Why I blog about my outfits
Hello, I’m Natalie and I blog about my art, my body and my activism. It’s hard to describe what I do and what I talk about for a new audience because I’ve realised I have taken my own audience for granted up until now. So, to introduce here my activism for fat bodies and body image it feels quite overwhelming and scary. I’ll start at the beginning though – I am fat. When I say this to strangers they usually tell me, “oh but you’re not fat!” when in actuality I am fat. I have reclaimed the “f word” in a culture that has demonised it and the bodies it lives within. Western culture rewards bodies that fall into the norm, and so if you’re not the norm (most of us!) or if you’re not working towards the norm (by NOT dieting, NOT wearing “flattering clothes” or NOT being ashamed of our body) you fall into a category of person that is often ignored, insulted and patronised. It’s not just the media that does this, the practice of demonising bodies that aren’t typical follows us into our daily lives; when we go to the doctor for a cold and are admonished for being fat, when we go to lunch and feel ashamed about eating too much in public, or when we are with friends and talking about the ways in which we hate our bodies.
New media and fat activism.
In my part of the Internet, my blog operates within a space called the “fat-o-sphere”. Over the last 10 years as fat activism and size representation adapted to new media a whole new sphere was created by people demanding that their bodies be seen and their voices heard. We started by creating discussion forums and then branched out to blogs, first testifying to our experiences living in fat bodies and then realising that we could participate in fashion, an industry where fatness isn’t just made invisible but made vulgar, by demanding that designers and retailers cater to us too. On blogs we posted outfit photos, in one blow to normative body ideals we were styling ourselves in the garments we could find (that are so limited!) and in a second blow representing ourselves. Craving validation, representation and normalisation hundreds of new “fatshion” blogs have been created over the past few years and testify to the sheer number of people who are rejecting normative beauty and bodily ideals.
Bodies of all types exist in the world but we rarely see them represented in the media, and if they are they are used as caricatures. Two examples come to my mind readily: fat bodies are shorthand for greed and laziness, and disabled bodies are pitied and used as “inspiration” for able-bodied people. Very rarely do we see neutral representation bodies that fall outside the normative ideal; instead mostly white, able bodied, thin and cisgendered bodies have been normalised. This hurts us in so many ways, manipulating us into spending a lot of time and money in the pursuit of being a totally narrow version of “beautiful”. I propose that we are not flawed. Instead this definition is flawed. We should replace that narrow definition of beautiful with “normalised”. Thin, white, able-bodied and cisgendered bodies are normalised through mainstream media and thus our culture, alienating a whole population of people.
I’m a fatshionista.
So part of what I do on the Internet is take advantage of the fact that we, the people, can create and publish content. This content can be completely personalised and free of commercial constraints because blogs and social media can be developed at a relatively low cost. I’m not a TV network and I don’t need to care about appeasing advertisers or manipulating people into buying into what I’m selling by spending money on products that won’t necessarily work anyway. So what I do is post photos of myself to the Internet and I write about my body as a way of seeking representation, and maybe even normalisation.
I write about body image and fashion because I want people to know that there are other alternatives to self hate and feeling ostracised. For years I had no idea I could buy clothes on the Internet, and I was stuck with the frankly awful offerings in Australian brick and mortar stories; it was by coming into contact with fat activism online that I found other avenues to fashion, self love and a supportive community. Bodies like mine usually don’t get to dress up in designer clothes. Instead of “supporting local designers” or collecting pieces from super designers, most of us buy our clothes off the internet from the “high street” stores. The funny thing is, bodies like mine would absolutely consume designer fare if it were made in our size. But it’s not so fat people remain in a position where they’re portrayed as unfashionable and unattractive, when being fashionable and attractive is rewarded! It’s so frustrating and circular; I’m baffled when people fail to see this cycle.
Personal style can be a way to illustrate your moods and your politics. The two can’t really be separated for me, and because I am fat I don’t get to pick and choose exactly what I want so my clothes and my style can sometimes be shocking to some people, especially if they’ve got a concrete idea of what fat women are supposed to look like. The clothes available to me in Australia aren’t terribly fashionable, nor are they couture-like in quality. This excludes a whole bunch of people from participating in feeling fashionable, and for lots it’s a point of shame and drives them to body minimising behaviours. For me though? It makes me feel political. I am angry that our capitalist society doesn’t want me to love my body or feel fashionable and I am angry that people are hurt and excluded by this mechanism.
Blogging, while more accessible than traditional mainstream media, isn’t perfect. There are still barriers to access for lots of people because literacy, technical proficiency, access to the Internet and a camera are required. Even then, setting up a blog can be a daunting prospect because it requires social networking with other bloggers to gain readers and although we are taught that success equals a large audience, I’d like to think that overcoming the multiple hurdles to even start blogging is success in itself. Having the guts to represent yourself and your body, publish your writing or post your photos publicly is pretty significant.
Poking your tongue out at normative ideals is a major thing and comes highly recommended by me. I’ve met hundreds of new people, learnt about so many things and come to a new place in peace with myself. In fact I feel so passionately about blogging, fatshion/ fashion and self representation that my husband and I provide at-cost hosting for new fat activism and fatshion blogs because we are fortunate enough to have the skills to be able to help people. (If you want to start a fatshion or fat activism blog and need help, please get in touch!) It’s a powerful thing to be a part of; I want more and more people to access this form of activism and investigate the hurtful ways in which our culture disenfranchises people who literally don’t fit in.
Here are some links to things I’m involved in:
definatalie.com My personal blog.
@definatalie My Twitter account.
Axis of Fat A group blog about (mostly) Australian fat activism, writing and fashion.
Deathfatties A user submitted Tumblr dedicated to showcasing fatshion.