Know Fat Chicks – Lessons from the Beach

Today was Take Back the Beach in Los Angeles – the beaches where the “No fat chicks” meme started.  Today was a combination activism and social event to celebrate size diversity, demand that the beach be safe to enjoy for people of all shapes and sizes, and have fun on the beach together. I learned several cool lessons today.

The first was from the beach itself.  Stick with me on this story I do have a point. I went out swimming in some decent sized waves – probably no big deal to people from SoCal, but to someone who spent the last 17 years in Texas, they were big.  I was trying to mimic the people who knew what they were doing – hop over this wave, duck under that wave, jump with your back to those waves and so on.  Big fun.  Then I misjudged and a big wave crashed down on my head hard and flipped me over – I touch sand with my back then my feet and tried to come up only to be hit by another wave.  I started to panic, realized that was a bad idea and used some quick self-talk to calm myself down “I can hold my breath a lot longer than this (even though I wasn’t sure I could), I know what to do, be patient, I’ve got this.”  The wave then threw me hard into the sand on my knees, I quickly put my feet in the sand and pushed up and out toward shore. I don’t know what the recommended safe level of ocean water to drink is – but I’m pretty sure I exceeded it, and my knees were cut up, but I was ok.  So go with me on this metaphor – as a fat person I get hit by waves of shame, stigma and oppression all the time, and it can be easy to panic and feel like I’m drowning in all of it.  So maybe it’s important to remind myself that I can deal with way more than this (even if I’m not sure I can), that I need to have some patience with myself, and that I’ve got this.

The second lesson was one about the nature of successful activism. There are a lot of different styles of activism and this event was about one of them.  Today was the coming out party of a new activist group, of which I am a member, called the Size Diversity Task Force.  This group was created to meet the need for an organization that is member-funded and member-run, where the work is done collaboratively, and where every person is recognized as having something of value to contribute, and everyone feels welcome.  This event was a tribute to that method – about 40 people showed up (even though we had major freeway closures the news was calling “Carmageddon” – gotta love LA), with a wide range of sizes, ages, and abilities. We hung out on the beach, did the menopause mambo (in support of menopausal women everywhere), a flesh mob (like a flash mob only fatter), went swimming, wore our Know Fat Chicks shirts and laid on our Know Fat Chicks towels, we roasted marshmallows on the bonfire. We also got lots of positive attention and interest from people of all sizes and ages.  The event kicked ass and it was a reminder to me of the power of collaboration and mutual respect.

The final lesson for me was about how working consistently on self-esteem and body image has paid off for me with a lot of hard work over a long time.  I wore a blue polka dot bikini and did a dance on camera and never once worried about looking fat.  If you had told 10-years-ago-me that I could do that I would have said it completely, utterly, and totally impossible.  So I go back to what I learned from the waves – I’m told every day in tons of ways that I should be neither seen nor heard until I am thin.  But if I just keep reminding myself that I’m strong, that I can do it; if I work as hard at loving my body as I  used to work at changing it, and if I have patience with myself, then maybe I can continue to opt out of that social construct and know what it’s like to truly love and be at peace with my body.  Ten years of dieting didn’t work, but ten years of size acceptance sure as hell did. Of course your results may vary but from where I’m standing (in my polka dot bikini) it was worth it to try.

Wishing you had your own Know Fat Chicks beach towel? You are in luck1  We have ten Know Fat Chicks towels left, they are $20 plus actual shipping, so if you want one e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org (all proceeds support the Size Diversity Task Force)

Activism Update:  Our petition to stop Barneys and Disney from making Minnie Mouse into a 5’11 size 0 super model to fit in a dress has over 1,000 signatures and was featured by Change.org on their Twitter.  Massive thanks to everyone who has participated so far!  It’s still growing everyday, please consider signing and publicizing – there are some things happening in the background that could really help us win this fight.  Click here for the petition.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order  Click here for the details

Check Out my Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order

I’m excited to say that my book was just endorsed by Linda Bacon: “Whether you are fat or thin, Fat: The Owner’s Manual will educate you about life in a fat body. It includes top notch information, solid science, support, and general inspiration to help all of us navigate a world rife with size prejudice and weight stigma. Ragen’s style is to provide ideas, without moralizing – and she does a particularly good job of separating the civil rights movement of Fat Acceptance from the health practice of Health at Every Size. Highly recommended!”  Dr. Linda Bacon, professor, researcher, and author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight.

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on September 30, 2012 at 9:10 am  Comments (12)  

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Being slammed by giant waves is one of the reasons I no longer go to the beach. That, and the sand, which hides everything from your car keys to dog poo to glass shards to tiny sand crabs with bad attitudes. And things that swim in the ocean that can maim/kill you, both native and man-made.

    That, and when I go I wind up spectacularly sunburned. Ever fall asleep on your stomach, then have to ride a few hours home sitting on a sunburned arse? Yeah. It only takes once, man.

    But I don’t give a rat’s posterior about how I look there anymore because like John Updike said in his story “A&P”: “…it’s one thing to have a girl in a bathing suit down on the beach, where what with the glare nobody can look at each other much anyway…” I remember reading that back in Uni, when I was at the peak of my body shame, and thinking, “That’s true…on a sunny day, the beach and waters are so bright you can’t really focus on much of anything…huh…”

    • Oh man, Yorkie, I hear you on the sunburned ass thing! For I come of the Transparent Peoples, and thus come in only two shades: lily white and lobster red. There is no in between, burns do not peel into tans, and a day at the beach means a day of constantly slathering on sunscreen only to find a spot where I’ve burnt anyway.

  2. Sounds like a great event, Ragen!

    The cycle of fat hate needs to be broken, and confident visibility is the key. For so long we’ve allowed the hate to dictate where we are seen, and how we are dressed when we show up there, and to make us apologize for existing, it truly is an act of revolution now to stand up and refuse to apologize for being on the beach, for wearing a swimsuit, or for simply existing.

    Loving the idea of the Size Diversity Task Force. I’ll be looking further into it today.

  3. Wish I could have been there. Will be in Ca Oct.12-24th. Keep me posted on any events during that time. The beach is a great place as you know but I dont go in above my ankles. Got pulled in as a kid and it still scared the hell out of me. Thanks for the story.

    • We would love to have you at the meeting of The Size Diversity Task Force on Oct 14th! It will be at 5pm at Robano’s Italian Restaurant located at 10057 Riverside Dr, Toluca Lake CA. You can check out http://www.sizediversitytaskforce.org for more info! I imagine we will also have other get-togethers during your stay, so we would love to meet you!!!

      • Thank you Julianne, I will be there unless there is a ‘mandatory’ family event, in-laws, you know. LOL

    • Hi There,

      Julianne beat me to it but we’d love to have you at the meeting or find a time to hang out, feel free to e-mail me if you want (ragen at danceswithfat dot org)

      • Im excited and looking forward to it.

  4. Inquiring minds want to know where you bought your bikini! ;) Thanks again for the great story!

    • From a designer in LA name Ro – I was there while a couple of other people were getting custom suits done and I bought mine off the rack. http://www.byrodesigns.com/ Glad that you liked the story :)

      ~Ragen

  5. Ragen, excellent post as always. I too went swimming in the Pacific for the first time a few weeks ago and compared to the Atlantic, it was unbelievably rough! The hubs and I were struggling to stay upright (and he has mobility issues) so we didn’t go out much above chest-depth, but that was more than enough. Also had to use the self-talk to avoid panicking which took me down a peg because I think of myself as such a strong swimmer. Hmph. I’d go again though. :-)

  6. So refreshing–even without being in the water! Thanks for sharing your experience–and your evolution. Recently on vacation in Corsica I had the experience of finding myself at a nude beach (not obligatory, I’ll add). And the most eye-opening part of the experience was to see women (and men) of all shapes and sizes seemingly quite comfortable in their own skin–topless, naked, whatever, and just fine with their bodies. It was so striking and such a notable and pleasant difference from what we tend to see here.
    Keep up the great work you do and maybe my experience won’t be limited to the beaches of Europe.


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