Big Fat Kiss-In TOMORROW in NYC, in response to Marie Claire article

Please spread the word!! BIG FAT KISS-IN, NYC! Tomorrow (Friday, October 29th) at 6pm in front of Hearst Tower – 300 W. 57th St. near 8th Ave., Manhattan, NY. Bring signs, your friends, lovers and family. Chaste kisses, cheek kisses, french kisses, any kisses! Come and show Marie Claire that it’s not OK to shame anyone out of their sexuality. Please RSVP on facebook to help get an accurate kiss-count! ;)

Event history below:

As you may have read here and here, women’s magazine Marie Claire recently ran a disgustingly fatphobic blog post recently in response to the television show “Mike and Molly.” The article featured objective and intelligently-stated gems like the following:

“So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room – just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.”

The article generated a flurry of response and Marie Claire received more than 28,000 letters and emails. While the author of the blog, Maura Kelly, offered up a somewhat reasonable apology, the Editor in Chief merely called Kelly a “provocative writer” in response. Weak sauce.

Two days ago as I posted a link to the article on Facebook, I suggested that someone should organize a Big Fat Kiss-In in front of the writer’s house. Marilyn Wann, being ever-ready for action, took the comment seriously and encouraged us to make it happen. I set up a Facebook note, inviting folks into a conversation about it and, thankfully, leadership in NYC sprung-up (Aris K. Manhattan and Substantia Jones leading the charge) and there is now an event happening TOMORROW!

Share, but don’t stop there; take Facebook activism one step further

Every day on Facebook, Twitter and the like there are hundreds, even thousands, of videos slowly crawling from newsfeed to newsfeed. Some are funny, some heartwarming, some inspiring, and some are intended to draw attention to the political or human rights issue d’jour. Of the latter, each video is made by a creative and motivated person or group of persons whose intention is to capture us long enough to motivate us to some kind of action.

Unfortunately, in many cases, that action stops with clicking that “Share” button and passing it on to the rest of our peers. While spreading awareness of an issue is important, awareness alone is not enough to truly make change. After all, the intention of creating awareness is to inspire people to action.

I want to talk about Awareness Vs. Action, and I want to talk about a study done by Dr. Peter M. Gollwitzer which found that folks who speak out loud about their goals are often less likely to achieve them. I want to apply this theory to community activism rather than our personal goals because I feel there are overlaps.

Gollwitzer’s study shows that when someone sets a goal in their head, that goal comes with an urgency as it’s, of course, incomplete. However, once spoken aloud to peers, the goal-setter is likely to receive encouragement or validation of their goal or idea. Once that encouragement/validation has been received, their brain is tricked into feeling one step closer to completion, even if no true action has been taken. This decreases motivation to continue because the urgency is quelled and, in many cases is enough to stop the forward motion. (I would argue that this is not true across-the-board because polling and feedback are often helpful in creating more decisive and focused action, but of course nothing is ever wholly true of everyone or everything.)

Macolm Gladwell, in this watch-worthy lecture provided by the University of Ontario, raises another interesting point about how spreading awareness can actually be counterproductive — a distracting device which actually removes the focus from the core issue and shifts the burden of responsibility from those with the power to make change to those who would benefit from having done so. His example was breast cancer awareness. He purports that the true issue at the core of breast cancer morbidity is lack of health care for those with the highest risk of death. By spreading “awareness” about the need for regular breast exams after the age of 40, the burden of prevention shifts to the populace rather than the health care system, which should be available to those so they can use that awareness to take action.

It is my fear that the type of armchair activism that’s arisen in these days of social networking is dampening the level of true action being taken by those who might otherwise motivate to make real change. Sharing a viral video on Facebook can give one a false sense of completion, of having done something about the issue at hand.

Signing an online petition is not the same as making a donation, as manning a phone bank, as volunteering with a local organization that directly benefits those in need. In some ways, it can be a passing-of-the-buck — an assumption that someone out there watching the video or reading the article will do something about it. Preaching to the choir of friends and peers is not true action. I am not saying that it is a useless form of activism — far from it. Awareness is one key element of creating social change. However it is not enough.

I encourage those of you still with me at the end of this post to challenge yourself to choose one issue or cause this month and contribute something tangible. Mentor a queer youth, write a check to a worthy organization, volunteer at a food bank, organize a fundraising house party, write a letter to your senator, tell a random stranger they are beautiful. Take all the beautiful awareness that this vast social network of the Internet has given you and turn it into an actionable item. Learn. Act. Repeat.

Announcing the Chunky Dunk Chub Tub!

Back in 2007, the lovely Stef-Anie and I came up with the idea for the Chunky Dunk. The idea came about one summer when we were trying to think of unique ways to fundraise for FatGirl Speaks, as well as to provide another positive community gathering point to empower and uplift fat folks and our friends and allies. Realizing that putting on a swimsuit in public can be daunting, we sought to create a focused, empowered, everyBody-positive space for folks to enjoy the water and each other, free from shame and worry. We rented a public pool and invited everyone to join us for a group swim. The event was so successful that it’s been running seasonally for the last 3 years.

In 2009, I passed the organizing reigns to the lovely and capable Ashley, who has taken it even further. This year, Ashley partnered with Portland’s Transgendered/GenderQueer community and organized a joint Chunky Dunk for fat folks, trans folks and all of our friends and allies.

The other day, I went to a local hot tub with a friend and was enjoying the comfort of being naked in the private, open-air room and as we were sitting there, the idea sprung up to have a Chunky Dunk in the wintertime at the hot tubs! A few dozen phone calls later, I’d rented out the entire hot tub venue for a private event, lovingly deemed the “Chunky Dunk Chub Tub!” (thanks to Sossity for the Chub Tub name!)

The event will take place on Sunday, January 23rd. I announced this a few days ago and already over half the tickets are sold. If you’re in Portland, Oregon and wish to join us, please get your tickets quickly. You can buy them here!

Thinky Thursday Recap: Your Voices

Below are some quote excerpts from the comments on last week’s Thinky Thursday question. I’ve tried to pull out some of the hard stuff and some of the good stuff. The point of asking this question, which was guaranteed to be a bit loaded, was to hopefully help identify some of the ways in which our parents, even with the best of intentions, are often our first introduction into self-loathing. And if not our own parents, then the parents of the children who aren’t taught to love and respect the differences in one another. Parents, give your children tools to deal with differences — their own and others. Without them, they will internalize your fear and make it their own.

The question was:

Thinky Thursday Question – Thursday, 9/23:

For those that this applies to, when did you first realize you were fat? Who, if anyone, pointed it out to you? When did you first hear this as a derogatory statement, if applicable?

 

Your Answers

“I am not fat. I did, however gain 30lbs in less than a year after being excessively skinny all of my life. No one said anything about it until I went to Texas to meet my mother for lunch. Dana and I walked into the restaurant and my mom stood up and after 4 years of not seeing each other say’s, “Wow, you have really gotten fat!” to which I responded, “Hi, mom. It’s good to see you too.”” — Ryan

“That’s when I knew I was fat. When my mom told me.” – Nly

“All my report cards said I set an example because of how quiet and well behaved I was. So I thought I had to conform to this image. I hated it. Now I’m 38, size 22 and I’m beautiful. I wear gorgeous clothes and even more gorgeous shoes. I have lots of gorge handbags and I don’t take myself seriously. In fact, I’m more childlike than I have ever been – and I like it that way!” — Claire

“I look back I have to wonder how much of it was fat, and how much did I self-consciously impose. How much of it was about me having bad teeth as a kid or being so she and easily embarassed? Being a tomboy? Dressing weird (even for the 80′s/early 90s)? But at some point, even if it was all separate at one time, everything came to be about fat.” — Withoutscene

“I started to think of myself as fat somewhere between the ages of 4 and 7. I was bullied for it in school, and my parents may have had some of those quiet, concerned conversations that parents have about things like that. Maybe the doctor said I was above the growth curve for weight. I don’t know. What I do remember is that I loved to dance. When I was 4, I’d pretend to be a ballerina and listen to a record I had – with Swan Lake on one side and the Nutcracker on the other – over and over again. I asked my mom if i could take ballet lessons, and she said I was too young. When I was seven, my mom said I was old enough for dance lessons and wanted to sign me up. But, by that time, the idea of wearing a leotard in public terrified me. I thought I’d look awful and the other kids would laugh at me. I thought of myself as too fat to take dance lessons, not because I didn’t think I’d be good at it, but because I was ashamed of my body.” – Deeleigh

“I never seemed to dwell on Fat or Ugly. They just were and that was life. Too much other stuff sucked to worry about that. I do, however, remember sitting in the car while my dad went into the store. I scooted down so “they” could just see my eyes. I thought someone might think I was cute if they could just see that part of me.” – Renee

“I was always the tall and more developed girl so I felt big and clumsy and remember my boyfriend at 13 taking me a walk in his neighbourhood and his young friends obviously put out by this shouting over he didn’t tell them I was fat – in a UK size 12 (US size 8 ) pair of jeans I was anything but, however the comment stuck and added to my body image paranoia! Now I am a UK 20 (US 24) and feel so much better about myself at 33 than I ever did at 13, 19 or 21 when I was smaller. I wish I could go back and tell that girl how fabulous she looked and take her body image woes away but I can’t. However I can break the cycle and I won’t pass on the paranoia to any children I might have.” – Glam_rach

“I was on the swim team and placed in every meet, and often got third place because I forgot to touch the wall. Yep- so many people yelling down at me, ‘Touch the wall!’ that I couldn’t discern what any one voice was saying. I played tennis. My young body could do so much even if running a mile wasn’t one of the things at which I excelled. Still, it wasn’t until my sexuality became manifest that my fat became such a heartbreaking experience. And it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I put an end to the heartbreak.” – Abby

“I actually can’t remember a time when I didn’t know I was fat. I remember my mother telling me I should ask one of my skinny friends to help me exercise when I was 8 years old and I remember her asking me if I “really needed that” when I opened the fridge when I was about 6 years old.” – Bronny

I can’t remember ever NOT being told I was fat. We’re talking pre-kindergarten here. The first specific derogatory remark I remember was from kindergarten, where the other 5 year olds called me fat as an insult. I was wearing my favorite red and blue dress, and I had thought I looked great. The other kids apparently thought otherwise. (I wore that dress for my kindergarten school picture and I still think it was a great dress for a 5 year old.)” – TropicalChrome

“I’ve always been fat and other kids in elementary school pointed it out every single day in the nastiest ways they could think of. But I didn’t put much weight in their words because (1) they always said the meanest things they could regardless of whether they were true and (2) until I read Shapely Prose 20 years later I thought of “fat” as such an incredibly horrible word that it could never apply to a real person. Until I read Shapely Prose I might have admitted to being “overweight” but I never would have put up with “fat.”” – Meerkat

“The first time someone told me I was fat was before I started kindergarten – I think I was four.” — hesperide

“A bunch of us were playing in a common area between houses in the family section on the base we lived at near Bad Kitzengen. I remember being confused by it, because I was about the same size as most of the other kids I was playing with, but I was taller than a lot of them, even the ones that were older than me. It sounded like the kid was calling me a bad name, so there was a big fight, and I kicked arse, which got me in a lot of trouble with my parents, because the other kid’s parents called them and complained. When they asked me, I told them what the other kid had called me, and both of them essentially agreed with the fat statement. I was remember being quite shocked by this, and suddenly feeling like something was wrong with me.” — hesperide

“I’m not fat, but I have a huge (and gorgeous) bum, that is not at all typically proportioned to the rest of my body. One of my earliest memories (where I must have been younger than 4, judging from the house I remember living in at the time), was of standing on the edge of the bathtub, trying to look over my shoulder into the mirror, to see how big my bottom really was, and sucking in my stomach, contorting in various ways to see if I could make it look skinnier.” — Rachel

“I was actually skinny in an knees-and-elbows kind of way until I hit puberty, around 5th grade. Up until that point I played outside and rode bikes and such, but around that age I started having some crippling emotional issues (only compounded over the years) and I started staying indoors and reading constantly in an effort to forget the problems. My mother and the doctor put me on a diet, which I hated; meanwhile i started sneaking food. Looking back at pictures, I was never very big at all; pudgy and ‘solid’ yes, but I wish I hadn’t spent so much time hating myself because I really was (and AM) beautiful.” — G

“In grade 2, kids started bullying me and telling me I was fat, calling me a fat pig and all sorts of names. I never liked my body again, in spite of my family best efforts to convince me I was. As a teen it became worse, my breasts were huge and I was made fun of. Boys were asking me if ”they” were real. I never got asked out. My gym teachers were mean, so were the doctors who told me I was ”abnormally fat and will die young”. I hated my body since then, trying all diets (but I ditched diets two years ago, yay). Even if I got boyfriends who told me I was beautiful, and with who sex was a great experience ( calling me sexy, irresistible, sensual, graceful, I was in delight) I never found myself beautiful again.” — Dominique

“I remember being 4 or 5 and trying to stand in a way that made me look less fat.” — Krissy

Thinky Thursday: When did you realize you were fat?

I’m going to start posting questions in my blog on Thursdays. I want to hear your thoughts! Post your answers in the comments section and I’ll take samplings of your responses and put together a collective post at the end of the day. :)

Thinky Thursday Question – Thursday, 9/23:

For those that this applies to, when did you first realize you were fat? Who, if anyone, pointed it out to you? When did you first hear this as a derogatory statement, if applicable?

My answer: I was a relatively skinny kid. I was tall and sunkist, mostly legs and braids and teeth — an active kid who rode her bike all over the place, loved rollerskating, was always outside rummaging through fields and “playing pretend.” An extended illness when I was young, and the steroids I had to take to treat it, changed my eating habits and patterns in a way that stuck around long after the drugs did and started a slow and steady weight gain. Both of my parents were fat, so I was pretty much destined to follow suit genetically. That was just the jumpstart. Even still, I don’t remember being self-conscious until the summer before 5th grade.

I remember being at the store with my mom, buying clothes for the school year. My options were polyester bell-bottom pants and too-tight t-shirts in last season’s style. I remember being mortified when my mom explained to me that nothing else fit me. It was my first realization that I was larger than other people in a way that excluded me from something. This also marked my entrance into two years of fairly traumatic bullying — the kind you learn about in after school specials.

I realize as I’m writing this out that what I’m feeling is an overwhelming wave of gratitude for the fact that I got to go through 9 or 10 years of my life without being focused on my body or carrying around any shame about how it looked. I’m remembering the hot flush of shame that washed over my face that day in K-Mart, but I’m also remembering the freedom of playing dress-up, of gliding through the water without worrying how my body looked in my swimsuit. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could stave off that introduction into body shame indefinitely? Everyone should get to live in their bodies as joyfully as we do as children.

How to Make Fat Community – Idea 1: Start a Chunky Dunk!

Over the next few months I’m going to be blogging intermittently about some ways to build fat-positive community — ideas I’ve put to use with varying success and ideas that I haven’t had a chance yet to try.

For those who haven’t made the leap, it can seem that there is some magic to event organizing — but the only actual difference between the folks that start events and the folks that attend events is the belief that starting something is possible and the desire and tenacity to try. (A little free time doesn’t hurt, either.)

Creating community seems to be a pretty natural thing for me. I’ve been doing it since 1999 and most of the time I didn’t actually know I was doing it when I started — it just kind of ended up that way by the time I was done. But at some point I picked up on what I was doing and started taking some notes about what works, what doesn’t and (ideally) how to start doing it intentionally. ;)

One of our favorite events here in Portland is the Chunky Dunk. Chunky Dunks are an annual summer series of body-positive group swims. We rent a public pool for an afternoon, close it to the general public and do our best to create a super supportive environment for folks to swim. For all but a precious few, the idea of putting on a swimsuit is pretty daunting. For a lot of us, it’s downright stressful. For still others, it can feel like too much to face at all. Chunky Dunks are our effort to create a space where that anxiety is minimized by gathering folks together who know what it’s like, who have no interest in judging and being judged and who just want to get in the water together and have some fun! Every year we have folks who haven’t been in the water in decades and watching them get in the pool for the first time is pretty much the best. thing. EVER.

Our events in Portland range from between 50 to 150 in attendance, depending on the weather. We charge $10-$5 sliding scale, use the profits to fund more Dunks and sometimes throw indoor dunks in the off-season when we have a surplus. It’s a pretty easy event to organize and everyone LOVES it.

I’ve put together a call for organizers at our website and, along with it, a list of guidelines and resources for starting your own official Chunky Dunk. We’re even hoping to be able to begin offering seed money for first-time events in the near future!

I want to challenge you — yes you — to consider the possibility of starting a Chunky Dunk in your city. I don’t care where you live — any country, any state, any city. Small town? Have a small event! Big town? have a big event! Read the guidelines and give it some thought. The Chunky Dunks are a really gentle entrance into event organizing and they have a huge impact on the folks who attend. Dive in, future organizer! ;) Drop me a line when you’re ready.

Sergeant Dismissed; or Why screwing up is a Good Thing.

sargeOver the last few years I’ve learned some hard lessons about friendships, relationships and the ways in which my own insecurity has found me actively judging others as harshly as I judge myself.

A year or so ago I made a Big Mistake(TM) – the kind of mistake I, thankfully, don’t make too often, and the kind that takes quite a bit to plow through and make peace with. I won’t go into the details, of course, but I will talk about some of the epiphanies I had in the aftermath.

Up until that point, I had a pretty polarized view of morality. There was Right, and there was Wrong, and very few things fell into the middle ground. This, I’ve come to learn, is a pretty tell-tale symptom of self-loathing. I have always had a really strong critical voice in my head (I call him The Sergeant or Sarge for short.) It’s one of the things that makes me a really good activist, but it has also had the unfortunate side-effect of making me unfailingly hard on myself and others when I/they failed to meet my unrealistic expectations of perfection.

Making that Big Mistake wasn’t something I could justify or tuck away. It fell far outside my ethical boundaries and I had to sit back and really re-evaluate the foundations of my morality. I did a Bad Thing. So was I now a Bad Person? Was it as simple as that? My shame spiral was a hot mess, I tell you. Not pretty to look at. And I had no idea what to do with myself for weeks.

During this time I was witness and party to some of the most profound compassion and tenderness of my entire life. My community of friends and family refused to join me in my self-flagellation and were actively supportive and non-critical. Over and over they countered and contested the haranguing Sarge, over and over they reminded me that one mistake didn’t change me at my core. They held space for me to be accountable, but refused to let me designate myself as anything other than the loving and well-intentioned person they knew me to be. I was deeply moved and even more deeply humbled.

The experience of REALLY fucking up and being so deeply loved and learning to love myself through it was life-altering. And frankly, had I not really just totally screwed the pooch (for lack of a better term) I’d never have had the opportunity to know that kind of compassion. The fact that something GOOD came out of something I felt was so horrible was something I really had to sit with and examine. It flew in the face of every rule of ethics I’d ever applied to myself or anyone else.

The ultimate result of this adventure was the realization that I had to throw away my yard stick. Constantly trying to measure up to an unrealistic archetype of what a Good Person looked like meant not only that I was doing myself a great injustice, but it was also making me intolerant of the journey of others and the ways in which life is just messy sometimes, and we’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

In life, everything is true all at once. There are Good People and there are Bad People, but precious few are truly just one or the other. Most of us are a heady mix of nature and nurture, wounded souls traveling a path together, “broken monkeys” (to quote my dear friend) and “imperfect family” (to quote another) who have the best of intentions even if our actions may not always prove this.

The point of this post is to give an example of the ways in which self-loathing turns into a hypercritical state that makes it nearly impossible to sustain healthy, long-term relationships with both our own selves and the others in our life that will invariably fail us – sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small. Being open and loving makes us vulnerable, but learning compassion for ourselves has the beautiful ripple effect of giving us a deeper well of compassion for others.

Learning to love ourselves is the first step in truly learning to love others, quirks, foibles and all.

Reclaiming Fat: Language, social constructs and just shaddup about it already.

fat cellsToday over at Bitch Magazine, Tasha Fierce wrote a great post on Fat Activism. One of the comments got me thinking about the fact that I haven’t really professed my feelings on the word Fat out loud. This won’t be anything new to seasoned activists, but perhaps it might give folks who haven’t had the opportunity to explore this topic something to think about.  It starts out kinda wordy, but it gets more applied towards the end.

Language as a Social Construct:

A social construct is, in simplest terms, a concept or a practice that is constructed by a particular group.  With this definition, we see that language itself is a social construct.  A tree is a tree because, somewhere ages ago, our indo-european ancestors took a look at that thing over there with bark and leaves and tiny little birdies sweetly nesting in its branches and agreed that the collection of sounds “deru” was an appropriate audio representation.  Through the years, language evolved and spread and from the tendrils of that original choice, English language speakers have thus far settled on the word Tree to represent the same thing.

As for you and I, even if we weren’t around at that original planning meeting, we have passively contributed to the construct by not challenging its meaning. A tree is a tree because we still agree that it’s a tree. At any point, a (massive) wave of disagreement could change that. Society invents new words constantly and grants and revokes new applications for words that already exist. Of course, we’re not likely to be passionate enough about the word Tree to decide we want to change it en masse — but sometimes we’re not talking about what a tree is — sometimes we’re talking about what being a tree means – and that’s where it gets sticky.

Buried in the Construct

As we name things in the literal sense, society grants and revokes figurative and metaphorical meaning to words in much the same way. These, too, are social constructs, but they are more dangerous because, rather than simply describing the existence of a thing, they begin to assign more arbitrary judgments to those things — rank/worth, value and behavioral expectations.

So enough about trees already.  Let’s talk about the word fat. If you look up the definition of the word fat, you’ll find that the definition starts off literal and then drops into more subjective descriptors; negative words like “too much” and “unnecessary excess” mingle with more positive words like “abundance” and “best of.” All of these definitions are commonly-held enough to be validated by inclusion in the definition, and yet some directly conflict with others.

This is great because noticing this allows us to entertain the notion that we can decide for ourselves what the word fat means, and how we apply it to ourselves and others.

Don’t Call Me Fat

There is some debate amongst body image activists about using the word fat blatantly in application to fat individuals.  Some choose to use more euphemistic terms like “of size”, “overweight”, “plus-size” and “larger” or even gentler/veiling words like “zaftig”, “rubenesque” or “fluffy.” These well-intentioned choices have both positive and negative effects.

The positive effects lie in the ability of these words to address the issue of fat in a less-threatening manner in a culture where the word fat has become loaded with negative stereotypes, oppressions and humiliations.

The negative effects lie in the unintended reinforcement of those negative stereotypes by allowing them to remain unchallenged. Shying away from the word fat can be seen as an implied agreement. “You’re not fat, you’re just ‘fluffy’.”

Using more euphemistic terms can sometimes be a backhanded compliment.  Terms like overweight, plus-sized and larger imply that there is a norm, and that the party to which the term is being applied falls outside of it.

Overweight — over whose weight?
Plus-size — plus whose size?
Larger — larger than who?

Challenging the Construct

Of all the words we could possibly use to describe people who have an abundance of fatty tissue, the word fat is actually the least judgmental.  Fat is a thing. It is a thing that some people have more of than others. Fat is what it is and, in its most literal sense, fat is not good or bad.

The trouble comes when we defer to the parts of our social construct that imply that having more fat indicates that we are lazy, unintelligent, unattractive or incapable. When we accept those meanings and shy away from using the word fat, we leave those assumptions  unchallenged.

Using the word fat as a descriptor for your body and refusing to use more euphemistic terms in order to placate or comfort others is an effective way to challenge the social construct and remove the power of those negative assumptions.

That said, I do think there is a time and place for gentler language. Not everyone is ready to accept the word fat as part of their identity, and in efforts to reach out to the folks in our society who haven’t gotten there yet, well-chosen applications of euphemisms can avoid alienating more sensitive folks.

However, the more frequently this happens, the less quickly we move forward. My suggestion is to integrate the word fat as much as possible in your activism and to be mindful about when and where you choose to gentle your message.

Let’s pretend that fat is a simple issue.

Let’s pretend that fat is a simple issue.

A comment I just posted to this site:

http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2010/07/coming_soon_the

where some folks are hating on fatties and fat activism. Just thought it was worth sharing. Would love to hear your ideas/thoughts/opinions on this:

————–

One of the things I often find most disturbing about the health debate, the over-consumption rhetoric or the “fatties are costing me money” debate is the fact that most of these arguments are shame-based.

If we are to accept the (i believe to be inherently flawed) presumption that fatties are a ‘problem’ to be ‘fixed’ — and if it were as simple (which it is not) as prying the fried chicken legs from the pudgy fingers of fatties everywhere and rolling us off of our couches for a run — then how would shaming someone be a valid way of doing so?

In the case of emotional eaters (whose existence I do not in the slightest deny – though not all emotional eaters are fat and I believe genetics plays a huge role in how our eating behaviors impact our visceral being) — the first step in healing the need to self-medicate with food is to get to the core of the emotional issue in the first place. Take Maslow’s Pyramid:

You’ll note the first tier is physiological – food, water, air, sleep, etc.

The second tier is safety – security of body, of employment, of shelter, resources, family, property, etc.

Let’s be honest — for a great many fat folks, getting past the second tier alone is hard work. With fat people passed over for jobs, with their body a constant source of ire both internally and externally — resources are minimal.

It’s not until the 3rd, 4th and 5th tiers that folks are actually able to self-actualize, to turn their minds from the matters of daily survival to headier endeavors such as emotional healing, self-esteem, self-respect — all of which are needed in order to overcome whatever baggage it is that caused the disordered eating in the first place.

There is so much “othering” that goes on in the fat debate, so many stereotypes, so much rote discrimination — and it has all the morality to it as does religion. Just as extremists can justify nearly anything with their god at their back, body facism has all the zealotry of religious extremism with the concept of health dressed up in papal robes holding BMI charts like the stone slabs of gospel.

Our bodies, our relationships with our bodies and the relationships of our bodies with the world are complex, emotional and daily. The interleaving of fat with disease is over-simplified. It is sedentary lifestyle, toxic food, fillers, preservatives, stress and anger that harm us. These things are not specific to fat individuals. There are fat and healthy people, there are fat and unhealthy people, there are thin and healthy people, there are thin and unhealthy people. This is as it has always been and how it shall always be.

What matters is compassion, is giving everyone an equal platform from which to make true choices about their lives — which means access. Without access, there is no choice. Without self-love, there is no healing. Without resources, without community, without compassion and love from others, there is no self-love.

Stop “othering” fat people — educate yourselves about the rampant undercurrent of shame that intersects ALL of the isms. Move forward and stop holding us all back.

Speaker

UPDATE: I have moved to London, England to pursue further education and am only intermittently available for speaking engagements in the States. Please contact for available dates!

I am available for speaking engagements in colleges, universities and businesses. I have done Diversity Training for Portland local government, spoken and/or presented workshops at Penn State, the Siren Nation Music Festival, Portland State University, Portland International Women’s Day, the NoLOSE conference and FatFest (NAAFA-sponsored.)

Below is a summary of my current workshops. I am willing to put together special presentations for your interests – just contact me and we’ll talk. I require travel costs for engagements outside of Portland, Oregon and a small speaker’s fee which is negotiable per your budget.

Social Revolution through Rejection of Shame
Community and Event Organizing for Social Revolution
Looksism 101