Happy blogiversary to me!

Can you believe it’s been a year since my first post?

I’m so glad I started this blog. I had been lurking in the fat-o-sphere for years, but through blogging I’ve finally become an active participant–and even started organizing events. I’ve had interesting conversations, made friends, inspired and been inspired.

This has been a great year, and I look forward to the next one!

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Online fat communities: where are we going?

A few recent conversations have got me thinking about the state of fat activist spaces on the internet today.

Unfortunately, a lot of the most interesting thinking in FA is happening in a space that’s not explicitly fat-positive: XOJane.

It comes closest to filling the gap left by the late, great Shapely Prose. Although there are a decent number of fat activist blogs out there, and even more personal blogs that sometimes write about FA, those aren’t quite communities the way Shapely Prose was. There’s a lot of FA work taking place on Tumblr, but most of the blogs don’t even have comments enabled, so only other Tumblr-ites can interact with them. And then there are communities that are fat-positive, but have a different overall focus, such as Shakesville and Captain Awkward.

My feelings about XOJane in general are…mixed. They publish a lot of great, thoughtful writing on everything from disability rights to living on food stamps. But they also publish a lot of poorly-written, inflammatory linkbait. And don’t even get me started on the whole Hugo Schwyzer debacle. (No, literally, don’t get me started. It was gross and I don’t want to think about it.)

It’s definitely possible to skip over the shitty stuff, especially if you stick to reading the regular authors you know are awesome: Lesley, Marianne, s.e., Kate Conway, Somer, anything Lindy West cross-posts from Jezebel…but not everyone wants to do that, nor should they have to. Some people don’t want to read the site at all after it published HS, and while I don’t feel that way myself, I can understand why they do.

And when it comes to FA, well. There are a lot of fat-positive pieces, both by fat-o-sphere fixtures Lesley and Marianne, and by other, less established authors.  There are important internal critiques like Natalie Perkins’ piece on the commercialization of fatshion blogging. And there’s a significant community of fat-positive commenters who both go deep into the nitty-gritty nuances, and joke about starting fat girl gangs a la West Side Story. (Read the thread starting here, and prepare to sing along!). There’s a definite sense of solidarity topped with rainbow sprinkles of humor.

BUT it’s impossible to avoid the reminders that this is not, actually, a fat-positive space.

Reading the comments on fat-related pieces can be frustrating. The majority of them are on board with fat acceptance, but there’s always one or two people who derail the whole thing with their trolling about the Dangers of Obesity. Depending on how many Sanity Watchers points you have to spare, it can be annoying, or it can be triggering.

Personally, I read the comments anyway, and try my best to skip over any derails. But sometimes I get sucked into reading them and wish I hadn’t.  And I can understand why some people don’t want to read the comments at all, which means they get left out of the discussion–and that really sucks.

What does it mean for a movement when its strongest voices are 1.) getting paid by a site that does some pretty shitty stuff in the name of page views and 2.) writing in a space that can’t be declared explicitly fat-positive?

What does it mean when a community takes root in a space that 1.) could disappear if it stops making a profit and 2.) contains a decent number of members opposed to that very community’s existence?

What does it mean when so many of our discussions are happening in a space that isn’t ours?

I don’t have answers, really. I don’t begrudge any of the XOJane authors what they do–and it seems like they have a lot of editorial freedom, which is awesome. I don’t begrudge anyone for not taking on the work of building a new Shapely Prose. Moderating a site like that must be exhausting.

But I do wonder about the path we’re heading down.

I wonder about how to forge a different path.

More on the advertising/activism divide, and why I’m not monetizing my blog

The internet just keeps being interesting.

Bronny at Fat Aus has a great post about how earning money from her blog sucked all the fun out of it. Between her piece, and a similar piece I read a while back (I can’t find it again, but I originally found it through an Already Pretty link roundup, and it was written by a woman who blogs about parenting, domestic stuff, DIYing home goods, etc.), I’ve made up my mind pretty decisively that making money from blogging isn’t for me.

It’s something I considered for a while–I’ve read a great deal about the world of professional blogging, especially on a site that I love for its all-around glamour and colorfulness, Rock n’ Roll Bride. I’ve spent some time studying the advertising pages of blogs like Scathingly Brilliant and the Offbeat Empire.

I’ve fantasized about free pretty things and glamorous events, about a source of supplemental income based solely on my love of shiny objects. But after all my recent reading and reflection, I’ve realized it’s just not right for me.

This is not to say I would 100% rule out any kind of advertising or working with a brand. As I mentioned in my last post, I currently have one ad on my blog, for an independent hair-accessory-maker who gives me a discount in exchange for running it.  I wouldn’t be averse to putting up similar ads from other indie designers who I genuinely like, and if someday someone wants to send me free stuff? Well, I like free stuff.

But I’m not seeking it out. I’m not blogging with the intent to monetize, and I’m not interested in diluting my voice by writing sponsored posts. I’m not judging others who do–it can definitely be done ethically, and if it works for you, great! But it’s not for me, for so many reasons: both the personal ones and the larger concerns about the commercialization of fatshion.

On another note related to Natalie’s post, Ariel of Kiddotrue has proposed a fatshion activist idea:

We are trying to place the focus back on the brands and hold them more accountable, right?

Why don’t we pick ONE brand to focus our energy on and put our resources into getting more than a standard stock answer from about extending their size range. It may not work, but it would be lovely to see everyone work together on something to try and change the system, even in a relatively minor way.

She suggests ASOS Curve as an initial choice, for multiple reasons. I really like this idea, and I hope it turns into a full-fledged project. I’m glad to see that Natalie’s reflections have sparked at least one idea for action!

The complex ethics of fa(t)shion blogging

Fatshion: the intersection of revolution and glitter.

Through another one of Sal’s link round-ups, I found this thoughtful post on the ethics of fashion blogging.

RK makes really good points, but I have some thoughts that complicate the matter–especially when it comes to fatshion.

1.) Fatshion is radical. It’s about taking up space, showing the world that fat women (and men) can have fun with fashion too. That we don’t have to wear muumuus, unless we want to. That we won’t put up with shitty clothing options from major retailers like Lane Bryant. That we don’t believe the right to self-expression should end at a size 14.

Fatshion is about inspiring people never thought they could dress themselves in a fun and creative way. It’s about inspiring people who used to think they were only allowed to wear black, or vertical stripes, or small prints. It’s a way of building community, both in the blog-o-sphere and in physical spaces like plus size boutiques, pop up stores, and clothing swaps.

Fatshion, for many people, contributes to the process of loving their bodies–although there are many other ways to do so, and neither fatshion nor loving your body should be mandatory.

2.) Enjoying compliments on your style is not an inherently bad thing, especially if you’re also complimenting others. Sure, it can get out of hand if it becomes your sole motivation, and then it’s a good idea to step back a bit.

But for fat people, compliments aren’t just good selfish fun. They’re an antidote to the ridiculous amount of negative messages we receive every day.

I’m lucky in that I’ve never gotten fat-related insults from strangers. I’ve never been mooed at, or called a fat ugly bitch from a moving car, or judged on my shopping cart contents. But these are all things that have happened to other women in the fat-o-sphere. And despite my luck at dodging such explicit insults–and in fact getting regular compliments from strangers on everything from my glitter bows to my dark purple skinny corduroys–I still have to deal with something like 386,170 fat-negative messages a year from the media.
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Blog announcement #2

So….after reading Issa’s post about NaBloWriMo (i.e., writing one blog post per day for the month of November), I’ve decided to switch to that from NaPoWriMo.

Which means, lucky readers, that you’ll get more posting instead of less!

I have somewhat conflicted feelings about this. On one hand, blogging is where my heart is right now. It’s what inspires me. It’s where my creative energy wants to go.

On the other hand, it feels like a cop-out. I love poetry, and have a hard time getting myself to write it. So the idea of devoting myself to it for a month sounded like a wonderful opportunity and challenge: a way to get away from screens, slow down, turn inward.

The problem is, I don’t want to turn inward right now. I want to turn outward, to connect.

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