Archive for the 'Media' Category

Frances Lockie, published writer

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Check me out!

An exciting thing happened this week: Girlfriend, an Australian monthly magazine for teen girls aged 14 to 17 years of age, published a story on fat stigma. Even more exciting: I’m the one who wrote it!

Girlfriend has really cool, feminist editors; some of the stories they’ve featured in recent months include street harassment, transgenderism, and a critique of the idea of ‘real women’ (interspersed with posters of One Direction, naturally. SO GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT OF MY HEEEAAAAD AND FALL INTO MY ARMS INSTEEEAAAD…) They hold the young women of Australia in such high regard and I’m stoked to be published in their pages.

Click here to read the story.

Fat stigma is so passé

I’m pretty aware that there’s been a lack of Serious Content on this blog for a while. The month long (or more) hiatuses punctuated by the odd outfit post have not been intentional. I haven’t run out of opinions and the world certainly hasn’t run out of fat stigma. I just get so bored of it, you know?

Today I read an opinion piece by satirist/writer/radio host Dominic Knight talking about fatness and happiness and how it doesn’t matter how happy we are because we’re too fat… or something. I started picking it apart and refuting his arguments before thinking to myself, “HOLY CRAP, THIS IS SO BORING.”

The same dull statements about how fat Australia is. The same tired old fat jokes (sumo wrestlers! LOL!). The same predictable conclusions about eating well and exercising more.

AnnaNicole

I’m at the point now where I don’t really get angry when I see yet another anti-fat article. I’ve been in fat activism for so long, and have so many friends with rad body positive attitudes, that the only reaction I’m capable of is “Really…? Are we still talking about calories in/calories out like no one’s ever thought of it before?! REALLY?!”

It bores me. But since the same arguments keep coming up, I guess the same rebuttals need to be made. Second verse same as the first…

BUSTED: SUPER ULTRA MEGA BORING OBESITY CLICHES

I’m positive that this list is not exhaustive. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Australia/New Zealand/America/UK/[insert developed, English-speaking nation here] is the fattest nation in the world.
Nope. When a country is breathlessly declared by journalists as being THE FATTEST NATION IN THE WORLDDDDDD, what they actually mean is “The fattest nation out of a list of approximately 30 nations that make up the wealthiest countries in the world”.

According to this 2010 list (with data sourced from the International Obesity Taskforce), USA is 18th, Scotland is 32nd, New Zealand is 35th, England is 38th and Australia is 47th. So there.

But HEALTH!!!!!!!!!
1) Health is determined by a set of behaviours, not a set of body shapes. Moving regularly, eating well, getting enough sleep, not smoking, drinking in moderation, maintaining a work/life balance… they improve health outcomes for people of all sizes. And here’s the rub: You don’t know a person’s healthy, or unhealthy, behaviours just by looking at them.

2) Health is a privilege. People who treat eating well and exercising regularly as things that are easily achieved are putting their ableism on blast. Those behaviours aren’t possible, or are only possible to a certain extent, for some people with physical, mental and/or psychological disabilities.

3) Fat stigma is more pervasive than you think. It’s pretty challenging for a fat person to go to a gym when they know that judgemental eyes will be watching their every move. It’s intimidating for a fat person to go for a run when they’ve had insults, or even rubbish, thrown at them from passing cars. (If you can’t imagine such things ever happening to anyone, that’s your thin privilege in action.)

4) Diets don’t work long term and may cause more harm than good.

5) People are able to prioritise health for themselves. That means they can choose to not prioritise it. That means they can be the Bad Kind of Fatty. And if someone chooses that lifestyle for themselves, they still deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

There’s overweight, and then there’s obese
OR I’m talking about people who are fat because of their lifestyle

No, you don’t get to be a jerk to anyone. There is no level of fatness, or pathway to fatness, that justifies arseholish behaviour.

No one enjoys being fat
First of all, if people don’t enjoy being fat, I’d wager that a good deal of that is due to the stigma they experience and the stigma they have internalised. For most people, having a fat body is not a barrier to anything.

Second of all, there is a great number of us who are happy with our bodies, thank you very much, and do not take kindly to people making gross assumptions about our happiness.

There were no fat people in concentration camps.
This argument is beyond vulgar and yet it is trotted out all the time.

People in concentration camps were starved and tortured. Their suffering is not a motivational “See? You can do it too!”-style example of thinness.

“There were no fat people in concentration camps” is a longer way of announcing “I am a massive tool”.

Fat people are ugly.
No one’s forcing you to enter a marriage with a fat person; your long years of passionless misery broken only by gin-fuelled screaming matches, torrid affairs in dingy motel rooms, and enduring the spiteful tongues of your resentful children over the dinner table at their annual Christmas visit. We don’t want that life either.

Find someone you do find attractive and try to have sex with them. Fatties will do the same. Everyone wins.

[Insert fat joke here]
Making a joke at the expense of any socially and culturally stigmatised group of people is lazy comedy. Do better.

The Ongoing Adventures of a Media Tart

I’ve been seriously low on blogging mojo, but here I am again. I missed you too, fatosphere.

While I was absent, I was featured in the winter issue of Peppermint magazine. Peppermint is a “green fashion magazine, celebrating eco and ethical style”. It’s the most positive women’s fashion magazine I’ve seen and I’m proud to be in their pages. This issue is still on sale, so go buy it – stare at my mug AND support an awesome independent Aussie mag at the same time!

The feature was called ‘What is Beauty?’ and asked a variety of women of different ages, sizes and cultural backgrounds exactly that question. This was my part of the spread:

My section says:

I had pretty low self-esteem throughout my adolescence. I grew up in a coastal town and all the girls there are tan, fit and blonde whereas I’m bigger, bi-racial and a completely different body shape. I wanted to look like someone that wasn’t me. While I’m actually bigger now than I ever was in high school, the one thing out of all of my ‘flaws’ I thought I could change was my size, so that’s what I attacked. I went on my first diet when I was 10 years old.

Those years were seriously bleak. When I was 18, I made a conscious decision that I wouldn’t hate myself anymore. It has been an incredibly long process – I still have bad days sometimes – but seven years later I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a single thing about me. Not a single freckle and not a single gram.

The cultural messages on what is aesthetically pleasing seem to be more and more uniform. Perfection exists in such a tiny Goldilocks-style window (not too fat, not too thin, not too dark, not too pale, not too soft, not too muscular…) But truly beautiful people are not photoshopped. Inspiring music is not auto-tuned. Important art is not precise. We need to remember the appeal of imperfections.

A couple of years ago, I set up a tumblr blog called Hey, Fat Chick! Spending so much time looking at pictures of bodies outside the beauty ideal has blown my mind. It has helped me realise that there are no bad bodies. When beauty ideals are so prescriptive, making peace with your body is a revolutionary act. Smash the ideal. Never apologise for your body!

I feel most beautiful when I’m at home, in varying states of undress, doing something completely mundane with my boyfriend. Those quiet, unconscious moments are the most beautiful of all.

Here are a couple of extras from the associated photo shoot I did with Leanna Maione:

Coat: Second hand from Shrinkle on etsy (BEST PURCHASE EVER EVER EVER)
Dress: Asos
Tights: We Love Colors (Free shipping to Australia and New Zealand on orders over $30 with the code WELOVENZAUS. Offer valid until 31 August.)
Necklace: Dinosaur Designs
Belt: Second hand from GlobeAmaranth on etsy
Shoes: Jeffrey Campbell from Solestruck

Fat on the air

Yesterday, I was interviewed on Triple J’s Hack program. For those of you outside Australia, Triple J is the national youth radio station. It’s part of the government funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, it plays a lot of alternative music not heard on commercial radio, it fosters unsigned Aussie talent and it’s generally very cool. Hack is their current affairs program.

For context: On Wednesday, the Heart Foundation and the Cancer Councils in Australia released the results of their National Secondary Students’ Diet and Activity survey. The research surveyed 12,000 students in years eight to 11 across 237 schools to determine their dietary and physical activity behaviours. The research memos can be found here and they make for some interesting reading.

Unfortunately (unsurprisingly?), the conclusions the organisations drew from the research fixated on the inevitable, detrimental effects of obesity. Despite finding that adolescents across the board weren’t meeting the recommended amounts of fruit/veg intake or the recommended levels of physical activity, the organisations chose to recommend the implementation of a “comprehensive obesity strategy”. Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Ian Olver, even trotted out the tired old line “We may see today’s teenagers die at a younger age than their parents generation for the first time in history” (an unnecessarily alarmist statement that has never been supported by any evidence).

This story got a run on Hack and, being the enterprising young go-getter that I am, I wrote to host Tom Tilley in the hopes of getting on the show to present an alternative, fat positive view. It worked like a charm! I even dragged in the coolest academic on the block, Dr Samantha Thomas, to provide some academic rigour to the proceedings.

Click here to check out the story on Hack. (I bloody love that the title is ‘Fat Defenders’ as it makes me sound like a superhero.) I sound Very Serious in this interview because I was sweating bullets. (My nerves were not helped by the fact that Lindsay MacDougall, the object of my deep pubescent desire when I was 14, was recording in the booth next door.) It’s mainly Fat Acceptance 101 stuff, but it’s amazing how contentious the idea ‘fat people are people too’ can be.

This whole thing is a pretty big deal for me. Triple J is awesome and this was my first go at live radio. (Luckily, Tom and the Hack crew are ace. Thank you again, guys!)

As is my way, I spent the entire night after the interview thinking about all the things I should have said. Above all else, I wish I had said this:

Even if all fat people are the way they are due to their bad choices, even if every single fat person is unhealthy, that does not justify sub-standard treatment. How can the health of strangers possibly inspire such vitriol? If you remain convinced that others’ bodies are your business and that people must justify their existence to you, perhaps you should consider the possibility that you are an arsehole.

Two Piece Swimsuit, Two Middle Fingers

I love the beach. I spend all summer there and spend the rest of the year pining for summer so I can park myself on the sand again. For most of my life, I’ve lived in the same house in a small coastal town with a beach literally down the road. When the Boyfriend and I move in together, we want to live in eastern Sydney so the Pacific isn’t too far away. I’m emotionally dependent on the ocean. I feel my whole body relax when I smell the sea air and I physically ache for a swim when I’ve gone a while without a dip. My love runs deep.

When I go for a swim, I wear a bikini. I’ve been wearing two piece cossies since I was about 10 years old. I find them more comfortable, it’s quick and easy to change out of my swimmer bottoms right there on the sand when I come out of the water (to avoid getting thrush) and – the Cancer Council will have me hanged for this – I like having an even tan.

I’ve been planning a bikini post for months. I was always going to show my half-naked self on Corpulent to tell everyone that I’m not ashamed of my body (and hopefully encourage you to not be ashamed of yours). I was going to wait until it was a little warmer and I had a bit more of a tan to take some photos and write this post. However, my schedule was pushed ahead by this gem of an article by Natasha Hughes.

Hughes’ article questions suitable beach attire; namely whether “overweight Australian women” should wear bikinis. The article itself is tiny – less than 250 words – but it made me furious. The most bilious section states, “I know there’s going to be two schools of thought on this but I’m with the Fat Should be Camouflaged College. Who wants to be exposed to someone’s rolls? Where is their sense of style, of decency?”

Decency? DECENCY?! How’s this for fucking decency:

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The article was published on Tuesday and, 6 days later, Hughes’ spiteful words still make me angry. I hate the sense of entitlement that comes with a question like, “Who wants to be exposed to someone’s rolls?” Hughes’ tone is reflected in many of the comments. According to them, displaying our bodies becomes a vicious action – we are “subjecting”, “inflicting” and “confronting” – because our fat is “disgusting”, “nauseating”, “gross” and my personal favourite “pollution for the eyes”.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I despise the idea that all fatties (and indeed, anyone with bodies outside the beauty ideal) must shield the eyes of the poor, unsuspecting public from the offensiveness of their bodies. Listen and repeat after me: Life is not a beauty pageant. We do not exist to be aesthetically pleasing to the judgemental eyes of strangers.

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As Lesley wrote on Fatshionista,

You do not have to be beautiful. It’s not your responsibility to be beautiful, for yourself or for anyone else, not for your family or your partner or your friends or some stranger on the street who finds your face unpleasant.

Similar sentiments were written by Erin on A Dress A Day,

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

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There is a fabulous quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh that states, “One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much. Clothes, first. Of course one needs less in the sun. But one needs less anyway, one finds suddenly … One finds one is shedding not only clothes – but vanity.”

That beautifully encapsulates what I love about the beach and what I hate hate hate about Hughes’ article. The beach necessitates freedom but Hughes is trying to apply bullshit sartorial decorum to it. True style and true decency is borne from a comfort in one’s skin and a confidence in the image one is presenting to the world. Fat hate masquerading as bland fashion advice? How terribly passé.

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Fancy “inflicting” your flesh on others?

  • By Ro Designs has cute bikinis and monokinis from size 1X (which equates to a US size 18/20) to 6X
  • noXceptions is an Australian online store that stocks a few two piece togs from an Australian size 16 to 40
  • Stacked on etsy has adorable custom retro two pieces
  • Midnight Black has adorable 40s and 50s style bikinis up to a 2X (more styles are available in their Newtown store)
  • Pin Up Girl Clothing also has retro bikinis, but their plus size stock is a bit low. I saw a couple of US size 18s and 20s, as well as a few 14s and 16s in their main range.
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry Anymore stocks bikinis up to an Australian size 20
  • Big Gals Lingerie has bikinis in a number of different styles in sizes 1X (US size 16/18) and 2X (US size 20/22)
  • Love Your Peaches has two pieces from 1X (US size 14/16) to 6X (US size 34/36). However, their website states that their clothing runs large and recommends ordering a size down.
  • Monif C sells saucy high waisted bikinis
  • If you’re on the smaller side of fat,  Asos sells bikinis up to a UK size 18 and Outdoor Girl sells bikinis up to a 2X (US size 18)
  • Smaller fats with smaller boobs: Don’t disregard straight size surf/swimwear shops. I found my bikini in a Rip Curl shop. That said, I found it after looking in many other stores, so if you’re going to hunt for a straight size bikini be prepared for some frustration.

Menfolk, I don’t mean to exclude you. I love seeing a man in a pair of swim briefs so please feel emboldened to “expose” your rolls too. I know that Speedo’s only go up to a 44”/110cm waist, so if anyone knows where to get plus size swimwear for men please leave it in the comments.

World’s fattest woman?

You may remember a story from the Daily Mail last month about Donna Simpson, a New Jersey woman “determined” to become the world’s fattest woman.

The Daily Mail isn’t exactly a bastion of media integrity. It is a conservative, reactionary British tabloid that has been involved in a number of notable libel cases. All of this was noted in an excellent post by Charlotte Cooper of Obesity Timebomb, who questioned whether the article was just “journalistic spin on running a random stereotype-filled story about a superfat woman on the eve of bikini season – always a crowd pleaser”.

In spite of the Daily Mail’s track record, many did take the article at face value. Donna Simpson’s alleged goal inspired some pretty visceral reactions from people: that she is the antithesis to fat acceptance, that she is eating herself to an early grave, that she is a bad mother, that she is selfish and – horror of horrors – that poor old Joe Six-Pack will be saddled with her ever-increasing hospital bills.

As it turns out, Daily Mail did twist Donna Simpson’s words in order to turn her into a big fat freak show.

As was gleefully pointed out in the article, Donna Simpson is a model on the fetish website Supersized Bombshells (“she runs a website where men pay her to watch her eat fast food”). Like all models on all sexually explicit websites, she provides very obvious fantasy for her subscribers. Her ‘goal’ of eating 12,000 calories a day to reach 1000 pounds? All part of the act. The mind boggles at the idea that a journalist could take information from Treasure Bombshell’s profile – who is essentially a fictional character – and attribute ‘her’ words to Donna Simpson.

Internet porn is nothing new and gainer/feedee websites – like all fetish websites – have long been a part of it. Despite this, because of the attention the Daily Mail received as a result of their article, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story on gainer blogs. Predictably, the story speculated at the undiagnosed mental conditions these craaaazy gainers could have and noted their inevitable death by fatness.

The media’s portrayal of fat people forever feels like one step forward, two steps back. Just when it seemed like progress was being made – with plus size fashion and health at every size getting more and more attention – fat people are objectified as mentally ill sexual freaks that market their bodies to perverts.  Spectacular.

After all this, what I’m really curious about is what premise Donna Simpson was given to get her to agree to the interview with the Daily Mail in the first place…

“Guys talk about female body image”

That’s the title of an article by David Penberthy currently up on The Punch. The Punch is an Australian opinion site, owned by News Limited. David Penberthy has been a News Limited employee for years, and is the former editor of Sydney’s tabloid, the Daily Telegraph.

The reason for David jumping on the self-esteem bandwagon is that Australia has been knee-deep in a body image discussion. Last month, the National Advisory Group on Body Image – which was established by the Australian government in March – submitted the Proposed National Strategy on Body Image to the government. Among the recommendations is a Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image, which recommends using ‘healthy weight’ models (a pretty ambiguous term), realistic and natural images of people and disclosure when images of people have been digitally manipulated. The report is currently under consideration by the government, and they will release their response in 2010. You can read the complete report here or, if you’re lazy, a summary of the recommendations here.

So that’s all pretty positive. There was a lot of consulatation and the report attracted a lot of national press. But David felt that this process what missing something, and that something was men.

The Punch has today assembled this special package of pieces about female body image through the eyes of blokes.

Nevermind that the report is aimed at both sexes (though it should be noted that there is a focus on females) and is primarily targeted to school-aged people. Forget that. David wants to talk about chicks he thinks are hot.

We were moved to embark on this project because the one missing feature from the important national debate about female body image is that at no stage has anybody asked the blokes what they think.

It’s a pity – because there is now some interesting evidence that women are laying a serious guilt-trip on themselves and reinforcing stereotypes about their size and shape which have absolutely no bearing on whether men find them attractive or not.

This is the most petulant statement I’ve read in a long time. ALL THIS TALK ABOUT HOW WOMEN FEEL ABOUT THEMSELVES AND NO ONE ASKED MEEEEEEEEEEE.

I get that this, though obviously sensationalist, was well-intentioned and that too many women think that they are unattractive to others. But it’s so fucking ridiculous for anyone to think that the magic cure to low self-esteem is what men find attractive. Get your hand off it, Dave.

It’s possible that men haven’t been quizzed on their sexual preferences as part of the consultation process because a woman’s body image should not be tethered to what men find attractive. How revolutionary.


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