What’s your fat experience?

Founder Stacy Bias emailed us yesterday to alert us to the launch of her new website, The Fat Experience Project, which The Rotund has already rhapsodically reviewed. From Stacy’s email:

The goal of the Fat Experience Project is to map the global experience of fat in a way that is human, has a face, a heart, a mind, a body and a voice. The Fat Experience Project is an oral, visual and written history project which seeks to be a humanizing force in body image activism. By collecting and sharing the many and varied stories of individuals of size, the Fat Experience Project seeks to engage with, educate, empower and enrich the lives of people of size, our allies and the world at large.

As the project grows, it will be filled with first-person, non-fiction narratives (in text, video or mp3 format) that speak to the many and varied aspects of the life lived large. Some of the content will come from interviews already gathered on an extensive 2-month road trip (with the lovely Val Garrison) in both audio and video format. Some content will come from trips on the horizon. Most content will be submitted via the website by readers such as yourself.

It is my hope that the project will be a community tool to combat prejudice/stereotype/discrimination as well as to help externalize shame so it can discussed and dissipated. The things we keep silent about are the things that do us the most harm. Shared burden is lighter. I am hoping, as well, that the project may eventually be used as a humanizing resource for fat studies and social anthropology courses.

Take a look at the site — it’s gorgeous, and I think really exciting things are going to happen here. There’s not a ton of content yet, but the existing pieces are thought-provoking. What I like best is that there’s no simplification, no attempt to smooth over complexities. Around here, for instance, we acknowledge the supreme difficulty of being fat-positive, eating intuitively, and so forth, and we admit that we don’t always manage it, but we do try to keep a positive face on things. We don’t want to give shame equal space; we acknowledge it in order to talk about moving beyond it. At the Fat Experience Project, if someone’s feelings are negative, that’s just their fat experience, a valid part of the larger Fat Experience. People are going to talk openly about their shame and fear, and people will also talk about approaching and gaining love and acceptance. It’s all part of the same goal: breaking the dehumanized, othered Fat Monolith into thousands of individual voices. I think both approaches have a lot of genuine value, and I’m excited to see this one handled so beautifully.

Please check out the project and send in your stories — I want to see Shapelings represented here. I think you guys are the perfect subjects for this project; you are strong-minded and rational, but you deeply understand the shame and fear that comes with having a non-standard body. And I hope you and Stacy will all work to make this project representative — that means getting the voices of fat people of color, fat people with disabilities, fat men, etc. I’m excited to see where this goes.

19 thoughts on “What’s your fat experience?

  1. Wonderful article, have been reading the blog forever and realized I had never commented on it.

    That site is indeed beautiful and I will make sure to send in a tale or two to help it along.

  2. Oh, and per your last paragraph — Yes yes yes!!! PLEASE help me to make this project diverse and representational. It’s early days. Diversifying early on is paramount to the long-term success of the site. If the stories fall inside a narrow margin, then the site will be pigeon-holed as such, even if that’s not its intent, so please do bring your many and varied experiences to us. We want to hear everything!

  3. You know, when I first looked at the site (at The Rotund’s suggestion, of course), I immediately thought “hmm… I should send something in.” Then I thought “wait… would that be too arrogant of me?”

    Ha! No confidence to arrogance in 8 short months. Just ask me how. :D lol

  4. nuckingfutz: Seriously! Me too! From dieting self-hater to a woman considering posting a picture of herself in her new bikini online (stay tuned …) in, yep, eight months!

  5. Well, I’m fat AND a writer, so I’ll definitely send something in. I’m always more than happy to see my writing posted/published somewhere other than my own blog. lol

  6. Off-topic, but I figured y’all might find this interesting:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15843196/

    There’s a whole special section there about how stress affects health.

    The article is surprisingly balanced when it comes to stress-related eating habits, and actually quoted someone who loses weight when she’s stressed, rather than harping on the stereotypical depressed, donut-stuffing fattie thing.

    One of my pet issues wrt fat and health and such is trying to get people to understand that stress–far, far more than weight or even eating/activity habits–is the real root of most disease–including weight changes that aren’t related to one’s natural setpoint.

    I wish more people understood that stressing about one’s weight is actually the dangerous bit–not the weight itself.

    There’s a reason, after all, that New Yorkers, despite generally having low BMIs, nonetheless die a lot faster than, say, Hawaiians, who often have very high BMIs and yet live for quite some time.

  7. i love stacy to pieces!

    i met her through NOLOSE a few years ago….and had the fortune of being interviewed by her in early ’07…at the time, she wasn’t exactly sure what was she was going to do with the written material and video footage she collected (if i remember correctly)…

    i’m glad she’s decided to use this treasure of experiences….

    go stacy! (and kate and the rotund for mentioning it….y’all are made of teh awesomeness!)

  8. crossbuster, I don’t really know what your point is, but yes, men’s voices are underrepresented in the fat acceptance movement (despite the fact that Paul is one of the founding members of the fatosphere). That doesn’t negate the fact that we’re talking about one privileged class and two non-privileged classes, but in this particular context, while male privilege of course still applies, it would nevertheless be easy to put together a group of voices that didn’t include the male-identified.

    I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you might want to cool it just a tiny bit, okay?

  9. Diversifying early on is paramount to the long-term success of the site. If the stories fall inside a narrow margin, then the site will be pigeon-holed as such, even if that’s not its intent, so please do bring your many and varied experiences to us.

    Stacy, I’m glad to hear that diversity is important to you and to see you’re not being defensive about it. I particularly appreciated you mentioning intersectionality on your site. One suggestion, in the “what we are looking for section” you list a bunch of topics for people to talk about. You might want to include something like “How has your fatness affected your gender presentation/identity?” or “Does being fat change your experiences within political movements you identify with?” or something. I’m not being very good at thinking of topics, but I think including some that are geared towards people of color, trans people, queers, etc. would be helpful.

  10. Thanks Julia! I added a few more questions to the “What we’re looking for” section — and took yours specifically into account. :)

  11. Sorry for the tangent, but does anyone know a good discussion of pros/cons for the term “people of size” (as opposed to “fat”) that they could point me to? I’ve gotten kind of used to saying “fat” (rather than “obese”), and I’m wondering if it would be more appropriate/productive to use “people of size,” as Stacy does in the email.

  12. eyelinerpirate — re: “people of size” vs. “fat” — Honestly, I prefer Fat. To me, *EVERYONE* is “of size” in that, we all have a size, whatever it may be. However, because I want a wide variety of stories from people at a wide variety of empowerment levels, I vary terms in the language of the site, and in its promotion. It’s a conscious choice to use multiple ways to say fat, though I shy from the terms obese (because I find it too medicalizing) plus-size (plus WHO’S size?) and overweight (Over WHO’S weight?) as well as the more…foofy ways to say fat. (rubenesque, zaftig, etc.) “People of size” seems the least pandering of options to me, but I admit it’s inherently flawed as a term.

Comments are closed.