Big Fat Flea in NYC Tomorrow!

Last year I went to the Big Fat Flea in NYC for research, fat community, and, of course, shopping. I mentioned the Flea in my post on fat clothing swaps, but I wanted to make a separate post about the Big Fat Flea to remind anyone in the NYC area to GO! GO! GO! It’s such an amazing experience and is so affordable and there is so much great stuff. Nothing is over $10, and admission is also only $10. Located at NYU Law School (40 Washington Sq South), the event begins at 10:30 and goes til 6 pm.

Flea volunteers model donated clothing, via bigfatflea.tumblr.com

I attended the flea last year, and after everything was over I escaped to a cafe in Chelsea with my friend and Flea volunteer Jenn Leyva, where I interviewed her about her experience volunteering and shopping at the Big Fat Flea for her first time.

Me, holding up some sort of product called ‘Blondie’ at the cafe where Jenn and I met up. Whatever, it was cute.

Over lattes and croissants we spent the first several minutes of conversation going over the pre-Flea volunteer coordination details, and Jenn’s specific experience being in charge of the masculine clothing area (heads up, fatties: BFF aims to cater to all, with both masculine clothing and clothing 5x+). We talked about the importance of staying gender-neutral and queer-friendly and body-positive, and how adept the organizers of the Flea are at these things because they are enmeshed in their community and take great pains to make sure politics turn to practice.

Jenn Leyva about to say something smart.

Near the end of Jenn’s summary of her experience, I think we got into some really important things that are potentially useful to others who are interested in going to the Flea (which I highly suggest you do if you can!) and that relate to politics of fat fashion, accessibility, and fat community building and resource sharing: Continue reading

Sometimes your body changes, and it sucks

(Originally published on tumblr, here.)

Historically, Fat Acceptance has framed body positivity in fairly stringent and problematic ways. I think a lot of work has been done to address these issues, but oftentimes these things get played out over and over again as new people come to the fold.

When you first discover body acceptance, after years and years of hating yourself and fucked up weight loss attempts and (for many) disordered eating, it can be so tempting to latch onto this mantra of “LOVE YOURSELF NO MATTER WHAT, THERE IS NO ROOM FOR COMPROMISE”. This results in a lot of fat activists advising others to simply “accept yourself”, and anything else is automatically Bad Activism.

Of course, not understanding the nuanced ways we experience ourselves/bodies and embracing this approach to self-acceptance often means trying (usually unsuccessfully) to sweep one’s more ambivalent feelings under the rug. It also means not being open to others’ discomfort with their own bodies in ways that can be racist, ableist, and cissexist.

In The ‘Fat’ Female Body, Sam Murray writes about one of the more insidious aspects of this kind of humanist logic: it reasserts a problematic dichotomy between mind and body. It says that we must, in our minds, overcome our bodies (and hatred of them). This is problematic for a couple of reasons: 1) this is the same strategy we are supposed to use, according to contemporary fat-hating society, to lose weight and become “normal” people, and 2) our bodies and minds are not ACTUALLY split—we perceive and understand the world THROUGH our bodies, and to imply that we can just “change our minds” about how it feels to be fat in a fat-hating world—in a world not made for our bodies—disregards this pretty important reality. Continue reading

My fat from the side: Or how I am constantly realizing just how big my big butt is

(Originally published at Fat From the Side, here.)

My friend Kyla took this (entirely candid) picture of me while I was getting ready for a (not at all candid) photoshoot to create publicity materials for the documentary last Saturday. She took a lot of behind-the-scenes shots that day, but this one is probably my favorite. Continue reading

a letter to potential ‘admirers’: what does my fat body mean to you?

(Originally posted on tumblr, here.)

I’ve been wanting to write some sort of response to that Village Voice article about fat admirers from last week (beyond my first impressions post), but every time I sit down to write about its many problems, or about representations of fat sexuality in general (and where this article in particular fits in), I draw a blank. So instead of addressing that article in particular, I’d like to share some thoughts with you about my fat body and what it means to be the object of someone’s desire, in the form of a letter.

Dear Potential Sex Partner,

Continue reading

super quick: thoughts on fat & disability

Over on my other blog, somebody asked me what I thought about fat as a disability. The following was my response:
Fat people and people with disabilities have a LOT in common. We live in a world that is not meant to accommodate our bodies—a world that, in fact, actively *excludes* our bodies. Our bodies are demonized, because we are not “normal”—and if there is a way to make us “normal” (i.e. surgery, etc.), we are expected (shamed, forced) to take that route. People stare at us, we have stareable bodies. They feel like they are allowed to talk to us about our bodies, ask us how we “got this way”.

People think they know something about us—our histories, our habits, our health—just by looking.

We incite fear in “normal”-bodied people; we are what they could be if they ever lost control. Indeed, most people will become fat, and almost everyone—if they live long enough—will become disabled.

I know this is probably not what you meant when you asked about my thoughts on fat AS a disability, but here is the thing: fat people—just like all people with devalued, non-normative bodies—are disabled. NOT because our bodies can’t do things, but because we live in a world that STOPS our bodies from doing things.

A fat studies scholar whom I really respect and admire wrote to the fat studies list-serve sometime last year, to discuss why there aren’t more intersections and collaborative projects between work done in fat studies and work done in disability studies. She speculated that part of the problem, at least, is a phenomenon called ‘mutual recoil.’ (Basically, this happens when each side of a group hasn’t worked through their own negative beliefs about the other group, and thus do not want to be associated with them.)

Then she asked what I believe to be a really radical question:

“What would happen if, as politicized fat people, we embraced the word ‘disabled’ and used it in the same way disability studies scholars and activists use it? Not as a label denoting a body that needs to be fixed, adjusted, cured, or sanitized, but a body that challenges narrow and normative constructs of the body and an environment that literally oppresses many of us in terms of mobility and existing in space.”

In the incredibly (emotionally, physically, mentally) exhausting world of social justice movements, the more we can work together, the better. The more we can share our experiences with each other, the better. We need more listening, more pooling our resources, more collaborative work. We need less ‘mutual recoil’. We need to recognize how society disables all of us, and we need to work together towards a world that isn’t set up to exclude any bodies—fat, disabled, or otherwise.