Monthly Archives: May 2012

Why I Will Not Calm Down: Relentless Challenges and Righteous Anger

I will not keep calm and you can fuck off

White block text on a black background reading “I will not keep calm and you can fuck off” below a stylised white crown, in the style of British World War II propaganda posters.

Today I was involved in a discussion on Facebook about Australian Greens’ leader Sarah Hansen-Young’s recent statement on the Greens’ policy regarding polyamorous marriage (they’re agin’ it!).  This post isn’t about that, but the discussion did raise something that I keep encountering over and over again; the idea that people from marginalised groups or with radical ideas have an obligation to tread softly and not push the status quo too far, because if they do it will backfire and nothing will ever change.

The older I get and the more reading and thinking and arguing I do, the more I realise that this is absolute bullshit.  If the status quo is unfair and you are in a position to challenge it, then you should challenge it, vigorously and vociferously and relentlessly.  If being loud and radical is too much, how could saying nothing at all possibly make people more likely to listen and take heed?  This theory of taking political change “one step at a time” is, to my mind, akin to the dreaded “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” argument.  To paraphrase a friend from my Facebook discussion, marginalised people should not have to earn the things that privileged people take for granted by being meek and inoffensive, or by begging for scraps of recognition and respect.  Please sir, may I have just a little more dignity?  MORE?!  MORE?!!?  I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE ASKING FOR MORE, DIDN’T WE JUST GIVE YOU PEOPLE SOMETHING YESTERDAY??

Yes, actually, I do expect you to respect the relationship choices of both same-sex-attracted people AND polyamorous people (hey, some of us are both!).  Yes, I expect you to recognise that fat people can be just as fit and healthy as anyone else AND not vilify those fat people who are not perfectly fit and healthy.  Yes, I expect you to make special allowances for people with disabilities to make their lives easier AND respect their bodily autonomy enough to not interfere with their lives.  Yes, I expect you to let women make their own choices about whether or not to raise children AND still support and respect women who choose to be full time mothers.  And I’m not going to shut up about one thing while I wait for you to grasp the other one.  I’m especially not going to shut up about the things that directly hurt me and affect the way I live just because my demands push your boundaries more than is comfortable for you.

Social change is necessarily uncomfortable.  Sometimes the political demands of others make me feel uncomfortable and defensive and I often find that when I dig a little deeper the reason is because they are challenging beliefs and stereotypes I’d taken for granted, or challenging my own unexamined privilege.  And since I don’t believe in a hierarchy of oppressions, I don’t see why I should have to wait for one to be resolved (haha!) before starting in on another one, nor do I think it is reasonable to assume that I do not value the steps forward that have already been made if I am still demanding more.  I think we can always demand more of ourselves as a society when it comes to listening, learning and understanding, and I intend to.

My number one pet peeve when discussing social (in)justice with people who perhaps think about these issues less constantly than I do (which is perfectly reasonable; I must admit being outraged and disappointed full time can be pretty exhausting) is being told to calm down.  I’ll calm down when there’s nothing left to be angry about, and I don’t see that moment coming any time soon.

Outfit Of The Day – Autobots Roll Out!

After all that talk about visibility, I suppose I had better show you what I look like.  Here is the first of probably many Outfit Of The Day or OOTD posts!  Of course, I didn’t actually wear this outfit today, but that’s beside the point.

A tall, fat, white woman (me) with short brown hair stands with hands on hips in front of a leafy background. She is wearing black-framed glasses, a black hoodie with an Autobots logo on it in red, a short skirt with a grey and white pattern, black leggings and black leather boots.

The skirt is actually a dress worn under the jumper.  A couple of years ago I never would have bought a dress that short, but these days I quite enjoy showing off my knees, even if in this instance they are swathed in my trusty Kmart leggings.  It was a cold and rainy day, and I was thoroughly enjoying the chance to be warm and cosy while still wearing a short skirt!  Those boots are seriously fantastic, warm and comfy and with plenty of room for my generous calves.

Hoodie: Carribean Market

Dress (worn as skirt): Evans

Leggings: Kmart

Boots: Autograph

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Introducing…me!

Hello there!  My name is Sarah, and I am a fabulous femme feminist fashionista with a fondness for cupcakes, glitter and twinkle lights.

Allow me to introduce myself and my shiny new blog.  Here’s what it’s all about:

As a blogger, I’m interested in fat liberation, feminism, queer and non-monogamous relationships and intersectional activism.  In my everyday personal life, I am a fat, white, cisgendered woman who is polyamorous and bisexual and dabbles in event planning, choral singing, illustration and design, baking for special diets (one of my partners has a lot of allergies) and sociology.  I studied sociology in my BA and Honours at uni, and hope one day to do a PhD in sociology, focusing on Fat Studies and the lived experiences of fat people (particularly to do with fashion and clothed embodiment).  Before my BA I studied a Certificate IV in Applied Design and three years of a Bachelor of (Fashion) Design; my interest in fashion has come full circle from wanting to be part of the fashion industry to wanting to critique, challenge and reshape it from a radical, fat positive, feminist perspective; in a word, fatshion.

What is fatshion exactly?  Well, the short answer is that it’s a portmanteau of the words “fat” and “fashion”.  If you’re not already familiar with the term and you don’t think the words “fat” and “fashion go together, then in lieu of trying to reinvent the wheel and cobbling together some kind of 101 document, I shall suggest some excellent reading material about fatshion and about fatshion blogging and photography that you might find edifying:

The Fat Heffalump – Breaking Open The Beauty Paradigm

“[W]e are turning the beauty ideal on it’s head.  The beauty ideal says that you must be thin, young, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered and usually affluent, among other things, to be beautiful.  That should you wish to engage in dressing up, fashion and make-up, to represent your look in a particular way, you need to fit this ideal. Yet here we are, fat and accepting of that fact, still engaging in these activities.  With no attempt at hiding our fatness with clothing, accessories and make-up that flatters, disguises or distracts, the statement is “I am here, I wish to be seen, and I am proud of who I am.”

Being visible as a fat woman is one of the most radical acts of fat acceptance I can think of.  It is accepting myself as a fat woman, and it forces others to accept me as I am.  Suddenly I am visible, like it or lump it.”

More of Me to Love – Welcome to the World of FATshion

“I believe that Plus Size women don’t have to feel left out of the world of fashion. Fashion is just a matter of finding ways to make it work for you. We don’t have to be fashion “outlaws,” and I strongly believe that fashion is for everyBODY.

Fortunately it seems that I’m not the only one!

There’s an ongoing movement reclaiming the right to fashion for the fat people all over the internet. The name of this incredible change of paradigms is FATshion. That’s right: an expression created with the fusion of the words fat and fashion.

Isn’t that great news?”

Two Whole Cakes – Why the Pictures Matter

“My outfit pictures are not about looking pretty or stylish or enviable or impressive—they are a challenge to the monotony of normative bodies in normative contexts that slide over our minds even against our will, every day, every day, every day we live. Look around, instead of trusting that what culture tells you about what is normal must be true: look around. Diversity is normal. It is just not culturally valued. We can change that.”

The Rotund – Fa(t)shion February; Conflicting Urges Around Documentation

“Documenting what I look like on a daily basis not only normalizes fat bodies for other viewers, it does the same for me regarding my own body. This is what my body looks like. That’s a good thing to know. This is what my body looks like in certain clothes. Clothes that look way different in the mirror at home. Clothes that look different when my husband takes a photo from his eye level versus my eye level versus crouching below. In this way, I learn my body from an outside perspective.”

The name “Radically Visible” was inspired by that first quote from The Fat Heffalump.  It comes from the idea of fatshion as a site of empowerment, emancipation and political activism for fat people.  As Kath says on her own blog, “being visible as a fat woman is one of the most radical acts of fat acceptance I can think of”.  The “change of paradigms” that Patricia from More of Me to Love mentions is the key thing here; fatshion is about changing the paradigm of fashion from an elitist club to which all must aspire but only the very thin, rich and beautiful may join, to something fun and accessible to any and everyone, regardless of body type or background.

I believe that dress and body adornment are powerful tools in advancing the visibility of fat bodies, and in learning to love and take pleasure in one’s own fat body.  Learning that embracing my love of fashion and living in my size 26 body did not have to be mutually exclusive was a crucial turning point for me in my own journey to self acceptance and making peace with being fat.  Fashion (and fatshion) is not important to everyone and fat acceptance is not only for people who enjoy fatshion, but for those of us who do enjoy it it is very powerful indeed.  A lot of this blog will focus on Radical Visibility through fatshion, whether in the form of photos of my own body, my own outfits and my reviews of plus size clothes and accessories, or more critical discussions about the mainstream fashion industry and the fatshion community.

I’m sure other things are bound to come up, however, such as feminist, queer and poly issues.  I’m about to start planning a poly wedding/commitment ceremony and am consequently thinking a lot about poly relationships and poly families.  I am a staunch believer in the old feminist adage “the personal is political” and I am easily distracted, so I’m sure the workings of my everyday life will help this blog develop beyond fat and fashion issues alone.  Everything is connected.  Think of this as my personal soapbox.

Stay tuned!

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