Sunday, 13 October 2013

SPAnswers- gender(queer), fatphobia, abstinence & polyamory.

Q.How do I explain to feminists that I respect that it's oppressive to deny that fatphobia/thin privilege is a thing?

A.The problem here is that feminists come in all different shapes and sizes, and by that I don’t mean they are varying in weight (although they are), but rather that they hold very different values.

The one thing I think most self-defined feminists have in common is their belief in equality and that all people should be treated equally. In detail that means that regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity all people should be treated equally economically, socially and legally. And if it extends to all that, then it should extend to weight & size.

With that in mind a feminist should, in theory, want someone who is ‘fat’ to be equal to someone who is ‘thin’. In our society that unfortunately isn’t true. If I, as a self-defined fat person, could walk into a high street shop and know they had my size, or if I could not worry about fitting into the rides at Alton Towers, or if I could go to the doctors for a flu jab and not come out with a leaflet about weight loss then yeah, sure, I’d agree that people are equal regardless of weight. Anyone who can do all that has thin privilege: the luxury of going a day without thinking about their weight and size.

Fatphobia is the reason I can’t do that stuff – it is the constantly reinforced idea that fat people are lazy, unhealthy slobs and as such clothes manufacturers don’t need to produce clothes in their size and doctors don’t need to understand underlying issues because after all, they’ve brought it on themselves haven’t they? It’s the treatment of overweight people as too stupid to understand ‘move more, eat less’ (even though it’s not always that simple). It’s the treatment of overweight people as sub-human.

No one likes to admit they have privilege, or that privilege even exists. It makes most of us feel a bit dirty. So I would reassure whomever you’re trying to talk to about this issue that it’s okay to feel like that, and that we all have some privilege. I would then try to open a dialogue about why they deny fatphobia and thin privilege, or why they think it’s not oppressive to do that. Perhaps ask them what they think the reason they don’t stock a size 18 in every shop is. Because there’s not enough shelf space to have all those sizes? Because there’s not enough demand for size 18s? Because size 18 people *want* their own shop where they can pay twice the price for specialist clothes? If they can see there is no reason for this except to make certain people feel unequal then the next step is to accept the inequality exists and accept that denying it, as denying any inequality, is oppressive.

Q. I've never felt especially attached to my gender identity (outside of the ascriptive shit that I get from most of society); I'm wondering what does it feel like to be gender queer (or how did you know you were GQ)?

A. I’d like to preface this by saying there is no one, common genderqueer experience, nor is there a “right” way to be genderqueer. That being said, this is my experience of it:

I'm AFAB (assigned female at birth) and still identify fairly closely with that; I use female pronouns, I identify as a woman - though a genderqueer one - and my presentation is decidedly femme (gender identity and gender presentation are different things, of course, but for me they are linked).

I started exploring my gender identity when I was around 17, after I discovered feminism and queer theory and began to question the gender binary. I went through a range of identities, trying to find where I fit – bigender, agender, genderfluid… but none of them felt right. I eventually found that what I feel most comfortable with is the broadness and freedom that I feel ‘genderqueer’ gives me. For me, being genderqueer is part of my radical and political queerness, and it affords me absolute freedom in my self-expression and identity.

Q. pip- how can you do abstinence and polyamoury, surely those are two conflicting lifestyles

A. Although I practised abstinence at a time in my life i didn't self define as polyamorous, I don't feel like they're conflicting. Abstinence was a decision (seperate from my experience of asexuality) to take some time away from erotic behaviour so that I could rebuild and reaccess my relationship to my sex. This allowed me to develop a healthier relationship with sex.
Polyamory as a relationship orientation doesn't mean sex with many people (although it doesn't rule that out) it means multiple relationships (relationships can be formed on sex, kink, romantic attraction or a mixture).
My ability to be a 'good' sexual partner (e.g. understanding, patient, relaxed, unexpectant) comes from my ability to maintain a healthy personal relationship with sex which I personally used abstinence as a tool to allow myself room to develop.
I'm certain that should I decide to become abstinent for a period of time (to allow myself space to learn to be understanding, patient, relaxed and unexpectant with myself) now, anyone I'm sexually involved in would support my decision to do so.

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