Published on July 29th, 2022 | by Aisling O'Riordan0
Enough Space: Aisling O’Riordan
Galway-based festival manager, DJ and Cork woman Aisling O’Riordan explores being fat, Irish and the importance of community for survival
Illustration by Mot Collins
Photo by Bríd O’Donovan
I have existed in a fat body my whole life. In the last couple of years I have let go of the idea of trying to change my body and worked to accept myself just as I am. This might be a foreign concept for some of you reading this. I urge you to question the anti-fatness that you have been taught and support your fat friends.
Not all people in bigger bodies call themselves fat because the word is seen to be such a bad thing. Fat is a descriptive word and a fact of physical appearance. It has only become a bad word as we are repeatedly told to see fatness as unloveable, undesirable, unhealthy, lazy and dumb. Fat is not something that you can feel after a big meal.
Being fat is not an indicator that someone is unhealthy. Modern medicine has led us to believe this is true but people in fat bodies can be fit as much as someone in a skinny body can be unhealthy. Health is not an indicator of your worth or value. If you think someone is unhealthy based on their appearance then you might want to try and let that go. It’s doing no-one any good. That’s your very simple introduction to Fat Liberation. Welcome!
I have been thinking a lot about what it is to be fat and Irish. Even though a lot of us have shed the church we still work towards creating the perfect body ‘in His image’. We easily slip into the cultish atmospheres of weight loss groups who emulate the church structures in shaming us to be/look better. Fat Irish people still see so many shows and media pieces celebrating weight loss as an approach to ‘wellness’. We feel an urge to gobble up every meal because of the ‘famine gene’ but still can rattle off how many points the plate amounts to.
This year I received funding to do some research around fat communities and spoke to those based in Ireland about their experiences. Most of the participants said they had no fat friends around them and didn’t feel any sense of community. This means that they do not have that representation and support in their daily life. Like me, most of their information and realisation came from the internet and social media.
There are a lot of incredible Irish fat people doing work to open up conversations to the wider public around fatness. Louise McSharry with her honest and educational activism through social media. Fat Éire is a publication that comes out later this year edited by Emily O’Brien featuring writing from fat Irish folks. Caitlin M Kearns makes great theatre about fatness. James O’Hagan has written honest pieces about the intersection of being fat and a gay man.
As fat people we need to discuss things people who are not fat might take for complete granted. Like which GP isn’t going to shame you for your weight instead of listening to your symptoms, what public transport seats aren’t going to crush you, which restaurants leave enough room between tables so you don’t knock over things with your arse. To make life in this tiny world easier we need to keep talking to each other.
To be fat and Irish is to have a constant inner conflict. We are a people born with shame built into our genetics. To be fat and free is to shed that shame put on you, to exist and live as you are in a world that rejects you. The only way for this conflict to become easier is to share our stories and all have a mutual understanding that we as people are all deserving of respect, existence and enough space.
Here is a short list of some brilliant fat folks to follow. Diversify your instagram feed with bigger bodies. There are a lot more so have a fun time discovering the brilliant fat folks out there!
Irish Fat Folks to follow:
Fat Activism – Charlotte Cooper
Fearing the Black Body – Sabrina Strings
The Belly of the Beast – Da’Shaun L. Harrison
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat – Aubrey Gordon
Due to a proofing error, a shortened version of Enough Space featured in the July/August issue of The Thin Air