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Three Quick Questions: Charlotte Cooper

Three Quick Questions is proud to be known 'round these parts as the "World's Shortest Interview." We ask three questions of a person in the fat rights movement, and they answer. This week I interviewed Charlotte Cooper. Charlotte is a prolific writer in England who focuses on fat culture and lesbianism, and she's also giving the keynote speech at this year's NOLOSE.

BFB: What was the most recent thing you did for fat lib?

Charlotte: Well, today I didn't diet. I haven't dieted or watched my weight for about 15 years. I feel as though I should get some kind of 12-step award for that: 15 years clean of dieting! Gimme a golden keyring! I'm joking but it still feels triumphant.

I top up the money I earn from writing by working part time/freelance as a corporate drone at the headquarters of an oil company. This rotten place is filled with really career-driven work hard/play hard type guys. I've never seen a fat one. I think I am the fattest person in the whole of the corporation. Anyway, one of the perks of working for a company for whom money is no object is that there's a swimming pool in the basement of the building. I swim there every week. I'm a good swimmer and I overtake some of these fit young play-hard guys. They don't see me coming at all, I know I am invisible to them as a woman, as a fat person, as someone who is ancient at 36 years old, as a dyke. Today I stood next to a bunch of them in the showers afterwards. I stood there half-naked in my swimsuit and I stood there without shame in my body. Later, when I was alone, I thanked my body for swimming so well and so freely.

There's other stuff too. I'm writing this on work time - The Oil is supporting my fat activism! I force myself to look at people's bodies without judgement, just trying to see them as they are. I've been yakking about fat liberation with my friends, working on my keynote for NOLOSE, posting on various pro-fat message boards, reading some papers by my Finnish pal Hannele Harjunen, who has been writing about fat and disability and stuff.

I should say that a lot of the stuff I do for fat lib involves scheming and dreaming. For example, lately I have been disgusted by the discovery that Roche, the drugs multinational who manufacture the weight loss drug Xenical, sponsors the International Obesity Journalism Award and therefore gets seemingly neutral journalists to promote the myth that we're in the midst of of an obesity epidemic in order to sell more product. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about revenge! Their sneaky propaganda seems so wrong to me that I'm determined to so something about it, so I've been quite preoccupied with that. Outrage is part of my everyday experience of fat liberation.

The other thing that I've been scheming about today is my girl gang, The Chubsters, wondering how I can develop the website further.

So it all runs through me, it's part of life, and that's what I've done today.

Do you think that fat acceptance has to be a radical movement, a conservative one, or a little of both?

My personal taste is for radical action, I like the energy, the humour and the imagination that goes into street-level actvism. But looking at other liberation movements, it's the diversity of the approach that counts, a multitude of different people find ways of expressing activism in a manner that is meaningful to them. Hopefully the freckles join up at some point and - boom! - you have yourself a movement.

With fat liberation I think there's a myth that we all have a common goal. In reality the movement(s) is/are made up of lots of different interest groups with goals of their own. Of course the flipside to this is that fat liberation messages can become muddled and sometimes these goals clash (I'm thinking, for example, of anti-diet campaigners who still maintain that weight loss is universally health-enhancing for super-sized people) but mostly I think that having a mass movement with varying approaches means that we get to cover more ground and appeal to more people.

What's your vision for a world that totally accepts people no matter what their size - what's it like?

I don't know that I'd buy into a utopian vision for fat people, it seems too fake and nicey-nice. But here's my answer anyway: I guess there'd be a lack of hysteria about body size. Life would be so much calmer.

There'd be be no diet industry of any kind, no Xenical, no Slimmer of the Year, no Weight Watchers, no International Obesity Task Force, no cancer-causing diet food sweeteners and additives, no weight loss surgeons living the high life on the proceeds of our mortality, no office diet talk or pinching an inch. We would never again see an anonymous, headless fat person on TV as an illustration of the horror of the global obesity epidemic.

It's hard to imagine the kinds of relationships we could have with our bodies that wouldn't be based on disappointment or terror. Maybe it would be like being a little kid again. And imagine what it might be like to get adequate and appropriate healthcare, no gatekeeping of services until we lost weight, no hectoring by health professionals, just care. I can barely imagine what it might be like for kids to grow up without fat anxiety or fat-related bullying, how sane we would all be as adults! We'd just get on and live our lives, do stuff, live freely, no perceived health, emotional, or environmental restrictions. No prejudice. Wow.

The lack of fat hatred would leave a big gap. What would we do with all the money and time and happiness that we'll have created by not buying into a body-bashing way of life? Who knows. Of course all of this is unlikely to happen because fatphobia ties in with so many other kinds of oppressive systems. I believe that it won't be demolished unless they are demolished too. And then what would we do with our hatred?

Thanks, Charlotte!

You can check out Charlotte's writing at charlottecooper.net and see her at NOLOSE 05.

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hojoki May 24th, 2005 | Link | I loved this interview! I've
I loved this interview! I've been to the Chubster website before and really enjoyed myself. The fat lib movement is lucky to have Charlotte.

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