When I talk to people about my interest in fat studies and the work I do with Love Your Body Detroit, they often act as though they can never get the point I am at with my body. They believe that I have all of my shit worked out, that I never have a bad day or that I don’t still deal with the same issues that they do in relation to their own body. The reality is that I just have a good game face. I tend to tough it out in rough situations and way until later until I have the emotional space to process my thoughts. This is aside from the fact that I have created a well-structured house of cards over the years that has given me the ability to have some semblance of a safe space in my own life.
One of the first things that I did when I found fat rights was remove a majority of the media that I was surrounded by on a daily basis. I tend to listen to NPR or some other form of talk radio. I don’t own a tv, read magazines, or try to not go on any website that doesn’t have a feminist or artistic slant, sometimes it happens but the amount is far less. I have my Hulu settings set up so that I barely ever get a weight loss commercial and use that as my primary source of tv. I don’t watch reality tv, except for The Voice which is mostly because I find it fascinating to watch not only for the competition but also for the way Christina Aguilera is treated by the media. While it may seem extreme, I know what is going on in the world, but removing myself from a space where my body and the bodies of other people are demonized or not represented at all was incredibly important to me. As well as removing myself from the negative head space that goes along with most forms of media where bodies are routinely met with harsh negative criticism.
One of the most drastic things I have done over the years is limit the time I spend with certain people. Since last October when I stopped being friends with a person for the toxic way their friendship was affecting my life. I have decided that I want the people who surround me to make me feel better not worse about myself. This has also meant limiting my time with family, friends or even the places that I work at. I’m at the point in my life where working at a job that makes me feel insecure about myself is no longer worth it to me. This comes from a place of privilege for me to even make that choice, but it also means that I am living off financial aid and grants for the most part.
Even with all of these precautions it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a bad day. It doesn’t mean that I don’t ever have to reevaluate the situation I am in or process my own life. This safety net is one that I have created to make the space I take up easier to deal with but it is something that I have created over 8 years of practice. Also the space I take up online is filled with people who have a similar mindset as myself, so when I go out in the world I know I am not alone.
I have always thought that television was detrimental to the psychological health of most people, though unless you’re aware of it, it seems crazy to suggest it.
Totally! Most of the times that I have been around other people when we watch TV I have to keep my mouth shut. Often times people don’t think critically about what they are consuming and how it affects their daily life.
I don’t own a tv either. It’s been so long since I watched one regularly (decades!) that I find myself getting irritable with the stuff I do see – the images just jump around too fast for me. I occasionally watch shows on Hulu, mostly oldies that aired between the late 50s and very early 70s.
You’re right about cutting out most of the media antifat messages and that you can’t get rid of them completely.
On the internet, you can at least talk back. Hate is bad enough, but it’s the one-way hate that’s most demoralizing.
Same here! Basically : ) I’ve actually been able to integrate SOME media back into my life that I initiially got rid of; for a while I just didn’t want to watch any tv shows that had only skinny people on them (so you can imagine how much tv I was watching), but I’ve been able to bring some of those back because now they don’t feel as threatening to me as I’ve moved from “this is so unfair! how come some people never have to think about these things! I’m jealous!” to something much closer to acceptance. I’m still going to get mad and triggered if there’s outright fat hate, and I would still like to see more body diversity represented, but the mere presence of thin bodies isn’t usually going to bother me anymore.
Excellent piece Amanda. I think there is this perception that fat activists have got it all going on, that we don’t struggle with all the same demons as other people. We do – we just get a whole lot better at managing it than we used to be. And we know how to step back and take self care, not to mention being surrounded by a community of people who understand those feelings and see them and step up with support. That’s the best part of fat activism – the community. It’s awesome. Not perfect, but awesome.