18 March 2009

Interview: The Fat Femme Mafia

The Fat Femme Mafia are a pair of rad fatties from Toronto whose approach to activism involves the sophisticated application of choreographed madness and jaw-dropping pandemonium. Once seen, never forgotten. Here's more about their methods.

Could you introduce yourselves please?

Hi, I'm Chelsey Lichtman (on the right in the pic), otherwise known as Chelsey Licht-a-Womyn, co-founder of the Fat Femme Mafia and host of the weekly queer performance night in Toronto called Granny Boots.

Liz Brockest is the other half of the FFM. She is a working womyn right now so I'm taking over duties of conducting this interview because I am unemployed.

What is the Fat Femme Mafia?

The Fat Femme Mafia is a sorta-on-hiatus fat activist and performance duo based in Toronto that has been around for about three and a half years. We have performed and facilitated workshops on a variety of issues pertaining to FAT and body politics across the universe. Basically, we aim to change the world by wearing shiny outfits and talking to people about their bodies, and about how fucked-up popular culture is. We are all about making our own culture to counteract the shit that is out there in the mainstream that tells us to change our bodies, to hate our bodies, to obtain an undefined perfect body.

How did the video of you frolicking about in the park come about? It looks so spontaneous, was it? And is this how you usually spend your time?

We wanted to make a video to follow up the short documentary that was made about us close to the time of our birth called Rubb my Chubb: Fat Activism and The Fat Femme Mafia by Toronto filmmaker Alexis Mitchell. We wanted to capture us and some other fat sexpots in public doing something, anything that would make our skin jiggle and ripple as much as possible. We wanted the video to be part public space takeover, part exhibition, all fat fun! We had help from the well known local filmmaker Adam Garnet Jones who shot it, and Lukas Blakk who edited it for us. We were just the pretty faces.

The disruption of public space is something we are often invested in. We pride ourselves on shaking up people's ideas about fat bodies as well as making our bodies (and our friends' bodies) as visible as possible. It was sorta planned in that we invited people to the park and brought some toys. Everything else was done flying by the seat of our pants, or bikini bottoms.

You seem to have a knack for creating mayhem, could you talk a little about this? How can mayhem be a tool for fat activism?

Maybe the urge to shock the public stems from our anger about how fat bodies are represented in popular culture and within the medical-industrial-complex. Maybe sometimes we get so angry about how OUR bodies are spoken about and appropriated that the only way for us to reclaim ourselves is to cause major disruption and mayhem! It's like the way kids 'act out' when they don't get what they want.

We want to disrupt the system that works to keep fat bodies under a constant microscope, that isn't very forgiving to us, and the way we do that is by causing ruckus. It feels great for us to take control and dictate the meaning of a space for a few minutes. This kind of fat activism works for us because we aren't shy about drawing attention to our bodies which are often a source for discomfort when we bare them in public. As we said above, we like to make our bodies as visible as possible.

Maybe if our bodies were skinny and partaking in some of the same activities, it wouldn't be considered mayhem! But because our bodies are pathologised so much by mass culture, when we get naked or semi-naked in public to make a statement, for some fatphobes it feels like their world is crashing down on them, which for us equals SUCCESS.

What do you think of skinny people?

Uhhh some of them are nice? No just kidding...we love our allies right? But sometimes we feel like our lives would be much easier if we were skinny too and then other times we realise that we wouldn't be who we are if we were skinny. Oftentimes we just sorta feel like they don't get it. Especially the ones who seek to fraternize with us by complaining about how fat they are. And when we ask them, "What size pants do you wear?" and they say, "I don't know. Like I think I'm a size 4?" we want to force feed them ice cream and big macs. Skinny people are alright but we really love fat people.

What are three things that would make the world a better place for fat people?

1. The abolition of the diet industry
2. A more creative advertising industry that doesn't rely on women's bodies to sell ALL their products, from men's deoderant, to hand cream, to cookies.
3. So basically the end of patriarchy

What else would you like to say?

We want our own talk-show. We want to revolutionise the way the world thinks about and sees fat people. We sometimes eat Mcdonalds and sometimes eat organic. We live for fresh croissants and our fat community across the world. We live for gold lamé and songs about fucking sexy fat bitches. We mostly love being fat and always love that we have each other to talk about the times that we don't.


Jen said...

This was fun to read and a good video to watch. Good for you two womyn for being, to me, so brave! I live in Northern Ontario and I think the smaller the community you live in the harder it is to be fat because people who are different stick out so badly and the small town mentality is more racist, sexist, homophobic and fat-phobic. Rawr.
Anyway, thank you for this interview!

wonderful woman said...

I adore that video. It *is* so rad and so life affirming. Yay the fat femmes!

KathyB said...

Charlotte -- It's been a while since I've been on here -- I'm having so much fun catching up! I loved this article and particularly loved the video! Yay! I think I might watch it every day for a while -- it is so fun!
Congrats too on your great success last night! Thanks for all you do!