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Research project: did you go to the Fattylympics?

The Fat Geography Massive (aka Bethan and Rachel) were the people organising the Gym Knicker Blinging stall. They are also researchers who do work on fat activism, and are doing some research on the Fattylympics, with Kay's and my support.

They are looking for people to give accounts of the event to help document the activism and community organisation that took place so that it can inform future fat activism and can help develop academic work on the creation of size acceptance spaces.

If you would be happy to be involved in this research, please email them on and they will send you more information - if you email them you can still decide not to take part after you've got the information, they promise they won't spam you.

Being called disgusting, ugly, and unhealthy did not destroy me

A person made a mean and thoughtless comment about one of Substantia's Adipositivity portraits of me recently, I saw it just now. This is not front page news, I get trolled fairly often and I don't expect everybody to like what I do. Neither do I need reassurance that I'm nice, good, pretty enough as I am; whether or not I embody those things is irrelevant to me, I'm as complex as anybody else and I trust my sense of ethics.

I'm intrigued by the comment, if anything. I think this is because I am writing this morning about my affective response to obesity discourse. I often write about obesity discourse and the fat hatred it engenders in abstract ways, but here it is, like dirty smoke manifesting from the ether, finding a vessel in this person. The comment represents the entitlement of the discourse, its arrogance towards and alienation from the subjects – fat people – with whom it is apparently concerned.

Other people might feel devastated by such a comment, but I don't. This is not because I'm not a thinking, feeling person myself, I often feel hurt by things. It's because its separation from anything that is meaningful to me about being a fat dyke, or a person in one of Substantia's pictures, means that it will make no difference to how I live my life. The comment feels as mystifying and alien as if an ant had tried to explain something to me in ant-language.

I decided to look at the comment more closely and pick it apart a little, there's so much going on in that short statement measuring the value of my presence in the world. It goes like this: "I'm sorry, but this will never be beautiful. It's disgusting, it's ugly, it's unhealthy."

It starts as an apology but is not an apology. Why say sorry? What apology are they making? Are they trying to gently divest people from their fantasy that the photograph of me is something that might help them feel as though they can live in the world?

They use the dehumanising words "this" and "it" when talking about me. Or is this about me? Perhaps it's about the picture, the outfit, the street or, more likely, the fat on my body as an entity that is separate to me.

They use the term "never". How can they know? Many people have expressed deep affection for this picture. As it was being taken, a guy on the street asked for my number (that's him in the foreground blur). On what authority can they make that claim of "never"? It's nonsense.

It's kind of amazing to be called disgusting! I wonder if the person feels like vomiting when they see me, if that feeling of disgustingness is about trying to eject me from their own being because I upset how they want things to be so intensely. I secretly hope so because, apart from someone shitting or dying at the sight of you, this is the ultimate punken reaction. I am glad to be so disruptive and uncomfortable a presence.

But being called disgusting and ugly doesn't make sense in the context of their Tumblr. There are lots of pictures of punks, how come they don't recognise how punk I am? There are images of fat people too, cartoons mostly, how come they're ok but I am not? Scrolling through, I can see images of someone gleefully pointing a gun at the viewer; a wave of blood; a chainsaw killer; a hanged yuppie with a plastic bag over his head; Charles Manson; a woman with a pretty punched mouth and another woman with a pretty black eye; a stitched wound; a potato shitting chips! I am uglier and more disgusting than those things in this person's universe, I think I'm supposed to mind, women are supposed to care about being called ugly, but I don't.

The commenter does not know me and does not appear to have any qualifications that would enable them to assess the state of my health, yet they feel entitled to judge me. Typically, this form of judgment brings with it none of the compassion that one might extend to someone who was unwell, not that I want to be concern-trolled.

I don't know how to end this. I think I'm astonished by some people's capacity for thoughtless meanness, perhaps I don't come across much of that in my everyday life. The experience has made me reflect on how profoundly the internet affects how I live, the things I can do and witness, a life without it is unimaginable. It's made me think about accountability online, how off-the-cuff comments are not necessarily throwaway. Mostly I feel strong, politically and intellectually engaged with what it is to be fat; I feel alright. It's a miracle, really - actually it's not a miracle, you're looking at what happens after 20+ years of work.

PS. I sent this: Hi there, I wrote a blog post inspired by your comment about my picture. Perhaps you'd like to respond? It would be good to generate some dialogue. Tumblr won't let me send a link but you can get to the piece by Googling 'Obesity Timebomb'. Charlotte

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