Join Me at the 2nd Annual Body Love Revolutionaries Telesummit!

Be sure to register and check out the Body Love Revolutionaries Telesummit that starts on January 31st with Marilyn Wann, Peggy Howell and me talking about activism. It is going to be amazing. For more information about the summit, how to register and about all of the speakers go to http://www.bodyloverevolution.com/

Also check out the facebook event page.

Here is the complete schedule!

Activism — Tuesday, January 31st at 8PM EST with Peggy Howell (NAAFA), Amanda Levitt (Love Your Body Detroit), Marilyn Wann (Fat!So?)

Health — Thursday, February 2nd at 7PM EST with Linda Bacon (Health At Every Size book), Ragen Chastain (Dances With Fat)

Fatshion — Tuesday, February 7th at 8PM EST with Marie Denee (Curvy Fashionista) , Rachel Kacenjar (Cupcake & Cuddlebunny), Yuliya Raquel (Igigi)

Sex — Thursday, February 9th at 8PM EST with Hanne Blank (Big, Big Love), Virgie Tovar (Guide To Fat Girl Living)

Blogging —Thursday, February 16th at 8PM EST with Marianne Kirby (Lessons From The Fatosphere), Margitte Leah Kristjansson (Fat Body (In)Visible), and Brian Stuart (Red No. 3 Blog)

Fitness — Tuesday, February 21st at 8PM EST with Jeanette DePatie (The Fat Chick Works Out), Anna Guest-Jelley (Curvy Yoga)

Fatness/Queerness — Thursday, February 23rd at 3PM Eastern with Bevin Branlandingham (Queer Fat Femme), Charlotte Cooper (Obesity Timebomb), Jessica Jarchow (Tangled Up In Lace)

Politics/History — Tuesday February 28th at 8PM Eastern with Paul Campos (Obesity Myth), Amy Erdman Farrell (Fat Shame)

Taking Back Your Body

This will be posted on the Ferndale Patch tomorrow.

I was 18 when I found the fat rights movement. Unlike my peers who spent years of weight cycling and trying every diet they could, I have only ever been on one diet. My entry into this movement came from understanding the ways beauty ideals oppress those who cannot conform to them. I spent my whole senior year losing weight believing if I just got down to a size where I would no longer be fat, I would be worthy, I would be beautiful.

My need to be beautiful began at the age of 5 when my parents were told I should participate in beauty pageants. The recommendation came from the mother of Ashley Johnson who at the time was in my brother’s preschool class and moved away the same year to take the part of Chrissy Seaver on the show Growing Pains. After that I was thrown into a life where my outward appearance was made to be more important than the characteristics that made me who I am today. While I only spent a year actually participating in beauty pageants the need to be pretty stayed with me and attached itself to my sense of worth and to my gender. Once I became fat those values I built up around me were ripped away over night.

I was 11 when I was first called fat. I was not always called fat; I had a whole slew of names that came with the change in status when I entered middle school, big bertha, earthquake (this was often screamed while my classmates shook tables), and jolly green giant. When I think back on it now I find it amusing that my classmates somehow thought that my body would create a seismic event when I walked. To be honest I changed that year, emotionally shutting down and trying to build up a wall around myself for fear of being vulnerable to their attacks but it wasn’t until I took a road trip with my dad at the end of the school year to visit my aunt everything came into focus.

When I talk about my past with body shame and fat stigma, it isn’t abnormal for people to tell me how it wasn’t the media, or their peers but parents and family members that brought on their own shame and the resulting consequences. I truly believe it is different when it comes from your family. We are told family is suppose to love us no matter what, but this isn’t true and when they say hurtful or damaging things it should be addressed as such.

The words my aunt said to me were simple and in her own mind were probably coming from a place of misplaced care.  When she told me, “You would be so beautiful if you were thin,” it was not only the first time a family member addressed my body, but also the first time it became clear that I lost something tangible by being fat.

That is why I am so passionate about the work I do today. Being taught to hold my personal appearance as a sign of my worth and my femininity, only to have it taken away when I no longer conformed to societies beauty ideals changed how I felt about myself. Because performing beauty is a standard requirement for someone who is gendered female, I spent a long time disassociating with my body and my gender. When I was finally able to understand that my pain was from the way I was socialized in my early childhood and teens I was able to disconnect myself from the equation. In other words, the way I was treated was not my fault or because of my body but due to the fat stigma in our society.

The changes were drastic, I stopped speaking negatively about myself, my body and/or otherwise. I also stopped speaking negatively about other people’s appearance instead judging them on their own interactions with me personally. This alone made learning to love my body and feel more connected with it, after hating it for so long, easier. Once I change the ways I thought and talked about bodies I started to address why I learned to feel that way, taking my life and tearing it apart to give myself a deeper understanding of where all of my shame came from.

Stopping my own body shaming was not an overnight process, it is still something that comes up at unexpected times, but when it does I’m not scared anymore. The only thing I fear now is going back to where I was before.

If you suffer from body shame, seek help. Surround yourself with people who will support you no matter what body you live in. Address why you feel the way you do about your body, and know that those feelings are not because of you. The Center for Eating Disorders in Ann Arbor and is an amazing resource to take back your body. 

October 19th is Love Your Body Day.

The National Organization for Women’s Oakland County chapter will be holding an event titled “Love Your Body: Media and Body Image” I will be speaking about the language we use to talk about our bodies. For more information visit their event page, linked above.

AND! Don’t forget about Love Your Body Detroit’s Body Positive Scavenger Hunt.

Celebrate Love Your Body Day with a Body Positive Scavenger Hunt!

Finding positive body image in our media-driven society is a hard task, but hunting down body positive pigs doesn’t have to be!

In celebration of Love Your Body Day 2011, Love Your Body Detroit is throwing a weeklong event that not only will make way for people to have a better relationship with their body but also bring awareness to a number of female-owned businesses in the area.

Participating businesses include,

Have Hips – Clawson

Rouge Makeup and Nails – Ferndale

Naka – Ferndale

Thicke Madam Boutique – Ferndale

Painting with a Twist – Ferndale

City Bird – Midtown Detroit

Pauline’s Closet – Midtown Detroit

Each business will be hosting a piggy bank that has been decorated by artists and activists from around the country. To participate in the scavenger hunt each participant must take a photo of themselves with as many pigs as they can find. After their “hunt” they can send their photos to LYBDetroit@gmail.com and each photo will count as an entry into a raffle with prizes from each participating business. If a person visits every pig their entry into the raffle doubles. All photos and winners will be announced on Love Your Body Detroit’s Facebook page.

The event begins on Love Your Body Day, October 19th and runs though Sunday October 23rd.

Let us know you are participating by going to our event page.

Public Speaking and Activism in Unsafe Spaces

Saturday Love Your Body Detroit attended an expo whose name I am going to omit because if you know me, you already know the name of the organization and you probably already know the events that occurred at this expo. We thought that we were entering a safe space; sadly enough this was not the case, which not only surprised us but also made us feel frustrated over the situations that took place.

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As a fat activist I know that the form of activism I do, that all people within the movement partake in is radical. To live in a fat body and think that it is ok no matter what scares people. To assume that all fat people will understand the message and not have a visceral hateful reaction to our movement is naïve, but in reality I am the type of person that thinks the best of all people until they prove me wrong.

The people who attended the event were fabulous; the panel I participated on was on point with a message that I think was important for everyone to hear. We had an impact that was positive even to the people who didn’t want to listen. Sadly we should have looked at the list of vendors before signing on to get a space ourselves, because the events that occurred happened when other vendors, who sold diet products, took issue with our message and instead of being professional as we tried to be they became confrontational, creating a hostile environment for us to be in.

Even with that I am happy that we went, not happy for the emotional toll it took on myself and the other activist with me, but happy for the people we reached out to and the ones who said that our message is good. I am happy for the women who bought the “I love my fat body” button, so that when she is ready she can wear it with pride.

Below is my speech from the conference.

Thank you so much for having me. While Love Your Body Detroit’s movement only began a year ago and I have spent the last 8 years working and learning more about the fat rights movement, but it is bigger than me, bigger than this room or city. Beginning in 1969, the formation of what is now known as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance set out as a civil rights organization dedicated to end size discrimination. It was in 1973 when Judy Freespirit, a member of the Fat Underground, wrote the Fat Liberation Manifesto.

In it she included, “WE demand equal rights for fat people in all aspects of life, as promised in the Constitution of the United States. We demand equal access to goods and services in the public domain, and an end to discrimination against us in the areas of employment, education, public facilities and health services.”

It is because of this revolution for fat liberation the movement has strengthened and evolved into what it is today. In the last two decades, with the birth of the online community, our voice has continued to grow louder and more demanding, fighting for our humanity, our rights and our dignity.
I am an advocate for body equality and this is as far reaching as oppression is deep. I actively live my life to change not only my own circumstances, but also the lives of those who will follow after me. We are taught to believe that it is our own fault our bodies are fat, due to a lack of control and neglect. Even though this type of stereotyping about fat people is not based in fact but prejudice. We must make our voices heard and speak out against fat prejudice in every facet of life. When I face weight bias in the doctor’s office, I address it. When a store doesn’t carry my clothing size, I let them know. And when I am verbally harassed in public, I respond.

What is often left in the dark or pushed aside as an afterthought are how our own bodies are political. How the clothes we wear, or don’t wear, send a distinct message to the world about how we view our body. We conform to society’s demands by the way we perform normality. We are taught from an early age our bodies have clothes that are either acceptable or unacceptable for them. When you live in a fat body it is easier to understand this concept, because the availability, accessibility and affordability of clothing is limited. It is harder to find a variety the larger you are. We are led to believe we should be ashamed of our bodies and must hide them; cover them from head to toe in clothes, in the hope they distract the world from our fatness. I am a fat activist all day, every day. When I walk out in the world wearing short skirts and sleeveless tops, I am making the statement that I refuse to hide behind the shame and stigma that society dictates I should feel because of my body.

With the continued growth of the plus size fashion industry and a larger selection of styles for fat women and men to choose from; how clothes can be a political form of activism gets muddled by the ways in which the fashion industry sells us clothing. Messages from clothing manufacturers often tell us we can use clothing to buy our own identity or sense of personal agency. Wearing things fat people are not suppose to wear does challenge people to think differently about fat bodies but you are still going to be subject to fat prejudice. So by believing you can change or hide your fatness through clothing ignores the overwhelming fat stigma people face on a daily basis. It also stops people from understanding the root cause of fat prejudice, which is not the appearance of fat people, but the deep seeded fat hatred ingrained in us from an early age.

The main reason plus size-clothing manufacturers exist in the first place is to make money. While they do try to fill in the gaps ‘straight’ size manufacturers ignore, almost all big names still try to please the masses who do not want to live in fat bodies and believe we all want to appear as thin as possible. With the tremendous number of products like body shapewear or panels in pants to hide bellies or “bad spots” imply there is something inherently wrong with living in a fat body without shame of any part of your body. While they carry these products due to demand, to truly encourage fat positive ideals, they should be pushing for their customers to live in their body with pride for their body, their whole body, not just parts of their body.

The Fat rights movement is the radical idea that your body is acceptable no matter what size or shape you are. No one has the right to dehumanize, stigmatize or discriminate against you because of it. There is so much more we can do and be. This movement is decades old, but there is still so much that needs to happen before we can stop fat prejudice. While having more access to clothing can be important for allowing fat people to assimilate into society, we have multiple concerns to address. These range from health care prejudice, inequitable hiring and promotional practices in the workplace, verbal and physical attacks on fat people, and the belief that fat people are inherently unhealthy. These issues need to be tackled for true liberation to become a reality.

Have You Seen This?

This is a rare photograph of the elusive Silver Diet Riot Pig. Found in it’s natural habitat the Silver Diet Riot Pig has yet to find its actual place in the world. Possibly once it finds an accepting place where it can be itself, then just then it will be at home.

More to come.