Scooby Dooby Don’t

Daphne Scooby-DooSo if you haven’t heard, in the new Scooby-Doo movie [spoilers throughout] “Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy” main character Daphne gets “cursed” and goes from a “size 2 to a size 8″.  Just so we can be certain that kids understand the message she not only talks about how terrible it is, but she looks in the mirror and recoils in complete horror.  Got that boys and girls?  The absolutely worst case scenario for a girls is that she could end up being a size 8.

I’m not going to spend time on the fact that “size 8″ is about 3 sizes smaller than the average American woman.  I’m not going to spend time on the fact that the drawing of “size 8″ Daphne looks more like size 28 Daphne (that would be my size btw).  I written before about the issues with using “she’s not fat” as a defense against fat shaming and all of those things apply here (including and especially the fact that when we fight fat shaming behavior with “but she’s not that fat” what we are also saying is that there would be a size at which she deserved that to be fat shamed and that’s not true.)

In a great piece for The Good Men Project Tom Burns wrote “It’s sad to think that my daughter can’t even watch a cartoon about a dog solving mysteries without negative body stereotypes being thrown in her face.”  Right?!  What does this tell girls about their friends who are fat, their moms who are fat, their teachers who are fat, or themselves if they are a size 8 or bigger?

Suggesting that looking the way other people look is a “curse” is highly problematic in every conceivable way, which many people pointed out and so Warner Brothers issued a statement to HuffPost in which they seem to have decided that the best way to get out of a hole is to just keep on digging:

All of our content is run through Standards and Practices, and there is always sensitivity to obesity and self image, especially when it comes to programming made for children and a family audience.

Although you are correct that Daphne becomes bigger in the course of the story, the message is actually a much more positive one.

The plot of the movie involves the Scooby gang becoming cursed and losing what means the most to each of them. Fred loses the Mystery Machine, Shaggy and Scooby lose their appetites, etc. Daphne loses her good looks (mainly her figure and her hair).

While Daphne is at first upset by the sudden change, there is a touching moment where Fred points out that he didn’t even notice a change and that she always looks great to him.

At the end, when Velma explains how they figured out the mystery, she points out that the curse actually DIDN’T take away what means the most to each of them: their friendship.

The loss of Daphne’s regular appearance is proven to be a superficial thing, and not what actually matters the most to her.

Oh, let’s break it down:

There is always sensitivity to obesity and self image, especially when it comes to programming made for children and a family audience.

So they think suggesting that being fat is the worst thing that can happen to a woman, and that fat women (here defined as a size 8 or bigger) looking at themselves in the mirror and recoiling in horror  is “sensitive”?  What would have done if they were trying to be insensitive?

The plot of the movie involves the Scooby gang becoming cursed and losing what means the most to each of them. Fred loses the Mystery Machine, Shaggy and Scooby lose their appetites, etc. Daphne loses her good looks (mainly her figure and her hair).

So the message is that being fat and looking good are actually mutually exclusive.  Warner Bros wants us to know, in the most sensitive way possible, that if we are fat and/or have frizzy curly hair then we do not and cannot look good.  Also, it’s perfectly reasonable for “not being fat” to be the thing that means the most to women.

While Daphne is at first upset by the sudden change, there is a touching moment where Fred points out that he didn’t even notice a change and that she always looks great to him.

Another great lesson girls, if you want to know if you’re ok – ask a boy. You should always judge yourself by whether or not boys think you’re attractive. If the way you look changes substantially – even instantaneously – you should not be creeped out if that boy says that he didn’t notice.  All that matters is if he thinks you’re pretty. (Boys, girls should base their self-worth on what you think of them!)

At the end, when Velma explains how they figured out the mystery, she points out that the curse actually DIDN’T take away what means the most to each of them: their friendship.

The loss of Daphne’s regular appearance is proven to be a superficial thing, and not what actually matters the most to her.

So just to be really clear, it’s definitely not possible to be fat and pretty but it’s ok, because, friendship!

I’ve seen people giving all kinds of ideas why this is ok (“They’re not saying fat is bad, they’re saying that Daphne thinks fat is bad!”) The truth is that this is being marketed to kids and even taking the chance of creating body shame is a terrible idea ( and completely unnecessary since they could have made her into a literal monster, or made her green with yellow spots or something).  I am really happy to see how many people identified this as the bullshit that it is, and I think that that’s a step in the right direction.

It’s here!  There’s still time to register for the  Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can access the workshops on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can access the workshops live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Here’s more cool stuff:

My 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 

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on August 22, 2014 at 8:20 pm  Comments (17)  

If Our Fat is Our Fault

Ragen Chastain 5’4, 280lbs Photo by Substantia Jones of adipositivity.com

Recently I’ve seen a lot of discussion around the idea of fat and fault so it seems like a good time to repost this. One of the comments on my blog asked:

Basically, even though I may be genetically predisposed to it based on my family’s size and the fact that I have PCOS, I feel that I am overweight because I spent 15+ years eating crap and not exercising. This leaves me vulnerable to the blame/shame messages that society sends me about my weight – I feel like I can’t defend myself because I did it to myself.

I understand the FA movement is in part a push back against mistreatment and oppression, but is there a difference between being fat-accepting and being pro-fat?… I don’t see my fat as a natural part of me, I see it as the consequences of mistakes that I am now stuck with.

We know that different bodies react to things in different ways.  Someone else could have engaged in the same behaviors and ended up thin while this person ended up fat, this person could have engaged in different behaviors but still ended up the same size, the truth is that we’ll never know.

Although I knew that, I’ve still been in that cycle of blame and shame.  When I learned that dieting causes weight gain I went through a period of “blaming myself” for my body size because of all the dieting that I had engaged in. I went through a time of alternating between feeling bad about myself, feeling sorry for myself, being mad at myself, and being mad at the people who encouraged me to diet.

The first conclusion that I came to was that even if I could have been thin, even if being fat was my fault, wondering how I got to be fat and who I should blame for it does not serve me in any way. This is the body that I have.  It is fat.  It is also scarred because of death-defying bike tricks as a kid and working with aggressive dogs as an adult.  I don’t begrudge my body those scars, why would I begrudge my body its size.  What difference does it make if things could have been different?  This is what’s happening.  I have a fat body and my choices at this moment are to love that body, or hate it.  I choose to love my body.  At the time I didn’t know how I was going to do it, the important thing was making the choice that I was going to figure out how to love my body no matter how long it takes.

It took a lot of work, and it took fighting to keep my focus on the goal.  This exercise did more to shift the way that I feel about my body than anything else.  I had to fight through a time when I could appreciate the beauty in every body but mine.

After time I realized something deeper – all of this angst about my body size is based on a social construct that a fat body is a bad body.  That’s just not true.  Every body is beautiful as it is right now, at every size.  I sometimes get stuck around the idea of “size acceptance” because I want better than just to “accept” my body, which often comes with a connotation of resignation.  I love my body, I appreciate my body.  I have a fat body and that body is what does everything for me – from breathing and blinking to dancing and hugging.  That body deserves to be nurtured, loved, and defended from anyone who dares to say a negative word about it.

I owe this body my unconditional love, devotion, and full-throated support. So I’m not just fat accepting, I’m a pro-fat fat-loving fat activist fatty. More importantly,  (thanks in part to the privilege of neuro-typicality) I am the only person who can decide how I feel about my body.  I can choose to accept other people’s opinions, I can choose not to do the work to make shifts if my current feelings aren’t the way I want to feel; but at the end of the day I have no idea why my body is the size it is, but I do know that the way I feel about my body is on me. I’m the only person in the world who can choose how I feel about my body.  As long as it’s my choice, I choose love.

It’s almost here!  There’s still time to register for the  Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can access the workshops on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can access the workshops live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Here’s more cool stuff:

My 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 

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on August 21, 2014 at 11:32 am  Comments (10)  

It’s Not About Them

OrganizeIn a situation that is both exciting and a little bit terrifying, the Fat Activism Conference is almost here.  Starting Friday afternoon and ending Sunday night, we’ll bring together hundreds of participants and forty amazing speakers from around the world to give everyone involved tools and perspectives to support intersectional fat activism.  It’s an exciting ride, a bit bumpy sometimes but also really amazing.  I’m so grateful to my co-coordinator Jeanette DePatie and all of the fabulous speakers.  If you want to know more about the conference, you can check it out at www.fatactivismconference.com. (And if you want to request some good vibes from the technology gods for us this weekend, I wouldn’t be mad!)

But what I want to talk about today is why the conference exists.  It started during the Q&A at a lecture series I was giving at a college.  One of the students asked me what I thought was the most important thing for the fat activism movement going forward and I said that it was having more people doing fat activism.

When I talk to people about this one of the common things I hear is that in a world that is so full of fatphobia  it seems like we never make any progress and activism seems pointless.  I know that progress does get made, but the reason I think that we need as many people as possible doing fat activism isn’t because of changing the world, or convincing the haters.  It’s not about them.

To me it’s first and foremost about what activism does for us.  It is going to take some time to end fatphobia, at this moment in time we may not be able to stop everyone from stereotyping, stigmatizing, bullying and oppressing fat people, but we can stop buying into it and we take a stand against it.  Nobody is ever obligated to do activism of any kind, and it can definitely involve risk, but it’s an option (and risk is the currency of revolution.)

To me the first, and possibly the most powerful, moment of activism is when somebody, whether it’s the diet industry, a hater, or some misguided soul who actually thinks that they can oppress us for our own good, tries to make us believe that we are flawed, that we are not enough, that we should hate ourselves, and we say No.  Not this time.  Never again.  No.

That’s activism.  In fact, in this culture waking up and not hating ourselves is not just activism, it’s an act of revolution. I don’t ever want to tell anyone how to live, but I do want to make sure that people know that they have options and that those options include refusing to participate in their own oppression, even if the only place they do activism is in their own head.

Every bit of activism changes the world, not just because it affects the world, but because it affects the person doing the activism and the way that they relate to the world.  Once we are liberated everything is different.  We may have bad days, we may have times of hopelessness, but we know that we will never again allow our oppressors to convince us to take part in our oppression, we will never again give the bullies our lunch money.  I don’t know about you but as far as I’m concerned if they want a “War on Obesity” I will damn well give them one and I want to support as many people as possible who want to do the same, however they want to do it – whether they want to change how they feel about themselves or change the whole fucking world.

If you’re looking for some tools for the revolution, check out the Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can access the workshops on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can access the workshops live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

My 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 

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on August 20, 2014 at 8:34 am  Comments (8)  

Pretending There Are No Fat People

Angry FrustratedI was reading a piece that discussed how fat people are more likely to die in a car accidents because the safety equipment is not made (or tested) to accommodate them.  In the comments a number of people said that car manufacturers shouldn’t change their safety equipment because fat people can lose weight.

Let’s be clear that people who are making this argument are saying that they are ok with fat people either never traveling in cars or dying, unless or until we become thin.

I’ve heard the same thing about other accommodations for fat people, whether they are for safety, transportation, medical care, or entertainment, the idea is that fat people shouldn’t be accommodated because they can, in theory, eventually become thin people.

Let’s start with the fact that there is no study in which more than a tiny fraction of people were able to lose weight long term, and most of those studies define success as an amount of weight loss so small (2-5 pounds) that it wouldn’t make a difference in whether or not a fat person could fit in a seat, or utilize a seat belt properly.

But even if we had any reason to believe that all fat people could become thin, none of them could become thin this minute, which leaves the matte of fat people who need to get to work, access medical care etc.

The truth is that the people who run companies that make cars, build and stock hospitals,  etc. are well aware that fat people exist, and they use social prejudice against fat people to give them cover for their money-saving, fat-people-harming decisions.  It makes me cringe every time I hear a commercial where some car manufacturer waxes poetic about how customer safety is their first priority (though their safety features don’t work for fat people), or a medical facility has a commercial talking about how important patient care is though they don’t have equipment to handle high weight patients.

I don’t think that pretending fat people don’t exist should count as a safety policy, medical care policy, or good customer service, and I think that anybody who suggests that it’s ok to risk fat people’s safety now based on the belief that we could be thin later is a dangerous bigot. We’re customers too, and we deserve to be accommodated.

It’s less than a week away!  Check out the Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

My 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 

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on August 19, 2014 at 10:44 am  Comments (25)  

Fat is Not Evidence

Small - Things you can tell by looking at a fat personConsider the following true stories:

A doctor tells a fat patient that they need to exercise more without asking them how much they exercise.  When the patient says that they do exercise instead of asking for details the doctor says “That can’t possibly be true.”

A fat person goes to a personal trainer, explains that they practice the Health at Every Size method and want to increase their strength, stamina, and flexibility. The trainer ignores their request and chooses a plan that they think will create weight loss.

A fat person is out for ice cream with their thin friends.  Ignoring the fact that the thin people are eating the same thing someone walks up and tells the fat person “This is why you’re fat.”

Paula Deen eats a hamburger on a cruise and a website puts up a poll asking if that’s “ok” or if she “should only be seen eating healthier foods”

What do all of these situations have in common? If you answered “They are all effed up” you are totally right but it goes beyond that.

Fat bodies are seen as “evidence”.  People try to claim that our bodies are evidence of unhealthy behaviors, lack of willpower, lack of self-care and any other appearance-based stereotypes they enjoy believing and perpetuating  Then they claim that this evidence is compelling enough to make it ok to target fat people for for shame, stigma, bullying and humiliation “for our own good”.

Even more damaging, fat people start to internalize this message thinking “If I’m fat then I deserve to be treated poorly and have my body and choices treated like public property.”

This is just not true.  Fat bodies are not public property, they are not evidence, and they are not a sign that we need someone to step in and tell us how to take care of ourselves. First because nobody can tell what our habits are based on our body size.  Second because our habits are our decision regardless of what size we are and health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness or entirely within our control, and that our choices are limited by the resources that are available to us. (Those interested in making an argument about fat people costing tax dollars are welcome to head over to this post.)

Fat bodies aren’t evidence of anything except that fat bodies exist.  Claiming to be for health while running a ridiculous “A healthier world one shamed fatty at a time” campaign is evidence that someone isn’t so much interested in improving health as they are in being a bully and then blaming the bullied, while being seriously mistaken about the location of their beeswax.

It’s less than a week away!  Check out the Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

My 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 

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

 

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 9:58 am  Comments (46)  

Fighting Bigotry with Confusion

WTFRegular readers are very aware that I’m a fan of the snarky come back.  But it’s not right for every situation.  Case in point:  this situation that reader Kim e-mailed me about (reprinted with her permission of course)

I work in an office and there is a large candy bowl at the front desk where I sit. My boss fills it with all kinds of sugary goodness. It by no means bothers me that it is there and I don’t feel guilty eating some when the mood strikes. My problem is that at least a few times a week, customers make comments like “Don’t to eat it all” or “Save some for me!” or some other comment about me, the diabetes that I MUST have and how I have to struggle with my self-control because of the damn candy bowl. I find it incredibly rude that because I’m fat, automatically I’m a glutton for candy and have health issues.

One of the issues here is that this is a professional environment and so the reply that we use has to be professional.  Another issue, at least for me, in replying to any situation where someone is using humor that perpetuates bigotry is that I don’t know if they are doing it on purpose. Regardless, any response where I point it out is likely to lead to them becoming defensive and/or trying to make me the problem – either insisting that it’s not bigotry, or that I need to learn to “take a joke.”  One method that I often use in these situations is to act like I don’t get the joke at all.

This method works because this kind of “humor” requires that everyone be “in on” the joke – in this case the stereotypes about fat people and why it’s “ok” to make fun of them.  If someone has to explain the joke it’s like pulling back the veil on their bigotry and nobody wants to do that – it typically either forces people who didn’t realize that they were being an ass to come to that conclusion on their own, or if they were trying to be an ass it deprives them of the opportunity to do it under the cover of humor.  If they really didn’t consider that it would seem like they were making a joke at a fat person’s expense (for example, if they would have said the exact same thing to someone of any size) then I haven’t accused them of something that they weren’t doing.

So in this example it might go like this:

Them:  Save some for me!
Me:  Blank stare, saying as sincerely as possible “I don’t understand”
Them:  You know, don’t eat it all, save some for me!
Me:  (smiling, still acting confused and sincere) Why wouldn’t I?
Them:  Well, you know, you look like someone who likes candy!
Me:  Sorry, I don’t know what you mean.
etc.

The trick is to play it completely innocent – as if you really have no idea why this makes sense or would be funny.  Of course it’s not fullproof (sadly no method of dealing with bigotry is) and “success” usually includes them mumbling something and walking away, I an only hope that they will reconsider their behavior.  I find that this is great for a professional situation because while you can be accused of being humorless, you cannot be accused of being rude.

I find that this works best when dealing with attempts at humor that perpetuate bigotry, of course this is not for every situation and may not be for every person, and that’s totally cool.  For me it’s just another tool in my activism/dealing-with-bullshit toolbox.

Speaking of activism toolboxes, if you’re looking to add to and sharpen your tools, check out the Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

My 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 

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

 

Published in: on August 16, 2014 at 7:32 am  Comments (15)  

O Captain! My Captain!

DPSI was barely a teenager enjoying something that I hardly ever got to do – I was at the movies.

No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

Usually I got bored at the movies but this time, for maybe the first time in my life, I was being truly affected by what I was watching.

You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!

My first “activism” happened in kindergarten. I got my class to boycott nap time, pounding our little fists on the desk chanting “We want to learn!  We want to learn!”  My teacher sent home a report card that said “Ragen is an excellent student, but she leads small revolts.”  I explained to my mom that I involved my whole class so I didn’t see how it could have been any bigger, and my poor mom had to explain that the teacher wasn’t suggesting that my revolt was too small. I was constantly getting in trouble for standing up for what I believed in, standing up to bullies, standing up for other kids, wanting to try to do things that adults insisted were impossible, and generally displaying characteristics that would have been valued if I was 20 years old instead of 6. My long suffering mother was at the school what seemed like every other week until I graduated – supporting me, defending me, showing me how to be an advocate.

Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go,”that’s baaaaad.” Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Sitting in that theater, watching that movie, it all came crashing in – the kind of person I was striving to be, and why.

O Captain! my Captain!

As I sat in the dark theater, sobbing as the credits rolled, I knew for sure that I wanted to spend the rest of my life standing on desks, inspiring others to stand on desks or, preferably, doing both at the same time.  I went home and wrote down the quotes I could remember on index cards, starting with these two:

Oh to struggle against great odds, to meet enemies undaunted.

To mount the scaffold. to advance to the muzzles of guns with perfect nonchalance!

It was the start of a collection of quotes that would eventually be stored, handwritten, on hundreds of index cards.  I would add to it whenever I heard something that inspired me – poetry, a passage from a book, a famous quote, song lyrics, whatever.  I would read them when living in small towns with small-minded people where I never really fit in became overwhelming, and then in college when the work I was doing as a young queer activist seemed too daunting, too dangerous, or simply impossible. I have them, and read them, to this day.

The movie, Dead Poets Society, was also my introduction to Robin Williams, whose talent I was awed by. I became a great fan of his work – acting, comedy, late show appearances, Saturday Night Live – I would watch anything with him in it.  He was on my dream list of people to take to lunch. When I heard that he passed away I was incredibly sad. Even more so when I learned that it was suicide likely linked to depression. Sadder still when I saw people discuss it in ways that suggest that they don’t understand depression. To me it’s a reminder of what can happen when we as a society ignore, blame, stigmatize, and fail to make treatment options accessible to, people dealing with depression and other mental illnesses.

Rest in Peace Robin Williams, and thank you.

Looking for more tools, perspectives and discussions about activism?  Check out the Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

My 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 

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on August 13, 2014 at 1:08 pm  Comments (21)  

Fat Lives on Hold

holdYesterday I discussed some absolutely horrible advice that Dear Abby gave to a reader in which she perpetuated the idea that the best thing for fat people is to never ever be happy with ourselves, never be comfortable in our skin, always hide our bodies, live in constant shame, have low self-esteem and poor body image, have strangers make constant assumptions about our health and habits, be constantly stigmatized, stereotyped and bullied, never have even a moment of peace unless and until we become thin.  This is a message that has made weight loss companies lots and lots of money – over 60 Billion a year and rising – and one of the reasons for that is that they’ve been so successful at getting so many people to regurgitate their marketing language as if it’s the truth.

Many fat people, having heard this message over and over again, eventually buy into it and put their lives on hold while they attempt to lose weight. I was one of those people for a number of years.  I was always going to do the things that I wanted to do – dance, date, perform, wear a bathing suit, wear a bikini, wear clothes I liked etc. – just as soon as I lost the weight.  I get e-mails every day from people who have been putting their lives on hold waiting for weight loss.

My life changed drastically and dramatically for the better the day I decided to stop waiting for another body to show up and just take the body I had out for a spin. I arrived at that decision when, having yo-yo dieted for years, I decided to do the research and find the best diet.  After reading every study I could find about weight loss, I was shocked to find that  there wasn’t a single study where more than a tiny percentage of people had lost weight, and “success” was typically defined as having lost 2-5 pounds.

Based on the research (rather than the constant drumbeat of “everybody knows,“) the truth was (and is) that being thin will probably never happen for me, or most fat people.  So was I supposed to live a joyless life subjected to constant bullying, stigma, stereotypes and oppression all of which I should accept because I deserve it for being fat, hiding my body in shame, putting my life on permanent hold?  Screw that.

I’m here today to suggest this:  If you are putting your life, or aspects of your life, on hold until you lose weight, then whether you decide to practice Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size, or try to manipulate your body size for whatever reason, consider taking your life off hold, starting right now.  Start today!  Do something that you’ve been waiting to do.  Or start planning to do something that you’ve been waiting to do.  Or start asking questions – like where you got the message that you should wait to do things that you want to do until your body looks different (was it by any chance from people who are profiting from that message?), if those messages serve you, and if you want to keep buying into that.

I think that this is so important because as we take our lives off hold, we show other people  that it’s an option.  I’m never interested in telling anyone how to live, but I have dedicated a significant portion of my life to making sure that people know all of their options and that they include the option of living a full, amazing life in a fat body.

Want more support in living a fabulous life as a fat person in a fatphobic world?  Check out the Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

My 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 

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

 

Published in: on August 12, 2014 at 10:03 am  Comments (16)  

Dear Abby’s Epic Fail

WTFSo egregious was this “Dear Abby” column that over 500 readers contacted me to ask me to write about it.  I think it’s a helpful example of everything that is wrong with the way that we talk about weight, health, self-esteem, and body image. Here are the original letter and answer, then I’ll break them down bit by bit:

DEAR ABBY: I’m a 24-year-old plus-sized woman (60 or 70 pounds overweight), but very comfortable in my own skin. When swimming in public, I wear a one-piece bathing suit because it doesn’t attract a lot of attention. When I’m home, I have a bikini top and shorts I prefer to wear. This is because I don’t like being covered up like it was in the 1950s, and I feel good when my curves are properly accentuated.

When I go back to see my family and swim, I wear a bikini top and black shorts. Recently, my mother said, “When the family comes over, you can’t wear that. It makes people uncomfortable.”

I was shocked, and we had a huge argument. Most of my cousins are fine with my attire, as are my aunts. Only Mom has a problem with it. I asked if she’d feel the same about a large man swimming without a T-shirt. She said it’s different for women.

Am I wrong for wanting to be comfortable in my childhood home? Mom should be proud to have a daughter who accepts herself as she is. Who is wrong here? — OFFENDED DAUGHTER IN CHICAGO

DEAR OFFENDED DAUGHTER: You are not wrong for wanting to be comfortable. But please remember that when you visit someone else’s home, that person’s wishes take precedence — even if it used to be your childhood home.

While you say you are comfortable in your own skin, it would be interesting to know what your physician thinks about your obesity. I suspect that your mother would be prouder of you if you were less complacent and more willing to do something about your weight problem.

Let’s break this down, bit by horrible, offensive, inappropriate, bad advice, bit:

You are not wrong for wanting to be comfortable. But please remember that when you visit someone else’s home, that person’s wishes take precedence — even if it used to be your childhood home.

If this had been the whole reply, my response would have been “ok.” I would personally think long and hard about spending time with someone who would body shame me, lie about the way other’s feel about my body to try to back up her own bigotry, and tell me what I’m allowed to wear when with my own family, but that’s just me and it’s ok for Abby and I to disagree on this.

While you say you are comfortable in your own skin, it would be interesting to know what your physician thinks about your obesity.

It’s only interesting if you think that what a doctor thinks about someone’s health should impact what they are allowed to wear. Can you imagine if someone wrote in because their mom has forbidden them to wear yellow clothing and Abby’s response was “It would be interesting to know if you have any health problems.”  Her statement above is exactly that ridiculous, and the only reason it may not seem that ridiculous is because rampant prejudice against fat people has created a world where the question “How do I deal with a body shaming and a gender double-standard” is answered with “what assumptions does your doctor make about your health based on your body size?”

Look, if someone thinks that they can tell how healthy someone else is by their body size, then they are mistaken.  But even if they were right, if they suggest that people who aren’t healthy shouldn’t be allowed to be comfortable in their own skin or wear clothing that they like, then they are being a horrible person.

Perhaps it’s too much to expect that Abby would do any research to make sure that she’s not harming people with her advice concern trolling, but if she did she would find studies have linked the stress of shame and stigma like this to the same diseases to which obesity has been linked, and found that women who are concerned about their weight have more physical and mental illness than women who are fine about their size, regardless of their size.  So Abby could have harmed the health not only of the woman to who she gave terrible advice, but to every fat person who reads the drivel she wrote and buys into it. But of course, it’s for their own good.

I suspect that your mother would be prouder of you if you were less complacent and more willing to do something about your weight problem.

Notice that Abby has gone from wondering about what the woman’s physician thinks to just assuming that she knows her health, and her behaviors around her health (since she knows both that she has a “weight problem” and that she’s “complacent”.)   If I were a psychic doctor I probably wouldn’t spend my time being an advice columnist but that’s just me.  Or maybe Abby isn’t so much a psychic doctor as a bigot who is happy to visit her stereotypes and prejudices upon anyone who will listen.

I’m also wondering if she advises children who are being bullied to blame themselves and  give the bullies whatever they want in the hopes that the bullies will stop beating them up. The problem here belongs to the mother and her issues with fat bodies.  It’s not the daughter’s fault but it becomes her problem when her mother decides to enforce her issues on her daughter via a dress code.  The daughter gets to choose how to deal with this, but let’s put the problem where it belongs – on the mom’s issues, not the daughter’s body.  I hope it goes without saying that the idea that she should have to change her body to deserve her mother’s pride is abhorrent.

Abby is perpetuating the idea, the absolutely horrifying idea, that the best thing for fat people’s health is to never ever be happy with ourselves, never be comfortable in our skin, always hide our bodies, live in constant shame, have low self-esteem and poor body image, have strangers make constant assumptions about our health and habits, be constantly stigmatized, stereotyped and bullied, never have even a moment of peace unless and until we become thin. And what about the fact that being thin will probably never happen for most fat people?  Well then, according to the Dear Abby’s of the world, we should live a joyless life subjected to constant bullying, stigma, stereotypes and oppression, hiding our bodies in shame as penance for having a body that isn’t socially acceptable.

Fat people are not the problem. Fat people in bikinis are not the problem. Fat prejudice is the problem.  People who think that public health means making fat people’s health the public’s business are the problem.  People who advise fat people to internalize the shame, stigma, and bullying they (shouldn’t have to) experience are the problem.  Dear Abby is the problem.  And that’s true whether you think fat people are healthy or not.

Activism Opportunities

Write to Dear Abby (I’m thinking “Dear Abby, I can’t stop being a victim-blaming weight bigot – can you help?)

Leave a comment here

Want more support dealing with a fat phobic world?  Check out the  Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

My 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 

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on August 11, 2014 at 10:00 am  Comments (74)  

Queering Fat Embodiment – An Interview

Queering Fat EmbodimentI am interrupting our usual Marathon Update Sunday because this blog is a stop on the online  tour for the new anthology Queering Fat Embodiment (2014, Ashgate).  For this I did something I’ve never done before and interviewed the lead editor, Cat Pausé who writes Friend of Marilyn:

What made you decide to edit an edition on queering fat embodiment?

One of my co-editors, Samantha Murray, held a Fat Studies conference in Sydney in 2010. After she recovered from everything that comes with running an international conference, she approached me and Jackie Wykes about this edition. Sam knew that Ashgate had a Queer Interventions series, and thought that a book about fatness would be a great edition to the series. Jackie and I agreed, and we moved forward with crafting the book proposal. We pitched it to Ashgate, and were given a contract.

I’m editing The Politics of Size: Perspectives from the Fat-Acceptance Movement at the moment; I’m aware of the amount of work that goes into a work like this…

Oh my goodness, yes. There’s a joke that working with academics is like herding cats, and it is so true. All of the authors that contributed chapters to our collection are amazing, but trying to be in charge of ensuring things are submitted on time, and all using the same referencing style, and what order will best present the material – it was trying at times. Lots of late nights; lots of overnight Skype chats between myself and my co-editors. Once it was done, though, I was ready to go again. I’m thinking an edition about fat and the family might be my next editing project.

Can you explain what it means to queer fat embodiment?

Queer is a heterogeneous and multidisciplinary practice aimed at ‘bringing forth’ and thus denaturalising the taken for granted, the invisible, the normalised. And queering is a methodology (or method) of disrupting the norm. This collection seeks to challenge and destabilise existing ideas of fat and fat embodiment both outside of and within the emerging field of Fat Studies. In queering established ideas about fat bodies, and presenting challenging inquiries/inqueeries into these notions, this collection destabilises established ideas about fat bodies, making explicit the intersectionality of fat identities.

What do you like most about the edition?

I love the variety in the contributing chapters – we have established academics, like Katie LeBesco and Robyn Longhurst, and PhD students, like James Burford. We have pieces, like Katie’s, that are really challenging and complex (I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of size f*cking!), and then other chapters, like mine, that are less theoretical; more applied. I wish we would have been more successful at ensuring that the collection was more intersectional, but I am proud of the final product.

And I understand that you’re promoting the final book through a variety of ways?

We kicked it off with a global launch in Google Hangouts on Air, which was a cool way to have participation from many of the contributors across the world. It also allowed anyone to attend the launch with us online. After the launch, we embarked on a social media book tour. You can find the tour spots (to date) here, and we are adding more every couple of days (if anyone reading would like to be a spot on the tour, just let me know @FOMNZ). We’ve had spots on Facebook, Tumblr, blogs, online magazines, YouTube, etc. It’s been a great way to promote the book across the World Wide Web from the comfort of my couch! J

How can people get their hands on the book?

Honestly? It’s an academic text, so it’s super expensive. You can get a copy of the Introduction Ch by Jackie Wykes on the publisher’s website. It’s a great read and gives a great overview of the topic and the chapters. If you want to read the entire thing, I’d recommend asking your local library to get a copy.

So, what’s next for you?

It’s really exciting to see all the movement in both fat activism and fat studies scholarship. I edited the newest issue of Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society; it’s a special issue on the theme of intersectionality. And I’ve got chapters in two upcoming fat studies edited collections. The first is Fat Sex: New Directions in Theory and Activism, being edited for Ashgate by Caroline Walters and Helen Hester. The other is The Fat Pedagogy Reader: Challenging Weight-Based Oppression in Education, being edited for Peter Lang Publishers by Erin Cameron & Connie Russell. On the activist front, I’m really excited about being a speaker at the upcoming Fat Activism Conference. It’s going to be an amazing three days!

So that’s the interview! What do you think awesome loyal readers – did you like the interview format?  Did you not?  Let me know in the comments!

Speaking of the Fat Activism Conference, it’s going to be epic! Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recorded so you can listen live or on your own time, only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

My 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 

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on August 10, 2014 at 4:21 pm  Comments (5)