Episode 16: Tarneen Onus-Williams - How'd you learn to love your body?
Updated: Jun 6, 2019
Welcome to the first episode of Season 2 of Hey Aunty!
Tarneen Onus-Williams - How'd you learn to love your body?
“This body gets us to work every day. This body puts up with the racism and the complete violence of colonialism. My body gets me through a night of partying. My body gets to give my nieces and nephews cuddles. It gets to make Christmas dinners, go camping and chop wood. We really need to see what our bodies do for ourselves and for other people, the people that we love.” Tarneen Onus-Williams
Tarneen is a Yigar Gunditjmara, Bindal and Yorta Yorta person.
Tarneen is a community organiser for Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance working on Invasion Day, Black Deaths in Custody Justice for Elijah and Stop the forced closures of Aboriginal Communities in WA. Tarneen works with women who’ve been in prison and also sits on the Koorie Youth Council as an Executive Member.
Through Tarneen’s activism, they have become a writer and have been published in IndigenousX, The Saturday Paper, NITV and RightNow.
Every waking moment we're bombarded with messages about beauty, femininity and gender. Layered on top of the family and cultural stories we inherit. It takes a whole lot of love to cut through, keep going and recognise what's so special about you.
Tarneen's stories are tender, hilarious and incredibly relatable. Charting their journey from carefree country kid, through self-conscious times to become the self-assured person they are today. An honest, refreshing and uplifting chat that we know you'll enjoy.
Thank you Tarneen! Please support us by subscribing, sharing, reviewing and following @heyauntypod on Twitter & Instagram.
More from Tarneen here
Shantel: 00:01 Hey Aunty! is based in Melbourne, Australia. We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where we live and work, the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung people of the Kulin nation. We pay our respect to their elders past, present, and emerging, and we extend that respect to all indigenous Australians, and all first nations mob everywhere. There you are. I've been expecting you. I've just popped the kettle on. Come on in.
Speaker 2: 00:35 Hey aunty.
Speaker 3: 00:36 Hey aunty.
Speaker 2: 00:37 Hey aunty.
Speaker 3: 00:38 Hey aunty.
Speaker 2: 00:39 Hey aunty.
Shantel: 00:41 Say, hey aunty, how do you learn to love your body? Hi, and welcome to Hey Aunty! I'm Shantel Wetherall. Thank you for joining us. It's such a pleasure to be back with you for season two of Hey Aunty!, continuing our mission to listen to black women, with more conversations reflecting our brilliance and diversity, showing that there's millions of ways to be magical.
Shantel: 01:30 There's so much beautiful imagery now. People who are embracing body positivity, self-definition, it's absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, at the same time, there's also people who still think that they're entitled to tell us whether we're beautiful, whether we're acceptable, whether we are even women. Taking all of that into account, what are the things when you go through your head when you look at yourself in the mirror? What were the messages we got taught when we were growing up about whether we were beautiful, whether we were valuable, whether our bodies were acceptable or not? How do you take all of that in, process it, and still come out fighting, come out celebrating, come out being your own number one fan?
Shantel: 02:26 It's not easy. It's not all memes and Instagram posts. It can be really lonely. It can be really alienating, so I thought it would be really wonderful to have a conversation with some aunties, to talk through the challenges they faced along the way, to talk through the things that they struggled with but have come to look at differently and how they've gone on that journey. What were the catalysts? What were the tools they've used? How do you learn to love your body? I'm really interested.
Shantel: 03:07 My first guest for season two is the wonderful Tarneen Onus-Williams. Tarneen is a filmmaker, writer, and also a community activist. Tarneen has spent years advocating for other women and other people in community, and we had a really wonderful conversation about the journey that Tarneen went on from being young and carefree, to learning about other people's expectations on their body and what that does to you. Then having light bulb moments and realising, no, I don't want to buy into this anymore, and the tools that Tarneen used when they went through that process. Here's my chat with the amazing Tarneen Onus-Williams. Hey Tarneen.
Tarneen: 03:55 Hey Shantel.
Shantel: 03:57 It's really, really lovely to see you. Tarneen, when I asked you to be on Hey Aunty!, How Did You Learn to Love Your Body, what made you say yes?
Tarneen: 04:09 I think that over the last few years I really have gone on this journey of learning to love my body again. I think even the question is like why shouldn't we love our bodies. It's just like where you're thinking that we're putting the question forward as if our bodies don't deserve to be loved, and they don't deserve to be loved by ourselves. I think that I definitely wanted to come on, because I was just like as a fat person people always ask me, "How did you learn to love your body? How do you have so much confidence?" I'm always just like, "Why don't you ask thin people this?"
Shantel: 04:57 There's an implicit assumption, isn't there, in the question that you are starting off not loving your body. It's like explain to me why you love your body, and it's like, "Why wouldn't I?"
Tarneen: 05:09 Yeah. It's just like obviously most people have something about their body. I think realistically we've all got something, and in particular people of colour, women of colour, and trans people, and I think because our bodies are not what people consider default norm, we assume that are body is unloved. I really wanted to come and have a chat because I wanted to be able to talk about, as well, why I also love my body, and what's taken me on this journey.
Shantel: 05:46 I love that. Thank you. That's really beautiful. Tarneen, where did you grow up? Did you grow up in Melbourne?
Tarneen: 05:54 No. I grew up in country Victoria, so in Portland on my country, which is Gunditjmara country. I lived there until I was 15, and I moved to Melbourne. I've been in Melbourne now for 11 years. Moving to Melbourne was definitely, like my school was mostly white. I was like, "Oh my God. This is crazy. Does this happen?" Someone asked me what my nationality was, like they actually said nasho, and I was like, "What is nasho? I'm obviously Aboriginal." Because when you live in a country town, everyone knows that you're Aboriginal, everyone knows your family.
Shantel: 06:29 What's your nasho?
Tarneen: 06:31 Yeah. I was just like, "What's that? I'm Aboriginal obviously." Then it was just like, no, because so many different people that go to this school that that's just like a question that you ask.
Shantel: 06:43 Wow. That is a heck of a culture shock, going from being in your country town where contextually you don't have to explain yourself. You're within the range of the expected norms of the community, and then you're plunged into this new environment where, "What's your nasho?" Every time I see you now I'm going to be like, "Tarneen, what's your nasho?" Wow. Growing up, I'm always fascinated by this because I've never had that experience of growing up among community.
Shantel: 07:26 Growing up, did you have an awareness of your body? I was a tomboy growing up. All of my awareness of my body was about what it could do, and I was very fearless, and my awareness of my body was very much like am I faster than that one, am I stronger than that one? That was all that I was aware of. Until I hit that puberty age, when I went to high school and I really think that that was when it kicked in for me. What about you growing up, where you were and then that move to Melbourne, how did that impact the way that you felt about your body?
Tarneen: 08:06 I was very aware of my body. I think it was really difficult, because primary school I did swimming and I did basketball. I played lots of sport, and so it was very much like, "Am I a faster swimmer than this person?" You know what I mean? I was just always like, "Am I good at dribbling the ball?"
Shantel: 08:26 It's about your capabilities, right?
Tarneen: 08:28 Yeah. Then I think once I got a little bit older, I think maybe like grade six where people started noticing each other's bodies, and then into high school I was just like, "Oh my God. This is freaking scary." I think as people started to, and puberty started to happen, I was just like, "I hate this. This sucks."
Shantel: 08:54 Can relate.
Tarneen: 08:56 Especially when you get BO for the first time, and you're just like, "I can't believe I have to put this thing on my armpits every day. This is disgusting." I absolutely hated it.
Shantel: 09:07 Mate, my mum, I remember to this day, my mum, because I was just running around feral in my little village with all the other kids, and then at one point my mum dragged me in and was like, "You are a little girl, and you need to put this on because you are stinking."
Tarneen: 09:30 That's literally what my mum. I used to have a blue skivvy, a uniform, and the armpits were like yellow from the sweat and the BO, and I was just like, "What is happening to me? I do not know what's happening to me. This is gross. Let's stop it now."
Shantel: 09:51 You don't have any sense of shame about it. It's curiosity, it's kind of weird, but you also don't have much shame about it. If I think about my little brothers, they ponged, but my mum was certainly not dragging them in and being like, "This is ..." You know? I feel like also you hit that grade six age and that's when, at least in my experience, the difference in expectations for genders started to come in.
Shantel: 10:24 There was an expectation that I would need to start conforming, or else I think it would ... It was part of concern for me, but also I think part of concern for what it made the family look like to have a little girl running around stinking and climbing trees.
Tarneen: 10:39 Yeah. I think that I was pretty lucky in that sense, because I have two older brothers. They're like 11 and 8 years older than me. Me and my sister were definitely those kids. We were running around the street. We were always climbing trees, rolling in dirt, just doing gross things all of the time.
Shantel: 11:03 Just having a blast.
Tarneen: 11:05 We had the best time. Honestly, I feel like it never really stopped because we were allowed to be, I don't know. I just feel like we were allowed to be the tomboy. I was always trying to be more not tomboyey, but then I was just like, "I really want to do it." I think it was just growing up, my parents definitely had different expectations in terms of going out and partying compared to my brothers.
Tarneen: 11:35 In terms of expectations of what we should do and sports we should play, or how we should act, that definitely was not a thing, which I feel pretty fortunate to have. Because all of the people in my family and especially the women are, like in white ways, like masc. They're really strong personalities. They do really manly things or masc things, but for us it was more like that's what black women do. That's just how we are.
Shantel: 12:07 You know what, you raise such a good point there, because when I think about, it's quite similar for me growing up. Because in some ways I remember in primary school there was only two black families in the village, and my mum used to run and be super sporty. She had that short black women in the 90s hair. She was very muscular, kind of Grace Jonesy body. She used to go boxing and circuit training. I think it's about where that norm for femininity comes from.
Shantel: 12:45 I think about my grandma, she could wield a machete pretty good back home, just around her property. It's just part of what black women could do just to be useful and capable. They're life skills rather than masculine activities to us, whereas in white ways they would be considered pretty masc things to be doing.
Tarneen: 13:12 I sometimes come across the white woman that's like, "Hello, Tarneen. How you going? I hope you're doing really well. I'm really well. I've just been ..." You know? I think about it, and I was like, "Why can't I deal with this? Why can't I handle this overnice soft voice?" It's because none of the women in my family are like that. No black woman that I know talks like that. We are loud and we just say everything matter of fact mostly. That's just how things are.
Tarneen: 13:43 My norm is having that around, and my aunties coming in and just them completely being the breadwinners and being in control of things, and making the home. They were the people who were in control of everything and doing lots of fun things. I just find it funny, even just what my expectation or what my norm is for a woman's voice in a sense. Because my norm's a black woman's voice. That's my default.
Shantel: 14:16 Totally. I think that that is such an aspect of our bodily presence and the way you appear in a space that is really interesting. Because I'm with you. I find that super, super-feminized, almost childlike way of speaking that some women adopt, it makes me on edge. I'm like, "Why are you doing that?"
Tarneen: 14:43 Doesn't seem genuine.
Shantel: 14:44 It doesn't seem genuine.
Tarneen: 14:45 That's what I think.
Shantel: 14:47 I also think because it's our norm, I'm also very aware that when I go out with my girlfriends and we're in a restaurant and we're talking normally, because everybody else's frame of reference is this quiet, kind of "wispy noises." It means that it looks like we're being raucous. It's like, no, we're just using our normal voices.
Tarneen: 15:14 Completely. Even at KFC the other day, and I saw this black woman and she was like, "I want the $2 chips please." Then I was just like, "Sis! just get them." Then other people ordering were just so quiet, but I could just hear her over the restaurant. I was just like, "Oh my God. Why do people talk so quietly? I want to know what this person's ordering from the other side of the room."
Shantel: 15:39 That's so true. Growing up with these really capable women around you, who just were themselves and not having really prescribed gender norms for activities that you could participate in, what were the signals then that you got about what was beautiful and feminine? How did that maybe change as you grew up and then moved to Melbourne?
Tarneen: 16:03 I lived in Portland with my mum and I lived with my brother and his partner as well for a bit. Then I moved to Melbourne with my dad and my aunties. My aunties they are like fat women. My mum is also not small. She's also fat, at stages of her life. My biggest fear growing up was always that I was going to be fat, and so when I moved to Melbourne it was just like a really weird thing where I didn't realise that I was not eating my lunch and doing things like that.
Tarneen: 16:38 I didn't know what's going on until my dad noticed that all the food that he kept packing for me was in the top drawer of my room. I was just thinking, I was constantly just so in fear of being fat, where I just was not eating or binging. I was just in that fear so much. Then I started to put on weight, because in Portland you walk everywhere. There's no trams. There's no trains. I started to put on weight, and so then people started to notice. It just got so much worse.
Tarneen: 17:12 Then maybe four years ago I was just thinking, "I'm fat now, and I'm way more happy with my body than I was when I was thin." Because I just always thought that I was fat anyway, even though I was like 50 kilos. I was just like, "Oh my God. I'm fat." I was not fat at all. I was just like, "I'm way happier now as a fat person than I was when I was a thin person. Why was I so in fear of being fat when all the people and all the women in my life are fat? They're fine and they look hot and they're beautiful."
Tarneen: 17:49 I was just really starting to unpack why I had such a fear of being fat, when it was also the norm to have fat people around me. It was just normal to have loud voices, but why is it not normal to be fat?
Shantel: 18:06 Where do you think that fear came from? Because I'm sitting here, and I'm so relating to what you're saying. Because most of my matriarchs in my family are bigger women, fat women. I remember the same fear, and I'm kind of ashamed almost, because I love them so much. Why was I like, "I love you. If anyone said there was anything wrong with you, I'd be furious," but I'm fighting becoming like you and fearing it?
Tarneen: 18:40 I think that's the thing too, it's a double thing. You're thinking, "I don't want to look like you, even though I love you." Then it's like the guilt of not wanting to look like them, and then you're like, "Am I not them?" It's like but you are them, because they're your family. It's a real struggle. It's just all this guilt coming in all the different places which you just don't expect the guilt to be. Because it's like this is my body, but then it's a guilt of not wanting to be like your family, or them not being loveable, and you not being loveable. It's a vicious cycle.
Shantel: 19:15 It's a heck of a vicious cycle, and it's a heck of a lot to have on your shoulders when you are pretty young as well. You just don't have the equipment to deal with it. Then because there's the shame of not wanting to be like these people that you love, who can you talk to about it? Because they're the people that you trust the most. You don't want to say anything because you'd hurt them, so who can you even talk to about it? Did you have people, girlfriends, best friends that you were able to talk to about that stuff?
Tarneen: 19:51 No. I think that I would speak about weight loss things with my aunties, but they even discouraged it as well. I think it was like a really hard thing. If I was speaking with one of my cousins, and it's like, "I think getting this big is okay, but don't get to me. Don't get to my fat." I was just like, "Okay." Then even the cousin that was like, "Oh, it's fine to get to that fat," I was just like, "I don't want to get that fat either." It's just like which fat is okay and seemed okay over others.
Shantel: 20:25 The conversations between families. My aunties literally, some of my younger aunties every time I would see them at Christmas or birthdays they would be like, "Not yet, but wait, it's coming." Because all of the women in my family are really small until they hit a certain age, and then they all get fatter at that age. Literally some of my younger aunties who were more like big sisters to me, would be like, "Yeah. You're outrunning it for now, but it's coming." I would pretend I was laughing about it, but actually I was like, "Oh my God. It is coming."
Shantel: 21:05 I remember having conversations with girls at high school, my beautiful friends, but they were white, who we basically had a competition of who could eat the least. It was like a dieting competition. It's wrong on a lot of levels, but also I was going through puberty, and there were strong ancestral genes. My body is made to survive a number of failed harvests, so there's no eating tissues that are stopping these thighs from coming through at 16, 17.
Shantel: 21:40 I was like, "I'm following the rules. I'm not eating those meals, just like these girls." It felt like quick sand. It felt like I was fighting a losing battle. That was kind of overwhelming as a teenager too. I'm super-interested in this metamorphosis that you went through, where you started coming out the other side of that. Was there an event that prompted it?
Tarneen: 22:04 One of my friends added me to this fat group, and I just was looking at it, and I was just like, "This is totally not my thing, but whatever." I started just reading through posts and everything, and I was just like, "Oh my God. This makes so much more sense." I think from there I really started to unpack a lot about what I thought of my body and what I thought of others. I really went on a huge journey over that year in particular, and was just like, "I can't believe that I've thought this my whole life."
Tarneen: 22:45 I was just really listening to fat activists, and reading what they'd written, and really like thinking about what my journey was as a young person, and being in the bathroom at your white friend's house and all of us weighing each other.
Shantel: 23:00 God.
Tarneen: 23:04 I was just thinking that I was just so ashamed of my body, even when I was thin. I was just like I don't need to be like that. At the time I was like, "I really like my body." I started to unfollow all these weight loss, like Kayla Itsines and all these vegan diary things on Instagram.
Shantel: 23:25 Which are much more about being thin than actually being vegan or being healthy.
Tarneen: 23:31 Being healthy. Yeah. I started unfollowing all these people. I started going through fat people to follow, or people whose bodies looked like mine, or other people. I started just following people on Instagram and made that my norm. It just changed my whole world, and just like flipped it upside down in a year. I was just completely blown away about what I thought of my body, and how I thought of others, and the amount that I'd learned.
Tarneen: 24:01 Two years before I started doing activist things, and so I was just looking for new things to do, I guess, like, "Oh, blah blah blah." Like why not check out this thing? I was really passionate about it. I used to do a blog, and I wrote this blog, and then I went and did a talk at this Aboriginal women's health program, which was like a 12-week program. It was a weight loss program as well. The person who heads it up wanted me to come speak to them, and I was just like, "Hey, your weight doesn't define who you are. Just because you're fat, doesn't mean that you're ugly. We associate fat being ugly, but it's actually not."
Tarneen: 24:48 I was just like, "If you look it up in the dictionary, it says just like a layer of fat. It's just an extra thing." The way that we associate it is as being unattractive, and that's not true. I think it was really big for people in my community having access to someone who ... It was just like, "There's so many fat people in this group right now. Doesn't mean that you're not cute." I had such a good response, and it just made me way more confident about speaking about body stuff, as well.
Tarneen: 25:22 Because Aboriginal women feel so disempowered in their bodies. We've been called cash cows by media. We're constantly criticised. We are just seen as the baby makers and we just have kids for money, or our bodies are just used as a vessel, or we're always positioned as the victim. I was just like, "We are not that. Fat bodies aren't that." As black women, we need to learn to love our bodies. It was really lovely, and I still have people talking about it. I think it was in 2016.
Shantel: 26:00 That sounds like such an empowering experience, and I think that it really resonated with me when you were saying that you were at this event, and was almost revolutionary, because I think it is, because there is so much shame. This weird thing that shame makes you do is it makes you really insular. It sounds silly when you out yourself, because you realise everyone's feeling the same. In this weird way, you think you're exceptionally bad and that it's just you, and that it's something about you that is why you're fat, and it's something about you and your people and your family, or your group that is.
Shantel: 26:42 Because there's like a value judgment that is layered along with your body image, and it's not just about your physical being, it's also about your character and your value as a human being. Actually, one person having the courage to say, "I don't agree with that actually," is enough for everyone to speak up. Then I reckon that that shame stuff doesn't survive very well when you hold it up to any scrutiny, because it's just nonsense.
Tarneen: 27:15 Yeah. Honestly, it's just been huge. I see so many fat black women now sharing photos of themselves on the internet, naked, or in bikinis. They're just like, "I just don't care." Last year I did this photo series on my Instagram, and I got black women and non-binary black people to send me a photo of themselves, and then say what they like about their body. It was so cool, and I think I maybe got 30 or 40 photos. I uploaded it over two weeks, and people were just loving it.
Tarneen: 27:54 People who would never show their body participated in it as well. I was really, really proud to be able to show black bodies. You see a lot of white fat bodies in pieces of art and things, but you just don't see black people's fat bodies [inaudible 00:28:14] in the same way, or that black women talking about that they really love their bodies because it reminds them of their mum, and their nan and their aunties, or that they really like the way that there's stretch marks on their butt, or that they love their body because it gave birth to their child, or they like their body because it's strong.
Tarneen: 28:34 When we think about fat bodies, we always think that there's not as much productivity. It's like this really capitalist thinking, or a fat body doesn't produce as much because it doesn't work as hard, because if you're working that hard then you shouldn't be fat.
Shantel: 28:50 That's groundless. Scientifically it's been proven to be groundless, but it's so ingrained culturally, and especially for black women. That sounds like such a beautiful project, and I love the link that you make between the oppression of black women, especially indigenous women and the body shame. Because I think that we can't separate the two, and I do think that it is a truly revolutionary act and a foundational act in decolonizing for us to actually stop being alienated from our bodies.
Shantel: 29:27 Because how can you act in your own best interests if you're alienated from your own body? How can you act in the interests of your community if, like me, you hate your body which is something that is a direct connection with your other generations of women in your lineage? It's like your body is also a site of intergenerational trauma. It's like my mother gave me this body, and now I hate this body she gave me. It's forming a wedge between me and my mother and the matriarchs who should be like a sense of power for me, a source of power for me.
Shantel: 30:06 You sharing all those beautiful black bodies and inspiring those women to say what they love about their bodies is a really political act as well.
Tarneen: 30:17 It's just so funny that we have fat bodies in our communities, but we critique them so much, even though we know that they're loveable, and we love them so much. It's like we separate their bodies from who they are, and we love them but not their fatness. It's like their fatness is every much a part of them. It's like being queer. My queerness is just as much as a part of me as my blackness. I mean my blackness is way more, but also being queer is being black. I think that so is my fatness. That's also a part of who I am, and I can't separate the two. Because it's literally my physical being. You know?
Shantel: 31:03 Yeah. I love that idea, like indivisible. You're right. We are like, "I love you, but I'm not sure I love your fatness." We do that to others, and we do that to ourselves. Where do you think that training comes from, that way of thinking?
Tarneen: 31:20 I definitely think it's just honestly capitalism, because with capitalism it's about productivity and it's about what you can do. I think that if you can't produce as much work, and if you can't do that then you're not seen as valued. Fat people have been positioned as that. In the media we don't see those bodies. We don't see fat bodies ever in the media. When we view the media, it normalises those ideas for us as well. Also, I think it's also just the fact that we only see the one type of body. It's usually white thin people all of the time. We're always trying to aspire to that.
Tarneen: 32:05 I think that's one good thing at the moment is we can actually switch that off now, which is really good. Also, it's just like you have to do the work as well, and be willing to do the work for yourself.
Shantel: 32:19 It's so true. It's so true. You have to be willing to do the work. It doesn't have to be so miserable, the work. I love what you said about just going through and following loads of people who are like you, and placed you within a context of, "I'm actually very normal." I almost feel like what we're sold as the norm is an outlier, and it's just a completely skewed view. Your act of going through and following lots of fat activists and just normal black and queer and brown people, I've done the same thing.
Shantel: 33:01 I chatted with a wonderful black psychologist from Pola Psychology when she came on the show that I did over summer, and I said, "What's a really small self-care act that we can do that's not like go on a retreat for $1,000?" She said I would recommend that you go through your social media and unfollow everyone who makes you feel ashamed of yourself. I genuinely did that, and I've literally some of the same names that you mentioned. I don't know why I followed them in the first place, because it's literally not possible for my body to look like that. What is that ever going to do but make me feel crummy?
Shantel: 33:43 I literally just unfollowed them all. Then I started following people who were just beautiful and joyful. Many of them are all sorts of shapes and sizes and races and genders, and it made me feel better. It impacted my quality of life immediately, immediately so much better. Something that it's also really helping me with is really realising that actually our bodies are very not just okay, but necessary. We are necessary. My body is like this for a reason. My body knows better what it takes for me to be in this world and thrive than a 19-year-old girl from the Gold Coast who's got 50,000 followers because she's got natural thigh gap.
Tarneen: 34:40 It's like this body gets us to work every day. Our body puts up with the racism and the complete violence of the colony, and my body gets me through a night of partying, which is fun and I love it. My body gets to give my nieces and nephews cuddles, and making Christmas dinners, or going camping, and chopping wood. My body does that, and I think that we really need to see what our bodies do for ourselves and for other people, and for the people that we love. Because our bodies also give so much love to people, and I think that we need to give ourselves the love that we give out.
Shantel: 35:29 We are under constant assault out here in this world as black women, and you need every resource you possibly can on your side, strong body, strong mind, connection between body and mind, in order to just survive out here. Also, without wanting to be lewd, having that body-mind connection means I feel real sexy these days. I undoubtedly feel, maybe it's part of getting older too, but I feel like I am in the height of my powers, feeling like an embodied and sexy, pure, like Chaka Khanness of every woman.
Shantel: 36:09 I really get that vibe when I check your Instagram too. When I see you going out with your crew, I'm like, "This is a person who is embodying all of their personhood and owning it."
Tarneen: 36:22 I think it definitely helps checking who your friends are, and changing your circle, changing your friendship circle where your friends or your family allow you to be in your body in all its glory. Just wearing bras and undies to a party, for instance. Thin people do that all the time. I think that having friends that are just like, "Oh my God, you look so hot." I think it's important to not have the people around you that make you feel guilty for having the body that you do. It's like instead of editing photos, edit your friendship group.
Shantel: 37:04 Amen that. Stop editing your photos, and instead edit your friendship group. Anybody who is giving you tips on how to lose weight, maybe unfollow that one. You really come across as having so much confidence and it's beautiful and powerful. What are the foundations, you think, what are the foundational changes that have gone on in your mind between the person who was hiding their food in the top drawer, to the person that you are now who is rocking your outfits that you wear out to the club with your friends?
Tarneen: 37:42 I think it was honestly the reading about fat bodies, and I think that was huge. That was foundational for me. To read it and be reflective, and read what other fat people were saying, and that was massive. I think if I didn't have that to base it off, which I feel really fortunate to have been able to. Especially be added into a fat group, like a radical fat group which was so cool, and I think that was huge.
Tarneen: 38:21 I think it's about reading what fat people have to say, and in particular fat POC and how our bodies are continually violated, or like our bodies whether we're fat or thin, always sit outside of the norms and especially in the context here in Australia. I think that we need to really push ourselves harder and challenge ourselves.
Tarneen: 38:45 Because the amount of times that I continue to challenge myself, and I think it's just being, also, allowing yourself to move and change. It's like you might have this belief now, but it's like you need to let your guard down and stop trying to think that you know everything. Because I was definitely one of those people, but I got through a stage where I was learning so many things that I was just like a sponge. I was just like, "I'm going to take this on." And really challenging myself and my world view, and how that world view affected myself and my body and the way that I viewed people around me, and my family. I think that that was really foundational.
Tarneen: 39:32 Also, just having close family and friends that will support you through that, because, honestly, I was really lucky to have people to talk to being fat about, and then them realising what they had been unconsciously doing as well, and them being reflective. That was really foundational, because you're going on this learning journey together even though the person might not be fat. It's good to have someone that validates those feelings, because they can notice it as well.
Shantel: 40:10 That's really beautiful to have people in your circle who are open to understanding. I love that, because it's one thing to go and find these resources yourself and become really reflective, but having people around you who when you say to them, "Actually, when we do this together, it makes me feel this way." Also, having that closeness and the generosity and trust in them that you're able to say, "Look, I trust that you don't know better, but actually when we do this it's hard for me, and it makes me feel the following way. I've learned this, and could we do it like that." And have them actually give you the space, and go, "I'm learning too. Thank you for making me aware of that," is really important.
Shantel: 40:58 Because I think part of staying stuck is feeling like, "How will other people receive it if I actually start saying to them, 'Well, actually when you do that, it makes things rough for me when you do that'?"
Tarneen: 41:13 Especially if it's lots of weight loss things, you're just like, "Oh my God. No. This is too much." I think that having people respond to that respectfully is really nice. Also, just like even having a fat body and telling people, "Can you please ask me if I want the booth seat or not? Because sometimes it could be too small." Or sitting in the aisle where people are walking past and it takes up the pathway. I think people recognising that instead of you having to deal with the uncomfortableness of taking up the aisle path in a restaurant is also huge, and just being able to communicate that to the people that you're around is really great.
Tarneen: 41:58 Because there's so much more less guilt. You just feel less guilty. It's like we spend our lives feeling guilty all the time, and it's like if you can tick one, like strike one thing out of feeling guilty, then it's great. Love it.
Shantel: 42:12 I love that. I'm going to put it out there. I'm going to say to my friends if we arrive in a venue that has those ... My pet peeve is those real high chairs, kind of high stools.
Tarneen: 42:24 Oh my God. I can't stand those, because my legs are too short, and so then my legs, and it just hurts.
Shantel: 42:34 It hurts.
Tarneen: 42:34 Because it's just like my thighs can't hang off here for that long.
Shantel: 42:37 The circulation's being cut off.
Tarneen: 42:40 Cut off. Yeah.
Shantel: 42:41 Don't do that to me.
Tarneen: 42:45 I just have really short legs anyway. I just feel like a child sitting up there.
Shantel: 42:49 Just with your legs swinging. That's beautiful. Thank you Tarneen. Can I ask you one more question?
Tarneen: 42:55 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Shantel: 42:56 What sort of auntie would you say that you are? I am a clapping too loud at your gig auntie, whooping and hollering at your school sports day and shaming you, but also just loving the heck out of you auntie. What sort of auntie do you reckon you are?
Tarneen: 43:14 I have definitely been the auntie who claps too loud. I'm also the political auntie who I'll pick up my niece and nephew from school when I'm in Portland. I will just talk about all this race stuff. I'm the political auntie. They'll be like, "This person said this to me at school, blah blah blah." Also, like I'm the auntie when I hang out with my younger nieces and nephew, I'm the stressful auntie who's like, "Oh my God. Please don't run over there. Oh my God, you're going to hurt yourself." I'm the stressed out auntie who's just like, "Oh my God. No."
Tarneen: 43:49 I feel like I'm just like the roller coaster. I'm really stressed out that you're going to hurt yourself, and then I'm talking about black politics, and then I'm just clapping way too loudly at your gigs. I remember one time my nephew told me that he got called something racist at school, and I was so mad I emailed the principal.
Shantel: 44:16 Good for you.
Tarneen: 44:16 I just like V-Lined the mum, because they live with their mum. I like V-Lined the mum, and I was just like "buh buh buh buh." Wrote a huge email to the school. I was just like, "I just cannot believe this hasn't been dealt with." Then the principal freaked out. I was just like, "Oh my God. You need to deal with this." The kid, it had happened a few months before, and my nephew had been holding it for a while. The kid ended up getting spoken to, but it was just like I'm that auntie. I will shame. I'm just like, "I'm going to do this right now." I just feel like I'm that auntie.
Shantel: 44:59 You're a protector. That's beautiful. I love that. How beautiful for your nephew to be able to offload that. Carrying that round ain't healthy for a kid. It's wonderful to have a fierce auntie, you can be like, "Auntie." And just watch as things unfold at school. I can just imagine your nephew at school now being like, "Don't make me call my auntie." How good's that? Tarneen, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.
Tarneen: 45:30 Thank you.
Shantel: 45:30 Woo.