Words by Carly
I had the chance to check out the 2nd Annual Feminist Porn Conference presented by The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies held at the University of Toronto. The conference was the triumphant ending to week long festivities which included workshops, film viewings, networking parties, and of course, the Feminist Porn Awards. I had the privilege and the honour of being in the presence of such a glorious group of people — from performers to academics, who came together to celebrate the Feminist Porn Industry’s achievements and to tease out the tensions in this diverse movement.
What is Feminist Porn, one might ask? Put quite simply, “it’s a genre, an industry, and a movement”. It is a certain kind of porn, one that is shot ethically (fair wages and performer treatment) and with a particular framing in mind. The conference explored the relationship that porn has had with certain sides of feminism, as well as the way in which feminist porn has sought to change the way that “mainstream porn” frames sex, race, gender, and even abilities. Feminist porn is multifaceted and diverse, and it utilized the conference as a physical meeting space for pornographers, sex workers and performers, academics and community members to listen to and to discuss with one another what it means to be part of the Feminist Porn Movement.
“Feminist porn has done incredible work in expanding sexual representation across race, gender, ability and more.” – Lisa Duggan
I attended sessions that literally changed my worldview. It allowed me to see the stakes that I have in body positivity, sex positivity, academia, and community and how to bridge the gap between all of them. I began to see where I fit in the larger conversations about sex workers privacy, the duty to archive Feminist Porn as part of “cultural stewardship”, and the importance of inclusion of POC voices in sex work. I gained a voice at this conference that has been tucked inside me. I felt liberated and inspired, motivated to use my knowledge to effect change.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have been in the presence of sex workers and performers who are on the front lines of producing beautiful work, right next to academics that I followed throughout university. Lisa Duggan, the opening keynote speaker who is the Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, put it quite nicely when she said: “The Feminist Porn Movement is open to criticism and self-criticism,” as she traced through Feminist Porn Advocacy and commending the movement for “democratically expanding the possibilities” and exploring its limitations.
“We are free to let porn affect feminist and free to let our feminist inform our porn.” – Courtney Trouble
The highlight of the entire conference was the closing keynote by Courtney Trouble, who is a filmmaker, performer, and artist. Courtney Trouble’s angsty/angry, hopeful, but humble speech brought the entire audience to their feet, and quite literally moved me to tears.
“I want you to remember that Fat is a Feminist issue.” – Courtney Trouble
Courtney touched every raw nerve in me and challenged the audience to make fierce, radical change in everything they do – from hiring more fat, queer, trans, and racialized bodies to filming a porn with asexuals. It was a fantastic way to close out the evening leaving everyone feeling charged and inspired to make meaningful choices while pushing the boundaries. You can watch Courtney Troubles’ keynote here, filmed by Tobi Hill-Meyer. Thank you Tobi!
Amanda is a writer an activist and the creative mind behind Fat Body Politics. She recently appeared on CNN to speak about her activism and her blog. Amanda was awesome enough to answer some fat activism questions for Ottawa Squad leader Kelly Bennett.
The Ottawa Squad recently attended an event and we were told it was awesome to have ‘fatties supporting fatties’. Why do you think that kind of support is important in activism?
Having a good support system in activism is an integral part of building or having community. For me that means creating an environment where I’m not only supporting the work of other people but I am also emotionally supporting others when I am able to. There are a lot of people who come into movement / communities wanting to become famous or be a spokesperson. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing I find it really harmful to position yourself as that person if you are also ignoring the history that came before you and the people who are doing amazing work right alongside you.
So knowing how that continues to happen within fat community has made me support the work of other fat people, but I also try to support the work of other marginalized communities as well. We’re all in this together and leaving people behind isn’t an acceptable way to build a community or to fight inequality.
Tonight Ottawa is lucky enough to have the It Gets Fatter Project in town, hosting an event on Reorienting Desire. The It Gets Fatter Project is a body positivity project, started by queer fat people of colour FOR queer fat people of colour, and this workshop will serve as a space to examine how fatphobia structures our visions of desirable bodies.
We reached out to It Gets Fatter Project and they were awesome enough to answer some of our questions. We can’t wait to go hang out with them tonight.
Is this your first event in Ottawa? We’re excited to have you!
It’s Asam’s first time, but Sara presented the keynote at last year’s Project Acorn gathering. We are excited to be back!
Obviously being fat is a gendered conversation, but can you give us a quick rundown of why it was important for IGF to be a poc led project, for poc?
I think for fat folks who are racialized the answer to this question is as obvious as fat being a gendered conversation. The ways in which we experience body shame and body policing are so intimately tied to processes of racialization that I actually don’t even know how I could think about fatness without thinking about race, (or really, how I could think about the body without also thinking about the ways in which it is gendered and raced and classed etc).
Just to start off with, fatness & race are rarely discussed together within white fat activism. And yet, discourses around obesity often visibilize and centre on fat poc – even as these campaigns have little to no input from the people who are being used as props to signify the dangers of obesity. The idea that Black people have “bad” eating habits and only have themselves to blame for being fat is so pervasive in US pop culture it goes almost unquestioned or even unnoticed. And how fat racialized bodies are policed and shamed is intimately tied to histories of colonialism and imperialist and orientalist stereotypes of “the Other.” (For instance, it might be “liberating” for a white woman to walk around without shaving her armpits, but the same choice from a dark-skinned woc will mean she will often get read as a “savage” who doesn’t know how to conform to Western standards of hygiene and needs rescuing.)
When we started IGF it was because we didn’t feel there was any space in fat activism to talk about these things. There is a long history of fat activism being centred and being dominated by the voices and narratives of white fat people. Unfortunately, for a lot of poc these voices just don’t resonate because we don’t see ourselves in these narratives. It is impossible for poc to divorce their race from any aspect of their lives, and any discourse or activism that doesn’t even notice or mention race is obviously not gonna be very useful for most poc.
Finally, 500 years of colonialism has meant that so many Black, Indigenous and poc communities have internalized white, European standards of beauty and aesthetic norms. One of the most painful experiences I have had as a fat brown guy has been the constant fat shaming in my own community. But this is painful especially because I know skinny white bodies were not always idealized in my culture. There is so much anecdotal evidence (art, poetry, music, etc.) that shows us that all kinds of bodies were revered in South Asian culture. And yet because of colonialism that history is often lost or remains unspoken. These are conversations white fat activists wouldn’t even begin to know how to have. So I think all of these things illustrate the importance of poc only spaces for fat poc’s.
Are conversations about fatness, and specifically about fatness and race easier to have in queer spaces? How much does intersectionality play into the IGF project?
I think it really depends on what kind of queers are present in the room. Sometimes folks will internalize dominant ideas about race & fatness, and so obviously those conversations are even harder to have than with say, straight white folks who just don’t like fat or queer people. But IGF is born through the intersections we carry as queer, racialized, fat folks and so we try our best to make sure the spaces we create and facilitate are always keenly attuned to the ways in which intersectionality impacts our experiences of marginalization.
What’s the best response you’ve witnessed to fatshaming?
“Fuck you, no one cares about your diet!”
What do you think of the recent articles about how fat positivity isn’t just for bigger women? I noticed you used ‘self identify as fat’ on your tumblr. At what point does thin privilege take over self identifying as fat? Does it?
There’s definitely this hierarchy of who gets to be celebrated for speaking out on fat issues and who gets completely ignored. Even within fat activism supersize folks have often felt excluded (even at NOLOSE!). There’s also the danger of who becomes the “face” of “fat positivity”. The idea that Lena Dunham’s body is radical or revolutionary in any way to be so nude all the time on Girls just shows how much work there still needs to be done when it comes to body positivity. These are things we are still thinking about, but so far we haven’t had any issues with workshops or video submissions. At the end of the day, as long as folks are aware of the privileges they carry and how much space they take up, we’re not interested in policing definitions of fatness. Just don’t be a jerk about it.
Reserve tickets for tonight’s 6:30pm event at venusenvy.ca, by phone 613-789-4646, or in person at the Bank St. Ottawa location.
There’s nothing Fat Girl Food Squad loves more than a fierce babe. Especially one who is loud about Living Large. This week for Lookin’ Good Girl we wanted to bring to your attention some of the fine females who have, possibly unknowingly and even unwittingly, helped us along the way. It started in the quiet corners of places like DiaryLand and LiveJournal but now our heros and de facto leaders are out. Never SIF’s (Secret Internet Fatties), always wise, and always amped to write about what’s good, and juicy. I’ve gotten a few emails over the years from people asking that First Day of Grade One question: “Will you be my friend?” Theses individuals are some I strongly want to send such an email to one day. I guess this post is an open letter then…
I first found Erin as Zero Girl on Tumblr and quickly found myself either heart-ing or reblogging 99% of the items Erin was reblogging. Then I took a minute (or a few hours) to dig deeper into the original content showing up their. Found my way to Erin’s proper bloging efforts at Zero Style and was in love. Sworn hater of the term “flattering” and perpetually over-dressed, this women is holding it down in Cleveland. Working as a Brand Manager and PR Whip for Re/Dress, a fat shopper’s wet-dream destination for vintage finds in the Plus Sizes, Erin has what looks to us like a dreamy job.
Ready to take a master class in how to be a Fat Bitch? Rachele knows a thing or two about it and she’s putting it up online for all of you, so you better start taking notes. Rachele does all sorts of awesome-beyond-words things like this. Take the Fat Babe Project. Our own Hamilton Squad Leader, Carly has a baller illustration done by Rachele in the Fat Babe Project! She’s on the top of the page, guys! Lest we forget about the Chub Rub Book Club.
This is a majestic person. Truly. Okay, I know it’s her wife who is named Majestic, but they both are, okay? Together they are Majesstica, and way way way beyond having the most fat, femme and fun looking wedding I have ever seen, they are good people to seek answers from. That’s what Heavy Petting is all about. Answers to your questions about all things sex, love and relationships. Jessica is in the process of emigrating to Canada and we’ll be a better country for having her.
There’s something so heavenly and bewitching about Amarina. The local girl of our list, she’s a plus-size fashion & jewelry designer here in Toronto. About ten years ago, Amarina took up an apprenticeship with a jewelry designer and came out with a line of plus-sized embellishments. Today there’s Usra Major +, wicked cool fashions for fat babes. Maybe it’s that our style is so matched and she’s forever en pointe, but she can do no wrong my eyes. Though I came across Ursa Major and Amarina very recently sometimes (trying very hard not to be hyperbolic) it’s like having found a shooting star.
We’re curious; Who do you look to online? Who inspires you and builds you up (if they know it or not)?