What's Your Fat Experience?

by Shapeling and Shaker Fillyjonk

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 Shapely Prose, 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 Shakers who engage with the fat threads here represented at the Fat Experience Project. 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.


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