Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Intersectional Vegans: Search for a Community That Doesn't Exist

Fat.

Fat is something that pretty much everyone talks about. The discussion is almost always centered
around how not to be fat with the occasional fat acceptance blurb thrown in there before promptly being smashed and strangled out of existence. Fat acceptance is a stain on intersectional politics.
Even the most intersectional among us tend to be fatphobic, especially thin intersectional identified people. Let's be honest here, fatphobia crosses political lines. It doesn't matter how conservative or how progressive you are, you're probably fatphobic. You may even consider yourself to be an ally to be fat people and the fat acceptance movement, but when is the last time you called out fatphobia, posted an article on fatphobia, brought it up in a group, raised up the voices of fat people, or even made a simple post on social media denouncing fatphobia. Where are you allies when I'm fighting trolls telling me to get cancer and die or to kill myself and make the world a better place. You're probably focused on some intersectional issue - any intersectional issue- except for mine.

Don't get me wrong here, other intersectional issues are important- ableism, sexism, racism, queerphobia, transphobia, etc. But, I think, what you fail to realize, is that fatphobia intersects with each and everone one of those things. Intersections- I mean, that's what you thrive on. Looking at overlapping oppression and seeing the individual struggles that marginalized people face because of it. Unless that person is fat.

If you're not flat out fatphobic, I'm surprised, but what's far more common are people who claim to be allies, but don't actually care about fatphobia or thin privilege. You may pay lip service to your own thin privilege, but that's as far as you're willing to go. I even know thin "allies" who exclusively date and sleep with other thin people under the guise of "it's just a preference!" or "I just haven't found a fat person I'm attracted to yet". Guess what? We make up 2/3 of the population in the United States, but you haven't seen a single fat person who is attractive and willing to sleep with you? Give me a break.

Getting back to how fatphobia crosses political lines, I'd like to talk a little bit about fatphobia in the vegan movement. I think we all know by now, that vegans can be some of the most fatphobic people in the world. Veganism, even veganism properly focused on non human animal rights and liberation, has a vein of healthism running through it, which hugely intersects with fatphobia. The idea that veganism is healthiest when eating a plant based diet and that that will result in thinness as well as lack of health issues.

I'm pretty sure that I haven't met a single vegan yet who hasn't said something shitty to me about my body size (even if they've grown over time by knowing me and become a better ally). And those who haven't said anything shitty, well, their actions speak  loudest. Vegans often pride themselves on being progressive and intersectional, even as sexism, racism, fatphobia, and healthism flourish within the community. Even then, there are many groups which specifically were established to fight racism and sexism in mainstream veganism. Fatphobia is rarely, if ever, a part of their mission statement as something to resist or fight against.

I'm not even necessarily upset by mainstream vegans who engage in all kinds of bigotry. I'm upset at those vegans who think they are above those problems, that bigotry. Vegans who are intersectional, feminist, and anti racism. Vegans who talk about classism and accessibility, and then sideeye you when you are fat and not ashamed of it or actively tring to lose weight. Vegans who schedule meetings and social activities in places that you don't fit or belong. Vegans who talk about cleanses and green smoothies and how, not that size is important, but, they've lost 5lbs already.

As an intersectional feminist and a fat vegan, I'd love to say that I've found a communit who shares my ideals. I have not. I feel outside of every group or community that I am a part of and find myself leaving those communities with regularity.

Vegans: you need to do better. You need to be better. You need to talk about fatphobia and issues surrounding fatphobia. You need to talk about the oppressions that intersect with fatphobia and you need to acknowledge our privilege. Be an ally. No.. be a good  ally. Examnine your prejudices and biases and come out a better person for it.

I'm tired of standing alone.




Fatphobia, Ableism, and the Thin Privilege Voice

Years ago, I posted a video on youtube. I had seen a sign for a child's fat camp (weight loss program) and it pissed me off. I pulled into the next parking lot, walked, and took the sign, throwing it into into my trunk. Once home, I spray painted it to read "Give the gift of no diets", as it was near Christmas time. I literally received thousands of comments (they were moderated and never made it onto the actual video). They ranged anywhere from death and rape threats, to name calling, to vague future health threats, and even accusations of being a terrorist. I'm not kidding- a terrorist. Because, as their logic went, I was engaging in the mass killings of fat children by wanting them to remain fat. Interesting how twisted a fatphobe's logic is considering that fatphobia and stigma kill fat more children than fat ever has.

Still, the number one comments I got were on m breathing- heavy breathing specifically. The trolls took this as proof that I was too fat and needed to exercise and lose weight.

I have a condition, as some of you know already, called POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). It means that as my posture changes, from lying to standing, my heart rate increases by at least 30 beats per minute, usually causing tachycardia (a heart rate of over 100). A normal heart rate for a woman my age is 60-100bpm. My standing heart rate is about 20-40 over that just from standing up.  Even mild exercise can make my heart go through the roof. Walking gently and leisurely can raise my HR up to almost 200bpm, which is the same predicted heart rate of a woman my age who is engaging in extreme exercise and is the maximum rate a heart should go. So, for me, walking slowly on even ground, is about the same as running a marathon for someone else. Have you ever seen someone run a marathon and not get winded? Yeah, me neither. (Oh, did I mention that fainting is included for someone with POTS? So pushing myself to exercise as my heart rate pushes 200 is very dangerous).

But that's not the kicker. People were observing that a light stroll shouldn't make a person breath so heavily. They were correct. But, the didn't account for illnesses which cause heavy breathing, especially in bitter cold weather. (For example, I could just as likely have had asthma, a much more common breathing issue than POTS.) I'm not saying any of this to justify myself or be the "good fatty" because fuck that. It's simply a bit of backstory.

Still, after about 4K comments or so, I posted a small comment about this condition. The response? The called bullshit. Suddenly all of those trolls were medical doctors. Comments ranged from trying to explain POTS to me (poorly), as to say it doesn't cause breathing issues, or people flat out saying I was lying about the condition.

This isn't the first time this has happened.

I have a list of medical diagnoses which numbers slightly less than two dozen. Several of which cause weight gain and other symptoms include exercise intolerance, heat intolerance, chronic pain (my joints don't hurt because I'm fat, the hurt because I'm a chronic illness patient), and so much more.

My point is this: when you're fat, people ignore you when you say you're sick. Unless you have a stereotypical "fattie" illness like heart disease or diabetes, then you're truthful, but deserve your illnesses. You're especially lying if you have thyroid disease or any other illnesses that create symptoms they'd  rather mock someone for. When you're fat, you're only allowed to be sick in the was that are deemed fatty acceptable. If you say you don't have those issues then you're lying. If you say you have other "non fat" issues, then you're lying. Fatphobia is inherently ableist (as well as misognistic which I've discussed before). Remember that when fat people die of heart disease, they died of being fat and the had it coming. When thin people die of heart disease it was a fight, a struggle that they lost, a tragedy.

Where does the thin privilege come in? Easy, if a thin person said they had any of the illnesses I have, they'd be believed, listened to, given sympathy, and get treatment and care by medical professionals. The same people accusing me of lying would be signing petitions for POTS research for thin people.

Thin people who consider themselves allies are in the position where the can use their voices to educate fatphobes- because they'll be listened to. Not always, maybe not even most of the time, but more than us fatties could ever hope to be listened to. Here, it gets iffy though. Because thin people should never speak over fat people, and yet their voices hold more power, more sway. Thin allies have to figure out was to speak for us, without speaking over us, and lifting up the voices of fat people in the process. I know, being an ally isn 't easy. But know what's even harder? Being fat. Add being a disabled woman on top of being fat and it's not an easy life. Just look at all of the health issues that chronic stress can cause- from joint pain to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

I know this post is long and you maybe didn't want to hear about my chronic illnesses. You wanted some in-your-face truths about fatphobia and thin privilege and ableism. But the truth is that I'm tired. I'm worn out from being attacked ever day and not being able to defend myself and having no one come to my defense.

You, my thin privileged friends, are lacking in your responsibilities. I want to say that I expect more from you, but I don't. I expect to fight this fight either alone or alongside other fatties. But hey, I wouldn't mind being surprised once in a while either.

Here's my point, one type of bigotry almost never shows up to the party by itself. It brings friends. Fatphobia can often intersect with pretty much any other tpe of oppression. Fatphobia is not a single thing, by itself. This is why I feel weird when someone expresses fatphobic ideas and beliefs. I know that is not the only type of bigotry lurking. And fatphobia affects people on both sides of the political spectrum- so if your oh-so-progressive friend with privilege coming out of his ears decides to say something fatphobic, be assured that they are not the feminist the claim to be, they are not intersectional, as they claim to be, etc. And when they talk about intersectional issues, but don't mention fatphobia- be wary, be suspicious. And hey- call them out. That's your job now, okay?


Monday, July 18, 2016

Skinny people, I see you: Taking up space where you shouldn't and what to do about it

Two photos side by side of a light skinned fat woman with medium
length pink hair in a black top with greenery in the background.
The right picture shows the woman after the photo was put through
facial improvement software, making her face and nose slimmer as
well as making her eyes more symmetrical and larger and her lips
plumper.
I see you skinny people. I see you struggling. I see your self confidence issues. I see you hiding your
stomach in a one piece bathing suit because you're too afraid of a bikini. I know that self loathing body issues are not exempt for you. I know that fatphobia affects you.

Now let's talk about what else I see and don't see. I don't see you sticking up for me, the fattie. I see you occupying space in fat acceptance instead of raising up the voices of fat people and allowing us the space you occupy. I don't see you trying to change fat oppression. I do see you trying to change "skinny shaming" though. I see you equating "skinny shaming" and fat oppression as if hurt feelings are the same thing as dead children. I see you screaming for yourself, but not for me. I don't see you in my social media posts where I have to defend myself against fatphobes with no allies to help me. I see you subtly contributing to fatphobia and then crying "but I'm an ally!" when called out on it. I see you asking me to educate you on my oppression, but I don't see you trying to educate yourself. I see you, right now, about to type "not all skinny people!" to defend yourself instead of reaching out to your fellow skinnies and helping end my oppression.

Here's the thing, asking you to help end my oppression does not discount your experiences or suffering at the hands of fatphobia and the patriarchy. All it says is that, in this particular instance, fat people are suffering more than skinny people when it comes to fatphobia. In the same way, the patriarchy informs toxic masculinity which affects men negatively, but it's going to, by definition, affect women and femme presenting people more.

Regardless of how fatphobia bleeds over onto you, remember that it's targeted at me. You still hold power over fat people and have privilege in a world that favors you over us. I know it's not a power you asked for. It may not even be a power you want, and I get that. I have privileges too. Hell, I even have relative thin privilege compared to people who are fatter than I am. Being a size 22/3x, I can buy a lot of clothes that just don't exist in a 4x or larger. I can fit some places that people larger than me can't (like airplane seats and certain chairs, and even medical equipment), I can, mostly, be left alone in public depending on where I am, and I see people, however rarely, who represent me. These are all things that give me some privilege because privilege exists on a sliding scale. Thin people, have all these and more, including important ones that can mean life or death (such as having a doctor take your illnesses seriously).

Basically, it doesn't matter how badly you feel about your body, you're still the oppressor. I'm still the oppressed. I have the right to be angry at you, regardless of your personal issues, I have the right to express that anger, I have the right to have access to fat only spaces and to insist that you don't get to be a part of it.

Mostly though, your job as an ally is to always be learning, always doing better, and always taking pressure off of my shoulders. Your job is to educate other thin people (people with internalized fatphobia you don't need to deal with because you can't police how someone deals with oppression- even if those ways are shitty and oppresses other fat people). So next time your facebook friend posts a fatphobic meme or comment, try educating them, posing links to information and posts from fat people. When a fat person speaks, don't be so quick to jump in with your experiences- try just supporting your fat friend and quietly being there for them. Don't ask us to educate you, but rather, when you don't understand something, or have questions, ask a group dedicated to intersectionality and education or google articles or posts by fat people. Remember too that you can take all of the rules of allyship in an intersectional setting and apply it to fat acceptance and fat liberation.

Ally is not an identity, it's not a title that you get once and you're done. It's an ongoing, organic, thing that takes emotional labor and mental effort on your part. The emotional labor and mental effort that I put in is on a daily, hourly, and even minute by minute basis. Please take some of that from me. I see you, and want you to know that I see you (all day, every day, whether I want to or not), so please.. see me as well. Because my suffering is made invisible, but you can do something about that.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Happy 30's

It's a question that's been buzzing around in my mind for a while now. Am I too old for this? Am I too burnt out? Am I too... something? Maybe something that I can't describe, but something nonetheless? I know a lot of you are pounding fists on the table demanding to see more photos, demanding more meaningful text posts, demanding an update, demanding content- any content!

The content that you demand has been sparse, if non existent these last few months. I've done all of three photoshoots in the entire first half of this year, but I haven't been idle. I've been a busy bee behind the camera. I've had several shoots for The Fat Naked Art Project (on blogger and tumblr) and I'm keeping pretty busy with other types of shoots as well, including launching a new site for boudoir photography. Next website to go up? FNAP needs a print store so that you can hang beautiful naked people in your home.

Still, a question begs to be answered: how much more energy do I want to put into modeling and how long can I feasibly keep it up? I've shot with many local photographers and don't have the resources to travel for modeling. Photographers willing to shoot a model of my size are already around unicorn or dragon status in rarity and I fear I may have exhausted my mythological beings resources. (anyone know a stray fairy perhaps?) On top of simply having fewer resources than I did years ago, I've gained weight (giving me even fewer options than I had 20lbs ago) and I've gotten older.

Not that I don't want to still challenge the fatphobia in modeling, and I'd like to challenge the ageism too, I have to admit, that it's more difficult with compounding factors. I'm not going to stop taking opportunities that come my way! But, as you've seen this year, the shoots themselves will likely slow down. That being said, I will try to pick up on my text posts in a meaningful way.

Feel free to send me topics you'd like me to cover, ask for advice you'd like me to answer (publicly if you'll allow), or suggest content you'd like to see.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Eating Disorders and Underrepresented Communities

Today is World Eating Disorders Day, a day to help raise awareness for eating disorders of all kinds, throughout the world. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who will be ignored on this day. The typical face of eating disorders will be a young, white, very thin, girl, likely with anorexia or possibly bulimia. And yes, these people exist. This post is not meant to deny or invalidate those experiences because they are very real and very deadly. But while people are offering support and resources to these young women and girls, people of color, fat people, men, trans, and nonbinary people fly under most people's radars.

Let's start with the fact that studies show in 6th and 7th grade girls, Hispanics and Asians showed significantly more body dissatisfaction  more, than white girls. Similarly, Native American girls were attempting weight at a greater rate than white girls. Despite the fact that eating disorders are seen as a white person's issue, ED's affect all races in the US at about equal rates.

Another group that's rarely, if ever, talked about, is older people. Yep, you read that right. Eating disorders among older people are on the rise. There's been a steep rise in the increase in body disatisfaction in people past midlife- a 31% rise in the past few decades and we don't even have statistics on this past 1997 (almost a decade ago!). We do know that over a third of outpatient treatment for eating disorders was for people over the age of 30. And, even though weight loss can be harmful, especially as you age, 20% of women who were 70 years or older were actively trying to lose weight.

Boys and men are not only often ignored when it comes to the ED community, but face added stigma in that eating disorders are seen as a feminine quality. There aren't really many statistics on men and eating disorders and more research needs to be done, but we do know that, though eating disorders affect women and girls more often, cases for boys and men are catching up. And there aren't even statistics on boys and men with muscle dysmorphia or "bigorexia", a condition in which someone is obsessed with the idea of getting bigger with muscle.

Sexuality plays a role in this too. For boys and men who were queer, they were significantly more likely to have starved themselves (fasted), used laxatives or diet pills, or vomited to try to lose weight.  Queer teens were also twice as likely to report incidences of binge eating with queer girls and women being twice as likely to binge. (Binge Eating Disorders is another under the radar, stigmatized, ED that we'll talk about later) Keep in mind that we don't even have a vague idea about eating disorders in the trans community. Among trans and non binary people, eating disorders exist, but we don't know how common they are or how their identities play into their eating disorders. We do know that fat is often associated with femininity, especially when it appears in certain spots in the body (such as the hips or chest). Here's a story about a trans man with an eating disorder where his curves made him feel fat and, ultimately, lead to anorexia nervosa.

And, speaking of fat.. let's get onto eating disorders in fat people. We know that being "overweight" or perceived as "overweight" puts you more at risk for an eating disorder. That's right folks, fat people are at a greater risk for eating disorders than thin people. And fatphobia- convincing thin people that they're fat or need to lose weight- puts them at greater risk too. I don't think we can pretend that fatphobia has nothing to do with eating disorders when thinness is often the goal. Wanting to be thin and body dissatisfaction are the most well known risks for eating disorders, and yet, we like to think that fat shaming not only is good for fat people, but doesn't affect thin people. In reality, fatphobia is deadly. Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness with people with anorexia nervosa having a mortality rate six times higher than the general population which includes suicide. Bulimia also has a high suicide rate and mortality risks for Bulimia and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) were similar to those with anorexia.

We should not that fat people are most often diagnosed with EDNOS and that EDNOS is the most common eating disorder. (Though people with EDNOS can fall anywhere in the weight range from average to fat, they just don't meet the low weight requirements of AN or BN)

Unfortunately, we don't know the suicide rate among those with BED (Binge Eating Disorder) because, let's face it, no one cares. People with BED tend to be fat (Though not all are. You can have BED and be thin) and we don't really care about fat people. Or BED. Binge Eating Disorder is highly stigmatized. If you're thin then the general thought is that eating a lot is cute, adorable. Despite the fact that BED sufferers face extreme emotional distress including guilt, feeling of internalized fatphobia, and self hate. Fat people with BED are thought to just be overeaters who brought their fate on themselves and they could "simply stop eating so much" and they'd be cured.

And please, let's not forget that none of the statistics in this blog cover disordered eating (such as dieting or other methods of weight loss that do not fit the criteria for an eating disorder). When we factor in the percentage of people who are dieting to lose weight, it's clear that eating disorders and disordered eating affect a massive number of people. In adult women, over half say that eating holds no pleasure and they often feel guilty- think about that. Guilt for doing something you have to do to survive, something we've evolved to take pleasure from. Only 20% of women are instinctive (intuitive) eaters, meaning 80% had some kind of disordered eating.

This is a serious public health concern. I know people like to spout off that "obesity is an epidemic!" but this? This is the real epidemic: fatphobia.

So, today as we look at all of the personal stories of people who have struggled with eating disorders or who still struggle, let's remember the marginalized and underrepresented people who struggle as well. Challenge the stereotype and educate people, because ignorance is killing the most vulnerable among us.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Flowers and Pearls

I was completely honored to work with local Burlesque performer Miss Pearl Necklace. Together with photographer Freeman Long we created some beautiful fat positive photos that I absolutely adore!




Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Just an Update

It's been a while and, yes, I have photos coming for you soon, but not today. Today is just an update day. To let you know what's going on and that I haven't forgotten about you.

I've had my hands full with The Fat Naked Art Project and recently traveled to Atlanta, GA for a shoot. In addition, I have had a few local shoots as well. I've been really busy with my photography in general (and keeping the trolls at bay has been a bit of a hurdle). I'm also hoping to launch a new photo project this year called Body Love Through Struggle which focuses on people who have or have had an eating disorder, particularly marginalized groups who are often under represented in the ED community.

Speaking of- I'm working with an ED organization (I'll tell you who when I can!) to make their org more inclusive and body positive. This includes helping with training videos, a youtube interview, and teaching FA courses at their next conference, just to name a few things.

I'm also adding to the types of fat acceptance classes that I'll be teaching locally. With my Fat Acceptance 101 class being a huge hit, I'm planning a 201 class that deals with fat acceptance and intersectionality more in depth as well as a fat acceptance and children and young teens class and a fat acceptance and eating disorders class. Look at me go!

If you're wondering why I seem to be working on so much right now, it's because I'm newly medicated for Chronic Fatigue. Soon to be medicated for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) as well... then, there will be nothing in this world that can stop me! For so many years I've had such big plans and no energy to make them happen. Now that's all changing and I'm so very thankful to every doctor who helped me. I always thought it was the Thyroid Disease slowing me down, but now, even though I have a list of diagnoses, I finally know what's wrong and why and I can tackle each problem as they come.

Thank you to my entire support system and everyone who's been there for me.