Ideas Platform

M. Sunflower
Fearless Fat

16 Jun – 27 Jun 2021

43–51 Cowper Wharf Roadway
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
Sydney Australia

Fearless Fat fights for basic human rights for fat people.

Visibility is a key strategy in all human rights campaigns, yet fat bodies are rarely welcomed into art institutions, the media, and even intersectionally ‘woke’ activist spaces. Fearless Fat categorically rejects the status-quo, demanding fat people be centred, seen and autonomous.

Fat activism is a social and artistic movement that aims to remove bias in social attitudes. Unfortunately, corporations have capitalised on this movement by appropriating and co-opting activist messages to sell products under the banner of ‘body positivity’. This term continues to erase and silence the very fat people who are fighting for recognition at a grass-roots level. As early as 1967, a Fat-In took place in New York’s Central Park, USA, and in 1969 the National Association to Aid Fat Americans (NAAFA) was founded (later renamed the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance).¹

Fat people aren’t fighting to be thought of as beautiful - beauty is a red herring. We fight for liberation - to abolish systemic discrimination, abuse and fatphobia that kills people of ALL sizes.

As comedian and author Sofie Hagen writes, ‘from healthcare professionals refusing to touch fat people or telling us to lose weight instead of looking at our actual symptoms to seatbelts not fitting us in cars… to people who develop eating disorders and body dysmorphia - all because of the *fear* of getting fat - or who are bullied and end up committing suicide. There are diet pills and weight-loss surgeries that kill people.’² This is all achieved with active endorsements from the government, the media, the healthcare industry, universities, schools, parents and peers. 

People think Big Pharma is killing for profit, yet think Big Diet wants to save - FOR PROFIT. If the products Big Diet peddles worked, their $168.95 billion dollar profits would dry up.³

'But health!', the haters cry. Except weight is not an indicator of health, and health is not an indication of value as a human being.

The truth is that many of the deaths attributed to fat are actually caused by the physical damage that lifelong dieting wreaks on the body.

Fearless Fat fights to break out of stereotypes and ask what happens when fat bodies take over a gallery space? Fearless Fat shows fat bellies and bodies being explored by their owners, experienced in a way society finds taboo. Without fear. Without hatred.  

Ignored at best, viciously abused at worst, the fat belly is the centre of the body, and the metaphorical centre of fat oppression. We are told at every level of society from birth that fat bellies should never exist and certainly never be shown.

Fearless Fat viscerally confronts the viewer, demanding an internal dialogue that questions this reality. Why is this body part so erased, dehumanised and reviled?

Fat people are covered under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.’ Yes, even fat people.

M. Sunflower is a culturally diverse Australian artist with disabilities. A descendant of the Aboriginal Warmuli people of the Darug Nation, Lebanese post-war migrants, Chinese gold rush miners and UK convicts, M. Sunflower embodies the diverse ancestral legacy of Australia’s painful and complex colonial past. She holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Photomedia) from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, and in 2016 was an inaugural recipient in the Emerge Program, an engagement project between the Art Gallery of NSW and Front Up, a Western Sydney based arts and culture program and hub, founded by Ability Options. She is currently Co-Director of the Board of Directors for Firstdraft 2021-22. 

Her interdisciplinary practice encompasses photography, video, multimedia and installation, which she deploys to bring visibility to issues and experiences related to identity, trauma and disability. A strong believer in art as activism, she is founder and curating contributor of Off The Wall Gallery, Sydney, an outdoor and online exhibiting initiative centred on creating opportunities for marginalised artists, including those living with physical and mental disability. She is a strong advocate for human rights and works actively to create opportunities and support for marginalised peoples of all identities.

¹ Dr Charlotte Cooper, A Queer and Trans Fat Activist Timeline
² Sofie Hagen's twitter thread
³ David Clayton, The Conversation

With thanks to George Trad and Gregory Punshon for all their assistance.