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People seriously think it’s ok to compare food, which WE NEED TO LIVE, to drugs?
Ok, McDonalds isn’t exactly the fountain of youth. We all know this. And don’t even get me started on the many conflated ideas in the slogan ‘Childhood Obesity: Break the Habit’. (Being fat is just a habit, you guys, if I were just more organised, I’d remember where I put that Thin I know I had just a minute ago… wait, let me check behind the couch.) And don’t get me started EVEN MORE on the classist assumptions buried in this. If you are cash or time poor, fast food is actually a pretty good option, sometimes.
Look, I’m not saying we should be encouraging junk food. But basically this ad is saying that junk food is bad because it makes you fat. So it’s ok for thin people to eat junk food, is that right? Just so we’re clear? It’s only REALLY bad for you and dangerous, and might kill your children in a creepy, forcing it on them way, if they are hideous and FAT. No?
I don’t think I can emphasise this enough. WE NEED FOOD TO LIVE.
One of the phrases that is used alot in the feminist blogosphere is ‘performing femininity’. Or gender, or sexuality, or anything. It’s one of those phrases that can start to sound pat and meaningless, but it’s one that sticks with me, that I think about all the time. Performing rather than experiencing. When is performing good and fun, and when are we obliged to do it for society’s sake, making it often tiring and oppressive?
Don’t get me wrong. I love to femme it up. And butch it up, frankly, as my weekend’s experience with power tools showed. It’s just that, more often than not, I cannot be bothered. I do not naturally fit the modern day requirements for femininity – as most people don’t. Well, I have shapely eyebrows that don’t require plucking. But that’s about it. I have dark hair, I have a shadow moustache and my legs look prickly an hour after I shave, my hair is naturally limp and uninteresting and if I wear eyeshadow my eyelids itch and I rub it all over my fave in ten minutes anyway. And while I am enjoying longer hair and the opportunity to do interesting things with it, I am also constantly cheesed off with it – at how much time and effort it is to make it do what I want it to. And then I can’t, like… move my head quickly or whatever. Which is boring. So it does, more often than not, end up in a ponytail. That’s a compromise I’m happy with. I now own both a hair dryer and a curling iron, although I have admitted that they will be used once a month at most. When I want to perform. Which is not every day. I think that’s part of the reason I like having blue hair – it always looks like I’ve put some effort in, however minimal. And it takes me out of one performance category and into another.
I haven’t shaved my legs in about a month, though. Today I am wearing knee socks, and you can see my heairy knees peeking over the top. I wore shorts all weekend (with birkenstocks, no less, hello new stereotype). I didn’t do this on purpose – it was winter and I couldn’t be bothered, and then I got some eczema on my legs so I thought I’d better not. And before I got around to doing anything about it, I read this post from definatalie. And I started to think about it. Why do I shave my legs? Lots of reasons. I think I have decided not to shave my armpits or nair off my moustache anymore. But the legs? It’s confronting.
The week after I read Definatalie’s post, I said to S ‘I think I might stop shaving my legs’. He said ‘ok’. Like you might say if someone told you they thought their favourite colour was now blue instead of green. I mean, that was pretty much the reaction I expected, and I don’t need permission anyway. But it’s nice to be validated, I guess. His response, when pressed was ‘well, you’re a mammal’. Which I think is an excellent phrase that I might need stitched onto a cushion. (You’re a mammal. Get over it.) His other contribution, when I said I wasn’t sure if this was a Thing for me, was that I don’t have to decide. I mean, obviously. But I feel like I have to. Like I am required to pick which team I belong to, or something. But I am not sure, yet, whether this is a ‘I NEVER shave my legs’ stance, or a ‘I don’t, unless I have a reason to do so’ or even ‘I do it whenever I feel like it’. Fine distinctions, maybe. But somehow I feel like they’re important.
I think it’s because I feel like people make certain assumptions, if your legs are not shaved. Not all of those assumptions would be wrong about me, but I am not sure I wish to place myself so heavily in whatever camp that puts me in. On the other hand, who cares? They’re legs, I’m a mammal, people can either get to know me and work out which assumptions are right and wrong, or not. It’s not like I’m not going to get a job because I have hairy legs, or people will refurse to serve me at shops. And, anyway, I already have blue hair. I am CLEARLY a freak (I love my blue hair). Then again, and this is more relevant, I feel a bit… ungroomed. Scruffy. I pretty much live in skirts, although not recently since I got too fat for them – but then my jeans have all worn out in the thighs, so I am back to skirts. And skirt mean exposed legs. And to me, exposed legs mean smooth, clean shaven legs. I have yet to work out if this is because that is what I have been taught, or because it’s what I like, for myself. I almost shaved this weekend, when I knew it was going to be warm and I’d be in shorts. And then I decided to wait and see. Because maybe I am just unused to looking at it.
I feel a bit daft, writing an angsty post about my leg hair. Like, welcome to the party, young one. Also, get over yourself. But I think it’s not too frivolous (almost, though) because my main sticking point is what it makes me look like. To others, and also to myself. I’m waiting to figure out what that is, and how I feel about it. Meanwhile, my temperature is better regulated, and I have more time in the mornings, so I’m sort of happy with that. Also, no stubble! That bit is great.
In a semi-related note, you should go read Frances’ post about her bikini. And look at her fabulous, kick arse photos. I want to give her a big hug because of that last photo. Fabulous! I am determined to buy myself a bikini this summer. I have a sensible swimming one piece, that is thick proper material and holds all the bits in appropriate places. But I was a bikini so I can go to the beach and just hang out. S burns in about 30 seconds (seriously, we went out yesteray and I could SMELL his head burning. It was pretty gross), so I forsee many twilight swimming sessions. So I’m not worried about skin exposure and cancer, in my bikini. And I REFUSE to have any body hang ups about this. So there. Do you hear me? REFUSE. The last time I had a two piece (actually, the first time, too) I would have been 13. And about five adults told me ‘well, good for YOU’. Which I found confusing, because I hadn’t realised it was a Thing, yet. Anyway. The point is, I am going to get my belly out this summer. I just have to deal with the expense. Oh, nice things. Why do you cost so much, always?
I have about a half a post written about language and how fuzzy it is, and in particular as regards women’s bodies. I think it’s akin to the way the word ‘socialist’ and ‘liberal’ has been hijacked by the right in America. They now mean things completely divorced from the original, specific meanings of the word. I’m sure there are plenty of more Australian or general examples, but those are the two that jump out at me all the time, since I find them so jarring. Especially since we have the big-L Liberals over here.
I think mostly it’s all tied up in the weird morality games we play with bodies. Salad is ‘good’, pizza is ‘bad’. (As one Shapely Prose commenter put it ‘it’s pizza for lunch, not genocide’*) Fat doesn’t really mean fat – it means ugly, disgusting, unhealthy, unlovable, unworthy. It doesn’t refer to how much we weigh, or our mass or our hip measurements, it’s about how we look – which is why a skinny girl can say ‘omg I am so fat!’ (code: I look ugly) and in the next breath assure someone like me ‘but you’re not fat at all!’ (code: but you are perfectly attractive!).
Pretty does not mean good to look at, it means fits a certain group of characteristics such as looking innocent and pure and also probably white. Beautiful is reserved for people who are not virginal and aren’t trampy-sexy but who you’d still bang. Sexy does not refer to people that you personally would like to have sex with, it means someone who has the required body shape and has spent the enourmous amounts of time neccessary to fit patriarchal standards of feminine beauty and is wearing appropriate clothes and shoes. (Many times I catch myself thinking ‘yeah, she’s hot. I don’t find her attractive, but she’s hot. What does that even mean omg.)
And most present in the last few days, ‘flattering’ does not mean ‘makes you feel good’ or even ‘makes the most of what you’ve got’. I means ‘fools people into thinking you are closer to the ‘ideal’ figure, ie tall, thin, hourglass, than you actually are.’ Already Pretty just posted today about different body shapes and how they look great and how, sure. Minimize your hips if you want, but you don’t have to. I can wear a flowey tunic dress that doesn’t accentuate my waist, if I like. So there. I don’t care about your abitrary rules, patriarchy/whoever else would like to become involved. But likewise, there are things that other people can rock that I can’t – and that is awesome. Why shouldn’t they? Why shouldn’t we have options.
I mean, in reality we do. But how many times have you heard someone say about someone else ‘that dress is so unflattering on her?’. By which they mean, doesn’t hide her stomach, or you can’t tell that she has as much waist as she does, or it makes her boobs look MASSIVE. Well, why shouldn’t it? ‘Flattering’ should not mean ‘slimming’. We already have a word for that!
Anyway. In a completely random aside, I was reminded yesterday of the ‘Yes, we can’ mashup video. And I watched it today, and it still made me emotional and hopeful. Sure, things never turn out that neat or easy. Sure, America is fucked and K Rudd isn’t the messiah. But I dare you to listen to that speech, to watch those artists, and not feel a bit of a tear in your eye and joy in your heart. I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU:
*I really really love Shapely Prose and the comment ecology over there. It shifted my whole view of the world I live in, and I sort of feel like it’s the centre of my part of the internet, now. If you have never read it, I genuinelly encourage you to at least go have a look – it’s not just for fatties!
I’m what is known in FA (fat acceptance) and fatshion circles as an in-betweenie. This means that I am somewhere in the range of an aussie size 14-18. It means I have big-girl issues with clothing (weird fit, darts hitting me in the wrong places, inappropriate styles available) but I can still shop in straight sized stores, although what I can find there may or may not be extremely limited, depending on the store, the season, current trends, how stretchy the clothes are or how willing I am to wear skin tight things.
I was listening to fatcast last night and they were discussing what a plus size actually is. They said it might start at maybe 14, but really their cutoff is about size 18 (depending on locale and other factors such as height and general body shape – it’s harder to find nice flattering things if you are large and live in China, or are a body shape that the fashion world dislikes). I thought ‘but wait! I’m a fat girl! Why don’t you count meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’. I’m used to being told ‘don’t be silly, you’re not FAT!’ but usually by people thinner than me, and as code for ‘but I don’t find you repulsive! And fat people are repulsive!’ I had a really strong reaction to being told by fat people that I couldn’t join that fat people club (which was not what they were saying, btw). And then I had to look at my Thin Privilege. Yes, yes I just said the P word, and also refered to myself as thin, IN THE SAME SENTENCE.
Right now, fads are doing me kind. There is a lot of jersey and a lot of loose fitting, which means I can get into medium sizes a lot of the time, if there isn’t a large. And tghe larges fit comfortably. They don’t fit me the way the designer intended them to, but since the designer generally does not want to acknowledge that people my size or bigger exist, I am not particularly fussed about this. Case in point, last week I went into Cotton On (being the only clothes store in town that is open after 5:15pm) and spent what I consider to be quite a lot of money there. And then I reflected that actually, I spent less than the price of a dress I was looking at on the City Chic website, which I really liked but was clearly made out of some horrible acrylic fabric. So then I felt better about that.
Let me put this another way. I went into a trendy store, which caters for young people who want the latest trendy thing. And I tried some stuff on and I bought a lot of it, because it looked good on me. This is something that many fat people just cannot do. Ever.
I bought three jersey pencil skirts – one in black, one in navy and one in black with little rosebuds on. Tres trendy, and also reminds me of a dress I owned when I was five. (Apparently the eighties are back. Again. Why won’t they die?) I bought two tank dresses, one black and one navy and white striped. (BIG HORIZONTAL STRIPES oh noes don’t I know that’s against the rules??) I bought two light jersey cardigan thingies and four 3/4 sleeved tops in varying degrees of stripes and spots, with ruching on the sleeves so they have sort of eighties shoulders. The things I bought were a mix of XL, L and medium. This upped my wearable, work appropriate wardrobe by about half. The only problem being that I need to get some fat girl stockings, because I generally only wear stay ups and knee highs, having been traumatised by going to a catholic girls school and the horrible brown tights (but was fortunate enough to learn the undies-on-the-outside trick for keeping them up). But the skirts are really to short to wear to work without stockings, and the ones I have technically fit, but are mighty uncomfortable, and gusset hoiking is generally frowned on in public.
And here we are back to being in between. A lot of stuff technically fits, for which – do not get me wrong! – I am eternally grateful. If I went on holiday and my luggage got lost, I would not, as the lovely ladies on fatcast point out, be fucked. I could walk into a store and buy something that fit me. Even a gift store. It might not be sartorially elegant, but I wouldn’t have to fashion a toga out of a beach towel or two. There are clothes that fit me. They are readily available. They are affordable. Sometimes they are even trendy or beautiful at the same time as being affordable and readily available. I can shop in op shops and it isn’t that much more frustrating than for the average punter. I can avoid ‘big girl’ clothes which are often badly made with a poor cut, from terrible acrylic material.
I’ve been looking at ASOS, which has a very lovely plus size section, much of which I covet. I also covet most of their straight size section. According to their size charts, I am smack bang between an 18, their last straight size, and a 20, their first plus size. This is making trawling the site very annoying, because most of the time the top and bottom sizes are sold out. And sometimes the straight sizes go up to 20, sometimes they only go up to 16. If it’s something stretchy, I probably want an 18, and it isn’t I’d want a 20, but I have to look in two seperate sections so I can’t just pick one dress and choose the size.
Ok, so it’s annoying. That’s a pretty low bar, I’m not saying that ASOS is oppressing me or anything. And I really, truly do not want to underemphasise that I can go on a last minute shopping trip and find clothes that fit. This is super important. Plus, my proportional ‘hourglass’ body shape (apart from my annoyingly long waist) is the shape that about half of commercially available clothes are designed for (the other half being for people built like a pole) so that helps.
However. If we’re taking the fatcast cut off of a size 18 as canon (which they wouldn’t endorse, they fully admit it’s subjective etc) my recent weight gain has put me over the top, US sizes being a bit bigger than Aus sizes. I believe I would now be a US size 20. And I would absolutely say that there is a line, somewhere in the middle of a size 16. When you are a 14 or a smaller 16, you can buy things on sale. You can buy BRAS on sale. You can buy bras with lace and colours, you can buy bathers, and more styles are open to you because things that are designed to be baggy are. If you want to be ‘on trend’, you can, although depending on the trend it may be inadvisable as you will possibly look like an egg with two rubber bands around it. But if the thing of the moment is tshirts with sparkles on, you can probably find one that you fit into.
From Married to the Sea
Once you hit a high 16, bras come in beige, beige, ‘bone’ beige and off white. There are never any in your size left by the time the sales roll around. The clothes that make the sale racks are all cut in a way that does not do your body any favours. Things designed to be baggy are tight, even in your size, and things designed to be tight are TIGHT. Things cling in the wrong places, darts are in weird spots. Things get sized up without the proportions being revised, so they get weirdly massive in strange places.
Buying clothes can be a challenge for everyone. Besides the venturing out into public and the spending of hard earned dollars, there is the social aspect of it. What you wear says something about who you are. They do – even if that thing is ‘it’s Sunday, and I’ll wear my uggboots to the shops if I damn well want too’. Sometimes it’s hard to find the things that accurately represent you to the world. That gets harder as your size gets larger. Not least because when some people look at you the first thing they will see is a fat person. It’s tempting to dress to be invisible. To be non threatening and part of the background. Which is fine – frankly it’s relaxing. But I find myself shying away form certain things, not because I think they will make me look bad, but because they will make me look FAT. Not ‘unattractive’, which is what ‘fat’ is code for, more often than not. but that if I show a bit of leg, people will see that it is a fat leg. Because, you know, they couldn’t have guessed that it was going to be a fat leg just from looking at the rest of me, no matter how covered that leg might be.
I don’t really think I should end this with another ‘FUCK YOU IM FAT AND IM NOT TAKING IT ANYMORE’ because I did that last time, and that’s not what this is about. What this is about is ‘whatever. This is my leg. It’s fat. It’s sexy. I will show exactly as much or as little of it as I choose. Goodbye.’
I’m still not really ok with the nuggets I get in front of my armpits, though. I’m working on that one.
It’s true. I feel fat.
Well, ok, I am fat. Last time I got weighed (when I went to the doctor, about… um… a year ago?) I was just shy of 90 kilos. That put me one point into the ‘obese’ on the BMI scale… which admitedly is not at all a sensible scale – check out the BMI project. Next time you hear about the ‘obesity epidemic’, we are the people they are talking about. That would have made me about the same BMI as Kate Harding .
That’s not the problem. I’m ok with being fat. I’m ok with being large. I’m NOT ok with the BMI system, but that’s a seperate argument. I’m even ok, in theory, with the fact that I have put on weight. I dunno what I weigh now, but that really isn’t the point.
The point is twofold. One, I feel like crap. I need to get off my butt, because I am stiff and crackly and I feel like an old lady. But it’s cooooold! And I’m laaaazy! Anyway, that one’s gone on the to do list: ‘get off butt and do some sort of stretchy exercise and possibly ride to work a couple times a week even though it is cold and you are unfit and it is further than before and you do have to ride down scary South Road.’ I’ve been making an effort to eat better, too – what with all the renovating and moving, etc, I got into too many bad habits, and then the last week of work at the old place I gave up on breakfast (which I hate) altogether. But I’ve been sitting myself down and making myself eat a proper breakfast, and cook a proper dinner. I intend to continue this. This is not about dieting (I just ate half a packet of jubie lollies and I am NOT SORRY so there) it’s about putting good things into my body and feeling good. Along with the lollies, if I so chose. So there.
The second point is, none of my clothes fit.
Most of my work skirts are hand me downs or op shop finds. As such, when I got most of them they juuuuust fit. Some of them, the high waisted ones, only fit if I only do them up to the waist, and left about 2cm unzipped. But now, when I wear these, they sit funny and they are a bit tight and they are uncomfortable. I sort of only clicked to this a couple of days ago, and then I realised why I had been so cranky lately. Lack of excercise means I am tired, and don’t feel like I fit into my body. It’s like it’s a meat suit I have to carry around. And now that body does not fit into its clothes.
Let’s be clear. It’s not that I don’t fit my clothes. They don’t fit me. I am not the wrong size. My clothes are the wrong size for me.
The first place I put on weight (and lose it) is my stomach. This is why my tops still fit (mostly – I need to have a purge of all the shirts that will never ever fit my built-for-carrying-shoulders properly, but that is unrelated to recent weight gain) but my skirts don’t. I’m still skating between a 16 and an 18 on top, I could probably even wear a 14 if it was stretchy but below, I ain’t getting into anything less than an 18. Or some pre stretched 16s, maybe. I mean, my jeans (16) still fit, and my underwear (14s and 16s) do, too. Yes, you needed to know about my underwear. But anything with a rigid waistband is a bit of a squeeze. Especially after lunch.
Because I am a crafter, I know my measurements. Last I checked (probably about 6 months ago), they were 110, 95, 112. Yes, I have that memorised, shuddup. Now – and I mean RIGHT AS OF NOW, because I just this second went and measured myself in the work bathroom FOR YOU, INTERNET, that is HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU – they are 115, 105, 115. So that’s 5cms added on top and bottom, and 10 in the middle. Which changes my proportions, which changes how and where my clothes fit. And this is the important bit, because for me, my ‘weight’ and how ‘fat’ I feel is not about how much flesh I have on my body. It’s not about my mass. It isn’t, in fact, about my physical presence in the world as a body. It is about how I feel about my body. How I move in it, how my clothes fit me, how I feel in my clothes, how sexy and good and beautiful I feel.
At the moment, that is ‘not very well’.
So. Something needs to change. I’ve been reading fat fashion blogs as well as a couple of straight sized ones. Because I’m fatter (or a different shape) than lots of the fatshion bloggers anyway. And the point is to look nice, not to be thin. And I’ve made a promise to myself to take better care of my insides by feeding them well and stretching them and all that. And now I’m looking at my wardrobe. (In my mind, I’m at work). Some things – like the majority of my skirts – need to go on hold. They need to be taken out of my wardrobe because every time I look at them, I see ‘you are the wrong shape and size’. Which is a LIE. So they can go live under the bed or something, since my waistline has fluctuated quite a bit in the last year or so they might fit again later. Things like my shirts need to be tried on, assessed for comfort, and purged.
Things that ARE THE WRONG SIZE are going. I am staying.
And then… sigh. I am going to have to acquire some new clothes. This is something I dislike doing. Hopefully it will involve sewing, but either way it will definitely involve angst and money. And I dislike both of those aspects. But I also dislike feelig lumpy, and I ALSO dislike wearing the same thing every day. I enjoy picking out my costume for the day, and I want to be able to choose that costume from a wider array of goodies. To wear outfits, not just some clothes I picked up off of the floor. I want to have clothes that I consciously choose, not ones that fit, so whatever, I guess that’s as good as I’m getting.
I can’t do anything about all the thin people who tell me they are ‘soooo fat’ or who talk about ‘obesity epidemics’ or who say ‘oh, you’re good!’ when I have a salad for lunch. But I can do something about my wardrobe.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go home and sew a hammer and sickle banner for a friend’s party.