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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.”
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:
What actually happened was:
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:
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.]]>
Va Va Boombah is back, fresh from the success of their debut in June 2012. Join them in the Gallery Room at Agent284 and reacquaint yourself with your favourite performers, and check out some new-to-Va Va Boombah performers.
Plus, you’ll be in the running to win fabulous door prizes from VVB sponsors Little Raven Publishing, Bliss for Women, NoXceptions Clothing, Hey Fatty Found Fashion, Bottoms Up! Burlesque and Pole School. There’s also free tickets to the next major VVB show up for grabs.
Date: Thursday 22nd November
Time: Doors 7:30pm, performances from 8pm
Venue: Agent284, 284 Smith St, Collingwood
Cost: $15 full/$10 concession, on the door
Miss Charity Case
Dame Titzi Te Kanawa
and MCed by Lisa-Skye
Sunday 16th September, 12-5pm
St Brigid’s Parish Hall
378 Nicholson St, North Fitzroy
That’s right – it’s going to be a giant fat fashion fair in Melbourne! With vintage, recycled, and independent fashion and accessories! Chub Republic will have a stall, and all proceeds from that will go toward rad fatty projects in Melbourne. There will also be stalls from Hey Fatty themselves, the excellent Bombshell Vintage, and – I am *dying* of anticipation for this one - Gisela Ramirez will be debuting her new collection!!!
The day will be hosted by the incredible Kelli Jean Drinkwater! There will be catwalk shows with the chance for everyone at the fair to strut their stuff! And cupcakes! And Logicbunny Photography (who is the absolute best and most fun!) will have a pop-up studio!
All the deets at Hey Fatty and on Facebook!
See you there, fatties!]]>
I’ve been involved with the organisation, along with the adorable Aimee of @wordsandsequins (who has a guest post up at Fat Heffalump) and the inimitable Lisa Skye, and we have an AMAZING bunch of fatties lined up to perform!
Tickest are selling fast, so make sure you get yours soon!
Friday 1st June 2012 – Doors 7pm
Revolt Melbourne, 12 Elizabeth St, Kensington
Tickets from Revolt Productions - Full $25, Concession $20, Groups (5+) $17
For more info, check out Chub Republic’s website, tumblr, Facebook, and twitter @chubrepublicmel
And if you’re in Brisbane, check out the new Chub Republic Brisbane chapter, who are hosting their very own clothes swap on Saturday 10 March!]]>
While I don’t agree with everything that was said on the program (when will that fat-is-the-last-acceptable-prejudice meme die? And can we please get over shaming-fatties-for-their-own-good already?), I think the overall program was really positive. It was great to have some non-fatties talking about how diets don’t work.
You can listen here (though be warned, there’s some concern-trolling from the callers).
1. A bound hybrid publication issued in a series.
2. Not quite a magazine, not quite a book.
3. A collection of surprising, unconventional new writing.
1. The ester of glycerol and one, two, or three fatty acids.
2. Obesity; corpulence.
3. The best or richest part.
Vignette Press is seeking new work for the latest in its acclaimed series of mooks. After The Sex Mook, The Death Mook, and Geek Mook, comes Fat Mook.
In a climate where fat bodies are ridiculed, controlled, and feared, Fat Mook seeks to expand the ways we think about fat. We’re looking for work that says something both new and real about fat – work that is accessible but makes us think, that goes to hard places and takes us through them, that is ugly and beautiful and changes the way we breathe. We’re keen on art, photography, poetry, memoir, fiction, comics, non-fiction, and other innovative forms – surprise us!
We are looking for work that goes beyond stereotypes and broadens the existing take on fat. To this end, we particularly encourage contributions from people of colour, queer folk, gender diverse folk, disabled folk, and people from around the world. We also encourage submissions from men, as most fat work is written by women, but we welcome all submissions – we want to read your work.
Fat Mook will be the first collection of creative work on fat to be published in Australia.
Possible topics include but are in no way limited to:
Vignette Press appreciates the guts, labour and dedication required to produce good writing and art. Unfortunately, at the moment, we are not in position to express this monetarily. Each contributor will receive a complimentary copy of the Fat Mook.
Submissions close on 1 April 2012
Jackie Wykes and Jennifer Lee, Fat Mook Editors
Amy Espeseth, Publisher, Vignette Press
Follow us on Twitter @vignettepress and @fat_mook. Like us on Facebook: Vignette Press. Befriend us in real life.]]>
It’s on Sunday 11 September at Loophole Community Centre, 670 High Street, Thornbury. You can drop off clothes between 11am-1pm, and then the real fun goes from 2pm-5pm!Are you size 16 or more, and have nothing to wear? Do you own clothes you’ll never wear again and they’re just taking up precious space?
Well here’s a clothes swap just for you! Drop off your pre-loved plus-sized garments between 11am and 1pm, then enjoy the Thornbury shops and cafes until 2pm, when doors open and a whole new world of sartorial brilliance will be yours.
Entry is $5, after which the clothes are FREE! All genders are welcome, and drinks and baked goods will be available.
Follow us on Twitter: @ChubRepublicMel
Join us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/175134172549558/
Check out our website: http://www.chubrepublic.au.com/blog/
And reblog us on Tumblr: http://chubrepublicmelb.tumblr.com/
Type: Edited book
Submission deadline: January 15th, 2012
***DEADLINE EXTENDED TO 31 JANUARY 2012***
Contacts and editors:
Samantha Murray Samantha.firstname.lastname@example.org (Main contact)
Cat Pausé email@example.com
Jackie Wykes firstname.lastname@example.org
Against the backdrop of the ever-growing medicalisation and pathologisation of fatness, the field of Fat Studies has emerged in recent years to offer an interdisciplinary critical interrogation of the dominant medical models of health, to give voice to the lived experience of fat bodies, and to offer critical insights into, and investigations of, the ethico-political implications of the cultural meanings that have come to be attached to fat bodies. This focus on the regulation, discipline and representation of fat bodies make it critically invaluable to the advancement of scholarship on embodiment.
This edited collection seeks to publish recent scholarship that embraces ‘queering’ as a mode of critical engagement in examining fat embodiment. Queer is a heterogeneous and multidisciplinary practice aimed at ‘bringing forth’ and thus denaturalising the taken for granted, the invisible, the normalized. This collection seeks to challenge and destabilise existing ideas of fat and fat embodiment both outside of and within the emerging field of Fat Studies. This volume will bring together scholarship from various disciplines in order to examine the ways in which fat embodiment is lived, experienced, regulated and (re)produced across a range of cultural sites and contexts. In queering established ideas about fat bodies, and presenting challenging inquiries/inqueeries into these notions, this collection will represent an innovative and critically invaluable contribution to the advancement of scholarship on fatness, and indeed on embodiment more generally.
Topics may include but are not limited to:
• fat activism and embodiment
• fat mental and physical health
• queer(y)ing ‘hard data’ on fatness/obesity science
• queer(y)ing health policies related to fat
• cross-cultural or global constructions of fat bodies
• cultural, historical, or philosophical meanings of fat and fat bodies
• fat embodiment in literature, film, music, nonfiction, and the visual arts
• fat as queering sex, beauty, gender, and other embodied performances
• fat sexuality
• fat materialities
• fat and space
• fat and biopolitics
• fat and citizenship
• fat and neoliberalism
• fatness and consumption
Please note that we are already in the process of completing a proposal to submit to publishers, which we will complete based on the submissions we receive. We have had some preliminary interest from publishers, but as yet, we have not secured a contract.
Full paper submissions are due January 15, 2012. Articles should range between 15 and 20 double-spaced pages. Please send submissions, along with an abstract of your paper and a brief biographical sketch, directly to Samantha.email@example.com.
ETA: There’s been a few queries regarding what types of submissions we’re looking for. We’re happy to consider non-academic submissions which reflect on the lived experiences of fat embodiment, but they should be intellectually robust and engage with relevant literature.]]>
I’m also in awe of my co-panellists, Jenny, Elizabeth, and Lili, who were all incredibly articulate, generous, and damn funny to boot. And of course massive thanks to Karen, who put the whole evening together. It was a really fantastic night, and it’s reinvigorated my enthusiasm for fat activism and community.
I also wanted to post a few links to some resources for folks who might be new to fat acceptance (or just looking for new things to read).
First, some Melbourne fat groups you should check out:
Chub Republic - a newly formed group of rad fatties intent on changing the world through dance, fashion, and other joyful things. Check out our inaugural Fabulous Fatshion Extravaganza on Sunday 11 September.
Aquaporko Melbourne – a fat femme (and femme-friendly) synchronised swim team.
We also mentioned (and in some cases, forgot to mention) a bunch of books. These are a great place to start, but there’s plenty more out there. Omission from this list is in no way condemnation; it’s necessary to get this post up.:
Screw Inner Beauty: Lessons from the Fatosphere, Kate Harding & Marianne Kirby (You can also read “The Fantasy of Being Thin” on the Shapely Prose archive. Do it, it’s brilliant.)
Fat!So? Marilyn Wann
Revolting Bodies: The Struggle to Redefine Fat Identity, Kathleen LeBesco
Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression, edited by Kathleen LeBesco & Jana Evans Braziel
The Fat Studies Reader, edited by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay
The ‘Fat’ Female Body, Samantha Murray
Health At Every Size, Linda Bacon
Big Big Love, Hanne Blanke (NB: A new edition is due out in September)
Fat & Proud, Charlotte Cooper
Also some blogs:
You should definitely read Elizabeth & Lili’s blogs (linked above), but there’s a whole big wide fatosphere out there. Here are a few places to get started (ditto with omissions here):
Two Whole Cakes
Fatshionista Flickr Pool
Notes from the Fatosphere feed (one of a number of fat-activists feeds)