Light up the world
I’m here today to talk to you about a very powerful little word,
one that people will do almost anything
to avoid becoming.
Billion-dollar industries thrive
because of the fear of it,
and those of us who undeniably are it
are left to navigate a relentless storm
I’m not sure if any of you have noticed,
but I’m fat.
Not the lowercase, muttered-behind-my-back kind,
or the seemingly harmless chubby or cuddly.
I’m not even the more sophisticated voluptuous or curvaceous kind.
Let’s not sugarcoat it.
I am the capital F-A-T kind of fat.
I am the elephant in the room.
When I walked out on stage,
some of you may have been thinking,
“Aww, this is going to be hilarious,
because everybody knows that fat people are funny.”
Or you may have been thinking, “Where does she get her confidence from?”
Because a confident fat woman is almost unthinkable.
The fashion-conscious members of the audience
may have been thinking how fabulous I look
in this Beth Ditto dress —
thank you very much.
Whereas some of you might have thought,
“Hmm, black would have been so much more slimming.”
You may have wondered, consciously or not,
if I have diabetes, or a partner,
or if I eat carbs after 7pm.
You may have worried that you ate carbs after 7pm last night,
and that you really should renew your gym membership.
These judgments are insidious.
They can be directed at individuals and groups,
and they can also be directed at ourselves.
And this way of thinking is known as fatphobia.
Like any form of systematic oppression,
fatphobia is deeply rooted in complex structures
我们只看到了资本主义 父权制 种族主义
like capitalism, patriarchy and racism,
and that can make it really difficult to see,
let alone challenge.
We live in a culture
where being fat is seen as being a bad person —
懒惰 贪婪 不健康 没有责任心
lazy, greedy, unhealthy, irresponsible
and morally suspect.
And we tend to see thinness
as being universally good —
对饮食 身材 生活都掌控得很好
and in control of our appetites, bodies and lives.
We see these ideas again and again
在媒体言论 公共卫生政策 中
in the media, in public health policy,
in everyday conversations
and in our own attitudes.
We may even blame fat people themselves
for the discrimination they face
因为 毕竟如果他们不想被歧视 他们可以减肥啊
because, after all, if we don’t like it, we should just lose weight.
This antifat bias has become so integral, so ingrained
to how we value ourselves and each other
that we rarely question why we have such contempt for people of size
and where that disdain comes from.
But we must question it,
because the enormous value we place on how we look
affects every one of us.
And do we really want to live in a society
where people are denied their basic humanity
if they don’t subscribe to some arbitrary form of acceptable?
So when I was six years old,
my sister used to teach ballet to a bunch of little girls in our garage.
I was about a foot taller and a foot wider than most of the group.
When it came to doing our first performance,
I was so excited about wearing a pretty pink tutu.
I was going to sparkle.
As the other girls slipped easily into their Lycra and tulle creations,
not one of the tutus was big enough to fit me.
I was determined not to be excluded from the performance,
so I turned to my mother
and loud enough for everyone to hear
said, “Mom, I don’t need a tutu.
I need a fourfour.”
And although I didn’t recognize it at the time,
claiming space for myself in that glorious fourfour
was the first step towards becoming a radical fat activist.
Now, I’m not saying that this whole body-love thing
has been an easy skip along a glittering path of self-acceptance
since that day in class.
Far from it.
I soon learned that living outside what the mainstream considers normal
can be a frustrating and isolating place.
I’ve spent the last 20 years unpacking and deprogramming these messages,
and it’s been quite the roller coaster.
I’ve been openly laughed at, abused from passing cars
and been told that I’m delusional.
I also receive smiles from strangers
who recognize what it takes to walk down the street
with a spring in your step and your head held high.
And through it all, that fierce little six-year-old has stayed with me,
and she has helped me stand before you today
as an unapologetic fat person,
a person that simply refuses to subscribe
to the dominant narrative
about how I should move through the world in this body of mine.
And I’m not alone.
I am part of an international community of people
who choose to, rather than passively accepting
that our bodies are and probably always will be big,
we actively choose to flourish in these bodies as they are today.
People who honor our strength and work with, not against,
our perceived limitations,
people who value health
as something much more holistic
than a number on an outdated BMI chart.
相反的 我们把心理健康 自我价值 自己身体的感觉
Instead, we value mental health, self-worth and how we feel in our bodies
as vital aspects to our overall well-being.
People who refuse to believe that living in these fat bodies
is a barrier to anything, really.
医生 学者 博主们
There are doctors, academics and bloggers
who have written countless volumes
on the many facets of this complex subject.
There are fatshionistas who reclaim their bodies and their beauty
by wearing fatkinis and crop tops,
exposing the flesh that we’re all taught to hide.
There are fat athletes
who run marathons, teach yoga or do kickboxing,
all done with a middle finger firmly held up to the status quo.
And these people have taught me that radical body politics
is the antidote to our body-shaming culture.
But to be clear, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t change their bodies
if that’s what they want to do.
Reclaiming yourself can be one of the most gorgeous acts of self-love
and can look like a million different things,
from hairstyles to tattoos to body contouring
to hormones to surgery and yes, even weight loss.
It’s simple: it’s your body,
and you decide what’s best to do with it.
My way of engaging in activism
is by doing all the things that we fatties aren’t supposed to do,
and there’s a lot of them,
inviting other people to join me and then making art about it.
The common thread through most of this work
has been reclaiming spaces that are often prohibitive to bigger bodies,
from the catwalk to club shows,
from public swimming pools to prominent dance stages.
And reclaiming spaces en masse is not only a powerful artistic statement
but a radical community-building approach.
This was so true of “AQUAPORKO!” —
the fat fem synchronized swim team
I started with a group of friends in Sydney.
The impact of seeing a bunch of defiant fat women
in flowery swimming caps and bathers
throwing their legs in the air without a care
should not be underestimated.
Throughout my career, I have learned that fat bodies are inherently political,
and unapologetic fat bodies
can blow people’s minds.
When director Kate Champion,
of acclaimed dance theater company Force Majeure,
asked me to be the artistic associate
on a work featuring all fat dancers,
I literally jumped at the opportunity.
And I mean literally.
“Nothing to Lose” is a work made in collaboration with performers of size
who drew from their lived experiences
to create a work as varied and authentic as we all are.
And it was as far from ballet as you could imagine.
The very idea of a fat dance work by such a prestigious company
was, to put it mildly, controversial,
because nothing like it had ever been done on mainstream dance stages before
anywhere in the world.
People were skeptical.
“What do you mean, ‘fat dancers?’
Like, size 10, size 12 kind of fat?
Where did they do their dance training?
Are they going to have the stamina for a full-length production?”
But despite the skepticism,
“Nothing to Lose” became a sellout hit of Sydney Festival.
We received rave reviews, toured,
won awards and were written about in over 27 languages.
These incredible images of our cast were seen worldwide.
I’ve lost count of how many times people of all sizes
have told me that the show has changed their lives,
how it helped them shift their relationship
to their own and other people’s bodies,
and how it made them confront their own bias.
But of course, work that pushes people’s buttons
is not without its detractors.
I have been told that I’m glorifying obesity.
I have received violent death threats
and abuse for daring to make work that centers fat people’s bodies and lives
and treats us as worthwhile human beings with valuable stories to tell.
I’ve even been called
“the ISIS of the obesity epidemic” —
a comment so absurd that it is funny.
But it also speaks to the panic,
the literal terror,
that the fear of fat can evoke.
It is this fear that’s feeding the diet industry,
which is keeping so many of us from making peace with our own bodies,
for waiting to be the after-photo
before we truly start to live our lives.
Because the real elephant in the room here is fatphobia.
Fat activism refuses to indulge this fear.
By advocating for self-determination and respect for all of us,
we can shift society’s reluctance to embrace diversity
and start to celebrate the myriad ways there are to have a body.