Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I Wore to Exams

Today I'm going to take the oral section of my exam. It's three hours in a room with my five professors, and I am nervous, but I also feel prepared. I anticipate there will be some moments when I don't know the answers to the questions asked, but I know my committee wishes me well. Now I just have to relax, breathe, and have a great conversation with them.

This is the dress I'm wearing, by Bertha Pearl of Size Queen Designs, out of PDX.

Dress: Size Queen

I wore this dress during the Friday Night Fashion Show at NOLOSE (that's actually what this photo is from), and I felt so comfortable and confident in this dress. I love houndstooth, and I love the sleeve length. It's very comfortable, and I think it's professional as well (I'm wearing a teal camisole under it today).

I am looking forward to passing my orals, then making it through the 72-hour written exam, which I'll start on Friday afternoon and finish on Monday afternoon. This is the biggest thing I will do as a PhD student, since the dissertation defense is not nearly as scary and stressful.

Thanks for all your support and for following along!

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I've been trying to write this post all week. I have so much to say about NOLOSE, but I have a lot to process, and no time before my exams to process. I'll be talking about the issues raised at NOLOSE for a long time.

NOLOSE is not a traditional academic conference in any way, though for those of us interested in fat studies and intersectionality, it's a great way to put our activism into practice. From the NOLOSE website:
NOLOSE started out as the National Organization for Lesbians of SizE. As the years passed and the organization grew, we changed our mission to include not only a broader community of queer women—dykes, lesbians and bisexual women, including transgender women—but also transgender people overall.
After a while, it became clear that this identity-based attendance rule was no longer working for the majority of the NOLOSE community. After much facilitated discussion and careful thought, the NOLOSE Board of Directors decided that participation in the NOLOSE community and attendance at the annual NOLOSE Conference would no longer be identity-based; we now welcome all who share an ideological and activist commitment to fat and queer liberation, as well as anti-oppression politics in general. For more information, please see our gender policy, announced and posted in July 2011. In effect, this policy means that all genders and identities will be welcome at future NOLOSE conferences.
For me, NOLOSe is one of the only places I feel like I can be my whole self--fat, queer, genderqueer, disabled, a poet, an academic, sexy, struggling. It isn't a completely safe space, but it is the safest one I've found, and it is in that spirit that I'm going to share my experiences at the conference, knowing that many of our new readers are folks I met at the conference this year. And I want to remind you that we are eager for submissions from everyone, so just email asktippet at gmail.

I didn't get photos of all my outfits. I wanted to bring my dSLR camera, but ultimately, I had to admit that I couldn't take everything I wanted. I was low on spoons all weekend, but managed to rally in a way I'm not usually able to. I really think that the combination of having a dog who MUST go outside by 6 in the morning every day no matter what and the discipline of going to bed at 10 and getting up at 6 almost every day for the past year has given me the ability to get up and go in ways I couldn't (or wouldn't) when I was younger. I was so impressed by my reserves of energy this weekend!

I have to be honest and tell you that I am not quite sure how to talk about NOLOSE. I'm still processing everything I experience this weekend. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life, allowing me space to struggle with my own demons, from disordered eating, to letting go of being a "good white person" as I do the difficult anti-racist work required of me. NOLOSE is a very special place I feel grateful to have in my life, most of all because of the connections forged.

And, of course, for the fashion.

I feel free to wear things at NOLOSE that I would not wear elsewhere, and each year I push my boundaries a bit, and carry home with me some of those shifting boundaries I can bring to my every day life. For example, today I wore the same blue maxi dress I've worn before, but without anything over it, meaning my tattoos showed. And when one student asked me what my female symbol heart tattoo meant, I told them it meant I'm a lesbian. It was strange to come out so casually, but it also felt right.

Anyway, on to the outfits. For the first day of the conference, I wore this gem:

I apologize for the low quality of the photo. I'm wearing a red t-shirt that says "I'm Fat Let's Party" (purchased from here), a black ruffly skirt from Old Navy a year ago, and yellow teggings. I got so many compliments on this shirt, and saw several other folks wearing the shirt, too. It was fun to wear a skirt I'd normally think was too short, and a shirt that would invite unwelcome comments outside of NOLOSE. I've actually had this shirt for a year, but never worn it. 

Another big outfit moment for me was wearing a fatkini for the first time. It felt so much better to swim in fewer clothes, and I'm so glad it was warmer this year, since last year it was way too cold to swim.

The bikini is from ByRoDesigns on Etsy. I'd never worn it before. To be honest, I'm not sure I'd have the courage to wear it anywhere else, but it is empowering to explicitly, purposefully transgress when it comes to the rules of fashion. "No one want to see that," we are told, but my body is not there for others to stare at, but for me to enjoy. Wearing clothes intentionally feels like an act of radical subversion.

At Margitte's Fatshion panel, we discussed a lot of great issues involved in fashion for fatties, like the trouble we have once we size out of even plus size stores, as well as differing opinions of what it means to be Femme and what responsibility we have to be "on" all the time. That's a topic I'll get back to later.

I ended up bringing way two many clothes. At one point, I couldn't decide what to wear, so I put on all my clothes on top of each other and made my roommate help me decide which layer looked best. It was pretty hilarious. Mostly, I feel like NOLOSE was an amazing array of gorgeous fat folks sporting incredible fashions, a really affirming place for me--it feels good to be complimented by someone who understands 1) how hard you worked to find that outfit that fits you and 2) how dangerous it feels to wear it in public and 3) is hot, fat, and queer themselves. I got to model in the fashion show on Friday night, and ended up buying the dress. It felt like it was made for me, and I plan to wear it to my exam on Wednesday. 

The truth is, I have so many things I want to say and explain and process and explore about NOLOSE, but a lot of it doesn't feel ready for a blog, and moreover, I have no time to blog until after my exams. But I do have some exciting news for when I return. I plan to take a photo of myself the day of my exam, to show what I wore for the big test, and then expect some radio silence until a week later.

Thanks to all the rad fatties I met who are reading this. Please don't forget to submit your own posts!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Off to Fatlandia

I wish I were the type of blogger who could take meticulous photos of my packing process for a big conference, but alas, two weeks before my exams with at least two meetings a day all week, and low on spoons from my chronic disease, so no big post or photos for you. :)

I'm headed to NOLOSE tomorrow, a conference for fat queers and our allies, and I am presenting a workshop on Sunday about being fat in academia.

Hoping to take some photos (probably iPhone photos) of outfits and events over the week, but I'm not promising anything but a recap.

Barely able to stay awake right now.

Farewell until Fatlandia!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Feminist Killjoy

I'm feeling gleeful today, because yesterday I "passed" my mock exam! What does this mean? Well, four of my friends and colleagues who had already taken and passed their exams came over and pretended to be my committee, asking me questions four three hours about my exam list. It was grueling and I felt just as nervous as if I were taking the real test; they were very convincing with their impersonations! But I did much better than I anticipated, and I have a better idea of what I need to study now, so I think the mock exam was a rousing success.

This is the first time in months I've woken up hopeful and confident that I can pass!

Today in the mail I got this necklace from a friend, (it's a gold necklace that reads "Feminist Killjoy," and it was purchased from this awesome Etsy shop). My friend wanted to give me a "passing present" early to show how much confidence she has in me. This is a friend I've known since college, and she's since gone on to achieve ABD status in another field. It means so much to have the support of my friends and to know they believe in me.

I'm enjoying a long weekend to bone up on my areas of weakness. 18 more days until the oral part of my exams (then a day of rest before 72 hours for the written. Then I will collapse and pray until I find out whether or not I passed! It's nice to have an extra day to study and play fetch with my dog, who has been a great comfort to me. During the mock exam, he slept by my side the entire time, and it made me so much more calm to have him with me.

Next week I'm headed to the NOLOSE conference, and I am so looking forward to wearing daring outfits I'm not yet comfortable enough to wear at home, reconnect with my rad fatty family, and challenge my own boundaries and ways of thinking at great panels, including my own on being fat in academia. I'm a bit stressed about going to a conference two weeks before my exams and missing four days of studying (though I will be bringing some books with me, at least on my Kindle!), but I hope it will be uplifting and rejuvenating to see my friends and get to talk about fat and intersectionality for a weekend. NOLOSE allows me to develop the radical activist side of my academic interests, and transform theory into practice. It feels so necessary to be able to focus on how to strike back (the theme of this year's conference) against fat oppression, instead of just theorizing about it. I hope it will full me with power and I will go into my exams knowing I am powerful and awesome and capable and I will rock the heck out of my exams.

Proud to be a feminist killjoy. :)