My day started at 6am, an unusually early beginning for this Taurus. Did you know the sun hasn't risen by 6am in January? I decided I wanted to be methodical (read: anal retentive) about my day in Sonoma. I had gotten back from Portugal about a week earlier, and my cheeks were still wet from the tears I'd shed over having fallen in love with the place in a turn of events that can only be called "Teenage Virgie Redux" (I was literally bawling in my hotel bathtub the night before my departure.. with rose petals and chocolate. I even wrote some poetry. It was intense.). I was invited to speak at Sonoma State University by the incredible Dr. Lena McQuade, a women and gender studies professor I met at last year's National Women's Studies Association conference. The lecture was entitled, "There's Glitter in Fatlandia: Fat Activism as an Unapologetic (and Hella Sexy) Queer Politic." Yes, long title. But as always, girl has a lot to say. I spent the night before the big day planning out car pickup, breakfast spot, directions to the school (and even the exact building), what sorts of coiffing equipment I'd need, and outfit pre-gaming. I decided upon Tea Room Cafe in Petaluma, just a few minutes away from Rohnert Park where SSU is housed. Petaluma is associated in my mind with amazing fresh eggs, and I find on my drive north from San Francisco there are farms and animals all over the place. After my omelet I'm heading back to the car and what do I find? Alphabet Soup: a thrift store! It turned out that nearly all the clothing was $5 and they were offering an additional half off that. Oooh, sale! I found some vintage pieces - top, skirt, amazing purse with a clasp as well as a Versace inspired scarf and vintage mint blazer for $15 - and met a lovely woman named Babs who used to live in the Marina before she took to cashiering at this spot.
The lecture hall was full, with over 100 students in attendance. The student paper was even there! My lecture was part of a queer studies lecture series. In preparing for the lecture I was trying to figure out what was really at the heart of fat activism to me and the way that I do fat activism. I felt that glitter was a perfect metaphor for all the things that make fat life and fat positivity so magical. I started the lecture with these thoughts:
Today I’d like to talk about glitter.
I talked about queer scholar Jose Esteban Munoz and his work, Cruising Utopia. Munoz talks about queer world-building and how when we dream and imagine and create queer cultural productions we subvert the "here and now" that houses racism, capitalism and heteronormativity. I think of glitter as my weapon of choice as a fat political brown girl.
After the lecture I had the chance to go out to lunch with some of the amazing students at SSU who are studying (or are curious about) women and gender studies. We talked about fat, race, class, dating, sex and desire. One of my favorite parts of the conversation was when we talked about how we deal with our desires for normative things that won't make us happy but that are culturally constructed as good and right, like dieting, heterosexuality and dating white cis men. These students are dealing with this stuff all the time, and they talked about what it's like being 18 or 19 or 20 on a campus that's fairly insulated. Lena lent me some new vocabulary around desire: that some of these desires lead to self-harm and that choosing not to act on those can be an act of self-love.
I was SUPER sad to leave Sonoma State, but was very happy that I met some free-range chickens (and some wine.. don't pass up wine tasting when in wine country..) on my way home.
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.