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! 


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Photos by Calvin S.

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