I spent a bit of time at 56a Infoshop a few weeks ago, checking out the queer zine collection and looking for fat stuff. 56a is one of a handful of autonomous spaces in London, and it deserves your support.
I was really delighted to come across Heather Smith's account of the 1989 Fat Women's conference in London. This is an event of mythical significance to me! I didn't go to it but I heard a lot about it over the years and it's one of the things that propelled me into fat stuff myself.
Heather's account is really powerful, check out this random quote: "My opening speech located fat within a framework of imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy" (p.38, full reference below). Wow! It's easy to write off a lot of second wave feminism, I do this myself because of the many problems within the women's movement of that time, but I also think that this statement is incendiary, prophetic and miles ahead of anyone else. I think people in Fat Studies are only beginning to catch up. Heather Smith, where are you now? Please get in touch.
The Fat Dykes Statement was produced at the conference, and reproduced afterwards. I saw it in Trouble + Strife at the time, and maybe elsewhere. The statement was developed in a workshop facilitated by Sheree Bell and Kathy Hall, though there was an earlier lesbian workshop at the conference facilitated by Heather Smith and Tina Jenkins too, perhaps there was some crossover?
It's nearly the start of LGBT History Month here in the UK, so with this in mind I thought I'd reproduce the statement here for your delectation. Although parts of the statement are dated, (clothing choices were more limited in 1989 but I don't know if anyone cares about crimplene any more, and it's likely that drinking diet pop is less of a hot topic than it used to be), it is still a brilliant, complex and accessible analysis of fat hatred and homophobia. It shows so simply that the social positioning of fat people, including fat dykes, is more than a discourse of health, food or bodily control.
I also like the haughty tone, it would be easy to lampoon, perhaps as humourless. But I think there is humour there, as well as anger, and the tone articulates a pride in queer fatness that is quite rare today, and completely fierce. Thanks Fat Dykes, for producing this list, and for giving me chills two decades on.
The Fat Dykes Statement
Don't assume... I don't like my body
Don't assume… I think your body is better than mine
Don't assume… you're doing me a favour by having a relationship with me
Don't assume… I'm your earth mother/diesel dyke
Don't assume… I'm a failed heterosexual
Don't assume… I'm always happy/jolly
Don't assume… I'm not sexual
Don't assume… I'm single
Don't assume… I'm unfit/unhealthy
Don't assume… I'm crazy/stupid
Don't assume… I want to lose weight
Don't assume… I want to talk about slimming
Don't assume… I eat more than you do
Don't assume… I don't want to dance
Don't assume… you don't fancy me
Don't assume… you're not frightened of me
Don't assume… I'm out of control
Don't assume… you look better than me because you're thinner
Don't assume… your body won't change
Don't assume… there is a choice/that I would be thin if I could
Don't assume… I ought to wear black, navy, brown
Don't assume… I want to wear crimplene
Don't assume… you're not responsible for my fat oppression
Don't assume… I want a Diet Coke
Don't assume… I want chemicals instead of calories
Don't assume… I eat all day long
Don't assume… that where you go will be accessible to me
Don't assume… my fat has psychological roots
Smith, Heather (1989) 'Creating a Politics of Appearance' Trouble + Strife, 16, Summer, 36-41.