118

It has been a long time between posts. I started being a boss at work – and all of my mental energy has been taken up by learning how to be a good one.

I’m still a work in progress FYI.

And just like I’m a learner boss I’m also a learner body-pos/ body-accepting/ body-neutral  work in progress. Goddamn it if that isn’t a hard road paved with brilliant intentions and all of the damaging feelings of the past 40+ years of being fat in a shitty body culture.

I blame society for making an environment where us women are in some strange and unending competition with each other to be the most f%@kable. It really is straight up bullshit, but don’t we all just buy into it?

Having been the subject of sniggers, cruel jokes and randoms yelling at me from cars telling me that yes I am fat (as if that fact had somehow escaped me), I know a thing or too about living with stigma. When it happens, we put on brave faces, knowing that any sign of weakness is a window for more of the same. So we fiercely shout it down or ignore it, or swallow our hurt feelings somewhere deep until we can find a small, private space to let them out slowly.

This past year (has it been a year?) has also been filled with pop culture moments that speak to fat experience. Dietland, Tess on Cosmo, Roxane Gay, Rosie Waterland are shining lights, Insatiable and Heathers sour disappointments. Then that article in Huff Post that has spawned a hundred think-pieces, and suddenly fat is having its ‘trans-moment’.

Moments in pop culture – are just that – moments. Fat is one of the last bastions of discrimination (although Trump and to a less extreme extent our PM by default #ScoMo seem hell bent on bringing them all back). Fat brings out the parade of concern trolls ready to dish unqualified opinions on what fat people should or shouldn’t be doing with their bodies.

Trans and non-binary people suffer a similar flippancy of concern for them and their experiences, as well as unwelcome/ unqualified opinions on their bodies. Devoid of the glamour of celebrity, trans and non-binary people struggle to access health care, stable employment, access to amenity that most people take for granted, and are more likely to be subject to violence without any provocation. It sounds familiar.

I’m 100% aware that being fat, and also white-passing, straight and mostly cis-gendered with all the privileges of education and professional employment makes me very lucky indeed. But I also have days when it feels hopeless, and far too much daily micro-aggression disguised as false concern for one human to take. And I sometimes have to cry in my small, private moments.

Which brings me to the point.

The other day a colleague commented she’d been ‘eating like a pig’. This person is fairly petite, and I imagine has never been in anyway overweight. I commented that I ‘couldn’t see her trough anywhere’ and thought that she looked to be eating like a human from as much as I could tell. She then remarked she’d been eating lots of sugar lately and felt guilty about it. I offered to her an out – probably something she’d never considered… I said that I’d noticed she’d had a lot on that week and was likely reaching for short sugar fixes to keep up with everything she had to do and over a rapid timeframe.

She stopped, and thanked me for the perspective.

Later that week, the conversation around the office turned to weight. Again, relatively ‘normal’ people bemoaning their slight weight gain over winter. And that was my ‘fat-moment’.

How much do you weigh? 

I asked. They flustered for an answer.

I’d say – looking at your build – between 80 and 85 kilos. Does that sound right? 

I offered. Yes – their face said

Can you guess what I weigh? Go on – I don’t mind.

The fluster increases.

Actually it’s 118. Kilos. Around about – it fluctuates. 

Oh. Um you have a big build, you’re tall…

No. I’m just fat. I’ve always been fat, and always will be fat. And I’m really okay with it. 

The silence roared.

118 – like other numbers that measure and define our bodies are just that – measures. It’s a scale that captures some aspect of physicality at a point in time. Its meaning is only relative to the other data that surrounds it – how tall, what size, how much? Without context, data is meaningless.

So my weight is the least important piece of data about me, my life, my health and what’s important – so why give it so much power?

I remember talking with another person in my world who identifies as non-binary; preferring the pronoun ‘them’. They shared with me that they put all of the most sensitive parts of their life ‘out there’ to take the power of other people’s judgements out of the equation entirely. It’s an approach I admire and have taken some time to act on.

So here it is internet – 118. Like it matters anyway.

 

An Open Letter About the O Word.

I sent this out to my colleagues today after yet another meeting where I felt that familiar rush of discomfort. You know the one.

When someone drops the “O Word”


Dear Colleagues

I want to talk to you about the “O Word” – obesity.

This is a word of oppression and violence for me and many others.

It is a word that speaks to a medical/ pathological model of human experience – something that is no longer accepted when we speak about disability, sexuality and gender identity, or race.

It is a word that conjures up trauma for people who have been bullied, abused and denied access to healthcare, housing and employment because of their weight and the conflation of weight with competency.

It is enough that fat people have to live in world where we are constantly bombarded with diet talk, negative media portrayals and unsolicited opinions on what we should or shouldn’t do with our own bodies. It is enough that we are never believed when we experience sexual harassment and assault. It is enough that we have to navigate places that aren’t made to be welcoming, comfortable or accessible for us.

We don’t need to experience that exclusion at work too.

And yes, language does matter because it is a signal of what is valued and what isn’t. We can have a conversation about health that doesn’t use that word; considering that weight is only one of a number of indicators of health.

Let’s talk about health enabling factors instead like access to fresh fruit and vegetables, exercise, economic access and freedom from violence, discrimination and vilification. I’d like to talk about those things.

And finally, I don’t expect a response – just for you to reflect. But if you do want to have a conversation about body positivity, fat acceptance and how we can collaborate to send out a positive health enabling message – I would love to talk to you.

Also – if you need to talk about these issues with someone who has lived it and come to a place of body peace, I am absolutely here for you.


And that goes for all of you too.

And yes I felt sick when I pressed send as the heaviness of maintaining constant resilience made itself felt. But honestly, I am done with this bullshit.

Really, truly, done.

Go well fellow humans.

Work.

I’ve spent the better part of this week sick. One of those nasty viruses that breaks you down into a pile of groans, aches and bodily fluids. It’s gross – but it gives you an awful amount of time to think.

One gift of embracing minimalism as a mind set is that it also brings extreme clarity. Without the endless distraction of stuff, busy-ness or extraneous time suckers, the mind is freed up to think through those particular sore spots that have long been left unattended.

Let’s begin.

***

I’m one of those rare lady INTJ types.

In fact, when I took the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator at business school I was relieved to finally give a name to and an explanation of what I knew deep down. Here’s an excerpt from a reflective paper I wrote at the time:

After completing Myer-Briggs, getting the result and reading the descriptions I felt relief, almost like the real me had found a space to be. That space was also without my own judgments about how I should act and feel.

This observation is reaching out to me from four years ago asking me to challenge my recent patterns of behaviour.

I have been cast into a mold.

Slip changes its composition as a result of sitting up against the mold; the mold itself produces a solidifying effect on the slip, it is a physical reaction…  it is in an active state of becoming a new form.

A mold is an ascribed identity. It is the cumulative effect of the times you’ve yielded, absorbed, forgiven or accommodated. It is the needs of other people before your own. It is being taken for granted, guilted into doing things and letting people get away with it.

To un-become is to shatter those expectations of what we should and shouldn’t do. What is of “our character” and what is not.

To break the mold is an act of defiance.

*** 

So what of it?

In my sickened state, I had time to fully process a recent conversation that troubled me. In it, I was being asked to compromise my values for the sake of another’s comfort.

People who find conflict uncomfortable are the first ones to deny their role in creating it. People who thrive on problem-solving try to fix things so that everyone can walk away happy – or at least knowing what to do next.

This was the dynamic I found myself in, trying to fix the problem through absorbing the discomfort and the need for a “truth”.

The devil, however, is always in the detail.

***

Guys who are “nice”. Guys who give lip service to equality but don’t live it. Guys who say they’re feminist, but make gross comments about a woman’s appearance or her lack of sexual activity or fuckability in front of other women – even when you have called them out on it before. Guys who don’t realize the role they are playing in the bullshit by using phrases like “it’s a lesbian conspiracy”. Guys who intimate that showing emotion is a sign of weakness. Guys who make jokes about the women in their life being “so emotional”. Guys who get threatened by your intellect and capability.

Guys who can’t let that shit go.

***

So yeah – when that guy said “she was almost in tears” as a way to undermine her credibility, I was so livid I wanted to scream.

But I didn’t scream.

I absorbed his sad and wounded pride.  Because that’s what women do.

I took on the emotional labour, preserved the man-ego and fixed it. Because that’s what women do.

I allowed myself to be complicit in his denial. Because that’s what women do.

Because that’s what women do. Until we break that mold.

 

Image: Peter Nudo