I'm excited about the imminent arrival of Catherine Redfern and Kristin Aune's book Reclaiming the F-Word, I hope it helps give British feminism a shot of third wave energy.
Whilst it's great that the authors have noticed the emergence of a new wave of fat activism in the UK, one that is informed by third wave feminism and DIY culture, I have mixed feelings about being mentioned in this book.
The problem is that the authors have got a bunch of us mixed up. In a tiny sentence halfway through the book they write that Unskinny Bop, Big Bums and Obesity Timebomb are more or less the same thing, produced by the same people.
a) Unskinny Bop: a club run by Tamsin Bookey and Ruth Russell, with artwork by Bill Savage and Alex Long
b) Big Bums: a zine made by me, Kay Hyatt, Simon Murphy and Bill Savage, funded by Nolose, a US-based organisation for fat dykes
c) Obesity Timebomb: my blog by me and only me
d) We all know each other.
There are other fat activist things going on in the UK too, like The Chubsters, Fat Studies in the UK, The Fat of The Land, things being published, to name a few, but these have not been mentioned. It wouldn't have taken much to check the basic facts, we're pretty accessible, and it makes me wonder about the reliability of other information in the book. Maybe none of this matters, perhaps a general idea that fat feminist stuff is going on is enough.
I think the reason that this miniature oversight bugs me so much is that Tamsin, Ruth, Bill, Kay and I are always being mistaken for each other. Bill and Kay even made a Spot the Difference quiz in our zine, Big Bums. Bill's girlfriend Donna, who is not fat like the rest of us, gets it from time to time too. Bill and Kay are similarly mistaken for Ingo, who runs Wotever World, who also has short hair, a masculine demeanour, specs and fatty queerness in spades. It's lucky that I love my friends and dig what they do because if I didn't it would be even more maddening that everybody else seems to think that we are a single entity, like The Blob. For future reference, please try and get to know us, learn our names and find out about what we do. Don't make us have to get identity badges.
A website I like very much is AllLookSame which raises great questions about racism, the assumptions people make about appearances, and the way they handle difference. I think about this website quite often, and the phrase All Look Same has stuck with me ever since I first encountered it about ten years ago.
I think an All Look Same phenomenon is going on in relation to me and my fat and queer friends. We share many values and ways of seeing things, we like a lot of the same stuff and turn each other on to new things, so in some ways it's not surprising that people see similarities between us. But it's also quite ridiculous and insulting when a stranger insists that you are someone else, especially when you are clearly diverse people with distinct attributes, or standing together in the same room.
But it makes me wonder what people really see when they end up in a scene that features a bunch of people who are different to them, and where they are required to address that difference. How come they can't see that we are individual people? What do people see when they see a bunch of rad fatties? We have different hair, body shapes and everything. Maybe the idea that a culture or community of cool fat friends exists is too much to process, maybe people think that there can't be more than a couple of us! Or more than one Beth Ditto? Maybe we're just "the obese". I've no idea.
Redfern, C. and Aune, K (2010) Reclaiming the F-Word: The New Feminist Movement. London: Zed Books