On Fatness, employment, and physical spaces

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.

 

 

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On the Fat Studies MOOO

As a Fat Studies academic, I’m delighted at the number of undergrad and grad students who are interested in studying Fat Studies. I’ve met them all over the world! Some want to take a course or two, some wish for a qualification in the discipline, and some would hope to acquire a terminal degree.

Unfortunately, nowhere in the world can you earn a qualification in Fat Studies. Some FS courses exist, mainly in the US, but neoliberal Universities are culling disciplines such as Women’s Studies, Queer Studies, Indigenous Studies – not supporting new ones. That’s why it’s important we support each other in our quest to study – learn – build – the discipline of Fat Studies. We share texts, we host conferences, we cultivate FB groups and Tumblrs, we share our lived experiences and connect with one another as best we can.

For my part, I act as an unofficial supervisor to many PhD students around the world; allowing them a space to talk about our epistemologies, and methodologies, and ontologies. To listen to rants about supervisors who just don’t get it, and share in the joy when something clicks. I also participate in #FatStudyGroup, a great tag created by @KivaBay as a way to co-construct our knowledge and share our literature with one another. It’s important work to do, and critical to building our field. And that’s why I’ve created the Fat Studies MOOO.

img_5454

It isn’t a MOOC – it’s not an online course taking place over several weeks/months. Instead, it’s discrete events that will happen once a month. Guest scholars will bring their expertise on a topic within Fat Studies to share with a small group. I’ve envisioned this as a resource for students who are eager for a chance to take a course in Fat Studies, but it’s open to anyone – student – academic – activist – anyone – who wants to build their understanding of this field.

The first Fat Studies MOOO finds us in the company of Professor Esther Rothblum, exploring the discipline itself. Each month, a new scholar and a new topic. I’ve reached out to Fat Studies scholars from across the world. They are an incredible group of scholars and incredibly generous to share their wisdom. If you’d like to learn more, you can read the info here: https://friendofmarilyn.com/fat-studies-mooo/

And if you’d like to participate in the first one, register at https://tinyurl.com/fsmooo

On finding a new doctor: One fat person’s tale

After four years without a primary healthcare provider, I finally got a new doctor. This is my story.

 

Going to the doctor can be very intimidating for fat people. We never know if healthcare providers will treat us with respect, hear our concerns, and see past the size of our bodies. Will they diagnose us as fat? Make assumptions about our health behaviours? Dismiss what we tell them about our health? Our lifestyles? Our experiences in our fat bodies?

 

Doctors (& other healthcare providers) are more likely than the general public to hold anti-fat attitudes. Doctors believe fat patients care less about health issues, are less likely to be compliant. Some doctors are explicit in their unwillingness to treat fat patients. Even when doctors are happy to provide care to fat patients, they may not have the proper education, training, and resources, to do so. Doctors aren’t taught how to palpate a super fat abdomen; most exam rooms don’t have the extra-large blood pressure cuff; hospital gowns provide little coverage (or comfort) for super fat bodies; waiting rooms are full of chairs with arms. For all of these reasons, many fat people avoid healthcare settings whenever possible. They skip screenings, minimize illness and pain, and feel trapped between their desire for medical care and proactive interventions and their desire to protect themselves against hostile environments & toxic situations.

 

My last doctor was great – he didn’t know about HAES when we met, but he was happy to be educated (note that that responsibility fell to me as a patient, as it usually does for marginalized people). He didn’t diagnose me as fat. He was happy to skip the scale & shelve his bias. I found him by asking around – I consulted the local women’s health collective and similar groups that support groups with deviant bodies – women, members of the LGBTIAQ community, indigenous peoples, etc. No one could point me to a fat friendly, much less fat positive, doctor – but he was recommended as someone who was kind, open minded, and committed to decolonising medicine and healthcare. Before my first appointment, I sent him a letter. I introduced myself, shared my concerns, and asked if he was comfortable treating – and touching – super fat bodies (that’s a Q I now ask anytime I’m booking at a new spa, massage place, sports instructions place, etc). But when he left his practice (& New Zealand), I couldn’t be bothered to go through the search again. And the few times it occurred to me that I’d like to have a doctor, I was either too busy to search or too fragile to embark on the quest.

 

Because it takes a lot of strength to find, assess, and then meet, a new doctor when you have special needs. Having to explain, during the search, why you’re looking for a fat friendly doctor. Exhausting. Having to assess whether the person/practice you are considering is bias free (or at least less biased) and a safe place to receive care. Exhausting. Preparing to have that first conversation (w/o crying!), and then having it (w/o crying!), with your new doctor. Exhausting.

 

But after being without a primary care provider for four years, it was time. And just last week, I had my first appointment. I first had an appointment with the manager of the practice, where we reviewed my family history, my health history, my lifestyle, and my needs. I specifically asked about how the practice met the needs of fat patients. The blank, blinking, face I received wasn’t a good start. The manager wasn’t prepared to respond – not surprising. When I unpacked it for her in some concrete ways, she was able to talk about chairs & cuffs & even attitudes. Although she asserted strongly that no one in the practice had anti-fat attitudes (sure, Susan – sure). I left that appointment willing to meet with the primary care provider I requested (based on advice from others), and proud that I had raised my concerns. And glad I had managed to do it without crying.

 

Before my first appointment with my PCP/GP, I was able to use their online system to request that she ordered blood tests beforehand. Concerns with the metabolic health of a fat patient are understandable; I did these tests yearly with my last doctor. Doing it before my apt would prevent me from having to go back a second time for results. Being able to make my request online was easy, accessible, and allowed me having to ask (& explain why) in person. I always find it easier to have tough conversations through written formats, so this will be great for me moving forward.

 

At my first appointment, I shared with my new doctor (& the intern that was with her for the day) my concerns about being seen as my BMI – having my body pathologised – missing a diagnosis because of my size and her assumptions. I pointed out to the intern that I appreciated the one (of three) armless chair in the space; explaining that it was more comfortable for me and wouldn’t risk bruising me during the appointment. In fact, through the entire apt, I continually turned to the intern to explain things or highlight why treating a super fat patient may be different than a non-fat one (or even a fat one). He seemed eager for the info (& less uncomfortable as time went by). I left the appointment confident that I had made my needs (& concerns) clear, and that my new doctor had heard me. I’m hopeful we will have a respectful & productive relationship moving forward. I’d love to not have to do this again (find a new one).

 

Having a doctor you feel comfortable with is important. Having your healthcare needs met in a safe space is important. Being able to exercise agency in healthcare decisions is important. Healthcare is an important part of living a happy & fulfilling life. And fat people deserve that.

 

 

 

On fatting it up across Texas (with a friend!)

I know I just returned from seven months in Europe. I know I promised you lots of blogs about my travels, and what is was like for a super fat person, and all of the tools and resources I used to make my travel experiences as comfortable as possible. I promise those are still coming.

 

And I know that I’ve whinged a bit about all the travelling I did while I was there; fourteen countries made my itinerary. And nine of those were results of invitations from Universities and other organisations, inviting me to give a talk or a workshop on my scholarship and activism.

Giving a keynote in Munich

A guest lecture in Finland

A seminar at Oxford

It was such a success, and I had so much fun connecting with similar scholars and activists, that I’m going to do another one. Another speaking tour, that is. And this one will be closer to my home (my hometown, that is): I’m coming to Texas. And I’m bringing my friend, Substantia Jones.

 

 

Cat and Substantia

 

 

That’s right, Cat Pausé and Substantia Jones are coming to the Lone Star State in December of 2018 to give talks, run workshops, take naked photos, and eat good TexMex. Seriously, I am so excited to feed Substantia all the TexMex she can handle.

At the moment, the plan is be in Houston, Austin, and Dallas; we are very happy to fit in additional stops along the way if the invitations are there and we can make it fit into the schedule. We appreciate that Dec isn’t the best month for Universities, but I’m afraid I don’t finish my own teaching in New Zealand until mid November, so the earliest we can be booked in would late Nov.

If you, or anyone you know, would like to schedule either of us – BOTH of us – to give a seminar, workshop, etc, at your University or organisation, please let me know. And check out our flyer; please share it far and wide!

PauséJones Flyer 2018

On failing out loud

As a fat person, I’m very familiar with failure. My body, to most, represents a failure. A failure of discipline. A failure of self control. A failure to appropriately manage my body and the burden it may become for society (NEOLIBERALISM, AM I RIGHT?!)

As a super fat person, I’ve spent decades failing at making myself smaller. Bodies get to be my size after decades of succeeding, and then failing, at weight loss. I get the congratulations and appreciation when I succeed to lose. And the sheltered looks of pity and “you’ll get ‘em next time” pep talks when I fail through growth.

My failures at weight loss are public. People in my daily life know when I’ve failed. I don’t have to tell them, it’s written on my body. Social media makes it more likely that people who entire my life long after those failures could discover them for themselves; here’s a memory for you from 10yrs and 100lbs ago, Cat. Hoozah!

My failures as an academic, though, aren’t as public. No one knows if an article is rejected by an editor, or if I’m turned down for a funding grant, unless I chose to tell them. And while I do speak about such things with my close friends and colleagues, I don’t share them on social media in the same way I share my successes. We don’t talk about failing in academia very often, and this probably leaves many out in the cold. It may appear that everyone else is only ever succeeding, if that’s what we share on social media. So, I’m going to work on failing out loud.

Most recently, I failed to secure an appointment to a faculty position I really wanted. In many ways, it was a dream posting. It’s in an awesome team doing critical health scholarship in the University where I’m already on faculty. My work on fat stigma & oppression would have fit in well with these colleagues, and it would have been a nice change to share a corridor with scholars who work in a complementary field to my own. But they went with someone else, as often (usually?) happens in academia. They decided I wasn’t the best fit for them, and that’s ok. I’m bummed, and disappointed, but not terribly surprised. And I’m taking some comfort in knowing I did my very best in my research presentation and my interview. But it’s a failure, for sure. One that many experience.

I’m not here to write about what you can learn from failure. Or about whether it is better to try and fail then not try at all. I’m vocalising a big failure so others might read it – see it – hear about it. Maybe it’ll help. Melanie Stefan is credited with the idea of a CV of failures; since her piece in Nature, many successful academics have crafted failure CVs to sit alongside their regular CVs as evidence that all of us have failed along the way. All of us have heard “No” at some point. Many have taken issue with the failure CV, pointing out that most people who produce them do so from a position of privilege.

I’m not planning to create a CV of failures, although I have documented in many places my failures at becoming smaller. But I will make an effort to talk openly about my losses across social media; maybe others would like to join me?

On joining #FatStudyGroup

It’s a new year – and I’m freshly home from my European sabbatical (promise to write many more posts about this, including my love of train travel, the cool fatties I met across Europe, and my frustration with how inaccessible that entire continent seems to be). I’m not much for making resolutions, but I do find it useful to make lists of things I want more of in the new year and things I want less of in the new year.

 

On the top of my “More” list is reading; specifically reading as scholarship. Like many academics, I find it difficult to carve out time for scholarly reading. Most of the academic reading I do is ‘just in time’ reading – reading something I need for the project or manuscript I’m working on. There are suggestions for how academics can ensure they are reading regularly, even during heavy teaching times (if you’re not already taking tips from Raul Pacheco-Vega, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!).

All the pretty books! (A shelf in Iceland)

More pretties! (A shelf in Finland)

 

I had actually hoped to make reading a priority during my sabbatical; I had intended to read the entire Fat Studies literature during my time away and build an annotated bib to share. This didn’t eventuate, largely because I received so many invitations to share my work around Europe (good problem to have, I know!); but most of what I had hoped to read remained unread.

 

As I settle back into my life in New Zealand, I am prioritizing reading as an important part of my day. I’m planning to read for an hour everyday after lunch. And to help keep me focused on this – and motivated – I’m going to live Tweet my reading.

My lovelies

 

The amazing @KivaBay began #FatStudyGroup on Twitter last year, and she’s used the tag to share her thoughts about Fat Studies texts. I had intended to build an annotated bib with my reading, so why not do that in real time – and threaded Tweets – in addition to the Word document I hope to one day share online?

 

If you’re interested in keeping up with my live reading, follow me on Twitter (@FOMNZ), or search for the #FatStudyGroup. And if you’re reading/watching/listening to anything about fat – join the conversation!

 

On fatlicious gift giving – 2017

I love any excuse to shower the ones I love with gifts (it is my primary love style), and the holidays present a socially approved time to show people I love them through presents. Whenever possible, I like to give gifts that support my progressive politics – gifts that promote feminism, anti-racism, civil rights for fat people, etc.  I enjoy supporting the work of fat creators especially. Each year of my blog, I’ve gathered together a list of fatlicious gifts that I’m giving for the holidays; many of them are from fat creators too! See below for some fatlicious suggestions for your loved ones (and check out the very bottom for lists from previous years).

 

For the fatshionista

Ros Venus Brooch from Fancy Lady Industries

Ashley Bodycon Bardot dress from Premme

Curvy black sheer floral lace gown from 3Wishes

Fat Bottomed Girl hard enamel butt pin from HondoSupplyCo

 

 

For the person on the go

Sequin Sleeve Bomber Jacket from Ashley Nell Tipton & JC Penny

Ponte Knit Trench style jacket from eShakti

Moto jacket from Proud Mary Fashion

 

 

For the reader

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Shrill by Lindy West

Breaking normal: Essays about my fat, black, geek life by TaLynn Kel

Fa(t)shionista (pre-order; German) by Magda Albrecht

 

 

For the traveller

Decolonise body love tote bag by Nalgona Positive Pride

Fat positive button badge by PKPaperKitty

Airplane Seatbelt extender from Seat Belt Extender Pro (fits every carrier, worldwide, except Southwest, in my experience)

 

For the activist

Fat Bitch tshirt from Fat Girl Flow

Ashley Nell Tipton button set from Ashley Nell Tipton

2 Fat 2 Furious tshirt from Proud Mary Fashion

 

 

For the fatlete

Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley

 

 

For the scholar

The Fat Lady Sings: A Psychological Exploration of the Cultural Fat Complex and its Effects by Cheryl Fuller

Fat Studies in Deutschland (German) edited by Lotte Rose and Fritz Schorb

 

For your walls

Glorifying Obesity queer femme naked art black LatinxLatina by SwartzRund Queer

Fat Posi Bather – yellow by trixibelle

Fleurs et Cheveux clock by Marie Boiseau

Chocolate Drop by QueenAppleBuum

 

For the home

Adipositivity Project 2018 Calendar by Substantia Jones

Adipositivty 2018 Valentine Series Calendar by Substania Jones

Chubby guys give me heart eyes mug by BunnyBlush

Galaxy Edition Fat Positive original watercolour painting pillow by FatFeistyFemme

 

 

Previous fatlicious gift giving guides

Fatlicious Guide 2016

Fatlicious Guide 2015

Fatlicious Guide 2014

Fatlicious Guide 2013

Fatlicious Guide 2012

Fatlicious Guide 2011

 

 

 

On being in a sugary oblivion

This is a special blog post. As you probably know, my fat positive radio show has been on a world tour since 2016. At the moment, the show is working its way across Africa, and is currently in Namibia. One of the women I wanted to speak with in Namibia was Cindy from Sugary Oblivion. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out a way to do a recorded interview, so instead, we’ve done an interview via email. Enjoy!

 

First up, Cindy, tell us a bit about yourself:

 

Hi, my name is Cindy. I’m a 27-year-old writer, sub-editor, columnist, lifestyle blogger from Windhoek, Namibia. I’d describe myself as a body positive fat babe who is passionate about good wine, good books and good people.

 

I’m so glad we were able to work out a way for you to be on the show/blog! I just finished reading your review of Roxane Gay’s Hunger, and I’d love to know a bit more about your thoughts. To be honest, I haven’t read it. I don’t feel strong enough yet, because I know it’s gonna be a rough (but worthwhile) experience. I’m a bit too fragile at the moment, but I know that one day I will. You end your review suggesting that everyone should read it. What value do you think it brings to people?

 

Well, the most obvious value is giving a fat, black woman the space to voice her truth without being interrupted or asked to make excuses for herself or her body and therein lies the simple beauty of ‘Hunger’. Also just being able to experience different sides of a fat woman’s experience that isn’t the cliche of “was fat, lost weight, got happy” is refreshing.

 

How did you get involved in fat activism/acceptance/body positivity (& what’s your preferred term to use)?

 

I prefer the term body positivity because I believe every single body is worth love, respect and affection, regardless of its shape, size or ability.

 

I would say I’ve always been on the body positive side of things but joining Twitter and meeting and engaging with so many people across the world has definitely helped me learn (and unlearn) so much about my own body politics. Meeting my best friend was also a massive turning point for me because I finally had someone who could not only relate to fat issues but who has gone and is going through them every day. She opened my eyes to a lot of things and I think we spend a lot of time (both knowingly and unknowingly) teaching each other so much about respect and compassion for every kind of body.

 

 

What’s the body positivity scene like in Namibia?

 

The body positivity scene here is in its infancy stages but it’s definitely growing. I would say feminists here are a definite driving force to helping it grow and showing other women what reclaiming your body and time looks like. I think so many of us are pushing back in little ways and it’s been adding up. I’m proud of our little community and the strides it’s been making.

 

What advice would you give to others in Namibia, or Africa, or across the world, who are interested in being more body positive?

 

Listen. Listen to the stories of other people whose politics you admire. Listen without interruption. Listen without expecting a ‘Body Positivity 101’ lesson. Just listen and take it in and understand. Also read a lot about why body positivity is so important and why it is imperative for the movement to be inclusive across all races, ages, sizes, abilities, etc. And then I would also say live your truth, and live it boldly. Walk with the knowledge that your body is beautiful and worthy, even when you can’t see it right now, even when society constantly tells you otherwise.

 

Cool. Where can people find you online?

 

I’m everywhere (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) as Sugary Oblivion/Sugary Oblivion Lifestyle and I blog at sugaryoblivion.com.

 

 

 

 

 

On super fat travel: Disneyland Paris

A few months ago, I spent the day at Disneyland Hong Kong. I love all things Disney, and I was excited to visit one of the parks after a decades long absence. I was nervous, though, about engaging with the park as a super fat person. You can read about my experience here.

 

One thing I picked up during my time at Disneyland Hong Kong is that each Disney park has an app and website that detail each attraction/store/experience in the park, including accessibility information and an accessibility map of the park. You can even filter through things to do based on your needs. At first, I thought the “expectant mothers may not ride” would be useful, assuming it was related to their protruding stomach. ‘Cause I have a protruding stomach too! But no, I quickly realised this was a note about the shock/awe factor of the ride, not the size you need to be to fit into the rides.

 

Under the information for each individual ride, there is accessibility information and “Physical considerations”, which may note that you need to be in “good health” to ride. “Good health”. What a bullshit phrase. It goes on to elaborate that you shouldn’t ride if you have a heart condition, or high blood pressure, or motion sickness, or back or neck injuries. This particular warning is usually attached to the roller coasters. I wonder if they’ve ever considered adding a section about body size in the “Physical considerations” or a filter for physical size/fatness, but it could be tricky to determine how to evaluate the rides based on that in an uniform way. Fat bodies, especially super fat bodies, are not homogenous.

My day at Disneyland Paris couldn’t have been more different than my day at Disneyland Hong Kong. The weather, rather than being above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and humid, was a cool 75 degrees or so, with scattered showers throughout the day. The difference in the weather alone changed my entire mood as I began the day. It’s raining, so the park is quieter than expected. I always enter through the Castle (Sleeping Beauty!), and the first ride I encounter is Snow White. I look long and hard at the ride – there’s barely a line, so I can see the carriages from outside the ride. They seem to leave quite a bit of space and I find myself wondering if perhaps I could ride. I love the Storybook rides; they’ve always been a favourite.

 

I ask myself if my whole trip will be ruined – or even dampened – if I try and fail to fit into the ride. It isn’t worth it to start my trip if it might spoil it. But then I decide, nope, I’m going to give it a try and I’m pretty sure I’ll be ok and happy to continue along if it doesn’t work out.

So I get in the line and in less than 90 seconds, it’s my turn. As I step closer to board the carriage, I think, whoops – this isn’t going to work. I have to squeeze myself into the carriage and as I sit I see that the bar has almost nowhere to go. I give a smile to the attendant (to whom I said as I was waiting, “I’m not sure if I’ll fit, but I want to give it a try”) and prepare to exit. But then the bar barely comes down and locks into place. The attendant checks each carriage, and the ride is off!

I am in such shock I miss the first part of the ride – I’m too focused on the bar, which rests right against my upper belly/boobs, the fact that it’s not uncomfortable, and the reality that is slowly sinking in – I’m riding a ride with a bar at Disney. Whoa. When the ride is over, I get back into line. I wanna do it again. And this time I’m able to pay attention to all the cool details from the start, because I can take it for granted – like almost everyone else there – that I fit.

 

Next door is Pinocchio – never a story I enjoyed, but it looks like it might be the same as Snow White so I decide to give it a try. This one has a line; it takes almost 20 minutes before I’m at the front of the queue. Enough time to get equal parts nervous and excited; excited because I’m pretty sure these are the same carriages as Snow White so I should be right, but nervous because I can’t be sure and it’ll be a bit more of a spectacle to disembark and leave through this much larger crowd. Again, my fat ass fits! But yeah, dumb movie and a dumb ride too.

My excitement about fitting into the Storybook rides stay with me throughout the rest of the day. I rode the Carousel (Le Carrousel de Lancelot), and it’s a small world and Pirates of the Caribbean (I tried these at Disneyland Hong Kong and found them to not be an issue, although you do have to be able to hoist yourself up onto your carousel horse and out of the boats for iasw and Pirates). I also took a cruise on the Molly Brown, a steamboat that makes a short circuit around the inside of the park.

The last ride I tried was the Haunted Mansion, which was a favourite when I was a kid (in Paris it’s called the Phantom Manor). The first part of this ride is a giant elevator you share with a group of people, and then you go two-by-two (or by yourself in my case) into carriages for the rest of the ride. While these carriages were different from the Storybook rides, I was still able to nudge my way into the carriage and the bar didn’t come down very far before the ride began. So again, I fit!

 

I didn’t try my other favourite ride, which is Thunder Mountain Railroad. It’s one of the roller coasters, and from what I could see of the carriages from outside the ride, the bars on that ride go much lower than the Storybook rides. Those bars look to be sitting directly on people’s hips. I was having such a fun day, I decided not to risk dampening it by trying and failing – why push my luck on this trip? Maybe next time… (if anyone out there is super fat like me – a size 36 pants, double belly, super wide hips – who has ridden the roller coasters at Disney, or any amusement park, I’d love to hear about it!)

Across the day, I explored the entire park. I’ve never done that before – my time or energy have always exhausted themselves before seeing the entire park, so I assume that Disneyland Paris is smaller than the other parks I’ve been to in the past. It was an incredible day, filled with laughter and smiles and the music of my childhood. Knowing that I could come to the happiest place on Earth and enjoy most of it unencumbered is such a delight. I’ve got my eye on Disneyland Shanghai for my next adventure, as I’ll  be travelling through Shanghai on my way home from my Europe sabbatical. Until then, I’ve got great memories of the other parks to keep me smiling.

On the failure of spaces

It’s hard to take a shower in three quarter turns;

Never moving your body fully.

 

Aware that too big a shift will send water spilling to the floor. And every time I did move, no matter how small, my second stomach would turn off the water. So I kept turning it back on. And trying not to spill it over the curtain.

 

 

I’ve never had to shower this way before.

 

Sure, I’ve had showers that were pretty small, but they always had doors. A physical presence upon which I could rely as a barrier between the water and outside. A physical presence upon which I could rely as a barrier between my fat body and outside. Maybe to lean against, or use to prop myself up on.

 

No, this tiny shower didn’t have a door. And it didn’t have one curtain, but two.

 

These two curtains met in the middle of the shower, which just happened to be where my largest parts met as well. Top stomach, meet second stomach. Tummies, meet hips and thighs.

 

No matter where I positioned myself in the shower, the two curtains clung to my fat like a second skin. And if I moved too much, the water would creep down my fat and past the curtains, seeping onto the tiled floor.

 

 

The failure of everyday spaces is an everyday object lesson for those who are super fat. The world around us is not built for us, and these reminders come at every turn. The chairs that are too small; the bathroom stalls that aren’t wide enough; the rides at any amusement park with the bars that won’t sit on our hips.

 

Walking through a crowded cafe? Forget about it. Making your way to the back of a classroom? Absurd.

 

As a super fat person, your life becomes structured around how the physical world does and does not welcome you in. You choose where to go based on whether they have booths or an accessible bathroom. You decline invites from co-workers because you know you won’t fit into the shared car they’re car. You make excuses for why leaving your house isn’t something you want to do. Even if you do.

 

Radical feminists have long imagined what a world without men might look like. How the structures might change; how women’s lives might be different. When I imagine, I imagine a world that is made for my super fat body. Where every ride at Disneyland can accommodate my hips & bellies; where every place I go has a restroom I can use without worry. I imagine a world where I can walk into any clothing store and find the casual black trousers I need for work, or the elegant dress for my best friend’s wedding.

 

Imagine, if you will, a world made for fat people. Where all bodies fit and no one is excluded because of their size. What might that look like? How would that change how you love through the world? What can you do to make your own spaces – and the spaces you frequent – more welcoming for fat people?

 

*First performed on 8 July, 2017, at Empowerment und Sensibilisierung zum Thema Fat-Shaming, hosted by Jugendnetzwerk Lambda Berlin-Brandenburg e.V. in Berlin, Germany