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Publicly Fat in Australia - Part 1

The following story was submitted by BFB member rainalee.

"Borrow a person you normally would think you would not like. We have a wide selection of unpopular stereotypes. Take a walk, have a talk, or don't. Just remember to give back the person…When you're done, you are guaranteed to feel like you have just lost a friend."

-- From Stop The Violence's first "Living Library"

I work at a university in Australia as an academic. Part of my job is being the 'Women in Technology' program coordinator, and recently we had one of the staff come talk to us about a 'Living Library' project on our campus, as part of multicultural week. People volunteer to become 'books' for a day, and borrowers can 'borrow' a book for a half- hour conversation about their life experiences. The idea is to confront prejudice and break down barriers.

I believe this is a wonderful project, and I volunteered to be a book. My “blurb” was:

FAT PERSON - "I think one of the biggest 'light bulb' moments in my life was when I realised that I am not a broken thin person. I'm a person with feelings, dreams and aspirations - and those don't all revolve around the size or shape of my body." In an atmosphere of hysteria about the obesity crisis, what is it really like being a fat person today? Have a read and find out.

I wanted to challenge and attract people who buy into the 'omg omg the obesity crisis we are all going to die' mindset. I also wanted to refer to myself in the book 'title' as a fat person, because the word 'fat' is so loaded with moral undertones, and putting it together with 'person' is making a statement in itself.

I'm relatively new to the whole notion of fat acceptance. I'm currently continuing to de-program myself out of thinking that being fat is the source of life's problems, and reminding myself I'm just as worthwhile as any other human being. While I think I'm making progress in just 'being,' I haven't really moved into being an activist or trying to educate/inform others before this. I guess I’m moving out of my comfort zone!

Here in Australia things are becoming quite difficult for fat people. The media are really pushing the 'OMG WE ARE THE FATTEST NATION ON EARTH WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE' line and I've noticed more negative reactions and quite rude antagonistic behaviour from people in public recently, compared to, say, ten years ago.

We are starting to get media articles (a lot of them) about how our fatness is costing the government more in healthcare. It sucks getting larger sizes of clothing, particularly if you live outside the state capitals. I live in a large town, but I buy most of my clothes from the net, simply because I literally cannot fit into anything here. Clothes that will fit me around my body, are short (I’m 5’9”) or built for top-heavy women.

Our cinema seats are not made for people with large butts (I have been to many other cinemas where I fitted in seats with room to spare, so it's the choice of seats that the cinema has made.) Our area has many cute trendy cafes -- most with tiny, armed chairs that I can't fit in, so I don't go. I sometimes feel alienated because there is so much media attention about how terrible it is to be fat. People buy into it, and treat me differently because of it.

But, I'm healthy. I do a lot of things that everyone else does. I've tried every diet known to man (and know from experience they just make you fatter!) and no longer diet at all (and won't ever diet again.) I was fully expecting the question on the Living Library day, "But why don't you just diet? Don't you have any willpower?"

I felt like I was putting myself up there as a target, but if someone 'borrowed' my 'book,' then they must have been willing to lay down at least some of their prejudice, don't you think?

To be continued.


The Living Library started in Denmark as a project to fight prejudice and discrimination. If you're interested in hosting a Living Library in your town, you can find information at The Living Library website.

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lilacsigil August 15th, 2008 | Link | I am fascinated by this

I am fascinated by this project, and am on tenterhooks waiting for the next installment.

sevendayswonder August 15th, 2008 | Link | I was excited to hear about

I was excited to hear about this on the Fat Studies list and can't wait to hear more!!!

MichMurphy August 15th, 2008 | Link | Rainalee originally posted

Rainalee originally posted the whole story to the BFB forums and the Fat Studies list -- so if you've read it there, then this will be mostly repeat. But I thought it was such a great project, and such a nice piece of activism that I wanted to make sure the entire Fatosphere got a chance to read about it!

I can't thank rainalee enough for 1) doing this project and 2) letting us post her story about it. It's very inspiring.

richie79's picture
August 16th, 2008 | Link | As I said on the forums,

As I said on the forums, whilst ironically we are all 'publicly fat' (it's what makes us such obvious targets) actually self-identifying as 'fat' to others takes guts, and in this case, it would appear that it's had a really positive impact on several of those involved in the project. Kudos to you Rainalee for setting aside your understandable misgivings about this and sharing your experience with strangers and with the fatosphere.

"if you think fat people have no self-discipline, consider the fact that they haven’t killed you yet." - Miss Conduct, Boston Globe

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