DATING as a fat woman
Primarily inspired by the tv series Shrill, starring Aidy Bryant, Effia’s character is a funky, colourful and fashionable, tea drinking, fat woman. Comedian Sofie Hagen states that “fat is a neutral word – I want us to reclaim it … I know not everyone likes it. I used to say ‘overweight’. But fat is a neutral word. If you look it up, it doesn’t say good or bad. I want to remove the negative associations, that’s why I put it in the title [of my book].” in a 2019 interview with The Guardian.
I wanted Effia to embody the message that Shrill tells: a story about “someone who has always felt that they’re too big to live in a world that wants them to be smaller and she’s decided to take up space.” From Lydia’s research, it can be seen that fatphobia is extremely prevalent in society, with many misconceptions, abusive responses and fetishisation of those who are fat. An example of this is body positivity, online bullying, and sexual abuse activist Pheebs Jameson (@fatpheebs), who works mostly through online mediums to promote her own and others work. Last year Pheebs stated that online harassment and bullying about her weight and appearance lead her to make a suicide attempt. On the opposite of this, there is a constant bombarding of sexual objectification and fetishisation of fat women, where men have “no interest in anything about [them] besides [their] size,” according to Christine Schoenwald. Although fetishes are valid and human, “when someone is fetishizing you and neglects to get to know you beyond whatever it is about you they’re fixated on, it’s offensive and disrespectful.” Effia, therefore, stands for a woman interested in many things, with style and artistic taste, a book on her table entitled ‘Thick Thighs Save Lives,’ subverting the gaze back into the camera, taking up space unapologetically.– Issy Stephens, Director
The ‘fat body’ is often commodified to be consumed, perpetuated by media representation as either comic-relief or a fetish. Because of this, plus-size women often find it harder on the online-dating scene than slimmer bodies. The need to specify their body types in bios, even if it’s apparent in pictures; for fear that if they meet in person their date will be disappointed. It makes it harder to feel confident and secure in their interactions with people online, and also that they may be ‘tricking’ people by posting attractive pictures of themselves. Almost like a fraud if they feel confident or attractive. People have shown an interest in a dating platform that specialises in fat people, or people genuinely interested in dating fat people; creating a safe space for fat bodies to date online. However, this may open up a risk of further abuse or fetishization. Ultimately, the finding is that fat people shouldn’t feel that they need to be skinnier in order to be worthy of love, and that you can be fat and desirable.”
Note: I couldn’t find any information on plus-size MEN’s personal experience with online dating. Not sure why, could be down to women being more open when discussing vulnerable feelings – but that is just an assumption.– Lydia Jenkins, Assistant Researcher
SOUND COLLABORATOR STATEMENT
My initial impression of EFFIA provided a scene of comfort, with the warm colours and the array of delicate cosy looking furniture strewn about her space. The hard part was trying to capture the feeling of comfort, kindness and simplicity. When I composed this track I began with the drums, initially I used a TR-808 drum machine however I found the dynamic range and complexity of the individual drum noises to be too prominent in the mix, so I brushed the dust off an old CR-78 sample library I made this time last year. Although minor, the drum kit I used were the first steps towards creating the sound that I wanted for EFFIA, having been used for a tonne of Gary Numan songs and most notably Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” ! This is where the song really started to come together, with the creation of the field recordings. The first field recording consisted of me setting my portable audio recorder up next to my kitchen window at around 4/5pm and leaving it for ten minutes. The result was the sound of my neighbourhood’s evening commute and return home. Perfect. Nothing sums of modern comfort more than returning home from work, where you can be your “real” self. I threw in a few more samples, to capture the sound of the end of a busy work day and the arrival back home. However, there was something missing. I watched the silent EFFIA video reel on repeat for several minutes, then it clicked to me. EFFIA was an enjoyer of tea (a tea enthusiast even), something we both have in common. The final stage of the sound recording, to the detriment of my electricity bill and my flats temperamental kettle; I recorded every sound of the tea making process, including a binaural recording (replicating the human hearing) of the kettle boiling, I then repeated this another 5 times for good measure.
On most, if not all, recordings of music there is an effect called reverb. Reverb is that thing that makes a big church sound big, not quite echo but closer to the reflections of the sounds on the walls making the sound BIG, if that makes sense.. There are hundreds of ways to apply this effect in most music creation software, however I used my playstation to create all the reverb effects heard on this track. For some reason, the people who designed the audio player on the original playstation included the ability for you to add reverb to your CD’s, so I burnt two CDs: One with all the instruments I wanted to have a very small sounding reverb and the other with a really big one sounding reverb, put it into my playstation and recorded the output. To be honest, I’d never done this before and don’t think anybody else has created reverb for music production this way before either. It was a lot of effort, it took about 30 minutes to do and the pay off was not any more noticeable than it would have been if I had decided to do it in 5 seconds on my computer, but it was a fun experiment nevertheless.
The final stage, I sat at my desk surrounded by 6 cups of Sainsburys “Bedtime” tea and began throwing everything in together. I think the hardest part of mixing sound effects together is the transitions and making sure they dont stand out too much. This will always be a memorable project, the sound of the kettle boiling creates an amazing crescendo in the 32 second clip, collating all the sound of the end of a busy day and hopefully capturing them all in a recognisable way for the listener.– Tony McAspurn, Sound Collaborator for Effia
- Shrill – TV show, 2019.
Shrill follows Annie’s life as she navigates journalism, dating and family dynamics as a fat woman. The two seasons follow her progression as a person, from “wallflower” to unashamed self love. Originally based on Lindy West’s 2016 memoir, “Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman,” the show follows the same stance on feminist expression, running into the face of danger and telling it to f*** off. I honestly just love this show as a viewer and have rewatched it maybe three times. Annie is amazing.Issy Stephens
In this article, Emerson talks about her relationship with her father, and how it has been effected by fatphobia. She talks frankly about how diet culture messaging and her own family’s comments about her fathers weight ingrained prejudice, and inevitably caused damage to her view of her father.Issy Stephens
Small ways we can [combat fatphobia] is by cutting out unsolicited advice or commentary on people’s diets, bodies, or fitness routines. If we do have to speak about health, we can leave weight out of the dialogue. We can ask people for consent before discussing things like weight loss. We can interrupt conversations surrounding fat people’s figures, noting that other folks’ bodies are not our concern. During movie nights with friends, we might consider pointing out when a scene or character is fatphobic, just like we would if it was sexist, antisemitic, or racist. These little actions can start a bigger discussion with those around us regarding what is normalized that shouldn’t be normalized.Emerson
- The intersectionality of Fatphobia and Misogyny in Media – a video essay by Audrey E Lorber, 2020.
In this video essay, Audrey E Lorber covers topics from fat shaming in villain design and education, to how fatphobia and misogyny connect in our culture to provide women with unrealistic and damaging beauty standards. She states that we have been taught that women must be attractive and nice to look at so that men will find them attractive and marry them. This notion tells women that “all they are good for is their looks … and if you don’t fit this narrow mould that we women have been upholding and using for centuries to cater to the male gaze, then you are unlovable and unworthy.” An example of this expectation can be found in TV show Friends, where Monica loses weight to impress Chandler. Audrey E Lorder finishes with analysing how the media is moving forward into more empowering representation of fat women, such as in shows like Euphoria, giving women the opportunity to see fat women in places of power and self love, healing the wounds of fatphobia and misogyny.Issy Stephens
Mothers often promote misogynistic and fatphobic ideals to their daughters.Audrey E Lorber
[In TV sitcoms,] they don’t direct their jokes at any specific person at all, but rather at all fat women … Nameless, faceless, and bodiless, these imagined, invisible women are … treated as less human.Audrey E Lorber
- Your Kids Don’t Have to Inherit Your Body-Image Issues – an article by Virginia Sole-Smith for The New York Times, 2020.
This article covers how parenting styles of talking about food effects their children’s relationship with food, and how you can avoid negative implications of this. It encourages us to look at how we view our own eating habits, whether we enjoy food, or limit ourselves to only eating food that we deem as ‘good,’ avoiding the ‘bad.’ I found it really interesting to see how even the small things parents say or do can be picked up by their children, and helpful to see how these can be adapted to provide healthier relationships. I will be carrying these speech pointers into my own life, as I think that they not only benefit parents, but ourselves and those around us.Issy Stephens
Avoid statements like, “You’re so lucky you can eat cake, when I’m stuck with these carrot sticks!” It may feel as if you’re giving your kids permission to enjoy their treat, but you’re also reinforcing the message that treats need to be earned, or that eating carrots is a punishment. Instead, try your best to share meals and snacks with your children. And consider whether following a diet that makes it difficult for you to embrace family meals is healthy for you, as a parent and as a person.Virginia Sole-Smith
- Stephanie Yeboah – plus-size style blogger, Author, freelance journalist, public speaker & fat acceptance advocate.
Fat women are treated with so much contempt and are routinely dehumanised and mistreated to the point where we are seen as the butt of all jokes when it comes to dating. We can freely be told to lose weight, that we are ugly or what we are just good for sex because people don’t think about the ramifications of their actions. We apparently, don’t have feelings and deserve to be humiliated constantly because the way that we look is our fault. In movies and TV shows, it’s always the fat girl being made the butt of the jokes.Stephanie Yeboah
- Too fat for love? The realities of dating while plus size – an article by Lauren Coppin Campbell for Voice of London, 2018.
“For example, I’m on Bumble and even though I have full body pictures. I still make a comment about it in the ‘about me’ section, so there’s no confusion,” she says. “I don’t know what it is, but I guess you could say I fear someone would be confused or feel a type of way when they see me in person.”Lauren Coppin Campbell
- Dating as a plus-size woman means relentless rejection – an article by Rhian Westbury for metro, 2020.
COMMUNITY FOUND resources ON THE FAT EXPERIENCE
- @selfloveliv – an instagram account
Liv (she/her) brings one of the most genuine and down-to-earth perspectives of The Fat Experience as well as struggles with mental health (specifically bipolar disorder) and medication. Her page is completely unfiltered in the best way. She’s incredibly positive in the way she goes about things, but is also very serious when required, and this is shown in her posts. Some of her posts are just everyday things such as outfits or life updates, but she also covers her emotions and how her experiences have shaped her as a person, and how she’s recovering. All her posts are personal, as opposed to general information.Rowan Noble
- @kenziebrenna – an instagram account
Kenzie Brenna (she/her) is quite frankly a boss ass b**** who focuses on healing and acceptance, as well as unlearning any negativity surrounding body image. She posts a lot about her personal experiences, but also reactions/opinions on other posts/quotes/conversations around the internet.Rowan Noble