I used to think that self esteem was something one was only allowed once the self was TRULY esteemable or worthy. And of course I believed in society’s idea of what an esteemable person was — namely THIN, BEAUTIFUL, WHITE, HETEROSEXUAL, FIT, HEALTHY, and most of all, NEVER WRONG ABOUT ANYTHING. Then, one day, I met someone I could tell the truth about myself to. All the things I felt ashamed about, the things I felt made me unlovable, unworthy, disposable — and it turns out they felt that way, too. Reflected in the struggle of the person in front of me, I saw our shared strength, resilience, and beauty. And it changed my life. So now I think SELF-ACCEPTANCE is a better term. Defined as a FEARLESSNESS in the face of one’s own imperfections; a willingness to TELL OUR TRUTHS with lesser apology. And the COMPASSION to extend that courtesy to others.
Yoga for Larger Bodies is an animated documentary of one woman’s experience of being a plus-sized yoga instructor. It is the origin story of London’s first yoga class specifically for larger bodied individuals. Uniquely, and in keeping with the themes of union, meditation, and connection, the animation and all of the images it contains is formed of a single, continuous line. It’s a beautiful story with all *kinds* of health (mental, physical, social) equally valued. Please share!
The animation is a collaboration between myself as animator and its narrator, yoga instructor and proprietress of London’s Light Yoga Space, Janice Kate Fisher.
The animation is part of an ongoing series I’m creating for the Fat Experience Project. If you have a story to tell, please contact me there!
I welcome comments and questions (either below or in private — click Contact above) about this blog! I’ve also made the full text available as a PDF here for those using screen readers or who have trouble reading graphic text.
* – Note: The fat unicorn in this post is NOT the same kind of unicorn as THE Fat Unicorn superhero at bigfatunicorn.wordpress.com
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Ok, Y’all. I’m opening up freelance availability again now that school is over. I’m starting slow with pet portraits in this continuous line style – Just $30 on Etsy for a custom illustration! Only 20 slots available.
On this, the second day of freedom from my undergrad coursework, I got a wild hair to draw. Today inspiration struck in the form of a fat fashion paper doll. Just two outfits and one doll for now. Download the PDF, print, cut, and play! If you download it, I’d love a photo of what you do with it! Click the image to download.
Yesterday I had a conversation on Facebook that deeply infuriated me. Admittedly, as an activist, I have a tendency towards being infuriated. This conversation, though, made me as angry as I have been in a very long time.
As some in Portland, Oregon are aware – there is a new store opening and its owner has expressed some really problematic views on homosexuality (linking it with pedophilia) and has been openly advocating for the generic rights of businesses to refuse service based on their personal beliefs. There has, rightly, been an uproar, threats of boycott, and a large debate about what rights business owners have in relation to their personal beliefs.
Over the course of the last 24 hours, my newsfeed slowly filled with links to various stories, multiple opinions about how to take action, and justifiable expressions of hurt, anger, and frustration. But one post stood out — from someone who has previously held a very public position in queer leadership — as deeply problematic. The poster acknowledged the many angry and frustrated posts and then proceeded to point out that she’d not seen a single person rise above and offer to sit down with the store owner to talk it out, educate her, and see if they could build a bridge.
Immediately, the ‘likes’ came pouring in. The poster was congratulated on her compassion, on her obvious mediation skills, and thanked for pointing out how unproductive it is to be angry. I mean, it sounds good, doesn’t it? It has the air of moral authority to it. We must be productive! We must be good citizens! We must forgive. We must forget. We must do the work to sand the rough edges, to smooth the path for those behind us. We must be strong.
But here’s the thing, it is NEVER OK to tell someone who is currently subjugated by legal, moral, and ideological forces that it is their responsibility to “rise above” and educate the people who are leveling abuse at them. The “be the bigger person” and the “if you don’t love them then you’re like them” arguments may have the air of moral high ground but invariably they make anyone who is expressing anger, hurt, or unhappiness sound like someone who is ‘stuck’, who is making themselves a ‘victim’.
In critical race studies, there is a term for the portrait of the ‘stuck’ individual, of who, rather than simply accepting their subjugation, proclaims and visibly suffers the impacts of his or her ostracization from society by virtue of his or her difference from what society has deemed valuable . That term is called ‘racial melancholia‘, the individual being deemed melancholic. It’s applicable to a lesser extent in all oppressions. This is a term used to render problematic the person who is pointing out injustice, either directly or by refusing to disappear his or her suffering. Melancholia sees the vocalization of pain not as productive but as weak, self-involved and stagnant. Sara Ahmed has written beautifully on the topic of racial melancholia and on the social obligation to be happy, as have many others. While I dare not compare the experience of queer melancholia to the experience of racial melancholia in terms of its depth or impact, and while this brief explanation of melancholia does little to highlight its true complexity, the fact remains that aspects of melancholia are applicable to the queer experience. And the expectation that queers be the “better people”, especially when doing so calls for them to place themselves directly in the path of further abuse, is part of a system of neoliberal governmentality which requires, above all, that we are useful and productive.
To quote Sara (Happy Objects, in the Affect Theory Reader, p. 50)
What concerns me is how much this affirmative turn actually depends on the very distinction between good and bad feelings that presumes that bad feelings are backward and conservative and good feelings are forward and progressive. Bad feelings are seen as orientated toward the past, as a kind of stubbornness that “stops” the subject from embracing the future. Good feelings are associated here with moving up and getting out. I would argue that it is the very assumption that good feelings are open and bad feelings are closed that allows historical forms of injustice to disappear. The demand that we be affirmative makes those histories disappear by reading them as a form of melancholia (as if you hold onto something that is already gone). These histories have not gone: we would be letting go of that which persists in the present. To let go would be to keep those histories present.
I am not saying that feminist, anti-racist, and queer politics do not have anything to say about happiness other than to point to its unhappy effects. I think it is the very exposure of these unhappy effects that is affirmative, that gives us an alternative set of imaginings of what might count as a good or better life. If injustice does have unhappy effects, then the story does not end there. Unhappiness is not our endpoint. If anything, the experience of being alienated from the affective promise of happy objects gets us somewhere. Affect aliens can do things, for sure, by refusing to put bad feelings to one side in the hope that we can “just get along.” A concern with histories that hurt is not then a backward orientation: to move on, you must make this return. If anything we might want to reread melancholic subjects, the ones who refuse to let go of suffering, who are even prepared to kill some forms of joy, as an alternative model of the social good.
I propose that a queer ‘good citizen’ is not the citizen that ignores his or her own pain, or the pain of others, and who selflessly offers his- or herself up in attempts to educate systems of power which oppress them. I propose that a queer ‘good citizen’ is rather a killjoy – a stubborn thorn in the thumb of bigotry. And, echoing Sara Ahmed, I propose that these protestations, these seemingly ineffectual expressions of pain, hurt, and frustration, are valid and valuable and necessary pieces of activism. They are our human voices, they are the loud slap of the landing of a blow, they are our valid expressions of justifiable anger and they need not be silenced in service of anything.
I thought I’d try my hand at this ‘sketchnote’ thing and see what happened. Aside from Foucault’s wonky face and the fact that the guy from the Milgram experiment looks a bit like Buffalo Bill, I think it turned out OK. A little synopsis of biopower and performativity.
Just a passing thought I wanted to place somewhere rather than a well thought-out blog post:
Spatially – I am aware of my body as I move through the world, as I navigate a larger-than-it-was-designed-for body through a never-ending obstacle course of a world. I am constantly taking measurements as I walk; is there enough room for this man to pass on the sidewalk? Will my ass fit in that chair? Can I buckle that airplane seatbelt? Can I fit comfortably behind the wheel of that car? Am I blocking the passage of fellow pub-goers? I am fairly graceful because of this – I know how to slide my body through tight spaces, to turn my hips just-so to avoid bumping strangers, or to lift my bag just high enough to avoid its bulk adding to mine as I skim through underground turnstiles. I sometimes think the world misses the grace and beauty of a fat girl as ballerina, effortlessly avoiding impact with a hundred obstacles a day. It’s pretty respectable if you stop to think about it.
Most folks who know me in real life know that fat activism has only been a fraction of my life’s work. Alongside event organizing and action planning, I’ve been a graphic designer and web developer for nearly 20 years. I don’t generally use this forum for self-promotion but I’ve recently reignited my love for illustration and I’m making a few custom portraits available between now and the holidays. Check out the gallery below and if you like my style, consider ordering a portrait from someone who will draw your body lovingly, exactly as it is. The vector format can be printed and hung, made into holiday cards, used as logos or simply as social media avatars. Your choice!
– orders currently take up to 3 weeks for delivery, so please order now to receive it in time for the holidays.
– Images delivered as: PSD, PNG, JPG, EPS, or AI files in high resolution. Please specify how you would like to receive it.
– Once ordered, please email me at fatfeistyfemme (at) gmail (dot) com with the image you’d like me to draw from and any particular color scheme you’d like me to follow. Thanks!
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I’ve been working on this under wraps for a couple of weeks. It’s not often I’m quiet about something I’m working on but this story, as told to me by the amazing woman who narrates it, has been heavy on my mind since October of 2006. As part of an epic 2 month road trip with Val Garrison (rest her sweet soul, who passed this year after a long battle with lung cancer), I sat down with VJ to hear the story of her life as centered around her experience of fatness and/or the impact of others’ perceptions of her fatness. It was an intense ride throughout, but I was utterly unprepared for how jarring Vj’s interview would be (and so I advise those of you sensitive to social injustice to gird your loins, as it were). I think even VJ herself wasn’t aware of how powerful a story it was until she’d told it. It’s amazing what we learn to live with. Sometimes our resilience and strength can hush our pain until we share it with others, and then the reality of it as shared or reflected with and by others brings it home again.
It is my hope that VJ’s story is a reminder not only that things like this happen in the world, but of the beauty and strength and power of those who struggle and survive the impacts of classism, institutionalized racism, and sizeism. Little VJ was a powerhouse and grown-up VJ is the same, with the addition of compassion, wisdom and love.
If you have a story you’d like to tell through this medium, contact me and we’ll see what we can do.