Wednesday, 5 February 2014


As in, what's left after I've finished the day's business and I'm lying in bed at night and I must admit recently it's been a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I want to talk about body positivity and how it relates to my shop and it will be a bit political and it will be a bit feminist and I don't apologise for that and I hope that even if you think they might be bad things you'll read on and know that this is just common sense and common humanity.

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)". 
Can you see? These are just off the top of my head (and fat is my 'thing' as I said above so apologies for not being more inclusive) and four of them have happened within the last two weeks so goodness knows what's been said and I've forgotten about and don't get me started about stuff that doesn't happen in the shop (suffice to say I'm happy to be a little more aggressive when I'm not asking for money...). It's not right and it's not on. It doesn't fit with how the world should be - i.e. the connection between how people act, speak and behave towards one another and self-esteem.

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!). (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... ;)

Any thoughts?

Eleanor. xxxx


  1. Great read and I agree wholeheartedly.

  2. Hooray! I'd like to add Shapely Prose ( to your list - it's all archives now, but it's full of great writing.

  3. yay! go you! glad to be part of the body positive cheerleading squad and help swat microaggressions, we wouldn't put up with people walking round sticking pins in our body, why let them do it to our psyches?

  4. I so loved 'falling' into your shop and sitting with you and having a chat last September! [Lady from Perth Western Australia] You made my day and I have loved keeping in touch through Facebook and twitter. I also love looking at photos of wool and knitting too!!!! I think that having this connection with my time in the UK is very special and treasure it. So think about the positive affects you have on people that you may not even be aware of and I am sure there are many of those.

  5. You got there at a much younger age than I did. It took me many years of "hiding" and trying to conform to the "norm". yes I've been slim(mer) and I can honestly say that it was good at the time. But the real me is what you see now. I am happy with how I look too - don't worry about what other people say (mind you I have always been gobby) and I am settled. yep that's a good word - settled. Settled in my body and as good as I can be every day (despite the Fibro).
    Well done Eleanor - you keep at what you're doing and enjoy life.

  6. I couldn't agree with you more. Everyday I try to accept my body for what it is and move on, but little jabs from people, who seem to think you're incapable of hearing them... The rudeness and ignorance of some people never fails to disgust me. I'm glad you're better now after hearing about your past and look how far you've come :D

  7. I absolutely love this post Ele. You really are an inspiration to us all.

  8. WOOOOOHOOOO! I'm a fat, vegetarian, cheese and chocolate eating, swimming, cycling, walking, dancing and singing around the house person! Though I only run if I'm running after a bus =P no need to go overboard!
    Sorry (I'm not really sorry) that my joy of life goes against people's expectations of fat people being feeling unloved, unattractive, unhealthy, self-hating and depressed.

    Cherise xxx

  9. Well I for one think you are great wen I email you with all my questions you have so much patience and I love the fact I am speaking to an honest and happy person who has so much passion!! The thought of ordering from you makes me so happy lol, then even better my husband is always so happy when he leaves your shop after collecting my order. I wish I could come in the shop more but last time I was in my wheelchair took up so much room I felt bad for the other customers who were literally climbing over me lol!!!

  10. What a fabulous piece of writing! I hadn't heard of the term "micro-aggression" before, but can totally relate to it. It manifests in so many ways on all kinds of topics....those throwaway comments that people make that can be so hurtful and demoralising. I met you for the first time last Friday, when I swept in out of the rain to ask about knitting socks. What a wonderful welcome I got, so warm and enthusiastic about your passion. Your customer service was exceptional, and I am thrilled to be knitting my first pair of socks, in the beautiful striped wool you suggested.. I got the sort of reception you always hope for in a specialist shop but often don't get. You made my day!