Writing and photographs by Katie Soze
Growing up I’ve had very strong women in my life. Which has made me the way I am. My mum and aunties have all been the bosses at their work for a long time. They’re outspoken, intelligent and usually know better than me. These women are all curvy, but slim.
There has been one woman in my life, who everyone else revolved around. Who owned her own business that put her on footballer’s wages. A woman who would only shop at designer shops. Who had fancy dress costumes custom made. Who adored men and whom men adored. Who flounced around in chiffon, translucent, expensive clothes. Who went to get her nails done and hair done daily. The woman who gave me my first paycheck– in a tiny brown envelope so I could see the value of work. Who bought me my first real perfume– a huge £60 bottle of Coco Chanel, and told me to spray it on my tiny chest as “that’s where men stick their noses first.” A woman who shamelessly followed her heart (and nether regions) when it came to relationships, even though it was a huge taboo in the 50’s.
Yep, my Nanny was never afraid to put herself first, never afraid to fall in love, never afraid to wear revealing clothes, never afraid to take on responsibility and be a boss. And she was fat, very.
My mum grew up a “fat kid”, bullied and self hating, but I was generally very under weight until the age of about 21. I didn’t have the fear she had, of turning into Nanny. I was an outside observer of fatness. And I liked what I saw. Nanny was hugely confident being naked and would dress me and feed me in the mornings, totally in the nude. I thought her folds and bulges were magnificent. If I cried she would envelope me into her body, suffocating me in the process, but it was MUCH more comforting than my Mother’s cuddles.
I associated confidence and power with having fat, because she was the only fat woman I knew. In school, I didn’t know anyone who was overweight, until the age of ten, when a chubby Mexican girl started at my Catholic school. I immediately befriended her. I was telling my dad about my new friend and asking him why she was bigger than me. “Well,” he said, “Mexican food is very good and maybe her parents feed her a lot of sweets.” As a child, this translated to me that Gloria (my friend) was allowed to eat more than me. My reaction to this was… “coooooool.” I loved her.
In high school, I came to realise that being fat was generally considered a bad thing, but the popular girls in my school were the fat girls. They had breasts and body confidence. I hardly had anything, which resulted in being ignored by boys and the fat girls teasing me in the changing room about my skinny body. My dad told me never to retort and call them fat, as calling a woman fat is as bad as hitting a woman– it’s something you never, ever do.
And so you can see, I don’t “get” the repulsion that we have in this society for fat women. I adore fat, confident women as I associate fatness with power and confidence. I do not spend my time photographing fat women because I want to improve a situation, or for any political reason (although it has evolved into that, now I know them better). I photograph fat women because I have a genuine admiration for them.
As women, our tummies and breasts and bottoms are built for a specific purpose– having and feeding children. Bottoms are a fat storage for the incredibly calorie draining process of breast feeding. We are built differently to men and I feel as if there is some sort of shame put on us for that. Whether we have “inadequate” boobs and bottoms so that we have to resort to formula, or whether we’re built to support 10 kids at once, it’s never, ever right.
I wanted to share my thoughts, firstly to explain to people who are a bit “wtf” about why I shoot plus size women, but secondly to explain to women that you are a huge influence on the children around you. I cannot comment on the insecurities or problems that fat women have to go through, as I have never been through it myself. I merely wanted to give my story, and my journey with body image through my life.
My mum was at one point a weight she considered to be fat. I have this number in my mind as a gauge of how fat I am. I must never ever get that number, in my mind. At the same time, I have this positive influence in my life who loved her body, no matter what the media and slim fast and weight watchers were telling her, because it was the body that gave her 4 kids, the body her boyfriend (and several other men) adored, and the body that has stood by her to her old age and is helping her get by, at 86, when she struggles to eat. It’s never packed in on her and she’s never given up on it. Her body deserves to be loved and so does yours.[share]