Rant: Is Radical Lesbian Feminism the Only Radical Approach?

Title: Is Radical Lesbian Feminism the Only Radical Approach?
Date(s) of creation: February 1995
Creator / author / publisher:  Charlotte Cooper, FaT GiRL
Physical description:
one zine page with black and white text and illustration.
Reference #:  FG2-038-Cooper
Links: [ PDF ]

Author’s note, February, 2022:
My name is Charlotte Cooper and I want to offer some context for the work I submitted to FaT GiRL in the mid-90s. Looking back, I can see that I lived in a wilderness where the only available option to describe anything resembling to my sexuality was bisexual, and where my only fat community consisted of people who were nothing like me. Not surprisingly, I was really depressed, so I wrote about that too. Please bear this in mind as you time travel through this material. FaT GiRL helped me find queer, queercore, SM and kinship with other fat frisky freaks on the other side of the world. It was a rude awakening and has influenced pretty much everything I have done since then. You can find out more about that journey via charlottecooper.net

Is Radical Lesbian Feminism the Only Radical Approach? 

by Charlotte Cooper

Over the past two years I’ve been researching and writ­ing about fat politics for a postgraduate degree. I’ve found that most material available falls into three main areas:

  1. A huge mass of medical research arguing the relative status of fat people’s mental and physical health.
  2. A growing number of glossy fashion and lifestyle ori­entated magazines and articles in mainstream publica­tions, and
  3. Marginalised and obscure radical (lesbian) feminist analyses. Since my interest is in non-mainstream, feminist, politi­cal activism, and since this is Fat Girl, it’s the last cate­gory I’m focusing on here.
[image description: A drawing of a round black bomb with a sparking fuse, On the bomb in gray is the word “FAT.” The A in Fat is drawn as an anarchist circle A (an A with a circle around it), which then forms a women’s symbol, with a plus sign beneath the circle.]

When I think of Radical les­bian feminist approaches to fatness I think of journals like Sinister Wisdom whose sometime editor, Elana Dykewomon, has written and published articles about fat issues and has consistently pushed for a greater focus on dyke attitudes to fatness. The visibility of fat stuff in Sinister Wisdom, and the feeling  of inclusion for fat women, has helped me immeasurably in thinking beyond accepted notions of what it is to be fat, both in fat-pho­bic societies and size-acceptance communities. Yay! In Britain, Trouble and Strife is the only rag I can think of that has paid more than the teeniest token lipservice to fat women. The amount of articles they’ve published is still rather paltry when you think of how widespread is the fear of fat, but hey, at least the stuff that has appeared takes no shit in its critical inquiry.

Radical feminist approaches to fat politics reminds me of the Fat Underground, initiated in L.A. in the early ’70s. The F.U. provided a wonderfully angry antidote to the safety of NAAFA who, during that time, would not have known political activism if it kicked them in the arse.

When the F.U. disintegrated, Judy Freespirit and Aldebaran continued working as writers and  activists, and the work they did eventually turned up in the 1983 anthology Shadow On a Tightrope.

These perspectives have formed the  basis of my under­standing of fat politics. They are critical and uncompro­mising and I dig their politicisation, their sheer bloody hard work against all the fucking odds, and their stroppy attitude. Yeah! I know all fat politics are intrinsically disparaging of the status quo (even fashion mags!), but the Radfems take it further.

There’s one problem. Well, quite a few, actually. I’m bisexual and I don’t always feel welcome when I read this stuff. It’s a strange sensation to feel like a secret reader of lesbian journals. Okay, so I’ve never asked if I would be welcome but I’m scared of rejection. Another thing: I feel distinctly unsure of and uncomfortable with some Radfem positions on things like SM, porn, new dyke movements, bisexuals, Queer, the list goes on. On issues where I don’t feel like I’m on one side or another I resent being forced to accept the pro- or anti­- stance. Also, call me a bitch but it’s hard to adopt some of that stuff, it’s hard to be a good Radical feminist if you’re bisexual (strip one brownie point), and my guilt at constantly oppressing others and anger at an unfair world just grinds me down. The point of this rant is that I want to see the things that matter to me be addressed. I can’t go on tip-toeing around and trying not to annoy other women. I want a radical analysis of fat women that includes me. You know I’m getting tired of all this main­stream, god-fearing society stuff, NAAFA bleating on about the importance of legislative change—Fuck that! I’m an anarchist! The Radical feminists have come the nearest so far but I want more. Their vision of the world seemed to stop in 1985; what’s been happening since? Where is everyone? Is there a whole scene I’m missing out on? Perhaps Fat Girl will fill this gap. Does anyone else feel the same way I do? I feel so isolated. Heeeelp meeeeee! ! ! ! ! ! !