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The Fat Studies Reader is available for pre-order from NYU Press. Edited by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay, it's got my short essay, "Why Fat Girls Need Fiction," and tons of other great stuff, including essays by [ profile] charlottecooper, [ profile] mermeydele,[ profile] bearsir, and I don't even know who all else. There's a foreword by Marilyn Wann. I really do think that the publication of this anthology represents a kind of watershed moment for fat liberation, making a lot of thought, writing, research and scholarship about fatness more visible as active, engaged, insightful, important and of interest to a lot of different individuals and groups than it has been before.

Also, Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere by Marianne Kirby and Kate Harding is available for pre-order, too. Marianne blogs at The Rotund (link to lj syndication), and Kate blogs at Shapely Prose. I first noticed Marianne's writing on fatshionista, and it's really interesting to see voices come out of these online forums and make an impact on mainstream culture.

And not a moment too soon. Go team!
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I just saw the terrible news that, in the nearby city of Springfield, 11-year old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover has hanged himself after enduring anti-gay bullying. Evidently, his mother's attempts to talk with school officials about the bullying did not result in an effective response. Oh, I feel for that child and his family.

It makes my heart ache, it really does, for all of the children who are harassed at school, who have to fight so hard to find the inner resources to get through the attacks, often in isolation. It happens so much around perceived gayness or queerness. It happens around so many things. It happens around fatness.

I experienced harassment around being fat as a little girl and a high school student, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. Other kids didn't perceive me as queer, but there was no missing the fact that I was fat. I've heard stories of children who have killed themselves in response to fat-related bullying, and a quick google turned up more. I'm not going to link to them -- reinvoking all of that waste and loss and sadness seems as if it might not be helpful.

But, I also heard this week that Massachusetts schools are starting to send reports on students' BMI home to their parents. And, very sadly, I think that this kind of institutional focus on weight and the bullying of fat children is related.

Here is an excellent article linking school programs that focus on fat kids with bullying by Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, who wrote The Tyranny of Health.

Here is the main page of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network, which looks to be doing amazing work against bullying in schools.

Here are strategies around children and weight from Body Positive.
susanstinson: (trike)
The Fat Girl Fleamarket is today in New York City. Open until 8.

In honor of such a mighty moment, I give you:

  • Charlotte Cooper's account of the Invasion of the Chubsters event at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. That's in her rich blog, Obesity Timebomb.

  • youtube video of a closing song and spontaneous dance at the event that made my eyes well up. Honor also to [ profile] jasonelvis for curating and all.

  • Deb Malkin of Re/DressNYC interviewed in Plus Model Magazine. As Deb talks about in the interview, she is one of the founders of the Fat Girl Flea and, although she can't be there this year, she has poured a lot of work and love into it over the years.

  • The lineage of what I was wearing yesterday when I was videoed reading excerpts from my novel for the Jonathan Edwards Center website. I had been thinking that we were just doing audio, so I hadn't picked out my clothes to be on camera, but what I had on was:

    • the black linen jacket that I got at the Re/DressNYC opening. I would have succumbed to being overwhelmed with options at that event, if not for the intensity and focus of [ profile] beccawrites, and I'm really loving that jacket. We were thinking job-hunting clothes, but I'm wanting to wear it all the time.

    • a gold and black sleeveless silk top with calla lilies, hand-me-down from my beloved friend, Lynne.

    • The black skirt I got for Christmas that my mama hemmed to the perfect length for me. She's making me a top out of some blue checked fabric out of her fabric stash right now. I never appreciated these arts as much as I should have when I was a girl. They are highly charged with complicated feelings and practical advantages. How lucky am I that my mother can and is still willing to pick up a needle and thread on my behalf?

    • black leggings

    • marled ankle socks from Sock Dreams, which I learned about via [ profile] theoryofgravity.

    • my sturdy, new balance black shoes, because those are pretty much always the shoes.

    • I had on the vintage pearls that my friend gave me after she heard I had lost the other string!

    Can you see it? The beautiful way that varied relationships and communities are threaded into the clothes I had on? The power that the histories of those articles of clothing drape me with when I go somewhere like Yale Divinity School (where another community of people has been consistently wonderful to me)? The ways that the clothing that has been given to me or made or altered for me or made available to me has expanded the vocabulary I have with which to address the world?

And how events like the Fat Girl Flea and the Invasion of the Chubsters keep doing that -- in cloth, in images, in experiences, within and outside of language -- for expanding circles of people who are able to find ways to get themselves there or to make such moments on their own?
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There were a few light flakes of snow as I rode in. There's supposed to be a big storm coming tonight.

Following me up the steps this week was the man who cried last week. He was very polite, almost meditative in the way he went my pace as he walked up the stairs. About the third flight, he said something I couldn't understand, and laughed in a friendly way, but when I said, "What?" He said, "Oh, nothing." Then, he mumbled something like, "We're going the same place." I smiled and nodded, both because we were and because it made me happy. I stepped aside and gestured for him to go up the last flight ahead of me. It felt a little like starting the dance on the stairs, with all the placards telling us anyone can dance.

I spent some time with a cushion on the floor, stretching and playing a little with how it feels to get up and down. I watch people go to the floor with so much grace, but what is between me and the floor is something else. For one thing, if the chairs of the world are too flimsy or too small, the floor and the grass or the ground always stretches out to accommodate me, and I take it up on that, sometimes regardless of propriety. Because my arthritic knee needs padding under it if I rest my weight on it on the hard floor, I get up like a baby, walking myself up with my hands on the ground, my legs a little straddled and and my butt in the air. I was self conscious about that when I first had to figure out how to do it, but now it comes naturally. So, yeah, I don't swoop down and leap up, but I bent over and slapped the floor for a while today, like people make steps with their feet.

They played Rock Steady! What it is what it is.

I was trying not to jump around because my knee was sore all week, so I spent a long time planted in one spot. But then they played some kind of country song, and I couldn't figure out what to do with it until I started skipping all over the room, which felt like flying, it was so fun. Other people started doing something like it, too, and it was pretty delicious to weave in and out of everybody dancing (a young willowy girl in a black leotard and filmy skirt who danced with her even younger sister like a ballerina letting her hair down; an older woman doing contact improv with a young man -- her son? -- who might have been autistic, rolling him over her back, dancing with another woman her age as they both kept physical contact with him; a little girl tossing a rubber snake back and forth to her mom; couples doing swing dance moves), I liked it, and my mess-with-me friend from last week was doing it, too, but I has to skip out the door in the middle of the song to gasp and drink water, because I am not so used to moving that fast.

Later, when I was dancing in a corner, a young woman came over to hug me and tell me that I radiated joy. A guy who had been dancing behind me said, "You have more fun than anyone." Which might be true. I think that this was something that I've been needing -- in a time when I'm looking urgently for paid work, and holding the experience of getting so much no and silence back from putting my beloved book out into the world, when my personal obstacles can set up a clamor with the big struggles and hard times -- to have somewhere to stretch physically, socially, emotionally, to explore connection and separation, to move. It's very wild to me that this is a bodily thing, not an intellectual thing, not about language, and that I've started to feel reflected back there in a way that I've been thirsty for. There are a lot of things about it that almost embarrass me, especially once people start talking, but I can't afford the luxury of indulging my taste for critique, not now, not yet, maybe not at all. Mostly, I'm just grateful that it's there, even for the likes of me, and that all I had to do was find it, drop my five dollars in the basket and dance.
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I got interviewed last week for a book on fat and stigma that will be coming out from NYU Press (which is also publishing The Fat Studies Reader). I'll let you know when it's published. It is a powerful thing for me that the author, Amy Farrell, who I had met when we both presented in the Fat Studies track of the Popular Culture conference a couple of years ago, has read all of my books. It was a pleasure to talk with her. She asked me about poems from Belly Songs that I wrote more than twenty years ago, bringing the emotional resonance of that work to life again with the intensity of her engagement. Before she came, I went out on the porch and got out the ladder to reach the boxes with my books about fat. I spread them out all over the table and the couch: chapbooks of poems, Panza Monologues from Texas, copies of FaT GiRL (Bertha making vegetable pudding -- yum!) and Size Queen, Fat and Proud, so many books by people I know or have met or may never meet. The weight of them is something. Among them was Shadow On A Tightrope, which was the first fat liberation book I ever read, read so hard that its pages are falling out, like my copy of Whitman's Leaves of Grass.
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  • I was going to skip dancing this morning, but my body wanted to do it, so I jumped on my trike and went downtown. I liked shaking, liked the drummers, liked rolling around on the floor and kicking my legs in the air, walking my feet up the heated pipes along the wall. Okay, maybe I really am a hippie. I was singing "The Age of Aquarious" as I pedaled away.

  • I rode to State Street Fruit to get a ticket for a poetry performance, then read about Dickens and mesmerism at the bagel place.

  • The big poetry show was at the Academy of Music. There were slam poets I enjoyed, but the deep heart of it, for me, was Richard Wilbur. I got to hear him read poems I love, including this one.

    In which he says to his daughter, who is working on a story, about writing:

    It is always a matter, my darling,
    Of life or death, as I had forgotten.

    I'm needing nerve, focus, and flexibility. There are so many ways to keep getting there: movement, poetry and community among them.


Feb. 6th, 2009 01:29 pm
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The Re/Dress NYC opening reminded me of a reading at a women's bookstore in the eighties, except with an overwhelming amount of gorgeous, big-enough clothes and burlesque dancers instead of books and novelists. But the feeling, that feeling of an excited crowd pouring in and being welcomed in ways that they couldn't quite believe (except for those who know, for whom this is home, and those folks, in between eating strawberries, trying on hats and making Sputnik plans -- I asked, it's a monthly dance -- they were all pretty cheery and happy to say hi) and finding things that they might not have been able to say they wanted, that old time gonna-change-the-world-one-poem-at-a-time headiness totally translated into vintage linen and rhinestones.

That's surprising to me, but it's true. A lot of that's about Deb Malkin, the store's owner, who was resplendent on Wednesday in a corset and a plaid bustle skirt from Bertha at Size Queen. The store has a narrow, open space above the huge floor, and looking up at Deb with her decollatage and bustle while she leaned over the rail to talk to somebody below was the kind of vision of determined joy in action that can go a long way to get a person through a cold, tight February. I know Deb through fat activist circles, and, as so many of you do, here on livejournal, and I feel graced by that. And, for me, that was a huge part of the experience, getting there with Leah and Tony and Becca, abundance already, and then seeing so many folks who I respect or admire or feel slow affection for, and so many others who were in the midst of their community, having a party, and so many others blissed out by treasure hunting, dazzled by what they could find and wear and afford. I think I got the last glass of champagne, but I was long since high on the sheer, crackling plenty of it all.

As I'm writing here about clothes shopping, about plenty, I keep getting little scratching thoughts about my own money worries and about how it's a moment of economic change and fear for many (and nothing new in that for many more), but, for me, this strange, sudden abundance in the form of a vintage clothes store beyond a fat woman's dreams didn't feel out of balance. It felt like a palpably generous human endeavor, a beautiful risk in inviting the fat girls (self defined! a big range of folks! many genders, and plenty not girls, but this was my feeling, my experience of the moment) in to play.

The truth is, I didn't even begin, literally did not even begin, to scratch the surface of looking at the clothes. I don't know if I could have taken a fraction of it in if I were there on a quiet afternoon, and as it was, I was too excited by it all to have a chance. But I decided to look for work clothes, and Becca helped me try on jackets and gathered a whole bunch of possible pants for me, and gave advice and got feedback. I came home with a short black linen/polyester jacket, size16 (I'm telling you -- the whole world tilted), and I'm wearing it as I'm typing. It cost me $12. I'm kind of in love with it. It's a simple thing, but it's clearly a power object, and smells, ever so faintly, of a good, gone perfume. Becca made me swear that I'd iron it, but I haven't, just yet.

A tall woman at the back near the row of spectacular, glittery dresses held up a long brown item that swept low in the back and high in the front, and asked us, "What is this?" We decided that it had to be a dress, because it was so long, but eventually we talked someone else into to putting it on, and it was a ballgown skirt. It swept the floor and made a magnificent funnel tornado twirl when she spun. It zipped together in a v at the back. I was in line to check out before the dancing started behind a woman who was bought two elegant purple bags full of things, one of them with black boots sticking out of the top. Her voice shook with emotion when she said thanks. I think the neighborhood word is going to spread fast.

I didn't see into the dressing rooms with the zebra striped curtains because they were all occupied, but I saw the eponymous picture on the one named for Mama Cass. I just took off my leggings and tried on pants in my pink tights in the wide, wide spaces between racks. Deb showed me my own picture among all the others in the cozy lounge, with its gold couch (the woman sitting next to me explained that she was a graduate student in journalism liveblogging the event). Someone from the Mayor's office read a proclamation making it Re/Dress day in Brooklyn, so much better than trying again to put the whole borough on a diet. The dancers could do amazing things, and I was struck by their athleticism, the strength they used to move, along with everything else. Bertha literally made me cry by talking to me in an enormously present way about my novel, and the hard moment I'm in with its fate in the world. We didn't get a chance to talk much, but she went in so deep so fast and looked in my eyes. It almost makes me cry again, just thinking about it. I talked a little with Geleni (so many people there! so many faces shining among the clothes), who said that having online lives together was like being in touch through the collective unconscious. This trip to Re/Dress really did feel like a wade into that kind of common pool.

And the store is there, open, ready for other, quieter other days, ready for other explorations of what kinds of cuts and fabrics people have the means and the impulse to inhabit. I ran across a phrase recently in Netherland, a novel I loved: entrepreneurial wistfulness. It's been haunting me for various reasons: because I have that for my novel, I think, in that, separate from what it has in it as a book, as what I want (I always want this) to be art, I also want very much to have it make its way in the world. I can taste it, I can feel it, as a character in Netherland dreams of a cricket stadium. Re/Dress (that tiny poem of a name) is past wistfulness into the very tactile present, and it's a fabulous place to walk into. I'm going again, when I can.
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  • I found out about it on I'm going to go fold clothes for the hospice shop and collect canned food for the survival shelter tomorrow from an event I found there, too. There's a lot to be seen about the Obama administration, but I appreciate that they found me a place to dance.

  • It was snowing this morning. Not too much, but it made for hard triking! They had barely plowed, so I had to ride right in the middle of Route 9, in the only place that wasn't thick with snow. The cars had to go my speed until I pulled over to the deeper stuff and let them by. I almost didn't go because of the snow. (And, you know, fear.)

  • When I got to the drive for the Fitzwilly's building (site of an encounter last summer with a rude man and his motorcycle) I had to get off and push the trike through the slush. A woman walking asked if I needed help, but I was waiting for her to go by. She was nice, then she went into the door I was headed for. Two other people, looking happy, went in, too. Okay!

  • It was on the fourth floor. (Another reason I almost didn't go.) I could hear the drumming. There were placards along the stairs with quotations from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They were saying beautiful, profound things. I went slowly up the stairs and read the placards. This made me both less winded and less scared.

  • I took off my boots in the anteroom. I like an anteroom -- it's good to have another moment of transition. I peered into the room -- everyone was the floor while someone danced in the middle. Yikes! But they looked like old hippies, and other generations of hippies. Hippies and artists taught me how to dance in the first place. I like them, in general. I'm not exactly one of them, but I dance like them and I understand a lot of their ways. I liked the sound of the music.

  • Then, there was a little dressing area, where I took off my coat and my jeans, and saw the nice woman who had offered to help me with my trike. She said that she hadn't been there in a long time, and I said that I never had before. "Oh, you'll love it," she said. I go too many days when I don't have nice, simple, small conversations in person with someone else. This was very good, and I was also glad that there was no talking once a person went in to dance.

  • I put my can of baked beans into the basket. I put my five dollars in another basket. People were up and dancing now, and, why not?, I started to dance. There were handsome women drumming and singing in the front. There were grey-haired men in tie dye. Some people rolled over each other or lay down on mats and did acrobatic dancerly moves, alone or together. They were fun to watch. Lots of women my age or older, including a couple of fat women. A few kids running and laughing. Mostly white, but not everybody. I started dancing at the back near the nice lady from the driveway. People looked at each other lightly, not demanding, but with some sense of welcome. There was a window with a ledge that always had someone sitting in it.

  • The drumming was good for shaking, arriving that way. It felt so good to move. I was quickly too hot. I had on leggings and a body suit and a little brown dress that came in the [ profile] amarama's magic box for my birthday, with straps on the sleeves that dangle and fly. I liked having a skirt I could swirl by the hem.

  • After a while, a grey-haired man who was tie-dyeish came up to dance with me. He did a shaking all over thing, like me, and hand motions, like me. It was funny and fun for a minute or two, and then the song was over, and I sat down on the floor, and that was enough of that.

  • I liked the live drumming and singing. After they left, I liked the highly altered version of We Will Rock You. I stomped and even jumped up and down, which might not be wise. There was a tall, blonde woman who struck me as an lgbt person, who was smiling very sweetly at me and pressed her hands together and bowed a little when I smiled back, stomping.

  • I didn't dance in the big line and circle with most people at the end. Wasn't quite ready for that, but did stand up and dance on the outside, and that song ended with a piece of a speech by Martin Luther King, not "I Have A Dream," but he was talking about a call to love.

  • Then we watched a video on the wall. The Dells doing the Star-Spangled Banner, with a background of intense images from African American history, including slave imagery and a lynching. I watched, and felt it, and followed the lines from the writing I've been doing over the past few years to these images and back.

  • Then, there were circles. We said our names, and drew a quality from a basket. I got "education. " Then we went around with announcements. Afterwards, most people left, but I stayed for a small circle in which people talked about their experience at the dance and anything else that was coming up for them. Nothing was perfect, but the whole thing had this quality I love of a bunch of people trying to keep something happening because they care about it and because they think it might be a good thing in the community. I folded up a couple of scarves and put away a few placards.

  • Right before I left, the tall blonde woman came up to me and whispered in my ear, "I loved to watch you dance. You're a dancer. " That was lovely. And it felt true -- I felt like a sweaty, hippie dancer, in my body, ready to trike home (the roads were plowed! an old hippie guy that I'd seen at the dance actually threw me a peace sign with his fingers from his car window as I pulled out on my trike!), and being the other things that I am, hot to tell the story to you.

  • Now it's 3 pm and I better eat lunch and do the next thing. But the dancing felt so good!

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According to reports on a recent study published in Gynecologic Oncology , fat women have the same survival rates for ovarian cancer as thinner women when their chemotherapy dosage is based on their actual weight, rather than on ideal weight.

Here's a quote from the MedPage Today summary:

All patients received chemotherapy administered according to their actual body weight. Often, chemotherapy is administered based on ideal weight, which may lead to insufficient doses for obese patients, according to the researchers. Emphasis mine.

I'm sitting here, breathing into my hands for a minute. Women, I don't know how many, have died because their treatment was based on the body that the culture insists they are supposed to have, rather than the bodies that they actually have. Fat women in our millions have been told that we bring a higher risk of death from ovarian cancer upon ourselves by being fat when that higher risk of death has been and is being caused by a failure to adjust treatment to the size that our bodies actually are.

And note that the action points in this article, addressed to doctors, involve two suggestions about explaining the study, but not the obvious suggestion that chemotherapy be administered based on actual body weight rather than on ideal weight.

Yes, of course, I absolutely would get on the scale at a doctor's office if it actually resulted in treatment that would benefit me rather than another follow-the-pointing-finger-dance-through the flamier regions of the BMI chart. The last time I was scheduled for minor surgery, the anesthesiologist called me the night before because he hadn't been given my file, and wanted to know if there was anything about me that he might need to know. That he thought to call me up made me respect him a lot. I gave him an accurate estimate of my weight. He was noticeably surprised, but made appropriate adjustments, and the surgery went well.

This seems so obvious and matter of course, but now it also seems that it doesn't routinely happen for patients receiving chemotherapy, and so more fat patients are dying.

And so more fat patients are dying.

I am so angry.

[ profile] bearsir posted the first link I saw about this. ETA: There is also now a response from [ profile] foamcore to bear's post that gives some useful medical context, and suggests a way to advocate for more research about the specific effects of drugs on fat people.

We have to advocate for ourselves and our loved ones. What else? What would change this practice? What would help?

ETA: [ profile] nerd_dog pointed out that Kate Harding wrote a post about this today at Although there is plenty of vituperation, some of the responses raise the point that fat sometimes responds to drugs differently than other tissue, and so sometimes it might be appropriate to dose based on "ideal" weight (although, to me, the use of this term is a pretty clear marker for bias), or on other things, such as skin surface, rather than weight. The news in this article seems to be that this is not the case with ovarian cancer. I don't have the skill or time to try to tease out bias from science here (although past experience would suggest that often there may be some of both in operation), but one point is clear: in terms of ovarian cancer, this study suggests that dosing should be based on actual weight. And, to this point, it often has not been.

And me, I feel reminded to ask careful, insistent questions about body size and dosing in relationship to healthcare.
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  • In getting ready for the talk last night, I went into the box of old files in the bottom of my closet. I've got a lot of stuff in there, programs from various fat gatherings over the years, a set of consciousness-raising questions about fat that a group called WOW used in NYC in the seventies (might have lost that...), an outline of a workshop an older fat activist gave me when I was first starting to do public speaking around these issues -- she had used it in the late seventies/eighties. (I'd cite her by name, but I should probable ask permission before I do that on the internet.) And my own stuff in various forms, including answers from workshops where I asked people to interview each other about fat politics, and written responses to Fat Girl Dances With Rocks from a college class on women and economics that had been assigned to read it. Also chapbooks and zines. Not to mention at least three or four antique fat liberation t-shirts. I wonder if I could get the Sophia Smith Archive interested in some of it.

  • I talked about this past Nolose and the cold pool and quoted [ profile] stillwell's keynote before I read Drink. I talked about FLARE and read poems dedicated to [ profile] cherry_midnight, and had a conversation with a charismatic and fired-up young person who has applied to law school at Berkeley, is eager to work on legal issues with the disability rights center there, and who asked me what needs to happen to end fat oppression. (I said something like I think that the whole economic and political system needs to be built over from the ground up, and that the only way I know to start that is to do whatever you and your friends can come up with next, learn from your mistakes, and keep going.)

    She also said, "Don't be offended, but I think that fat has a lot in common with disability, especially facial or cosmetic disability." I said, "I'm not offended! There are serious political alliances to be made, lots and lots of common ground, including in many of our own bodies."

  • It was moving to me to be reading work from Belly Songs, some of which I wrote in the mid-eighties, and to experience the aging in my body in some of the changes over time in how it feels to move with the poems. And to have Sally there, and be able to talk in public about how she helped publish Belly Songs when three of us formed a micro press out of a lesbian writers group we were in way back in the day, and how she helped organize the speakout against fat hatred when I was reeling from fat hate mail, and how stepping up for the hard parts and taking full pleasure in the rest of long, deep friendships is so central to sustaining political, artistic and intellectual work, especially on hetereodox, complicated issues like fat oppression.

  • I cited [ profile] amarama's box of clothes and [ profile] charlottecooper's recent beautiful draft of a paper about fat activism. Some folks took copies of the paper. I was feeling the presence of some of y'all on my friendslist, for sure.

  • There was a warm feeling in the room. People were listening with beautiful, serious intensity. It was good to see [ profile] maryjholliday and [ profile] somechicksings. It was good to talk with the organizers from Size Matters about what they've been doing and thinking about. It was good to let the writing have the life of being heard. It felt good to do the work.

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Here are a bunch of resources on fat politics for folks who come to my talk today for Size Matters at Smith College. And, of course, for anybody else who is respectfully interested (ETA: There may be other good links that come up in comments; in fact there already is one to the excellent Body Impolitic.):

Big Fat Blog

Body Image Bibliography

Charlotte Cooper

Council on Size and Weight Discrimination

Fat Activist Network (new!)

Fat Liberation Archives

Fatshionista Livejournal Community

Fatshionista Website

Fat Studies Forum

Fat Studies UK

JunkFood Science

Linda Bacon, especially her Health At Every Size Manifesto

One program I particularly like at NAAFA is The FLARE Project: Fat Legal Advocacy, Rights and Education.


Obesity timebomb

Susan Stinson
Read fiction! It expands a person's capacity for empathy, imagination and other adventurous qualities crucial to creating gorgeous social change. Good stories make the heart pound and beautiful language quickens the blood.

My books:
Belly Songs: in celebration of fat women
Fat Girl Dances with Rocks
Martha Moody
Venus of Chalk
(there's a link to an excerpt here.)
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Happy Love Your Body Day. (That's more complicated, grueling and gorgeous than it sounds for any mortal human, says me. And maybe we can extrapolate and expand from the whole "day" thing, too, yes?)

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On Wednesday evening, I was riding my trike on the bike path to go to the house of friends for dinner. Near the beginning of the path, a group of maybe twelve or so boys (junior high age? or high school?), came out of the wetlands on their bikes and gathered in a big clump across the path in front of me. They were some distance away, but, immediately, I heard the overexcited, loud voice of a kid looking my way and saying rude things about my body, intended, I think, both to be heard by me and so be hurtful, and also, for sure, to be noticed by his friends for wit and nerve in breaking the ordinary rules of how people treat each other.

He decided it would be funny to break away from his friends and ride his bike as hard as he could directly at me, looking me right in the eyes, and yelling, "Aw, shit," over and over. It was very theatrical, the joke being that I was so huge that he was in terrible danger that I would crush him. He actually was putting both of us in some danger, because that was some stupid bike riding. I just kept going, so if it was also a game of chicken, he lost. It played out without other commentary -- his friends didn't laugh or move, at least until, glaring and relieved, I finally rode by the big group, and a couple of them muttered something about heavy machinery.

Dinner was beautiful and abundant. So good to see my friends.

I haven't replaced my bike light yet (it's $60, and when I took it into the shop, they said to try cleaning the corrosion on the inside with steel wool, but the result was that I went from having uncertain light to none at all), but I'd brought a flashlight to strap to the handlebars with bungy cords for the darkness of the path, away from streetlights, on the ride home. First I had it strapped wrong, so all of the light went up into the trees, but it was pitch dark at the start of the path, and I rode off the edge into dirt right away because I couldn't see. So I adjusted the light. The part of the path that goes through Florence was easy, since there were lights from the town to help me see, but just before I got back to a darker section, a rider with no lights, who, in my quick glimpse of him looked like another boy, slipped onto the path in front of me from the street. He stayed just in front of me for the rest of the path, and I had to keep adjusting my flashlight to catch his reflectors so I wouldn't run into him.

It's almost poetry now: the shapes farther up the path, approaching or riding away, the kind of ugly thoughts they pulled out of me, and also the beauty. One of the things that sticks with me is how clearly I saw the first boy, the one who charged me, as I stared into his face. I saw his moment of calculation before he started yelling. I had on sunglasses, so he would have missed my eyes, but my face must have been so present for him, too. And then, on the way home, the flickering shape in front of me, comfort and obstacle both, maybe wanting to stay on the asphalt with my little capsule of light, maybe wanting the company, too.


Jul. 5th, 2008 11:35 am
susanstinson: (Default)
So, I was writing a post, a happy one about oak apples, when the phone rang.

"Is this Susan?" asked a young female voice.

She didn't sound like she was in a roomful of telemarketers, so I went ahead and said, "Yes, who's calling?"

She said, "I'm calling from CVS about some prescriptions that need to be filled." She mentioned a prescription I refill every month and an asthma spray that I stopped using when one day, when I went to pick it up, they wanted something in the range of two hundred dollars rather than the forty I was used to paying, because I'd changed plans within my insurance company and this plan didn't cover it. That was a bummer, but I use a substitute they do cover instead. This happened months ago.

I explained about the asthma spray, and she said, "So, just the other?"

I've got plenty of pills left, so I asked, "Is it that you need to call my doctor in order to be able to refill next time?"

She said, "No, CVS wants patients to be compliant with their meds and wants them to fill their medicines on time."

You know, this makes me angry. It feels like a small moment that is a microcosm of a big, persistent problem in the way health care is perceived and practiced, in my experience. My impression here is that what CVS wants is to make as much money as possible filling prescriptions (and that a rainy fifth of July might be a slow retail day at the drug counter). But, even though they were seeking me out to press me to order drugs that I don't need, the explanation for why they were doing that was framed in terms of concern about my "compliance" or lack thereof.

That's insulting. It's shaming. It's a nasty paternalistic lie which serves as a poor smokescreen for the profit motive. And -- along with the genuine, serious and often skilled desire to help people live fuller, longer, more delicious lives in our mortal bodies -- I feel this kind of shaming disingenuousness as a dangerous element in many of my interactions (most where I am visible as fat) with healthcare.

It's not helpful. And I won't be going in to the drugstore today to pick up a med.

PS I liked this discussion about HAES in [ profile] deeleigh's journal the other day.
susanstinson: (Default)
I got a postcard from NAAFA urging everyone in Massachusetts to make calls and send emails to our state senators and representatives, since the proposed bill, H. 1844, is coming up for a vote in June. In Northampton, my legistlators are Rep. Peter Kocot and Sen. Stanley Rosenberg. Here's the email I just sent. If you live in Massachusetts, perhaps you'll do this, too.
Read more... )

lj pps Registration for the Nolose conference in Northampton this September is now open. And the deadline for workshop proposals has been extended to July 1.
susanstinson: (Default)
I got a letter from a student at a school for the deaf. He told me that he was working on a project on discrimination. He asked if I had ever been discriminated against, or knew anyone who had been, and if I would write him about it with advice about how to handle discrimination. Here's what I said.  )
susanstinson: (Default)
Here is a really good story by my friend, Sally Bellerose:
Potatoes, Sex and Security in The November 3 Club.

When we took our first writing break at her house today, I sat down on her couch, and there on the coffee table, was the Style Section from this Sunday's New York Times, complete with a great picture of Deb, Anne and Glenn! They are also beautifully quoted in the article about the new Brooklyn Flea Market, where Deb is selling vintage clothes size 14 and up as she gets her new store Re/Dress up and running.

Sally let me take the picture home for my bulletin board.


Apr. 1st, 2008 10:02 pm
susanstinson: (Default)
  • Alison Bechdel is going to be at Amherst College tomorrow (Wednesday!) at 8 pm. I'm going! Details here.

  • The Nolose conference is going to be in Northampton, September 26-28. Look out!

  • I hear that letters and phone calls to Massachusetts state legistlators are the most important next step on H. 1844, the anti size discrimination law, so if you live in the state, that would be a great thing to do. Who they are and what the contact info is is easy to find online. I emailed Peter Kocot, the Northampton representative, about it, but haven't heard back from him. The legistlators have to act on the bill by June.

  • I'm in the middle of a spate of intense work on the novel, and won't be around here for a while. I want the book to be intellectually and emotionally adventurous! Aesthetically thrilling! Humanly compelling! Pages turning and turning and turning. Whoa nellie, do I ever aspire!

  • It's raining. There's something I find so moving in this common, intimate way about the sound of a car driving past on a wet street when I'm inside my apartment, warm and dry.


susanstinson: (Default)

May 2009



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