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A complete lack of Insight

2013 June 2
by sizeoftheocean

It’s been a long, long, long, long time between posts. I’ve been busily trying to juggle various jobs and projects (PhD, teaching, admin, Aquaporko, Va Va Boombah, Chub Republic, Fat Mook, Queering Fat Embodiment…) while having some sort of a life. I haven’t been particularly successful with the juggling, and this blog isn’t all that’s slipped off the bottom of the to-do list. But thanks to the recent SBS Insight ‘Fat Fighters’ debacle, I’ve decided to resurrect the blog for at least this post (no promises beyond that – I’ve always intended to keep it going, but I’m not making any more commitments until a few of the old ones have been put soundly to bed).

We should have walked out as soon as we saw the graphic was a donut.

We should have walked out as soon as we saw the graphic was a donut.

I want to start by saying that I don’t usually do media. The kind of activism I’m interested in isn’t about fighting, or convincing the haters that they’re wrong. I find that exhausting and draining and futile (for me, personally – all power to the folks who do engage in that work, though). I’d rather invest my increasingly limited time and energy in building fat-positive community and creating spaces which open up new possibilities for thinking about and living as fat people in the world.

After a few less-than-satisfying media experiences, I don’t even respond to most of the requests I receive. When I do respond, I usually say no. I start from a position of refusal, and it takes a lot to talk me around to a yes. It’s a policy that has served me well – the few times I’ve ended up agreeing recently have been positive and worthwhile experiences, like this interview about Aquaporko with Kaitlyn Sawrey for Triple J Hack. So when John MacFarlane, a producer for SBS Insight, contacted me via this blog and the Aquaporko email back in April about a show on “fat politics and fat pride” my response was typically reticent. But I responded because Insight has a good reputation for exploring topics in-depth and drawing out alternative perspectives. I have since discovered this reputation is far from accurate – in the episode about fat, as well as previous epidodes on Aboriginal identity, on Muslim identity, on sex work, on animal rights activists, the voices of “experts” and lay people espousing stereotyped views dominated over those who the show was ostensibly about. To which I say:

I wasn’t a regular viewer, but I thought that the few episodes I had watched were better – or at least less infuriating – that the other current affairs shows on Australia television (a genre I typically avoid – fatties got to take care with our blood pressure after all!). I responded to MacFarlane saying I was willing to talk, but was generally reluctant to do media. I didn’t hear anything for a few weeks, until I got an email to my personal account via Dr Jenny Lee (a fat studies academic and my Fat Mook co-editor), who was also being courted for the program, along with the inimitable Kelli Jean Drinkwater. In the intervening weeks, the focus of the show had shifted from “fat politics and fat pride” to “bariatric surgery“, and that strengthened my resolve to say no.

Then I spoke to MacFarlance, and he convinced me otherwise. The surgery angle, he said, was simply a topical hook – there was “recent research” which proved (yet again) that diets don’t work, and therefore the only “cure” for “obesity” is gastric banding or bypass surgery. I suggested that maybe “obesity” didn’t need to be “cured” and he said that’s exactly why he wanted us on the program. He wanted the show to explore alternatives to the mainstream discourse of disease and self-loathing. We talked for almost an hour, and by the end I was convinced that, while the show would cover a range of perspectives including the standard fat hating bullshit, there was a genuine interest in discussing fat activism and politics. I was, frankly, charmed.

And look, I was willing to be charmed. I was charmed by the interest in my academic and activist work. I was charmed by the fact that someone outside of my fat activist and queer theory circles really seemed to get it – to understand, to sympathise to think that the issues I devote a significant portion of my life to exploring were worthy of discussion. I’ll even admit to being charmed by the goddamn Canadian accent. And – no small consideration for a broke-ass student whose APA scholarship has just expired – I was excited at the prospect of a free trip to Sydney.

But I wasn’t entirely naive. I have ten years of critical media theory, and a handful of first-hand experiences to draw from. So I did my research. I googled MacFarlane’s work, and found a few things to suggest he was on the side of good. His LinkedIn Profile states that his goal is “To find ways to use media to connect people, promote change and make the world a better place” – certainly promising! His twitter bio says he appreciates “people who are nice” – also good!

I also sought the advice of friends and colleagues who were more familiar with Insight as a show. I asked what they thought of the show, of the host, and whether I should go on. Of everyone I asked – in-person, on Twitter, and on Facebook – only one person had a bad word to say about the program. (Note to self: next time, don’t ignore the single dissenter. They probably know things that other people don’t.) I talked to Jenny Lee and Kelli-Jean, and we discussed our concerns and reservations. We tested ideas and compared notes. We all had several more conversations with MacFarlane via phone and email. We raised numerous concerns and were given reassurances for all of them. We came up with strategies and put contingency plans in place. For example:

I said: “I was very unsure about the show before talking to you – to be completely honest, I’m tired of the way that fat activism gets used as ratings bait, and how the discourse basically boils down to arguments about whether people with bodies like mine even have the right to exist.”

MacFarlane said: “My goal in producing these programs is to push beyond what’s already been said, and to create stuff that’s vastly different from the junk on tabloid TV, so I think giving serious attention to fat politics makes sense … With that said (I will happily be honest with you about this), to help our audience get to a new and different place will involve some reference to the existing constructions. We’ve got to bring the hegemonic discourse up in order to tear it down. I don’t think you’ll necessarily like everything that’s said, but I think that makes it even more important that you’re there.”

Another example:

I said: “I know you need to explore a range of perspectives, but in terms of fat activism, the rest of the world is already relentlessly telling “the other side of the story” – I think balance in that case is not necessarily about equal numbers, but having enough weight (heh) to have a chance at redressing prejudices and assumptions. Basically, I don’t want to be the lone voice of fat politics.”

MacFarlane said: “I’m totally on board about your concerns about being a lone voice. We’d have Jenny and yourself for sure, and I think Lupton and Gard – though themselves not fat, as Jenny pointed out – make the total composition very strong on the fat politics front.”
[NB: Neither Michael Guard nor Deborah Lupton appeared on the program.]

Jenny and Kelli-Jean raised similar issues. We asked about who would be on stage, who would have the opportunity to speak, which voices would be given authority and whose perspectives would be treated with respect. We knew that there would be fat hatred on the show, but we were convinced and convinced and reassured and reassured that there was a genuine interest in our perspective. When I got on the plane, I believed that:

  • Jenny Lee would be on the stage, giving fat politics a central voice in the show.
  • I would be sitting in the front row, miked-up and included in the conversation.
  • The show would include clips of Kelli Jean Drinkwater’s award-winning film, Aquaporko! The Documentary.
  • There would actually be a serious discussion of fat activism and politics.

What actually happened was:

  • Jenny Lee was shifted off stage to the front row, and given very few opportunities to speak.
  • Me and Kelli-Jean were relegated to the back row, where we were supposed to wait for the boom mics to be moved over toward us before we started speaking. Ultimately this meant that we had to resort to shouting in order to get the opportunity to say anything, thus setting us up to be angry fat bitches and discredit us as defensive and overly-emotional. In fact, after the filming the executive producer told us that we were all “tired and emotional” and should “go home and get some sleep”. I told him he was being patronising, and fortunately Jenny and Kelli-Jean stepped in before my head actually exploded.
  • The clip of Aquaporko which Kelli-Jean had previously approved was changed at the last minute to remove the voices of fat people. The justification for this was that we’d be in the studio to offer those perspectives ourselves, but this was clearly never on the agenda. The clip was subsequently cut from the program that went to air.
  • There was never any room for a discussion of fat activism, and in fact the only thing that anyone wanted us to talk about was what we ate. The host, Jenny Brockie, absolutely enforced this, insisting that what we ate was relevant and refusing to let us speak about anything else.
  • Every fat person on the show was interrogated about their health and eating habits before they were allowed to speak. Not a single thin person was asked about their health or eating.
  • One of the guests was bariatric surgeon, Wendy Brown, who is the director of the Centre for Obesity Research and Education at Monash University. CORE receives funding from Allergan, who produce the lapbands which CORE’s research says are safe. This conflict of interest is briefly mentioned in the show, but is smoothed over in a matter of seconds by the statement that this is standard practice in universities. (Which is true, but that doesn’t mean it’s not problematic.)
  • The additional ‘fat politics’ guests (Guard and Lupton) never materialised. The only other guest who was on our side to any extent was Louise Adams, a clinic psychologist who (apparently) comes from a HEAS perspective – I say “apparently” because, while she’s against dieting, she encourages “lifestyle change” as a “weight management” tool, which doesn’t really accord with my understanding of HAES. She was excellent on the show, but the fact that our only ally was a psychologist only reinscribes the fatness-as-pathology trope.

In short, the show was exactly and precisely every single thing I was afraid it would be; exactly and precisely the reason I approach every media “opportunity” from the position refusal. It was a set-up, and I don’t really understand why they spent the money to fly us up to Sydney to participate. I was quite literally silenced in the version that went to air – they cut every word I said, although my rather eloquent bitchface made a number of appearances:

(If you want to watch the full show, it’s available online, but I’d avoid it unless you have a real need to wallow in boring, shitty fat hatred.)

We received a sort-of-apology email from MacFarlane the next day (the sort of apology that says “I’m sorry you feel that way” and “we had different expectations” but doesn’t acknowledge any responsibility for setting up those expectations). I still want to believe that he was sincere – both about being sorry, and about the original intent to talk about fat activism in a genuine way (the alternative is that he’s incredibly manipulative and we’re gullible dupes, so of course I don’t want to believe that). I know that television is a collaborative process, and as much as I’m naming MacFarlane throughout this post, it’s because he’s really the only person who works on the show who I interacted with. I think Jenny Brockie – who, as the host, is in a position to control the discourse – is at least as much to blame. As is the insufferably patronising executive producer.

He thanked us for coming on the show, and insisted it was a better show because of us. To which I responded – of course it is, we’re amazing. But are we better for having been on the show? Categorically not. If we hadn’t been involved, it would have been just another example of fat hate in the media – one more turd in the a giant sewage plant of mainstream media. But instead, we got dropped in the shit, and our presence leant it the false legitimacy of an actual discussion. We invested time and money and effort that could have been so much better spent on productive and useful projects. Not to mention the time spent trying to rid ourselves of the stench of that experience.

Unfortunately, this sort of experience is all too common for fat activists (and others). Charlotte Cooper posted about her own media experiences, and created a survey to find out more about other fat activists’ experiences with the media. She’s had so many responses that the survey has been closed already.

If I were to agree to do media again (and it’s highly doubtful I ever will), some of the things I’d do differently are:

  • Demand “a big wodge of cash“. Flights and accommodation are well and good, but my time and expertise are valuable, and that’s why you want me.
  • Research, research, research. Watch every available episode and cast a wide net asking for references.
  • Don’t be satisfied with reassurances. Make demands, get guarantees, and get them in writing.
  • Make trouble. Be demanding. Speak up if promises are not kept.
  • Walk away if things aren’t working out. Walk out when you see the donut graphic. Walk out when you’re relegated to the back row.
  • Don’t do it alone. This is something we did right, and by far best part of the whole experience was spending time before and after the show with my fierce fat babes. And shared experience is a powerful antidote to gaslighting.
Fat Babes before the show

Fat Babes before the show

For journalists, producers and other media types – if you’re genuinely interested in this issues beyond making “edgy” stories (ie, exploiting fat people for your own fun and profit), then it’s worth considering why you don’t hear voices like ours very often in mainstream media. Think about what you’re doing and why you think it’s worthy of our collective time and talents. Yes, we’re amazing and we have things to say that are rarely heard, but we don’t see fighting to be heard over a sea of fat hatred as an ‘opportunity’. If you’re not absolutely committed to presenting our side, then we’re not interested in talking to you.

The saddest thing is, this could have been a genuine opportunity for everyone. Insight not only squandered the chance to explore alternative ways of thinking about fat (seriously, the three of us there and all anyone was interested in was what we eat? What a complete and utter waste!), but contributed to a hostile media environment which ensures these ideas remain unheard, and fat people continue to be stigmatised and treated as stereotypes.

In summary: We are all far too fabulous to be wasting our time on this sort of bullshit.

39 Responses leave one →
  1. Nick permalink
    June 2, 2013

    I know I’ll never even consider accepting a media invitation again. It isn’t worth the anxiety and worry to then end up in a situation like yours.

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 2, 2013

      Nick, I’m actually really glad you didn’t come on the show. As much as it would have been great to have more strength in numbers, I’m glad no one else had to go through the experience.

  2. June 2, 2013

    Dig the “25 minutes of bitchface” vid.
    I caught that episode and felt myself growing uneasier as it progressed – almost felt like a trap. Sorry to hear about you three being chewed up and spat out by Insight :(

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 2, 2013

      25 minutes of bitchface would have been amazing! Heh. I think there was nearly a full minute of my face out of the 50 minutes that went to air – not bad, really, but you’d think they would have let me say *something* in all that time.

  3. Cielo permalink
    June 2, 2013

    Unfortunately reinforced my decision not to watch. Sorry to hear of your experience.

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 2, 2013

      I fully support the decision not to watch. I wish I’d had no involvement so I could have just ignored it as another piece of unnecessary crap.

  4. June 2, 2013

    I just want to give my support and say that I am so sorry you had such a terrible experience on the show. I sat down to watch the episode with such high hopes as it was not only pitched as a genuine discussion on fat politics to you, but the advertisements framed it as such for prospective viewers as well. In the end I was utterly disappointed at how it divulged into the same old fatphobic discussions of “health”, surgery, diet etc….

    The host should be ashamed of herself, too. It’s obvious she didn’t do much, if any research into fat positivity if she thought asking fat people about their diets was reasonable.

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 2, 2013

      I don’t often wish shame on people, it’s such an awful way to feel. But I think the behaviour of the show’s creators was shameful. And the stories I’ve since heard about other peoples’ experiences on the show make it clear that this is standard operating procedure for them.

      Thank you for the support.

  5. June 2, 2013

    Agree with the previous commenter about the uneasy feeling increasing the longer I watched.

    I thought you guys were fabulous.

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 2, 2013

      Jenny and Kelli Jean were great – articulate and powerful. I’m sure I said some worthwhile things, too, but the face is a good summary of my feelings at the time.

  6. June 2, 2013

    Hello Jackie, thanks for the great blog post. I have given this a lot of thought this week for a variety of reasons not the least of which being a debate with a friend (Kat Holmes) during Insight about this. Now, I am a “normal” sized woman. My view during Insight was that the question about the (sorry don’t know the name) lady in pink’s eating habits were relevant, not because of her size, but she questioned the habits / actions (insofar as weight are concerned) of the girl who’d had bariatric surgery. So she herself took the discussion out of the fat positivity message into the “are you happy as you are and are you healthy?” sphere. I realise it was such a pressured situation and maybe what she was feeling was more “that’s great for you that you’ve had bariatric surgery, but you know there are plenty of overweight people, myself included, who are perfectly happy as we are and you need to GET THAT.”

    Either way, the one thing I do give myself credit for is being open to other’s ideas. On Monday night, before my chat with Kat, I honestly held the belief that there would be few people who were obese and happy. Not because of the way obese people look, let me add (and I need to stress that as I thought you all looked gorgeous) but because I do believe it is harder to carry around weight (having been 20kg heavier in my youth) and the discrimination. But Kat firmly corrected me. That makes me happy, because if all we need is for the haters to catch up, then maybe that is a challenge we can meet (Ok, so not on Insight!). All is not lost as a result of you going on the show, I know a number of us had conversations that made us stand up a bit and that’s a good thing. However, I’m sorry that it was what seems to have been another terrible set up experience (read Charlotte’s blog too).

    But what I have concluded this week is that as a society we are pretty well intolerant of everyone and feel free to comment on other people with no regard to their feelings. We deny being like this, but the evidence is out there.

    I recently had my hair cut from long to short. I have had SO many open, negative comments. I must have become gay (of course). I must have “given up” on my appearance. I must have had a brain freeze. The worst thing? It’s made me hate how I look.

    Hats off to you and your companions on the show.

    Kind regards

    Sophie.

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 2, 2013

      Actually, Sophie, Kelli Jean did not take the discussion away from fat positivity – firstly because the conversation never had a chance to be about fat positivity. The moment you’re referring to came toward the end of two hours of filming (and is toward the end of the 50 minute show – don’t discount the magic of editing). Kelli Jean was repeatedly berated by the ‘fitness experts’ and host to tell them what she ate, when the conversation we were trying to have is that maybe what we eat is not the most important thing about us. It’s great that Kat changed your mind about fat people, but find it interesting that the thing you choose to highlight in your comment is the one fat activist ‘blooper’, and not the awful behaviour of the other guests.

      • June 3, 2013

        Hi Jackie

        I wasn’t highlighting a blooper to suggest that the show was appropriate or that the behaviour of the other guests was appropriate. All I was saying is that, to the extent that Kelli Jean was asked by the younger bariatric surgeon patient whether she was healthy, I thought that was a fair question. It may have been at the end of the show and in the context of unreasonable questions being asked, but as a viewer I can only comment on what I see. My only point was that if Kelli Jean could ask the other girl whether she felt any better thinner then I think the question about Kelli Jean’s health as a larger person in response was reasonable. I only raised this because this question got a lot of attention and I wanted to provide my take on it.

        I thought that the personal trainers (well the female one) were completely out of line and had a very robust discussion with them on twitter throughout the show about that. My reason for raising that point as an example, was as a point of differentiation in that I thought that question was fair, but that the rest of the show was not.

        • sizeoftheocean
          June 3, 2013

          I just don’t follow your logic. Kelli Jean’s question about happiness was a response to being asked repeatedly – berated, I think would be the word – about what she ate, NOT the other way around. The fact that Kelli-Jean asked Breanna if she was happier after having lost weight as a result of her lapband doesn’t retrospectively legitimate the interrogation of KJ’s eating habits. Nor would it if she’d asked that question before being interrogated – a question about a person’s happiness is a categorically different thing from the question of what they eat.

          It’s also worth remembering (pointing out?) that asking a fat person about what they eat or if they’re healthy is almost always a catch 22 situation. It doesn’t matter if we eat ‘normally’ (for whatever arbitrary value of normal the questioner invokes – for Sharni, it included never eating pasta), because ‘common knowledge’ would have it that fat people couldn’t possibly eat normally and so we must be liars. If we say that we’re healthy, then again we’re either seen as liars or told that ‘it just hasn’t caught up with us yet’ – which is inevitably followed by promises of disease and early death.

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 2, 2013

      Also, at no point did KJ asked anyone if they were healthy, or what they ate. Interesting that that’s your perception, though.

      • June 3, 2013

        I was just trying to engage in some discussion about this, and share my point of view. I am not a fat hater, and nor do I think the show was fair. No I’m not obese and no I don’t have all the answers, but I think of myself as a kind and openminded person. But I have an opinion and if we are to get anywhere with any debate on anything, it’s not fair to be met with “interesting that that’s your perception” as if I plainly must be on the wrong side of the debate.

        • sizeoftheocean
          June 3, 2013

          Sophie, I understand that you’re trying to say you’re on our side, or closer to it than you were before the show, and I guess that’s a net good. I also understand that it must be frustrating that I’m not responding to your change of heart in a way that’s particularly warm or excited – after all, fat people should welcome kind and openminded people as allies. And I do. But I also find your insistance that the line of questioning was in any way reasonable incredibly frustrating, and clearly based on a different perception of events than what actually happened. KJ’s question was a response, not a provocation.

          I’m not trying to be hostile, and I’m sorry that I have come come across that way – certainly my dismissiveness may be influenced by having read your comments on Kat’s FB. But I’m also really not interested in having a debate of any sort, because debates about fat inevitably circle around some version of ‘is it okay to be fat’ and I am unbelievably tired of being asked that question. I am unbelievably tired of people thinking that’s a valid question to ask.

          I’ve been thinking and writing and living fat for many years now, and I do it to make a space for people like me to live bigger, better, fuller lives. If a few non-fat people’s minds are changed as a result, that’s great, but it’s not the aim and I certainly don’t consider it worth the toll that Insight took on the three of us.

          I am genuinely glad that your views changed as a result of the show. I’m glad if you no longer think it’s impossible for “morbidly obese people, really really big people” to be healthy or happy. But – this is going to sound much more hostile than I mean it to be, but it’s a great metaphor that is often used in discussions about allies/’nice guys’/etc – you don’t get a cookie just for not being a jerk (see, it does sound hostile, but it’s really just internet).

          You’re welcome to join the party – and it’s a great party – but it’s not reasonable to expect a warm embrace from people you so recently pitied without first proving that you do, actually get it. And that’s a hard sell when you open by justifying the very thing we’re railing against.

          • June 3, 2013

            Jackie,

            I’m not “on your side” or “not on your side”. What I was trying to convey was an opinion that, but for that one question, I thought the show was stereotypical and uninformative. And guess what? Since your comments I’ve downloaded the transcript, read it and readily concede that I was misinformed and that KJ had only asked if B was “happier”, not “healthier”. Thus, I agree that the question re what you eat was off limits.

            I don’t need a warm embrace. While I empathise with your journey, I have had a very significant once of my own and that is precisely what has caused me, in my opinion, to try and engage with groups, people, issues that I might have not cared or thought about before. I don’t pity fat people and never have.

            You say that “If a few non-fat people’s minds are changed as a result, that’s great, but it’s not the aim”, then what was the aim of Insight? Don’t you need to change ill informed minds (mine of which is apparently one – I accept that) to make a space for people like you to live bigger, better, fuller lives?

            I’ll leave you be but I’m upset, yes. I’m upset that to try and engage in this debate, or for other in racism debates or gay marriage debates you have no voice unless you are part of the minority. I’m sorry you found any of my comments on Kat’s page dismissive, I felt our discussion was the contrary because she accepted we were different in our opinions but made a lot of sense to me in explaining her POV as a result of which I feel more open minded and better educated. That’s a good thing. If people anywhere of any view want to engage with me in a debate about the issue I’m passionate about, I fully embrace that because as long as they are kind and openminded, I may just learn something and make a new friend along the way.

            Best wishes, Sophie.

  7. June 3, 2013

    I am so glad you have written publicly about your experiences with SBS Insight, Jackie. If nothing else, people need to know about the way that the media manipulate fat people (and other marginalised people) to serve their own prejudices. The behaviour of the entire SBS Insight team was unprofessional and embarrassing.

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 3, 2013

      Thanks, Kath. From the resulting discussion of this post on twitter and facebook, it seems this kind of set-up is pretty much business as usual for Insight. Which is shameful and disheartening. I’m now trying to think of ways to crowd source information about media outlets for activists of all sorts…

  8. Ariane permalink
    June 3, 2013

    It’s really important that people see the manipulation and other dirty tricks used in panel shows and similar things – it is not simply people talking together! I’m really, really sorry you had cause to write it.

    FWIW, I asked the women in the stitching group I went to about the show. Most hadn’t watched it, one said it was really good, one said it was pretty bad and another said “Oh, it was awful. The way they treated those women was terrible. It looked like a set up.” I didn’t get to question the person who said it was good, but I was heartened to see some people could see through it. None of which makes the experience any less horrid for you, but there were people who could see at least some of what they did.

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 3, 2013

      Thanks, Ariane. The response has actually been really heartening, and the fact that people none of us know/who have no investment can see it as bullshit is actually really encouraging.

  9. Kerry permalink
    June 3, 2013

    I was incredibly disappointed with Insight, with the shows content and the host. I totally agree that they used the hook of fat to perpetuate the stereotypes to increase their ratings. It never seemed to me that they actually wanted a discussion at all. In my mind they either need to present all the usual bullshit and smugly sit back as they reinforce their narrow beliefs that fat is horrible and unhealthy. Or actually take the time to engage all those, including yourself who are sharing a different idea and shut up and listen. Me thinks the media wanting to listen, learn, expand and challenge their thinking and beliefs is not on their agenda.

    Sorry this was such a horrible experience, thank you for what you do and what you have written here.

  10. Karina" permalink
    June 3, 2013

    I was really looking forward to this particular episode of Insight. I usually find the show quite good, with opinions from all walks of life, and a good forum for debate.
    Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. What started out as some good conversation ended as an attack. Being constantly interrupted and spoken over would have made me extremely defensive, which I think is what happened to you, among others. In the effort to keep the show moving (as any good host should), the point of view of the token ‘fat people’ was completely disregarded! And therefore, in trying to make yourself heard, came across as “angry fat bitches”. It’s an exhausting argument, but I’m glad it was gorgeous girls like you and Kelli-Jean representing us. You did well, considering it was a forum in which your point of view was ignored. Jenny Brockie certainly didn’t do herself any favours on this show, instead of being the host, encouraging discussion between the audience members, she just argued with you!

    It came across to the audience that you girls were simply on the show as scapegoats.

    Also, LOVED the outfit :)

  11. June 3, 2013

    I’m sorry that it turned out so badly for you and the other fat activists, but am not surprised that this is how you were ‘framed’ (in more ways than one). I was approached about participating in the program and did have quite a long chat with John MacFarlane about the topics they were planning to raise, but decided against it in the end because of family commitments on the day of the taping. (And now I’m glad I did!).

    It is very interesting to compare my experiences with yours and those of other fat activists, like Charlotte Cooper. I have done some radio and newspaper interviews about fat politics since my Fat book came out, but of course have never been attacked in the way you have and have not had to deal with the kinds of questions you have, because I am not a fat bodied person. Although I have challenged anti-obesity discourse and discrimination against fat people strongly, I have never been asked about my own lifestyle, eating habits etc. Proof, indeed, that one’s appearance directly affects how one’s views are received.

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 3, 2013

      Deborah, thanks so much for your comment. I’m having a bit of an acafangirl moment here – a big chapter of my thesis is based on your work. I had been really looking forward to meeting you at the filming, although I knew beforehand through Jenny Lee that you wouldn’t be there.

      It’s so clear in watching the show that none of the people who were allowed to speak about fat without having their credibility questioned were not fat themselves. It’s something that plays out again and again. It’s one of the reasons why non-fat allies are important, but at the same time, is such a blatant demonstration of the idea that fat people can’t be trusted or aren’t worth listening to.

      I also find it incredibly frustrating that when media do actually want to talk to me about fat, they’re less interested in my research and more interested in trying to draw out a personal story of suffering. It’s not as though my research is ever entirely separate from my lived experience – which includes trauma as well as pleasure and joy – but it’s incredibly disheartening to have the academic expertise I’ve worked so hard to develop be dismissed in that way.

  12. Christopher permalink
    June 3, 2013

    Well I have read and it was a lengthy tome I had stop and ask myself was on the same show? I would have been happy to placed in the middle at the back rather than shoved to the side out of frame and for some hopefully, out of mind. I didn’t agree with the trainer asking about any ones eating habits I thought that it was a moot point, and only an opportunity for derision. I to thought that the show was a lost opportunity to tease out the issues of being overweight and obese and hopefully give people some take home tools to improve their health.(notice I said improve their health rather than lose weight)

    As for being asked about ones eating habits, I get asked with some frequency. People assume that being muscular and every bit the atypical middle aged male you must eat like a Spartan. They are surprised when I reply that I eat a large pizza on the weekend enjoy chocolate cake and other foods relegated to the list of BADFOOD. Having said that I train like a Spartan through the week and rest on my laurels on the weekend.

    As for your experience on the show you at least were acknowledged I wasn’t extended any professional courtesy. My greatest disappointment is that like your own perceived experience with the 15 sec “Bitch face” I was seen as the protagonist towards fat people. I understand losing weight is very difficult for people, but the point I was trying to establish is that regardless of the difficulty everyone “can lose weight”. That was the question Brockie asked. I did empathise with the blond out front she was a victim of the system and her own emotional turmoil when she replied that losing weight was hard I felt her pain. anyway hopefully you will view this as I intended. If any thing positive came from that show it was talking to the guy next to me that had gone from 280K to 110K he was my inspiration for the night and proving the mind is stronger than the body.
    CW

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 3, 2013

      Were you the guy on the far left going on and on about how the healthcare system was being crushed by our collective weight?

      • Christopher permalink
        June 4, 2013

        I wasn’t going on and on as I only spoke twice! unlike many others that were given every opportunity to state their case. I take it from the tenor of your comment that your not a happy camper.

        • sizeoftheocean
          June 4, 2013

          Can I ask who you are and why you were on the show? I assumed you were a random audience member, but your “professional courtesy” quip makes it sound like you were an invited guest?

  13. Amy permalink
    June 3, 2013

    Wow, I loathe Insight (and Q&A, and whatever the other commercial channel equivalents are) and have exceedingly low expectations of it, but the flat-out lies you were fed to get you there (clearly, they wanted some “Token Fatties” to interrogate the eating habits of), are appalling. And I’m sorry you all had to go through this, and now you’re being concern-trolled here in your blog. You guys are amazing, and I can’t wait for a chance to see the Aquaporko documentary somewhere (I live in Brisbane.

    • sizeoftheocean
      June 4, 2013

      Thanks, Amy! The doco is doing the international festival circuit rounds at the moment, but there should be more screenings in Australlia at some point. The Facebook page is probably the best place to keep up with news and get in touch with Kelli Jean, who is the filmmaker – https://www.facebook.com/AquaporkoDocumentary

  14. June 4, 2013

    Yeah I lost too many friends and family to obese weight problems….its not healthy at all.

    I understand you felt kinda attacked and I feel for you I really do…but I have been to too many funerals.

  15. Lily O'Hara permalink
    June 5, 2013

    I’m so terribly sorry that you wonderful women had to be subjected to such a trite, rude, shallow, disrespectful excuse for a current affairs show. Although I don’t watch Insight, I expected more of SBS, well just because it’s SBS. In addition to the incredibly awful way you were treated, the other major shame is that it was such a massive wasted opportunity to explore an issue insightfully. The show offered virtually zero insight into the experience of fat beyond the usual hegemonic perspective. Seriously, why bother? Of course they would never have got any of you fabulous women on the show had this been clear from the start. I’m sending all my healing hugs to you from across the waves.

  16. Sam permalink
    June 6, 2013

    I usually tune in to Insight and enjoy the episodes, however last week’s show is still at the forefront of my mind as it descended into such a train wreck! A friend and I were chatting about it over dinner tonight, so I searched for the episode and found a link to your blog; this entry is very insightful (see what I did there?).

    As a viewer I have enjoyed Jenny Brockie’s presence as a facilitator, so I was shocked at her approach on this particular episode – not only were her justifications for the food questions completely illogical, her dogged persistence came across as very unprofessional and aggressive. I thought the lady she was up against (also named Jenny?) spoke very well and what she said made sense, to us at home at least if not to the host!

    At this point, my boyfriend and I, who had been interested in the show up to this point (despite its vague approach to the subject – we didn’t quite know what tangent the show was following) were literally yelling at the TV to Jenny Brockie to let it go! The show certainly took an uncomfortable turn and by this point I felt like we had wasted 45mins of our night watching it.

    Oh and on a less serious note, I LOVE your bitchface clip. That should have screened instead. Gold.

  17. July 19, 2013

    Like some other commenters (and you) I’m very surprised that they bothered to fly you all the way to Sydney only to have you as decour in the background.. if that’s not a waste of money and resources then I don’t know what is.

    I don’t live in Australia so the show and the channel isn’t familiar to me, but I’m so tired of seeing the same fatphobic hating bullshit everytime anyone decides to do a show on the “epedemic” of fatness. They’re too cowardly to let someone bring something new to the table, and when there is something new to be said there’s always a thin person that gets to speak about it, the psychologist in this case. Not the actual fat people with the first hand experience… urk. It just kept derailing slowly, with the dangerous procedures that people put themselves through because of the hate and shame(the lady that had to have her stomach removed and her story made me cringe), and culminated in the vicious attack on the lady in pink. That fitness training lady really was the worst, makes me even less exited for reunion a couple of years into the future since one of the boys I went to school with has become a personal trainer and has “inspired” one of my cousins to lose a bunch of weight. One can only hope he’ll leave me the fuck alone when that time comes.

    I’m really sad that you all were exploited in this manner. They could have made the discussion interesting and fruitful, but instead decided to keep at it in the same old fat-hating manner as thousands of shows have done before them :(
    This is the first time I’ve been to your blog as well, usually I’m just a lurker but lately I’ve been better at joining in the conversation. Now I’m off to read some more.

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