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"I'm fat, Vancouver. Get over it" author on fans, haters, and future writing projects

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Emily Walker spoke to The Vancouver Observer about the comments on her piece, "I'm fat, Vancouver. Get over it." and the project she's working on as a response. Video by Beth Hong.

Over the Canada Day long weekend, Vancouver-based writer Emily Walker's piece "I'm fat, Vancouver. Get over it." was published on The Vancouver Observer. It was a searing personal essay aimed at what she perceived to be Vancouver's "institutional dislike of women in this city who are plus-sized, or more plainly, young fat women."

The article went viral, spreading rapidly through Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. The article generated hundreds of comments online.

If the comments are any indication, Vancouver is definitely not over the fat thing.

While there were many written by women and men of all ages expressing empathy or sympathy for Walker's experiences, there were also many people who used the article to launch written attacks toward women in general.

Regardless of what they said, Walker said she was not prepared for all the comments.

"I had no idea I'd get the volume of responses I did. It was amazing to hear so many stories from other women in (and out of) Vancouver about their experiences being plus sized in Vancouver," Walker said in an interview with The Vancouver Observer.

Walker's essay elicited some heartfelt comments from women who empathized with her experiences of being a plus-sized woman in the city:

"I have experienced so much of this here in Vancouver too. I have been stopped as I walk into stores and advised "nothing will fit you in here" by the people working there. I have had a hairdresser scream out 'there goes fatty' on Davie street as I walked by. I have been stopped by people on the street who feel the need to tell me 'You are so fat.'

Funny lesson that Vancouverites need to learn is that skinny is not healthy and fat is not always equivalent to lazy and overeating. I have a metabolic disorder that sums up to everything I eat turns to fat, I can maintain it somewhat through diet but losing weight is about 5 times harder than most people. When I was seeing a personal trainer twice a week, working out 5 to 7 days a week and running, I still weighed over 200 pounds and I am 5'4. No matter how I restricted my diet or worked out, it was not good enough for anyone. 

I had my daughter almost four years ago and have been unable to lose weight despite exercise and a diet that would make anyone want to cry. I became gluten intolerant after my pregnancy and to be healthy live a low sodium and low preservatives diet with restricted dairy because of dairy sensitivities. I don't eat refined sugars or drink pop and ice teas. I am healthy in every way according to my doctor, except my body refuses to lose weight. Even with my daughter I average walks and hikes per week of around 20km.

My mother is american and so whenever I go down to the States I am flirted with and treated as a normal person. I agree that it is hard to accept and there is always this voice asking what they are after because they can't possibly be attracted to me, no one ever is. I buy most of my clothing from the states as everything up here is over priced and often not easily accessible.

I work actively towards changing the opinions of people but it is an uphill battle every day."

Some comments, however, were not as sensitive.

Stop being fat, fatty. Eat properly, exercise and get into that size 8 or whatever you consider thin. Dammit are we at a point where being fat is some sport of disability??

"I think the kind of people who wrote comments like 'get on the treadmill instead of writing this article' will probably never get over being judgmental," Walker said. "My guess is that they probably don't just judge plus sized women on their appearances -- they probably judge a lot of people due to some sort of insecurity they suffer and ultimately that's their problem, not mine."

Radio talk show host and noted misogynist Tom Leykis also posted the article on his Facebook page and mentioned it on his show, eliciting a deluge of responses on the page and Twitter. Walker noted that many of the commenters on the Facebook page apparently did not read the essay, as many of the comments were directed at the plus-sized model in the photo who the commentors assumed was Walker. 


Shock-jock radio talk show host Tom Leykis posted Walker's piece on his Facebook page and mentioned it on his show. Photo source: The Tom Leykis Show Facebook page.

The negative responses have become the basis for a new writing project. Walker is working on a collection of witty and detailed responses to some of the most interesting and banal negative comments to her piece. The project is based on writer Steve Almond's bestselling Letters from People Who Hate Me, in which Almond responds to the sometimes homicidally angry letters people sent him about his opposition to the Iraq War and liberal views.

Ultimately, Walker said that the piece was aimed at people who had gone through similar experiences, and those who have witnessed harrassment but did not speak out. 

"One of the things that made me really proud was seeing people write back or hear people call in to the radio shows I've appeared on and say, 'If I see somebody doing this, I'm not going to let them do this anymore-- it's not okay. I've let people shout things out car windows, or when they're running in Stanley Park, or whatever," she said. This is the key to making the city a less hostile place for people of all sizes.

"People who could stand up and say, 'Stop judging people by their appearence, it's not important.'"

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