You have got to stop.

When you tell me “No, you’re not fat.” maybe you think you’re paying me a compliment. Maybe you’re trying to make me feel better (in which case you can stop, because fat is not an insult), or in some weird way trying to make yourself feel better. Or maybe you’re just an egomaniac who is incapable of understanding that your opinion is not the only opinion. I don’t know.

What I do know is that you have got to stop. Whatever the reasons, no matter how many you have or how valid you think they are, you have got to stop.

Because this is what you’re actually saying to me when you say “No, you’re not fat.”:

“Your body is up for debate.”

I am not an ethical issue. I am not a political idea. I am not Marmite. There is no debate or argument to be had here. Dictatorship, remember? What I say, goes.

“I have more right to define your body than you do.”

In primary school we had to fill in a sheet describing ourselves physically. ‘My eyes are blue/brown/grey’ ‘I am short/tall’ and so on. When it came to hair colour, I said brown. When my teacher saw this, she said “no, no it’s not brown. It’s black.” and changed my sheet.

This memory has stuck with me for maybe 20 years because it’s the first time I remember being angry with a teacher, although at the time I couldn’t articulate exactly why. Now I get it – even then I knew that it’s wrong for somebody else to think they can define my body better than I can.

I got angry when my teacher tried to define me as black-haired, I got angry when a man tried to define me as a girl and then as a lady, and I get angry when people try to define me as skinny or thin or ‘normal’ or however they word it. The words don’t matter; the subtext is always saying they can define me and I cannot.

“I experience your reality better than you do.”

I live in my body. I experience my body. Only me. Nobody else can, does, or will ever see my body through my eyes and process that image with my brain. And my experience of it is of a fat body.

Of course that’s not the only way I see it. It’s a strong, flexible, rhythmic, tuneful, brave, brown-haired, stretch-marked, short(ish), creative, loving, hopeful, fat body.

If I wrote a post about how creative I am, nobody would dream of telling me “No, you’re not creative.” and I wouldn’t accept it if they did. I know I am creative because that is my experience of living in this body.

I don’t accept people telling me I’m not fat, I know I am because that is my experience of living in this body.

“Your experience of reality does not exist.”

Like I said, my reality comes from experiencing my body with my interpretation of it. When you say I’m wrong about being fat, you’re telling me that my reality is not actually real. In abuse terms this is called gaslighting. Please, stop abusing me.

“The way you define yourself is offensive to me”

Several people have got really worked up about me calling myself fat. I know what it’s like, I’ve been speechless with irritation before when someone smaller than me has repeatedly complained about being fat. Saying they’re fat must mean they think I’m enormous!!

It’s taken me many years to realise that saying they’re fat actually means they…are just saying they’re fat.

People are incredibly self-centred, if they are commenting on their own fat-ness it has nothing to do with you. They are either a) fishing for comments on their thinness (I am not this one) or b) actually experiencing their body as a fat body (this is me). Comparison to and comments on your body are so not the point.

I am not commenting on your size by defining mine. Why would I? Your body is your business, just as my body is mine.

Of course if you want to keep thinking “No, you’re not fat” then I can’t stop you. But do not say it, type it, write it, or text it to me. This is not up for debate and I am not taking any more comments on it. Just stop. Now.

The first rule of fight club.

Limit #12: women can’t fight.

Don’t worry, there won’t be any photos of me punching someone in the face. It’s at least 11 years since I last did that. Far fewer since I was sorely tempted, but I would get in a lot more trouble for it now so I try not to assault people.

But I could. I was capable of flooring someone older and bigger than me when I was a child (thanks, Gramps!) and now I lift weights. Physically, I think you’ll find I can.

You just know this is not about being able to throw a punch though. This is about the patriarchy saying that women must be meek and mild, quiet, gentle, and obedient.

It’s the perfect strategy. Decide that a chunk of the population is worth less than the rest, and then tell them they are incapable of fighting back, tell them repeatedly, generation after generation until they really believe it and begin to tell others, so you don’t even have to. And there you have it; a self-perpetuating system of oppression.

That is, until someone takes a look at the system and realises it’s unjustifiable, dangerous to both sexes, and economically stupid. They start to question and then, you guessed it, to fight.

There’s Sonya Renee Taylor, Jes Baker, The F Word, Bitch Media, Hollaback, and so many more.

And now me. I’ve been the girl who turned ditzy in the presence of a man, I’ve silently endured mansplaining countless times, I’ve let people comment on or stare at my body without calling them out, but I will not be that person any more.

I will comment on or delete sexist social media posts, I will interrupt the mansplainers (yeah interrupting is rude, but so is assuming I know nothing just because I’m female), I will contact websites who have gendered links ‘I am a man’ and ‘I am a girl’ to tell them it’s not okay, I will question people who see my body as a thing to be looked at or property to be owned.

I will not be quiet, I will not be gentle, and I will most certainly not be obedient. I will fight because it’s the right thing to do, and because I absolutely can.

Running up that hill

Limit #11: fat people shouldn’t run.

Because we must do anything and everything, healthy or not, to force our bodies into that one definition of beauty society is so desperate to hold on to – except for running.

I don’t know why. I’m not in the habit of making up rules for what someone other than me can’t do based on their outward appearance. Because that’s stupid.

But a world-weary guess would be that these bullies believe fat people should be neither seen nor heard. That we are supposed to become hermits, working out to DVDs and youtube videos at home until we make it to the ‘correct’ size, and only then are we allowed to show our face in the outside world.

Nuts to that.

First and foremost, I think you’ll find I can. I’ve run 5Ks…

RFL 5k

and 10Ks…

RFL 10k

and every distance in between. Being fat never stopped me. In fact, when I started running I was bigger than I am now and that still didn’t stop me.

I did initially take up running to help me lose weight, but it’s years since that stopped being my motivation to lace up my trainers. Why would anyone do that to themselves if not to lose weight? Well:

  • Running feels like escaping, even if only for 20 minutes.
  • I get so focused on my breathing it’s like meditation.
  • It helps me process when I can’t handle all of the feels.
  • I get to explore my city.
  • It’s easy to measure and track improvements in speed or distance.
  • I surprise myself with what I can do, more than in any other area of my life (although this blog is catching up!).
  • I feel like a superhero when I’m done.
  • Runners always say hi in Glasgow – I get some human interaction when I pass a fellow runner, without having to stress about small talk.
  • Medals.
Two 5Ks and two 10Ks
I love me some bling

And if you’re wondering, that thing about your knees is really not true. Yes, I’ve had knee problems before but I sorted them with stretching and foam rolling and now they are fine.

Running is good for me mentally, physically, emotionally and probably any other -ally you can think of. But I’m not ‘allowed’ to get any of those benefits because I’m not a size 8. I just don’t see the logic there. Probably because there isn’t any.

Anyone can do any activity they enjoy, regardless of size, and it’s nobody’s job or right to tell them they can’t. Ever.

So I’ll see yous at the next Parkrun.

What do you see?

gob

I’m not going to post a link to this video, it’s had far too much air time already, but you know the one I’m talking about.

Many, many people have responded to it, probably far better than I’m about to. But I have to post, because while watching the video I saw something I wasn’t expecting.

Obviously I see her fat shaming (you can’t say something doesn’t exist and then go on to do that thing for 5 solid minutes. Seriously.), her shallow judgement and bigotry, and the complete ignorance of scientific studies about fat as it relates to health. Standard.

But underneath all that is something less obvious. Something I’ve never noticed before because I’ve always been so focused on the vitriol.

I see the reason fat acceptance and body positivity are for everyone. I see how we have so demonised fatness that just being thin is not enough any more. I see people like her filling their lives with hate and spite and negativity and shame, because somehow that’s a better alternative to being associated in any way with fat.

I see fear.

And we’re all supposed to join in with this?

You’re telling me that I have to starve my body into eating itself smaller, kicking it along with strenuous exercise whether I like it or not, to force it into a shape it was never meant to be (only around 5% of the population naturally have that ‘ideal’ body type). Then when I finally get there I not only have to keep up the ridiculous effort to stay there, I also have to give out nastiness to anyone bigger than me?

Sorry (not sorry) but I’ve got better things to do with my life. Like being happy.

Which is why the fat acceptance movement is important for everyone, not just fat people.

Imagine a world where people can eat whatever they feel like eating, wear whatever they feel like wearing, do whatever they feel like doing, safe in the knowledge that nobody will tell them they can’t because of the way they look. Nobody would tell skinny people to just go and eat a cheeseburger, or fat people to just eat a salad. Fat people wouldn’t need to be afraid of videos being made about them, because skinny people wouldn’t feel the need to make them.

It’s not about ‘promoting obesity’ (I can’t get over how stupid an argument that is), it’s about destroying judgement and fear. And that is for every body.

Disturbing Responses to that Fat Hate Video

Human = deserving of basic respect. End of discussion.

Dances With Fat

Stand up speak up fight backBy now you’ve probably seen or heard about that ridiculous fat shaming video by that ridiculous fat shaming bigot.  If not, consider yourself lucky.  Regardless I’m not going to talk about it that much – bigot engages in bigoted troll behavior for attention, not news. What concerns me are some of the responses that I’m seeing to it by people who, in theory, disagree with the ridiculous bigot but, in practice are (inadvertently) adding to the oppression of fat people.

From my perspective the response to this could not be more simple: Fat people deserve to be treated with basic human respect because we are human.  Weight-based bigotry and oppression are wrong because bigotry and oppression are wrong. Fat people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which includes living in a world where we do not face harassment, bullying, stigma and oppression, and it doesn’t…

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7 lessons learned from getting my kit off

So life modeling.

The class last night was actually part training for noob models like me. The group was split in two and one half posed while the other half drew them, and then we swapped.

I learned many things during those 3 hours, some more surprising than others:

1.I still can’t draw for toffee.

This one is not a surprise at all. I did discover that my issue is focusing on specific details rather than seeing overall shapes. But what can I say? I’m a writer; detail is my thing.

I gave it a go anyway and it turns out drawing good poses seriously helps you to create good poses when your turn comes around.

Here is my feeble attempt:

I mean, you can tell it's supposed to be a human being. That's improvement
I mean, you can tell it’s supposed to be a human being. That’s improvement

I’m bizarrely proud of the left foot.

2. But some of the warm-up exercises were fun.

The first lot of poses were 2 minutes long. Obviously you can’t get a photographic copy in 2 minutes so we just had to sketch out the ‘energy and movement’ of the pose. Which is kinda fun.

This right here is actually my favourite picture of the night:

SAM_3220

And here’s one somebody did of me, which is a bajillion times better:

Anybody recognise setenta? Or the fact that it's me?
Anybody recognise setenta? Or the fact that it’s me?

3. It’s harder than you think.

“Just turn up and stand up.” someone said. “You’ll be fine, you just sit there.” said another. And I’ll be honest, I did think it would be fairly easy.

No. Really, really no.

I want you to raise your arm above your head. Go on. Is it up there? Right, now keep it there for 20 minutes.

Too much? Okay then, twist your upper body to the side. Any side will do and you only have to go far enough to feel your back muscles engaging. Done? Now you can’t move for 7 minutes. And doesn’t breathing seem kinda difficult now your diaphragm is twisted?

Just ignore the stitch/cramp/pins and needles when they turn up, and try not to shake too much.

4. The initial shock at disrobing never really went away.

Seriously, every single time we swapped over and I had to take the robe off, my mind went

“WE’RE NEKKID IN PUBLIC!!”.

5. But then I always got used to it.

After that initial shock I just got into the zone, and during the 20 minute pose I actually relaxed so much I almost fell asleep. That’s bad, by the way. All your interesting shapes relax out if you fall asleep. It’s apparently perfectly fine if various limbs fall asleep though, you just have to shake it out when you’re finished.

6. Everyone should do life drawing /modeling at least once in their life.

There are several parts to this.

Firstly, at the start of the evening I was terrified at the thought of all these people (including men!!) looking at me naked.  I’m female and apparently fairly attractive and also fat: I spend 99% of my outside life being looked at, appraised, judged, admired, wanted, dismissed, shouted at, chatted up, and catcalled because of my body and the way I look.

But in the class, even though I was more on show than I have ever been, nobody was looking at me that way.

I was turned into shapes and objects to be drawn, without being objectified. I was being seen rather than just looked at. I had at least 7 pairs of eyes on me but felt completely safe. Every woman should get chance to experience that (sadly rare) sensation. Every man too.

Secondly, some problems in the world come from over-sexualisation of people and parts of said people. Take breastfeeding in public for an example. “Sexy stuff in a restaurant?! Nobody wants to see that! Think of the children!!”.  But breasts are actually not sexual organs, they’re just another part of a body. Like feet.

There’s no point just telling people to stop shaming mothers who feed their babies in public; they will argue, and get angry, and threaten rape, and all kinds of horrible things. But if we could get people to see that women are not just sexual objects, they wouldn’t struggle with seeing breasts used as something other than sex toys, and the shaming wouldn’t happen.

I honestly believe a life drawing class is a perfect platform for making that happen. You expose people to a bunch of naked bodies with no sexual context whatsoever, and they can’t help seeing them as bodies of actual human beings. Like I said – seeing objects without making it into objectification.

If everyone did this at least once, and got used to seeing bodies in this way, I wonder how much better society would be.

7. Do the things that scare you most. You might find something you enjoy.

That small voice in the back of my mind that thought I might enjoy modeling? It was so right.

I enjoyed a solid 3 hours of safety and the absence of judgement.

I enjoyed learning how to hold my body in interesting poses.

I enjoyed trying something adventurous, even though my shoulder is still complaining about it today.

And I really enjoyed seeing the drawings people made of me. It’s so interesting to see myself through other eyes.

Also I appear to be kind of good at it. For the 20 minute pose, half of the class drew me. Including the teacher. She said my pose was really interesting, and I nearly burst.

Not sure what happened to my head.
Not sure what happened to my head.
The teacher's drawing.
The teacher’s drawing.
My favourite drawing of me.
My favourite drawing of me.

Limit #10 (again): fat people shouldn’t make art of themselves.

I think you’ll find we can and should.

And honestly….I probably will again!

This is it

Today’s thought process so far:

Tonight I’m going to have no clothes on in front of many, many strangers.

What the heck was I thinking??

It’ll be fine, you’ll be fine. Just stop thinking about it.

I can’t do this. Flips sake I’m the coldest person I know. I’ll be too shivery to make a good model.

Don’t be stupid, they’ll make sure it’s warm. Stop looking for excuses. In fact just stop thinking about it.

What was I thinking? It’s so far out of my comfort zone, I can’t even see it any more!

That’s the whole point, woman. You know outside your comfort zone is where all the fun stuff is.

Untitled

See.

But it’s scary.

So was wearing a crop top, but you managed that twice and didn’t die.

…maybe.

But-

Just stop it. This is happening. You said you would do it, and you really want to be one of those people who always do what they say they will. You keep saying you’re not ashamed of your body; I can’t think of many better ways to put your money where your mouth is. Or do you only promote body love under certain, clothed circumstances?

Course not!

There we go then. Look, you can totally do this. You love your body and you know it’s worthy of drawings or paintings or whatever they’re going to make. You hear that tiny voice back there? That voice reckons you might even enjoy it.

It might be right. I have had fun with all the other things I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to do.

Exactly. You’re better at this than you realise.

Yeah. Yeah! I can do this.

Can’t I?