Big Fat Money

I’ve been meaning to write a post about this for a while, but I’ve put it off for fear that it would make people uncomfortable.  But an e-mail that I got today told me it’s time, so here we go. If you don’t want to talk about money then click away now and I’ll be back to my usual topics and ranting tomorrow.  If you’re coming along for the ride then the e-mail that I got said:

I really like your blog, but I noticed that you have a paid subscription (but I get that I can read the blog for free) and I saw on Facebook that you’re gonna be selling dance classes and a book. I’m not comfortable with that.  I was happy to donate to the Billboard project and I appreciate all of the activism and speaking and writing that you do, and I want to take your dance classes and read your book,  but I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to pay your bills.  It seems like if you got a day job you could offer all of this stuff for free and then everyone could enjoy them.

This isn’t the first e-mail like this I’ve received and I was hearing conversations like this before I even had a blog.  In conversations with a lot of different people who do work in Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size they also get e-mails like that and they get a fair amount of push back when they charge for their work, including being accused of being “money grubbing”. The conversation about money in the HAES community is really awkward and uncomfortable which is one of the reasons that I want to talk about it.

While I certainly don’t feel that anyone is obligated to buy HAES/SA stuff, I do think the idea that people should do a ton of work to produce books, videos, workshops etc. and then give them away or be called “money grubbing” is highly problematic in our movement. One of the reasons  the diet industry is so powerful is that they have 60 Billion dollars a year to play with (I spent thousands on diets over the years, I know I gave Weight Watchers my $12 a week for many, many weeks), so the people who are running those companies can pay their bills and spend all of their time putting together major advertising campaigns, paying for TV, Radio and Billboard time etc.  The Weight Watchers execs do not have to work a day job and then promote dieting in their night and weekend free time.

If, as a movement, we don’t feel that we should financially support people doing work around Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size, then everyone has to find another way to pay the bills, and then try to use their free time to combat a message that is backed by a full-time 60 billion dollar diet industry (not to mention the government and the media). So what I have seen happen is really amazing people get burnt out.  Working a day job also makes it very difficult to speak at Universities and corporations since those talks generally happen during weekdays, or to handle media requests that typically come in on a tight deadline, or to write books and create videos, workshops, curriculum etc. that help people understand and live Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size.

I’m on both sides of this.  As a consumer I try to buy books new and directly from the authors so they get as much money as possible and I look for opportunities to support the activists  I respect, I try to contribute to all the kickstarter projects etc.  I’m happy to help pay for their bills and rent because I want them to have the time and space to keep doing really good work and because I believe that they are good at what they do.

On the other side, as a professional it’s important to me to make my work affordable for as many people as possible.  I work hard on that – the membership n is voluntary, most of my workshops are pay what you can,  and I turned down an offer from a publishing company so that I could sell a pay-what-you-can version of my book to make it affordable to everyone.

Most of the HAES/SA professionals I know have something they offer for free – a blog, an introductory teleclass or session, free resources etc.  We all want to provide something to those who don’t have the ability to pay and we all put a lot of time and effort into them. Most of us also offer scholarships or assistance to people who ask.

I am truly and honestly totally cool with people who read my blog for free and never buy anything from me. My favorite thing as a blogger is to have people read and get something helpful from my work,  and send me an e-mail to let me know and/or share what I write. My goal has always been to create the biggest possible platform to tell people about the HAES and SA message so that people know all of their options, and blogging allows me to reach thousands of people each day which is pretty awesome.

I know a lot of people who do HAES/SA work and I don’t think that any of us are money grubbing, I think we just want to make a living helping people and doing work that we believe matters.   I’ll continue to do the membership because I would rather be supported by readers who get value from the blog  than corporations  (and I live pretty cheaply so if just a few of those thousands of people who read the blog every day think it’s worth supporting financially, then that helps me to be able to do the rest of my work :), and I’ll continue to offer the blog for free and everything else as affordably as possible.

I’m really interested in what y’all think about this whole HAES/SA money thing so feel free to tell me in the comments.

Here’s that stuff for sale that I told you about:

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

Interviews with Amazing Activists!!  Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details

Published in: on April 17, 2012 at 7:32 am  Comments (125)  

125 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I hadn’t seen the dance class thing. I probably skimmed past it, as I am in Australia and find most stuff is US based. Which is cool – that is what I get for living in a country with only 22 million people :-)

    I believe in supporting things. I am currently unemployed, but when I had a job, I donated $50 a week towards… things. Size acceptance, animal rights, environment groups. Even scanlator groups to keep them alive. Things which benefit me in some way. Will I ever need the royal flying doctors? Probably not. I don’t see myself living in remote areas, but I believe that it is worthwhile, and the people that it supports are worthwhile. So I put my money there.

    Same with here – I think that Ragen has a strong voice, is doing positive things for the community at large, which means positive things for me. And I value that.

    and I want to support things I value.

  2. I’m kind of shocked anyone had the audacity to tell you to get a day job so that you could offer your time and work on projects they like and would like to benefit from, for free. *Who’s* being greedy?

    • Word!

    • Exactly!

    • Can’t put it any more succinctly than that. Other than to state it appalls me every time someone expects someone to give away many hours of hard work for free just because they want it but don’t apparently value it one iota.

      • Other than to *add*, not state. I swear, clock hits 6am and my brain just shuts itself right off.

    • This. I thought Ragen’s activism was a full-time job, with classes etc. fitted round that schedule – certainly appears to be.

      If the folks who say such things can make extra hours appear in the day to fit in two full-time jobs then I think it’s selfish of them not to tell the rest of us how they do it. ;-)

    • This.

      The irony of telling an activist that they need to get another job (activism and blogging is WORK), so you can continue to read it for free… is just, wow.

      In our world, time is money. I know so many amazing activists that spend a large chunk of their time and energy on “the cause”. I’m happy to support them however they need… so they can KEEP DOING IT. They deserve compensation for their hard work.

    • Agreed. Why on earth would anyone have a problem paying for a book or a dance class?
      If you don’t want to pay for a book, rent it from the library, but if you want more books from that author then the author needs to be able to have the appropriate financial resources to be an author.

      So too with dance classes. I would never expect to have my yoga classes suddenly be free. And the dance classes are the same service. Studios need to be paid for, and the instructor should be compensated for their time and service. Its absurd to suggest that because you are an activist that all your efforts in support of the movement should be provided for free! As far as I understand it you are a public speaker, author and instructor as your day job; and on top of all those things you are doing all your activist work and providing many resources for free.

      I believe emails such as the above come from a place where people do not seriously believe that you can do the things you believe in, and work you love, and still be able to support yourself financially; which is just a bunch of bunk!

    • Might as well ask a mechanic to get a day job and fix your car for free. What chutzpah. Seriously – I wonder what kind of job that person does that s/he would do for free for someone else???

    • Hear hear!

    • This is how I feel about it, too. It’s not like anyone here is forcing anyone to pay anything. They’re just asking for donations to help with a cause. You’ll see that with all kinds of causes and if it’s a cause I believe in, then I’m more than happy to donate if I have the money. Even if I don’t have the money, I realize that the cause needs money, and that’s why they ask for donations. If I don’t believe in a cause enough, then I simply won’t donate and will go along my merry way. Asking for help to support a valid cause is far from being money-grubbing.

  3. Well if you can’t work days and do this work, maybe you should work nights!! Seriously, this IS your day job. You’ve given up other distractions to address injustice and prejudice on behalf of all of us. I have no problem with that. Keep up the good work. :)

  4. I think what you’re saying is reasonable and makes sense.

  5. I don’t know of any authors who give their books away for free. Nor does the exercise studio near my work offer dance classes for free. And the blog subscription is voluntary, so I don’t see what the problem is.

    If you took one of my knitting classes or wanted one of my patterns, I would charge you. If I take one of your dance classes or your book, I expect to pay for it.

    People deserve to be paid for their work.

    • “People deserve to be paid for their work.”

      That is the crux of the matter. If your correspondent does not believe s/he is getting anything of value from your work, then s/he is free to not pay for it. Frankly, I’m more concerned with the lack of gratitude for the amount of work and information you have already put out there for free. The sense of entitlement that some people have is incredibly selfish and unfortunately a huge part of American culture. If we were a little less self-centered as a whole (and that means emulating people like you!), we all would be in a much better place. I’m glad you feel comfortable asking for financial support for your work, and I hope you receive enough to live a comfortable life!

      • Exactly. Writing books, doing dvds–there is time and money put into this. Why shouldn’t you get paid? FA/HAES people put in a lot of work for free–blogs, free podcasts, activism–financial and moral support from those of us who consume these things should be a given. Books and DVDs require financial investment and should, of course, be paid for, like we would for any books or DVDs.

        I bought Lesley Kinzel’s book even though I was pretty sure I knew most of what was in it (I’ve read her blogs for a long time) because I want to support her (Two Whole Cakes is a great book by the way). Supporting the people doing the heavy lifting in the movement is a good thing. Give what you can afford, or what you want, or don’t at all. But it isn’t right to expect everyone to do so much work for free.

      • Very well said Katje! I totally agree! Ragen and other HAES and SA activists need to have a roof over their heads and food to fuel their bodies like the rest of us. They also need to be able to put forth ALL of thier energies towards the fight for HAES otherwise we may not ever be heard.

        Keep on keepin’ on Ragen and all other HAES activists!!

  6. I sort of understand where this argument comes from. I have read a couple of books about intuitive eating to overcome my compulsive eating, and there were good tips in them, but I felt I’d need a bit of support to really get into the process. So I looked for online resources like a self-help forum or the like, only to find out that the few that there are actually charge a monthly fee for participating in them. That really put me off and felt like a rip-off.

    That said, I totally cannot understand how anybody could accuse you of money grubbing? WTF? The blog is free, the fitfatties forum is free, there is no advertising here for anything you sell, so really … WTF???

    Nobody in his right mind can expect that you give books away for free, or give dance classes for free, and I really feel that you have gone out of your way to offer these things for an affordable price.

    Keep up the good work.

    • I’m glad you’ve found an approach that you find helpful to manage compulsive eating. As for support, however, you often get what you pay for.

      A free forum is likely to be peer run, may or may not be moderated, may or not be there when you need it next time. A professionally run forum probably incurs the cost of web hosting and design, advertising (so you can readily find them!), time spent thinking through ground rules, resources, etc. A professional moderator can provide a safe space to talk things out and ensure that everyone “plays fair.”

      As with Ragen, the professional moderator is passing up other opportunities in favor of spending time on this project, so it’s only fair that they be compensated.

      The other solution if you find a free forum will meet your needs, is to start one yourself! You can host it and if others find it valuable they can join your effort. It will be a LOT of work, but you may find it to be very rewarding.

      • Diane, you surely have a point. The thing is, I am not willing to buy a pig in a poke. I have no problem spending lots of money on things I find helpful, but I will not pay money to sign up for a forum without the possibility to even have a look at it beforehand. I couldn’t possibly know how many members post regularly, whether there is any discussion at all, whether the moderator does a good job or does nothing at all.

        So maybe I should have worded that better … It was not the monthly fee that put me off so much, but the assumption that you would have to pay for something that you can’t even have a brief look at before you buy it. This is a business practice that makes me really uncomfortable.

  7. The reality of living in a capitalist society is that the more money you can make from your work, the more seriously you will get taken. That’s the world we live in. Anybody who asks you to work for free isn’t taking what you do very seriously. Imagine if Jenny Craig existed on photocopied flyers and meetings in people’s living rooms. Would they be able to attract celebrities and big media to their work? I don’t think so.

  8. I completly understand and support your “business ventures”. It’s your work, intellectual property, and time. It’s the equivalent of a full time job. Yes, I think you should be paid for those things you produce. However, thank you for keeping your blog free. :)

  9. I believe in volunteer work, and I do a lot of it. My fat acceptance work has always been volunteer work without specific goals or requirements, and that’s why I don’t put a large and consistent amount of time and effort into it. However, I’ve taken on bigger and more demanding volunteer projects in other areas and sunk a lot of time, effort and discipline into them. Some work needs to be done, but will never get done if it’s dependant on economic incentives.

    However, in this society, you need to make a living to survive, or you’re financially dependant on someone else. Being financially dependant puts you in a vulnerable position in all kinds of ways. Whether it’s the government or a family member, you’re basically at the mercy of whoever pays your bills. Moreover, the longer you go without a paid job, the more difficult it becomes to get one. Sinking a lot of time and effort into activism and not getting paid for any of it means being financial dependant and putting your career at risk, and that is dangerous.

    Self accepting fat people and especially size acceptance activists are – and I don’t think I’m exaggerating – hated and feared by a lot of people. Government and foundation grants are not available to us for our work. They are only available to people who promote the ideas we oppose.

    Nobody is going to make a fortune with HAES consulting or speaking fees or blog subscriptions. However, I have nothing but respect and admiration for people who take that route; who dedicate so much time and effort to activism that it becomes their (low paying, high risk) main source of income.

    I don’t know what planet people who would criticise activists like you, Marilyn Wann and Michelle (the fat nutritionist) for making the leap to professional activism live on, but it ain’t the planet Earth I know.

    • Hear! Hear! You hit the nail on the head with your post!

  10. What a completely bizzare complaint. If you don’t want to support the blog financially… don’t.

    If you think asking for donations on a daily blog is inappropriate… don’t write a daily blog and ask for donations.

    And then feel free to go about your daily business, with your life completely unaffected in any way whatsoever.

  11. Bleeping ridiculous. Honestly. It pisses me off that you even have to respond to this, Ragen.

    This person just doesn’t make sense: “Write books and make videos and teach me the skill you’ve taken years to learn but despite the publishing and production and lessons that you have to pay for, don’t you dare charge me.”

    Your real supporters will pay to enjoy the fruits of your hard work. You’re doing it for us, after all!

  12. “I saw on Facebook that you’re gonna be selling dance classes and a book. I’m not comfortable with that. I was happy to donate to the Billboard project and I appreciate all of the activism and speaking and writing that you do, and I want to take your dance classes and read your book, but I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to pay your bills.”

    Uh, no. You are a professional dancer, and I would expect to pay if I were to take one of your classes. And I would expect to pay for your book, too. IDK, this just seems like a no-brainer to me. I’m not sure why anyone would expect you to give this stuff away for free.

  13. Regan, you were FAR more diplomatic in your blog than I’d have been. I have to applaud that.

    As a singer and songwriter people are CONSTANTLY trying to get me to sing or let them use my songs for free. As a vocal coach people are always trying to weasle discounts on my discounts. I’m sick to death of the attitude that because my work (and yours) is also based on a CALLING that it should be given away. Nobody expects Olympic coaches to train their athletes for free. Why should I train singers for free? No one expects Suzie Ormond to offer free tickets to her seminars. Why should you – or any other activist who has given up a day job to put 100% of their time, wisdom, heart and soul into creating change in the world – NOT be paid to do it? You do this so the majority of us can sit on our collective fat asses and wait to reap the benefits later. The LEAST we can do is pay for your e-book if we want to read it. The person who wrote that email clearly views his/her existence from a place of lack, fear and possibly envy (if he/she can’t figure out how to make a living doing something they love and is irritated that you have).

    That person made me furious and now sad. I hope he/she is reading this and will be encouraged to mind their own underpants AND figure out how to make themselves into the boss of them, too.

    • Yep. I’m in the same boat as you. (Hi, fellow voice teacher!) Even though I teach for the love of it, and I certainly could have chosen a profession with higher pay, health benefits, a retirement plan, sick days, etc. if I had wanted to…that doesn’t mean that I don’t still want to keep a roof over my head. Many years of expensive training and two degrees made me the teacher/singer/accompanist that I am, and NO I do not give that expertise away for free!
      I think it has to do with being in a helping profession. We chose our jobs for reasons that aren’t materialistic, so people assume that we shouldn’t ever expect pay. But choosing to make a modest income isn’t the same as never expecting any income. Accepting that I’ll never afford a fancy vacation doing what I do is not the same as accepting that I can’t keep a roof over my head and a fully-stocked fridge, y’know?

      • Hear, hear, Melissa! Hang in there. :-)

    • I currently live under that poverty level in our country. It is hard to make ends meet at times, but I still would pay for services rendered by Ragen or another activist. If I could not pay for it at all I would ask for it as a present for Christmas or save until I could pay for it.

  14. This post should be a non-starter. It’s ridiculous to expect people to invest time, effort, experience, research and love into something and then give it away.

    We all have to pay bills. We all have to eat and to live. This is your job. Mine is selling things. I get asked all the time for price reductions and free stuff. I don’t oblige anymore. I have invested my home (space), my money (stock) and my time and considerable effort to enable me to do my business, like you have yours, and I should be paid for what I sell. The same as you.

    As you say, your blog subscription is voluntary. No one has to buy your goods and classes if they don’t want to.

    I’m sorry, but get real if you think this is not the way it should be. Nothing in life is free. Everything that appears to be free is paid for somehow, be that free postage on a purchase (purchase price ramped up to cover it) or free government handouts (taxes pay).

    Keep doing what you are doing, and don’t feel bad about charging for it.

  15. I think that the idea that you should give away dance videos and a book for free is absurd. If what you were producing was crap and no one was paying you for it and you wanted to spread the word then it would be on you to give it away for free. But what you’re producing is quality: quality intellectual property and mental consumables. That stuff doesn’t get generated for free. You don’t pull this information out of no where. Your experiences weren’t free (i.e. money spent on wasted diets), your good vocabulary wasn’t free (i.e. you probably paid money to get educated enough to be worth listening to), and your time isn’t free.

    In the interest of sparing everyone a capitalist rant, I think that this perhaps comes down to a HAES issue, which is that HAES/SA stuff should be free to spread the ideas. That’s also absurd, as HAES/SA people don’t have an undue abundance of free time and extra money more than any other movement, and I don’t think I need to go into why as Ragen has done a nice job.

    I’m a huge fan of open source systems, software, free downloads and so forth, but everything free has to be supported by something and that is NOT a day job. That’s the freemium model. I use many free programs that have limitations and once I realize I need the whole shebang, I pay for it. I read Chris Anderson’s book, Free, for free because I opted for the audio file that cost him nothing but when I wanted to read his other book – in print – I paid for it (both were excellent).

    This blog is free, and I enjoy it that way. However, when Ragen writes a book, I will buy it, because I want to read it and I know how much it costs to write a book in time, energy and OPPORTUNITY COST (I’m writing one right now and I assure you I could be doing many other things to make money and feed my family and pay my bills as this book will bring me bubkess!). In fact, I can’t believe Ragen passed up an opportunity for a big publisher to make it available to us for less. That means she isn’t enjoying a hefty advance to support her while writing the book.

    I don’t mean to be a kiss-up, but I think charging money for your work – whether that’s intellectual work or HAES/SA or anything else – is absolutely the way things should work.

    • Even if it was crap, she’s within her rights to charge, just as other are within their rights to not purchase it. What get’s me is the whole “How dare you expectme to pay your bills.” as if that’s not what they’re doing every time they choose to purchase goods and services, and the fact that they feel the need to tell her why they don’t want to pay, as if they are entitled.

  16. ‘I don’t know of any authors who give their books away for free.’

    Actually, quite a few of us do, as a means of promotion, but it’s almost always with the intent that someone will like the book enough to buy others. Unfortunately, there does seem to be a widespread idea that everything should be free. Everyone wants to get paid for their work, but no one wants to pay others for their work. I don’t know where the idea comes from but it’s perpetuated on the Internet especially among book pirates who tend to think writers are all rich and can afford to have their books copied to torrent sites and file sharing.

    Time is money and while giving something away for free is a great way to get people interested in it, there comes a point where it’s necessary and perfectly acceptable to charge for your work and your expertise.

  17. I’ve been on the receiving end of this sort of comment/behavior for years–as a writer and a crafter. People are more than happy to explain to me that my pricing (usually twice the cost of materials, which is lower than twice materials + time, which is the standard) is too high. And all sorts of people thinK I should be happy to read their writing for free. Some of that I’m willing to do now and then–I see it as community service–but mostly not. It’s my profession. I don’t think I’d get nearly as many requests for free/nearly free work if I were male. And I wonder if the same folks who write to you and other HAES/SA folks would expect men to give away their work? I suspect not.

    For the record, I think you’re entirely right to expect fair pay for excellent work. And, because blogging is a complicated issue–fine to seek subscribers, but also probably important to keep it free–seeking other revenue streams that grow out of your very hard and consistently excellent work is more than your right. In so far as that income allows you to continue your important work, it is also a service.

    And, especially since much of the discourse here is about all of us respecting ourselves, it’s important to respect our work by treating it as precisely that–work, which, by definition, involves fair compensation.

  18. I totally support you in your financial endeavors. As a knitter, people seem to forget the value of my time and insist that I do work for them for free because “you love it” and “it’s your hobby”. That’s great, but if it’s my hobby then I choose what I make and when. You are providing an amazing service to those of us who need someone is the HAES world to connect through. I for one, thank you, and hope that you don’t have to get a “real” job, and your activities here would suffer greatly.

  19. I don’t think this is limited to the HAES/SA movement. Creative folks especially get this all the time, but I’ve known people in lots of different professions that get asked to volunteer their work skills to bare acquaintances (and I don’t mean volunteering skills for a charity drive.) I’m doing a paralegal studies program, and all of my professors have warned me that I will get asked for free legal advice (which is illegal for me to do.)

  20. I’m new to the blog, but I’ve really enjoyed reading your recent articles (and a few of the older ones I looked up). I think 90% of your readers completely understand that you need to (and should) charge for your additional work that you do. I am very grateful that your blog is free, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have found it. Thank you.

    Also, where can I find this “super cheap e-book version of my book to make it affordable to everyone”? I would definitely be interested in buying it!

    • Hi Brittany,

      Welcome to the blog and thanks for the kind words and the support. The book isn’t out yet, but I’ll announce it on the blog as soon as it it.

      ~Ragen

  21. As a freelance artist, I can relate to this! Freelancers expect PAY for their WORK. Ugh, that email made my blood boil!!

  22. This post is valuable reading for anyone in the arts or activist circles. Why on earth is it ok for big soulless corporations to get our cash, but we balk at supporting one another’s hard work? (My only complaint about the paid blog subscriptions is that I wish that paragraph was in a different font or type size, because sometimes it takes a little of the “punch” out of the actual last sentence of your blog posts, by making it look like that’s not the end of the essay.)

    Really looking forward to your dance DVD!

    • Thanks, peregrin8, for making a comment that I’ve wanted to make ever since I started reading here. I had hesitated because I do think it’s absolutely fair for you to ask for contributions to the blog (and of course for classes and books). However, I find that that fundraising paragraph throws me off almost every time I read a post- I read right into that paragraph thinking it’s still part of the post at first, and it’s irritating. Your blog, you choose the layout you want, but here’s a second vote for thinking twice about that format.

    • THANK YOU for telling me about this, I’ve never even thought about it. (I know where the blog ends so when I read it the ending is “obvious”) I changed it starting today. Thanks!

      ~Ragen

      • Thank YOU, Ragen, for being good-natured about gentle criticism :) I like the new layout a lot better!

  23. Frankly, I think this entitled minded person who wrote this is the greedy one. You are a professional and give professional services. Professional lobbyists make scads of money to keep doing what they do. So should it be with someone like you who is making a marked difference in everything from hiring perceptions in jobs to fitness. I don’t have the time to do so, so happily support a professional like who does. For someone to say this, they are either naive or cheap. How the hell as a community with a voice will we be be heard if we don’t pay the folks making it happening? You can’t live on love and free! This is so important as I see fat discrimination on jobs around here and other things, I happily pony up my few dollars. Yes, I subscribe and I donated for the billboards. Quit being cheap and put your money where your mouth is. Nothing in life is free. Thanks Ragen for the job you do, finding your site and big beautiful wellness and the fit fatties forum have really encouraged me.

  24. a husband of friend said I should offer daycare in my home for their kids so she could go back to work, because I was lucky enough to be a stay at home mother?!!? excoooose me?

    If people saw your dance cd on a shelf or book on a shelf at a store they wouldn’t think twice about buying it but because they are a blog reader they feel some connection to you and you should just give them stuff out of the kindness of your heart?

    oh give me a freaking break…

    You deserve more than that Ragen!!

    • Janie I hope you quoted daycare rates at him in reply. Why didn’t he stay at home and watch his own kids if all it takes is ‘luck’?

    • You should say you’d love to take care of their kids! And then say that it is always nice to make some extra income while spending time with your children. :) Don’t forget to quote them a competitive rate for childcare!

  25. I go out of my way to pay fat people money. I go to fat doctors, I pick fat accountants, and I shop at stores that accommodate fat people whenever possible. This is really no different–except that fat activists and bloggers are going out of their way to help directly make my life better as a fat person. I think that’s a reason to try and give more money, not less. I’m always excited when someone in HAES/SA has a new book or product–it’s another chance for me to get my money to someone I believe in rather than to the corporate machine AND get something really affirming to who I am.

    When I was unemployed I remember signing up for webinars about how to effectively job search or put your resume together or whatever and I would sit through 30 minutes of blah blah and the catch was the only way to get any information was to spend a lot of money on something. With the HAES/SA movement and this blog in particular, you are getting amazing information and resources, as well as direct leads to ways that we all can help–oh and by the way, if you help support these resources you get EVEN MORE.

    I’m glad that this post was in my inbox this morning because it reminded me how important it is to provide direct support to people who are working to promote tolerance and understanding especially when it benefits me directly. So even though I know it was not the intent of the post at all, I’m signing up for the subscription. Lord knows I spend $10 on crap I don’t need or really care about on a regular basis and this is something I care about deeply.

    Oh and Ragen, I kind of live in the toolies, but if you need a spare bedroom in the DC Metro area, you’ve got one.

  26. Hi, Reagan. I´m brazillian and I can´t afford to pay for a subscription, mostly because I no longer use credit cards. However, if I did, I´d be very happy to support your blog. Nevermind what people say, you deserve to be paid for the awesome work you do. Thank you for keeping this blog free, reading you has been very helpful. I wish you a huge sucess with the book and the dance classes.

  27. Good for you Ragan! Of course you should get paid for yor work!!

    It is really great that you bright up this topic, Money is hard to talk about and even though you did not have to exPlain why you charge for Your work you graciously did.

    Your free blog with option to send money is very generous. Thank you for your work and I hope you are well compensated so you can take good care of your precious self and continue spreading the HAES /SA message!

  28. Nobody is entitled to anyone else’s free labor. Period, end of story. Everything you do for free, like the blog and the Fit Fatties forum, is a gift, which we are not automatically entitled to just because we like it and we want free stuff.

    Volunteer work is a good thing. FA wouldn’t be where it is without tons of volunteers, and the same is true of pretty much every cause out there. But it’s very easy for people to get demanding and entitled–it’s not enough that someone provides their writing to you for free, you expect them to teach classes for free and give you a book for free too.

    I think part of the problem is the internet culture of “free,” which, like Sue and bgardner touched on, isn’t really free. Facebook is free because we’re the product, not the customers—the customers are the advertisers. Some things on the internet are free as a promotion, while others are just ripped off. So we’re used to “free” stuff, but we forget that a lot of it has a hidden cost, or is shady to begin with.

    I also think people tend to conflate “people they know on the Internet” with “friends.” (Not that there aren’t real true friendships where people haven’t met in person, but that I don’t have a deep personal connection with the 300-odd people I have on Facebook.) People do give away their work to their friends and family, even work they’d normally charge for. I review friends’ resumes for free, and I don’t mind. These are the same people who I can ask to check on my pets when I go away for the weekend. But, I think there’s a tendency to view anyone you “know” online as a “friend” who you can expect favors from, when that’s not a reasonable expectation.

    I really think that any time you get something as the result of someone’s volunteer work, you should view it as a gift, not take it for granted and stand there with your hand out expecting more.

    • “I think part of the problem is the internet culture of “free,” which, like Sue and bgardner touched on, isn’t really free. Facebook is free because we’re the product, not the customers—the customers are the advertisers…”

      Ooh, such a good point! Imagine how different it would be if this blog had a bunch of auto-generated Google-type ads in the sidebar, which would inevitably be all “Magic flat stomach in 5 minutes!!!” :-p

      • What’s kind of funny about that is that WordPress.com has those ads automatically. I actually pay $20 or $30 (I can’t remember exactly) a year NOT to have ads so that people don’t have to deal with diet talk when they come to my blog. I even have my iVillage editor working to see if there’s a way to make sure their diet ads never come up on my articles!

        ~Ragen

  29. Yeah, this doesn’t just happen in activist circles. As a massage therapist, I got low-balled all the time by friends and family who didn’t seem to get that this was my living. That things cost what they cost.

    I think this person has no clue how much time and work goes into maintaining a daily blog, and making an instructional video, or writing a book.

    She probably believes that, if you can string words together, you can write, and that all that research you cite does itself.

    He probably believes that making instructional video requires nothing more than having your uncle point his circa 1986 VHS video camera at you while you dance.

    People like this are idiots, and don’t deserve an explanation. You were way too polite.

  30. Ragen, I’d like to thank you for making so much of what you do accessible to me (I’m unemployed so money is tight) I donated to the billboard and will donate to support your blog when I have some spare money. I will also buy anything you produce that I think will directly benefit me.

    I can do this because you have given me the ability to chose how much support I want/can afford to give you.

    Once again, thank you for giving so much of your time .

  31. I’m a writer myself and this really makes me mad. This person really thinks that artists should give away their WORK for free? That they should have to work two jobs so that others can “enjoy” their WORK for free? That’s utter bullshit. Writing, dancing, painting, making music, these things are enjoyable, but they’re also work, and they take up time, and if people want to consume them, they should pay.

    Thank you, Ragen, for offering so much of what you do for free. I’d never be able to afford it if you didn’t, and I do contribute when I can.

  32. Wow. You’re the moneygrubber in this situation, Ragen? Un-effing-believable. That someone should entertain (let alone voice) the thought that your butt-loads of work should not somehow pay your bills is ridiculous. What a selfish, greedy, and asinine person. Maybe they will come and clean my house, do my schoolwork, watch my kids, and do my grocery shopping for free. Because, you know, why should they expect me to pay their bills just because they are working their butts off? They could go get a night job to cover their silly expenses!

  33. You can bring up the topic of money anytime! I just wish I werer in a better position to contribute. Currently, the best ‘contribution’ I can give is to share you blog with friends and to tell others about your mission. I hope I have sent folks your way who are as excited about your efforts as I am.

    Suebear

  34. This is an important post if we want to build a fat community. Communities include, among other things, economics. To believe that being paid for the work we do to promote HAES(r) and other services for fat people, including intellectual services is somehow “money grubbing” is to believe that fat people deserve to live in a ghetto.

    IMHO, we will never have real community until we understand that we should do business with each other as a means of support. Fat people consistently make less than their peers due to the discrimination they face. If we don’t come to understand that we could be supporting each other by drawing upon each other’s talents and skills AND compensating each other for the goods and services those talents and skills produce, we will remain impotent.

    And while we are at it, let’s not limit ourselves to just HAES or fat-related economics. We should be doing commerce with each other in all areas. History of successful social movements have shown that this is an important component and it is sorely missing in our movement.

  35. Although I am not a paid subscriber, I absolutely support your decision to offer paid services of all types. I applaud you wholeheartedly for taking the plunge and making this a full-time venture, something many of us don’t have the stones to attempt.

    Don’t follow the naysayers advice; I believe in you. You can do this!

  36. When you come to Connecticut, if you don’t stay in my spare bedroom I will hold my breath until I turn purple.

    That said…same as it ever was, in liberation movements. All for the cause, you should do this because you want to see fat folks free not because you are profiting etc etc

    But I for one want to support you, financially and otherwise, because you are a fat woman–an actually fat, not plump, not in-between, actually fat woman–who dances. You dance, and that is something that I love to do and long to do. When I was younger I danced all night. I can’t do that any more, but I can’t wait to get your DVDs and dance.

    I want you to keep creating, keep living out loud, keep wriitng. I am happy to support your work in any way I can.

    I am sorry for that email writer, really I am. S/he can’t be joyful about supporting your work, about rejoicing that you are in the world and inspiring all of us fat folks to live our lives fully and not fearfully.

    There are hundreds, if not thousands, of thin people who make tons of money off of this society’s fear of fat. Some HAES/SA activists, writers, speakers also benefit from that fear, because their bodies are of a more acceptable size to the fatphobes. It thrills me to no end to have the chance to support someone who is making money from defying that fear, laughing it away.

    Rock on, Ragen.

  37. Ragen, have you read Melissa McEwan’s Bi-Monthly Fundraising post?

    http://www.shakesville.com/2012/04/bi-monthly-reminder-thank-you.html

    It’s a great reply to those who think that for some reason, an activist is only serious if he or she is willing to work for free. The most important thing she says (IMO) is:

    “I cannot afford to do this full-time for free, but, even if I could, fundraising is also one of the most feminist acts I do here. I ask to be paid for my work because progressive feminist advocacy has value.”

    I would say that the fat and sanity advocacy that you do also has value. Thank you for what you do. It really does make a difference.

  38. Somehow, in the USian society we live in, it’s become standard practice for people to think they can get something for nothing. Neil Gaiman talks on his blog about people who are upset that he charges money for speaking engagements.

    I stopped making jewelry to sell because I would always be told “I can get that at WalMart for 1/10th the price!” When my responses became, “Then go to WalMart and get a cheep piece of crap that will break in two days and get out of my booth!” I decided to throw in the towel. Nobody wanted to pay for my materials, much less my time to both design the item and make the item.

    In your case specifically, producing a quality DVD takes a lot of your time and money. Even if you “just” have the classes available for download, you still have to have a professional product, which costs a lot of money. (I have friends who are performing artists, I know what studio time costs.) And writing a book, even if you don’t hire an editor to help polish it up, is extremely costly in time. It takes a commitment to put your butt in the chair and write, and while you are doing that, you cannot do anything else that would make you money.

    To expect you to not only fund all of that yourself, but also to not get anything back for your time, effort, and expertise is extremely rude.

  39. There are people who do this kind of work for free and then there are people who do it for profit. Followers of the movement know that the people who do it for free really love the work and are doing it because they want to make an impact, and this is not to say that the people who make money from this kind of thing don’t believe in the movement or don’t really love the work, but sometime’s it can be hard for the public to tell and to them it becomes less genuine. It does seem like you are making a transition from offering free content to offering services for profit, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. Some might call it opportunism, but for me personally, I don’t care and I plan to stick around as long as I feel the quality of your free services don’t decrease.

    • I think this comment really gets at the crux of the issue. There is a class issue when it comes to social/community organizing. And it is rooted in the history of philanthropy. Traditionally, we see “good works” as being driven by passion and love. And, we think that if someone is making money, they are doing whatever they do “for profit,” and must be driven by the “profit motive,” rather than by passion.

      I think many of us would agree that the profit motive is at odds with the passion/love motive. But, here’s were the problem occurs. Only wealthy people can afford to do good work that is driven SOLELY by passion/love because passion won’t heat your house or keep food in your fridge.

      Ultimately, what we need is to draw a distinction between charging money for the work we do so we can support ourselves, and the idea of profit. What Ragen is doing, it seems to me is not about profit, but about subsistence. Charging money for the work she does, does not necessarily imply that she is take a turn toward making a profit from it. I agree that often times people get confused about that and become suspicious of the person charging money. I think, however, that says more about just how corrupt our capitalist system has become, than it does about Ragen or anyone else attempting to subsist in our current economic system.

      If we deny people subsistence in relation to the important activist work they do, only the wealthiest among us will be able to do it. And, while there are many well meaning wealthy people, historically philanthropy/”good works” have not gone far enough, and sometimes have made social problems worse because of the unexamined economic privilege of the elite.

      We need to be able to organize our communities, from within them if we truly want to make change. We need to let go of old models of philanthropy that insist that people only be motivated by passion. Certainly, we must be critical of the profit motive but we shouldn’t have to be impoverished to be able to do activist/community work. Within our economy, we ought to be able to subsist on the work we do to make our world a better place, in the wide variety of ways we choose to do that work.

      • Very well said, Ashley!

      • I agree completely.

        I teach high school, and it is absolutely my number one calling and passion in life. People have asked me over the years, would I quit teaching if I: a) knew I could make a (better) living as a yoga instructor, playwright, blogger, etc.; b) won the lottery or otherwise came into scads of money. I always unequivocally say no: I would not take even one day off but would be up the next day at five to start work at 6:15.

        But.

        That does not mean I can afford to teach for free. To be an effective teacher — to be a good, dedicated, passionate teacher — I need to be able to teach without being preoccupied with how I’m going to make rent or whether or not I’ll be able to afford food until payday or what happens if I slip on a stack of grading at home, break my leg, and need to head to the ER. Basically — even looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — having my basic subsistence and security issues taken care of are part of what enables me to give more to my passion.

      • I had something similar with a client, recently. One of the things she said to me was that she felt I was “just in it for the paycheck,” as if the (needed and earned) paycheck was somehow separate from the passion and craft.

        Everyone should expect to get paid for his work, and he shouldn’t have the fact that he is paid thrown into his face like it’s some kind of character flaw.

  40. Oh and I also want to add that I personally think you still love the work you do and I would never call you money grubbing.

    • It didn’t sound like that to me…

      • It’s a neutral stance, to put it simply.

  41. ROTFLMAO — Doctors should give away their services for free too — they are a necessity and all — but they don’t. We live in a commercialized world. No one can expect people to use up their blood sweat and tears and not get some financial gain for it. That is how our society works, it is how we pay our bills. Very few authors give their books away for free — there are a select few who use it as part of a marketing plan to hook writers but really that is what your blog does already, you already offer free stuff. I don’t think there is anything wrong with you asking for a little funding for the rest of the items you offer while it be a special blog, book, or dance lessons.

    I guess there are worse things they could say about you.

  42. Thanks so much for this post. I actually did a free session yesterday for someone who was indignant that I charge for HAES coaching. Seriously, this needed to be said, and you said it beautifully.

  43. Thanks so much for writing this post. I actually did a free session yesterday with someone who was indignant about me charging for HAES coaching. I kind of want to send her this post. :) Thank you for clearly articulating this issue.

    • I say SEND IT!

    • I mean, seriously – doesn’t Linda Bacon get paid for her book? You should be paid for your work with it, too.

  44. Would a paid subscription include different things than the free? Just curious. I’m just a little confused about how this thing works. In any case…WOW. I’m astonished at the kinds of things people say to you in emails. Just…wow.

    • Hi mishamerica,

      The paid subscription comes with extras – like free online meet-ups, discounts on products (all the paid subscribers will receive discounts on the book and the dance classes etc.), plus they are the first to know about project (they had a chance to read the original version of the book), and they get stuff like raw videos of my talks etc.

      At first I was really astonished, now that I’ve received a bunch of these e-mails I’m just disappointed!
      ~Ragen

      • I didn’t know you did that! Awesome!

      • Please don’t be disappointed, Ragen. Look at the HUGE number of people here who completely support your decision to make what I consider a small shift. I think it’s just change that most people dislike. They become petulant (like the emailer you posted) and whiny because they like having things at the status quo. Those are probably not the folks who are going to change their lives anyway. They have a little growing up to do and a few realities to face before that can happen. So take heart and do what you need to do for yourself. Know that PLENTY of us out here will support you in that. :) *hugs*

  45. KellyK makes a good point: people are getting used to – and feeling entitled to – “free” content on the internet. Of course, “free” content is often advertising-supported, meaning that it IS being paid for, but the consumers are not the customers – we’re the product being sold to corporations. That’s an especially big problem when corporate interests conflict with the writer’s message – if you write about FA and HAES, your ad server will deliver diet ads. Rejecting that model shouldn’t mean that your work isn’t worth anything.

  46. “It seems like if you got a day job you could offer all of this stuff for free and then everyone could enjoy them”

    Wow! What privilege and entitlement.

    Many people have been able to blend their passions/activism with the unfortunate reality of capitalism (that is, we need $ to survive). I think that is wonderful when that happens.

    If we lived in a world where we didn’t have to pay for rent, electricity, food, etc., then we could all donate our labour for all to enjoy without worrying about having our needs met.

    Until then, no one should be made to feel selfish, guilty (etc) for having to make a living.

  47. You can stay at my house if you come to Portland! If it after July, we will have a spare bedroom, before that I’ll give you my room! Too bad NCNM can’t cover your total costs.

    As far as getting things for free, I used to have people literally turn their backs to me when I said I was a massage therapist to get a little massage. I was always so appalled! As a med student, and I imagine as a doc in the future, people ask me for medical advice constantly. Right now, I can say it is illegal for me to say anything, but in the future, I plan to tell them how they can make an appointment with me. :)

    I also knit and people say I should sell my socks. When I suggest a price that covers my materials and adds a few bucks (thus excluding labor entirely) they are shocked. I think they thi k I will make my little knits and then sell them for $5. I do give away a lot, but I’m particular about recipients and often just make stuff for myself and my family. Though I am considering checking Etsy out. :)

    Not charging for massive amounts of work should not be expected. Paying for someone’s work should be expected. If they happen to give some of it away, we should add that to our gratitude for the day. Thanks Ragen!

    • What people can realistically expect to make from knitting is nuts. I’m always amazed when I can buy hand-knitted things that I can afford, when I know that if I made them myself, I’d want to charge twice as much or more. Etsy does at least attract people who craft themselves and have an idea what good materials and your time and effort is worth (though there’s also a lot of stuff that I think is way undervalued).

      People just expecting a massage? Wow. I’m horrified, but not actually surprised.

      • I was surprised at the massage thing too. I had a boyfriend once who NEVER asked for a massage because he understood and respected that I did it for a living. I remember offering him some bodywork after a minor injury and he kept saying no. I finally told him that I really appreciated that he didn’t want to take advantage, but that if I was offering, it was ok to take me up on it. :) My parents were the only people I gave free massages to, but they helped me a lot through school and some tight times, so I figured they had paid enough. Even so, my mom would usually give me some cash whenever I worked on her. :)

      • Unfortunately, there are also those practitioners and artists who set a bad precedent. I had a friend who used to read tarot professionally. I would occasionally use her services and she would ask if I wanted a discount. I would always tell her “no way, this is how you make your living,” and pay her actual fee.

        I have also been guilty of this myself, especially when it’s a friend asking. I feel like an asshole breaking it down for them, but I reallyshould. I’m not doing myself, or anyone else in my profession, any favors by letting the client set the rates.

  48. I understand how hard it is to be unable to afford something that would be worthwhile in your life. When you really can’t afford it (it would mean taking food out of your kids’ mouths or not having gas money), it can get really disheartening. I know the cost of items is not something I’m always gracious about and being unable to afford things sucks. But, Ragen, you’ve always gone out of your way to be considerate toward people like me. It’s clear in your writing that you “get it”, and for that, along with the messages you promote about HAES and FA, you’ll have my loyalty as a paying customer once I can afford it, too.

  49. I tried to comment earlier but had internet issues. :( But it worked out because everyone else basically covered what I wanted to say. :)

    First, I wanted to thank you for the free content you are generous enough to provide. I understand you need to live just like the rest of us, but I would be very discouraged if you charged for everything – not because I would feel like I was losing out on a free product I was entitled to, but because I would feel that I was losing a leg of my support system – my therapist sent me to your blog to help me deal with my body image issues and your site was my gateway to the FA/SA/HAES online community. I really can’t describe what it does to you mentally and emotionally to have some kind of problem and not have access to all the resources you need to deal with that problem. I do not begrudge people their right to charge for services but when I need those services and can’t afford them it is disheartening. Some people just like getting something for nothing, but others may just be trying to work within a budget.

    Smart businesses offer a combination of freebies and paid services so there is something for everyone and they don’t alienate anybody financially (the last thing they need is for people to say “too expensive” when writing a review or talking to potential customers).

    I wanted to suggest that the email that was quoted may not have been sent from a place of entitlement and greed – the person may have felt disappointed or betrayed. As I see it, the tricky thing is you are involved in a social/political movement first and a business second and sometimes the two are difficult to reconcile. Someone mentioned up thread that money gives legitimacy to a person or business, but it can also do the opposite. Much of the fat oppression we face can be traced back to corporate greed. Money has become synonymous with corruption and “selling out.” If you go from being a selfless activist to a businessperson, people are going to wonder if your motives have changed. The diet business makes billions because it is willing to compromise itself morally and ethically. Of course it is not an either/or scenario – just because you want to be paid for something doesn’t mean you’re throwing your values out the window. I think it’s a balancing act and you have to make the choices you have to make. For instance, you need to pay to keep your blog running…but selling banner ad space to Weight Watchers wouldn’t be the way to get that money – not that I think you would! :-P My point is I think people get a little spiky and panic-y when you start talking cost because they are afraid the change means you are focusing on the money over the message and they do not want the dream to be tainted by ambition or financial desperation. I think everyone has a story of something good they lost when someone decided either to start charging, upped the price, or decided to “take things in a new direction.”

    Business is necessary but we don’t trust it and we don’t always associate it with positive social change. This is why non-profits are separated from businesses, though they may be run in the same way – tradition says that a business exists to make money and a NP exists to do good. A business may do good but it is looked on with more cynicism.

    Everyone wants their work to be appreciated, and unless you win the lottery you also want to be compensated for your work at some point. Many people love what they do and would do it for free if they could…but they can’t.

    I personally don’t know anyone who gives dance classes for free. My Zumba instructor gives classes that are so cheap they may as well be free because she is so passionate about doing it, but she also doesn’t have to support herself so she can have a more lax business model. But I know she has to pay rent for the studio space and I would never begrudge her asking us to help her do that – we are paying for the privilege of coming there and experiencing her expertise and hard work. I wonder if the person who wrote the letter thinks they shouldn’t have to pay when they go to a restaurant, movie, theme park, zoo etc. We live in a society where we pay for the majority of services we need or want. Yes free is good but it is rarely really free and if it was it would be at the cost of the person who gave it away. This is work, not charity.

    I find it inspiring that, instead of getting a “day job” and cutting down on the time you want to dedicate to your cause, you have found ways to live and teach what you believe in *and* get compensation for it. Modern wisdom says “do what you love – the money will follow.” If you are brave and determined and happy enough to dedicate so much of your life to this then you deserve to be paid for it.
    Thank you for everything you do Ragen. I look forward to buying your book. :-)

  50. OMG!!! There will always people who want things for free. We have an air conditioning company and we go out on hot days. We have had a few people over the years say we “gouged’ them. You provide a service and you should be paid. If you grew corn would someone expect it for free, probably! Dont let it get to you. You have every right to be paid for your service or product. Thank you for the free blog. I will buy your book when it comes out. You will never be able to change the minds of people who expect to get things free. Unfortunately we have an intitlement mindset with some people in this country, and others too! Do not feel uncomfortable talking about money. Without it we cannot help others and we cannot live ourselves. Your work is for the betterment of people and there is no shame in that. Keep up your good works.

  51. I so appreciate you taking the time to break this down for people. It’s vital that we start to understand this and to support each other in the work (lemme repeat: work) that we’re doing. Like many of us, I have not a lot of respect for the mainstream media and capitalist systems that would hijack my site through ad content, and I don’t feel comfortable subjecting other people to them or linking them to my work. That doesn’t mean I have endless time and energy to put into my writing and activism around a day job. (Note the months that sometimes go by between posts). It’s rarely possible, hours-in-a-day and personal-energy-wise to do a lot of this work, well, around a day job. What’s more, as you pointed out, it’s also not *practically* possible. Whether that’s scheduling conflicts or the pressure to maintain a certain reputation within an industry (e.g. to be allowed to continue working with youth, one might have to limit activism around sex and sex work), it is often a seriously difficult tight rope to walk. I think you’ve found an impressively ethical way to navigate that, and it’s informed my own plans to finance my work in this field, which I appreciate. Thus, I’m going to do what I meant to do months ago, and click that little donate button already. Thanks again.

  52. Millions of people pay Stephen King’s bills just because he writes books.

    I think that puts it in a nice nutshell.

  53. A fabulous supervisor once told me (about thinking about holding clear boundaries around pricing of my therapy practice) that it’s important that my bills do get paid. The work I do is important to the person and if I’m concerned about paying my bills, I’m not going to be a very effective therapist.

    However, I did run into the attitude you mentioned when I was raising funds to expand my therapy practice…from my own sister. She was resentful of being asked to pay my bills. I never responded, but frankly she was free not to. And I was free to ask. That’s the beauty of all this.

    If this is what makes you happy and you want to ask for money to support your doing what makes you happy, I say ask away. When someone responds so strongly, I’m always left wondering what they want to ask for that they think they shouldn’t.

  54. OMG. It makes me think of THIS lovely video about client / vendor relationships: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2a8TRSgzZY

  55. I’m grateful your blog is still free or right now I couldn’t read it. As a self-published author myself, I have no problem for paying for the products of other people’s creativity. It only makes sense, and isn’t money grubbing at all.

    I worked for a supervisor once who made a big deal of how she had tons of money and didn’t need to work, but “wanted to feel useful.” she also frequently stuck her nose in the air and disparaged “people who are just working for a paycheck.” I felt she’d be a great deal more useful if she volunteered somewhere and left the paying job for those of us who weren’t independently wealthy.

  56. Here’s the thing – this IS your day job. In fact, I think it’s far more than that. The person complaining about you charging money has clearly not tallied the number of hours you put into writing, editing, performing, practicing, research, personal contact, political advocacy, letter writing, speaking engagements, travel, meetings, and classes, and that’s not even counting the time spent on brainstorming and special projects like the Billboards. Let’s just see how many hours we come up with from that, shall we? My guess is that it’s going to be in the ballpark of 80 hours.

    Then let’s figure out how much money all those things cost because the only things I see in there that actually generate income for you are the speaking engagements, teaching classes, some performances (though I’m sure not all) and now the blog (very minimally). I’m gonna guess that when the man hours are compared against the money you bring in and your hefty expenses that you make a mere pittance and this person really needs to understand that. I hope s/he sees this page.

    I admire you for treating this letter with respect.

  57. I’m a writer and I’ve had arguments with people who believe that since it costs nothing tp produce an e-book that an e-books should be free. No matter how much I argue with them about the cost of editing, marketing, writing, etc, they still think it should be free. As a writer who has spent the last 4 years working to perfect her craft and thousands of hours writing, revising, editing, taking classes, and in general trying to improve myself to write a better book. My day job is something that I’m grateful for, but if I had a choice, I would write full time. I could do more and be a better writer if I could do it full time. I wouldn’t feel like a divided person. It is disheartening to hear people say that my time and effort should be given away for free. It makes me want to cry.

    Ragen, I appreciate what you do. As a fat hooper, I plan on trying out your dance classes and seeing if there is something that I can incorporate into my hooping. I’m looking forward to your book. I don’t blame you for not getting a “day job.” It would split your focus.

  58. Oh for crying out loud, that person completely showed how thoughtless and greedy she is. When I read “but I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to pay your bills.” I almost threw my mouse.

    Ok I should tell my hairdresser that “I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to pay your bills” and expect them to get another job so they can cut my hair for free? How about my doctor, is it fair for them to charge for their services? Seriously “I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to pay your bills” just screams as so snotty and entitled and honestly not even remotely truthful. There has never been a time where you posted with “omg guyz my lights are gonna be turned off send me money” and even if you had whatever it is up to us readers to decide if we wanted to pay or not. You are offering SERVICES that are beneficial and awesome, to expect you to get a different job so that you can do that work that benefits us for free is just ridiculous.

    This hits home for me as a graphic designer because often when people hear what I do for a living they expect that I should do stuff for them for free or drastically discounted just because we know each other. This seems to happen even more when people see that you LOVE what you do, then they really seem to think you should be just giving it away. Like work should be something you hate and so if you are doing something you love you shouldn’t earn money for it even when you are providing a service or product to others. weird when you think about it how much it parallels people thoughts on exercise or diets. If you are suffering and miserable then you are earning or deserving of reward, but if you are enjoying yourself and happy then you should PAY!

    So ridiculous!

  59. Ragen, I appreciate your work, your passion and your committment. Subscription paid. <3

    • Thank you so much, I truly appreciate it :)

      ~Ragen

  60. I agree with you completely. I think you are extremely generous and the work you do is for ALL of us. I disagree with the emailer 100%.

  61. If you ever want to come to Tucson, you are invited to stay with us!!!!!

    • Seconded! Come to Tucson! :D

    • Plus, I will pay to come see you in Tucson! (Alas, even a “spare bedroom tour” involves more Tucson real estate than I have, but nothing would make me happier than to put my activism dollars in action to see/hear you speak, Ragen!)

  62. I have to be honest, I’m baffled that anyone would consider what you do “money grubbing.” Admittedly, I just read your blog (for the time being) and didn’t even realize until recently that you sell anything. As you pointed out, the diet industry is an entire sector dedicated to shaming people for profit. That’s disgusting. Allowing your supporters to support you financially, if they choose, is just… logical.

    Radiohead is a good example that comes to mind. Their album, In Rainbows, was offered for download on their website for whatever price the downloader chose (including free). And you know what? 38% of people still paid for the album! Something I hear over and over and over again working in non-profit is that the #1 reason people don’t give is because they are not asked! So I certainly don’t see a problem in asking. You still offer free content, and I assume, like most people, you are not independently wealthy and thus producing books and workshops is an expense for you. Unfortunately, I’m not able to support your work financially right now, Ragen, but when I am able, you bet I will!

  63. As others have said, this *IS* your day job!

    Thank you so much for keeping the blog free and working to keep the costs low on other things – I appreciate the gift.

    I do agree with other posters that the internet has certainly caused people to expect things to be “free”. (I find myself guilty of this at times.) It’s difficult for people to see that they are paying for things, and I like how you explain that in your request for subscriptions.

    Thank you for this post’s explanation, and I look forward to seeing continued wonderful & inspiring work!

  64. I completely agree with the general sentiments here. You’re doing valuable work that benefits many, many people. Work that many of us cannot do or are not interested in doing. You have every right to ask for and receive voluntary support from others to pay your bills. And selling your book & dance classes makes complete sense. Keep on doing it all, please!

  65. Charging people for your work (in alignment with its value) is a SERVICE to them.

    a) Being paid for your work creates more space in your life for you to DO that work. With that time and energy, you can create more and help more people.

    b) People value what they pay for, and they are more likely to use what they value. When you charge for a product, you are giving the buyer an incentive to actually work with it, so they can benefit from it.

  66. This problem is not unique to this community, I’m afraid. Some people just want to get everything for free! Others, to be more fair, are keeping an eye out for the kind of people who see a trend, throw up a website, and are about NOTHING BUT selling product under the guise of doing something more meaningful. But if you’re *too* diligent about that, you end up stepping on people who are so dedicated that in fact, they are devoting both their personal and professional time to the same cause, which is obviously the category you’re in.

  67. Hi Raegan,

    I have skimmed through here, and your fb page, but are there any details about the dance DVDs, or are they still in “future exciting project” territory.

    thanks!

    • Hi Sweeny,

      Thanks for asking! They are in post production (all the raw footage is done, we’re just putting it together and preparing a download) and they will be available within a couple of weeks.

      ~Ragen

      ________________________________

  68. I just love people who come along and tell you “I’m not comfortable” with you being paid for a whole lot of damn hard work. People think this fat activism, at the level we take it, is just some little hobby that we do to fill a few spare minutes every day. I don’t know about you Ragen, but I have two full time jobs – the first is my day job, that I get paid for, and the second is my activism, which is like running a business without being paid. I’ve been self employed with my own business before, and it was a whole lot easier than this activism business is.

    I long been thinking about a way to supplement the work that I do with fat activism. Not only because it’s a lot of long, arduous hours of work, but also because it COSTS me money. It costs me money to attend the events I do, it costs me money to go to conferences, and it costs me money to organise any events I am involved in. Just the recent clothing swap I co-organised left me quite a considerable bit of my own money out of pocket. I’m really lucky in the fact that I can afford, thanks to a day job that I work my arse off at, to do these things. But then when life gets in the way, and those hard earned wages have to go to everyday life costs, people turn around and get snotty that you’re not “contributing”.

    Over the last year or so, I’ve been really fortunate in that I’ve worked with some plus-size clothing companies and received some free clothes for my trouble. Of course, then people came out of the woodwork and accused me of “selling out” and being in it for the freebies. But they don’t stop and thank me for the past 3+ years of working with plus-sized companies, dealing with frustrations, having to carefully manoeuvre and word campaigns to get them to change their product, prices and sizing. No, they’re happy to reap the benefits of a slowly but surely growing market, but they’re not happy for me to be compensated for MY work.

    Not to mention that every other book and class out there costs money. People, life isn’t free, and you’re not entitled to just demand the things you want because it’s in the name of activism.

    Ragen, I know you put a lot of work into your activism. You deserve every little bit of reward you can wring out of that work. If anyone doesn’t like it, they can step up and put the hard work you and I put into our activism and see just how long they’ll last at it.

  69. We all live and work in a service economy, and we all pay for the services we need and value. In the case of Ragen’s work, I wonder whether people don’t value the service, or whether they don’t value their own needs. Most of the examples given in this thread seem to expect women or “women’s services” to be offered for free. That’s misogynistic and unacceptable.

    • It’s a good point, Heidi. Seems to me to tie in with the widespread cutting of public sector* jobs in the UK, which are more likely to be jobs women do. The whole of the public sector is also consistently undervalued and demeaned simply because it’s not private enterprise. I have been wondering how much of it is misogyny. Women’s work is still undervalued. That’s not just infuriating from an equality perspective but dangerous to the stability of family incomes.

      *for clarity, by public sector I mean things like local council jobs, care sector workers, libraries, local services etc.

  70. Heh heh – & now you know how I feel, Ragen – when I have to respond to the protests that my veterinary clinic is not a charitable organization, but is instead a profit-driven business that supports myself & my 8 employees!
    “But I thought you LOVED animals!”
    Yes, I do, but I still have to pay my bills!
    Keep me on your Spare Bedroom list (DFW area) & I honestly WILL get around to donating to the cause, once I recover from that 3rd quarter tax pmt (ouch)…

  71. I am new to all of this. This is the first newsletter I have read since subscribing. I ran across you somehow when reading about health. I paid full price for the hardcopy book, bought both of your videos and I bought HAES by Bacon.(I have not looked at any of it yet.) I can afford it. I spend money on all manner of other things that are not that important but I still get caught up in the BUY mentality. I sent a copy of your newsletter to someone who cannot afford the ebook but she relies on the library to get email and so has nowhere to download it. She lives in a homeless shelter.

    You have good reasoning and writing skills. I would be hard pressed to do what you do so well and I am happy that you do it. I have not read your emails but if and when I do make use of the site/emails more, I will certainly donate something. I agree with what has been said here. You provide a service, you are changing things, and you are not into it for ‘profit’, as though you have stockholders and projected earning goals. You just want to be able to afford to live and I do not view that as ‘paying your bills’ for you, like you are a leach. Most people like you, when they get a litle extra(and I mean little) turn around and give that back by offering even more. Having a litle extra should be kept against unforeseen expenses, but most like you don’t feel right doing that.

    From what I can tell so far, you are great and your response was appropriate. As has been said, I would have wanted to blast the person, but we do not know why they think what they think. And as you said, it is good to make it plain to everyone. If one wonders and has questions, usually more do. This way, all are reassured.

    I taught ballroom/Latin and Country Western dancing at a community college and a professor there devalued what I did as a hobby and far beneath what he did. I would never expect to get a free or discounted service if I could not afford it or was not willing to pay. If I were to ask for a discount and it was not given, I would not be furious as though I was entitled. You can ask, but you have no right to it.

    It may or may not benefit the businessperson so it may or may not be granted. If you are ticked, perhaps you are spoiled and do not notice that other people work hard at whatever it is they do. Somehow some people think that they work harder than anyone else. How hard can that be, they ask? Walk a mile in their moccasins and find out. It is a lack of respect for others.

    I too appreciate free content and am grateful that Regan pays 20-30.00 a year to avoid the ads. I don’t mind so much if they do not keep popping up and hiding the content. If they waste my time too much(watching commercials) unsubscribe. But here it truly would be terrible to get mainstream ads. That would be the complete antitheses of what you are trying to accomplish.

    That would be like an atheist site getting religious ads. We are bombarded constantly by religion already.

    One thing about facebook, we are subjected to ads AND they are collecting personal information about us and geting money for it. So it is not free at all.

    I think you were right to explain why you do what you do so everyone would know. Keep up the selfless work you do to make life better for so many. Let’s hope that the rights that you win now are not someday taken for granted like some of our other rights have been by spoiled people who have no idea what it was like when we didn’t have those rights.

    Like so many here, I applaud you.

  72. This particular person’s email sounds, and I ain’t psychic so I can’t say for sure, but it *sounds* a lot like internalized fat phobia, as well as a projection of the “lazy fat person” stereotype onto Ragen.

    There’s a lot about the system we live in that’s messed up, and the fact that without dollars a person isn’t considered a real person is one of those things. Fat people aren’t considered real people even when they have dollars. Neither are People of Color, Queer people, or poor and working-class women, or Trans* folks. The “lazy fat person” stereotype shares roots in Patriarchy with the “welfare queen” stereotype and the “lazy poor person” stereotype (I’m not saying that all those are the same or have the same connotations for all people. Issues of white supremacy, gender essentialism and oppression, class, and queerness ALWAYS add dimensionality to these issues when they intersect.)

    I can relate to this post in a whole lot of ways, and if it’s ok I’m gonna send you a PM about that, Ragen, because it’s really really messed up.

    On top of that folks are more than happy to hemorrhage money into giant corporations that reap profits of literally unimaginable numbers while they pay their workers shit and destroy the environment- but ask them to donate money to yourself as an individual- even when it’s obvious that you need the money- and they can’t believe you’d be so selfish. tsk tsk tsk.

    My guess would be that this person’s email is just an attempt at gatekeeping, if that person is also a fat person. They have a hard time dealing with seeing “one of their own” go out and ask for what they need (o the audacity!) and actually getting it, because they can’t gather together the fortitude to do that themselves. Again, this is all cyber-armchair-psychology, but that’s just what it sounds like to me.

  73. It’s like you’re inside my head. Only better written. This is truly one of the most eloquently written essays about support. Thank you. I’ll be subscribing.

    • Thanks a bunch for the kind words and for subscribing!

      ~Ragen

  74. I stumbled upon your blog and think it’s truly amazing to be so confidant in yourself!! Everyone should be happy for who they are. On the money thing..people get paid for their work. Period. If YOU decide to give it away, that’s your decision. If you want PAID (and you should…lol…I’m a capitalist!) then charge. If someone doesn’t want to pay, then they can move on and are certainly not worth your time or effort and you certainly should not have to justify your actions.

    There are far too many people who expect everything for free and can’t seem to grasp the concept that not everything is or should be free.

    Keep up the great work!

  75. I feel the opposite, I love the idea that a larger person is ever the one paid for speaking about anything. Wish I had found this earlier before I was on a retirement budget…

    Also, this is the part about letting people be openly prejudice that I do find benefit in, because then I am less likely to subsidize someone who is perpetuating values I do not wish to subsidize by giving them my business.

    Maybe there could be some way to rate businesses for size acceptance, like how many people of nonstandard sizes they hire, what values are pepetuated by their advertising, how much extra they charge for “plus” sizes, things like that. (or for that matter other measures of discrimination based on race, orientation, etc.)
    I honestly believe that much of America evolves faster for profit motive than for other reasons. And meanwhile I would prefer to do business with those whose values more closely reflect my own.

  76. I am a Massage Therapist, and we get the same treatment from a minority of people. Including “friends”
    For some reason some people can justify spending $$ each week for eating out, coffee, movies, clothes they don’t need, etc.
    But when it comes to paying/compensating for someone’s time they will help their health, a select group are selfish, but these same people wouldn’t work for free at their profession!
    And unfortunately the more money people have, the more they tend to expect everything for free.


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