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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fat Activism Has Landed in Toronto

The other evening, I attended an incredible event.

It was incredible not so much for what was said (from my perspective), but for the sheer joy, excitement, feistiness, balls, and buxomness in the room.

The event was called "The Queerness of Fat Activism" and it took place at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. As far as I know, it was the first of its kind in this straightlaced, politically correct city. It was a mini revolution ... a happy revolution. I have never seen so many people so joyous and proud to call themselves fat. The pride and the self love was raucous, rowdy, and an absolute delight for me to witness.

We definitely need more of this.

The event was sponsored by Ryerson University, Critical Dietetics, Rainbow Health Ontario, and Come As You Are. It consisted of a lecture by the wonderfully audacious and unapologetic Charlotte Cooper, a fat scholar at the University of Limerick in Ireland. She talked about being fat ... about being queer ... and about being and fat and queer, and a queer fat activist. Some of it felt a little irrelevant to me as I am not queer and that aspect of fatness does not apply to me ... but that wasn't the point. I didn't really care what she said. It was just wonderful to see her THERE, standing up at that podium, and representing fat people, period. She was funny, she was smart ... she obviously loves to create a stir, and had absolutely no problem inciting rebellion in all the other queer and non-queer fat activists present that night.

Charlotte Cooper.

Afterward, there was a panel discussion with Charlotte and a diverse group of other fat activists, including a lawyer, a nutritionist, community workers, a zine publisher, and a student. They all took turns talking about themselves a bit and explaining their takes on fat activism, and the audience got to ask questions.  

The panel.

There was a hell of a lot of laughter and love, and one thing Charlotte said really summed it up for me (not verbatim, but as close as I remember): "Everyone says it's so bad to be fat. Poor us. Well, looking around this room, it doesn't look so bad to me. It's not that bad at all!" 

Everyone unanimously agreed.

Me and my friend Melanie. Look at the smiles on our faces. I guarantee we weren't the only ones smiling like this!

I have been waiting for a moment like this in the city where I live for years. Toronto has always prided itself on appearances. What do tourists always say when they visit here? "IT'S SO CLEAN." Toronto has long been an ultra conservative, proper city where materialism rules. It is a city largely populated by the rich and the beautiful. 

Well, last night the doors opened to include a whole bunch of people who have been told they're not beautiful ... and obviously didn't get the memo ... because I guarantee these women will not allow anyone to tell them they are not beautiful. They KNOW they are beautiful, and anyone who'd be foolish enough to try and tell them any different ... well, let's just say they'd be looking for the quickest exit.

It was inspiring. It was an awesome sight. The room was packed to the rafters and probably spilled out into the lobby area. This was a message that a lot of people have obviously been waiting for.

I know Toronto has a long way to go before it catches up with other cities like San Francisco that are famous for fat activism and fat politics. But the scene before me yesterday gives me hope ... the doors are open ... opening wide ... and just waiting for all of us to walk in and add our voices to the solid choir that is already there.


  1. I would like to think that Toronto had already landed. I can remember going to events like this 12 years ago... I hope that fat activism is not just becoming trendy the way that bullying has (thanks Gigi for pointing that out!)

    I'm glad you had such a great time last night!

  2. Last night was my first experience with any public fat activism here in Toronto ... I had no idea there WERE any fat activists in Toronto. I'm glad to find out they are there. And I guarantee it's not a "trend", on my part, at least ... I've been fat for most of my life and I've been waiting for an event like this to let me know there are other fat people in this city who don't take shit about being fat lightly. It was a great night. Kudos to everyone there.

  3. It was a blast. The celebration is a success.