYRELL (used with permission)

 

One of the best parts of the day was meeting fellow rad fatties in person, like Jo from House of Boom (come join us at her rad fat camp later this year in WLG!) and connecting with rad fatties friends I rarely get the chance to see in person like Jackie from The Aunties.

I met a lot of new people that afternoon, and I hope I get the chance to spend another sun filled day with them in a post CV19 future.

On hitting the big 3-0-0

Press Release

On Thursday 5 March 2020, fat positive radio show Friend of Marilyn will air its 300th episode. The show, which is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Access Media NZ, has been on the air since August of 2011.

 

Friend of Marilyn provides counter programming to the normal conversations and media surrounding fatness. It is a fat positive show that refuses to apologise for having reached the BIG 3-0-0. “Weighing 300lbs/135kg is a state of being that is used by trolls to scare people; it’s like the worst thing that some people can think of,” laughs the show’s founder and host, Dr. Cat Pausé. Dr. Pausé is a Fat Studies scholar who studies the impact of fat stigma on the health and well-being of fat people; she is also a fat activist who fights for fat people to have equal protection under the law.

 

Across its 300 episodes, Friend of Marilyn has cultivated a repository of global fat voices. “It is a project of significant cultural value to anyone interested in fat”, asserts Dr. Charlotte Cooper, a London based fat activist and author of the book Fat activism: A radical social movement. The show has been on a virtual tour since 2016, engaging with guests across Oceania, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Shows in 2020 are “located” in Canada; Pausé believes it will take a year to cross the country, and then another five years or so to survey the United States and the remaining Americas.

 

Manawatu People’s Radio Station Manager Fraser Greig shared, “This milestone is truly a cause for celebration. Not only is it a great achievement for Cat, the Adipositivity community and Human Rights, but it also demonstrates the necessity and importance of Access Radio. It is vital to a democratic society that the disenfranchised, the minorities and the under – or mis-represented have access to a platform that empowers them. Cat’s show is a classic example of the success of MPR. We’re excited to see what the next 300 shows will bring!”

 

Friend of Marilyn airs at 8pm on Thursdays on Manawatu People’s Radio and additionally on Fresh FM (Nelson/Tasman region), Arrow FM (Wairarapa), and Radio Southland (Southland).

 

For more information:

Cat (Host): 021 829 088       friendofmarilyn@massey.ac.nz            @FOMNZ (Twitter)

Fraser Greig (Station Manager): 06 357 9340           Fraser@MPR.nz

For additional background:

Fat fallacies head for the airwaves (Aug 2011)

Fat activism in New Zealand (Feb 2012)

Fat positive activist taking message across the world (March 2016)

Cat Pause: Fat activist (Nov 2016)

 

[ENDS]

On FSNZ20

On 18-19 June 2020, I am hosting Fat Studies: Past, Present, Futures at the Albany campus of Massey University. Submissions for FNZ20 have closed, and we have great speakers from seven countries. Our keynotes are Professor Esther Rothblum (Editor-at-Large of the Fat Studies journal) and Sonya Renee Taylor (Founder of The Body is Not an Apology). It is going to be an amazing two days of scholarship and activism.

Registration is now open – http://fsnz.org/

Early bird prices hold until 1 April, and we once again have the online option for those who would like to live stream/access the videos of presentations, for those unable to join us in person. The online option is 50NZD/31USD/28EUR/24GBP (we have scholarships for this option as well; pls let us know if the cost is prohibitive)

Pls help support Fat Studies scholarship!

Please note  – our conference is co-located with the Weight Stigma Conference; we hope you join us for both!

On my 2019 fat academic year in review

Welcome to my 2019 fat academic year in review (check out my 2018 review for the value of engaging in such a practice). I began the year with a promotion to Senior Lecturer R2, which was very exciting. Getting “over the bar” from R1 to R2 is a tough hurdle and one that many struggle to “leap”. I am officially a midcareer academic, with almost as many academic years behind me as I can expect in front of me. As a Fat Studies scholar, I am often without a proper academic home/discipline in scholarly spaces, but I continue my work. Keeping the lives of fat people at the centre of my scholarship is key for me as I work to achieve my hope for fat futures.

I am very excited that later this year, I’m hosting Fat Studies: Past, Present, Futures at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. Check out the CFP; I do hope you can join us in person or through the streaming option.

Journal articles

Pausé, C. J. (2019). Get together: Fat kids and physical education. Health Education Journal, 78(60), 662-669.

Parker, G. & Pausé, C. J. (2019). Productive but not constructive: The work of shame in the affective governance of fat pregnancy. Feminism & Psychology, 29(2), 250-268.

Pausé, C. J. (2019). Frozen: A fat tale of immigration. Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight & Society8(1), 44-59.

Pausé, C. J. (2019). Hung up: Queering fat therapy. Women & Therapy, 42(1-2), 79-92.

Book chapters

Parker, G. C., Pausé, C. J, & Le Grice, J. (2019). “You’re just another friggin’ number to add to the problem”: Constructing the racialized (m)other in contemporary discourses of pregnancy fatness. In M. Friedman, C. Rice & J. Rinaldi (Eds.), Thickening fat: Fat bodies, intersectionality and social justice (pp. ). New York: Routledge.

Me & my copy of Body Battlegrounds; very pleased to have contributed a chapter about my fat positive radio show for the 2nd edition

Pausé, C. J. (2019). Everybody: Making fat radio for all of us. In C. Bobel & S. Kwan (Eds.), Body battlegrounds: Transgressions, tensions, and transformations (pp. 171-173). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Me & my copy of Happy Fat

*Not a book chapter, but I was thrilled to be a footnote in Sofie Hagen’s new book, Happy Fat

Funding

I was awarded an internal research grant to explore the experience of fat people in the healthcare system in New Zealand.

 

Conference symposium

 

Pausé, C. J. (2019, 5 December). Fattening up Sociology. In A. Simpson (Chair), Fat Studies. Symposium conducted at the Sociological Association of Aotearoa New Zealand, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

 

Journal reviews

Women’s Studies in Communication

Health Education Journal

Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight & Society

Social Media + Society

 

Invited seminars

Pausé, C. J. (2019, 18 July). Queering fat therapy. Workshop conducted for the student counselling team, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

 

Pausé, C. J. (2019, 28 June). Fat stigma, discrimination, and bias: Implications for practice. Invited plenary talk at the Renal Society of Australasia conference, Auckland, New Zealand.

 

Textbook

Hoffnung, M., Hoffnung, R. J., Seifertm K. L., Hine, A., Ward, L., & Pausé, C. J., Swabey, K., Yates, K., & Burton Smith, R. (2019).  Lifespan Development (4th Australasian Ed). Queensland, Australia: John Wiley & Sons.

 

Invited lectures (Fat Studies)

Pausé, C. J. (2019, 3 April). Ethics, fat stigma, and you. GENA737 Obesity Prevention and Management [12]. University of Otago Medical School, New Zealand.

Pausé, C. J. (2019, 1 April). Express yourself: Fat resistance on film. 230.110 Tūrangawaewae: Identity & Belonging in Aotearoa NZ [75]. Massey University, New Zealand.

Pausé, C. J. (2019, 20 March). Fattening up feminism. 175.720 Advanced Psychology of Women [35]. Massey University, New Zealand.

 

Podcasts

FOM celebrated being on the air EIGHT years in 2019!

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.

 

Media engagements

Rääbus, C. (2019, 16 Dec). What does fat shaming and weight discrimination do to your health? ABC Life [Online]. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/life/health-impacts-of-weight-stigma-and-fatphobia/11728522

Du Plessis-Allan Drive, H. (2019, 7 November). “Ice cream makes you happy” sign taken down after complaint. NewstalkZB. Retrieved from https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/heather-du-plessis-allan-drive/audio/dr-cat-pause-ice-cream-makes-you-happy-sign-taken-down-after-complaint/

Borissenko, S. (2019, 20 October). Fat people earn less, don’t get promoted and face public shaming. New Zealand Herald [Online]. Retrieved from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12278108&fbclid=IwAR3GGPQ1Gpq3q3iVeoZOxhUBebUmvBKI_FOj0T4FTYx_tUvPd8BeCXMq8Sc

Moore, R. (2019, 13 June). Critics of new plus-size mannequins called out for ‘fat phobia’, experts defend Nike’s messaging. 1 News Now [Online], Retrieved from https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/critics-new-plus-sized-mannequins-called-fat-phobia-experts-defend-nikes-messaging

It was cool to invited back onto The Project; this time with enough time to plan my outfit. Made sure to wear the “Fat” necklace from Fancy Lady Industries.

The Project. (2019, 7 June). The language of fat. TV3.

McMillan, V. (2019, 8 May). With society steeped in anti-fat bias, keep the patient’s agenda to the fore. New Zealand Doctor [Online]. Retrieved from https://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/article/print-archive/society-steeped-anti-fat-bias-keep-patients-agenda-fore

Nicholls, B. (2019, 11 April). Early Mornings with Barry Nicholls, ABC Radio Perth [Online].

This fantastic story made the front webpage of the NZ Herald.

Arnold, N. (2019, 30 March). Fat? Why your body is not a problem to be fixed. Canvas Magazine, New Zealand Herald [Online] Retrieved from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=12216770

Winter, V. (2019, 21 March). The problem with Playboy and body positivity. SBS The Feed. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/the-feed/this-cultural-moment-is-being-exploited-the-problem-with-playboy-and-body-positivity

 

Online publications

Very excited that a piece I wrote for The Conversation on fat stigma and language was picked up and re-posted by several media outlets across Oceania

Pausé, C. J. (2019, 15 October). Changing the terminology to ‘people with obesity’ won’t reduce stigma against fat people. The Conversation [Online]. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/changing-the-terminology-to-people-with-obesity-wont-reduce-stigma-against-fat-people-124266

*Reposted by ABC (Australia), Otago Daily Times (New Zealand), Stuff (New Zealand), Whimn (Australia)

Pausé, C. J. (2019, 11 October). I’ve had enough, thanks: Why I’m not watching Netflix’s Insatiable. The Spinoff [Online]. Retrieved from https://thespinoff.co.nz/tv/11-10-2019/ive-had-enough-thanks-why-im-not-watching-netflixs-insatiable/

Pausé, C. J. (2019, 27 April). There’s a problem with one of the characters in Avengers: Endgame. The Spinoff [Online]. Retrieved from https://thespinoff.co.nz/media/27-04-2019/theres-a-serious-problem-with-one-of-the-characters-in-avengers-endgame/

 

On Fatlicious Gift Giving 2019

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.  I enjoy supporting the work of fat creators especially.

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 scholar

Fearing the black body: The racial origins of fat phobia by Sabrina Strings

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom

 

 

For your belly

Fat. Black. Queer. T-shirt from FatBlackQueer

Fat Femme Supremacy T-shirt from Fat Mermaids

Thinness is not an accomplishment T-shirt from Mermaid Queen Jude

Glorifying obesity T-shirt from Ready To Stare

Fatties against Facism T-shirt from Fat Lib Ink

Fat Boy Season Hoodie from Big Boys Are Cute

 

For the reader

They don’t make plus size spacesuits by Ali Thompson

Happy fat by Sofie Hagen

Unashamed: Musing of a fat, black Muslim by Leah Vernon

Fat, pretty, and soon to be old by Kimberly Dark

#VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE: The fat girl’s guide to being #Brave and not dejected, melancholy, down-in-the-dumps weeping fat girl in a bikini by Nicole Byer

 

 

For the fatshionista

Hiss from a rose midi skirt from Maya Kern

Ombre star print smocked dress from eShakti

Lucy maxi dress from SWAK

Fat Babe bandana from Fat Girl Flow

The rhubarb custard jumpsuit from PlusEqualsUK & Sofie Hagan

 

 

For the stationary lover

Fat positive stickers, cards, and prints from Shelberries

 

 

For the home

Fat feminist fist art print from FatFeistyFemme

Fat Woman Art from Lucky Print Art

Zona de Imagen Corporal Positiva from Nalgona Positive Pride

The Working Girl from Dimmie Danielewski

 

 

For your backpack, jean jacket, bumbag

Fat is punk buttons by MerfemmeDistro

Hello I’m, fat. Get over it pin from Monster Cliché

Fatter in Real Life from Fat Mermaids

My stretch marks are sexy pin from GoldenToothClub

Take up space enamel pin from MilkandMoonUK

Bettie enamel pin from SexyFation

 

 

For the entire year

The Body Love Box from Lindley

The Adipositivity Calendar from Substania Jones

 

 

Previous fatlicious gift giving guides

Fatlicious Guide 2018

Fatlicious Guide 2017

Fatlicious Guide 2016

Fatlicious Guide 2015

Fatlicious Guide 2014

Fatlicious Guide 2013

Fatlicious Guide 2012

Fatlicious Guide 2011

 

 

 

On giving fat shaming stories a pass

The second season of Insatiable is now available on Netflix, and I, for one, will not be watching. I have better things to do than watch a show that promotes fat shaming, crash dieting, and revenge fantasies. I could encourage a goose to cause mischief. Teach my dog a new trick. Listen to yet another white man explain why free speech is a more important value than the heath and safety of  vulnerable people.

As a super fat person, I avoid media that subscribes to one dimensional fat characters that belly into fat stereotypes and tropes. I skip stuff with fat suits. I avoid media that reinforces fat stigma and oppression; as you can imagine, my options are limited. Sometimes it cannot be helped, and I love something that is incredibly problematic (looking at my 20yr old self who LOVED and could not get enough of Friends). Other times, I have no idea the fat hating material is coming my way (see my piece on fat hate in the Avengers from earlier this year). So the second season of Insatiable, like the first season, gets a “NO” from me.

One reason I can easily look away is because I’ve learned that it’s okay for me to say no to media that will be hurtful for me. I can look away from The Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition, New Girl and whatever Tyler Perry’s Madea is doing next; I can take a pass on This Is Us, whose fat actor was required to include a weight loss clause in her employment contract. This took a lot of work, and there are still slips. But another reason it has become easier is because the choices of seeing fat people on screen have expanded beyond sad fatty stereotypes. We’ve always had singular fat performers who have often been in roles that allowed them to be more than one dimensional (think Melissa McCarthy as Sookie St. James in Gilmore Girls or Danielle Brooks as Taystee in Orange is the New Black). But for everyone one of those, there were a dozen Dudley’s from Harry Potter and Eddie Murphy-wears-a-fat-suit again. With more providers of content, we are starting to see even more fat positive media representations.

If you are looking for a teenage story for this weekend, why not try Dumplin from Netflix instead? Dumplin’ a delightful film based on the YA story of the same name from Julie Murphy. Spend two hours with Willowdean “Will” Dickson, her mother, her BFF, their friends, a cast of drag queens, and a bunch of girls vying for the Miss Teen Bluebonnet crown. Will’s Mom, a former Miss Teen Bluebonnet herself, now runs the pageant and the only thing she’d rather have than that crown for forever would be a daughter who is not fat. It’s a familiar coming of age story, but with a fat protagonist at the heart. One who is not miserable about her size; who is not desperate to lose weight and be someone else. The film avoids many of the overplayed tropes of teen stories (she doesn’t take off her glasses and becomes hot; there is not a makeover in the film, nor is it all about catty female friendships or pining over boys). The story of Will and her misfit friends is full of heart, and relatable to people who felt they were often on the outside looking in during their adolescent years. In addition, all of the fat characters are played by fat actors (HELLO Kathy Najimy!), and have more than one dimension. Did I mention that Dolly Parton is the soundtrack?  It’s not to be missed.

If YA isn’t quite your bag, why not try Shrill on Hulu? Shrill is a six episode series on Hulu, staring Aidy Bryant as Annie, the protagonist of the story. We meet Annie as a young adult, and see all the ways that her life is shaped and molded by fat shaming and oppression. We are along for the ride as emerging writer Annie begins to shrug off the self-doubt and internalized fatphobia. Like Dumplin’, Shrill is based on a book (this time by author Lindy West) by a fat woman; the book was West’s memoir. West is a young American writer whose sharp observations of sexism, misogyny being a woman writing online, earned her bylines on the weekly The Stranger (Seattle) and magazines such as Jezebel and GQ. In 2011, she published a piece titled, “Hello, I am Fat” in which she came out as fat. And the rest, as they say, is herstory (and can be found in her memoir and the show, Shrill). The show captures some of the book’s best moments, including West’s first experience with a fat positive pool party.

These two stories of fat women living their life with minimal shame are groundbreaking. Fat people rarely get to be included in the story, much less as the center of the story. And even fewer fat people (no matter their positon) get to escape the sad fatty trope. Fat characters are usually presented as cautionary tales; if we’re lucky, we are spunky and hypersexual best friend. It’s important to note that usually the stories of fat people onscreen have been written by non-fat people and often played by non-fat people as well (see the aforementioned fat suits). These stories are different. They are stories about fat people written and performed by fat people. When all you see is the same tropes in the media about fat people, it’s easy to remember that fat people are much more than those representations. And that fat people are a monolith; we may share similar experiences related to stigma, discrimination, and oppression, but we are all individuals living our lives.

Will and Annie are both white fat women, which means they experience their fatness with white privilege. They are also abled bodied, cis, straight; they have a lot of privilege impacting how they experience their fatness and the world. They are also two of the few size affirming fat lead characters; see if you can count the number of size affirming fat people you’ve seen in television and film. I doubt you can get past a single hand. I want more size affirming stories in our media. I want stories of fat people of colour. Fat people with disabilities. Fat people who are neuro-divergent. I want us to get to place where size affirming fat people on screen are completely ordinary; where our stories can be told in mediocre ways and it not be seen as a blow to the fat liberation movement.

Positive stories of fat people are only a drop in the bucket of the fatpocalypse media we are drenched in, but I am glad to see more fat positive stories being a chance to be told. Especially by fat storytellers. Especially to more mainstream audiences. Fat positive stories are revolutionary; watching and enjoying them is an act of rebellion and an act of alliance. And fat people need that alliance; we are too often left on the sidelines in social justice. Individuals who are committed to liberation and justice for people based on gender, sexuality, ability, race, class, and more, are often ignorant or purposively evasive on the fight for fat liberation and justice (see this great piece by Ijeoma Oluo, and this one by D’Shaun Harrison, for more on this). If you believe that none of us are free until we ALL are free, that includes the fat community. Yes, even the fattest of the fat community.

 

Re-posted from The Spinoff

 

On (re)producing the fat stigma you claim to be fighting

The British Psychological Society is calling for changes for how we talk about fatness, suggesting we should no longer use the phrase “obese people”, but instead, “people with obesity” or “people living with obesity”.

These changes are being proposed to recognise that fatness is not about personal choice and that fat shaming and fat stigma are harmful.

But this suggested language change is based on the idea obesity is a disease to be cured and fat people are not a natural part of the world. This serves to reinforce stigma, rather than prevent it.

How does stigma and shame affect fat people?

Fat stigma can harm people’s physical health, mental health, and relationships.

Independent of body mass index (BMI), fat stigma increases blood pressureinflammation, and levels of cortisol in the body, due to the activation of the fight or flight response.

Fat stigma reduces self-esteem and increases depression. It isolates fat people, making them less likely to engage with the world. It also impacts on fat people’s relationships with familycolleagues, and friends.

Fat stigma erodes self-esteem and isolates people.

People around the world, and of all ages, hold negative attitudes about fatness and fat people. In a study in the United States, for example, more than one-third of the participants reported, “one of the worst things that could happen to a person would be for [them] to become obese”.

How terminology reinforces stigma

While many people are uncomfortable with the term fat, fat activists prefer the term. They see it as both as an act of rebellion – to adopt a word that has been wielded against them – but also because they argue it’s the most appropriate word to describe their bodies.

To be overweight implies there is a natural weight to be; that within human diversity, we should all be the same proportion of height and weight.

Obesity is a medical term that has pathologised the fat body. The British Psychological Society’s acknowledgement that rather than saying “obese people”, we should call them “people with obesity” reinforces that obesity is a disease; a chronic illness people suffer from.

The British Psychological Society’s desire to shift to person-first language is understandable. Person-first, or people-first, language is an attempt to not define people primarily by their disease, or disability, or other deviating factor.

Person-first language recognises people as individuals with rights to dignity and care, and puts the person, rather than their “condition”, first.

But others have argued person-first language attempts to erase, deny, or ignore the aspect of the person that isn’t “normal”, and reinforces that there is something shameful or dehumanising about their disability or disease.

They promote identity-first language, which allows people to take pride in who they are, rather than separating a person from that aspect of themself.

The problem with person-first language, they argue, is that those identities are stigmatised. But without the stigma, there would be no concern with calling someone a disabled person, for instance, rather than a person with disabilities.

So what should we do?

Ask people what they want to be called.

The best approach, especially for health-care professionals, is to ask people what they prefer their designation to be.

And for the rest of us, to acknowledge that what an individual wants to be called or how they want to talk about their experiences is up to them, not us. If a fat person wants to call themselves fat, it is not up to non-fat people to correct them.

Shifting the language we use to talk about fatness and fat people can reduce fat stigma. But continuing to frame fatness as a disease is not a helpful contribution.

 

Re-posted from The Conversation