The Fat Body (In)Visible

[I'm moving this post back to the top for a bit, since Shaker katebears graciously provided a transcript.]

A documentary on being a fat woman, and the moments in which you feel visible and invisible, moments in which you can just be and moments in which you are obliged to be hyper-aware of your fat body. By Margitte Kristjansson. Featuring Jessica and Keena, as well as photos from The Adipositivity Project (some of which may be NSFW).

Via Frances.

[My apologies that the length of the documentary prohibits me from providing a transcript. If someone has the time and can volunteer to provide a transcript, I would very appreciatively post it.]

Shaker katebears has done a transcript for the whole documentary, which is now below the fold (on most browsers). Thanks so much, katebears!
Song: Breathe by Telepopmusik

Jessica: The way people view fat today is… I want to right away say disgusting. We are told we can’t even love each other in public because it’s so revolting.

Keena: I just feel like it is a love/hate. I think people are scared to show their appreciation of some big women and some people don’t care after a while. I feel like it is an indifference.

Jessica: While I have all the confidence in the world, I am being told every day that my body is revolting.

Keena: I look at it like this. You know, there are so many beautiful natural wonders in this world. And all these natural wonders they’re huge right? You know? The Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, all these things are big and people come from all around the world to see it. So it just lets me know with me being a larger women, I’m like an attraction. You know? You can’t miss me and I’m a good thing to look at too.

J: And they see a fat body it is very challenging to their politics. It is very challenging to what they view as their moral code, is challenged by a fat body, especially a confident fat body. I think I have always felt moderately at peace with my body, my issues have always been with everyone else. I first realized I was fat when my mom stopped introducing me as her daughter and starting introducing me as her fat daughter, her fluffy daughter, my chubby Jessica. I stopped being a human and started being a body.

K: For me, I am at my heaviest, and ironically, or maybe not ironically but at my heaviest I’m the happiest. I first realized I was fat at a young age. I was an 11 pound baby, so I never had a skinny phase and my family, they accepted me.

J: Dieting for me started really young, it started off as restricting. And by 10, I was in Jenny Craig and then weight watchers and pills and special physicians.

K: When I look at the word diet, I see the word die. Die-it. I have never dieted. The only time I can think of dieting, I was young, probably like 7. When a doctor said you should cut back on x,y,z. And I did it, but afterwards, I was like this ain’t for me. You know what I mean?

J: In high school, I had a personal trainer, I got my calories down to what almost killed me and still couldn’t lose any weight. When I moved out of my mother’s house, I gave up dieting for good.

Song: Dimestore Diamond by The Gossip. Jessica is fixing her hair, applying make-up, appears to be getting ready.

J: Fat acceptance is just the radical idea that every body is a good body and that regardless of your shape or your size that you deserve just as much respect as the next person.

K: Fat acceptance is just accepting your body where it is at. Whether you’re bigger or you’re smaller. Just accepting what it is, your arms, your double chin, your thighs and just not worrying about how other people may view you.

Song plays while Keena is getting ready, putting on jewelry, getting dressed.

Footage of Keena and Jessica shopping together, talking about clothing.

K: Growing up I compared myself to images I saw on T.V. As a young black girl, it wasn’t so much the size, it was the skin color. You know, watching T.V., you don’t see really a lot of young black girls on T.V. And it wasn’t until probably in my later teens, that I felt more conscious about my body because that is when I saw the music videos. My ah-ha moment was through the fat community through the fat acceptance group. That really started when I was in high school when I saw it was a celebration of plus size women. And that has been going on for about ten years now, since the early 2000s. From there, the light bulb went off. I love myself more. I didn’t want to wear the baggy clothes to hide myself. My mother told me to cover my arms, I didn’t want to cover it. You know? I felt more comfortable in my body cause I saw other women who looked like me doing the same thing, so I was like why can’t I?

J: I think high school is a struggle to feel visible for anybody. As a fat person, I think I took on the role as the class clown, because I wasn’t allowed to be an object of desire by my classmates. I think once I started finding that people were attracted to me and that men and women found me desirable as I was, I felt it was an invitation and permission to start loving myself as well and as much as they did.

Footage of friends at a bar, Keena and Jessica present.

J: I get negative feedback quite a bit on the street. Recently, I was walking home and I live in my own world and I know that a lot of negativity happens around me so I just try to phase it out. But I was walking home and a woman called me a fat piggy bitch for no reason, she just yelled it And in my head, I heard Ms. Piggy Bitch and so I looked at her and said thank you. And I kept walking and I was feeling great about myself. And a man said did you hear what she said to you? She called you a fat piggy bitch. Which just seemed like ludicrous to me because I didn’t even irritate her in anyway but just by existing she felt it was necessary to take me down.

K: I hate to say it, as ironic as this may sound, I still feel invisible today. Like I would probably say most of my life. As big and as colorful as I am I still feel invisible in a sense.

J: The way I make myself present and visible is I really allowed myself to give in to everything I have ever wanted to wear and a lot of times that means I look like a cartoon character. In allowing myself to dress in the ways I have always wanted to. In allowing myself to dress the way I have always wanted to I make myself very present for other people. Recently I met a woman online maybe two years ago that was involved with an online community called Fatshionista which is a fat fashionista on livejournal which just brought me into this myriad of blogs and books and people that were involved in this movement that gave a me sort of a more substantial argument when people would initially say, “Fat is Bad” I could only say “No it’s not”. I was then introduced to this community that gave me substantial reasons why fat was okay and why my body was beautiful and why I deserved more than society was ready to give me.

K: I discovered Fatshionista. I was just always inspired by the outfit posts. Since I got inspired, I posted my own and from there, it was just a wealth of information.

J: With the fatosphere, there is a lot of fat fashion blogging. There is always what fat girls wear, what fat girls wear. There is not a lot about what fat girls think in relation to what they wear. Fat touches everything I do.

Jessica and Keena shopping. Footage of them talking about clothing.

K: I really don’t see a lot of art out there that reflects me. You know, I am a plus size woman. I love afro-centric things. You know, why I don’t I try to play around with it? I don’t feel like I am the best artist, but it is my work. I have always wanted to see the few black artists out there to show images of bigger women. When it comes to crocheting, the challenge is sometimes that there are not that many patterns with plus sizes. The beauty is just winging it, just adding more stitches. The same thing is with constructing clothes. You know, clothes are nothing but shapes. I made a skirt in 45 minutes. I was just draping the fabric on me, two squares put together. Bam, you’ve got a skirt.

J: Fat style is one of the biggest ways that I believe you can be political as a fat body. It is very subversive because we as fat people are given limited choices. When you are thin, you have the entire mall at your beck and call. When you are fat, you have one store that has matronly, shaming clothes.

Video of Jessica and Keena shopping together. Jessica is trying on a shirt and it not fitting. Keena is laughing in the background.

K: When you look good, you feel good. And people feel good around you as well. People don’t expect for larger women to wear bright colors, or god forbid a mini skirt or god forbid, stripes. So it feels good to step outside the box and wear things that are not the norm as a larger woman. And you get compliments because you rock it a certain way.

Fashion show footage; murmuring, talking in the background, music playing.

J: Recently, I went to an indie fashion event at a plus size thrift store called Re/Dress and it was just really inspiring to see all these fat bodies, all these loving fat bodies in one space. Most, if not all the people present, were part of my online community, my fat acceptance activists, my Fatshionists. It was just really inspiring to see people doing what they love, promoting a positive self-accepting environment. We’ve noticed that it is really powerful to see more than one fat body enjoying each other’s company in public. And I think that initially people are too intimidated to say anything. Occasionally you will have people who make comments. I just think it is really intimidating for people to see fat bodies together. It is really powerful.

Footage of Keena, Jessica, and some friends in a bar. It seems that they are flirting with someone off camera.

J: I think because I make such a point of making myself visible on my own terms there is very little places where I feel invisible. I feel hyper visible when I am in restaurants eating. I feel like the spotlight is always on me. When I am at the doctor’s, it’s a weird mix of hyper visible and invisibility. I feel so detached from my body and not a human. But I also feel under the microscope and sort of like a mutant as well. So going to the doctor’s is challenging.

K: A couple of months ago, back in June, I bought an airplane ticket through Southwest Airlines to Las Vegas for my aunt’s weeding. I got to the airport early and thought, maybe I should get my return boarding pass printed. That day I wore a miniskirt and a sleeveless top. Didn’t think nothing of it, didn’t think people were watching me or scrutinizing me. Went to the counter, asked the lady about it, and she was like I think you could use another seat. I was like so what are you implying? Well, me and a few people have been observing you and we feel that you could use another seat and so that will be $179. I was like, excuse me? How are you just going to assume that I will need another seat? Well, you know, the seat you are sitting in over there is smaller than an airline seat. So long story short, it just took me by surprise that people were watching me that they were visualizing me fitting in a seat. Maybe that was a time that I felt kinda hyper visible. Like unbeknownst to me someone watching me, judging my body frame that I need to pay another $200 for another seat on an already crowded aircraft. And so we worked it out, I talked to the supervisor. Another thing: I really wanted to lash out, but I couldn’t. It’s one of those things where you don’t want to be the angry black women, let alone at the airport. I was looking around seeing if anyone was observing me, but it didn’t look like it. I talked to the supervisor uh, went on the airplane while they were boarding the handicapped I sat in the seat, put down the armrest and the supervisor said “Well, you are borderline on safety, we’ll let you pass this time”. It is just like, I never thought that I would be picked out like that. And it’s just before I got on the plane, I was thinking I should change my body to please others. Maybe if I weren’t so big, maybe I wouldn’t be a hazard to someone. But it went well, but it just left a bad taste in my mouth because I want to travel more. And with the whole airlines charging more for luggage, it’s just southwest is the only place that has an inexpensive airline ticket. I just feel like when I travel or when I got out, I have to be conscious of the space I take. No, I can’t fit in every chair but I still like being a plus size woman. I don’t want to change myself to make others feel comfortable.

J: I just sort of go day to day and talk to people when they approach me. I am confronted a lot about my body on the street by strangers. It gives me a chance to open up a dialogue about fat acceptance and get other people involved in this community.

K: The Adipositivity project is a project that a woman made to photograph plus size women in the nude. So I contacted her earlier this year when I had a trip to New York and I just had to be a part of it. It was a very, very liberating experience and I would love to do it again and I encourage other women to do it. Especially women of color to do it.

J: I make myself present on line. I am just fully exploiting every outlet for myself. I have a tumblr which has really helped promote my blog. I’m on twitter. I try to read other blogs, comment, and create a community with other FA bloggers and just really inundate everyone with my image, my thoughts.

K: I’m on tumblr. I mostly post pictures and words of things that inspire me. What made me create an account is I wanted to show a person who is fat and Black, Afro-Centric and is unashamed of who she is post there. Right now, I have over 500 followers. I would have never thunk it.

J: I hope that my activism and my blogging and the work I do online helps to give people of all shapes a safe place to feel good about their bodies to talk honestly about what they are feeling and why they are feeling it and just in hopes that someday we will just feel very neutral about our bodies and fat people won’t feel so isolated.

K: My message to young girls who are plus size in this day and age is to just live life and enjoy yourself. Don’t let nothing stop you. If you want to take a plus size or pole dancing. Take it. I’ve done it. If you want to be a dancer, do it. If you want to go to the beach in a bikini, do it. I‘ve done it. Don’t let nothing stop you. Don’t let the naysayers get to your head. Just live life. Because at the end of the day, you want to die knowing that you’ve done everything that you wanted to do. Even my experience with Southwest Airlines at the end of the day won’t stop me from traveling. I just have to do it other ways. I want to die knowing that I did everything I loved and wanted to do. So I hope that other women, young or old, big or small, Black or White, in between, they do that as well.

J: If I could say one thing to young, fat people dealing with bullying and their body image. I don’t really think there is anything you can say to young teens because we all struggle with how we feel about ourselves. But it’s not about you. It’s about the bully and their own issues. It is about what people are telling them they should feel and you just don’t let anyone police your body.

Song: Breathe by Telepopmusik

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