This might be the most overdue post in the history of overdue blog posts. You might even say that it’s “too much overdue.” Back in October of 2015, I collaborated with my BFF Natalie to make “Celebrating ‘Too Muchness'” a conversation and blog post with some incredible women. A month or so later I received an email from another friend, my pal Veronica. She loved the blog post, but wondered (and I paraphrase): “what about the too-much-ness that you can’t take off or put on? Is too-much-ness always a cause for celebration and what happens when it’s not? Could we maybe do a Too Much Part 2 and address some of those aspects of being too much?” As someone who loves to collaborate, I jumped at the opportunity. Veronica and I put together a call on Facebook, using the Bunz Trading Zone:
“On my blog I recently had a conversation with 5 women about the ways in which they’ve been told that they’re “too much,” how those statements have made them feel, and how they’ve managed to find avenues and moments for expressing their “too muchness.” While we all admitted to struggling with feeling like we were too much (from too loud and too self-indulgent to too outrageous, too feminine, or too matchy) this conversation was definitely a celebration of our too muchness. My friend Veronica wrote to me after reading the post, wondering how the conversation might have gone if we were talking about the “too muchness” that you don’t actively put on and can’t take off (easily or at all). What if we discussed how it felt to be told that your body was too much i.e. too tall and/or too curvy; that your hips or butt or nose or feet [or insert other body parts] are too much? How much more difficult might it be to celebrate your “too muchness” when your body is policed, stigmatized and/or fetishized?
Veronica and I would like to invite women to join us in having this difficult but necessary conversation.”
Shortly after, we had enough responses to try to schedule the conversation. Now trying to find a date that works for 7 women was no easy feat and it wasn’t until January that we finally managed to get together. Due to an incredibly busy 2016, I couldn’t find time to transcribe our 2 hours of conversation until this summer. With the approval of the participants, I’m beyond happy to present Too Much Part 2! Many thanks to Hannah Zoe Davison for taking these photos!
P.S. If you understood the image of Victoria Beckham/Spice Girls, we might be kindred spirits.
1. Our “Too Much” Narratives
Me: I’m wondering how or why the phrase “too much” resonates with you? Where have you heard that phrased used before – either in relation to yourself or others?
Ama: I think in terms of being too much, being too much is taking up too much space or when you’re presenting yourself in a particular way in a particular situation, so that can be in work or just in general. I’ve been told that I can be too much just as a personality – sometimes I can come off very strong to certain people, which can be seen as being very aggressive. But I see that as trying to stand up for myself and stand up for what I believe is best for me as a person. And a lot of people don’t understand what that is to them – so if that’s me being too much, that’s totally fine by me.
Audra: I find that in my career – I came from an activist background – in public relations I’ve occupied these two worlds where when I’m at a more corporate NGO, they think that I’m Norma Rae and will burn the place down. But when I’m at a more lefty NGO, they think I’m a corporate sellout because I’m like “hey how about we have a target audience for this thing instead of like the entire world.” I’ve spent my life in communications bouncing back and forth between not fitting in in either place: either being too radical or too corporate and I found it so isolating that I stopped working and went on a leave for a year. Because yeah, it’s so hard to not fit in anywhere. I get that I’m really privileged because I’ve gotten to do work that I care about…I’m turning 40 in March, and so I’m like “do I really care about not fitting in somewhere?” but that question was getting exhausting. Working for myself is less lonely than working for other people.
Zane: I can speak a little bit to the whole feeling of not fitting in. I was born in Canada to Lebanese immigrant parents and I’m the youngest. In an Arab household you already have to be loud to be heard and then you’re the smallest one. My two older siblings are 6.5-7 years older than me. So I grew up being their dancing monkey: they would tell me to do stuff, I would do it. Then when I started to enjoy the laughter and applause, I was like, “hey, I’m into this. I wanna keep going.” My mom was like “absolutely not. That’s not what girls in our culture do.” It was this ongoing battle from 7 or 8 until I was…I guess I did plays in high school and stuff…but I kind of attribute being a performer today to those early moments and the ongoing struggle to get to where I’m at right now. I don’t purport to be a professional performer…yet! It’s hard to not really have a place…I’m not really Lebanese and I’m Canadian, but I still wasn’t allowed to fall into that completely. Like going to school dances and sleepovers, I was never allowed to do. And when you’re a kid, that shit is like life and death. But then I got married and everything’s cool now. My parents finally chilled out once I got locked down.
Ama: You can have as many sleepovers as you want now!
Zane: And I do! Do you guys wanna have a sleepover? Okay cool!
Katelyn: I’ve always felt, as far as too muchness, especially at this point when I’m early into my career, I take on everything. There is no work that I won’t take on – whether it’s paid, not-paid, volunteer, I’ll take it on. And will become too much and I’ll have mental breakdowns, crying and sobbing and being like “I’ll never do this.” And of course I finish it and then once I’ve finished everything, I look back on it and think “well that wasn’t that bad.”
And then I do it all over again. It’s just this idea of proving yourself and proving your worth. I started find really fulfilling work making films for charities. I was really nervous about being taken seriously – and luckily it all worked out – but everyone does a double-take. Maybe because of the blue hair and because it’s Newmarket.
Veronica: To risk taking “too much” too literally, the only real way I can think to contribute is to talk about how I thought about my body as a kid. I was an overweight kid. And everyone in my family is super buff – my dad still has a six-pack and I get a lot of weird Instagram comments whenever I put up a picture of him. And so a very fitness-focused household. I’m the one who contacted Margeaux after the “Too Much Part 1” post, which did a lot of awesome stuff, but I noticed that the focus was on the sartorial aspect of being too much and how there’s a lot of joy and playfulness in the too muchness that can be taken off and put on. And I was just thinking: “what happens when that’s not the case?” Because that’s often not the case – for me anyways. I volunteer at an eating disorder support centre (and I have for 4 years) because I had one for 7 years as a kid. And now everything’s good and I don’t struggle with that anymore. But for a while that wasn’t the case
2. “Too Much” and Fashion
Me: I really appreciate how Veronica wants to talk about bodies, but I also love that as I look around the room everyone is really something really awesome and its own brand of too much. I was wondering, where do those fashion choices come from for you? Do they bear any relation to the relationship you have to your body. I think for many women, being plus-sized equals “I want to hide this or draw attention to my appearance and be in the background,” and yet you’re all hear with blue hair, and Zane I know that your hair has been all sorts of colours, and there’s this boldness to what you guys are wearing and I was wondering if that’s something that you wanted to talk about.
Ama: People always tell me that I’m so well dressed and then I’m like “I literally just put clothes on my body and if they look amazing, thank you!”
Ama: But really, it’s so hard being a fat woman and look good because to buy clothes that fit well and look amazing is really difficult and expensive. So the thing is when people tell me that, I appreciate it because it really did take so much time to put the outfit together. But I also recognize that I’m very privileged in that I can buy vintage because I’m a smaller fat (I’m a size 18) and sometimes I can fit into some vintage clothes – so I carry that privilege. Because if you’re a size 24 or 26, you can’t buy vintage clothes. I can also go to the mall and buy clothes and a Forever 21 or an Old Navy and they have some plus-sized clothes that I can fit into. It’s great and all to have that privilege, but other people don’t. That’s sort of the struggle that I’m finding, where some people don’t have those options and I want to fight for everyone else because it’s great that I can buy something like this but other people don’t have those options.
Zane: I get really mad sometimes…every once in a while I got into this plus-sized store, which is where I got this tutu from. It was ridiculously over-priced (as is everything in that store). That was the first time besides the fast-fashion stores that I saw nice evening gowns and formal wear. And I was looking at the prices and was like “how? How? How do we reconcile this?” Not only is it so hard for us to find nice clothing, but it’s so, so unaffordable. Again, I do have the privilege to buy one nice skirt that I wear the shit out of and I’ve leant this out to countless Bunz as well.
Ama: Sisterhood of the travelling skirt!
Ama: It’s funny that you mention that because I was talking to a friend of mine who’s also a plus-sized blogger, her name is Karen and she has a blog called Killer Curves, and if you look at a sweater and it’s half the price of your rent, you should not be buying said sweater. So you see all these plus-sized fashion bloggers and they’re like “Look at my in these designer clothes,” but they’re not paying for those clothes, so they’re selling you this image of all of these things that you want to buy but they’re not paying for it. So that’s the difficulty. I once fell in love with a sweater on a blog and went and looked it up and it was $500. So that was a hard pass.
Me: Is there rhetoric that exists around why plus-sized clothes are so much?
Audra: I ran a pretty successful T-spring campaign recently and my friend Sarah said “give me the confidence of a mediocre white man” and I just made a meme of it in February. Then like 6 months ago someone made a tote bag but didn’t give any credit and I was like “NOPE!” I didn’t even get out of bed and I was like “well a mediocre white man would just make a t-shirt” and I used T-spring and made the shirt. But the problem is that you go through the shirts and only some of them come in larger sizes and those are all $2 more. Of course we got them. But their explanation was that it was about dye, cuts, and machines, and whatever. And I don’t know enough to know if it’s bullshit…
Ama: So when we did our Fat Girl Food Squad t-shirts it was the same thing. We obviously had to get our t-shirts in up to size 4X because plus-sized ladies would be ordering our shirts and it we had to pay a premium to have the shirts up to 4x, which is difficult when you’re trying to offer the things and it was the same explanation.
Katelyn: I’ve always been on the bigger side and ever since I can remember, but at one point I must have been 12 or 13, because I was hitting puberty, but I couldn’t find girls clothes that I liked. So I was shopping at Walmart and all of my friends were shopping at La Senza Girl and I was like “I can’t fit into any of that.” So I wore boy clothes and I started cutting my hair short and I started to get mistaken for a boy – and I actually found it very empowering. I think that at a young age I really recognized male privilege and so to be identified as a boy…since society was dictating that I couldn’t find girl’s clothes, this is what I have to pursue. I did grow out of it. But I totally had that Pillsbury Dough-Boy shirt “Poke me and die!”
Me: I have these continual moments with the naivety that I want to inhabit in the world and then this conversation where I’m just like “UGHHHH capitalism! SO fucking awful!” I cannot fathom a $500 sweater. And part of the reason I’m taking more of a backseat with this convo is because I’m checking my own privilege of being someone who…I mean there have been points in my life where I’ve been a bit curvier, but I’m still a size 6-8. I never have any problems finding clothes – except for every once in a while my boobs are apparently too big for the world. And you get that gapping with that one button that shouldn’t be there! It should be somewhere else!
Ama: I have a very love/hate relationship with bras. I just can’t or don’t want…if I have to bra I will wear one, but if I can get away with it, I won’t. I went to this body love session by the girls from Spit and we talked about how you shouldn’t wear a bra unless you want to. And I was like “I haven’t wanted to do it for so long!” And then after that I just stopped. I do own bras, but a good 80% of the time I don’t.
Veronica: I went off of bras and am doing bralettes. 10/10 life choice! Would recommend!
Ama: Do they work?
Veronica: I mean…to be fair, I bought the cheap bralettes because I’m poor. I had achy boobs for a solid year and I saw my doctor and he was like, “well…do you…?” And I was like “okay, fair.” So I got a better bra. It’s still a bralette. But a better bra. But the achy boobs were totally worth it. I look back on that year with fond memories.
Me: I wish I could do that. Sometimes I’ll go into Urban Outfitters and see this backless dresses that I love – but I’m like “what do I do with this?” And the sales girls will be like “just don’t wear a bra!” And I’m like “Honey! No!”
Zane: So I bought this dress that had a sheer panel on the back – and I wanted to go braless, but that’s just not possible with the material of the dress. So I found someone on the BTZ who was trading a box of those adhesive bra things in a double D. We did the trade and I wish I had taken them out of the box before the trade because I got home and took them out and it was like…a baby’s hand cupping my boob.
Zane: It was so small! On what fucking planet is this a DD? I don’t understand. What do I stick it to? The entire surface area is on my tit.
Veronica: “I got you girl.”
3. The “Too Much” Spaces
Me: Ama I’m thinking about being a part of Fat Girl Food Squad and that being a community or space where too-muchness can exist and thrive. Really I just want you to talk about FGFS.
Katelyn: I met Ama because I won a Twitter contest, where I got to go out for dinner and invite a friend who had actually already been a part of things on FGFS. It felt like such a safe space because…so often you only get to talk about with my friend circle is films – and that’s great, but sometimes I wanna talk about something other than what’s happening with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Ama: FGFS was something that Yuli and I didn’t plan on being a thing – it just happened, which was really wonderful and great. But we were just sick and tired of being the two fat girls in a room and being stared at and not feeling comfortable. So we decided to create a space for ourselves and invite others to join us in that space. And we wanted it to be more than a blog: a space where other people could talk about the things that were important to them. So like having a dinner party or clothing swaps. Over the course of the three years that the blog ran, we understood that there were some issues. Like all of our writers were white women of privilege. We spoke at a conference last year called the Allied Media Conference, which dealt with marginalized voices in media, and we took things away from that conference that we wanted to apply to FGFS moving forward; making a call out for writers that were queer or women of colour. But after three years of doing that, we realized that we had other things we wanted to work on. So let’s go work on those things for ourselves. We had so much stuff going on, you don’t realize how much stuff you have going on and you have to stand back and realize “This is a really great passion project, but we’re not being paid.”
Ama: So it was good to put that out into the universe. But it’s a lot of time and effort for not making money. And I love all of what we did, and that’s why the site is still up for everyone to consume. But closing down the blog this year was probably one of the most emotional decisions I had to make…and I’m getting emotional…it was something we worked so hard on for 3 years and having to make that decision was really difficult. You can’t keep doing that, for your own mental health – it’s just not sustainable.
Me: I’ve really appreciated seeing you and other women I know who are photographers speak out against the expectation that you should want to do work for free, which is really fucked up. I see all these blogs out there where people are making money off of them – was that a possibility for FGFS? This is a question that I feel conflicted about because I don’t want my blog to be part of the capitalist system in that way, but I also realize how much time I spend on it.
Ama: It’s interesting because the biggest thing to understand when you’re dealing with the intersections between food, fat, and feminism, brands don’t understand that politics and a pay cheque don’t always mix. So do you want to work with a brand to finance your blog? That’s a difficult conversation to have. There were certain things that we did make money on and we posted that we accepted money from these brands. But it wasn’t enough money. We were also on the cusp: we weren’t an activist blog and we weren’t totally a feminist blog and we weren’t exactly a food blog – so people didn’t know where to put us. You couldn’t peg us anywhere. And now it’s interesting because I still do some blogging on the side, but I tell people that unless they want to pay me, I won’t do it. I won’t even bother if you won’t pay me. And now my inbox is a ghost town. And just going back to FGFS, I just didn’t want to not be able to pay our photographers or writers.
Insta & Twitter: @amascriver
Me: I’d love to hear from other folks. Do you have any safe spaces or places where you can go to express your too-muchness? Or how do you go about “managing” (or not managing) your too-muchness in your professional life?
Zane: I work for the federal government, which I never in a million years expected, let alone the fact that I’m going on year nine. I often have those moments when I walk into a cross-business line meeting and feel the eyes like, “That girl has turquoise hair and floral tights. What is she doing here?” I dunno, maybe that’s just me projecting, but either way I just make sure I like extra know my shit. And then they can be like, “Oh, that’s why she’s here.” I often feel like I’m too much when I’m walking around my office floor. But I also need to be in my line of work.
Katelyn: I think I’m still trying to find a space where I can embrace it. I’ve tried the online spaces and although I really like hearing about other peoples experiences, the few times I’ve tried reaching out never seemed to get much positive reaction (nor was it negative, just not really sort of supportive; it really just kind of floundered until it got buried under other posts). These online spaces I’m referring to are generally Body Positivity groups on Facebook. Because I feel like my undeniable, most notable, too- muchness is my size. To continue on the topic of spaces – there are so many local body positive people I see on my social media who are local and I’ve met before and would like nothing more than to hang out and be friends but I get self-conscious like “Oh they have like 1000 insta followers the last thing they want to be is my friend.” Plus I’m not longer living in Toronto so there is a practicality about it. I would love a more communal space where I can feel comfortable and be able to relate more with people and create genuine friendships, but it seems that I have yet to find that space. The one placed of pure bliss for me is with my partner, which I wouldn’t give up for all the spaces in the world.
Me: Those feelings of imposter syndrome are the worst! Maybe imposter syndrome isn’t the right term? I definitely felt similarly when I messaged Audra and Ama, because I so admire the work that you ladies do in the world. Or like, when I posted the call on FB, which is how you got involved Katelyn, and Zane too, I remember thinking “Oh, no one will be interested in my silly blog.” So I’m feeling super grateful that you’ve all come over to meet me and chat. The internet can be a terrifying but also potentially awesome space for connection.
Audra, did you have anything you wanted to add?
Audra: Like many fortunate feminist women, I’m part of lots of fantastic covens of internet witches who will eat a man’s heart if he crosses any of us.
4. “Too Much” Inspiration
Me: This is sort of linked to the last question: In the last “Too Much” blog post, Natalie asked the other women are there people in your life or scenarios in your life that inspire you to feel too much? So I want to finish our discussion by asking that same question.
Audra: My friend Hilary and my friend Anne are both really great at reassuring me that it is fine to have big feelings and big dreams, and that I am not too much at all and anyone who thinks so is probably a garbage human.
Ama: I think one of my very first inspirations to start embracing my own “too muchness” was Jessica Luxery of Tangled up in Lace. I remember reading her Tumblr way back in 2009/2010 and just being in awe of her. She would post these incredible selfies and I never thought that I could be as beautiful or fabulous as her. A lot has changed since then, but I really owe a lot of my body positivity journey to Jessica Luxery because without discovering her Tumblr back then, I really don’t know where I would be right now.
Katelyn: My too muchness inspiration is hard to pin down to one thing. I think it’s just a combination of people and experiences I’ve had in my life. At times I’ve disliked my too muchness and it has caused me to doubt myself and I feel like I blame myself for being too much. More recently in life I’ve learned to own it and take care and nurturer my too muchness. I believe I get that confidence from the amazing people I follow on social media. Weird “friend crushes” with people who may only know me in passing but I’m super inspired by what they do. I’ve recently had a bit of friendship anxiety: I’ve been out of school two years now and feel like I don’t have many friends and think maybe because I moved out of the city or maybe my friendships where always superficial. I’ve had the opportunity to be with an amazing partner whom I love dearly and helps give me confidence in my too muchness.
Zane: I guess the performer in me just always wants to be in front of people, because that’s where I feel the most comfortable. Like people are expecting me to be too much cause I’m on a stage or giving a presentation or whatever the situation might be, and then I can just be me. So I guess that’s my safe space. That, and when I’m with my old theatre friends cause they def know what it means to be too much and then we can all be ridiculous and over the top together and love each other so much for it.
Veronica: I like kitschy art and vibrant flamboyant movies and TV (stuff like Shonda Rhimes drama series, Barbra Streisand’s whole life, especially Yentl, etc). There’s a shamelessness and size to that kind of melodrama, silliness, and emotional vulnerability that really makes me so happy and inspired. I also study 18th century literature, which is just the weirdest – the Castle of Otranto is bizarre and glorious, as are whore biographies and some poems by Swift. There’s a lot of really great stuff that, even with its many MANY qualifications, has a kind of perverse fun with size and gender and unabashedness. So I guess my safe spaces are often imaginative spaces – media and pockets of the internet, as we discussed, like plus size fashion blogs. They’re extremely restorative for me.
In the real world, I feel safety and inspiration when I’m with certain friends and family members – when I feel heard, loved, supported, and encouraged in my choices and goals. I mentioned my volunteer activity at an ED support center at the start of the night, and it feels fitting to bring it up again at the close. Last summer, the center ran a day camp for people affected by EDs. This year the camp is running again, a little bigger and more ambitious. I can’t wait to see how it keeps growing. Getting to be at orientations and organization meetings is so inspiring and affirms that there are good people doing such vital work.
Tags: bodies, body positivity, bras, capitalism, career, clothing, fashion, fat activism, feminism, shopping, social media, work
This post was written by Margeaux