August wishlist: birthday edition

In honor of my birthday, which is coming up tomorrow–can you believe I’m going to be 28?!–I’ve put together a compilation of things I’d love to get if a magical fairy fatmother showed up waving her wand at my front door.

If I actually had a fairy fatmother, the first thing I’d ask for would be a stable, satisfying job with good pay and benefits–but pretty things are much more fun to fantasize about.

You can click each image to go to the Polyvore set, which has the details.

August wishlist 1

 Cats, dogs, roses, rainbows…some things really haven’t changed in the last twenty years.

August wishlist 2

 I SO want these Nirvana and Courtney Love dresses from Vera’s Eye Candy, which I found through Betties N Brimstone–who had a dress custom-made in her size. Nirvana and Hole were a big part of my adolescent years, and I’d love to be able to wear that history on my body.

Vera’s Eye Candy also carries various items in the same fabrics as Domino Dollhouse – for example, this galaxy top and dress, and this rainbow digital print dress.

August wishlist 3

Another thing I would love to have, but that Polyvore wouldn’t let me clip, is a custom illustration by Natalie Perkins. Here are a few of my favorites that she’s drawn so far (via FLI’s Facebook page)–aren’t they gorgeous?

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An important perspective on fatshion

While poking around Tumblr (which I am getting more and more tempted to join, although the last thing I need is another way to waste time online!), I found this critique of fatshion:

Fashion is a (too) large part of fat activism and I can understand its allure but basically as I see it fatshion doesn’t mean shit against the actual issue of CLOTHING for larger/deathfats, medical access, spacing access, race, class and other intersecting oppressions.

I mean who is buying all that expensive ASOS poorly made clothing? Not anyone over an AUS size limit of 26. Maybe poor women like me drive themselves broke to have what we’re taught acceptably pretty acceptably fat women should have. Maybe middle class or wealth privileged smaller fats.

And also we talk about fatshion at the expense of talking about the complex ways clothing is used as social markers and about the way clothing can be used to visually construct identity.

The Sugar Monster added her perspective as another fat woman who feels alienated from fatshion.

I feel….well, pretty much the same way as Lisa Monster:

This is really important, and I really would like to be able to add to it. I definitely feel that finding the “fatshion” community was so important to me in my self acceptance, and I think right now I’m stuck between that place and being able to join the dialogue about the real issues for fat people, and I hope that it doesn’t seem hypocritical of me to be agreeing with all of this and still posting and reblogging all of the pretty clothes. I’m still trying to find my voice right now, but I really want to thank everyone who has spoken out in the past and who is speaking out now about the issues that exist within this community. 

Fatshion has been a huge (no pun intended) part of fat liberation for me. And I’ve been into playing dress-up–ahem, I mean fashion–ever since I was a little kid. It’s a form of creative expression for me, and it’s not something I can or want to give up. But I also think it’s important to recognize that fatshion doesn’t do it for a lot of fat people, for a lot of reasons. That there are many other paths to liberation. That fatshion, perhaps unfairly, takes up a lot of space in the fat acceptance movement–especially online.

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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 thinking about the commercialization of fatshion

(Earlier posts here, here, here, and here.)

I read another interesting response to Natalie’s piece, from Kath of Fat Heffalump. She argues that:

Fatshion is so much  more than mainstream fashion up-sized to fit a size 16 or 18.  Fatshion belongs to us, not to the fashion industry.  Fatshion will always be outside the margins, and will always be radical.  Fatshion belongs to here and now, not the past.  Fatshion is about finding your own style and rocking the hell out of it, flying in the face of a world that tells us we should never be seen.

I don’t agree with the premise that fatshion is always radical–I think that it, like almost anything else, can be co-opted. When fatshion becomes all about following trends, having the latest popular pieces, stoking an endless cycle of consumerist desires…then yeah. Not so radical. It’s a fine line, but I’ve seen a lot of fatshion going on that direction, and I’ve experienced that consumerist pull myself. It’s really tricky, and I don’t think that fatshion should be inherently immune from criticism.

But I do agree that there’s an amazing diversity of fatshion blogs, beyond the big names and the more commercially-oriented smaller names (some of who do have awesome style). And I agree that those bloggers shouldn’t be conflated with the small elite world of professional fatshionistas.

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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!

Twitter takes on fatshion blogging, capitalism, and revolution

I’ve been doing all sorts of thinking and reading about Natalie’s post, which I wrote about yesterday. This shit’s complex.

The most interesting analyses I’ve read have all been on Twitter. Contrary to the stereotype that Twitter’s all about what people ate for lunch, there are important discussions happening there.

Marianne Kirby‘s written some especially good stuff (read from bottom to top):

I really like this tweet from Natalie herself:

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And the ethics of fatshion get even more complicated…

Natalie Perkins—fatshionista, writer, and creator of the iconic fat necklace–has a very interesting piece up on XoJane.

Titled “When activism gave way to advertising: how fat girl blogging ate itself,” it argues…well, exactly what the title says.

Fatshion blogs have largely evolved to be in step with large clothing brands, and I fear that the joining of oppressed and oppressor in brand relationships is not furthering fat activism. I don’t begrudge authors of blogs deriving an income from advertising, but I’m concerned with the increasing hand that brands have in blog content.

My feelings about all of this are complicated, but first of all, I admire Natalie for speaking up. She’s an amazing writer, and it takes guts to criticize a such a popular model of blogging.

When I have many conflicted thoughts about something (as I often do–ever heard the saying that between two Jews, there are three opinions?), I find it helps to number them. So, here goes.

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