In Spring 2014 I worked with the performer Bird la Bird, and this is what she had to say about it:
When Charlotte wrote her zine, dedicated to yours truly, “How to get Shit Done” I approached her to do some coaching with me so I could get more shit done. Our weekly meet ups got me through a really busy productive period in which I produced some of my best work yet. We worked on a mix of practical stuff – deadlines, lists, prioritising, doing the bits I didn’t like doing to overcoming fear, anxiety, negativity, self criticism, noting good and bad personal habits and how to make your personality and approach work for you.
I was really chuffed with what we did and the proof of the pudding is in the eating – consistently good shit.
Into the future, we’re going to do something less formal than coaching sessions. I need the support as I’ve got important work I have to do that doesn’t have a deadline attached (thin ice for me), arts council grant applications I’ve never made cos I’m convinced I won’t get funded (fish or fowl? is this art, comedy or a lecture? not proper performance art, not queer enough, not consistent enough blah blah blah).
We’re also working out a sensible, sustainable way I can do my historical work I love so much without being beholden to museums to host me. I just want to get the shit done and I want the shit to be accessible.
So I’m dead eggcited about the future. Getting support and advice is good. I hope this process will push me through my own frustrations with my limitations and harness my strengths so I can make more and better shit.
Charlotte’s a great person to work with cos she’s an artist, doer, writer, performer, musician, fat activist and a therapist so she gets what this is about and has lots of good stuff to say. We talk politics and artistic ideas as well as practicalities.
Watch out for the reprint of How to Get Shit Done Zine and watch this space if you want to work with Charlotte as a coach.
Here’s to future art and a HUGE thanks for Dr Cooper xxx”
17 May 2014
(photo by Holly Revell)
Anna Ward gave me a special mention in her review of the field of Fat Studies.
“Nonetheless, a few pieces in the anthology stand out, including the work of Charlotte Cooper, Kathleen LeBesco, Natalie Boero, and Julie Guthman. Interestingly, Cooper’s piece interrogates the US bias of fat studies as a field formation, a slant reflected by the anthology itself.”
Ward, A. E. (2013) ‘The Future of Fat’, American Quarterly, 65(4), 937-947.
I got a mention in an article about fat activism:
“It’s also deeply entrenched in society that being fat equals unhealthy, being thin means healthy. To be thin is to be desired; to be fat is to be reviled. One doesn’t need to look hard for proof we live in a fat-phobic society. For example, consider the images that accompany articles on obesity; larger bodies are often portrayed as the headless cautionary tales, says Dr. Charlotte Cooper, a trailblazing psychotherapist.
‘The body becomes symbolic: we are there but we have no voice, not even a mouth in a head, no brain, no thoughts or opinions,” she writes. “Instead we are reduced and dehumanized as symbols of cultural fear: the body, the belly, the arse, food.'”
Zoratti, J. (2014) ‘Fat? No… fabulous!’, [online], available: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/fat-no-fabulous-240047031.html
“There are impressive women making a difference, though. My personal chubby heroine is Dr Charlotte Cooper. She is an architect of Fat Studies, an emerging academic field which gives a more critical understanding of social positioning of fatness and health. She sits on the board of Fat Studies Journal and is a psychotherapist who works mainly with fat people. She is the author of Fat and Proud: The Politics of Size, and has originated events such as the Fattylympics and Big Bum Jumble, a plus size jumble sale. Most importantly, Dr Cooper insists political activism is the key to a healthy future. No matter what size you are, no one can argue with that.”
Lamé, A. (2014) ‘New Year, New You? Face 2014 with Fatitude’, [online], available: http://www.feministtimes.com/new-year-new-you-face-2014-with-fatitude/.
“These contemporary bands build on queercore all-girl bands to challenge dominant gender and sexual categories using music, sound and performance to construct alternative genders and sexalities not visible in mainstream society.”
Rauzier, V. (2012) ‘Queercore: Fearless Women’ in Downes, J., ed. Women Make Noise: Girl Bands from Motown to the Modern, Twickenham: Supernova Books, 238-258.
Supernormal festival also has this to say about us:
“Some groups have names so good it’s almost not worth blurbing them. But then some bands aren’t really bands, so much as they are (self-described) “Dykes. Fat. Old”…amateurish, no-fi… one of their influences is tampon information leaflets… the only thing I could find on youtube was a song called the temple of butthole… one of their number writes ENTIRELY AWESOME fat activist literature and bemoans the absence of working class voices… in short, they’re exactly the sort of group for whom, if ANY of those words make you uncomfortable then you really need to be watching because they’re clearly the best thing ever, EVER.”
Supernormal (2013) ‘Homosexual Death Drive’, [online], available: http://www.supernormalfestival.co.uk/programme/2013/.
“It is significant to mention Charlotte Cooper, who introduced me to fat activism which opened up a whole world of enquiry that not only fed into my practice but was cathartic, thank you Charlotte.”
Harris, R. (2013) Obscure Objects Of Obesity: an MA Project Report, Contemporary Art Practice, Plymouth University, unpublished. Available: http://academia.edu/attachments/31438074/download_file See also rebecca-harris.com.
“It’s straight-up comforting to know that someone like Charlotte provides counselling. Someone who recognises problems as systemic and interrogates the intersectionality of different forms of discrimination.”
Lindsay Draws (2013) ‘Illustrations for Charlotte Cooper’, glue, a glove and some plyers [online], available: http://andsomeplyers.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/illustrations-for-charlotte-cooper.html
Ace journalist Charlotte Richardson Andrews created a poster about me for the wonderful Shape & Situate project, curated by Melanie Maddison. This is a zine series, and a touring exhibition, where participants pay tribute to and acknowledge those who have paved the way for them. My own work has appeared in Shape & Situate and it’s a great honour to have been included as a subject too. This is what the text says:
Charlotte Cooper is, in her own words, “a freak.” She’s a queer, London-based fat activist and her work has transformed my life.
She’s a wicked clever working-class punkacademic, a scandalous author (her 2002 book, Cherry, was seized for obscenity by Canadian customs) a shameless debauchee (I credit her swoon-worthy, currently on hiatus Kink blog for hours of heart-racing, blush-inducing reading fun timez) and the much-admired trouble-maker behind some very rad groups, including The Chubsters, “a vicious girl gang dedicate to showing that chubsters are badass, mean, bitchy, cute, funny and tough,” and The Bad Art Collective. Charlotte’s work exists across zines (POLY, A Queer and Trans Fat Activist Timeline), blogs (Obesity Timebomb) and music (no-fi punk band Homosexual Death Drive). She’s also the creative force behind events such as The Fattylympics, a witty, fat-tastic answer to the capitalist clusterfuck doomfest that was the 2012 London Olympics.
Articulating the impact Charlotte’s work has had on my is difficult; it’s changed me in subtle, complex and deeply personal ways. But I can say this: I take strength from the way she navigates and names her experiences. Her writing has inspired me to transcend limitations I’ve struggled against my whole life: limits on my body, my desires, my politics, my family, my expectations. I want to talk about how her writing has empowered me to heal some of my oldest, angriest hurts, how it’s enabled me to feel safer, how it’s helped me to survive. I want to talk about the possibilities Charlotte’s work opens up for me, as a queer, female, working-class writer seeking out radical voices and peers. I want to talk about her don’t-give-a-fuck-ness and how hot she is! I want to talk about the way Charlotte moves through the world, unapologetically, and how her existence has helped me to do the same.
Richardson Andrews, C. (2012) Charlotte Cooper. Shape & Situate: Posters of Inspiring European Women. #4. 15.
Do you think of yourself as a fat activist?
Beth Ditto: Yes. It takes a really thick skin to do what I do, in the way that I’ve done it. But I realise I didn’t do anything first. I’m still looking up to [singer-songwriter and political activist] Nomy Lamm and [author] Charlotte Cooper – those girls are the bomb.
Mapes, J. (2012) ‘Beth Ditto Talks the Gossip’s New Album, Starting ‘the Ikea’ of Plus-Size Lines, and Her Beef With Karl Lagerfeld’, Vulture [online], available: http://www.vulture.com/2012/05/beth-ditto-has-beef-with-karl-lagerfeld.html
The most prolific queerziner of the last few years has been Charlotte Cooper, who has produced ten issues of her frequently jaw-dropping Kink and numerous autobiographical sheets. These can be sweet, filthy, unnerving, heart-warming and shocking, sometimes all at once. […] Recently – in the wake of Ladyfest – there’s been some new riot-style grrrl zines by people much too young to have been around for the first wave, but no-one’s doing anything quite like Charlotte. I want an army of Charlottes, a thousand fearless zinesters littering the streets with filth. Let’s see action!
Thigpen, H. (2008) ‘British Queer Zines’ in Bronson, A.A. and Aarons, P. (eds) Queer Zines. New York: Printed Matter, Inc. 147.