Coming soon: The Big Bum Jumble

// 20 July 2010

BBJ Lady logo.JPGIf you were to bring to mind an image of political activism, chances are a jumble sale isn’t exactly what you’d picture. This summer though all that is set to change as on the 14th of August the Big Bum Jumble will arrive in Stratford, East London. The Big Bum Jumble is a landmark fatshion event – a sale of low-cost second-hand and vintage clothes in sizes XL and up (that’s a women’s size 18). Its organiser, fat activist Kay Hyatt, was inspired by similar events in the US such as the Fat Girl Flea in New York, and by the desire to forge some fat community spirit and find a pair of trousers that actually fit.

The Big Bum Jumble is an event with a clear practical purpose – to give fat people a chance to get cool stuff to wear, and to be able to choose it. From a selection! For many fatties, however comfortable you are with your size, clothes shopping can be frustrating, expensive and demoralising. Scarcity of large sizes on the high street can strip the shopping experience of its supposed fun or creative aspects (questionable though these pleasures may be), while the existence of a euphemistically named ‘plus size’ section doesn’t necessarily help the situation. Always tucked away at the back of the shop, the clothes are somehow less fun, more ugly and seemingly designed to accentuate retailers’ perception of you as a desperate, self-hating blob. The Big Bum Jumble aims to offer an abundance of styles and sizes, and encourages shoppers to try on something they usually wouldn’t dare to in a celebratory atmosphere free from shame and body-hatred.

Not only is the Big Bum Jumble an opportunity for bargain hunting and dressing up, but it will also provide a space for (fat) community building. With a month to go that has already started and the Big Bum Jumble already has a lively Facebook group and a blog. This element of the event is at least as important as stocking your Autumn/Winter wardrobe for the Big Bum Jumble is firmly located in a thriving fat activist movement in the UK. The event is being partly funded by last year’s Fat Of The Land queer harvest festival, and any proceeds from the jumble sale will go towards similar future events, for example the proposed 2012 Fattylympics. Aside from the sale the Big Bum Jumble day itself will feature a catwalk show with models and clothes found amongst the jumble, DJing from Unskinny Bop’s Tamsin & Ruth and ample space and time for making new friends and building new alliances.

While fat activism is still a relatively small world the growing number of blogs, zines, academic conferences and publications, not to mention vicious girl gangs (see, speak to a political and personal need amongst many to contest mainstream views of fat as unhealthy, unattractive and unethical and challenge the validity of the idea that fat is a problem which requires a ‘cure’. These politics are deeply informed by other liberationist perspectives, be it feminist critiques of the body and medical science, queer strategies to reclaim pejorative labels, or riot grrrl-esque DIY culture. So you can begin to see how the temporary dose of consumerism the Big Bum Jumble is providing is part of a bigger ideal to create autonomous fat culture, re-use and recycle resources and resist mainstream ideals of beauty with their attendant fatphobia and gender-regulation. That image of activism just got a make-over, right?

Everyone is welcome at the Big Bum Jumble, whatever your size. Whether you like a bargain or a revolution, need to replace some falling-apart jeans or want to hang out with cool fat folks it looks like being a day to remember. See you there!

Big Bum Jumble takes place on Saturday August 14th at Stratford Circus from 12-5pm.

The venue is accessible and children are welcome.

For more information see the blog or join the Facebook group.

Illustration by Meryl Trussler

Comments From You

lisa // Posted 20 July 2010 at 6:22 pm

“These politics are deeply informed by other liberationist perspectives”

You choose to be fat and are proud of it. Fair enough. That’s your right.

But you’re not ‘oppressed’ because doctors tell you to lose weight.

There is a link between poor diet, lack of exercise and being overweight. There is also a link between being fat and many diseases. Sure there are other factors, but diet, weight and exercise are very important.

So, why are you seeking to equate your issues with the struggles of people who are actually oppressed.

And what has this idiotic identity politics activism actually got to do with feminism?

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 12:10 pm


Thank you for your comments. For many fat activists the scientific evidence supporting the links between being fat and disease is weak at best, and its validity is made suspect by its links to interested parties in the weight-loss and pharmaceutical industries. Contrary to popular belief it is possible to be healthy and fat, whilst attempts to lose significant amounts of weight are not only largely unsuccessful, but can actually create health problems. For more on this you might like to check out Poor diet and lack of exercise are problems full stop, regardless of weight.

Secondly, my post does not describe fat people as oppressed, though some fat activists would certainly advocate this view. I think discussions revolving around who is or isn’t “actually” oppressed are rarely useful and often divisive and counter-productive. Certainly, the way in which fat is socially constructed as the abject ‘other’ of a non-fat norm means that fat people may share some experiences of marginalisation and alienation. However, I would be wary of asserting some kind of universalised fat experience/oppression because how a specific person experiences being fat will depend on their gender, race, class, age, location, sexuality and so on.

Finally, there are many ways in which fat politics and feminism overlap. The body has always been a key area for feminist analysis, as it is for fat. The rhetoric of the obesity ‘epidemic’ often comes with a side-order of gender regulation (whether it is scare stories about fat women being infertile – because reproduction is what women are made for – or the implication that if women should get back in the kitchen to cook healthy dinners for their families), which needs challenging from both a feminist and a fat studies perspective. For me it is not a question of equating feminism with fat politics, but understanding how the two intersect.

Activism, of which the Big Bum Jumble is one small example, is a way of enriching individual lives, creating community and resisting exploitation by mainstream cultural and economic interests. I do not think this is idiotic.

polly // Posted 21 July 2010 at 1:25 pm

@ lisa

There is a link between poor diet, lack of exercise and being overweight. There is also a link between being fat and many diseases. Sure there are other factors, but diet, weight and exercise are very important. “”

Yes there is a correlation between being overweight and certain diseases. However these correlations are not necessarily straightforward – it is probably better for an overweight person’s general health to concentrate on healthy eating and exercise where they are able to do it (not everyone can, please remember) than to simply focus on losing weight.

I remember going to a very popular slimming club and them attempting to sell me biscuits. Which were no different from any other biscuit on sale anywhere, apart from they were more expensive. When I left and didn’t return, they sent me blackmail letters saying I couldn’t lose weight without them! If i had followed their eating plan, I would have lost weight through calorie restriction, but I would still have continued to eat foods with poor nutritional value and not altered my bad eating habits one bit.

I did lose weight all by myself, by eating low fat, low sugar, high fibre food (and saved being ripped off by them into the bargain). Which is my business, just as anyone’s health is their business.

The point is that no one has any obligation to be a certain weight. Health, or the lack of it, is not a moral imperative and is usually used as a way to castigate people for being fat, when it’s nobody else’s business. The piece didn’t mention health problems or doctors at all!

I personally AM irritated by the way some of the ‘fat positive’ movement deny completely any correlation between weight and health problems, however it’s not straightforward and no one owes it to anyone else to be “healthy” anyway is the bottom line.

Hannah // Posted 21 July 2010 at 1:45 pm

As you say, liberation movements often question prevailing scientific ‘reason’ (feminists saying women aren’t naturally the weaker sex, trans people questioning binary ideas about gender and so on), but I just can’t swallow the argument that being fat isn’t a frequent cause of disease. Clearly everyone has a different natural body shape and healthy weight – as the health at every size website seems to be fundamentally arguing – but this is common sense, and is not the same as proving that the links between a high BMI and heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and so on don’t exist. I’d like to see some serious science behind what you’re saying, rather than mere assertions of what fat activists believe to be true.

The truth is that there have not always been as many fat people as there are now, and what is more significant is that it is not a worldwide problem. Regardless of jumble sales fat people might be putting on to mitigate the effects of our consumer culture, obesity in the West (and the rise in obesity in countries as they industrialise) is a symptom of the cultural disease of overconsumption, and I mean consumption in all respects, not just of food. Arguing for fat acceptance seems to be missing the point. We shouldn’t be blaming fat people for being fat, but what we should be doing is campaigning for better food labelling, encouraging people to reduce their consumption of fatty meats – the sourcing of which is crippling the world’s environment – and most importantly, we need to be helping people to realise that while they overconsume, one in six people simply do not have enough food to eat (according to the UN World Food Programme.)

Saying that fatness is not a problem also seems somewhat irresponsible. Fat people may only hear the message of ‘fat acceptance’ from your campaign, not the more nuanced ‘everyone has a different healthy body weight and should eat healthily, and do regular exercise’. The fat people I see every day – often struggling to walk, with twisted ankles and clothes that look painfully ill-fitting – are NOT healthy, nor do they look happy. Telling them they are fine gives them conflicting messages – and who wouldn’t prefer the message that meant they didn’t have to change their lifestyle?

I should add, I do appreciate what you’re doing from the feminist perspective of trying to alter people’s perceptions of the ideal body shape. I think that’s really important. And I’m all for having jumble sales rather than buying new stuff. I am just concerned by the denial of science in some less nuanced versions of fat activism, and by its apparent uncritical endorsement of current dietary practices, which I see as one of the key obstacles to achieving global equality and to combating climate change.

Hannah // Posted 21 July 2010 at 1:57 pm

Hi Polly, your post went up whilst I was writing mine so I didn’t respond to it, but you make some good points. It is so important to educate people about eating healthily, and well done to you for losing weight without buying into the dieting culture. I suppose that should probably be ‘becoming a healthy weight’, since ‘losing weight’ isn’t necessarily a good thing. Looks like we need another language revolution for this liberation, same as usual!

I have been thinking about my post and hope it didn’t sound too aggressive. Liberation movements need to recognise what we have in common and work together, there are certainly enough people in the world around to rip us apart without us doing it to each other! So…even though it might have a bit of a confrontational tone, please see it as being intended as a constructive criticism and a plea for more nuance and a wider – perhaps more anticapitalist – picture.

Stacy // Posted 21 July 2010 at 2:00 pm

Fat is, indeed, a feminist issue. And it has intense overlaps with many other isms — not the least of which are classism, racism and ableism.

Not everyone chooses to be fat – there are genetic issues at hand, and also there are huge, institutional problems with access (both geographical and financial) to healthy foods and quality medical care for a huge percentage of the population. There are also medical issues which contribute to a larger body as well as a great number of common medications taken for mood stabilization/other medical conditions that contribute to the fatness of some individuals.

If, under your presumption, fat folks are not truly oppressed, at least consider that the ways in which other labels affixed to some fat individuals may contribute to fatness, rendering it in some, though certainly not all, cases yet another symptom of other oppressions.

If you have a limited food budget and a family to feed and you are in an urban area where access to gardening, to larger grocery stores (vs. bodegas) where fresh produce is available, or simply can’t afford to buy it if you *do* have access, then the choice of what to purchase to sustain yourself and your family is limited. In London, smaller stores carry produce at somewhat reasonable prices, but in the states, most “convenience stores” do not carry produce and, if they do, it is priced up considerably. And in the states, as well, where one can buy a 4-pack of fried burritos for $2 or a single cantaloupe for the same price — what do you think people are going to choose when there are hungry mouths to feed?

My sort of rambling point is that fat is not a simple issue. Personally I don’t believe anyone should be shamed for any aspect of their body. Autonomy dictates that we get to choose how we carry ourselves through this world, and equality dictates that we should all have the same rights and access as anyone else. This, historically, has been untrue for many people. Poor or no access to medical care, health insurance — job discrimination on the basis of aesthetics, overpriced and limited access to quality clothing, air travel — not to mention the daily struggle of being a larger person in a world which actively discriminates in sometimes desperately ugly ways — these are all issues facing fat individuals.

Fighting negative body image is a huge part of feminism. Learning to love our bodies, treat them well and with respect, engage them as a tool instead of a cross to bear — this is key to our holistic relationship with ourselves. Activism like the Big Bum Jumble has the powerful impact of normalizing the great diversity of bodies on this planet and inviting conversation, creating community and encouraging self-love by providing access to a shame-free space for any body type — not just the bodies that society accepts as the norm.

I, for one, congratulate the BBJ for pioneering this in London and look forward to attending!

Lauren // Posted 21 July 2010 at 2:02 pm

Lisa and Polly’s comments prove just how badly fat activism and fat friendly events/spaces are needed. That people who are supposedly liberal and used to reading between the lines blindly accept ideas that have been force fed them by media paid for by weight loss companies and ignorant medical giants is utterly depressing.

For self proclaimed feminists to indulge in victim blaming as well as body and lifestyle policing like this is disgusting and makes a mockery of the entire feminist movement.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 21 July 2010 at 2:18 pm

off topic perhaps, but i really do love that simple artwork on the logo

Kristin // Posted 21 July 2010 at 2:40 pm

Bill, as far as I understand it, there has been quite an increase in the number of overweight/obese people in, say, the past five or so decades, especially in the UK and US. Now, what is the reason for that? To me, it is the relentless pushing of junk food by major corporations, over which governments have little or no control. I’m not talking about only McDonalds and the like, but about the high levels of fat/salt/sugar, palm oil (a particular horror of mine), e-numbers etc, which is added to ready meals and the vast amounts of processed foods on sale. It is quite difficult and expensive to get normal, healthy, real food.

Of course no one is obliged to be a particular weight, and as long as someone is happy with their weight, that’s fine. But to be so overweight that you get health problems or can’t even move about as you’d like IS horrible and it can be dangerous. Many people find it very hard not to become overweight or to keep to a weight that they are happy with, because of the relentless, oppressive proliferation of adulterated ‘food”. That to me is the biggest danger. It oppresses us all.

Rosie // Posted 21 July 2010 at 3:09 pm

Well, I get really tired of all the fat people who keep commenting on my weight and asking me if I’m anorexic and saying they hate people like me. But if I made a comment about their body shape, I can imagine the outraged reaction. Works both ways.

I don’t think human beings were ever meant to be hugely overweight, speaking from an evolutionary p.ov. Why are there so many fat people (especially in Western society) now, compared with earlier periods in history?

Lindsey // Posted 21 July 2010 at 3:21 pm

Funny how no one health-shamed me when I was constantly tired, achy and irritable… good ol’ privilege.

Nadia // Posted 21 July 2010 at 5:00 pm

I am mega excited about this! Finally there will be vintage clothes in bigger sizes!

I think people are missing the whole point of this! It is not promoting obesity but simply providing women with more clothing options.

It is a fact that an individual could not lose all the weight they needed to in one day so what are they supposed to wear??? You can bang on about healthy eating, exercise and losing weight all you want but we all know that it it a long process and cannot be done overnight.

Aside from that why should people who are fat not have the right to look fabulous? If you don’t like it, don’t look.

For a long time people said nothing about the fashion industry using skinny models and creating unobtainable ideals of beauty but as soon as one event pops up people are all over it, criticising it for promoting an unhealthy image. You many think that this is doing the same but it is becuase there is no middle ground.

This event is about promoting equality and working to achieve that for all women, no matter what their shape or size is and THAT IS WHAT FEMINISM IS ALL ABOUT.

Poor Taxpayer // Posted 21 July 2010 at 5:30 pm

I’m normally for getting the state of everyone’s back but with this one it is diffcult to go with the fattists.

While we have socialised medicine, in which everyone else’s medical problems are a problem for the state and therfore my wallet, surely there must be a public duty not to be unhealthy if you can avoid it? Anything else is selfish and anti-social.

Now this can be taken to extremes, obviously, as it has been with ‘elf’n’safety culture. But surely if people are going to have high healthcare costs because of their persistant overeating over decades, maybe it should be at their expense not mine?

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 7:30 pm


Thanks for commenting. I think your point about the moral imperative is spot on.

Petunia // Posted 21 July 2010 at 7:44 pm


Why are you so outraged and threatened that a group of people who don’t have access to affordable clothing should organize such a celebratory, accessible, free alternative?

Clearly, that fat people should advocate for themselves threatens and upsets you.

That you assume what someone’s medical and lifestyle history is as a group without even knowing an individual’s medical history demonstrates that you are part of the problem.

If you don’t think that fat people are misdiagnosed and undergo malpractice every day due to doctors being unwilling to treat fat people as human beings as opposed to an obesity diagnosis (for everything from ingrown toenails to cancer): again, you are part of the problem.

I know fat people whose malignant tumors have gone undiagnosed for months or years by doctors who advise them to lose weight to cure symptoms. I’m lucky that some have advocated enough for themselves to have survived. But not everyone has been so lucky. Access to medical care is compounded by other intersections of economic and racial oppressions, where people are often treated as second, third and fourth class citizens.

Please read more about the tenets behind Health at Every Size, and at any rate, stop burdening these creative and inspiring clothing exchange organizers with your uninformed and somewhat random rantings. Many of us are thrilled at their creating opportunities in London, and it is not their job to school your ass or justify their work.

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 7:48 pm


Thanks for this. I understand partially where you’re coming from and the frustrating thing is that no one really knows if there is a ‘truth’ about why people seem to be getting fatter, whether it’s genetic/cultural/environmental/whatever, whether it’s the fat that causes disease or other factors. You say you ‘can’t swallow’ some of the fat activist argument, but you have accepted that the rise in weight at a population level is caused by individual over-consumption and you continue to read a person’s health status from their size. I am not saying either is absolutely right or wrong but the parts of this discourse you ascribe truth to are the ones supported by prevailing scientific reason. If you’re interested in the science part then I think something like Paul Campos’ ‘The Obesity Myth’ contains some facts and figures. Whether you can fight bad science with ‘better’ science is perhaps the bigger and more unanswerable question.

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 7:53 pm


Thanks for your comments! Glad you’re looking forward to the Jumble.

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 7:57 pm


Yes it’s beautiful isn’t it? Thanks to Meryl for drawing it, you can read more about her here:

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 8:04 pm


Thanks. As I mentioned in another comment, the reasons for the rise of ‘obesity’ are either unknown or unproven. The adulteration, as you put it, of food is one popular explanation. However, in searching for reasons why people are fat we also imply both that it is inherently problematic, and that it needs curing. Now if the ‘cure’ is fresh, cheap, quality food for all then fine, but more often success (and failure) will be premised on individual weight loss, and that is more problematic.

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 8:10 pm


Thanks! I hope I did not imply any ill-feeling towards thin people. That is certainly not my feeling or the aim of the Big Bum Jumble. It is interesting that currently our society is in a moral panic about both fat people and thin people…

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 8:35 pm


Not sure what you’re referring to here. Care to elaborate?

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 8:38 pm


The right to look fabulous sounds like something I can get behind! Thanks for your enthusiasm. Can I take this opportunity to say that the Big Bum Jumble will also have men’s clothes…

mornington // Posted 21 July 2010 at 8:39 pm

As someone who has recently gained a lot of weight (I have fibromyalgia and went from rowing 4-12km/day to getting knackered by walking for half an hour), I really *have* noticed a change in the way clothes fit me, and how I’m treated in shops when I do go looking for clothes (though partly it’s ableism, apparently cripples like me don’t shop).

Fat Activism and Fat Friendly spaces are, to me, feminist because they are arguing against the control of women through appearance, saying you don’t have to look like X/Y/Z to be happy/beautiful/deserving.

Rosie – it goes both ways. I can imagine the “size zero horror” gets old pretty quick. So does being told that we’re fatter than we have been in the past. People are also – at least in the Global North – taller, live for longer, have fewer fatal diseases, and spend more time watching TV, but you don’t get told off by doctors/strangers/family for being old or tall.

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 8:50 pm

Poor Taxpayer,

Thanks for your views. See Stacy’s comment about how sometimes it is not avoidable. And in any case aren’t there all sorts of things people do that could be avoided that cost the NHS money – driving cars, drinking etc etc. There is a strong current in obesity epidemic rhetoric to case fat people as anti-social and personally I find it quite terrifying. Would you want to deny healthcare to fat people? How would you measure who was thin enough to qualify? How would you deal with the fact it would dis-proportionately affect people of lower socio-economic status, women and ethnic minorities?

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 8:52 pm


Many thanks!

Bill Savage // Posted 21 July 2010 at 8:54 pm


Thanks for your insightful comments. Much appreciated.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 21 July 2010 at 8:59 pm

thing is… working people that are fat pay bills themselves. should their taxes over their lifetime not be used on themselves just because they might take a bit more from someone that rarely uses healthcare? i have a more anarcho-socialist perspective, so i do think people should help themselves, but i also think we should be there to catch each other because we want to. because we dont want someone to die that doesnt want to die.

gadgetgal // Posted 21 July 2010 at 10:27 pm

Hi Bill – just wanted to say I think your cool-headed responses have been brilliant here, especially since some of the comments made in the thread you could have quite easily dismissed as entirely irrelevant or just plain uninformed! And the jumble sale sounds brill – wish I still lived near there so I could partake!! I’m not that overweight but as a short, podgy, curvy girl (I prefer to use the word “bouncy”, sounds nice and positive) I find most clothes shopping a pain in MY big bum.

Hope it all goes well!! :)

Sarah // Posted 21 July 2010 at 10:34 pm

The problem is that even if you accept that being overweight is bad for your health and that it would be better to weigh less, it’s not all that clear what you should do about it. Trying to lose weight, in itself (rather than trying to eat well for health or exercise for wellbeing) can be ineffective at best and counter-productive at worst. While it’s usually possible to lose a certain amount of weight at first, by going on a diet, long-term it’s a different story. And strict weight-loss dieting is a major trigger for binge-eating disorders and bulimia, even if it seems successful at first (this is what happened to me).

This is why I like the ‘healthy at any weight’ approach (similar to what Bill mentioned) which takes the focus off weight altogether. It’s not because weight doesn’t matter, but because often a focus on weight is unhelpful and counter-productive, and it’s better to take a more holistic approach of doing the things you can to take good care of your body and your emotional wellbeing, which may or may not lead to changes in your weight, and, if you or your doctor need health-related ‘markers’ to track, looking at things like blood pressure or cholesterol levels, which are probably better predictors of health outcomes anyway.

As for the original article – well, my view is that it’s a fact of life that some people are large some of the time, and that regardless of the reason, they (like the rest of us) need and want a decent choice of clothes that fit properly, and don’t need to be made to feel ashamed or be lectured about ‘ but don’t you know being fat is unhealthy!!’ as though they’ve never heard that before!.

polly // Posted 21 July 2010 at 10:44 pm

@ Lauren

I don’t ‘blindly accept’ anything, which is why I don’t believe everything the diet industry OR everything the fat acceptance movement tells me.

I have close relatives who are older than me who are definitely suffering from weight related health issues. One of them needs a knee replacement and is more or less unable to walk as a consquence. Mechanical stress on joints definitely IS a weight related issue. I don’t want to end up the same way, so I CHOSE to lose weight. My choice.

Many people in the fat acceptance movement are young, and therefore will not be experiencing weight related health issues, because these tend to develop in later life. But if you know someone who does have these issues and you know they’re likely to affect you to, then you have every right to do what you choose to about it.

Saturated fat and high sugar diets are bad for you. Not everyone who is overweight eats such a diet, not everyone who eats such a diet will become ill in the same way but as I I also have VERY high rates of heart disease and stroke among my close relatives, I think I have every right to be concerned about my OWN health.

Note I said my OWN health. I am not telling anyone else how to live their lives.

A *size acceptance* movement that says people aren’t allowed to make their own decisions about their own body, and lose weight if they want to, isn’t about acceptance in any way – it’s about just reversing the situation and dictating a different standard body size.

Even IF my motivation for dieting had just been wanting to fit into skinny jeans, the point is it’s MY body. I don’t have the right to tell other people to do what with their body, they don’t have the right to tell me what to do with mine.

That’s the point I was making, it’s a pity you didn’t bother to read it properly!

Jackie Barnett // Posted 21 July 2010 at 11:35 pm

How ridiculous this is!!! How can a jumble sale for clothes that will cater for size XLL provoke such adverserve reactions. Its mind blowing!! some comments made me think I was reading the Daily Mail!! No wonder Feminism is not really thriving in mainstream society. Who is allowed to be part of the Feminist community is it well deserved indivuduals who come from a white middle class society and of course a self respecting TAX PAYER. Who has a a long life healthy life!!! Well done You!!

Kay // Posted 21 July 2010 at 11:35 pm


Thank you so much for writing such a lovely post about the Jumble.

And thanks for you support, supporters.

To those not so supportive.. Oh well! I am organising a plus size jumble sale for me, my friends and whoever wants to turn up and have a good time whether you like it or not. I am not one bit sorry about it!

Stacy // Posted 22 July 2010 at 12:26 am

One of the things I often find most disturbing about the health debate, the over-consumption rhetoric or the “fatties are costing me money” debate is the fact that most of these arguments are shame-based.

If we are to accept the (i believe to be inherently flawed) presumption that fatties are a ‘problem’ to be ‘fixed’ — and if it were as simple (which it is not) as prying the fried chicken legs from the pudgy fingers of fatties everywhere and rolling us off of our couches for a run — then how would shaming someone a valid way of doing so?

In the case of emotional eaters (whose existence I do not in the slightest deny – though not all emotional eaters are fat and I believe genetics plays a huge role in how our eating behaviors impact our visceral being) — the first step in healing the need to self-medicate with food is to get to the core of the emotional issue in the first place. Take Maslow’s Pyramid:

You’ll note the first tier is physiological – food, water, air, sleep, etc.

The second tier is safety – security of body, of employment, of shelter, resources, family, property, etc.

Let’s be honest — for a great many fat folks, getting past the second tier alone is hard work. With fat people passed over for jobs, with their body a constant source of ire both internally and externally — resources are minimal.

It’s not until the 3rd, 4th and 5th tiers that folks are actually able to self-actualize, to turn their minds from the matters of daily survival to headier endeavors such as emotional healing, self-esteem, self-respect — all of which are needed in order to overcome whatever baggage it is that caused the disordered eating in the first place.

There is so much “othering” that goes on in the fat debate, so many stereotypes, so much rote discrimination — and it has all the morality to it as does religion. Just as extremists can justify nearly anything with their god at their back, body facism has all the zealotry of religious extremism with the concept of health dressed up in papal robes holding BMI charts like the stone slabs of gospel.

Our bodies, our relationships with our bodies and the relationships of our bodies with the world are complex, emotional and daily. The interleaving of fat with disease is over-simplified. It is sedentary lifestyle, toxic food, fillers, preservatives, stress and anger that harm us. These things are not specific to fat individuals. There are fat and healthy people, there are fat and unhealthy people, there are thin and healthy people, there are thin and unhealthy people. This is as it has always been and how it shall always be.

What matters is compassion, is giving everyone an equal platform from which to make true choices about their lives — which means access. Without access, there is no choice. Without self-love, there is no healing. Without resources, without community, without compassion and love from others, there is no self-love.

Stop “othering” fat people — educate yourselves about the rampant undercurrent of shame that intersects ALL of the isms. Move forward and stop holding us all back.

Rudy // Posted 22 July 2010 at 9:11 am

I would like to say a massive thank you to Bill and the other organisers of the Big Bum Jumble.

Feminism has taught me a billion things but probably the most useful one in my own life is that mainstream culture and dominant discourses (including Science!) can and SHOULD be questioned, and in the face of a culture which frequently ignores, dismissed or reviles people like me (fat queer weirdos) we need to make our own culture.

Rad fat trailblaizers like the jumble organisers are inspiring to me because it would be so easy to Give Up in the face of fat hatred writ large in the media and on the streets, but instead they are out there creating their own community and having FUN, living their lives.

See you at the jumble, YAY!

Kath // Posted 22 July 2010 at 10:02 am

I want to point out that you all seem to have missed Stacy’s point, and what I think is the motivation behind her work here in the States. Debate whether you have a right to worry about my health all you want. But treat me like a human being. I am not stupid. I am not lazy. I am not fat for any other reason than that I eat too much. I own that. But I also refuse to let society tell me I am flawed. I’m not…at least not by being obese. I am who I am and if you can’t celebrate that with me then you are missing out on a great human being. Stacy’s work promotes self-love and acceptance. Poor self-esteem is a terrible way to go through life. Fat people deserve to be just as happy as everyone else. This will not cause an 11 year old girl to decide to grow up to be fat. And yes, it is a feminist issue and an oppression issue. Anytime you make me feel inferior or not worthy of participating in society you are oppressing me. Don’t kid yourself. Just let us be happy and wear great clothes and sing and dance and go swimming and ride bicycles all we want without judging us. Thanks.

Bill Savage // Posted 22 July 2010 at 10:11 am

Thanks for everyone’s comments this morning, I’m sorry I don’t have time to reply to each individually today. Just to say I’m glad this post has provided the opportunity to have this debate in a public way. Bill x

Amy Clare // Posted 22 July 2010 at 11:40 am

Bill Savage: the way you are portraying scientific evidence about obesity is misleading. There *is* a truth about obesity and health: the amount of peer-reviewed studies into this issue is staggering, and to say that medical research into obesity is suspect because of links to the diet industry is disingenuous. Most medical research into obesity is paid for with government money. Yes, there happens to be a thriving diet industry that takes advantage of messages to lose weight, but this does not mean the whole thing has been cooked up for their benefit. Do you doubt that smoking really causes lung cancer, or is it all just a ruse to prop up the nicotine gum industry? Does the soft drink industry influence research into alcoholic liver disease?

It’s actually the wider food industry, particularly those companies making unhealthy foods, many of which are huge wealthy multinationals, that have the most power. The FSA (soon to be dismantled) had been trying to introduce clearer labelling to help people make sensible food choices, and they were hobbled at every turn by the food industry lobby – some of whom make ‘diet’ foods that are high in sugar and salt, but most of whom unashamedly peddle cheap junk food especially to children. These companies are the ones who complain whenever any regulation of unhealthy food is mooted, and their wealth means that they usually get what they want. In the face of this, the fact that research into obesity has been allowed to happen, and publicise its inconvenient-for-the-food-industry conclusions, is actually quite impressive.

I’ve seen people really suffer because their weight has brought them serious health problems. An old boss of mine died aged 29 because of diabetes brought on by his weight (he was morbidly obese). The argument that obesity is nothing to do with ill health is actually quite irresponsible because it encourages people to put themselves at risk. Many obese young people might feel perfectly healthy right now, as might a twentysomething smoker, but in a few decades’ time it’s likely – statistically – to be a different story.

For what it’s worth, I think the jumble is a great idea and I think *anyone* should be able to get great clothes that fit well. My weight has increased a lot since I developed chronic illness and stopped being able to exercise, so I would never judge any overweight person. But to argue that there is no real link between obesity and ill health is just incorrect, and anti-science. It is on a par with climate change denial. Yes there is a lot of hate and prejudice directed at fat people in our society, and women in particular are constantly told we have to be skinny, but please don’t use these things as a reason to reject scientific research into obesity. At the end of the day this research, and the govt initiatives (like ‘five a day’) which follow it, are aimed at stopping people from suffering long-term, not ‘shaming’ them. It is a world away from the ‘OMG Posh has cellulite!’ messages of Heat et al.

Also: if a GP misdiagnoses someone because they are obese, then this GP is not doing their job properly, but it doesn’t mean that obesity is not a health risk. It’s the same as when my physical condition wasn’t picked up because I was depressed – the GP didn’t do their job properly, but it doesn’t mean that depression per se shouldn’t be addressed.

Kristin // Posted 22 July 2010 at 12:41 pm

Bill, re my original comment, I think I overreacted and missed the point a bit. I think the jumble sale is of course a great idea, and like someone else said, I think the artwork is lovely. I would echo Kath’s comment above, which says it all really.

Lindsey // Posted 22 July 2010 at 12:42 pm

Hi Bill

Sorry I wasn’t particularly clear! I was referring to the issues I was having from lack of exercise, common issues like back ache and lack of energy, but because I’m not seen as fat I was not shamed for not looking after myself properly.

Meems // Posted 22 July 2010 at 2:01 pm


Yes, diets high in saturated fats and sugar are not particularly nutritious and can lead to health problems. They can also lead to weight gain for some (if not many) people. That does not mean it is the weight causing the health problems, but rather the diet. Weight is, in that case, another *symptom* instead of the cause.

The whole point of something like Health at Every Size (HAES) is to address the dietary concerns without making weight the focus.

There are certainly instances in which weight loss is also helpful, as in the case of a friend of mine who uses a prosthetic leg; when he gains weight, it doesn’t fit properly and makes walking all the more difficult.

No size or fat acceptance movement as a whole has said that people should not make decisions about their individual bodies. There are people who might say such things, but one person does not speak for an entire movement. I will say, though, that if you think that size acceptance is about “dictating a different standard body size” then you are sorely mistaken. You don’t have to be fat to support a movement that encourages ALL women, regardless of body size, to feel good about how they look now – not after losing however many pounds.

You certainly have the right to attempt weight loss if you want to, but where I think you get your feeling that size acceptance is anti weight loss is from the anti-diet stance that many people have. It’s not a scare tactic; rather, it’s simply an understanding that weight loss dieting does not work for the majority of people, and weight cycling seems to actually lead to many of the same health problems that have long been attributed to being fat.

Lynne Miles // Posted 22 July 2010 at 2:34 pm

Oh I am soooooo gutted that I’m going to be out of London that weekend. To the organisers – thanks so much for sorting this, and please please PLEASE do another one soon so that I can come.

Thanks to all those who pointed out that my body is a CRISIS to be SOLVED IMMEDIATELY ZOMG!!! Whilst you’re working out how to fix me I’d like to wear some nice clothes that fit.

Rachel H-G // Posted 22 July 2010 at 3:20 pm

Fattism and thinism are different sides of the same coin, I think. It’s all about treating women’s bodies as public property.

I am a thinnifer and am told quite frequently that I am too skinny, which I can deal with. It’s the vaguely directed comments like “real women have curves” which grind my gears. Okay, so because I wear a small dress size, that makes me an imaginary woman, does it?

I hope everyone at the Big Bum Jumble (great name, incidentally), has a good time.

Bill Savage // Posted 22 July 2010 at 5:06 pm

Amy Clare,

Thank you for this comment. Look, it’s not like I haven’t heard any of this before, and while I am not particularly enjoying hearing it again I am listening and I will continue to question both sides. As I have said elsewhere in this thread, I don’t think there is “a truth” about obesity and health, certainly not currently. This is not becuase I don’t ‘trust’ the existing science, but because the ‘truths’ of science are socially constructed and contingent i.e., you think there *is* a truth out there, I don’t.

You point to the inconvenience to the food industry of anti-obesity initiatives. It’s interesting, but what about the pharmaceutical and medical insurance industries (especially in the States) who have been pushing for 20 odd years for obesity to be classified as a disease? They have been so successful in framing the issue in this way that practically the whole of a discussion following a post about a jumble sale has been about health, medicine, disease and so on. Competing arguments rarely ever get a word in edgeways.

I am really not trying to have a go at you or anyone else here. I genuinely am interested in these issues and how they are playing out here and in contemporary society. I am hurt by the (half) accusation of climate change denial (ouch!) but I don’t know how to respond to that…and unfortunately I’ve run out of time to write any more for now. Bill x

Jess McCabe // Posted 22 July 2010 at 6:10 pm

They have been so successful in framing the issue in this way that practically the whole of a discussion following a post about a jumble sale has been about health, medicine, disease and so on.

Exactly, let’s try not to derail too much from the subject at hand, the Big Bum Jumble.

Charlotte Cooper // Posted 22 July 2010 at 7:27 pm

Dear Bill,

You are one Rad Fatty. Thanks for the work you’ve done here in responding to people’s comments about fat and health, taxpaying and climate change, mixed seamlessly with fat panic, fatphobia, and the daily disgust and patronage that fat people put up with. It’s insane to me that a jumble sale could provoke such a response, though not surprising given the current climate and non-debate ‘debate’ around fat. Thanks for your calm talk amidst all this. Lots of love.

Everybody else, please come to the Jumble and donate all your lovely plus-size clothes so that the organisers can make some money and keep putting on rad fat events in the UK. Help us build fat community, join in, support embodied freedom and wellbeing for people of all sizes!

Rose // Posted 22 July 2010 at 7:38 pm

I’m not fat, so the jumble sales not for me.

But I also wouldn’t feel comfortable telling an overweight friend that it was happening – for fear of coursing offense. (I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling them the name!)

I think thats sad, as it sounds like a good, and practical, event.

I find that some seem to be going a little too far in claims that fatness and health aren’t connected.

Health is the state of the body.

Don’t slam the door in sciences face.

There are many ways that science can help fat people (along with everybody else, in various ways) – if you are fat because you choose to eat to comfort yourself, (for example), wouldn’t you prefer to get the comfort without the side-effects?

(When it’s medical, medical science can clearly be a good friend!)

Politicalguineapig // Posted 22 July 2010 at 7:49 pm

I wish there was something like this in America. I love rummage sales! I wish I could go, and I hope everyone has fun.

And to Lisa: Chill out. Fat people deserve clothes too, do you want us to have to run naked in the streets?

Datura // Posted 22 July 2010 at 9:45 pm

I think everyone who has jumped on the “OMG how can you glorify obesity” bandwagon seriously needs to read this:

and this:

and then watch this:

polly // Posted 22 July 2010 at 11:21 pm

Meems: I’m actually completely in agreement with you that diets of the type promoted by the weight loss industry don’t work, and the reason they don’t work – as I said third comment in – is that they don’t concentrate on long term lifestyle changes, but are just temporary calorie restriction. When the diet stops, people go back to their previous eating habits and regain the weight. I also agree that merely being overweight isn’t what causes health problems alone, it’s poor diets, but I’m honest enough to admit I didn’t get fat on a diet of olive oil and steamed organic vegetables. I ate a lot of cake, sweets, chocolate, crisps, and general junk food. And for anyone who’s interested (precious few I suspect) I’m still a size 16 and still officially ‘obese’. I’m just thinner than I used to be.

I replied to Lauren, because she seemed to have completely misinterpreted, or not even bothered to read, my original post -which was actually criticising what Lisa said, NOT agreeing with it. I agree wholeheartedly a)that if people are concerned about their health, then health rather than simple weight loss is what they should focus on and b)that nobody has an ‘obligation’ to be healthy anyway – for some people it isn’t a matter of choice, but even if it is, people’s bodies are their own.

HOWEVER, I have seen, many times, in the blogosphere anyone who dares to say they want to lose weight get jumped on from a great height and it seems to be as much of a knee jerk response as Lauren’s was quite frankly. When I used dieting as an analogy on another blog recently I was immediately asked if I’d read Kate Harding’s blog (answer: yes) but this post from Daisy’s Dead Air

epitomises the problem for me.

As Daisy notes, and as I pointed out above, there’s a lot of ageism in younger women reprimanding an older woman who says she wants to lose weight because it’s causing her mobility difficulties.

Finally: I appreciate that this is something of a derail of the original post, and am actually wholly supportive of the initiative itself.

Sharon // Posted 23 July 2010 at 1:12 am


Firstly, if you can understand that “women’s illnesses” are not a justification for sexism; if you can understand that AIDS is not a justification for homophobia, then you should also be capable of understanding that illnesses related to fatness are not a justification for oppressing fat people either.

Secondly, oppression of fat people is not limited to having doctors tell you to lose weight; that is but one very small part of the numerous and varied ways in which fat people get oppressed. If you have not experienced such oppression personally, then you are fortunate in that regard.

Bill Savage // Posted 23 July 2010 at 1:14 pm


Thanks for your comment. The Big Bum Jumble is so called exactly to bring some levity to the situation, to not try and hide what it’s about. Most people with big bums are well aware of the fact (they are by definition, hard to hide), whether or not they revel in their fat-assed-ness or not. If you have a fat friend talk to them. Don’t assume they’ll be offended by you pointing out what they will probably be all too (self) conscious of. Like you say, the BBJ is a practical event, and a fun one too. Personally I would much rather hear about that than about how unhealthy I am – others might also enjoy a change of tune. Bill x

Bill Savage // Posted 23 July 2010 at 1:17 pm


Thanks for your support. Good news for you is that there are events like this in America – obviously I know America is a big place so they might not be in your area, but they do exist. Also, if you want to have a rummage sale, have your own!

Bill Savage // Posted 23 July 2010 at 1:18 pm


Those were great links, thanks!

Stacy // Posted 23 July 2010 at 1:32 pm

@Politicalguineapig –

There are! There’s the Fat Girl Flea market in NYC ( organized by the amazing Deb of Re/Dress NYC.)

There’s the FatGirl Frock Swaps that we organize on occasion in Portland, OR.

As well, I’m sure there are a number of other clothing exchanges/flea markets/small organized sales that happen all over the place.

If you don’t want to organize a full-on jumble-style event, it’s very easy to organize an afternoon clothing exchange. Invite a bunch of folks of varying sizes, provide something to drink and nibble on, or do it potluck style, close the curtains, put all the clothes in the middle of the room and have at it! It’s great fun trying things on and everyone will walk away with at least something — accessories, shoes, or whole new outfits!

If you don’t have many friends that are fat, you can always put a little ad out online — in craigslist or in your local newspaper or neighborhood association paper — asking if there are folks who would be interested. I bet there will be!


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