Before reading this post you may want to consider that it details some personal medical information about myself and my recent hospital experience. If you are someone who doesn’t deal well with TMI, you might want to stop reading here and go and play somewhere else – you can come back when the next post is written.
On Tuesday I noticed a painful discomfort in my vagina. I had previously had what I thought were called Barton Cysts – which had all been painful, but I knew that they could get infected and possibly need surgery to be repaired. So I looked it up, it was indeed a Bartholin’s Cyst and I would probably need to have it looked at. I poked at it, and it was tender and large, and so I went to bed thinking about what I was going to do about the whole thing. On Wednesday night it was sufficiently painful and uncomfortable to stop me going to the gym, and I decided to take Thursday off to go and see my GP and see what could be done. This was also on the recommendation of my sister who has previously had infected Bartholin’s cysts and had had surgery to resolve them.
As I was travelling home tonight on the train, I looked at my reflection in the window of the train. I saw a fat woman… and wondered, briefly, what other people thought of me. I wondered what they’d think if they knew that I am polyamorous and have multiple partners (and a queue of people interested in also playing). I wondered if they would think that there was something wrong with these people who find me quite sexy and sexual and who want me.
Because I’ve been on the receiving end of “they’re interested in YOU?” as well as sometimes thinking myself “why are they interested in them?”* And it’s not fun. Not just not fun because it clearly states that I am not a sexually attractive and overall attractive individual, but also because it suggests that the person who is attracted to me has defective taste or is broken in some way.
Or… as I have heard suggested about some other fat friends, acquaintances, or strangers, perhaps the person attracted to their fat partner has a fat fetish. Which again is quite horrible because fetishisation (outside the fetish community) is seen as a mental illness by some or an undesirable trait by others, so to fetishise something is unappealing and gross. It also dehumanises the fat individual – because fetishes are typically objects and/or parts of a person – not an entire person.
Clearly the idea that anyone who is fat is also a full human being who is interesting, attractive, sexy, sexual, lovable, and desirable, is incredibly radical. How about we stop looking at the outside of people and judging what we see, and get to know people and learn who they are. You don’t have to like them or love them, but you do have to acknowledge their humanity.
* Though that’s a whole other post because it’s not just how someone appears that makes me question someone else’s relationship choice – it’s a huge package of stuff – personality, political affiliations, choices, religion, etc
So tonight my physio told me that I needed to lose weight. There is a whole lot more context that I’ll share in a moment, but to say I was disappointed is putting it simply.
My physio has returned from an 8 day conference at the AIS where he spoke to a specialist in Gluteus Medius Tendonitis about his (my physio’s) patients (me included). No doubt there were other discussions with other specialists, but one message seems to have been given to my physio by this specialist… and that is that overweight people with this condition will struggle to resolve/heal it while they remain overweight, as the extra weight will aggravate the condition.
So tonight, the first time I’ve seen my physio in 3 weeks (as I started a clinical pilates thing that I’d been doing on my own), he suggests to me that I should lose weight. In his favour, he was genuinely uncomfortable about saying everything he did, the fact that I didn’t look impressed to be told this most likely added to his discomfort (which I’m so not sorry for). He did say that being overweight leads to death (well cancers and heart attacks apparently – and why yes my blood pressure and cholesterol are fine and I don’t have a family history of cancer), very, very quickly, before moving onto the fact that extra weight puts extra stress on my tendons and so we can perform maintenance on my tendonitis, and it may heal but it will take significantly longer. He then recommended (in his favour again) that I see a dietician and discuss with them what I do and don’t eat (tonight’s dinner – stir fried vegetables and chilli marinated tofu, with satay sauce, served with rice), and perhaps have a meal plan developed – utilising my GP to get a referral so that it will be partly covered by Medicare. And that he’d be happy to talk to me more about it if I wanted him to.
He finished the whole thing off with, “There I’ve said it”.
I spent the next 5 minutes (while he was poking at my back – where a lot of the conversation had also occurred), wondering if I was going to quit this physio and given I have a basic understanding of what I need to do to deal with my back and my tendinitis and whether I should take that elsewhere and maintain myself. Then I thought about Greta Christina’s weightloss (problematic framing aside) and how she decided to lose weight to stop her knee(s?) from hurting so that she could continue the activities that she wanted to do. I then thought of another friend of mine whose medication induced weight gain has resulted in a nerve being pinched (I think) in her thigh so it waivers between almost numb tingling and painful tingling, and her medical professionals who have told her that the only solution is for her to lose weight (which is resulting in fun medication adjustments).
So I can sleep without waking up in pain (several times a night), so I can sit cross-legged on the floor/bed/couch, so I can do yoga and Body Balance properly (I can’t do any hip flexion exercises), so I don’t stand up stiff and limping until I’ve walked it out, so I can have sex without paying for it for a few days afterwards, and so I don’t sit in a chair feeling my hip/s ache, do I attempt to lose weight to possibly speed up the process of healing my hips and taking the pressure off them so I am not aggravating the condition or do I just keep doing the exercises hoping that it will get better on it’s own? (nice complex sentence, sorry).
My partners will support me in any decision I make – which is lovely of them, and they tell me that I’m gorgeous, sexy, wonderful, beautiful and lovely now (not in some potential future state). I could attempt to lose the 10kgs that being on steroids last year (briefly but oh how the weight stuck around) put on, and see where I go from there – whether the pain is less and my ability to move improves. It won’t be easy (in fact it will suck immensely), but is it the best thing for my body right now?
I currently feel a bit let down by my body, which isn’t fair on it I know. It does a lot for me, and puts up with all the things I want it to do. I spent the weekend being depressed about clothes shopping being too goddamn hard because fat people are hard to make clothes for, including spending bits of Sunday in tears because it all sucked so much. Hearing today that being fat is also aggravating a painful condition that I want treated and healed was not the news I was after.
You suck in so many ways it’s difficult to quantify how much you suck and the amount of despair you put me through whenever I go shopping for clothes. In an ideal world you’d all have the clothing sizes you carry listed on the outside of your store, that way I wouldn’t bother setting foot inside your store looking for something to wear because I know you don’t cater to me. This would also require clothing sizes to be standard, something that would also make me happy. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to not quite fit into the size 18 for “thin” people, but for the size 18 for “fat” people to be too big? Does this even make sense? And why is the clothing for “fat” people so limited in variety and fashion? I walk in, look at what you have on offer and turn around and walk out again – it’s boring, uninteresting, and certainly not flattering. It’d be nice if you offer clothing for “thin” people and “fat” people that the sizes just continue up the scale – and that you sell the same type of stuff.
And those stores which do sell clothes that fit me – why is everything made from such heavy synthetic material? I prefer to wear cotton or cotton blends, I like my clothes to breathe so I don’t overheat. Also, don’t suggest that I “enjoy my curves” by completing covering them all up – that doesn’t make sense.
And if we “fat” people are to exercise to lose weight – why on earth do you not sell exercise clothing for people above a “thin” size 18 – yes I am specifically looking at you Target…. and in fact most sports stores. It’s a catch 22 situation if we’re told to exercise because we’re too fat, but can’t buy clothes to exercise in.
So thank you for making me almost cry in a shopping centre from frustration and shame. I really appreciated the public humiliation you kindly dished out to me. Please remember – the harder you make it for me to shop in your store – the less I’m likely to return if I do ever lose weight and fall into your sizing range.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading on being fat and living in Australia recently (given I’m fat and living in Australia) and a recent article in Yahoo! made me squee with delight. It was a, “Should you tell people that they are fat? Yes/No” article with opposing views put by two different authors (both so full of fail), but I learnt something… because I’m fat, I’m going to die. It’s a huge relief, because I was worried, that like my thin brothers and sisters, I’d live forever, and that wasn’t ideal.
Michelle Bridges (our very favourite person) was on the “yes, tell them that they’re fat” team because:
If you are obese you can look forward to diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, stroke, cancer or even death.
Wow, I’m going to die… eventually… of something… whether I’m fat or not. Does every fat person get diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, stroke, and/or cancer? Looking at my family history (given I don’t have asthma which my paternal grandmother died from), I’ll live to around 70 and die from a heart attack or the effects of a stroke. My regular exercising, non-smoking, and fit paternal grandfather died of a heart attack when he was a little over 70. My maternal grandfather died at about 60 of a heart attack. My not overly fit, non-smoking, disabled (short-term before she had her stroke) maternal grandmother died at about 80 from a kidney infection some years after having a stroke. 70 years… that’s a good life, and I’m half way through it. Should I go “woe is mean, I is going to die” and be depressed because of that, or should I continue loving my life and my body and the awesome things it can do?
Michelle continued with:
More than this, though, is the emotional damage, the unhappiness, the depression and poor self-esteem that comes with carrying too much weight.
Now let’s look at that some more. Why is it that fat people suffer emotional damage, unhappiness, depression and poor self-esteem? Oh yeah, that’s right because they’re literally shamed, made to second guess themselves and their body, not believed, insulted, belittled and hated by large sections of society. Fat shaming and fat abuse are all far too common, on the internets, the streets, hospitals, doctor surgeries, the workplace, you name it and fat shaming probably happens there (with the exception of Fat Acceptance and Heath At Every Size blogs where it’s moderated out. Thank you so much for doing that).
Only once in my life have I had “Fat Slut” yelled at me, which made me laugh more than anything else at the time, though it upset my husband quite a lot when I told him about it later. I am generally quite… insulated might be the right word when I am out in public. I do not listen to words but to tones, so I may have had other comments made about me that my brain has not translated for me. When I am grocery shopping I wonder what people think of the things I am buying, whether I’m buying fresh fruit and vegetables or supplies for a party. I wonder when I’m shopping for clothes what people are thinking of me and what I’m buying. Most of my preferred medical practitioners do not comment on my weight, for which I’m grateful, but again I have this lovely insulation in my head which tends to sometimes refuse to hear certain things (and I honestly don’t know why that is), so things might be said and I just don’t hear them. I do also spend a lot of time thinking to myself that it is not about me (people talking to each other is not about me for example – unless it specifically is).
Obviously, his piece was about The Biggest Loser, a particular kind of “freakshow”. Me going to the shops to buy my bread and milk? Not so freakshowish, admittedly. But I am still there, I am still visible, I still jiggle, I still have a double chin, I still look fat enough to be a folk devil.
A friend on Twitter, Jennifer Gearing, mentioned this afternoon that Birmingham’s article “reminds me of time stranger told his 5-6yo she didn’t want Maccas or she’d look like me.” That’s right, children, fear and pity that fatty over there, and thank your lucky stars it’s not you.
One thing that can be missed in the debate about how horrible fat people are, and how much emotional damage they’re inviting by being fat (etc), is how much emotional wear and tear is suffered by people who love those who are busy being belittled by society. How children can be hurt by being told (or having their parent feel) that their parents are worthless because they are fat. How partners can be hurt by being told that they’re wrong or fetishistic for loving a fat person. The damage spreads beyond individual fat people when society pours hate and scorn on all fat people.
So I’m fat, I’m generally happy with my body, I live, vote, shop, work, exercise, cook, eat, love, fuck, and do all the fun things that I have time and energy for. The rest of you out there that have a problem with that, including you Michelle Bridges, can fuck off and get educated somewhere else.
Other recommended reading (both by Doctor Samantha Thomas):
Welcome to the 29th Down Under Feminists Carnival. Thank you everyone for your submissions which I have organised as much as I can. I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I did, and that you continue to submit posts to an awesome carnival. Thank you so much to Chally, of Zero at the Bone and FWD/Forward and Radical Readers and Feministe for organising this carnival and letting me host it.
Thank you to Chally, Jo, Mary and Deborah for hunting down and finding most of the great posts to include this month. Thank you to everyone else who submitted their or other’s writings.
If I have used incorrect pronouns to identify any of the participants please let me know so that I can correct them. Any misuse is unintentional and due solely to me being unfamiliar with the author of the post.
If I have misrepresented/badly summarised your post, please let me know and I’ll correct it.
So, this carnival is big and full of fascinating reading. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it all together.
This month’s optional theme was Awesome Women.
So, put your feet up, down, sideways or however you feel comfortable and enjoy.
Ilaeria blogged about the three people who have had the biggest impact in her life, her mother and two grandmothers and share the lessons she learnt from them.
tigtog writes about Bell Hooks week at Hoydon About Town. Deborah at In a Strange Land, during one of her Friday Womanist posts quotes Bell Hooks.
Deborah from In a Strange Land blogged about the anniversary of Sufferage for Women in New Zealand (17 September 1893) and the hard work that was put into gaining signatures for the petition that helped make is possible.
Mary at Hoydon About Town has been awesome and has developed a Firefox bookmarklet to make submitting blog carnival posts easier. Please go and install so it is much easier to submit posts for the next carnival.
Media and society
Wildly Parenthetical at Hoydon About Town talks about Sexting and Slut Shaming and how bad the Minister for Home Affairs’s new campaign is for young women.
I spoke about Rampant Sexism in an edition of the MX where it suggested the women were different than men, that women should earn less than men for the sake of their heterosexual relationships and that women can steal men and that men can do nothing about it.
Pickled Think writes about media and societal pressure on men to propose regardless of what their girlfriends may feel about marriage because it seems that their feelings aren’t important (all girls want to marry right?), and Pickled Think also discusses the patriarchal institution of marriage and the lack of the “big gay proposal”. (The last line on the first comment is also gold).
Blue Milk reviews Radical Act, a documentary about queer/feminist musicians in the USA, made in 1995
Ju at transcendancing has written a review of Glitter Rose, a short story collection by an Australian author doing interesting and challenging things with female characters. The collection is published by a press that is also doing interesting and challenging things with a feminist focus in publishing.
Kim writes at Larvatus Prodeo about feeling sympathy for Stephen Conroy and the ongoing debate about the internet filter being more complex than liberties or the rights of adults.
Mary at Hoydon About Town wrote about #groggate and the outing of Grog Gamut’s legal name by The Australian. The scary thing about The Australian’s justification is that they’re arguing for the outing of anyone who attempts to influence politics (or anything else) regardless of the wish for anonymity.
There are many ways that the less powerful are silenced, and conflating having something to hide or keep private with being not worth listening to is one of them, and insisting on identity disclosure is another. Not all pseudonymous writers are using pseudonyms to ethical ends, this is abundantly clear to anyone who has ever been on the Internet. But insisting that only those who name themselves and state their interest to everyone who lives in the country can speak is far worse.
Ariane at Ariane’s little world, adds to the discussion regarding #groggate by explaining that a person is not their job.
Bodies and health
Ariane calls bullshit on obesity being the root of all evil and society’s with focus on fatness as a health issue. Ariane also points out the negative health consequences of dieting.
Split Milk talks about why she doesn’t want to engage in discussions about dieting and how important fat acceptance places are.
Many fat activists also identify as feminists and in my opinion the most important tenet that those two movements have in common is a core belief in bodily autonomy. Advocating for fat acceptance is about asking for freedom from oppression and prejudicial treatment.
You know what? Fuck you. You’re not me. You’re not that other person. You don’t know the circumstances surrounding why someone is the way they are unless they tell you. Yes, we all make superficial judgements but does that give you the right to be abusive or phobic? No.
Fat Heffalump shared her paper that she presented for the Australian Fat Studies conference this month. She shares the effect that the “war on obesity” has had on her and most likely has had on others.
Sam at fat dialogue writes about her experience with Control Top Underpants and how important making people uncomfortable is as a really powerful critical and political intervention.
Julie at the Hand Mirror writes about Thin Privilege and how it isn’t all that great.
The Thin versus Not Thin dichotomy is yet another false division that just sets women against each other. We need to fight, together, against a culture which judges us on our physical appearance, whether that appearance is one that conforms or not.
Steph writes at LadyNews that although Christina Hendricks is great, and the media acceptance of her not typically represented body type is also great, having her body shape/type as one to aspire to is not a good thing.
Pickled Think shreds an article discussing a new sitcom hopefully not coming to a screen near you, and how fat really isn’t coming back to Hollywood.
Health and disability
Jo at Wallaby writes about Accessibility and Sydney’s public transport, focusing on Sydney’s buses.
Michelle at The Red Pill Survive Guide (*trigger warning – discussion of suicide*) writes about World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, and talks about how she understands that level of despair.
Chally at Zero at the bone, writes about taking a sickie and how hard it is for people with disabilities to take a “sickie” for legitimate reasons let alone “bludging”.
Helen at FlyingBlogspot.com talks about her ordinary and what she does to manage day to day. Helen also discusses how her ordinary may change with a review of her medication and trying some new treatment.
Race and Racism
Hexpletive blogged about the NSW Parliament amending the NSW State Constitution to finally recognise indigenous Australians as the first people in the State.
I wrote a piece about Boat People and how it should not be an issue.
Queen Emily at An Army of Rabbits discusses the concept of whiteness and the difference between white in Australia and white in the USA.
Jo at Wallaby writes a post about an anti-violence march asking some very pertinent questions for you to answer before you read Blue Milk’s post below.
Blue Milk writes about the march in Alice Springs by Aboriginal men to “stop the violence” and the lack of media coverage about positive Aboriginal stories.
Steph at 天高皇企鹅远 writes about japan ken and barbie, how they’re in Japanese inspired clothing and not actually Japanese, leading to the fetishisation and exotification of non Western cultures.
Chally wrote at Feministe about one of her favourite bit of cognitive dissonance.
stargazer at The Hand Mirror wrote about how collective responsibility is not productive, and states that, “i still don’t accept that i have any responsibility to apologise for the actions of someone i’ve never met and have absolutely no chance of influencing.”
the news with nipples writes Another burqa blog post and reluctantly gives Sergio Redegalli some of her time while she discusses how wrong his latest “art” work is. Then asks why the debate about burquas is still being controlled by people who do not wear burqas.
Blue Milk talks about how Stephanie Rice’s apology to queer people was not adequate and points out all the flaws in that apology very nicely.
Steph at 天高皇企鹅远 went to WorldCon and discusses her experiences with two panels, one on queer themes in SF, which she had to walk out of and the other chaired by a trans academic which was a far more positive experience.
PharaohKatt at Distinctly Disgruntled (*trigger warning – discussion of suicide*) deconstructs Bob Katter’s comments regarding the apparently non-existent LBGTIQ population in his electorate, the high rate of suicide of LBGTIQ people and Bob Katter’s comments about suicide on a Q&A segment.
I think the dynamic is deeply conditioned by internalised queerphobia. Specifically, internalisation of the double standard that there’s a threshold of queerness that someone has to prove in order to be ‘really’ queer (when there’s no such threshold for heterosexuality).
Maia at The Hand Mirror discusses a proposed bill in New Zealand which would re-criminalise street sex workers and how the relevant political parties have voted.
It is specifically targeting street sex workers. Street sex workers do not generally have $2,000 to pay a fine. The fines, when they’re awarded, won’t have the magic power to stop someone being poor and working as a sex worker, it’ll just make them poorer. It won’t make street sex work disappear, it’ll just make it harder, more dangerous, and more marginalised.
Steph at vegan about town discusses how veganism, race and ethnicity intersect and how calling for China to be “wiped from the face of the earth” for the way they treat animals is hypocritical when every country mistreats animals.
Maia at The Hand Mirror also discusses how there is a connection between problems the way food is discussed and the problems with way food is produced and looks at this under a feminist framework.
Shiny writes about how she is all out of cookies and isn’t going to give them to people who meet basic human standards of decency.
Callistra writes about safety and safe spaces, what they can be and how they are created.
Safety and feelings of safe spaces are also a place of sanctuary. It’s an intimately known quality, where so much discussion has already occured that the system can meet your needs. It means when you’re miserable and need company to listen to, you have friends who can answer that need. Or if you’re miserable and need to talk; you know you can have these needs met. It means if you need to sit quietly and absorb group energy, you can do so without worrying what others might think, say or do. I noticed this as being ‘a place where you can exist without struggle of identity’.
Callistra also writes about what connections are and how they contribute to safe spaces.
Writing at The Hand Mirror, anjum writes about women in minority cultures, who as feminists want to criticise and change the culture, but who fear that it will only give ammunition to haters in the majority culture.
steph writes at vegan about town regarding exclusionary language in the vegan and animal rights movement in Australia and how veganism and the animal rights movement are often seen as white/Anglo-Saxon, middle-class movements.
Pickled Think writes about surviving the Christchurch earthquake and how she feels right now.
Blue Milk writes about breastfeeding and how she felt when she first started and how she feels about it now.
Hexpletive writes about the 9th World Indigenous Women and Wellness Conference she attended and presented at in Darwin and then goes on to discuss the other Conferences and Conventions that she is interested in for the remainder of the year. I’m going to have to look some of these up.
Spilt Milk shares an experience of encountering penis graffiti with her young daughter and recounts Helen Barne’s Young Adult novel ‘Killing Aurora’, in which the protagonist draws vagina dentata graffiti in response to penis graffiti.
Spilt Milk wrote about her childhood comforter and how that was taken away from her, and now how the childcare centre her daughter goes to wants to take away her daughter’s teddy bear.
Queen Emily writes at An Army of Rabbits, two (related) things that never happened to her in Australia, specifically the assumption that she’d been to church followed by an exhortation to keep god in her heart.
Chally wrote about how social justice can also be about staying silent and doing what is right for you versus the wider world (this post could fit under most categories, and I struggled to find the best fit).
Wallaby writes about how prioritising and choosing your energy drain is important for your wellness, and your choices in this regard should be admired, fostered and encouraged.
tigtog clearly states for the record why banning commenters and refusing comment publication is not censorship as blogs are privately owned spaces.
the news with nipples writes about the petition put together by Plan Australia to make September 22 the International Day of the Girl. You can sign the petition here.
Natalie at definatalie.com writes about her feral leghair and why she’s going to grow it. She includes a great discussion about The Gruen Transfer and their discussion about redefining femininity based on advertising.
steph discusses at LadyNews the current Jadelle (a contraceptive implant) furore in the media. steph advocates choice and education for women, which some of the quotes in the article also supported.
Megan at Craft is the New Black writes about the need for the ‘generations’ of feminism to recognise and celebrate each other’s worth.
In a post to mark Women’s Suffrage Day in New Zealand, Ele at Home Paddock writes of the need for us to exercise our hard won right to vote in the upcoming local body elections.
*Trigger warnings – posts in this section discuss violence against women*
The Dawn Chorus discusses Street Harassment and how when reporting it or writing down what has been said, the tone of what was said is missing which is one of the reasons why street harassment is often belittled or dismissed.
Blue Milk explains that asking is sexy and that without consent it isn’t sex and the comments are great too.
I don’t know why the idea has persisted that asking for consent is necessarily a clinical business – what is stilted about – more? do you want to? do you like? Because “mood-killer”? Are you kidding me? That moment when they close the space between you both and ask you to put your cards on the table – is this on or not, can I do this with you – is one of the most heart-flippingly exciting moments in all of existence.
Jo at Wallaby wrote about the treatment received by two women who had been sexually assaulted in different legal systems and how much those legal systems differed.
XY writes about why he won’t be walking in Reclaim the Night/Take Back the Night march and provides and excellent resource (if you need one) to explain to some men why they are not always welcome to march.
AnneE at The Hand Mirror takes some relevant material from a paper on people who abuse their partners.
blue milk at Hoydon About Town writes about the strange behaviour of the state and society when a mother whose daughter was victim of incest is upset and protective of her daughter when pornography is displayed at a 7-11.
And isn’t it a strange world where police can be called in to protect your right to display pornography? So unquestioning are we about it that the newspaper article actually describes what unfolded as a “bizarre incident”. It is the same strange world where it is estimated that up to one in four girls will be sexually abused during their childhood.
Both Deborah from In a Strange Land and I wrote about Brendan Black and his opinion piece in Fairfax media on breastfeeding and breasts. Unfortunately he fails terribly at being a feminist ally when he could have done very well.
Jo at Wallaby suggests that men should not go out alone otherwise they might, “be accused of, and/or commit, indecent assault, sexual assault, rape or other sexual violence.”