Well, I’ve been neglecting this little blog of late because I’ve been busily preparing for Confirmation. I submitted my report on Monday, and my defence is in another week, then, all going well, I will be confirmed! I’m a little nervous – even though everyone tells me it’s a congenial kind of affair, I’m still stuck on the notion that ‘defence’ implies ‘attack’. Eep!
Aside from the stress of deadlines, nervous anticipation, and a bad case of imposter syndrome, I am really loving academia at the moment! In stark contrast to the horror stories I’ve heard about professional isolation and jealousy and bitter competitiveness, the fat studies scholars who I’ve connect with (some through this blog, which absolutely thrills me!) have been amazing! Generous and friendly and welcoming and supportive and warm and all the things I’d been told didn’t exist in academia. Huh!
It’s a strange experience to be invited in to this club of amazing women (so far) because of my fat (well, because of my engagement with fat, but still). Especially when I’ve felt for so much of my life like my position anywhere was extremely marginal and tenuous because of my fat. It’s actually not an entirely new experience – I’ve been warmly invited into other groups and events before, but – damn imposter syndrome! – have never felt like I deserved to be there, and so involved myself in only a marginal and tenuous way. Because of my fat.
It’s tricky to talk about this stuff because it ends up sounding like an individual self-esteem issue. And while yes, sure, that’s part of it, what I’m trying to get at is the larger cultural forces at work. The cultural forces that produce individual self-esteem issues, that produce cultural marginalisation as an individual psychological issue.
I think there’s a friction within fat acceptance where we (generally) recognise that the ‘problem’ is cultural (a fat-hating society) rather than individual (a fat body), but the ‘solution’ is still located on the individual level, but has been shifted from the individual body (loose weight!) to the individual mind (change your attitude!). Sam Murray says all of this in her excellent book, it’s not my idea, but it’s a contradiction that bothers me. Not least because I think there absolutely is value and benefit in reforming individual attitudes. That the whole entire world doesn’t have to be fat-positive for me to be ok in my body; the that whole entire world doesn’t have to want to shag me in order for me to feel sexy and have great sex. At the same time, I think that part of what fat acceptance forums like the fatosphere does is to build communities, so it becomes about something much larger than the individual. But there’s a disconnect there, and it’s niggling away as I work through these ideas.
Has anyone else noticed it? What are your thoughts?