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Introducing
"A Place At the Table"

 

Contributing a Memorial

Displaying the Memorials

 

Q. What is "A Place At the Table" all about?

A. As fat people, we have been denied a Place At the Table, both literally and figuratively.

Every day we are told that we mustn't eat what we want, that we shouldn't enjoy our food, that whatever we're eating must be more than we should have, that we're entitled to only the most minimally adequate meals. Most fat people have heard this message again and again, sometimes in ways that are callous and cruel, and sometimes in ways that are meant as kindness--but all of them are hurtful.

We've been harassed and ridiculed by family members about every bite we eat. We've had restaurant menus snatched from our hands by our "friends." We've had complete strangers come up and criticize what we put in our grocery carts. The message comes through loud and clear: we don't belong there at the table with everyone else, not until we've atoned for the sin of being fat--and the only way to do that is to get thin, by whatever means necessary.

Moreover, fat people are refused some of the most basic rights and the respect due any member of the human family. We're fair game for ridicule and insulting, ignorant stereotypes in the media. We can legally be discriminated against in forty-nine U.S. states and virtually every country. Public accommodations--from theatre and airplane seats to essential medical equipment--often aren't accessible to people of size. Amazingly, we are blamed for our own lack, since many see it as our responsibility to abuse ourselves into a smaller body size, rather than the responsibility of providers of public spaces to accommodate a wider range of sizes; we are treated with contempt if we demand better treatment.

Medical practitioners are often quick to blame our weight for everything that goes wrong with our bodies. Some refuse to treat us until we've lost weight, effectively putting adequate care out of reach for many of us. They continue to prescribe diets (a treatment with a 95% failure rate), and blame us when this treatment fails yet again, often pressuring us to try something far more dangerous, like weight-loss surgery, or risky and questionably-effective drugs like "fen/phen."

Fat people aren't allowed to take their Place At the Table and enjoy basic rights and privileges that others take for granted--all because our culture has the idea that fat people are somehow less than human, and therefore shouldn't share the simple human right of fair and decent treatment.

While most people seem to think this is a trivial problem, some people have paid the ultimate price for this injustice: their lives. People are dying from size discrimination and fatphobia. "A Place At the Table" is an effort to remember those we've lost, and to make sure they haven't died unremembered and in vain. Inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and the Clothesline Project bearing witness to violence against women, we hope "A Place At the Table" will serve both as a memorial and as a means of increasing public awareness.

 

Q. What will "A Place At the Table" look like?

A. Memorials in "A Place At the Table" take the form of placemats. They represent the access and acceptance that the people commemorated were denied during their lifetime. A cover letter about the person should accompany the placemat; these letters will be archived and will be part of the display when the collection is displayed.

Ideally, the memorials will be displayed along a table that is set with candles, flowers and other accouterments of an elegant meal. They may also be hung along a wall, gallery-style, or placed in a display case.

SeaFATtle will display "A Place At the Table" at events that promote size acceptance and educate the public about issues of concern to fat people. The memorials will also be loaned to other organizations in the size acceptance community and displayed at events consistent with the goals and purpose of SeaFATtle and "A Place At the Table," at the discretion and decision of SeaFATtle.

Want to see some pictures? Check here.

 

Q. Who is represented in "A Place At the Table?"

A. "A Place At the Table" honors the memory of people whose lives were needlessly shortened by size prejudice, discrimination based on weight, or fear of fat, and whose deaths were caused (or significantly contributed to) by such factors. Some of these people include:

 

Q. People don't have to be dead to have suffered from fatphobia. What about the survivors?

A. Everyone is hurt by size prejudice. Fat people may have suffered more than most, but anyone who has ever "felt fat," or worried about getting fat, has been oppressed by fatphobia. We all pay the price of size discrimination that wastes the talents and productivity of fat people who don't get hired or promoted because they don't "look the part."

We don't intend to ignore or minimize the harm that fatphobia has done to anyone. Still, we believe that by focusing attention on people who have died from it, we can best bring home the magnitude of the problem. We want to raise public awareness of how ingrained these prejudices are in the fabric of our culture, how serious the consequences can be, and how essential it is to change them.

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, the American labor activist, urged us to "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!" Through "A Place At the Table," we aim to do both.

 

Contributing a Memorial to "A Place At the Table"

Q. How do I contribute a memorial to "A Place At the Table?"

A. Memorials in "A Place At the Table" take the form of placemats. They represent the access and acceptance that the people commemorated were denied during their lifetime. A cover letter about the person should accompany the placemat; these letters will be archived and will be part of the display when the collection is displayed.

You can make a memorial for a family member, a friend, an acquaintance, or even someone you didn't know. Anyone can make a memorial. Please limit each memorial to one individual. It doesn't matter if you know that someone has already made a memorial for the person--if they were someone you cared about and you want to do this in their memory, go ahead and make it.

Include the name of the person you are remembering (full name, first name only, initials, or a nickname, whichever you prefer). Feel free to include more information such as their dates of birth and death, hometown, organizations they belonged to, things they liked, etc. You might use symbols or a few words to represent the circumstances of their death. Since the space you're working with is small, we encourage you to choose a few essential ideas rather than trying to tell a whole life story. Be creative in using symbols and images instead of words; put details in the accompanying letter.

You can start with a ready-made placemat, or make something of the same approximate size and shape. Memorials should be approximately 14" X 24" and made of durable material--cloth, plastic, etc., but not paper, because it won't hold up. They can be painted, written on, embroidered, or otherwise decorated. They can have other materials securely attached if they rise no more than one inch above the surface of the placemat.

Please remember that the memorials will be packed up and moved from time to time. They will be displayed flat and hung on the wall. They must be able to withstand repeated handling. We will do our best to preserve your handiwork, but we need your help. Keep these guidelines in mind:

Appliqué: Sew fabric, letters and small mementos onto the background fabric. Glue won't last.

Paint: Brush on acrylic or textile paint, or color-fast dye, or use an indelible ink pen. Please don't use "puffy" paint; it's too sticky and may pull off after sticking to an adjacent memorial. Be sure paint is REALLY dry before packing and shipping the memorial.

Stencil: Trace your design onto the fabric with a pencil, lift the stencil, then use a brush to apply textile paint or indelible markers.

Collage: Make sure that whatever materials you add to the placemat won't stretch or tear the fabric over time. Avoid glass and sequins for this reason, and also avoid very bulky objects.

Photos: The best way to include photos or letters is to photocopy them onto iron-on transfers (some copy shops can do this for you), then iron them onto 100% cotton fabric, and sew that fabric to a stiffer backing if needed. You may also put them in clear plastic (like a page protector or a photo album insert) and sew it to the backing.

Please take the time to write a one- or two-page (maximum 8.5" X 11" sheets) letter about the person you've remembered. The letter might include your relationship to him/her, how he or she would like to be remembered, and a favorite memory you have of him/her. You should also tell how fatphobia touched their life and affected their death. If possible, please send us a photograph of the person along with the letter. These letters and photos will be displayed in a notebook along with the memorials.

On a separate page, please include the name, mailing address, phone, and email address of the person or people who created the memorial. SeaFATtle will keep this information confidential and will only use it to contact you about your memorial, or other matters pertaining to "A Place At the Table."

One more request: if you are able, please include a donation of $5.00 per memorial to help with the costs of maintaining and displaying "A Place At the Table." If you aren't able to donate, please send your memorial anyway; if you can send more, we would be very grateful. Make checks payable to SeaFATtle. Thanks in advance for your help!

Pack your memorial carefully and ship it to:

A Place At the Table
c/o SeaFATtle
Marty Hale-Evans
22831 92nd Avenue S. #P-203
Kent, WA 98031

 

Q. What do you plan to do with the memorial pieces? What will it look like when it is displayed?

A. The memorials will be kept in trust for the size acceptance community by SeaFATtle. Voting members of SeaFATtle will take care of the memorials and coordinate displays.

SeaFATtle will display "A Place At the Table" at events that promote size acceptance and educate the public about issues of concern to fat people. The memorials will also be loaned to other organizations in the size acceptance community and displayed at events consistent with the goals and purpose of SeaFATtle and "A Place At the Table," at the discretion and decision of SeaFATtle.

Ideally, the memorials will be displayed along a table that is set with candles, flowers and other accouterments of an elegant meal. They may also be hung along a wall, gallery-style, or placed in a display case. All displays will be organized with care to provide adequate security and protect the memorials from damage or loss.

Please note that, while we will take every precaution to keep the memorials safe, clean and undamaged, we cannot be responsible for accidents and acts beyond our control. Please think about how your memorial will hold up to repeated packing, shipping, unpacking, hanging, exposure to light, and other unavoidable wear and tear, and choose your methods and materials accordingly. We want your memorial to stay as beautiful and moving as it was the day you made it, for many, many years.

 

Q. Who is SeaFATtle? Are the memorials meant to commemorate only women? Do I have to be a woman to make one? Is it just women's groups and women's events that can display them?

A. SeaFATtle is a collective of fat feminists and their allies, dedicated to activism and support. We seek to:

Our motto is "Raising consciousness by raising hell!"

"A Place At the Table" is intended to commemorate all people who have died because of size prejudice--women and men, people of all ages, cultures, nationalities, sexual orientations, abilities, beliefs, and sizes. Anyone can create a memorial, and any organization or event whose goals are consistent with SeaFATtle's can display "A Place At the Table."

 

Q. Is there anything else people need to know about "A Place At the Table"?

A. The memorials submitted become the property of SeaFATtle, who will keep them in trust for the size acceptance community. Voting members of SeaFATtle will decide how and where "A Place At the Table" will be displayed, according to the decision-making procedures in SeaFATtle's bylaws. SeaFATtle reserves the right to refuse any memorial that is submitted, or any request to display the memorials. Such decisions will be based on the purpose and goals of SeaFATtle and "A Place At the Table."

 

Displaying the Memorials

Q. My group wants to display "A Place At the Table." What do we need to do?

A. Write us a letter introducing your organization and describing how, where and when you want to display "A Place At the Table." Tell us about the purpose of your group or event, and what you hope to accomplish with the display. You should also describe the steps you will take to keep the memorials secure and undamaged during the display. Send your letter to:

A Place At the Table
c/o SeaFATtle
Marty Hale-Evans
22831 92nd Avenue S., P-203
Kent, WA 98031

SeaFATtle will consider requests to display "A Place At the Table" on a first-come, first-served basis. Our decision will be based on whether your proposed display is consistent with the goals and purpose of SeaFATtle and "A Place At the Table," as well as the practicality of your plans for displaying and securing the memorials. If your request is approved--and we do hope to approve as many requests as possible--we will send you an agreement to sign, promising to follow these guidelines in displaying the memorials. When we receive the signed agreement, we will ship the memorials in time for your event. Please make your request far enough in advance to allow this all to take place (we recommend six weeks to two months minimum!)

We require that your display be set up according to these guidelines:

 

Q. Where can I get more information on contributing a memorial, exhibiting the project, or any other questions?

For more information on contributing a memorial, exhibiting the project, or any other questions, contact SeaFATtle in the care of:

Marty Hale-Evans
22831 92nd Ave. S. #P-203
Kent, WA 98031
marty@seafattle.org

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