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Enough with the fear of fat

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    I'm here today to talk to you
    about a very powerful little word,
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    one that people will do almost anything
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    to avoid becoming.
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    Billion-dollar industries thrive
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    because of the fear of it,
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    and those of us who undeniably are it
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    are left to navigate a relentless storm
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    surrounding it.
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    I'm not sure if any of you have noticed,
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    but I'm fat.
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    Not the lowercase,
    muttered-behind-my-back kind,
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    or the seemingly harmless
    chubby or cuddly.
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    I'm not even the more sophisticated
    voluptuous or curvaceous kind.
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    Let's not sugarcoat it.
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    I am the capital F-A-T kind of fat.
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    I am the elephant in the room.
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    When I walked out on stage,
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    some of you may have been thinking,
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    "Aww, this is going to be hilarious,
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    because everybody knows
    that fat people are funny."
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    (Laughter)
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    Or you may have been thinking,
    "Where does she get her confidence from?"
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    Because a confident fat woman
    is almost unthinkable.
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    The fashion-conscious
    members of the audience
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    may have been thinking how fabulous I look
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    in this Beth Ditto dress --
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    (Cheers)
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    thank you very much.
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    Whereas some of you might have thought,
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    "Hmm, black would have been
    so much more slimming."
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    (Laughter)
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    You may have wondered, consciously or not,
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    if I have diabetes, or a partner,
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    or if I eat carbs after 7pm.
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    (Laughter)
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    You may have worried
    that you ate carbs after 7pm last night,
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    and that you really should renew
    your gym membership.
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    These judgments are insidious.
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    They can be directed
    at individuals and groups,
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    and they can also
    be directed at ourselves.
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    And this way of thinking
    is known as fatphobia.
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    Like any form of systematic oppression,
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    fatphobia is deeply rooted
    in complex structures
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    like capitalism, patriarchy and racism,
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    and that can make it
    really difficult to see,
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    let alone challenge.
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    We live in a culture
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    where being fat
    is seen as being a bad person --
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    lazy, greedy, unhealthy, irresponsible
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    and morally suspect.
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    And we tend to see thinness
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    as being universally good --
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    responsible, successful,
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    and in control of our appetites,
    bodies and lives.
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    We see these ideas again and again
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    in the media, in public health policy,
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    doctors' offices,
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    in everyday conversations
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    and in our own attitudes.
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    We may even blame fat people themselves
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    for the discrimination they face
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    because, after all, if we don't like it,
    we should just lose weight.
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    Easy.
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    This antifat bias has become
    so integral, so ingrained
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    to how we value ourselves and each other
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    that we rarely question why
    we have such contempt for people of size
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    and where that disdain comes from.
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    But we must question it,
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    because the enormous value
    we place on how we look
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    affects every one of us.
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    And do we really want to live in a society
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    where people are denied
    their basic humanity
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    if they don't subscribe
    to some arbitrary form of acceptable?
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    So when I was six years old,
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    my sister used to teach ballet
    to a bunch of little girls in our garage.
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    I was about a foot taller and a foot wider
    than most of the group.
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    When it came to doing
    our first performance,
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    I was so excited
    about wearing a pretty pink tutu.
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    I was going to sparkle.
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    As the other girls slipped easily
    into their Lycra and tulle creations,
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    not one of the tutus
    was big enough to fit me.
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    I was determined not to be
    excluded from the performance,
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    so I turned to my mother
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    and loud enough for everyone to hear
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    said, "Mom, I don't need a tutu.
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    I need a fourfour."
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    (Laughter)
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    Thanks, Mom.
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    (Applause)
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    And although I didn't
    recognize it at the time,
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    claiming space for myself
    in that glorious fourfour
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    was the first step towards becoming
    a radical fat activist.
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    Now, I'm not saying
    that this whole body-love thing
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    has been an easy skip along
    a glittering path of self-acceptance
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    since that day in class.
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    Far from it.
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    I soon learned that living outside
    what the mainstream considers normal
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    can be a frustrating and isolating place.
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    I've spent the last 20 years unpacking
    and deprogramming these messages,
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    and it's been quite the roller coaster.
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    I've been openly laughed at,
    abused from passing cars
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    and been told that I'm delusional.
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    I also receive smiles from strangers
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    who recognize what it takes
    to walk down the street
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    with a spring in your step
    and your head held high.
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    (Cheer)
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    Thanks.
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    And through it all, that fierce
    little six-year-old has stayed with me,
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    and she has helped me
    stand before you today
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    as an unapologetic fat person,
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    a person that simply refuses to subscribe
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    to the dominant narrative
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    about how I should move
    through the world in this body of mine.
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    (Applause)
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    And I'm not alone.
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    I am part of an international
    community of people
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    who choose to, rather
    than passively accepting
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    that our bodies are
    and probably always will be big,
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    we actively choose to flourish
    in these bodies as they are today.
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    People who honor our strength
    and work with, not against,
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    our perceived limitations,
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    people who value health
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    as something much more holistic
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    than a number on an outdated BMI chart.
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    Instead, we value mental health,
    self-worth and how we feel in our bodies
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    as vital aspects
    to our overall well-being.
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    People who refuse to believe
    that living in these fat bodies
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    is a barrier to anything, really.
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    There are doctors, academics and bloggers
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    who have written countless volumes
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    on the many facets
    of this complex subject.
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    There are fatshionistas
    who reclaim their bodies and their beauty
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    by wearing fatkinis and crop tops,
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    exposing the flesh
    that we're all taught to hide.
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    There are fat athletes
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    who run marathons,
    teach yoga or do kickboxing,
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    all done with a middle finger
    firmly held up to the status quo.
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    And these people have taught me
    that radical body politics
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    is the antidote
    to our body-shaming culture.
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    But to be clear, I'm not saying
    that people shouldn't change their bodies
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    if that's what they want to do.
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    Reclaiming yourself can be one
    of the most gorgeous acts of self-love
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    and can look like
    a million different things,
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    from hairstyles to tattoos
    to body contouring
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    to hormones to surgery
    and yes, even weight loss.
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    It's simple: it's your body,
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    and you decide what's best to do with it.
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    My way of engaging in activism
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    is by doing all the things
    that we fatties aren't supposed to do,
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    and there's a lot of them,
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    inviting other people to join me
    and then making art about it.
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    The common thread
    through most of this work
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    has been reclaiming spaces that are
    often prohibitive to bigger bodies,
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    from the catwalk to club shows,
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    from public swimming pools
    to prominent dance stages.
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    And reclaiming spaces en masse
    is not only a powerful artistic statement
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    but a radical community-building approach.
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    This was so true of "AQUAPORKO!" --
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    (Laughter)
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    the fat fem synchronized swim team
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    I started with a group
    of friends in Sydney.
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    The impact of seeing
    a bunch of defiant fat women
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    in flowery swimming caps and bathers
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    throwing their legs in the air
    without a care
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    should not be underestimated.
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    (Laughter)
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    Throughout my career, I have learned
    that fat bodies are inherently political,
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    and unapologetic fat bodies
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    can blow people's minds.
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    When director Kate Champion,
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    of acclaimed dance theater
    company Force Majeure,
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    asked me to be the artistic associate
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    on a work featuring all fat dancers,
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    I literally jumped at the opportunity.
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    And I mean literally.
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    "Nothing to Lose" is a work made
    in collaboration with performers of size
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    who drew from their lived experiences
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    to create a work as varied
    and authentic as we all are.
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    And it was as far from ballet
    as you could imagine.
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    The very idea of a fat dance work
    by such a prestigious company
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    was, to put it mildly, controversial,
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    because nothing like it had ever been done
    on mainstream dance stages before
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    anywhere in the world.
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    People were skeptical.
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    "What do you mean, 'fat dancers?'
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    Like, size 10, size 12 kind of fat?
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    Where did they do their dance training?
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    Are they going to have the stamina
    for a full-length production?"
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    But despite the skepticism,
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    "Nothing to Lose" became
    a sellout hit of Sydney Festival.
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    We received rave reviews, toured,
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    won awards and were written about
    in over 27 languages.
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    These incredible images of our cast
    were seen worldwide.
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    I've lost count of how many times
    people of all sizes
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    have told me that the show
    has changed their lives,
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    how it helped them
    shift their relationship
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    to their own and other people's bodies,
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    and how it made them confront
    their own bias.
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    But of course, work
    that pushes people's buttons
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    is not without its detractors.
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    I have been told
    that I'm glorifying obesity.
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    I have received violent death threats
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    and abuse for daring to make work
    that centers fat people's bodies and lives
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    and treats us as worthwhile human beings
    with valuable stories to tell.
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    I've even been called
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    "the ISIS of the obesity epidemic" --
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    (Laughter)
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    a comment so absurd that it is funny.
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    But it also speaks to the panic,
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    the literal terror,
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    that the fear of fat can evoke.
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    It is this fear that's feeding
    the diet industry,
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    which is keeping so many of us
    from making peace with our own bodies,
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    for waiting to be the after-photo
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    before we truly start to live our lives.
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    Because the real elephant
    in the room here is fatphobia.
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    Fat activism refuses to indulge this fear.
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    By advocating for self-determination
    and respect for all of us,
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    we can shift society's reluctance
    to embrace diversity
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    and start to celebrate the myriad ways
    there are to have a body.
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    Thank you.
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    (Applause)
Title:
Enough with the fear of fat
Speaker:
Kelli Jean Drinkwater
Description:

In a society obsessed with body image and marked by a fear of fat, Kelli Jean Drinkwater engages in radical body politics through art. She confronts the public's perception of bigger bodies by bringing them into spaces that were once off limits -- from fashion runways to the Sydney Festival -- and entices all of us to look again and rethink our biases. "Unapologetic fat bodies can blow people's minds," she says.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
12:20
Brian Greene edited English subtitles for Enough with the fear of fat
Brian Greene approved English subtitles for Enough with the fear of fat
Brian Greene edited English subtitles for Enough with the fear of fat
Brian Greene edited English subtitles for Enough with the fear of fat
Joanna Pietrulewicz accepted English subtitles for Enough with the fear of fat
Joanna Pietrulewicz edited English subtitles for Enough with the fear of fat
Joanna Pietrulewicz edited English subtitles for Enough with the fear of fat
Joseph Geni edited English subtitles for Enough with the fear of fat
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