I have a 'thing'. I am fat. Not 'curvy', not 'fluffy' and there's not 'more to love'. Just fat and pretty fabulous yes? Haha.
It's a funny thing to come to terms with in this world, being fat. It's difficult. The most positivity I've had in regards to the way that I look is when I was suffering from an eating disorder at around 14-16 years old. People would stop me to comment that I looked 'so much better', 'wow look at you!', 'can't believe how much healthier you look!'. Gee, thanks. That made me feel so much better when I was sobbing into the one apple a day that I allowed myself to eat. Brill! Looking back I'm utterly stunned that people didn't think that the muscly, bright, cheery, fit but chubby little girl who swam, danced and rode horses competitively was 'healthy'. But comment they did and I can see a direct correlation between things that were said, faces that were made, assumptions that were held about me and my later eating disorder.
At 15 I injured my hip pretty badly so I couldn't manically exercise in the same way and it's much easier to eat when you're not walking miles every day so I did and, as a metabolism is wont to do after it's been abused for two years, I gained weight at a terrific speed. Throughout uni and afterwards I tried various diets, fads and exercise regimes which all left me sad and disappointed when I failed and I turned, dare I say it, into a meek little thing. Honestly - I couldn't look people in the eye, could answer questions about myself, wore drab baggy clothes. Ugh.
Then the shop happened. Which was, and still is, a massive shock. Slowly I gained my confidence. If you ask me, I'm still doing things by the skin of my teeth, scraping by, never with enough money but people are impressed and proud and they let me know! More than any other thing the way that people have acted towards me has been a huge boost to my self esteem. Hopefully, I don't need to tell you how important self esteem is - without self esteem what's the point of getting up in the morning? If you're not worthy what's the point of eating healthily or exercising? How are you going to behave kindly towards others if you're not kind yourself? How can you see beauty in anything if you can't find it in yourself?
I guess I'm trying to explain how important actions (and I include in that words because speaking out loud is an action but also body posture, facial expression, where and how you spend money, kind deeds etc.) are. Towards other people and towards yourself. But I've been noticing more and more microaggressions lately, in my shop and elsewhere. As I understand microaggressions, they are tiny little negative (or aggressive) sayings or thoughts or sentences made - knowingly or not - about me, my shop, my customers or people that they know. (Read more here). It seems that the concept of micro-aggressions don't sit with people that haven't been on the receiving end of them (as in, they don't believe microaggressions happen) so let me take you through just a few to illustrate what I'm trying to say:
- To me who was eating celery for lunch (something that I do regularly - celery and carrots... mmmm) - "Oh, it's good to see that you're finally looking after your health".
- Man to his wife in my shop - "Fat women should only wear dark colours".
- Customer to me - "I don't think designers should include fat sizes in patterns, it's their own fault" (WTF?! How does that affect your small sizes?!).
- Customer about herself - "I want to hide my fat arms".
- Customer about somebody she knows - "I'm dead lucky because I got all the hips and boobs, my sister's skinny like a rake... hahaha".
- On showing a picture of a (fit!!!) mixed race knitwear model to a customer - "Oooooh, I don't like them interracials (sic)".
I want people to leave my shop feeling happy, inspired, healthy (if I can - I'm sure there's some sort of colour therapy in here haha) and that cannot happen when people are still making the kind of assumptions that lead to statements like this. It doesn't work.
I've been a bit cut up about it recently - I don't know whether it's the change in the sort of websites I'm visiting and books that I'm reading, or the people I'm around (hello Dee and Vezza) or the way that I feel about myself, but it's becoming more and more apparent to me. It is, of course, entirely possible that it's happening more. I'm going to be the change that I want to see and I hope that you all want to be the change that we all want to see (and if you don't want to see it then... well...). Not only am I going to be positive to all of my customers (their body types, their colour, their style of dress, their ethnicity, their shape, their everything!) which I hope I already am, but I'm going to call out every micro-aggression that happens in this shop including micro-aggression towards oneself (I did it today to a woman on a downer about herself!).
And now for a list of sites I think you all should visit:
Dances with Fat (Thanks Dee for sending me here!).
XOjane.co.uk (not entirely body focussed but lots of lighthearted articles interspersed with some hard hitting stuff). Particularly - Do This Don't: Be Fat and Go Sleeveless.
Volup2 facebook page (a high quality online magazine focusing on non-traditional beauty i.e. fat people, disabled people, people of colour, older people etc.).
Tess Munster's Facebook Group (an amazing plus size model who's political to boot).
EverydaySexism project on Twitter (you've probably heard of it, it's an incredible mine of micro-aggression stories).
Have you got anything else I can add to this list???
I do hope this blog is taken in the spirit that it's intended i.e. empowerment and if it's not then I suspect we'll be having words about micro-aggressions sooner rather than later... ;)