Archive for the 'Events' Category

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).

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

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

OoTD No. 24 – Our Patron Saint of Fat

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Ernie Awards with a few of my favourite rowdy feminists. The Ernie Awards are an annual event that call out sexist comments made in the past 12 months. The winners of each category are decided by how loudly the crowd boos and jeers their comments (the boos get louder as the night goes on and the wine gets drunk… a woman on my table broke one of her plates by beating it with her cutlery). This year, the Golden Ernie was won by Andrew Bolt for saying that male soldiers would be turned from warriors into escorts if women were allowed to serve on the frontline (gross, right?). Basically it’s the most fun ever.

The dress code stipulated that we dress as our favourite female singer, so of course I went as our Patron Saint of Fat, Beth Ditto.


See? Even high fashion recognises her holy status. (JC de Castelbajac A/W 2010)

Beth has dressed herself in a million and one different ways, but this is what my interpretation consisted of: black bob, spandex, fun prints, ballet flats and bright accessories.


Inspiration for this pose came from this photograph.


The glasses aren't in character but I need them to, you know, see.

The tattoo and body positive slogan (made famous in this photograph) were drawn on with waterproof eyeliner. It didn’t budge all night! So I can vouch for Rimmel Exaggerate Automatic Waterproof Eye Definer (though that is a ridiculous product name if ever I heard one).

Wig: Carnival and Party Warehouse. Currently available.
Dress: American Apparel (I know, I know) – size M/L. Similar styles available.
Leggings: Beth Ditto for Evans – size UK18. Old collection.
Shoes: Witchery – size 40. Old collection.
Watch: TW Steel. Currently available.
Ring (lime): Dinosaur Designs. Similar styles available.
Ring (rhinstone): A stall at Glebe Markets

I am 1.72m/5’8″, 95kg/209lbs and I normally wear an Australian size 16/UK size 18/US size 14-16. My measurements are 107-99-120cm/42-39-47 inches.

Gisela Ramirez launch (the short version)

Tonight, I attended the launch of Gisela Ramirez‘s very first plus size collection. It was spectacular – the clothes and models were fab, the turn out was fantastic and I am so, so proud of her. My intention is to write a proper post on it (with pictures!) but I board plane tomorrow, so that will have to wait.

Gisela was sweet enough to invite me to introduce the show; here’s the transcript of my speech.

Good evening and welcome to the official launch of Gisela Ramirez’s first plus size collection.

I met Gisela on the internet almost a year ago. I liked her immediately – she’s a very cool chick and is seriously passionate about what she does. When I heard she was designing a line, it’s fair to say I was a wee bit excited. I knew that her line, however it turned out, would go some way to filling the sizeable gap in plus size fashion.

Despite how frivilous it may sometimes seem, I do think fashion is important and can be quite political. The way we present ourselves through our clothes sends a message about us before we even open our mouths.

The limited options available in plus sizes – especially in Australia – mean that the messages we are able to send with our fashion are, in a way, censored. It is much easier to think of fat women as homely and sexless when the fashion choices available are largely homely and sexless.

The bulk of plus size fashion caters to our insecurities. It assumes that we all must be ashamed of our arms, our bellies and our arses. That our sartorial goals only revolve around flattering our figure.

The idea of a ‘flattering’ outfit being one that highlights my good parts while minimising my flaws. Beyond the fact that no waist-cinching belt will transform me into a size 10, what the designers of ‘flattering’ garments fail to realise is that all my parts are good parts. I can’t minimise my flaws because I have no flaws.

When writing this speech, I was looking through the first emails Gisela and I sent to each other. All those months ago, she said to me that she designs for the “type of girl [who] isn’t hung up on her body, is confident enough to stand out in a crowd and wants to be the centre of attention.”

Now how amazing is that?

In an industry that tells fat girls ‘Don’t draw attention, don’t wear bright colours, don’t wear tight clothes but don’t wear shapeless sacks either’, Gisela Ramirez has created a line from superhero spandex and sheer silk chiffon.

That’s what’s so exciting about this new collection. She caters for the middle fingers. For those of us who wear our freak on the outside. Who don’t walk when we can strut.

Gisela is not flattering our figures with these clothes. She’s going one better. She is embracing our bodies. She knows that when our clothes send the world a message, we should be the ones dictating it. The main message for tonight? Fuck flattering.

The Overdue Recap: 2010 Australian Fat Studies Conference

I know, I know. It’s been over two weeks since the inaugural Australian Fat Studies Conference and my recap is long overdue. I haven’t been faffing about; I have drafted and redrafted this post many times over and I am still not much closer to organising my thoughts. Not in any coherent manner, anyway.

In a nutshell, it was an overwhelming couple of days. I’ve been trying to think of an adjective, or even a series of adjectives, that adequately describe the conference but I haven’t found any yet. The best description I’ve got is this: My heart is full. Every time I think about the people I met or the presentations and performances I saw, I feel fit to burst with love and energy and sadness. I’m thrilled to have all these stunning new friends and inspiring new ideas, but it’s such a drag knowing that I can’t be surrounded by those amazing people everyday.

Because my thoughts are in a jumbled mess, I’m stealing Charlotte Cooper’s idea of listing her stand-out moments. Here are my lasting memories of the conference:

Cat Pausé’s presentation on coming out as fat
Erving Goffman, in his 1963 work Stigma, proposed three methods for managing a stigmatised identity: passing (rendering the characteristic invisible e.g. as I am on the small end of fat, I am able to ‘pass’ as straight sized), covering (managing the characteristic e.g. a fat person explaining what they’re doing to lose weight) and withdrawing (for a fat person, this can be due to social pressures or through physical barriers, such as not being able to fit in seats). Cat introduced a fourth method: coming out.

Confession time – until I was featured in that magazine article, very few people from my real life knew about Corpulent. The Boyfriend knew, as he knows everything there is to know about me and, more selfishly, I make him take all of my outfit photos. My big sister knew, because no one keeps secrets from her. But I kept the online life I had cultivated for over a year a closely guarded secret. Once the article came out, passing wasn’t possible anymore. Basically everyone found out about Hey Fat Chick and Corpulent: my family, my best buds, my work colleagues, distant friends on facebook. Some struggled to understand why I would keep what was obviously a big part of my life a secret for so long.

It wasn’t that I was ashamed; I was scared. I was scared that my nearest and dearest would read what I had to say and would feel nothing. I was scared that they wouldn’t understand, or that they wouldn’t try to understand, or that they would think fat acceptance was pointless in comparison with all the other, more worthy social movements out there.

Cat’s presentation spoke volumes to me, because I had just come out in the most spectacular way. She came out via a facebook status – “Cat Pausé is a proud fat feminist” – and even though she was announcing it to her family and friends, it still took a lot of nerve to type those 33 little characters. She understood. She got exactly where I was coming from.

Charlotte Cooper’s keynote presentation on fat activism
I was super excited when I first learnt that Charlotte would be one of the keynote speakers at the conference. She is fiercely intelligent and just plain fierce – let’s not forget she is in a very intimidating girl gang. I just knew her presentation on fat activism would be something special. But when I saw that her presentation was titled ‘Kick Out the Jams‘, I was absolutely beside myself. Of course Charlotte Cooper is punk rock.

Charlotte’s presentation covered the dominant obesity paradigm, research, the history of fat activism and revealed her own activist projects. What I loved about it was that it made fat acceptance less scary. As Charlotte explained, activism is just “doing stuff”. It need not be a grand gesture that literally stops traffic; the deeply entrenched fat phobia in our society means that a statement can be made just by “walking down the street eating an ice cream”. When dealing with Big Social Issues, it’s easy to get bogged down in the depressing details of prejudice and discrimination. Activism gives us an outlet; a means of fighting back.

Charlotte has put her slides, notes and an audio recording of her presentation online and y’all really should check it out.

Bodies Abound
Bodies Abound was an event held on the Friday night. It was the perfect accompaniment to the conference, exploring the politics of fat and body diversity through spoken word, performances, visual representations and art. As I’m not one for art-y events I really didn’t know what to expect, but it was incredible. It felt like a proper grassroots event and there was a fantastic sense of community (it helped that the place was chockers – apparently the venue was over capacity). The performances were honest and raw – hearing the lived experiences of fat articulated so clearly was intense. Some readings made me laugh, some made me choke up and some made me cheer with all my might.

I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to another queer, size positive celebration in a couple of weeks, Fierce Flesh. If you’re in Sydney, come along! It’ll be great fun.

The people
Oh my stars, the people. I fell in love over and over again with all the rad fatties, and rad fat positive allies, I met. I don’t have many fat friends (I had almost none before I started blogging) and it dawned on me pretty quickly that this was the first time I’d been in a fat space. It was freeing to be surrounded by fatties and allies that understood me, that didn’t need an explanation of my politics, that didn’t need an apology when my fat touched them as I walked past.

I met my blogging crew and was finally able to hug the people I’ve been friends with for months online: Sam, Kath, Natalie, Nick, Bri and Jackie. I met Stella North, who is doing an amazing PhD thesis on fashion (seriously, her theoretical framework blew my mind) and is investigating fatshion for one of her chapters. I met Jess Young, who was a bundle of energy and passion and has the sweetest Kiwi accent of all time. I met Barbara, who was radiant and said lovely things about Hey Fat Chick. I met Dani Barley, who is much much cooler than me. I met Kelli Jean Drinkwater, who was such a good sport when I fangirl-ed all over her. I met the Fat Femme Front, who have been doing spectacular fat acceptance work in my city and I had absolutely no idea. There were so many others – if I met you and I didn’t mention you, please know that I thought you were ace but my memory is like a sieve. I didn’t meet far too many people and would have been quite happy for the conference to go on for two months instead of two days.

The best part of picking all these brains is that our batteries were completely recharged. There are some cool things in the works as a result of this conference: an Australian fat podcast is being developed and, inspired by Sydney’s Aquaporko, fat femme synchronised swimming groups are being set up in Melbourne and Brisbane.

On a smaller, more personal level, I feel renewed. I feel more confident in my role as a fat acceptance advocate. I feel a greater sense of purpose and have more energy for Corpulent and Hey Fat Chick. This tingling excitement isn’t a result of me dropping a wad of cash to go to a fancy pants conference, it’s due to being surrounded by some truly amazing people.

Fat acceptance is hard work. We spend a lot of time defending, arguing, educating and activist-ing and, if we’re not careful, we can burn out. That’s why you need a support network. It can be anything – organise a fatty picnic or beach day, set up an all fatty soccer league or just go to a pub together. Whatever it is, it will remind you that you don’t need to fight fatism on your own. Find your community. Hang out with your people. And come to next year’s Australian Fat Studies Conference so I can meet you too.

A Recap in Photos: 2010 Australian Fat Studies Conference


Sam of The Discourse and Kath of Fat Heffalump


The beautiful Scarlett O'Claire. I wanted to steal her outfit.


Typical. Fatties always congregate around the snacks.


The Perkinses. Nothing says love like a reassuring pat on the head.


One of my favourite photos from the conference, beaten only by...


...this one. Sam, Kelli Jean Drinkwater, Natalie and me pouting like the sexpots we are.


The most fabulous lady in the room, Lala.


Charlotte Cooper kicking out the jams (MOTHERFUCKERRRRRRRRR!)


Natalie of Definatalie and Axis of Fat


The brand new love of my life, Cat Pausé


Aqua Porko and the Fat Femme Front


Hi Barbara!


Aqua Porko and the Fat Femme Front with Sam Murray and Natalie


See why I love her? Cat's beautiful.


Sarah is a DOLL. She had the best outfits both days.


Jackie of Fatuosity and I, one cocktail down

And, for those playing at home, here is what I wore on the second day. This (fucking AMAZING dress) is in keeping with my winter uniform.




Jacket: Jibri
Dress: Asos
Tights: We Love Colors
Custom necklace: Cupcakes and Mace
Jazz shoes: Bloch

Countdown to the Australian Fat Studies Conference

The inaugural, hopefully annual, Australian Fat Studies Conference kicks off in Sydney on Friday. THIS FRIDAY! I’m less than 48 hours away from learning from/working with/bear hugging some of the coolest fatties I’ve met through the fatosphere.

I’m planning on posting a recap of the conference, but if you want a running commentary of the two days Twitter is your best bet. Here’s a list of the fatties you should be following:

Fat Studies online hub
Fat Dialogue @FatDialogue

While you’re at it, check out The site was specifically established to reach those who could not attend the conference and to enable the continuation of conversations begun at the Fat Studies conference. will be officially launched at the conference but is currently live, so clickety click your way over there.

O captain, my captain (aka the amazing woman who organised the whole thing)
Dr Samantha Murray @interloped

Keynote speakers
Dr Karen Throsby @thelongswim
Dr Charlotte Cooper @thebeefer

Jackie Wykes @sizeoftheocean
Natalie Perkins @definatalie
Kath Read @fatheffalump
Bri King @fatlotofgood
Dr Samantha Thomas @TheDiscourse

Nick Perkins @nicholosophy
Me! @awesomefrances

 (If I’ve left anyone off the twit-list, please let me know in the comments.)

The hashtag to look out for is #sydfatconf.

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