1. You’ve been called a ‘fat activist’: Is that something you identify with?
As fat is considered to be one of the worst attributes a person can have, actively partaking in any life activities as a person who is fat is an act of activism. Everyday necessary life activities like eating, wearing clothing and having sex are all things that fat people are not meant to do or are meant to do only in specific ways. Rejecting exclusion and limitations to embrace life in all its forms are acts of activism, even if this activism is involuntary.
Raising awareness of the pervasive discrimination fat people face is important to me. In my past and current work in fat fashion I have focused on empowering people (through increasing positive representation of fat people and increasing awareness of fashion choices and therefore encouraging personal creative expression. With this my goal has been to reach as broad an audience as possible, to be able to engage those that aren’t consciously interested in politics; guerilla activism if you will.
Deciding to curate the upcoming show ‘Fat Feminism’ was in part a response to this. My work with A Plus Market has given me the privilege of meeting and friending many many women that are radical fat feminists. It’s a great opportunity to bring these people together and deepen the conversation.
2. How did this happen?
Ha! How did this happen? I’ve really just stumbled my way into the ‘fatosphere’. I found the fat positivity community when I was first pregnant. With pregnancy being a very body and medical focused, both areas rife with hidden and obvious prejudice, I found myself seeking out alternate information and representation of fat peoples experience. During this time I became unexpectedly unemployed and as necessity is the mother of invention; I created myself a job. Noting both the deficiencies of the plus size fashion industry and the potential for a better and more positive experience I founded A Plus Market, Australia’s only regular plus size fashion market. A Plus Market self propelled in a way I wasn’t expecting and created the diverse, friendly and supportive community that we have today.
3. The endeavours you are apart of have a strong community focus. Is this something you actively try and foster?
Being part of a community and helping to build and strengthen connections is something that I find personally rewarding. Having a place to feel safe, to feel a sense of belonging is so important to everyone but can be particularly so for marginalised people. Through my work with A Plus Market and my involvement with a variety of other fat focused groups, I have seen and experienced first hand how much benefit comes from sharing experiences with people that face similar lived experience and injustices. Having the ability to meet face to face with regularity plays an integral role in forming strong cohesive connections.
The ‘Fat Feminism’ group art exhibition aims to scaffold the already fierce fat activist community but also grow and diversify our community and our channels of engagement.
4. Your art has a kind of quirky quality to it – and this exhibition seems a bit playful – why have you chosen
Hehehe I am playful!
I value fun. The themes of this show are confrontational in manner, potentially triggering and distressing, so I wanted to present in a different manner.
My art is playful because I find the subversive nature of a ‘joke’ a great way to Trojan horse into people’s minds and begin turning the cogs, maybe helping them to navigate new information or look at things differently.
There are however many ways to communicate this content, all of them being a valid and important contribution. This is why I wanted to bring together a number of artists for the ‘Fat Feminism’ group art show. We have a range of artist’s from a variety of backgrounds contributing art to the show, each bringing a unique perspective to the theme. It won’t all be quirky and playful.
5. Why does this exhibition focus on genitalia?
Whilst there are many pieces in the show that are explorations of the body, gender expression and sexuality and/or represent the nude human form overall there is not a strong emphasis on genitalia per se.
6. Would you say there’s a genre of art which focuses on a quirky view of genitals?
If the popularity of the wonderful work ‘Drawing dicks on the Herald Sun’ is anything to go by, yes. I believe there is a throbbing scene poking fun at and gleaning inspiration from the Cupid’s warehouse, members doodle regularly and strongly identify with many of the historical art movement ‘isms’ including sexism.
7. How does fat activism and or feminism fit into this theme of sex and sexuality?
There are so many ways that gender, sex and sexuality are worth discussing in regards to fat activism and feminism.
There are so many rules and expectations in regards to sexual identity solely that are gender biased. Our current society sexualises women, but not all women, only a specific selection that fit into the current prefered beauty standard. Both fat activism and feminism have a similar response to this and it is basically a big up yours to having such limited ideals and extremist mentality.
Everybody, no matter their gender or size, deserves the right to express themselves in any manner they choose, including sexually. Fat people have their sexual expression silenced and/or simulateously hypersexualised to be regarded as a fetish. This seems to be a similar manifestation of the oppressive view of the slut/prude paradigm that denigrates women for embracing sex positivity, that women have agency in their sexual expression.
When not being fetishised the stereotype that fat people are in effect devoid of sex is endlessly perpetuated by the media. As an example the vast majority of Hollywood films it is the fat girl that is portrayed as the goofy sidekick, overlooked for love or sex in preference to the societally accepted version of the pretty, white, skinny main character.
This though is just one example. Bigotry doesn’t happen in a bubble; it is complex. The ‘Fat Feminism’ show aims to tease apart the intersection specifically of fat and gender discimination but also disect the compounding nature of the many other forms of discrimination that people face, whether it be sexual identity, race, age, class, socioecomic, mental or physicl ablity, religion or ethnicity.
8. Is there a distinction between a feminist and a fat feminist?
There are so many versions of feminism that I think to define it is a really personal endeavour. For me, personally, I view feminism from a white cis female fat body, so my personal experiences as such inform my views. I personally align myself as an intersectional feminist. I feel there are complex and cumulative effects of different types of discimination: gender, race, size, social class etc, etc.
The ‘Fat Feminism’ show aims to tackle this complexity, highlighting discrimination that is specific to fat people and how gender discrimination does or does not play a role.
9. And so what about gender?
Feminism in its essence is entirely about gender. It questions gender stereotypes and aims to dismantle gender roles as to increase equity and equality for everybody. Gender roles are exasperated when also considering fat stereotypes. As but one example, fat people are often stereotyped as slobs, lazy and unkempt. This has resulted in pressure for fat people to feel the need to overcompensate their outward expression of gender. For example, some fat women feel a need be hyperfemine, being perfectly groomed, displaying amenable personality traits, partaking in certain domestic duties and occupations. Choosing to wear a pretty skirt and some make up is all well and good but feeling pressured to conform to an extreme can be harmful. This too then has carry on effects for those that do not fit into traditional gender roles.
This example may seem inconsequential to some but it is just one example. Those who are gender diverse, non-binary or trans and cis-men may also feel pressures around their gender expression and their fatness. Fatphobia is so entrenched in our culture that its influence on gender and all that entails is difficult to weed apart. From discrimination in the workplace, the medical industry and so forth and so on, the intersections of being fat and other aspects of who we are or how we identify creates a complex and difficult chasm of inequality.
10. Your art often explores the edge of what’s ‘normal’ to people, which might make some people uncomfortable – do you think this exhibition might be offensive to anyone?
We are a group of fat feminists doing a thing that doesn’t directly serve the patriarchy!
There will always be someone to offend, some people would go as far to say that if art isn’t causing offence then your not doing it right! The aim of the ‘Fat Feminism’ show isn’t to offend though. Our intent is to raise awareness of how gender politics and size influences discrimination.
We are aiming to create a safe space for all to explore. Themes of fat shaming, obesity stigma, media portrayal, diet culture, sexuality and gender discrimination specific to fatness, along with personal and individual reflections will be tackled. This is potentially triggering for some people.
11. How did you come up with the idea to unite a group of artists together for this event?
This idea has been slowly percolating for a couple of years. Having worked on A Plus Market and being part of the founding Curvy Couture Runway team I have seen the benefits of having a shared space to participate, connect and explore what it is like to navigate life as a fat person. The fashion based events have primarily been driven and focused on women. Most if not all in the fat fashion and the fat activist community would be described as strong, fierce, independent feminists. Being a visual artist myself and having developed my event management skill set over the years I felt I was in the privileged place to develop the idea into a cohesive and interesting show. When I came across the folks at Noir Darkroom, having a similar ethos of grassroots activism I knew I had found the perfect opportunity to expand the idea.
Selfishly, a big driver behind the show is that I want to be exposed to a variety of ideas, to be challenged by my own preconceived bias and privilege, and what better way to do this than to bring a group of artists together. Plus I love a party and opening night is set to be a hoot!
12. Who are the artists in the ‘Fat Feminsm’ show?
The collection of artists is diverse having had an open call out to any and all people interested in making a contribution. We are still interested in hearing from people that want to get involved – see the Noir Darkroom website for all the info!
Contributing artists include; Brooke Edwards, Kaitlyn Francis, Airdrie Makim amongst others.
13. Your contribution to the event is called Fur Burgers and Deep Fried Dicks – Is that what’s on the menu?
During the opening night there may be some more palatable offerings such as deep fried eggplant. Any burgers or dick eating would need to be negotiated on a case by case basis. All of the work that I am contributing has an underlying theme of sexuality. Sex in some realms can be considered taboo, with fat sex far more so. People of size are either stripped of their sexuality or fetishised with no in between. Fat people are just as diverse as everyone else, fall somewhere along the sexual spectrum. The deep fried dick piece is actually titled ‘man eater’ a common slur against feminists. The fur burgers too represent one of the worst insults usually directed at feminists – ‘a fat hairy dyke’. I am using tawdry humor to mock such insults, to empower myself and the audience at how silly such bigotry is. There is also the nature of the food being ‘bad’ both a comment on the madonna complex and fat people being only portrayed as unhealthy gluttons.
Too, I’ve used this opportunity to expand my art practice. I am usually a drawer, so this is stepping out of my comfort zone and creating art in new ways for me; exploring found object collage and sculpture.
14. What would you say to someone thinking about coming to your show?
Please do! Everyone is welcome to come along. It will be a fun show but also hopefully prove to challenge the current status quo. You can learn something by growing your awareness and empathy for your fellow humans may face.
Too if you are keen on life drawing we are hosting a special life drawing night – Fat Life Drawing!
15. Why Fat life Drawing?
As exploring and celebrating a diverse range of body types increases acceptance we will be hosting a life drawing night with a fat model. People of size are generally underrepresented in a life drawing context so this is a rare opportunity to celebrate your own creativity, the fat female form all whilst engaging in your own act of activism! Plus it’s fun!
The “Fat Feminism” runs from September 25 to October 6. Opening night Thursday September 26, 2019 at NOIR Darkroom, 57 Moreland Rd, Coburg
Fat Life Drawing will be held Thursday October 3 7-9pm