Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sea Witch

I want to preface this photo post by saying that I, with the help of a great friend, sewed the tentacles for this dress myself (it's extremely unfortunate that I only received one photo of the entire dress). I had a lot of fun making it and learned a lot! So enjoy!

Huge shout out to my amazing makeup artist: Beautiful Reflektions (Charlotte, NC)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Problem With Sexualization of Fat Bodies

Occasionally in fat feminist spaces we talk about the sexualization of women's bodies, specifically fat women. We talk about oversexualization and fetishization mostly and, inevitably, someone always chimes in, "but, I like being oversexualized/fetishized/objectified". I want to start out by saying I understand, but that doesn't mean that this line of thinking isn't problematic and I'll talk about why. 

First, I'm going to discuss why it is I understand and some of my own history with problematic thinking. I pretty much grew up fat. I started out pretty skinny, but when some chronic health problems kicked in when I was 7 years old, I gained about 100lbs in the course of about three years. Boys asked me out as a way to make fun of me. This, in fact, became a fear that still carries on today. I lost all of my friends and became a target for my entire grade. So when the skinny girls started talking about unwanted attention, I thought, "I'd give anything for that attention!", completely ignoring the "unwanted" part. I thought that any attention would be welcome and couldn't fathom it being non consensual or unwanted. Aren't those girls flattered? 

**Trigger warning** 

I also used to think about being raped. Not as in rape fantasies because I knew it would be horrible and traumatizing, but in the way that I blamed myself for not being raped yet. I thought maybe I was too fat and ugly for anyone to want to rape me and if someone did it would somehow validate my worth. I was a young teenager so I didn't understand all of the implications of this, but it was a pretty frequent thought nonetheless. So, when I say that I understand wanting to be objectified, I really do. I understand self loathing when you aren't objectified. I understand how good it feels to be wanted for your fat rather than rejected for it. That doesn't make it benign however. 

Firstly, none of these things- fetishization, objectification, oversexualization- exist in a vacuum. They exist inside of a patriarchal society which runs on turning women into only bodies fit for the male gaze and nothing more. It creates and feeds insecurities and then takes those insecurities and sells them right back to us in the form of the ideal beauty standard. It's not just about the individual and how fetishization, for example, makes you feel, it's about how it takes women as a whole and, in this case, fat women, reduces their worth to their bodies. 

I'll note that fat men can be fetishized too, but generally speaking it's less frequent, though no less problematic. Because I'm a woman, I'll be focusing on women in this post, though I'd be happy to interview a fat man who wants to talk about this topic. 

Secondly, I want to go back to rape culture. When I spoke at The Fat Activism Conference back in August 2014, I talked about fat rape culture because it's so unique. Fat people are often told that no one would want to rape them or, if they are raped, that they should be flattered or feel lucky because at least someone wants them. There was a cafepress T-shirt that has since been taken down which read: "Fat Girls Can't Say No (and when they do, it means yes)". Fat women face this special kind of misogynistic rape culture that says their bodies are so tied to their fat and that that fat is so gross and worthless, that being raped when you're a fat woman is a good thing. 

Rape culture is the result of a misogynistic society combined with objectification and the inappropriate sexualizing of bodies. When I say inappropriate I mean sexualizing someone without their consent. I don't mean finding someone attractive or even being sexually attracted to them. What I mean is the idea that women's bodies (or any kind of marginalized body) is inherently sexual and exists for the purpose of the viewer's pleasure. Don't get me wrong, rape culture is way more complicated than that, but that's a simplified, boiled down, version in my opinion. 

So when you're taking fat women and you're reducing them to no more than their fat, no more than their bodies and you're sexualizing those bodies, it's no wonder that you get a specific kind of rape culture. 

Thirdly, I want to point out that when you say that you want to be fetishized or ofjectified, not only are you excusing the behavior of these fetishists and misogynists, but you're condoning that they do these things to non consenting women. Wanting to feel sexy and wanted is fine, but feeding into a culture that hurts women isn't. You're saying that women secretly want to be objectified and inappropriately sexualized which feeds back into rape culture. It's the classic, "I wouldn't mind being catcalled", despite the dehumanization that women who are constantly catcalled often feel. Though you may find it flattering, it can chip away are the self worth of women who experience it chronically. 

It's easy to want the things you don't have. It's easy to look at sexualization as thin privilege. After all, it's just society confirming what you already know, that they're considered more beautiful, more desirable, and more acceptable. The problem is that no woman's worth or value should be tied to how she looks. It's a trap of the patriarchy that we often think if we're not being devalued by men, then we're worthless. I've been caught in this trap myself and was for a long time, even attempting suicide because of it. After all, if I don't have value through the male gaze then what's the point in living? But women, and all fat people, have to learn that worth and appearance are not the same thing. Embracing that idea is revolutionary and, more importantly, necessary in gaining equal rights for fat people. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fat Bottom Betty

A few months ago, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and take a burlesque class. I know, I know, what about this is out of my comfort zone? I've done completely nude photoshoots and published them on the internet. Surely being only partially nude isn't as bad, right? I went into the class thinking "I've fucking GOT this. I'm going to ROCK it". 

It turns out that even I have some deeply buried body image issues still. I mean, we all have bad days, right? But this wasn't a bad day, it was bad weeks. Periods of becoming suicidal. Of thinking I should kickstart my eating disorder just to try to lose a few before performance time. It made me want to hurt myself in ways that I haven't in a long time. It was tearing me apart.

I didn't know where this was coming from! I've been a fat acceptance activist for over four years and rarely had a bad body day since. I certainly hadn't been suicidal or self harm-y because of my body in all that time. What's different? I think, partially, the fact that I deal with overly horrible people because I deal with them online is contributing. I get all kinds of threats, called nasty names, see casual to malicious fatphobia, have had photos of me stolen, photos of my family stolen, etc. People generally aren't that nasty in real life (although they certainly can be and I've had some pretty shitty stuff happen face to face too). It's especially uncommon in the Burlesque community which tends to be far more body positive and supportive than the general population. 

When I'm on stage in a couple of months, taking my clothes off to music, I'm going to be face to face with my audience. With my potential critics. Although my teacher and my classmates are all wonderful, I can't be so sure about people in general. 

I've spoken to a lot of amazing performers in the Burlesque community including plus size performers. Nervousness is normal, self doubt is normal, even really nasty thoughts about yourself are all normal even for a thin performer. Add on a social expectation that beauty equals thinness and you can feel like the ugly duckling without the beautiful swan part at the end. While it's important to remember that my self worth or my value as a person don't rely on the male gaze or my appearance, it's also important to remember that I'm doing this for myself, not potential naysayers in the audience. I want to be able to say this is something that I did, an experience that I had. I may or may not keep performing and taking classes, but at least I'll have done it once. 

Regardless of current anxieties, I'm continuing to talk to performers and I'll continue with the class and my performance, which I will, of course, keep you updated on. 

Comment below if you're a performer, especially a plus sized performer, and have any great tips or advice! Thanks duckies! 


A splash of color in a winter wonderland

Photos by Calvin S.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Dear Trolls: You're Kind of Boring

I joined the fatosphere in 2010, just over four years ago now. I remember that when I first started becoming involved in the Fat Acceptance movement, there were plenty of trolls. There was concern trolling, and threats, and ignorance, and bigotry, and hate. Everything riled me up and understandably so. But four years later and the arguments and the baiting and the trolling have gotten old. And by that, I mean that it bores me. I no longer feel the need to correct someone to take precious time out of my day to educate someone who doesn't actually want to be educated to begin with. I yawn and move on.

I've heard all of your arguments a thousand times by now. It's not new or creative or inventive. It may just be me because I see other people in the FA community get plenty mad about this, that, or the other. And sure, I'll go to town on a friend who says or does something fatphobic because they should damn well know better and, if they're my friend, I know they're open to learning. Sometimes I even still argue with people on the internet, but for the most part? I get way more excited over a plus size clothing swap, a body positive meetup, photographing some rad fatty. The positive things are so much more exciting to me now than the negatives.

Desensitization happens to pretty much everyone in every genre of being. We've all heard about being desensitized to violence, but that's only one way. You can become desensitized to pretty much anything that you deal with constantly. Women often become desensitized to street harassment, for example. It's just a regular, boring, part of our day. So that's me, I'm desensitized to fatphobia. When I first learned what it was and how it affected me, I felt like I needed to change everything and I had to do it right now.

Ah, young blood.

So, dear trolls and haters, please keep in mind that your vitriol no longer does anything for me nor to me. It's boring and tiresome and I usually don't even bother finishing a message from you. I mean, feel free to keep the ignorance and bigotry flowing as I'm sure you will, but it's not affecting me or my day. Waste all the time on me that you want though.