I went down to St Paul's last week to visit Occupy London. There are places where my politics and the general politics of Occupy diverge, but I'm glad it's there, hope it continues, and felt happy, inspired and moved by it.
One of my favourite things about Occupy London is the way that the street has been appropriated as a giant noticeboard. Pictures, letters, rants, conspiracy theories, stickers, were all taped up on the pillars at the side of the encampment. I enjoyed browsing, there was such a muddle of compelling stuff. Amongst everything were some posters advertising a new film, and a leaflet about the scummy business of carbon trading. Can you guess what drew me to them? Yes, that's right: their use of fat capitalist stereotyping.
I have written elsewhere about how the left has failed fat people, progressive, enlightened, anti-capitalist, pro-planet people and their fatphobia, and about political cartoonists' use of fatness to denote the greed and disgustingness of capitalism (alas top fatphobe cartoonist Martin Rowson never replied to my email about that). I'm becoming more and more interested in what I see as a contradiction: the left supports the underdog, yet fails to see fat people as oppressed, and instead reproduces us as visual stereotypes of the oppressors. Fat cat capitalist imagery is a travesty when you understand that the fattest social groups are also the poorest and most marginalised.
Similarly, I'm fascinated and annoyed at how fat activism is ignored, denied, belittled within apparently progressive leftist circles, even though it offers radical possibilities for understanding and challenging oppressive practices. This was brought home to me this week when my partner got an email from a vegan anarchist café in London declining her proposal for a regular fat crafternoon-type event on the grounds that they were concerned about promoting obesity within the context of a global obesity epidemic.
In both cases people on the radical left are failing to see fat, that is, they are failing to understand fat as something with which they should be politically engaged in a critical manner. Instead, they rely on lazy thinking and stereotyping, refusing to acknowledge the radical work by fat activists that is going on right in front of them.