My first activist project was in kindergarten when I had had enough of coloring and playing house and I organized my class to boycott our naptime and chant “We Wanna Learn, We Wanna Learn” while rhythmically pounding our little fists on our desks. Since then I’ve been involved in all kinds of activism and one common threads I find is that whenever anyone points out an inequality, bigotry, or issue to work on, there’s always someone who wants to tell them that they shouldn’t do anything about it because there is a “good reason” for how things are now.
I talked about asking Barney’s and Disney not to make Minnie Mouse into a 5’11 size 0 to walk an imaginary runway and I got all kinds of e-mail telling me that the fashion world is all about tall and thin and there’s not point trying to change it.
I talked about fat phobia in the dance world and I got tons of e-mails telling me that I needed to understand that a thin body is what works professionally, and that’s just how it is.
I talked about asking stores to carry larger sizes and I got all kinds of e-mails telling me that it isn’t easy for designers to make bigger sizes and that there are expenses involved, so I shouldn’t expect any change.
Reader Holly mentioned in a comment that it’s important to understand why things are the way they are and I agree with that – I’m not trying to suggest that we not understand the things that we are trying to change. What I am suggesting is that activism is often, if not almost always, about asking people and organizations to change behaviors and practices for which they currently have what they consider to be a “good reason” that justifies the status quo.
Yes the fashion world is about tall and thin. Yes, the professional dance world is almost entirely about one body type. Yes, stores are currently set up to do a specific size range. Yes, anything that we take on as activists will have reasons for being the way they are, acting the way they do, and having the policies they have. Those are the reasons FOR the activism, not the reason not to do the activism.
It’s about declaring that that we deserve the same things that other people have, even if that means that things and people and policies have to change. Try chanting: “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Only when it doesn’t require anything or anyone to change!” It just doesn’t have that ring to it, you know? For example, if thin people can walk into a mall and find clothes in a multitude of stores, styles, colors and price points, but fat people have to go to specialty stores where they find a small selection in limited styles, colors and price points then there’s an inequality there that we can work to fix even though there are all kinds of reasons given to us as to why the current situation is what it is. We can try to change the status quo, replace it and make what used to exist irrelevant, or all kinds of other options as activists.
Whether or not you choose to engage in activism is completely your decision, but if you see an inequality or bigotry that you want to change, let me suggest that you not be dissuaded by the argument that there is a “good reason” that it works that way. Let’s suggest that equality is worth some ingenuity.
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