Yes, the BBC is airing the autopsy of a fat person. No, it’s not ok. I can see the meeting now, someone stands up and says “how can we create programming that plays on and sensationalizes the social stigma against fat people, makes no medical sense, helps no one, and does tremendous harm?” And thus “Obesity Autopsy” was born, eclipsing “Sharknado” as possible the most ridiculous idea to get produced and aired but, of course, far more harmful.
Let’s start with the basics. They have flown the body of a 238 pound woman, who died in her sixties of heart disease and donated her body to science, from California 5,000 miles to London so that Mike Osborn, a consultant for the Royal College of Pathologists, and Carla Valentine, an assistant pathology technician can perform an autopsy which will first be aired as part of a one hour program on BBC Three, an…
I was a bit afraid of pole dancing. Afraid that I would be completely useless at it, that it would be too difficult and I would tell myself I hated it so I didn’t have to admit how gutted I was that I couldn’t do it. I was afraid I would be the only fat person in the room, and the most unfit, undignified, un-everything else I could possibly think of.
Except un-feminist. Because, aside from actively adding to the oppression of women and minorities, I don’t believe that’s a Thing.
So I threw myself into it. Literally, for some moves. And it really shouldn’t surprise me by now that trying something scary ended up with me loving it.
Somehow pole class has the same effect as Thai boxing does; it makes me feel dangerous. In a world where I’m 3 to 4 times more likely to be a victim of some form of assault, there’s a potency to feeling dangerous. I wear it like armour.
That starts with the bruises.
They call them pole kisses, but this is not how I kiss. These are battle scars and medals of honour in one. I fought gravity and friction and the doubting voices in my head, and I won. These stripes were earned.
When I get a move right I am pure muscle. I am light and stardust. I hold galaxies in my skin.
I collect skills like a trainer hunting pokemon; I love the new and unusual ones, but any and all are welcome.
I can write, I can bake, I can crochet, sing, salsa, play flute, run, calculate the volume of a cylinder, swing kettlebells, paint faces, sew, give a massage, doodle, audit a personnel file, belly dance, set up a pivot table in Excel, and on and on. And now I can move my body on a pole, in ways I never believed I was capable of.
We all know how gaining a new skill feels. It feels like this:
It feels like joy and power and victory and strength in every way it’s possible to be strong.
I’m used to fitness skills that grow like plants; you can never see the change happening, but after a while you find you have a fully grown flower. But pole is like watching a time-lapse video. Three weeks ago I completely failed to do one pole deadlift, and this week I did five each side as a warm up.
I expected to walk, and found that I could fly. Give me a month and I still couldn’t explain how powerful and empowering that is.
Every class pushes my belief of what I can do. I watch the demonstration of a move and silently scoff at the idea that my body could do such a thing, then I get on the pole and nine times out of ten I do the move. Maybe not well or as gracefully as I’d like, but I do it. If it doesn’t work the first time, I manage on my second try, or my third, or even my twentieth. I know I can keep trying.
I can’t wait for the day when I see a move and think “I can do that. Let me at it.”
So yes, I am a feminist and I will continue to learn how to pole dance.
My feminism allows and encourages anything and everything that adds to the freedom and empowerment of women. We’re free to wear make up or not, to be ‘girly’ or not, to wear heels or not, to deadlift our own body weight or not.
My feminism knows that I don’t exist in a vacuum, and everything I do is an action or reaction to the socialising I’ve received since the day I was born. I can see why some people would think feminists shouldn’t pole dance, I can see how it would be problematic. But after centuries of patriarchy and oppression and conditioning there’s really very little, if anything, that isn’t problematic.
So I choose to do it anyway. I didn’t reject society telling me what a woman should and should not do, just to let feminism tell me what a feminist should and should not do.
In doing so I’m proving that I am mighty; not to any man, or even to any woman except myself.
Just like running 10km, just like snatching 20kg kettlebells, just like studying STEM when I’ve only ever known arts, every time I go to pole class I prove to myself that I can do and be anything if I’m willing to put the work in. I’m not held back by my gender, or my size, or my introversion, or anything else that people might try to limit me with.
Well, this is what I get for thinking ‘poo pills?? That’s the worst thing they could possibly do to us’.
“…and death. Once again it seems that in the “War on Obesity” they want us thin or they want us dead and they don’t seem to much care which it is, as long as they can make a tidy profit along the way.”
The FDA has approved a device called the AspireAssist, in which a thin tube is placed in the patient’s stomach that connects to a button on the outside of their stomach. After each meal the patient uses the tube and a handheld device to pump up to 30% of the meal out of their stomach and into the toilet. I’m going to address the claims on their website, but first I want to talk about a misconception
[Trigger Warning – Eating Disorder talk for the next two paragraphs] The company that makes it claims that it isn’t an “assisted bulimia” device because they say in their fine print that it shouldn’t be used by people with bulimia. That is, of course, ridiculous and it’s certainly possible that this device my be used by people dealing with bulimia and/or my perpetuate the development of bulimia. But it should be clear this isn’t actually…
Golda Poretsky (of Body Love Wellness) tweeted; “Rec’d a link to “How Not To Look Fat In A Swimsuit”. Wld ♥ to see “How Not To Obsess Abt Looking Fat In A Swimsuit & F-ing Enjoy Yourself” several years ago. The result is this post, which is a Danceswithfat annual tradition.
Seriously, let’s talk about this. It seems that a lot of the women I know, of any size, start to panic the first time they see swimsuits out on the floor of their favorite store; their pesky cheerfulness belying what seems like their true purpose of prodding us into paying the diet industry for products that don’t work, and considering a move to Alaska.
I’m doing more open water swimming these days (which involves a wetsuit) but when I am in the gym at the pool, I wear my bathing suit with no worries. Here…
I came across this article by Jes Baker and, as happens so often when I read her writing, I had a lightbulb moment.
Ohhh that’s what I’ve been feeling!
See, I’ve also gained weight over the last year as my body figures out where it wants to be without me messing with it. I’ve no idea how much because I don’t weigh myself anymore, but I can tell by the fit (or rather not-fit) of my clothes.
I thought I was fine, as my reaction to this has been to alter the clothes or just buy new ones that do fit me, rather than having a hate-fest about how terrible my body is. I have not felt the urge to diet/restrict/make a ‘lifestyle change’/double my exercise in order to force my body into eating itself smaller and messing up my metabolism even more. I know full well that my worth has nothing to do with my size.
But there was this niggling little undercurrent that I didn’t even notice, until I read this:
“I had just become comfortable with my body (thanks to an arduous amount of body love work over the years) — now, that body shape I learned to love was no more. Now I needed to re-learn how to love my body with all its new features.
IT WAS HARD ENOUGH THE FIRST TIME. I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN.”
I had learned to love the shape of my arms, but now they’re not that shape or size any more. I loved my muscly legs, but now the muscle is beneath a bit more fat. I loved my pear shape, but I fill in from the middle so now I’m a little closer to straight up and down. Basically I learned to love a particular way of having a body, which is now gone, possibly forever, and I have to start all over again. Geezo. I need to sit down a minute.
Thankfully, Jes didn’t just hit me with that and then walk away from the rubble. She figured some stuff out and I’m super glad she shared it because I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get there for myself.
“My body is going to keep changing for the rest of my life. If it’s not weight gain, it will be aging. If not aging, it could be an illness. If not an illness, it could be any number of things that will cause inevitable change, which will require me to to learn to love the change.”
First of all, I’m accepting that my body is definitely going to change, because I’m a living thing and that’s what we do. Of course I knew that, but I didn’t know know it. If you know what I mean.
“Change is nothing if not constant, and this is where body acceptance comes in. It’s taken me a while to learn that body acceptance isn’t necessarily just about learning to love your body right now — though this is a great first step! It extends far beyond that, and also includes deconstructing the actual reasons behind body hatred: learning why we’ve decided that we’re not OK in general.”
I’d taken that first step, which is a great start, go me! But now it’s time to take the next step and move on. Yes, I can love my body right now, but right now will never ever happen again. I have to learn to love it now, tomorrow, next week/month/year/decade, as it is, as it will be, as it ever could be. I have to figure out why loving it needs so much effort in the first place.
It was hard enough the first time. I don’t want to have to do this again. But I’m going to.
The alternative is sliding back into being miserable with everything because my body doesn’t look the way I think it ‘should’, hating the one thing I can never get away from as long as I live, and putting limits back on my life because of the way I look.
I’ve been there, it sucks, and I’m never going back again.
I’m sick of being a woman in this stupid patriarchical sexist mysoginist rape culture society where it’s impossible for me to just sit on a bench and eat my lunch without some bloody creep thinking he’s entitled to my body.
I sat on one end of a bench and there was a guy on the other end, then Mr Creep sits in the middle except so incredibly not in the middle. No, he’s perfectly entitled to my personal space and plonks himself down, crushing my lunch bag against me and sitting with his hand on his knee so it’s about 1cm from my thigh, even though there’s a bunch of space on his other side.
He clearly thought I was blind as well as public property, and wouldn’t notice his hand inching over and sitting at a really unnatural angle that just happened to bring it closer to my skin. I moved out of his way again and again, thinking that’ll show him.
Then realised I’d spent my entire lunch break squashed into the corner of a bench, panicking about whether a randomer would actually touch me or not.
So now I’m angry at this patriarchical sexist mysoginist rape culture society, but also myself because WHY DID I LET HIM DO THAT? Why did I not just move to a creep-free bench? Or better yet, tell him to go jump in the Clyde with a concrete lifejacket? WHY??
I’m on the list of life models for a regular life drawing event.
I have far more good body days than bad, and have developed tactics to deal with the bad ones.
I’ve cut from my life any people who (deliberately or not) push the wrong buttons, and I’ve made my introvert timenon-negotiable.
I’ve learned to answer back and argue my point instead of being a good, quiet little lady and letting people walk all over me.
And so much more.
Honestly, I kind of expected all that to happen. Maybe not quite so well or so quickly, but I was ready for ‘fake it til you make it’ to work out as it has in the past.
I was not expecting my eyes and ideology to be thrown wide open.
This blog started off for me. I was going to do things I was afraid of so I could change. But over the last year I’ve realised that there’s a good deal more in the world needs changing, and if I can help, in even the tiniest way, I just have to.
My first year has been a learning year. My next year will be one of action. Watch this space.
Can you imagine a world where size doesn’t matter? What does it look like?
Well, this blog would be a whole lot shorter for a start. Maybe it wouldn’t even exist, although the cynical side of me reckons people would have found some other characteristic to bully me for instead.
Sizeism is so woven into the fabric of our entire lives, it’s actually quite difficult to imagine the world without it.
One of the most intriguing news items this week reported on a six-year study that measured what happened to the contestants who lost dramatic amounts of weight in Season 8 of the reality TV show we here at Fit Is a Feminist Issue love to hate: The Biggest Loser.
For those of us who have gained and lost, lost and gained, and lost and gained again, the most obvious result wasn’t a shocker. The contestants are heavier than they were when the show ended. The season’s winner, Danny Cahill, went from 430 pounds to 191 pounds over the seven month period of the weight loss competition.