I’m tired. To the bone exhausted. It’s been a relentless year, like everyone else I’ve just kept trudging along. This weekend I hit a wall. I doubt I’m alone.
The convergence of Mother’s Day, police violence against women & the flood of abuse/harassment stories that women have been sharing was overwhelming. Especially when I realised how many similar cases of missing or dead WOC I had never even heard of. Women the mainstream media had little interest in. Women who in some cases haven’t even had their death investigated. I’m not shocked by any of this. I know this is the world we live in. The abstract knowledge doesn’t make each individual case less painful. When you combine one’s own pain with the agony of the collective it’s crushing. It never stops. It never changes.
I’m aware that I’m feeling all this from a position of privilege. I have more space & safety to process. The police would likely pay attention to my family if I disappeared. I know my exhaustion is relative, but god, it’s heavy. I wish it were possible to ease the heavier weight I know many are carrying.
I don’t have any new answers. I’ll keep writing to MP’s, protesting, amplifying marginalised voices, putting my money where my mouth is. It’s a struggle to feel hopeful at the moment. So, I’m going add to taking care of myself to that list. I don’t know what that care looks like yet, but I’m working on it. I urge you to take whatever time you can & give yourself a little TLC too.
The discourse around Sarah Everard’s disappearance has been horribly familiar. The tired victim blaming about where she shouldn’t have walked. The same sinking feeling as the days go by. Duplicate faux shock from men when we recount what life is like for women. The self-same chorus of ‘not all men’. Year after year. Case after case. Victim after victim. It is always the same. None of this is new or surprising. It’s just horribly sad & terribly frightening.
Women aren’t under any illusions about the world we inhabit. We know that we aren’t safe. We’re scared when we walk home alone from the train station. We calculate the threat of each interaction with a man we don’t know. Fashion make shift weapons from handbag contents. The rules are ingrained; no headphones at night, carry your keys, shout fire instead of rape, call me when you’re home! We have been absorbing the message that we are in danger since childhood.
There is no poor decision making. We are simply living our lives. Avoiding all risk isn’t possible. No matter what complex precautions we take, we are exposed. If the journey from my bus stop to my house is along dark, quiet streets then I have no option but to regularly walk alone on dark quiet streets. We don’t have personal escorts, we can’t control who will sit next to us on the train, taking taxis can be cost prohibitive & most cab drivers are men anyway.
We know that ‘not all men’ are dangerous, but we don’t know which ones are. From childhood girls are bombarded with harassment. It never stops. Teachers & drs & bus drivers & our friend’s dad & policemen & strangers on the street & priests & guys in bars & colleagues & friends & lovers. Lots of women aren’t even safe in their own homes. We all have stories of close calls and false alarms. Most is can tell you about the encounters we couldn’t escape too. It is not a revelation that most guys aren’t going to murder us. Knowing that doesn’t change our real fear because often it’s the one you trust who will. The worst case scenario is a reality and we’re reminded of that every single time a man stands too close or lingers too long. We are adding up where this is headed when a creep makes a crude comment or gets aggressive when told no. Here’s the thing that not many men will admit, you know it too. You all know men that you wouldn’t want alone with your sister/daughter/girlfriend. You see those scary men shouting at us on the street and grabbing us in bars. Every time you tell a woman you care about that you’ll see her home or to her car it’s because you are fully cognisant if the threat. The more insidious of you get a kick out knowing you can frighten us without losing plausible deniability. Not all, but definitely enough.
I read a story recently about a guy who got a big cash in hand payment & had to take public transport home with the money. He was on high alert for the whole journey. Everyone looked suspicious. He second guessed his every move. When he relayed how stressful the journey was to his wife, she replied ‘ now you know how I feel everyday’. The solution to this problem isn’t changing female behaviour. Our awareness is at code red. Let’s tackle the predators not prey.
Instead of rushing to shout ‘not me’ men need to listen. They must examine their own complicity & learn what would actually help others feel safer. Challenge your gross friend. Know when your voice is helpful and when it is silencing. Let’s begin to have real conversations about getting more women into key positions. Our criminal justice systems approach to violence against women still needs an overhaul. Perhaps most importantly we all need to think about how we raise our children. The cycle must be broken. Too many women have already been lost.
As this pandemic continues to wreak havoc there is an increasing need for a scapegoat. Predictably, fat people have become a convenient target. Navigating this strange new world is hard enough without all the finger pointing.
If you’re feeling hounded, I get it. I’m fiercely fat positive & always prepared to fly the body liberation flag. Even I am finding the constant barrage of fat phobia exhausting. With our feckless PM giving credence to a BMI/Covid link and the tabloids eating it up it is understandable that we feel attacked. When the government makes weight stigma policy it absolutely feeds the trolls.
For the record, losing 5lbs will not make you less likely to contract covid nor will it effect the severity of the virus if you do. Like much of the Tories covid 19 response it is not rooted in science. In fact, it is too early for any studies to provide reliable data on the impact of covid on fat bodies. Especially when the intersections with poverty, disability, poor medical care etc are often not factored into research.
You are not irresponsible for living in a fat body. You are not a burden on the NHS. You are deserving of the same care & respect as anyone else. If you need help reinforcing these facts or dealing with others who refuse to accept them I highly recommend checking out the resources below. I have linked to their Instagram accounts from which you can find all their links/books.
Jess Campbell (haes_studentdoctor) is as her insta implies a student doctor with a Health at Every Size approach. She shares excellent information in a really straightforward manner.
Dr Natasha Larmie (fatdruk) is a GP in the UK who campaigns to end medical weight stigma. She shares her own experience along with insightful analysis. Definitely a must follow.
If you aren’t already aware of Dr Joshua Wolrich where have you been? He is an NHS surgical doctor who promotes HAES, debunks junk weight loss science & has a much anticipated book due very soon.
Lindo Bacon is a body liberation author, speaker & researcher. Their first book, Health at Every Size completely changed my understanding of how my body works & the effect of dieting. I cannot recommend their work enough.
I only recently discovered HPWAS (Health Professionals Against Weight Stigma) and I am so glad. As a fat person it can be difficult to deal with the medical community. It is therefore very reassuring to know there are professionals trying to change things from within. They are currently collecting lived experiences of medical fat phobia. Please do consider sharing if you feel able.
Are you losing the plot yet? I fear I’m getting there. Lockdown is getting harder. If like me you already have less than perfect mental health, you may be closer to the edge than most.
I’m with you. I’m finding all this time alone is churning up lots of issues I would prefer remain undisturbed. The isolation is leaving far too much room for pondering big issues. Existential questions that I couldn’t answer before the world went mad & are even more confounding now. I swing between Groundhog Day dread and being on jangly high alert. Trying to break the monotony of another day home alone by sorting your underwear drawer is a tiny bit depressing. My already racing heart attempting to burst right out my chest every time my noisy neighbours thump really isn’t fun either.
Am I doing anything that matters? Am I running out of time & is this pandemic melting huge chunks of what is left? Can I continue to makes ends meet? Am I doing enough for those who can’t? Can I get a Tesco delivery slot or my prescription? Will I ever get rid of long covid? Will all my loved ones get through this unscathed and will we ever be permitted to be in the same room again? This shit is only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface are all the intrusive thoughts and fears of catastrophe.
I say this with the knowledge that I am in a privileged position. I have security & a support system that many do not. Too many people are living in situations that are perilous in every possible way. Accessing even the most basic of assistance is getting harder. Half a carrot, a handful of tuna & frubes will not feed hungry children (if you don’t understand this ref, read this & try to control your rage). When you can’t rely on the system to ensure kids don’t starve you can bet that mental health services are in distress. A fact that has been keeping me awake at night as I worry about my own mental wellbeing.
With that in mind I wanted to share some resources. If you don’t feel you can wait to reach the top of an nhs waiting list one of these may be helpful.
Most universities & colleges offer counselling services. If you are student it’s worth checking out what help your institution can give. Many also offer low cost therapy with students training in psychology disciplines.
There are also local services across the UK, a bit of google research may lead you to affordable (or free) help in your area. I know that none of these options are perfect, I wish I had the answer. In the absence of a complete solution I hope these options might be helpful.
As always when discussing mental health it is important to state that I am not a professional. Please seek advice from your GP in the first instance and contact emergency services if required.
I’m going to begin this post with a disclaimer; my brain fog is currently set to victorian horror film. The covid has made my thoughts oh so murky. Please try to factor than in if I don’t reach my usual standards.
As a fat positive activist I am naturally drawn to lots of bopo & fat spaces. Unfortunately I have increasingly noticed a slide away from the radical in some of. I’ve been mulling this topic over for a while and I really want to talk about it.
We all know that the body positive movement has been corrupted by brands & individuals trying to cash in. The centring of slim, white bodies has neutered the original message. Body image issues are not the same as the same as the systemic discrimination of fat bodies face. It is infuriating to see people in socially acceptable bodies play at being fat by contorting themselves to make rolls. However, at least that problem is acknowledged & challenged.
I find the move away from the origins of body positivity much more upsetting when it occurs in supposedly fat friendly places. Body Positivity was created by fat (mostly black) women. It’s purpose was to fight the stigma & discrimination that fat people experience in all aspects of life. Self love & positive body image have been an offshoot of that. Personally, I am very much in favour of those ‘spin offs’. I think learning to accept & eventually love your body can be revolutionary. I champion breaking down the toxic things society has taught us about our bodies, but I still recognise that body liberation is not solely about loving our bellies.
Fat activism should put the most marginalised front & centre. We must make room for those who are least often seen or heard. We should focus on making sure that those individuals feel comfortable discussing the issues they face, sharing pictures & asking for help. Sadly, this is not always what happens. Many groups in the fat world are so intent on being all inclusive that they do not realise who they are excluding.
I see too much time spent on body confidence. Straight sized people taking up space in fat groups because they feel bad about their bodies. Brands whose sizes stop at a 20 are praised & promoted. Descriptors commonly used in fat activism ( super fat, small fat) are labelled insensitive. Bigger people are sidelined. When they try to discuss how they are being pushed out they met with hurt feelings and all the reasons less marginalised people have it hard too. It’s beyond disappointing.
It seems the fight for fat equality has been forgotten. Body liberation is not about making everyone feel great about themselves. It’s about ensuring access to medical treatment, housing, employment for fat people. Challenging inaccurate measurements of health, sizism in public spaces and fat politics should be prime discussion points. We should be listening when people tell us they feel pushed out of a place that is supposed to be for them.
I believe that too many in the fat community are taking their eye off prize. We have become consumed with being welcoming & positive. Both great traits, but we have to prioritise. If straight sized and smaller fats want to be part of the movement we have to accept our privilege. Our voices should not be the loudest. We can be welcoming to allies. Those who are respectful and want to learn can included. We all have blind spots. It is ok to make a mistake or not to know something. It isn’t ok to not want to learn. If your response to uncomfortable truths is to play the victim, there isn’t any room for you in fat activism.
There are so many amazing resources available for anyone who wand to educate themselves. Instagram accounts with bite size information. Books, podcasts & blogs for every stage of learning. It isn’t fair to rely on the emotional labour of fat people who may not always have the energy to teach. It is especially unjust to plead ignorance and then object to the manner in which you are provided information. Discomfort is part of the process.
I know I have lots to learn. I step on toes without intending to. I hope I listen when I’m told I’ve caused pain. I am trying to be better. I am happy to acknowledge the privilege I hold and I aim to fight alongside those with less. I want a better world. The middle of the road is not the way to get there.
I already shared my October Charity of the month, but this week’s Tory bullshit has compelled another post.
I cannot bear the thought of children (or anyone) going hungry. It makes me feel sick, enraged and teary all at the same time. It would never be ok, but it’s worse when we can absolutely afford to care for those in need. Further compounded by the fact that our government has created this poverty. A decade of austerity has hit those with the least hardest. I cannot fathom the cruelty of voting to withhold food from poor children.
We can help. We shouldn’t have to shoulder the responsibility that a morally bankrupt Conservative government refuses to carry. However, the alternative is to allow children to starve. If you can spare a few pounds please consider donating to your local foodbank. You can also add food/toiletries to collection boxes in many supermarkets, drop off at foodbank centres or have items collected.
I also like to consider things like dietary requirements (gluten free, dairy free etc) and add treats. Surviving on food parcels is tough, little luxuries go a long way. With Halloween & Christmas on the horizon I think it’s especially important to donate some sweets or small gifts. Little ones should always be allowed to indulge in a some magic.
I did the wrong thing today. Not a malicious thing, but significant none the less. I saw something that made me feel uncomfortable & my knee jerk reaction was to block it.
A person I’ve know for a long time posted some gross pro police content. This is someone I had previously respected & felt politically aligned with. In the context of current events & in light of the abundance of material being shared about police abuses it felt wilfully ignorant. Proclamations of how good & innocent Police Scotland are were particularly objectionable.
I foresaw exactly how the conversation would go if I replied. The same old ignorant assertions & refusal to accept reality. I was tired & angry, so took the easy option; I hit the unfollow with no comment. I immediately knew I’d done a shitty thing. I prioritised my comfort over taking the opportunity to talk to other white people about why the post was wrong.
BIPOC face & are impacted by this kind of racism everyday. They are permanently exhausted by it. To say I feel yuck so I’ll pass on this one is not using my privilege to benefit others. Having uncomfortable conversations about race is one of the easiest things that Black people have asked of us. Taking responsibility for questioning & educating other white people is essential.
I wanted to talk about this because I think everyone gives themselves a pass too often. We all think we’re mostly good people. Left leaning folk especially believe we’re fighting the good fight. Obviously this is just one small example of subpar allyship. We can let things slide because just existing doesn’t put us in danger. I know I fail in bigger ways than this. I also know I let myself off the hook too easily. Recent events have made me examine my commitment to bring an effective ally. I want to do better.
My first step in achieving that is purchasing White Supremacy and Me by Layla F. Saad. This book aims to help the reader clearly see their privilege, how we contribute to upholding the racist system & what we should be doing to dismantle it. I highly recommend investing in a copy & the work entailed.
June’s Charity of the month is a no brainer. I’m joining the chorus of white voices proclaiming that we must do better. It’s not enough to say ‘I’m not racist’. We have to act. We have to listen. We have to educate ourselves. We must fight both with Black people & against our own participation in their oppression.
We all benefit from centuries of white supremacy. It is our responsibility to teach ourselves about the institutional racism that makes our lives easier and the historical wrongs that created our current system. It is our duty to listen to what Black activists ask of us, to always pass the mic. It is essential that we act; sign the petition, write to your repressive, boycott brands who don’t walk the walk, protest & donate whatever you can.
This month I have chosen to support three organisations suggested by Black Activists.
Philadelphia Community Bail Fund does exactly what the name suggests. The American bail system is set up in way that means people without means often spend time incarcerated before they are ever brought to trial. Bail funds are even more important at times like this.
I learned about cruelty The Loveland Foundation from the work of Rachel Cargle. Their therapy fund for black women & girls provides access to mental health services that would otherwise be out of reach to their service users. As a person who has lived with mental illness my entire adult life I know how important treatment is. I am eternally grateful that I found people who could help me via the NHS. The work that Loveland do is life saving & changing.
Finally I gave directly to the family of George Floyd through Gofundme. The family intend to use the funds to cover a variety of essential expenses. Funeral costs, legal bills, therapy & of course for the care of his children. To have a loved one murdered in such brutal, public & racist way is deeply traumatic. This family deserve our support.
I urge you to seek out & amplify Black voices. Reading posts like this does not count as doing the work. I am a white women with much to learn. Please follow, read & support the tireless work of Black activists, educators & creators. Social media timelines are full of recommendations, if yours isn’t it is time to ask yourself why. And do something about it. Here are some incredible people whose work I consume.
I also want to point you towards this list of organisations doing anti racist work. I hope to donate to more in the coming months. I hope you will give if you can. Monetary Support for Anti Racist Action. *
I had thought that the world being turned upside down might put a dent in diet culture. It seemed that having a real and very serious health issue to contend with would get our collective perspective in order. Turns out that was naive.
If anything, it’s worse. The fat phobia has amplified. It’s coming from new & unexpected directions along with all the regular ones. It’s demoralising to realise how quickly all those supposed body positive allies throw the fatties under the bus. People I respected didn’t take long to start posting the weight gain jokes. Support for my own & other fat activist’s work has begun to feel like a part of a cultivated image. One that cracks under any pressure at all.
When you joke about the horror of gaining weight in public forums it isn’t harmless. Not only does it perpetuate stigma towards fat bodies; you’re also telling fat people what you really think of them. If you like your smaller body I’m delighted for you. Enjoy it. However, if your only response to inhabiting a slightly larger form is mockery or revulsion, you are not a Bopo ally.
This applies even more in the current crisis. During a deadly pandemic that grinds entire countries to a halt there are many things to fear. If top of your list is weight gain you might want to reassess your priorities. I am the after picture in those hilarious memes. Looking like me is not the worst thing that corona virus could do to you.
When I’m not disappointed by folk I expected better from I am bombarded by the diet industry. The weight loss world has never missed an exploitation opportunity. Diet plans & work out programme ads have multiplied. Disreputable influencers can’t wait to wring some cash of out skinny whatever collaborations. Millionaire celebs holed up in mansions are giving us food plans to guard against stress eating. Meanwhile regular people struggle to cope isolation, lost income & fear of critical illness. The focus on the waist line is gross.
I’ve saved the worst for last. The truly terrifying part; medical discrimination. In the wake of covid 19 fat has been pathologised to an even greater extent. BMI has been incorrectly identified as a risk factor for both contracting the virus & suffering more severe symptoms. Weight has been used as a disqualifying factor when resources are scarce. In other words, fat people have been deemed dispensable. I know we’re not alone. Other marginalised groups (some I also belong to) have been marked cannon fodder too. I am ready to fight for the rights of all those people. It’s startling how many members of those groups do not reciprocate my solidarity.
If you’re thinking the jokes & fears have nothing to do with the medical discrimination, you’re wrong. By partaking in the toxic diet conversation you help create a society that considers fat bodies to be less worthy. We live in a world that permits Drs to ignore research on weight & its implications. We accept inaccuracies & damaging advice because the majority still believe that fat is bad. Fat phobia is profitable and fat people are paying the ultimate price.
Watching the seriousness of the corona virus sink into the general conscious has been a very strange experience. For the first time I am seeing healthy people get an insight into my life; en masse. It’s not pretty for anyone.
I want to preface this by saying this absolutely not an ‘I told you so’ (unless you’re a Tory, in which case, we did tell you so. Please do better). I really don’t want to see anyone suffering. I take no pleasure in the fact that a whole lot of people are about to share in the injustice & indignities that disabled people have grown accustomed to. It saddens me, but I suspect an awful lot of people are going to discover what we meant when we said this could happen to anyone. No matter how fit or successful, most of us are much closer to needing a safety net than we ever imagined before the fall.
Anyone who’s ever had long term health issues already knows that most employers do not give a shit about their well being. The chronically ill are fully aware that our government couldn’t care less if we die. I know it is hard for able bodied, healthy people to grasp, but the powers that be are not concerned with making sure you can survive. It matters not that statutory sick pay isn’t enough to live on or that some won’t even qualify for it. Big business will prioritise their profit before your health. They’ll fire as many as needs be to plug a cash leaking hole. There will be backlogs because so many desperate people require help. The DWP & all the other faceless government machines will treat you like a subspecies. Boris & his buffoons don’t care if you can’t pay rent or feed your family. The underfunded NHS will buckle under the increased strain. They’re already telling us to prepare for our loved ones to die. Let’s be honest, most of the cabinet would be quietly delighted if the vulnerable are wiped out.
As always, those with the least will suffer the most. The rich will access tests & treatment that most of us cannot. They can afford to hole up in safety & comfort. They will profit from this global crisis. Private hospitals renting beds to the NHS, politicians insider trading, corporate bail outs for tax evading entities. It has to stop.
It’s already evident that the every day working people are relying on each other. The community spirit is admirable. I am so glad that people are looking after each other. However, it’s time we gathered that solidarity for change. Huge, impactful societal change. We must organise. In times of crisis it becomes clear that it’s the bottom of power tree that actually make the foliage bloom. Please let this radicalise you. Find the grassroots social movements in your area and get involved. Write to your representatives. Join rent strikes, sign petitions, vote when the times comes. Remember who stood with you during this pandemic. Let’s start elevating and rewarding the people we can trust to strengthen our safety nets.
* you can buy this amazing t shirt here. (Not an ad)