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The fear of fat: the real elephant in the room | Kelli Jean Drinkwater | TEDxSydney

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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 to avoid becoming.
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    Billion-dollar industries thrive
    because of the fear of it.
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    Those of us who undeniably are it
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    are left to navigate
    a relentless storm surrounding it.
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    I'm not sure if any of you
    have noticed, but I'm fat.
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    (Laughter)
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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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    (Laughter)
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    When I walked out on stage,
    some of you may have been thinking,
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    "Oh, 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 may have been thinking
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    how fabulous I look
    in this vestido dress
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    (Cheers)
    (Applause)
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    - thank you very much!-
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    whereas some of you might have thought,
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    "Mmm, 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,
    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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    (Laughter)
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    and that you really should renew
    your gym membership.
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    (Laughter)
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    These judgments are insidious;
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    they can be directed
    to 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,
    fatphobia is deeply rooted
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    in complex structures like capitalism,
    patriarchy, and racism,
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    and that can make it really difficult
    to see, let alone challenge.
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    We live in a culture where being fat
    is seen as being a bad person;
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    lazy, greedy, unhealthy,
    irresponsible, and morally suspect.
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    And we tend to see thinness
    as being universally good;
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    responsible, successful, and in control
    of our appetites, bodies, and lives.
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    We see these ideas again and again
    in the media, in public health policy,
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    doctor's offices,
    in everyday conversations
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    and in our own attitudes.
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    We may even blame fat people themselves
    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 anti-fat bias has become so integral,
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    so ingrained to how we value
    ourselves and each other
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    that we rarely question
    why we have such contempt
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    for people of size
    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 affects every one of us.
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    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 the 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 tu-tu.
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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 tu-tus
    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,
    and loud enough for everyone to hear,
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    said, "Mum, I don't need a tu-tu,
    I need a four-four!"
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    (Laughter)
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    Thanks, mum.
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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 four-four
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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, 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 a 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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    (Cheers)
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    Thanks.
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    Through it all,
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    that fierce little six-year-old
    has stayed with me,
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    and she has helped me stand before you
    today as an unapologetic fat person.
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    A person that simply refuses
    to subscribe 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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    And I'm not alone.
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    I am part of an international community
    of people who choose to,
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    rather than passively accepting
    that our bodies are
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    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
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    and work with not against
    our perceived limitations;
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    people who value health
    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
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    that living in these fat bodies
    is a barrier to anything, really.
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    There are doctors, academics, and bloggers
    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 reclaimed
    their bodies and their beauty
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    by wearing "fat-kinis" 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 who run marathons,
    teach yoga, or do kickboxing,
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    all done with the middle finger
    firmly held up to the status quo.
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    (Laughter)
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    These people have taught me
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    that radical body politics is the antidote
    to our body-shaming culture.
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    But to be clear, I'm not saying
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    that people shouldn't change their bodies
    if that's what they want to do.
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    Reclaiming yourself can be
    one of the most gorgeous acts
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    of self-love and can look
    like a million different things:
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    from hairstyles, to tattoos,
    to body contouring, to hormones,
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    to surgery, and yes, even weight loss.
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    It's simple:
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    it's your body, and you decide
    what's best to do with it.
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    My way of engaging in activism
    is by doing all the things
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    that we fatties aren't supposed to do,
    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
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    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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    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 femme synchronized swim team
    I started with a group of friends
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    in Sydney.
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    (Laughter)
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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
    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
    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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    (Laughter)
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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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    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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    (Laughter)
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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, won awards,
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    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 have told me
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    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,
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    work that pushes people's buttons
    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
    and abuse for daring to make work
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    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,
    "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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    (Laughter)
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    but it also speaks to the panic,
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    the literal terror
    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 their own bodies,
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    for waiting to be the after photo
    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
    of ways there are to have a body.
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    Thank you.
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    (Applause)
Title:
The fear of fat: the real elephant in the room | Kelli Jean Drinkwater | TEDxSydney
Description:

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

We live in a culture where being fat is believed to be universally bad and something to be feared. This fatphobia is keeping many of us, regardless of our size waiting to be the after photo before we truly start to live our lives. Kelli Jean Drinkwater unravels the complex relationship we all have with body size and shows how radical body politics can be the antidote to body shaming culture.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDxTalks
Duration:
12:21
  • Hi viewer and approver, hhis is the part I missed:

    4:07
    "as the other girls slipped easily into their Lycra and tulle creations"

    Thanks!

  • 4:07
    shorts
    ->
    tulle

    Confirmed with the speaker. Thanks!

  • A correction needed:
    1:29 - 1:32
    how fabulous I look
    in this vestido dress => in this Beth Ditto dress

    Thank you!

English subtitles

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