Idly Ruminating

It's what I do.

Sonya says goodbye to Lip

I have been writing for Lip since 2009. When I first started writing, fat acceptance was only a fledging concept in my mind – I had a rough idea of what it was, mostly through livejournal communities such as fatshionista and I had a rough concept of what exactly “fatshion” was as well.

It’s no surprise that my feminism and fat acceptance go hand in hand. I don’t think I could have one without the other in my life. My activism is so closely linked with my body, my femininity and sense of self that I can’t separate, nor do I want to.

I’ve written over 150 articles for Lip, mostly on the subject of fat, feminism and fashion. I’ve said time and time again that I believe fashion is a feminist issue and a political issue and identifying as a fatshionable woman who is also a feminist is incredibly important to me. If clothes make the (wo)man, then what does that person do when their choices are stifled? How can they express themselves truly if their options are limited?

It’s a question I’m still asking, years later, and one I’ll probably continue to ask of retailers. Fatshion is a little better than it was back when I started, with numerous independent retaliers opening up shop, that do have a large variety of sizes and Etsy sellers that are willing to custom size as well. I know I would prefer to give my money to someone who is happy to have my business, not just online but in person too.

I still believe being a fat woman and being loud and proud about being so is an important political act. Refusing to be ignored and pushed into the background is a powerful choice for many fat people.

I’m glad there are sites like Tumblr around, where people can see fat bodies and engage with each other. Normalisation is a key to combat stigma and fat discrimination, which is still (and probably, pessimistically, I know, will always be) around.

I’m proud to have fat activist friends and events, so I can discuss issues with like-minded people in person as well as online. I’m glad my space is a diet-free zone, with no body judgement or negative body talk. That is not to say that people aren’t allowed to vent from time to time, or have to be 100% positive and self-loving all the time. I recognise we all have shitty days; we’re all influenced by outside media and people, even the people who love us can influence us negatively, while meaning to or not. But I’m still happy my bubble is a mostly body positive zone because the outside world is not.

I’m glad to be leaving Lip on a high note and I’m so pleased to have written for the site all these years. I wish everyone at Lip all the best for future endeavours and I hope to see the site grow more. Thanks for having me, Lip.

(Source: lipmag.com)

All I want for Christmas is normal eating habits

For those of us who celebrate it, Christmas is coming up. This time of year is fraught with difficulty for most of us. From December 1 onwards (even earlier in some cases – Christmas trees and decorations for sale in September is some kind of bullshit), those who don’t celebrate Christmas have to put up with people asking why they don’t and feeling sorry for them, like it’s something terrible other cultures are missing out on when they have their own cultural celebrations, and those of us with food issues have to navigate the land mine that is holiday parties, end of year celebrations and Christmas itself.

Seeing as I’m one of those people with food issues, I’m going to discuss what this season is like for me. Trigger warning for discussion of disordered eating, thoughts and patterns.

Pavlova, roast chicken, candy canes, cocktails, advent calendar chocolates. No matter how much I think I’m over my disordered eating patterns, they come roaring back to show me that, no, I will probably never be over them and every meal during this time period is a negotiation with myself, my brain, my body.

If I eat this, I can’t eat that. I’ll just have one drink. And a handful of lollies. Maybe some chips. Oh, fuck it; I’ll just eat it all. I now have to “work” it off. Oh, but I don’t have time to exercise. I am a HORRIBLE, LAZY person and will always be.

Every. Freaking. Year.

The holidays are a time to indulge, right? Don’t worry about the diet! You can just make it your New Year’s resolution to lose weight again, next year. Until the holidays come around again, of course, haha.

It’s not so funny when you spent years doing exactly that.

It’s easy for people to espouse the “eat in moderation” thing, but it’s not such an easy philosophy to follow when you’re trying to retrain your body and brain into enjoying food for food’s sake and not placing bargains with yourself and your food.

Christmas Eve is usually spent at my house with the family, eating a roast chicken dinner (with the air con blasting if it happens to be super-hot) and eating desserts in the form of The Cheesecake Shop’s Bailey’s Cheesecake, aka my brother’s favourite ever dessert, or pavlova. It is usually accompanied by blended ice cocktails of my own creation, either punch-y for the rest of us, or creamy/milky for my mum who can’t have most fruits.

Christmas Day the past year has been at a hotel’s restaurant, eating the delicious three course meal and drinking bottles of sparkling wine or champagne.

It’s supposed to be a great time. And the time spent with family is. I wish I could say the time spent with food was too. I want to get there. I want to get to a point where I don’t constantly worry about the food I am eating and the drinks I am drinking. I want to just enjoy. Maybe this year I’ll be able to.

(Source: lipmag.com)

Thoughts on Fatshion Blogging

A friend of mine recently wrote a post over on XOJane entitled ‘When Activism Gives Way to Advertising: How Fatshion Blogging Ate Itself’ (she didn’t pick the title, but the pun makes me lol childishly).

In it, she describes feeling alienated from the fatshion blogging world and how it has also been saturated by the culture of capitalism and advertising and leaves little room for her type of activism.

Natalie makes some very salient points and I feel this is a discussion that has been a long time coming in the fatshion blogging world.

Some fatshion bloggers don’t identify as activists and that’s fine — not everyone has to. The article isn’t condemning those who don’t. However, some argue that the very nature of their putting photographs out on the internet, on their blog and sharing them around, making their fat bodies visible, is an inherent act of activism. Just because it’s not overt does not mean that it isn’t challenging dominant think.

This is a viewpoint I do agree with. I think the only way to normalise fat bodies is to constantly be exposed to them, and fatshion blogs provide an easy exposure. I certainly got started in fat activism by finding fat people’s fashion blogs and realising that I, too, can dress fa(t)shionably even though I’m not slim or have the resources for designer clothing.

Natalie brings up something I agree with entirely – the relationship between bloggers in general and their sponsors/advertisers/gifters.

Not everyone monetises their blog, nor can they. And her post isn’t a judgement on those who do. But a comment I read on her post got me to thinking about “brand relationships” and “honesty” in blogging.

The person said that they didn’t trust YouTube makeup bloggers anymore because of how large the industry has gotten, and because those bloggers are sent out so much free stuff, they weren’t sure whether the blogger was being honest in their opinion of the makeup they were talking about, or if they were told to talk up the makeup they were blogging about by the brand that sent it out to them. After all, they got it for free, so they should be grateful, right? And be careful about saying anything bad about the product because it was free.

This is something I’m acutely aware of over at my other blog. I don’t have advertising on it because I don’t like the look of it. I also prefer to only talk about brands and products that I have personally tried, and if I am sent something for free, I will be transparent about that and be completely honest in my opinion of the product.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with having a brand relationship, particularly being a plus sized blogger. Fat women have been left out of the fashion industry for so long, that finally getting some recognition, even if it is in the form of free stuff, is something I can’t begrudge.

I think we all have our corners of the internet to talk about whatever concerns us and where we can practice our activism. Just because someone doesn’t do it somewhere doesn’t mean they aren’t doing it elsewhere.

This point was one that needed to be raised and I’m glad Natalie did. I’m interested in reading the responses and discussions that her article received. We need to keep talking about it.

(Source: lipmag.com)

My sister and female pop stars

I don’t listen to the radio or watch much TV, and half the time I’m far too lazy to download new music. Which means that my music taste is mostly stuck in the ’90s, with some current stuff thrown in if I stumble across it. My younger sister I care for is one of the ways I find out what new music is out there, especially pop.

I’m not a music snob at all; I’ll listen to all types of music. I get to know all the lyrics to all the songs because mid-afternoons and early evenings are my sister’s karaoke times where she puts her latest favourite CD into the player, cranks the shit out of it, and sings her lungs out. I don’t begrudge the noise (much) because I know she’s enjoying it and she absolutely loves dancing around.

I was never much of a Britney Spears fan back when she first came out. I dismissed her as a vapid pop star, and was far too cool to be seen listening to the likes of her. I’ve only started listening to her songs through my sister and using them as workout music. The beats are great to run to!

I know pop music, especially female pop singers, gets dismissed and criticised. Hey, it should be, but I think almost everything should be critically examined. I recently readthis post linked on Lip’s Facebook page and it got me thinking about female pop singers and the influence I’d like them to have on my sister.

The aforementioned Britney? I have major, MAJOR issues with the lyrics and title of ‘I Was Born to Make You Happy’. I cringe every time I hear them sung by my sister. Yet I have absolutely no issue with ‘Slave 4 U’. I’m not quite sure why that is – maybe it’s because the “born” implies that the woman in the song is only good for one thing, has always only been good for one thing, whereas the woman in ‘Slave 4 U’ seems more in control of herself.

My sister also adores Christina Aguilera. Christina was another singer I’d dismissed. I saw her film clip for ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’ and slut shamed the hell out of it. I know better now. Not only do I like hearing that voice coming out of my sister’s CD player, I now love hearing the lyrics:

‘This is for my girls all around the world, who have come across a man that don’t respect your worth. Thinkin’ all women should be seen and not heard. So what do we do girls, shout out loud , lettin ‘em know were gonna stand our ground.  So lift your hands high and wave ‘em proud. Take a deep breath and say it loud: Never can, never will, can’t hold us down.’

Another woman singer she’s into is Nicki Minaj. While I’m not a giant fan of the swearing and I really dislike ‘Roman’s Revenge’, I love the song ‘I’m the Best’ and the lyrics:

‘All the girls will applaud, all the girls will commend. As long as they understand that I’m fighting for the girls never thought they can win. Cause before they could begin you told them it was the end. But I am here to reverse the curse that they live in.’

Lastly, her absolute favourite is Beyonce. I’ve become a fan, again, through her. I’ve enjoyed her music since Destiny’s Child, but it’s only recently I’ve liked Beyonce solo. I have a huge admiration for the woman herself and her business acumen. Her lyrics are catchy and I will admit I absolutely love overhearing my sister scream out, ‘Who run the world? GIRLS.’

I won’t deny there are problematic issues with pop music, the way female pop singers are marketed versus how male pop singers are marketed and the various –isms and –ists that go with the music and the singers themselves. But if these four women singers are her very basic introduction to feminism and feminist read lyrics, then I can’t fault them. Particularly if she goes on to search out, listen to and read further.

(Source: lipmag.com)

Ooo, you smell nice! Dealing with the stereotype of size and smell

This morning, a perfume I’ve wanted for years, but was never able to get for various reasons (sold out, unavailable, prohibitive cost and not enough money at the time) arrived, along with a bunch of free samples. I was so excited it was like Christmas had already come for me. Which was convenient, because it was my Christmas present to myself. I was going to wait, but c’mon, yeah right. I wanted to dab on all the samples right away and smell like the perfume hall at Myer.

I’d always been a perfume fan; ever since I was young I would ask for sprays from my mother’s bottle of Opium by Yves St Laurent. But it’s only been in the past few years I’ve started to get into niche perfumes and buying perfumes for myself.

Subconsciously, I feel there’s something wrong if I’m not wearing perfume. Like how some people have their favourite pieces of jewellery they feel naked without, I feel nude without a spray of perfume on my wrists or neck.

I’ve even gotten my younger sister into perfume. She never leaves the house nowadays without at least a spritz from a bottle. I’ve trained her well.

I sometimes wonder, however, if the reason why I like to smell like perfume is because I’m trying to buck that horrible stereotype of the smelly, fat person. And I kinda hate that I am so aware of it.

You know how people talk about the smelly fat person. ‘Oh, they were so stinky!’ ‘They can’t afford deodorant?’ ‘Their clothes smelled of BO!’ ‘It’s probably because they’re so fat they can’t wash themselves properly.’ Lather, rinse, repeat.

This hurtful stereotyping pervaded my thoughts for years. It was something I was always so worried about back in school and at uni. School and uni starting in the summer months in Brisbane means sweating, and I was always SO paranoid about smelling that I probably bathed in deodorant and perfume. I didn’t want to be accused of being that stereotype. I’d witnessed others be accused and gossiped about and I did not want that to be me. I was far too insecure and scared to speak up against it too and I look back on those years with a sense of shame that I didn’t speak up and challenge the hurtful comments others made about other people.

Now, if I witness that type of commenting (which thankfully I don’t so much anymore because the people in my bubble know better than that), I speak up. I remind them that sweat and “smell” isn’t relegated to fat people, we live in the sub-tropics where for pretty much five months out of the year we’re all sweating to death anyway and sometimes deodorant fails, and lastly, it’s incredibly rude to be talking about another person’s body.

I’m sure people are already hyper self-conscious of what smells their bodies produce and we don’t really need to be drawing more attention to it.

Unless you’re me, in which case, you bring it up off the bat because you like to see people get awkward trying to pretend they didn’t notice your face dripping down your neck. Also, I love when people bring up smelling my perfume because I could gush for hours about my favourites. Honestly, if a day goes by where someone doesn’t ask me what I’m wearing, I get a little disappointed.

(Source: lipmag.com)

You don’t own me

Oh, I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

PSA is going around the internet at the moment, aimed at women voters in America. A bunch of female identified people are lip synching to Lesley Gore’s 1963 song, “You Don’t Own Me.” Gore finishes off the PSA with a statement that essentially says: I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit.

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want

I feel this PSA also relates completely to the current political environment in Australia. I’m tired of people (mostly male identified people) telling me what I can and can’t do with my body. I’m tired of being judged for what I choose to do with my body, from the clothing that I wear to the makeup I put on it. I’m tired.

This world is hostile to women. We aren’t free. This world is even more hostile to women who are people of colour, who have disabilities, who are queer, who identify as other genders. I don’t aim to speak for these people. I feel like it would be condescending as I don’t identify as all of the above. But I do want to bring it up to acknowledge that I know, along with white, Western women, women of colour, women with disabilities, homosexual women and people who identify as women are also (even more so) marginalised, judged and vilified by the world. Killed by the world.

I get tired of constantly fighting all the time. Of always having to speak up for myself. Of calling out people when they say shitty things. I wish we had an inclusive world but I know we don’t. I know we need to speak up. To refuse to be ignored and marginalised. To demand respect and attention. To call out –cist behaviour when we see and witness it. But what about when it isn’t safe for us to do so?

When women, even in the Western world are jailed, raped, beaten, and killed for speaking their mind? For simply voicing an opinion.

I don’t know how to solve this. I know having a voice is essential. I know that teaching respect is paramount.

(Edited sentence — it was pointed out to me that my previous word choice “people who identify as other genders” was wrong! I fixed the sentence here, but unfortunately, I don’t think I am able to edit the article over at Lip. My apologies, my fuck up.)

(Source: lipmag.com)

Thoughts on the Fat Studies exhibit at the Brisbane Powerhouse

Last Thursday night was the Fat Stories launch at the Brisbane Powerhouse. It is a free exhibition being held in the Visy Theatre foyer and runs until November 5th.

I had just arrived back from Melbourne that afternoon and was in a bit of a fluster trying to work out what to wear to the launch. Ironically enough, at the moment, I am not in the best body positive frame of mind, and having to attend an event where my face is plastered all over the walls with complete strangers staring at it and me was not something I was overly looking forward to. Getting ready in a rush is also bad for anxiety-ridden me because when I’m flustered; I pretty much (internally) go to pieces.

Luckily, I was able to get a bit of a calm moment before I went in. I ran into Kath and another friend before I went in and talking to them helped calm me a little. Receiving a lovely compliment on my outfit also helped (hey, I’ll freely admit I’ll take outfit compliments, particularly when I’m feeling unsure about it). Free alcohol at the launch also helped to gird my nerves to enter the arena.

The space is a good space to hold the photographs. It’s rather industrial and the stark white framing (I don’t know art terms at all, so forgive me if this is wrong!) contrasted nicely with the background.

Besides most of us activists, Issac and Lauren, there were, I assume, partners, colleagues and art type people. And, I presume, other interested parties. The turn-out was more than I expected.

It was surreal, to be amongst photographs of myself and I’m sure a fair few times people did a double-take at seeing me on the wall and seeing me in person. I had to laugh and get Natalie to take a photograph of me in front of my photograph.

I believe the general crowd response was tentatively positive. Kath gave a great introductory speech which she transcribed over at her blog. I have to agree, I really believe the message of the photographs and I hope it is translated in them.

I hope people see the photographs and are confronted. I hope people look at them and appreciate them. I hope people examine their own prejudices and pre-conceived notions of fat people.

The project has inspired me and the people involved have contributed to that inspiration. I’m proud of participating.

Do you love independent media? Can’t get enough of intelligent, thoughtful feminist content? Want to see writers actually get PAID for their work?Please donate to Lip through Pozible today, and help keep the mag alive!

(Image Credit)

(Source: lipmag.com)

I am my own worst enemy. My weapons? Self-sabotage.

‘Are you still interested in the job?’
‘No.’
‘Do you still want to come out?’
‘No.’
‘Are you going to buy that?’
‘No.’
Later on: WHY DID I SAY NO?

If self-sabotage were a job, I’d be the CEO of the company.

I can’t remember when I first became aware that I have a tendency towards self-sabotage. It may have been when I first started seeing my psych and reading about common traits in people with anxiety. So many of the traits applied to me that practically every box was ticked on the checklist. I’m pretty sure one of them mentioned the act of self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage is, in my definition, stuffing up something for yourself without even realising why.

Looking back, the amount of times I’ve done this to myself is staggering. I wanted to work out why I had this tendency and what I could do about it. Whether I could curb it, or, hopefully, stop it completely.

Because it’s damaging. It stops me from doing things I might actually want to do. It toys with my brain. It acts like it’s protecting me, but it’s really stopping me from growing as a person.

Anxiety means that I can freeze when put on the spot (hell, even when prepared!), and my flight or fight instincts kick into overdrive. Most times, the flight overwhelms and I am avoidant to the nth degree. Hence, self-sabotage.

I believe it is coupled with low self-esteem. Believing, for years, without even having any evidence to back it up, or scant evidence at best that you are never good enough, you might as well not even try, what’s the point, and having your brain constantly hammer these messages into your head makes self-doubt enter into the mind. Which means, that job you applied for, that trip you said you were going on, even that piece of cake you want to eat is questioned.

‘Do you really want that job? You’ll have to get up early. You won’t know anyone. You won’t know anything. You won’t learn quickly. Everyone will hate you. You’re not an adult. You’re not qualified’ equals saying ‘No’ when you’re phoned for an interview.

‘Do you want to leave home? Your bed? Your pillow? Your cat will miss you, you know. You probably shouldn’t spend any money. You won’t have anything to do. You won’t get along with anyone. You’ll be so awkward’ equals saying ‘No’ when you’re asked on a trip.

‘You’re so fat. You don’t need any more sweet stuff in your diet, fatty. No one will love you. Everyone will stare at you’ equals saying ‘No’ when you really want that piece of cake.

That mean, untrue voice in my head is an arsehole. I get so used to questioning myself and my decisions all the time (let’s not even mention women are constantly taught to question themselves and what they say all the time, because what we say is not to be trusted) that self-sabotage becomes second nature and I don’t even realise I’m doing it.

Now that I’ve recognised and acknowledged I have this tendency, I have to challenge it. I will not let anxiety and self-sabotage rule my life and stop me from doing what I want to do with my life. Yeah, it’s scary and yeah, it’s easier for me to hide in my bedroom and avoid the world, but I don’t want to. I will beat that voice to a bloody pulp if I have to. Put up your dukes, voice.

(Source: lipmag.com)

Data suggests being fit is better than being slim

I’ve spoken before about how correlation does not equal causation. There are often links between obesity and diseases and illnesses, that’s true. I don’t deny that at all. But for some health problems, I don’t believe that obesity can cause the illness or disease, particularly when it is one that average to slim people also get in droves, whether by their genes or “bad” habits.

In study after study, overweight and moderately obese patients with certain chronic diseases often live longer and fare better than normal-weight patients with the same ailments. The accumulation of evidence is inspiring some experts to re-examine long-held assumptions about the association between body fat and disease.

The above quote is from a New York times article from a study done in the United States, by a diabetes researcher at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

A point put forward by the article is one I agree with:

Perhaps, some experts say, we are not asking the right question in the first place. Maybe we are so used to framing health issues in terms of obesity that we are overlooking other potential causes of disease.

When I’ve heard of people being denied care or having their concerns dismissed or boiled down to their weight without examining possible underlying causes, I get angry, particularly if that disease could turn out to be something treatable or preventable.

The article states that these studies rarely take into account how much fitness can be a factor and how it can often be unmeasured.

Original research on the link between obesity and health was devised in the 1940s and the model to do so has not changed a great deal since then, according to the article.

Research from the University of Sydney that does take into account the physical fitness of a person shows that while weight loss may not result, fat around the liver (which causes a lot of metabolic damage) can be reduced with cardiovascular exercise.

So, instead of judging what a person looks like, people might want to think twice. You can be fat and physical. If you want to be. You still deserve medical care and treatment, even if you aren’t or don’t want to be. Everyone does.

However, we all know that achieving fitness goals or even taking that first step into wanting to exercise is a long process, full of unlearning and dealing with the idiots who feel it is their business to comment on your body and the exercise you’re enjoying. Those of us who have the opportunity to do so and want to do so even in the face of all this legitimate crap we have to deal with, I salute you.

(Source: lipmag.com)

Women spend most of their lives trying to lose weight. In other news, water is wet.

Jo brought an article to my attention recently. Entitled, “Women spend a staggering seventeen years of their lives trying to lose weight” and from the Daily Mail (I know, I know), it was an interesting, although not surprising read.

The stats quoted aren’t really anything new, or all that shocking to me. Most of the women I know, including myself, have been on a diet at some stage in their lives. Some still are and will always be. Some were put on their first diets at ages when they were still losing their “puppy” fat and growing into their adolescent bodies. Some decided to put themselves on diets.

The link between all the women though was that we had all, at some stage or another, put ourselves through complete misery in order to reach some arbitrary ideal. I can’t decide if it’s comforting or sad to know that there are and were so many women like myself out there. Maybe it’s a little of both.

The article has a picture of a (slim, white) woman dressed in white and looking with abject longing at a very large slice of what looks like chocolate cake on one side of the table. On the other, a large bowl of fruit sits, lonely and neglected. Oh, those women, we all know they like to cry into their chocolate cake while watching their soap operas.

Hey, at least the article overall doesn’t appear to be entirely pitting women against women in the ultimate competition of who can lose the most weight.

Most of the reasons put forward for wanting to lose weight can be seen as shallow by the wider public. Wanting to fit into an outfit, wanting to look good for a partner or to be seen as attractive. Sure, there’s those “health” concerns too, but even in advertising in Australia, what I see when I see weight loss commercials on TV or in magazines geared towards women is looking “good” in your clothing or having that “accomplishment” of fitting into a smaller size. Even when exercise is recommended, this is the ultimate goal.

I exercise because I enjoy it. I need to, for my mental health. I’d be lying if body image didn’t come up at least a little bit in the back of my mind if not the forefront, but I know I’m fighting against that internalised and externalised pressure to look “good” as a woman.

The article discusses willpower and stamina in order to “stick” to a diet. Isn’t the very fact of needing to have these two things telling society something? I get pretty sick of the word willpower being related to diets and losing weight.

It also says that another, smaller reason for having trouble sticking to that diet is the prohibitive costs of healthy food. I tend to agree with this in some cases. Healthy food can be expensive for those of us on regular, steady incomes, let alone those with irregular incomes or those who don’t earn an income at all. Most times, paying your bills and making sure you still have a roof over your head can take precedence over sticking to a diet or trying to get all your nutrients.

Hell, my income is somewhat OK and I still take vitamin supplements because sometimes fresh fruit and vegetables are too expensive that week or I know I won’t use them quick enough and they’ll go bad and have to be thrown out.

Human beings are complicated creatures. There are a number of factors and variables to a person. Everyone’s circumstances are different and everyone’s bodies are different. Being healthy is a simple as “go on a diet!” “Calories out, then in!” and it’s a privileged opinion that states this without thinking of all of the other factors at play.