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OoTD No. 31 – This is more like it

In my last OoTD post, I wrote that I had not yet found an outfit that was worthy of my sickening Buffalo x Solestruck platforms. A couple of you left lovely comments saying that my first attempt at styling them had already hit the mark, which was terribly sweet of you.

Sweet but wrong.

Because now I look bloody amazing:

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The dress is by Lazy Oaf, a London-based brand that I LOVE. I so wish they would expand their size range so all fatties can have this much fun with their clothing. (Domino Dollhouse’s latest collection is the closest a plus size range has come to speaking to me the way Lazy Oaf does.) This dress is marked as a size UK12-14, but it’s incredibly stretchy so I was able to fit my UK18 size body into it without much trouble. That said, my width and height does mean that the dress rides up like a mofo on me, requiring a black mini underneath to prevent flashing the odd flap.

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I can now tick ‘Oversized chambray shirt’ off my ’90s extravanganza’ shopping list. Next target: a mini leather backpack. I’m already trawling etsy…

Dress: Lazy Oaf – size L. Currently available. (It’s also available on Asos.)
Denim boyfriend shirt: Asos – size UK18. Currently available.
Black skirt (worn underneath): Supre – size XL. Old collection.
Shoes: Buffalo x Solestruck – size 10. Currently available.

I am 1.72m/5’8″, somewhere between 90 and 95kg/200 and 210lbs and I normally wear an Australian size 16/UK size 18/US size 14-16. My measurements are 107-96-114cm/42-38-45 inches.

Real Beauty?

Earlier this week, Dove released an advertisement called Real Beauty Sketches, the latest video in their self-esteem campaign. Reception to this video has been largely positive, and while I understand why women are embracing the ad, all that glitters is not revolutionary gold.

We live in a society where we are told in many different overt and covert ways that a woman’s only value is her beauty. Smart? Successful? Courageous? Not enough. Germaine Greer wrote about the ridiculousness of this idea late last year:

“At an event in Amsterdam recently, I was ordered by a woman on the stage to take the hand of the woman next to me, who happened to be 76-year-old Hedy d’Ancona, and tell her she was beautiful. This would be more conducive to her self-esteem, apparently, than reminding her that, having served as a minister under two Dutch governments, as a member of the European Parliament, and as chairman of Dutch Oxfam, she was immensely distinguished and I was honoured to be sitting next to her.”

On top of that, this Dove ad tells us is that it is also not enough to be merely beautiful, you have to know it too. Those superficial messages of body politics – Love yourself! Nothing is sexier than confidence! You’re prettier without make-up! – is just another way of prescribing how women should look, feel, and act. It’s not your responsibility to be beautiful.

Not to mention that the form of ‘beauty’ that is being valued by Dove is the same beauty ideal that is presented by other beauty companies. I am loathe to rewrite things that have already been written perfectly, so I am going to quote a massive chunk of jazzylittledrop’s excellent post on this subject:

Let’s look at which descriptors the editors chose to include. When the participants described themselves, these were some of the things that were implied as negatives: fat, rounder face, freckles, fatter, 40— starting to get crows feet, moles, scars…  Whereas some of the implied positive descriptors used by others were: thin face, nice thin chin, nice eyes that lit up when she spoke and were very expressive (my actual favorite), short and cute nose, her face was fairly thin (this was said twice), and very nice blue eyes. So… I don’t know if anyone else is picking up on this, but it kinda seems to be enforcing our very narrow cultural perception of “beauty”: young, light-skinned, thin. No real diversity celebrated in race, age, or body shape. So you’re beautiful… if you’re thin, don’t have noticeable wrinkles or scars, and have blue eyes. If you’re fat or old… uh, maybe other people don’t think you look as fat and old as you do yourself? Great? Oh, and by the way, there are real women who look like the women on the left. What are you saying about them, exactly?

Indeed, for all their talk on real women and self-esteem, Dove has only ever presented a narrow definition of beauty in their advertisement campaigns. In 2010, Jezebel revealed a Craigslist ad seeking models for Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign that seemed at odds with their messaging:

DOVE “REAL WOMEN” PRINT CASTING JUNE 28-30, 2010 in NYC
ABSOLUTELY NO ACTRESSES / MODELS OR REALITY SHOW PARTICIPANTS or ANY ONE CARRYING A HEADSHOT!!!!
REAL WOMEN ONLY!
LOOKING FOR 3-4 REAL WOMEN for a DOVE PRINT CAMPAIGN!

AGES 35-45, CAUCASIAN, HISPANIC, AFRICAN AMERICAN, & ASIAN!

SHOOT: SUNDAY, JULY 18 in NYC! MUST BE AVAILABLE FOR THE SHOOT!
RATE: $500 for Shoot date & if selected for Ad Campaign (running 2011) you will be paid $4000!
USAGE: 3 years unlimited print & web usage in N. America Only

YOU WILL BE PHOTOGRAPHED FOR THE CAMPAIGN IN A TOWEL!
BEAUTIFUL ARMS AND LEGS AND FACE WILL BE SHOWN!
MUST HAVE FLAWLESS SKIN, NO TATTOOS OR SCARS!
Well groomed and clean…Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic.

 Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles! A DOVE GIRL!!!
STYLISH AND COOL!
Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!

 PLEASE SUBMIT SNAPSHOTS of FACE & BODY ASAP & WE WILL CALL YOU IN FOR A CASTING NEXT WEEK 6/28-6/30 in NYC!

According to Dove’s description for their latest video, “Women are their own worst beauty critics … Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful.” What Dove fail to explain is the part they play in this statistic (and the part of their parent company, but I’ll get to that in a minute). Dove claims to promote ‘real beauty’ in ‘real women’ but only if that beauty is accessible, and more importantly, marketable to a mainstream audience. Which gives you a strong sense of their motivation.

Dove is owned by Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company with products from foods and beverages to cleaning agents to personal care. Two of Unilever’s brands are Pond’s and Fair and Lovely, both of which market skin whitening products in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Timor Leste. In 2007, Fair and Lovely had to withdraw television advertisements that depicted sad, unemployed, single, dark skinned women suddenly finding new boyfriends and glamorous careers after they had lightened their skin. There is a very clear message there that stands in stark opposition to Dove’s “You are more beautiful than you think” rhetoric.

(The hypocrisy of Unilever owning Lynx/Axe, renowned for its sexist advertisements, has been written about by people more intelligent than me.)

No matter how unethical you think that is, Unilever is well within its rights to send those kinds of mixed messages because they are a company responsible for many brands in many countries selling products for profit.

This is not to offend or dismiss people that have gained something from this ad. I certainly value my body-confidence and, as someone who’s first positive thoughts were the result of compliments from others, I know that there is no ‘right’ path to a strong self-esteem. However, Dove’s campaigns deserve to be critiqued. To paraphrase @definatalie, a multinational company is not the best source of empowerment (particularly when that company is actively trying to disempower your brown sisters).

OoTD No. 30 – My mad fat obsession

Have you experienced the glory that is My Mad Fat Diary yet? (If you haven’t, a wonderful person has uploaded all of season 1 on youtube. It’s only six episodes, so you can/should/will knock it over in a day.) MMFD is a British TV series set in Lincolnshire in 1996 that follows a fat, 16 year old girl named Rae as she tries to navigate friends, family, boys, and life outside the hospital after four months of psychiatric care. It’s hilarious, heartbreaking, sometimes triggering and is the best best best best best best best.

Sharon Rooney - who plays Rae - is spectacular and has the most wonderfully expressive face I’ve ever seen. The writers have captured the mindset of a 16 year old girl perfectly (which is perhaps unsurprising, given the show is based on real life Rae Earl’s real life diary); I see a lot of my teenage self in Rae, and going by the #mmfd tag on tumblr, so do many young women. On top of all that, one of the things I love most about the show and its popularity is the fact that a poor, fat, female protagonist is openly and vocally loved by the viewers.

Though Rae has severe body image problems, she is strong and resilient with an awesome sense of humour. She is comfortable with her teenage sex drive and she is attractive to boys. Not only that, she is attractive to objectively good-looking boys.  Not only that, but fans are ACTIVELY AND FEROCIOUSLY SHIPPING a fat character and her totally lush love interest. It’s bloody brilliant and I never thought I’d see the day. Well done, Shaz :)

ANYWAY, back to me. In the last month, my relationship with MMFD has gone from seen-a-few-gifs awareness to a full blown, all-consuming obsession. Like, to the point of reading fanfiction on tumblr. To the point of downloading the season 1 playlists and (re)acquainting myself with the awesomeness of Oasis, the Stone Roses, and early to mid-90s dance music. To the point of finally getting on the 90s revival bandwagon and hunting down the perfect chambray shirt (on its way from Asos to me as I type), the perfect leather backpack (search is ongoing), and the perfect platform sneakers:

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I AM LOVING MYSELF SICK RIGHT NOW.

I’ve been desperate for a pair of Buffalo platforms since the Spice Girls were at their peak (both in popularity and height, ba doom tish). All glory to Solestruck for letting me live out my pop starlet/club kid/giantess fantasies. And I am a deadset giantess in them. Normally I am around 5’8″ but in these babies I am at least 6′ tall. Not so long ago, I used to get self-conscious about my height and whenever I had to wear heels I would walk with a bit of a hunch to appear less domineering. Not anymore. I feel positively Amazonian. I feel like I could stomp on people. I am loving it.

The shoes arrived last week so of course I wanted to wear them out the first chance I got. Unfortunately, my first chance was dinner at a fancy restaurant so the accompanying outfit is not as loud and inappropriate as I would like (though I suppose it does draw attention to the shoes)…

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There’s room for improvement here, but this is a decent start.

Dress: Aje for Sportsgirl – size XL. Old collection.
Necklace: Sass & Bide. Old collection.
Shoes: Buffalo x Solestruck – size 10. Currently available.

I am 1.72m/5’8″, somewhere between 90 and 95kg/200 and 210lbs and I normally wear an Australian size 16/UK size 18/US size 14-16. My measurements are 107-96-114cm/42-38-45 inches.

Cherchez la Femme

You may have caught at the bottom of my last post that I’m appearing in something called Cherchez la Femme next week. I figured it was worth a long post because I am dead excited about this and everyone in Sydney reading this should totally come.

In a nutshell, CLF is a monthly digest of popular culture and current affairs from a feminist perspective that’s run by organiser extraordinaire, Karen Pickering (who also co-organised Slutwalk Melbourne, the first SlutWalk protest in Australia). Usually, CLF is held at the Gasometer Hotel in Collingwood, Victoria with each CLF focusing on something different; previous topics have included Feminism and Teaching, Feminism and Public Space, Feminism and Language, and in 2011 there was Feminism and Fat.

This time around it’ll be a bit different. This is the first time CLF has come to Sydney so the panel will be a mixed bag and the conversation will be more broad. Panellists at CLF Sydney are:

  • Nareen Young: CEO of the Diversity Council of Australia
  • Emily Maguire: Author of Princesses & Pornstars, Your Skirt’s Too Short & Fishing for Tigers
  • Van Badham: Author, playwright and activist. Currently Artistic Associate at Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne.
  • Catriona Wimberley: Postgraduate Fellow (and mega babe) at University of Sydney and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
  • and moi.

So with a cracking line-up like that, conversation can’t be anything but varied and super interesting.

Which is exactly why I love Karen for organising this event. So many public discussions about feminism (see Q&A‘s recent all-women panel) get bogged down in bullshit questions like “Is feminism still relevant?” and “Can women have it all?” which are so predictable and so boring it makes me want to vomit. By framing CLF as an explicitly feminist event, we can skip all that guff and get right into the meaty discussions. And it will be a discussion. As a panellist, I can tell you that we are not experts who will be telling you the way of things. Sure, we know shit but so do you, so it’ll be a conversation.

I’ll be wearing two hats while I’m up on stage. My activist hat – so I’ll be keen to chat about body image and fat acceptance – and my day job hat – so I’ll be chiming in on government and policy issues too. But I genuinely don’t know where the conversation will go and that is very exciting to me. (Personally, I can’t wait to hear about Catriona’s research.)

AND there will be half-time entertainment in the form of comedic cabaret babes Lady Sings It Better and jack-of-all-trades Andrew P Street will be playing his guitar.

So come along! Drink a beer! Say hello! It’s at 5pm, Sunday 21 April at the Vanguard, 42 King St Newtown. Get your tickets here (tickets will be available on the door if the show doesn’t sell out ahead of time).

OoTD No. 29 – Fashion is catching up to me

On weekends I basically live in some combination of the following: graphic print tshirt, denim shorts or jeans (preferably in a colour other than blue), high top sneakers, and if the weather requires, a sometimes-printed and always-colourful polar fleece jumper. (Now, I know I don’t post my outfits on here very often – I’ve been living here for the past four years am only up to my 29th OoTD – so you’ll just have to take my word for this. My IRL friends can vouch for me if needed.)

I’m happy with my weekend get-up. I was aware that it wasn’t very girly nor very stylish but it was very me, so I dug it.

2

Apparently I wasn’t giving myself enough credit because it turns out that I am a massive trendsetter: my style of dressing is now in fashion. Beyonce’s gone street, the Spring Breakers costume designer must’ve raided my wardrobe while I was asleep, and everywhere you look women are wearing high tops (even if most of them are wearing those hideous sneakers with the wedge in them… seriously, just buy some regular Dunks and give your calves a break).

4

So, given my new status as a fashion doyenne, I can only assume that 6 months from now I’ll be designing numerous capsule collections for various high end and high street brands, sitting front row at fashion weeks around the globe, and diving into pools of cash like Scrooge McDuck. Can’t wait.

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Hoodie: Matthew Williamson for H&M via eBay – size XL (men’s)
Tshirt: Lazy Oaf – size M/L. Old collection.
Shorts: Witchery – size 16. Old collection.
Sneakers: Nike Air Flight 89 from Hype DC – size 8 (men’s). Old collection.

PS. SYDNEYSIDERS: I’ll be a guest panellist at Cherchez la Femme on Sunday 21 April 2013. In the words of the organiser, “It’s like feminist Q&A… with drinks. CLF features thoughtful, uncensored, and irreverent takes on pop culture and current affairs from an unapologetically feminist angle.” It’s at the Vanguard in Newtown and may be your last chance to see me before I’m famous ;) Get your tickets here.

I am 1.72m/5’8″, somewhere between 90 and 95kg/200 and 210lbs and I normally wear an Australian size 16/UK size 18/US size 14-16. My measurements are 107-96-114cm/42-38-45 inches.

Q: What’s big, naked, and shakes all over?

Va Va Boombah

Photo by Georgia Laughton of Logic Bunny Photography


A: Va Va Boombah!

Va Va Boombah is Melbourne’s (and, as far as we know, Australia’s) first burlesque night featuring fat performers. Given that I am both a fat dancer and a massive perve, unsurprisingly I think this troupe is AWESOME. (Just quietly, I very much want to perform with them one day.)

VVB has their next show coming up in Melbourne in just under a week’s time (details can be found at the bottom of this post), so I had a wee interview with co-producer Jackie aka Chubby Vagine to find out what VVB is all about.

Why did you establish Va Va Boombah?

Va Va Boombah actually started on twitter, when one of my co-producers, Aimee Nichols (@wordsandsequins) tweeted “Why is there no fat burlesque in Melbourne? I can’t be the only one who wants to see fatties shake it”. Our other producer, Lisa-Skye (@thelisaskye) immediately thought of me, and Va Va Boombah was born.

Be we didn’t (just) start Va Va Boombah so we could perve on hot fatties. There are a lot of messages telling fat people that we don’t deserve to exist, let along to be on stage in front of an audience, so we really wanted to create a space where we could strut our stuff, and assert our right not only to be, but to be seen.

What drew you to burlesque over other forms of performance?

I’ve been interested in fat burlesque ever since I heard about Big Burlesque: The Original Fat Bottom Revue in the US. Burlesque has been a part of fat activism in the States for well over a decade now, but to the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been a troupe in Australia before us.

Burlesque shows in the mid-19th and early 20th century actually used to be variety shows with all sorts of different acts, and that’s what our show is. We have singers and acrobats as well as fat ladies getting nekkid.

I think the fat ladies getting nekkid aspect is actually really important. Dominant culture tends to desexualise fat bodies – it tells us we’re ugly and undesirable. So when we get on stage and perform in ways that are overtly sexual, we’re claiming that for ourselves, and for anyone in the audience who wants it. And importantly, we’re claiming it in a way that’s about our agency and creativity as performers and as people.

Do you see Va Va Boombah as a form of activism?

Absolutely! Heather MacAllister (aka Reva Lucian), who founded Big Burlesque, said “Any time there is a fat person on stage as anything besides the butt of a joke, it’s political. Add physical movement, then dance, then sexuality and you have a revolutionary act.”

Va Va Boombah is very much an activist project in that we’re trying to change perceptions, create new opportunities, and build community. And so far, we seem to be doing pretty well!

What feedback has Va Va Boombah received so far?

We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response so far. Our first show actually sold out – the venue had to put out extra seats on the night to accommodate the door sales!

There hasn’t really been a show like this in Melbourne before, and the audience was really enthusiastic. There were a lot of fatties there, and for some people it was the first time they’d seen people who looked like them on stage, which I think can be a very powerful experience. A lot of our new performers saw the first show and wanted to be part of it!

We also had people say that they hadn’t expected fat performers to be so talented, so that was pretty satisfying. As much as Va Va Boombah is about creating opportunities for fat performers, we’re also committed to putting on a really top show.

What kind of performances can people expect from your January show?

The upcoming show is circus themed, and very much a variety-style show. There’s singing, dancing, acrobatics, ukulele, and even opera, as well as the more classic burlesque acts.

After the show, there will be a body-positive dance party with Steampunk DJ Omega playing until the early hours. We hope everyone sticks around for a dance with us!

Va Va Boombah

Photo by Georgia Laughton of Logic Bunny Photography

Event details:
Va Va Boombah
Friday 18 January 2013 (opening 7.30pm)
Thornbury Theatre – Ballroom, 859 High St Thornbury
TICKETS AVAILABLE ONLINE HERE

VVB has many homes on the internet, including a website, a facebook, a twitter, and a tumblr.

2012: The End of the World

Here we are at the end of another year. Like sands through the hourglass and so on and so forth. Sydney, the beautiful bitch that she is, has turned on a cracker of a day to farewell 2012: sunny, clear skies, cool breeze. The Boyfriend and I found time for a quick swim at Clovelly (my favourite beach) this morning and are currently prepping for a BBQ at ours tonight.

So this post isn’t a massive text dump, here’s the outfit that features my go-to dress of the summer party season:

Dress: Camilla – one size. Similar styles available.
Bag: Secondhand from Broadway Betty
Bangle: Dinosaur Designs. Similar styles available.
Sandals: Witchery – size 40. Old collection.
Lipstick: MAC Girl About Town

I’ve been waiting to show this dress off for months. I bought it specifically for my aunt’s wedding in Bali; as the sweatiest person alive, I needed something floaty and elegant that was made from natural fibres. Even at almost 50% off, this dress exceeded my budget but as it’s utterly perfect I bought it anyway. I had been coveting a Camilla dress or kaftan since I first saw her designs as a teenager. The vast majority of Camilla’s clothing is one size fits most, and given her kaftans and dresses are so shapeless, they really will fit most of us. The fact that I own a dress by a designer I’ve loved for over a decade, that will always fit AND that I never need to iron? To awesome for words.

But back to the day at hand.

For better or worse, 2012 was massive year for a lot of us. In my close circle of loved ones to my wide circle of internet friends, there have been life-changing events: serious health issues, break ups, moves overseas… Me and mine haven’t been spared. In a twitter conversation with Phebe of Lightning Heart about exactly this, she wondered if this is what the Maya had predicted; not the apocalypse, but great upheaval in our lives. I think she may be onto something. 2012 did not bring about the end of the world, but it was the end of the world as we knew it.

I hope that 2013 is less eventful.


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