Body Image

An Unedited Rant About Looking Into Fatshion’s Navel.

11 November, 2012

Remember when I used to blog regularly? I had a lot to tell the world, a desire to be heard and seen. Writing to an audience was a novelty, a gentle fluffing of my ego after writing to no one in particular for most of my life. Hardly anyone was blogging in Australia, people wanted to talk to me, and I got opportunities to do exciting things even though I’m not the most fashionable or the most tactful or well spoken.

After being ignored by fashion all of my life, it felt empowering to be able to source and critique what little fashion was available to me. I spent what money I could on clothes and accessories, never wanting to fall behind other bloggers. As well as being fat, there were other things for me to deal with like mental illness and resultant joblessness. Maybe buying clothes wasn’t the best priority, but it made me feel good. I finally felt like I was part of a clique that lead, instead of followed (or got lost).

I never considered myself a 100% fatshion blogger, because I used too many words and got angry frequently, never fully being palatable enough for brands to consider sponsoring me. I was snubbed on many occasions, and this became more and more apparent as the number of Australian fatshion bloggers swelled. Newer, more congenial personalities were favoured, and I wasn’t surprised. I was categorised as too political, and fell back, feeling miffed but knowing that ultimately it was great that more fat people were speaking up.

Other things worked against me – ongoing mental health issues and hospitalisation kept me from blogging success. Blogging became about networking, personality and (frustratingly) looks. All the things I was terrible at. All the reasons why I felt so at home on the internet right from the beginning in the 90s. Due to my inability to form “relationships” with brands, I had to buy all the new clothes instead of being sent them. I couldn’t financially keep up with that, I didn’t make money out of my blog so it wasn’t worth that kind of investment. Even the advertising network I was part of stopped sending me opportunities and sponsorship offers, and the ones I did take up actually didn’t benefit me financially at all!

Clearly, many things about blogging were turning out to be much like the regular world I struggled to fit in with. Popular bloggers were white, less fat than me, certainly more conventionally attractive, and bought/ were gifted clothes frequently. Events in Australia for plus size fashion started occurring and were in “major” fashion hubs like Sydney or Melbourne, far away from Brisbane and the original Axis of Fat (a group of my friends and I based in Brisbane, among the first fat activist bloggers in Australia). Even when there were events closer to home, I could rarely bring myself to go due to now crippling social phobia.

The focus of fatshion blogs was fashion and consumption thereof, with rarely a critical lens applied. I began thinking more and more about capitalism and how it had tried to reject fat & fashionable people, but now shaped how people were seeing this emerging group of fatshion bloggers. The media requests that came into my email inbox were largely about fashion, and not about medical malpractice and neglect of fat people (which, I propose, is the actual killer in the so called “obesity epidemic”). The mainstream media had cottoned on to the fat activist movement in the blogosphere but only wanted to see us talk about fluffy topics, rather than bullying, harassment, abuse of human rights and denial of health care.

I don’t know why I seem to be talking in the past tense, because this is now. This is why I struggle to chit chat about whichever plus size brand is releasing poorly made, questionably fashionable, dubiously manufactured garments this season. I am angry at capitalist systems that not only abuse fat people for not looking good in clothes, or not providing fashionable clothes, but also make us feel some kind of imperative to spend above and beyond what we have to make up for our fat bodies. I’m angry that blogging is now just a new funnel for PR and marketing people, and most bloggers rarely get paid what mainstream media workers do for providing the same service. Being paid in clothing is NOT being paid in cash money.

I’m disillusioned with this whole fat blogging game. If I blog about clothes, readers will come. If I blog about politics, I am rarely engaged. Mostly, I struggle to put words together these days. I am on a lot of medication to function as neurotypically as possible (for me), and my ability to write and read has deteriorated. Remember when I was a blogger? Am I still a blogger if no one reads this stuff? If I don’t get free clothes? If I challenge dominant ideas? If I can’t afford to keep up? If I am sick, fat, and unattractive?

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  • http://twitter.com/geckonidae oryx

    Thank you, Natalie, for writing this. Anyone who is engaged in any form of politics (feminism etc) should be familiar with the way the mainstream / big business will adapt a cause to neutralise it, and while I didn’t realise until I read your post, this is exactly what’s happened with fat acceptance.

  • http://twitter.com/deluging Marie

    Everything you are saying hits me so hard. For what it’s worth, I never thought of you as primarily a fatshion blogger (although you ARE one of the most fashionable, and first that I can remember) but rather as an activist, intellectual and incredible artist. Thank you for being so honest and saying here what other non-neurotypical bloggers who started and flamed out back in the day (i.e. me, lol) could never do.

  • http://twitter.com/NattieNell NattieNell

    Natalie. You are still the original for me. You are the blogger that introduced me to fat acceptance and this has changed my life. I have noticed this trend in blogging too and it is frustrating, but there are still those of us who watch your feed for any updates and are interested in the honesty and realism you bring to the community.

  • Michelle

    I think you’re great if you write about what really matters to you. I’ll be reading.

  • Sonya

    You’re on the first people who got me into blogging, not just on fashion, but on feminism too. I don’t think I would have started if it hadn’t been for your and Nick’s help. I think this is a really important topic/point to bring up and something we (as a whole) should engage in more.

  • http://tutusandtinyhats.wordpress.com/ Laura

    Seconded. Natalie, your voice matters. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself, and if/when you return to blogging, I’ll be happy to read whatever you write about.

  • http://tutusandtinyhats.wordpress.com/ Laura

    P.S. You invented the “Fat” necklace! To me, that makes you a fat-o-sphere star, regardless of whether you keep blogging.

  • Jackie Brown

    I am only a new reader of your blog… what attracted me was the artwork, the way you wrote, and what you wrote. Blogs are what you make them, I read many different types of blogs, I love the ones like yours which are original and well written. You must do what is healthy for you, l know the feeling about being medicated as I am on many meds a day and I do get brain fog, no matter what you choose, I will be back checking to see what is happening and yes I still classify you as a blogger :) This is my blog http://chiclivingwithcrps.blogspot.co.nz/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1274265873 Valerie Pie

    I think I started reading you when I first discovered fatshion blogging, but those aren’t the posts I stayed for. I read for your honest voice. I read because I’m a little crazy like you, but you are more articulate than me. I read because you make things like feminism and discrimination and the male gaze make *sense* in your blunt voice. I read because you’re on the other side of the world, but not so different from me. Thanks for what you do.

  • Fatadelic

    Say what you have to say. Over the years, one of the changes in blogging (to its detriment) is that somewhere along the line it went from being about authentic voices to being about hits, advertisers and business partnerships. Your voice is important. Don’t let the unimportant stuff drown it out. You are not limited to blogging about one issue only or blogging to an audience; there lies inauthenticity and blogging fatigue. Blog about what is important to you, and if that’s a mix of politics, fatshion and mental health and design, so be it.

  • http://twitter.com/RebeccaEstherxo Rebecca Esther

    You are beautiful. And more importantly, you’re resiliant. I admire you.

  • http://twitter.com/Bookbek Bek

    I don’t think I’ve commented before, but thank you for this post Natalie. You’ve really put your finger on things that have been niggling me about the current fatshion community. I love your blog, and your posts- on whatever subject you find interesting. You are awesome. xx

  • http://twitter.com/blogtobealive Valerie De Pever

    Personally I read all the articles of your blog wether it’s about fashion or politics. Your blog is one of my favourite and I absolutely love your illustrations/drawing.

    I understand how you feel about the free clothes and lack of plus size events because I am in the exact same situation in Belgium. There is NO plus size community at all, and I know of only one blogger who is also fat and blogs. The blogger events are for straight size clothes and after attending a few I realized I kinda felt out of place so I didn’t go anymore. Same goes for earning money through my blog. Except for Zanox which barely covers my domain fees, there are no opportunities. I sometimes find it very frustrating, and realize how lucky I am that my job allows me to afford the clothes otherwise I think I’ll probably have shut down my blog after a while.

    But seriously chin up! Why no post more drawings? Or write, write about those brands that annoy you. lol I am sure many people feel the exact same way and are just waiting for someone to start the topic and chat with them. :)

  • cabbagemedley

    Yours is one of the blogs I come back to time and again. You’re fucking brilliant. Your words and your art and your photos have done more for me than most other fat blogs put together. You are up there with the best.

  • gingerella3

    All of my favourite fatshion bloggers are the political, sometimes angry ones. You’re awesome.

  • TheSugarMonster

    Thank you, Natalie. I know I could never be a “fashion blogger.” Because, as you said, I’m too fat, too ugly, and way too poor. The anger I feel about how fat acceptance is now seen as we get cute clothes too! is well summed up by your entry. I’m so sick of us being told fat oppression is over because of cute clothes or dudes wanting to fuck us. I’ve missed your writing. And I really do hope you continue when it’s easier for you to do so. <3

  • http://jenvenegas.com/blog Jen Venegas

    Natalie, girl I so hear you on this one. I sort of removed myself from the fatshion movement for these reasons too. Seeing more and more conventionally pretty and inbetweenie fats get more attention without challenging it was such a let-down to me. And now it’s all about corporate partners and less about the effort and creativity it takes to dress a fat body.

    Thank you so much for putting this out there!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510025303 Mel Chillag

    You’re one of the first fat bloggers I ever followed and a big source of inspiration. While I can’t deny that fatshion blogging for me is mostly about clothing choices, I will always appreciate political “rants” because we need to keep these discussions going. I wish I had the writing talent to create them on my blog, but I mostly stick to the ‘fluffy’ stuff, which I think still has some impact on fat stigma because seeing fat people dressing well is still a novelty.

  • Krissy

    This has been bothering me for a long long time. I understand the need to show the world that fat people are sexy and fashionable but too often that’s all the emphasis is. It’s like, “See it’s okay to be fat, because I’m hot”. Well, what if you’re not “hot”? What if your old or super fat or not conventionally attractive, is it still okay to be fat? It doesn’t seem like it. Please keep writing, To me what you have to say is way more interesting now.

  • Sarah

    I think your voice is important. Just as important as somebody who wants to play the fatshion blogging game. All those things that make you an individual don’t make you any less worthy of doing what you want. Whether it’s blogging about being ill, the clothes you wear or trying to live with a medicated brain.

    I’ll be reading anyway.

  • http://project-kathryn.blogspot.com/ kathryn

    Politics and rants are awesome. Fatshionista blogs used to be fun but now it’s all the same clothes put together in similar outfits without much other content. I don’t like being sold to.

    To be honest, I get a bit resentful paying high prices in stores “poorly made, questionably fashionable, dubiously manufactured garments” – especially with a certain brand that sells the same clothes under their budget (straight size) brand often for less than half the price. And they really are poor made, but no one calls them on it because they all getting the freebies. If the high price reflected the labour that went into the clothes, then fair enough but you know it’s just going into their pockets.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dollsbasstea Veronica Ball

    I started reading your blog because you challanged what was socially accepted. It forced me to look at my own prejudices and confront them. I had come to believe as a child and teenager that my only worth came from the fact I was thin. I still struggle against those thoughts and it made things so hard when I became fat.

    I’ve struggled most of my life with depression and anxiety and when the only thing that helped me to manage that took away the one thing I believed I had going for me (being thin) I was lost. But because of your blog and some wonderful friends I am accepting myself more and more. I am able to see myself as beautiful and worthy in ways I never did before. So, I thank you and appreciate what you write.

  • Claire in Oregon

    Hi Natalie,
    Long-time lurker here. I read all of your posts, regardless of topic. I appreciate your sense of style, your incisive thinking on issues of social justice, and especially your honesty. Wishing you all the best while you are figuring out how to be a blogger on your own terms.

  • Fia Kilbourn

    Long time lurker here speaking up to say your words are one of the reasons I visit.

  • Allison Lukens

    I enjoy seeing you being you as well as your lovely artwork. I’m always up for reading you blog about weighty topics as well.

  • Kate

    Please keep writing and sharing whether its about art, fatshion, politics, mental health, whatever. Yours was the first blog I discovered that talked about these issues. I know there are others, but I connect with and enjoy yours the most. Fight the good fight. You have an audience.

  • http://twitter.com/FatAus Bronny

    I agree with you on this SO much Natalie. I seriously don’t understand how/why the majority of (especially Australian) fat bloggers are just completely apolitical. Fat fashion IS political, being a visible fat person IS political and I find it really disappointing how the majority of fat bloggers are completely willing to just ignore all of that for the chance of ‘brand relationships’ and free clothes (and I know that I personally have been guilty of crap like that in the past and I’m really ashamed of that).

    I think that your voice and your blog are really important (and vastly more interesting than some other blogger’s outfit posts with the same free clothes that were sent to 5 other fatshion bloggers), I will always read anything you want to post.

  • http://tutusandtinyhats.wordpress.com/ Laura

    I’m curious, since I’m fairly new to fatshion blogging: is there a way to take advertising from brands, accept free clothing, and still write political posts? Or do all fatshion brands, even the indie ones, shy away from any hint of politics?

  • Ariel

    No words for how important you, this post and this conversation are. <3

  • SnarkysMachine

    Thank you so much for writing this. I find your blog and voice to be one of the few in FA and its offshoots that actually resonates for me. It can be hard to continue to be a voice when it seems your voice is not valued. I value your voice and talents deeply :)

  • lilacsigil

    I’m super-fat, rural, have major health issues and get ANGRY. So it’s good to see you here. We can be sick, fat and unattractive (by cutesy blog standards, cos I think you’re beautiful) and take up some fucking space online as well.

  • Alma

    Hi Natalie, I’m also a long time lurker on your blog but I just wanted to say that I find your blog incredibly articulate and thoughtful in a very honest and real way. I appreciate feeling how genuine you are about the issues that are important and relevant in your life. If and when you continue blogging I will make sure to be reading the wonderful things you have to say.

  • http://www.facebook.com/randomlancila Amber Sarah

    I feel this disenchantment big time. Thank you for writing this.

  • Buttercup_Rocks

    I’ve always loved your blogging, Natalie, regardless if it was about fatshion or other political aspects of being fat. You are supremely articulate and I love your illustrations too.

  • kaya

    The point is: whenever one makes something meaningful and personal people don’t care. It’s a huge paradox and we’re not the first ones to experience that. Don’t stop writing because – even if you get less attention than as being a fashion blogger – this actually matters. I’m from Poland, this exotic, anonymous place not many people from Australia ever heard of, and i love your writing, your opinions, your art (which is extraordinary btw). Sure, you don’t get paid for doing it as journalists do, but the problem is not that simple. I’m a journalist. at least i was – recently i had to change my occupation because no one wants to pay journalists anymore for posting online what other people post for free..

    But anyways – please do what you do best. Write your blog and forget about cheap attention. Quality not quantity we say in Poland. Get quality attention instead of being popular just for advertising clothes. I hope to read more your posts soon. Love from Poland.

  • Lisa McHugh

    You rock. You are a wonderful writer and a brilliant artist. I look forward to following your journey. It was like reading about myself. I’m mental & medicated, fat & frustrated with fashion, and blog it out to the world, too. xx

  • Sophie

    Great post. You’ve given me a lot to think about, and this is the kind of blog I like to read – honest, direct, intelligent and without a need to pander to the fashion industry for the sake of advertising and being sent “free stuff”.

  • Heather Kolaya-Spealman

    keep blogging politically! blog about the important stuff and what matters to you. I’m not the most popular blogger either- believe me. heck, i’m nothing compared to you as a blogger- but i blog about what i believe in and you should do the same. I understand mental health issues (bipolar here) and I definitely understand struggling to fit in to a clique- internet or otherwise. just be you and you’ll be awesome.

  • Pingback: Fatshion, Networking, and Finding a Place for Myself. | Adipose Activist()

  • muse-and-amuse

    you single-handedly brought me into the fat-o-sphere. you taught me it is possible for a fat person (me!) to love themselves. even if, on top of it, they are pale and have mental health issues (me!). so, whether you are or aren’t these things, you are someone wonderful.

  • http://twitter.com/tout_moi Hila

    “I’m disillusioned with this whole fat blogging game. If I blog about clothes,
    readers will come. If I blog about politics, I am rarely engaged.” Yes, the same
    thing often happens on my blog (although I also a great group of loyal readers
    who are so smart). I’m finding what you’re saying here to be true in many other
    aspects of the blogging community in general. I’ve been blogging for almost 5
    years, and I’ve seen both incredible kindness and support between bloggers, as
    well as completely unethical blogging practices and an unwillingness to think
    critically. We have to be able to balance support with criticism, and also
    register criticism as a productive thing that can improve this community, rather
    than the simplistic idea that it’s being ‘mean’. Nobody wants to be ‘mean’ when
    they raise these topics. In fact, constructive criticism is to me an act of
    support because it implies: ‘I care enough about this to want it to be better’.
    If I didn’t care, I’d just shut up.

    I for one appreciate you raising this
    topic. I’ve raised similar topics on my own blog, focusing on aspects that I
    find problematic, such as non-disclosure of sponsored posts, the lack of
    constructive criticism amongst popular bloggers, and the obsession with ‘style’
    and pretty images over writing and critical thought. I too sometimes feel very
    disillusioned. And it’s natural to encounter a wall of resistance when you
    require or compel people to think critically and evaluate complex topics such as
    ethics. But it’s worth it, in my opinion. No blogger is above basic ethical
    practices, and of we are willing criticise the ‘big’ companies for unethical
    behaviour, we should hold ourselves accountable too.

  • Fiona Kleinschmidt

    Natalie. *gives you the look*

    We as a fat society, need you! Just because certain bloggers get sponsored by certain companies and get loads of free stuff and therefore get loads of hits on their blog, it doesn’t mean that their fans are completely engaged! I really don’t know much about this blogging whatsit (all I know is I read a few and yours is my favourite – we go way back, you and I) but companies with lots of customers are easily able to direct their customers to certain blogs. The reader may then find it easy to comment or interact with that blog. They are easily directed to it and therefore – like lambs to the slaughter – will interact with it because it’s there.

    Now, your readers (of course, I’m one of them) are smarter and more savvy than that. They have found you through all sorts of ways – not just because some big company posted a link on their facebook or in their weekly email catalogue. Your readers ENGAGE with your content, and are more thoroughly informed because of it. I wouldn’t write this long, involved comment for just anyone, you know! ;)

    Get political. Get personal. We love it! We all understand why you’ve written what you have and a lot of readers of your blog (myself included) can completely relate and agree with you. But having the backing of a huge company behind you and free stuff does NOT EQUAL being a successful blogger. The blogger may be successful in the eyes of the company, but I’m not about to let THEM be the judge of what is worthy internet reading.

    We love you! xoxo

  • http://twitter.com/HauteCurvy haute curvy woman

    I have just found your site and loved it! I wish I could write like you. Hoping you keep writing. Have bookmarked your site and will be following on twitter.

  • Travis Hash

    What a jolly life we have. I hate hate, but moreover l have apathy. What makes a person good or a person bad? What makes life worthwhile or meaningless? There! You’ve got me transfixed in your universe of human emotions.