|Charlotte Cooper and Judy Freespirit, June 2010,|
in the art room at the Jewish Home for the
Aged, San Francisco,
photographed by Esther Rothblum
I have a lot to say about this meeting but I'll save it for a separate essay.
I'm posting the raw interview transcript here as a resource for people to cite and analyse. I consider Judy to be an important figure in the history of critical understandings of fat and it is my hope that her work becomes more central to the discourse. I've edited the transcript slightly to remove some references to other people.
I offer my deepest gratitude to Judy and Esther.
Please visit Remembering Judy Freespirit for more information.
Judy Freespirit Interview, 7 June 2010
Charlotte: Ok, so we're going, and I can hear me, so that means I can probably hear you. I'm just going to prop that right there.
So I guess, I told you a bit about how I became radicalised around fat, and the stuff that I was reading, and I was wondering how you got the idea that fat could be a political thing.
Judy: I think the first real bang in my head that said: "Oh my god! This is more than you've been thinking" was, I was a student at Cal State LA and there was going to be some kind of a big demonstration there because the administration was allowing prejudice against students of colour in the area of housing. And so I was a member of CORE, you know CORE?
Judy: I don't know which organisations were...
Charlotte: CORE is a pretty famous organisation, so, yeah, yeah.
Judy: Ok. So I was a member of CORE before they threw all the white folks out and we decided to demonstrate against the administration and force them to start not allowing people to discriminate in student housing. So I was picketing the administration, and there were maybe ten of us picketing, and there would always be twenty or thirty people making fun of us and laughing and saying things, and it was on a hill and further up the hill there were men with hats, you know, obviously some kind of government agents, taking notes and...
Judy: It was during, you know, the J. Edgar Hoover period. So that was my first real activism. And the funny thing that hit me was the things that people were shouting had to do with my being fat. I was picketing and it had nothing to do with fat, it had to do with the administration being wrong in their discrimination, and people would try to get me by making fat jokes.
Charlotte: Right, so you were in this very politicised situation.
Judy: So all of a sudden I realised: "They are so angry about my being fat, why are they so angry? I'm too heavy and big them." You know. I mean. But it's like: "Ah, this is the way we can get her, because this is the thing that nobody's gonna disagree is not ok." So that's sort of my first rememberence.
Charlotte: Wow. That's an amazing moment, a lightbulb moment.
Judy: Yeah, a lightbulb moment.