The Fat Experience Project seeks to become an oral, visual and written history project which creates a humanizing voice for fat individuals in body image activism. Through a global and topical series of filmed interviews and day-in-a-life footage, the FExP seeks to create a foundational resource for personal empowerment and societal education on the topics of size and body image.
These interviews will be both deeply personal and profoundly political — from heartfelt explorations of youth, family relationships, discrimination, sexuality, gender, shame and personal triumph to more academic explorations of oppression and the intersections of classism, racism, healthism, sexism, ableism, ageism and consumerism. These interviews will be smaller pieces of a greater whole — our individual stories woven together with an over-arching narrative view of geography, culture and politics.
With the materials collected during the initial phase of the project (the survey to select the interview candidates, the travel to conduct the interviews, the transcription and editing of the video) the Fat Experience Project seeks to create multiple resources, including:
– A dynamic website with streaming audio and video, sharing portions of the interviews categorized by themes.
– A traveling multi-media exhibition with portions of interviews shown by theme.
– A series of companion materials for Fat Studies and Women’s Studies courses that provide a humanizing element to academic explorations of fat and body image. – Contributions of consenting, anonymous data collected from individuals of size for publishing academics doing work in the realm of Fat Studies and body image.
– A published book containing a fictionalized series of monologues for stage performance — based on real-life interviews and featuring the voices of women of size — called Fat Girl Speaks.
– A parenting guide-style video featuring women of size speaking about their relationships with their parents (mothers especially) around their bodies, the formation of their relationship with food, and the impacts of the mother’s self-loathing on the daughter’s relationship with their own body and the concept of beauty.
Each of these individual projects are worthwhile and timely endeavors on their own, but together they provide a comprehensive library of resources to help alleviate shame, foster compassion, dispel myths, contribute to empowerment and positive self-image as well as explore some of the complex underlying issues which contribute to the oppression of individuals who fall outside the perceived societal norm of beauty. Through a combination of art, media, personal narrative and socio-political analysis, the FExP seeks to be a resource to activists and educators as well as a loving challenge to self-loathing, consumer culture, negative stereotypes and discrimination.
I have already conducted 41 interviews along the east coast of the United States in 2006 with a qualitative research assistant and a talented videographer. I have approximately 40 hours of interviews completed and am champing the bit to find additional resources of time and finances to move the project forward.