The “It’s Not You, It’s Me” Mistake

You Forgot Your BullshitA funny thing happened on the way to the fat hate forums, but it helps illustrate a serious issue.  I got an e-mail letting me know that there was a discussion about my headphones on an internet forum dedicated to hating me No, seriously. Apparently someone took the time to post this:

Each Selfie Sunday (or Monday, or Tuesday…whichever day actually posts), there is one thing that raises my eyebrow more than anything. Ragen’s headphones (among many other things about her) strike me as extremely non-athletic.  Has anyone else noticed this?  I could not imagine wearing that style of cheapie, over-the-ear-, hard plastic with foam covering headphones while biking or especially running.  I’d be adjusting them constantly so they stay on my actual ears. I find it really strange that someone supposedly so into exercise and exercise gear could wear headphones that look like they’re from 15 years ago.

A little background – I have a blog specifically to talk about my IRONMAN triathlon journey (since plenty of the readers here don’t care about that and I don’t blame them!) On Sundays and sometimes Monday or Tuesday or basically wheneverthefuck I feel like it because it’s my blog, I post selfies from each workout for the week.  I find that it helps motivate me to take the selfie at the end, and I like have a little keepsake from each workout. For reference, here is a picture of me in the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad headphones.

mid distance walk run

For now we’re going to set aside the whackadoo nature of this situation – that someone has so much free time in their life that they not only spend time each week looking at the workout selfies of a blogger they don’t like (and I’ll admit I’m a little jealous – I don’t always have the time to keep up with bloggers whose work I do like! And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the traffic.) but they actually took to the internet to criticize the headphones I wear. In detail.

This is the kind of ridiculousness I deal with everyday, and in this case it’s obviously both funny and pathetic. But what I want to focus on for this blog post is the fact that, ostensibly, this person literally can’t grasp that there are people who like different headphones than they do – they are so perplexed by this that they had to take the internet to get some help working it out (which, if they had asked me, I would have been happy to give.)

I think of this as the “it’s not you, it’s me mistake.” This inability to understand that different people make different choices – and that’s ok –  is at the root of a lot of shame, stigma, oppression, and marginalization (both accidentally because people don’t realize that they are making the mistake, and sometimes very much on purpose.) I saw this illustrated on Facebook in a conversation that was shared by my friend Nikki, posted here with her permission:

J wrote:

Here’s what really bugs me.  I am 5’10 and a size 14.  I used to be heavier. To this day, I NEVER wear shorts, sleeveless or short-sleeve shirts, short tops that don’t cover the tops of my legs…I always wear cardigans if I wear a tank top, long skirts, etc…and I’m not that big.  I am always seeing women wearing stuff that it SO unflattering…Then complain abt what others say…Well what did you think they would say?  I don’t wannwa see my own flabby arms…I sure don’t wanna look at someone else’s!! And if I do see that, I myself will most likely think well damn, that looks bad. I won’t sneer or stare, but.

To be clear, J is allowed to feel any way about her body, and she is allowed to dress however she wants for whatever reason she wants. She’s allowed to think whatever she wants about what other people wear. She does not have to share my view about the concept of flattering.  And on some level she seems to understand that it’s inappropriate to sneer or stare at someone who wears clothes that she wouldn’t choose to wear.  All good there.

Where she goes wrong – and makes the same mistake as Captain Headphones above – is when she forgets that her way may be right for her, but that doesn’t make it the right way for everyone.  She goes wrong when she perpetuates the idea that women who make different clothing choices deserve to be treated unkindly – and should not only expect people to treat them poorly, but blame themselves when it happens.  She goes wrong when she perpetuates the idea that her choice is right, and other people’s choices are wrong. She goes wrong when she suggests that what she wants to look at should have any bearing on how other people choose to dress.

Nikki’s response puts it more succinctly:

I’ll be sure to keep my fat arms in a goddamn cardigan in the sweltering heat this year just because you feel insecure about your own body.

The fact that there are fat people who hate their bodies and/or feel that their bodies should be covered because they are fat, is often used as an argument against those of us who don’t feel that way. As in – “See, even other fat people agree that fat bodies should be covered.” And that’s crap.

In a world that constantly tells fat people to hate and hide our bodies, it’s not even mildly surprising that there are fat people who hate and hide their bodies. And they are allowed to do that, for whatever reason. But nobody is required to hate or hide their body because that body is fat, or because it doesn’t meet the stereotype of beauty in any way. My work isn’t about telling people how they have to relate to or dress their bodies, it’s about making sure that people know that not hating and hiding their bodies is an option (by whatever definitions they are using for those things, taking into account their preferences, religion, culture, values etc.)

So the next time someone tries to suggest that you have to hate your fat body because they hate theirs, you can remind them – it’s not you, it’s me.

EDIT: Shout out to all the trolls (over one hundred now!) who me let me know in comments, e-mails, facebook messages, and on twitter that I accidentally left a sentence out of my transcription- specifically, “I’d be adjusting them constantly so they stay on my actual ears.”   (My favorite so far: “Why didn’t you post the entire comment about your headphones? What are you trying to hide?”  The SCANDAL! Because obviously this is the sentence that makes posting about my headphones online so completely reasonable…) Regardless, I absolutely made a mistake and it’s been corrected with my deep apologies to the original poster, and my deep thanks for all the traffic to the my blog. And don’t worry y’all, this definitely doesn’t make you look more obsessed and absurd than you already did.

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on May 25, 2016 at 8:46 am  Comments (15)  

Prescribing to Fat People What We Diagnose in Thin People – The Biggest Loser

Angry FrustratedWe prescribe to fat people what we diagnose in thin people. I first heard this idea from the brilliant Deb Burgard, and I heard it again at the presentation that Hilary and Dana of BeNourished gave at the MEDA Conference. And I was reminded again when I saw Marilyn Wann’s petition to take The Biggest Loser off the air. It was prompted by a new admission to the New York Post by some contestants that they had been told to engage in extremely dangerous behavior while on the show. [Trigger warning for lots of eating disorder/disordered eating discussion throughout the post.]

Suzanne Mendonca from Season 2 told the NY Post:

People were passing out in Dr. H’s [Robert Huizenga, M.D, the show’s official doctor] office at the finale weigh-in. On my season, five people had to be rushed to the hospital. He knew exactly what we were doing and never tried to stop it….People would take amphetamines, water pills, diuretics, and throw up in the bathroom, they would take their spin bikes into the steam room to work up a sweat. I vomited every single day. Bob Harper tells people to throw up: ‘Good,’ he says. ‘You’ll lose more calories.’ ”

Joelle Gwynn from 2008 Couple’s season said

Bob Harper was my trainer, he goes away and his assistant comes in. He’s got this brown paper bag that’s bundled up. He says, ‘Take this drug, it’ll really help you.’ It was yellow and black. I was like, ‘What the f- -k is this?’…I felt jittery and hyper, I went and told the sports medicine guy. The next day, Dr. H gave us some lame explanation of why they got added to our regimen and that it was up to us to take them…

She also said that her trainer Bob Harper told her about her journaling

Lie and say you were following the directive of intaking 1,500 calories — but I want you to do 800 calories or as little as you can.

And of course this is on top of the excessive exercise and mental and physical abuse that they proudly show on every episode.

All of these are behaviors that would be considered serious red flags in a thin person.  Even if they were not part of a full blown eating disorder (which are complicated bio/psycho/social disorders and not defined only by behavior and that definitely need more attention, and accessibility to treatment, and are negatively affected by a fatphobic society) they would almost certainly, and correctly, be considered dangerous and disordered.

But for fat people they are encouraged, even prescribed by so-called health professionals, under the pretense of “health.” Not convinced?  Consider that fat people are encouraged to take dangerous drugs that could kill us, to have dangerous surgery to have part of our stomachs bound or partially amputated to force us to restrict food in ways that mimic behaviors associated with eating disorders.

A fat body is not a sign that all the concepts of what constitutes a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and our bodies should be thrown out the window in the pursuit of thinness. As a study of Biggest Loser Contestants recently reinforced, the truth is that intentional weight loss hardly ever works long-term, but when the same behaviors that we diagnose and treat in thin people are prescribed to fat people, it makes weight loss not just a losing bet, but also a dangerous and even deadly one.

The bottom line is that the relationships and behaviors around food and exercise that are dangerous and disordered in thin people are not magically super useful and healthy for fat people. The Biggest Loser perpetuates behavior that is dangerous, and a culture of fat hate, and so it has to go. Take a moment to sign and share the petition to add your voice to the group clamoring for an end to this horror of a television show.

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

 

Published in: on May 24, 2016 at 10:16 am  Comments (28)  

Worse Than Avenue’s Coupon Debacle

facepalmA number of readers have asked me to explain what the sam hill is going on with The Avenue (a brick and mortar and online plus size clothing store) and all of their coupon drama. In doing my research I found that the coupon situation is truly a debacle, mishandled by Avenue start to finish. But I also found something that I think is even more disturbing.  Still, let’s start with the coupon thing:

A few days ago, a coupon code started circulating for $90 off a $90 purchase with the following terms and conditions:

Cannot be combined with any other coupon.  Not valid on Celebrate Collection, clearance, outlet, shapewear, prior purchases, or gift cards.  Offer expires 11:59pm PC on 7/31/16. Order must total $90 before tax and shipping and after other discounts.  Promotion may end without notice. Terms may change at any time.  Limit on per customer.

According to people who used it, the coupon appeared on Avenue’s site, and on coupon sites that vet coupons for accuracy including RetailMeNot. A couple days later everyone who had used the coupon code got an e-mail from Avenue saying that their order had been canceled. The e-mail stated:

This letter is regarding your recent Avenue.com order.  It has come to our attention that one of our exclusive rewards coupons has been distributed for use in an unauthorized manner on our website. This coupon stated it was valid specifically for in-store use and in-store orders only.  Therefore, the coupon was incorrectly used as a promotional code for online orders.

The issue has been resolved and all orders associated with this coupon code have been canceled.We apologize for this inconvenience. Thank you for shopping at Avenue

Best Regards,

Nancy J. Warwick, Director of Customer Service

People were upset that the coupon wasn’t valid, but were more upset about the way Avenue was handling things, starting with the claim that the coupon was meant for use in stores which they found questionable because:

  • It was an alphanumeric code (which is how Avenue does their online coupon codes) not a barcode (which is how Avenue does their in-store coupons.)
  • The terms and conditions mentioned shipping which wouldn’t make sense if it was for use in-store
  • The coupon code worked online and there would be no reason for that to be the case if it was an in-store only coupon
  • When the orders were being held for processing, people e-mailed customer service and were sent promises that the orders would be shipped
  • People who are over a size 26/28 pointed that an in-store coupon would have left them out since their local stores only offer “extended sizes” online.

Here’s where the wheels came off.  Avenue corporate and their  customer service agents and corporate went with an approach that was some combination of “everything but the kitchen sink” and “blame the customer.” They claimed in various places and at various points in the situation:

  • The coupon was sent to a “very specific set of customers who earned these specific rewards to use in-store only”
  • The coupon was posted on RetailMeNot with the wrong terms of service.  People then said that they saw the comments on Avenue’s site.
  • Avenue then claimed that when they said shipping they meant if someone came to the store and made an online order from the store
  • Some people were told by customer service that the coupon code would be cancelled and that their payment method would be automatically charged full price. (Thankfully that turned out not to be true.)
  • A customer service agent told a customer that Avenue is “disappointed that our customers took advantage of this mistake”
  • Customer service agents used language like “those customers who used the fraudulent coupon” in a way that led some customers to believe that Avenue was suggesting that they had purposely perpetrated a fraud, rather than just using a coupon code.

Things got worse when people found out that Avenue had taken the money from their payment methods immediately, but would not be issuing an immediate refund. Some people were told that it would take 3-5 days, some were told 4-6 weeks, as of this post many people are saying that they haven’t received their refunds and that customer service is not ignoring them.

A number of theories about this have been floated – from those who think that it was an attempt to increase their mailing list (everyone who made the order had to create an account with e-mail and mailing address and people are reporting already receiving promo e-mails from Avenue) to those who thought that it was a method to get a quick cash infusion (since people had to have a cart balance and also pay shipping and Avenue took the money immediately but isn’t refunding it yet,) to those who think Avenue was hacked but they don’t want to admit it (since the coupon code worked, repeatedly, online and people are saying that they can’t find anyone from the “very specific set of customers who earned these specific rewards to use in-store only” who actually received the coupon to use in store – I didn’t see anyone during my research who claimed to be part of this group.)

Regardless of why it happened, the argument that most people made was that even if this was a mistake, a lot of the fault lies with Avenue since, despite the technology that could have prevented this (for example, by creating individual one-time use coupon codes) they created a code that could be used online (and  it turns out it could be used over and over again with some customers placing 20 orders, which was obviously against the terms and conditions as written.)  They were disappointed that Avenue seemed to be blaming and shaming customers, that Avenue’s apology came all the way at the end of the e-mail, that Avenue didn’t even offer some kind of discount or coupon in consolation, and that they would not be getting an immediate refund despite the fact that they had paid in good faith for clothes that weren’t coming.

Regardless of why this happened, I think that Avenue mishandled this mightily as evidenced by the fact that their social media has now been completely taken over by people complaining about the situation and posting places to shop for plus size clothes other than Avenue, and the hashtag #boycottavenue is gaining popularity.  And Avenue customer service seems to be curled up under their desks because according to those trying to contact them they don’t seem to be responding by e-mail or on social media to the outpouring of customer dissatisfaction. I’m no Olivia Pope, but I would think that some damage control (preferably with everyone giving the same message) is in order here.

When I went to the website to research this I found something that I think is more disturbing than the coupon debacle.  First, they sell a thing called “Tummy Tamers” and then I saw this on their dress page:

Avenue body shaming dress descriptions

Grey shapes describing dress shapes with benefits of each shape underneath. Diamond a flattering jacket dress conceals your waist. Hourglass a sheath highlights your classic curves with a proportionate silhouette, triangle a wrap dress draws attention upwards & enhances your bust, Bell a fit n’ flare dress slims your hips and thighs by showing off your waist.

I wish that companies that sell clothing to fat people would do so with out engaging in body shaming language. I understand that not everyone is a card carrying member of the f*ck flattering club like I am, and of course that’s totally cool. But selling clothes to fat people by telling us that our bodies aren’t good enough unless they are being changed into some other shape either by optical illusion or actual body-smushing clothes, or concealed in some way is just not cool. I talked about this before in an open letter to stores that sell shapewear, and it all applies to this situation. I wish the people who wanted my money also wanted me to feel great about my body just as it is.  I wish they told me to celebrate my body – not to hide it or squish it.

So, as far as I’m concerned, Avenue has a lot to work on.

Here are some pictures to illustrate the coupon issue:

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on May 23, 2016 at 10:47 am  Comments (16)  

When Weight Loss Gets the Credit

Success and DietsIn our weight-obsessed culture there is a tendency to tell fat people that we should blame our body size for everything that is wrong in our lives, and that the only way to succeed is to lose weight. This is a damaging lie, and today I wanted to look at three ways that it plays out.

Health Improvements

Let’s say that someone adds some behaviors that are known to support health to their life, they experience some health improvements, and they lose weight.

The story we get is the weight loss leads to greater health, but back it up a minute.

Why do we rule out behavior changes as the reason for health improvements? It seems much more likely that the health improvements and the body size change are both results of the behavior change. Especially since there is good research that shows that behavior changes often lead to health improvements regardless of body size, or change in body size. On the flip side, research shows that weight loss without behavior change (for example liposuction) does not show health improvements.

Athletic Improvements

Someone starts a program to increase strength, stamina and/or flexibility. They increase strength, stamina, and/or flexibility, and their body weight goes down.

The story we get told is that weight loss leads to better athleticism.  So if someone is thin and does a program like this, it’s the program that causes their athletic improvements. But in a fat person we’re told that it’s a change in body weight?

Confidence

Someone’s body weight changes and they become more confident.

The story we get told is that weight loss increases confidence with no examination of the fact that a society rife with sizeism is what prevented the person from being confident in the first place.  There is no reason for someone not to be confident at a higher weight -and even living in a society that gives us near constant negative messages about our bodies, there are still plenty of confident fat people.

On the surface there is a frustrating lack of logic here, but this problem goes way deeper than that.  The truth is that all of the incidents of weight loss that I described above are likely to be temporary.  The truth about weight loss is that most people can lose some weight for a short amount of time, but almost everyone gains it back and many gain back more than they lost. The constant lie that fat people are told is that our fat is to blame for anything and everything we’re not happy about in our lives, and that the “solution” to all of that is weight loss.

These lies convince fat people to put our goals and lives on hold and put all of our eggs in the weight loss basket, despite a mountain of evidence that suggests it will never happen, and a complete lack of evidence that it will actually help us achieve any of our goals. It means that when fat people give up on weight loss (wisely, since it almost never works) many of us also give up on all the goals that lies told us required weight loss to achieve.

It’s important to remember that health, athletic ability, confidence and all of the other things that supposedly come with weight loss are never obligations, barometers of worthiness, or entirely within our control, and we might do well to think twice before we buy the party line that they are body size dependent – because when weight loss gets the credit, nobody gets the truth.

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on May 20, 2016 at 11:14 am  Comments (45)  

Fat Woman Fights Back Against Walmart Filmers

EDIT:  It has been pointed out that, in my anger over an act that was indeed atrocious, I made some horrible mistakes.  These include not recognizing my privilege as a white woman talking about People of Color, the language I used to describe them, and my suggestion that getting police involved is a positive thing when, because of systemic racism, that could well be a death sentence for the People of Color involved.  I’m leaving the blog post below as written below so as not to try to erase my mistakes, with my sincere apologies, and with the promise to do better in the future.

Kelly Lynn was just trying to do some shopping when she ran into some of the scum of the Earth, and now she’s fighting back.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know how I feel about anyone who participates in things like “People of Walmart” (in which people take pictures and video of people without their consent, with this express intent of making fun of them on the internet.)

Anyone who participates in this – whether it’s by taking the pictures, looking at them online, or sharing them around, is being an asshole. Period. There is no excuse, there is no justification, and no I won’t “agree to disagree” because if you think this is ok, then you’re just wrong. Luckily there’s a cure, and that’s to stop participating in things like this.

Here is the story in Kelly’s own words from her Facebook page:

Even when I asked him to stop he didn’t stop. Even when people were staring and asking him why he was doing this he didn’t stop. He filmed me and took photos of me so loud and unafraid of how that might make me feel. What if this wasn’t me?! What if this was someone with out confidence or with out the love I have? When I said I was going to take their picture they posed. This is not a selfie, they knew exactly what they were doing. Hence why they were trying to cover their faces. It’s disheartening that people would rather ignore or deny what is happening instead of trying to stop it. Please share this. 5/15/16 11:15pm Stow Ohio Walmart.

Update- Many people have asked me to explain what’s happening here for those who don’t get it or understand. – I am fat. I’ve always been fat. I was raised to believe that I was just as wonderful and beautiful as the next person so most of my life I have had a confidence that actually shock people. I’m not sure which is worse the fact people hate me and want me to die bc I’m fat and happy or the people who congratulate me for loving myself even though I’m the most disgusting thing they know, fat. Through the years I’ve tried my very best to use my voice for good. Bring support to anyone I can. Not just fat people either. What do I identify most in the world with? Being a fat woman. People may see this as a bad thing but I don’t. I see it as something that’s a part of me not all of me. I feel pretty, I feel beautiful and I feel sexy. I’m not ashamed to feel this way. Whatever my health is, it has no baring on my worth. It’s not anyone’s business what I look like or my health. It’s mine. They don’t get to treat me like a circus animal just bc it’s not what they understand. I’m a person. First and foremost a person. Every single time I leave the house and venture out into public I am scrutinized for my body. As if my body is not my own. I can’t even take my nieces and nephew to the movies or to the park without someone yelling at me, taking my photo or even stopping their car next to me to tell me how fat and gross I am. This happens almost every single day. Sometimes it’s hard to even leave the house, but I push myself bc for every terrible person there is someone who comes up to me and tell me how cute I am or how much the like my outfit and style. I get so many emails from men and woman who tell me how much I helped them become confident. It makes every bad experience worth it. Changing one mind, one person makes all of it worth it. Am I mad at these people? Sure a little but not as much as I am sad for them. Sad that they live a life where there find this sort of treatment ok. They’re not just doing it bc they think it’s funny how fat I am, they’re doing it bc they fear me. They fear the idea that I could live my life and love myself despite being so fat. The thing they never want to be because it could be them on the other side of the camera being made fun of instead of me.

If they only knew me. If they only knew that being truly happy you would never feel the need to make fun of or tear someone else down for their own insecurities.

People wonder how it’s possible people get so fat they are bed bound or need to be cut out of their house. This. This is why. If you’ve never been in a situation like this then you have no idea but they weight of people’s hate piled on top of you is heavier than any fat could ever be. You fear leaving your house, you fear going out, you fear that plane ride, you fear eating in public, you fear living your life might offend someone and they could hurt you. Hurt you for existing and sometimes for some people it’s easier to just stay home. So judging someone for being too fat is bullshit. It’s not your business for one and you don’t know how they got there. It doesn’t even matter how they did. But you can be kind and nice and treat fat people with respect. Yes fat. It’s not a bad word.

It’s ok to be mad, but it’s more important for this to show people how fat people are treated in hopes it will break that cycle.

Until it stops I will share all my experience, the good and the bad.

I’m not ashamed to be me and I won’t let someone rule my feelings and thoughts about myself. I won’t let them take my power.

Rock the hell on Kelly, thanks for being a shining example of how to fight back against sizeism, and how to be clear that the problem isn’t fat people, it’s the people who shame, stigmatize, bully, and oppress fat people. Here is the picture that Kelly took of the scum who were taking pictures and video of her in Stow, Ohio.  The police are now involved and hopefully they will be caught. If you see them, feel free to tell them that  Ragen said “Fuck you.”

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on May 18, 2016 at 10:01 am  Comments (29)  

Discovery Girls’ Spectacularly Failed Apology for Body-Shaming Kids

Swimsuit layout

The full two page swimsuit article

Discovery Girls Magazine bills itself as “the one magazine that gives girls ages 8 and up the advice, encouragement, and inspiration they need to navigate those difficult preteen years.” They claim a readership of 900,000, and in the most recent issue they spent two pages giving those 900,000 girls advice about “What swimsuit best suits you.” Thanks to all the readers who let me know about this debacle.

First readers were asked to self-select into categories based on body type, then they were given advice. Those who think they are “curvy on top”  were told “side ties and cut-outs draw the eyes down.” Those who think they are “straight up and down” were given advice to “add curves,” and those who think of themselves as “rounder in the middle” were told that “high-waisted bottoms work best for you.”

This advice begs the questions – Whose eyes, exactly, are they hoping are drawn and manipulated by a swimsuit worn by an 8 year old? Why are they encouraging tweens to add curves? And why are they trying to give readers the message that if they feel rounder they should cover themselves?  (Note the message – don’t be not curvy, but don’t be too curvy…) Come to think of it, why are they suggesting that tweens categorize their bodies in way that encourages the kind of comparison and concern that can set the stage for body image issues, and even eating disorders?

Happily, many people recognized that this is super extra very much messed up and took to the internet to tell the magazine exactly why.  Publisher Catherine Lee responded in an attempt to apologize that failed so spectacularly that I’m going to break it down here bit by bit.

First she tried this:

We want to make it clear that Discovery Girls does not promote nor support body-shaming. This article was intended to show that every body shape is acceptable, not that they should be ashamed of the shape they have.

But it turns out that the people complaining had actually seen the article, so there was no way this was going to fly.  Take two:

An open letter from Catherine Lee, Publisher of Discovery Girls

First, I want to thank all the parents and my amazing readers who brought this swimsuit article to my attention. As the founder of Discovery Girls magazine, and even more importantly, the mother of the first Discovery Girl in 2000, I am in total agreement with all of you regarding this article, so much so that I wanted to make this letter as public as possible. We want to make sure that our girls know that any article that makes you feel bad about your body is not a good article, and should be questioned.

So, explain to me how an article that you agree is not a good article, should be questioned, and is objectively terrible, ended up in a magazine for which you are responsible?

It’s still hard for me to believe that an article so contrary to our magazine’s mission could have been published on our pages. I have been a loss for words for days.

I’m betting it’s harder to believe for those of us whose title isn’t “Publisher” of the magazine where the article appeared.  That Shaggy Song “It Wasn’t Me” might be catchy, but it was not intended to be corporate PR advice. Since you are at a loss for words, let me suggest some: “I’m sorry. I take full responsibility. Here are the steps I’m taking to make sure this never happens again.”

The article was supposed to be about finding cute, fun swimsuits that make girls feel confident, but instead it focused on girls’ body image and had a negative impact.

It didn’t focus on their body image – though it most certainly could hurt it.  It focused on the bodies of 8-12 year olds – how they look, and how they can be manipulated to look, and how they can draw and manipulate the eyes of others.

Nobody knows better than Discovery Girls how impressionable our girls are at this age and we are ALWAYS mindful of this.

All evidence to the contrary.

We’ve received hundreds of thousands of letters over the years from girls sharing their insecurities about their bodies. We’ve been so concerned about helping girls have a healthy body image that we wrote an entire book, Growing Up, on puberty and body image.

I must have read this paragraph wrong because it seems like you’re pivoting from an apology to an advertisement for your book. Nobody has judgment that poor.

The book, which took over five years to write, was a labor of love. We worked with so many writers, editors, and over 20,000 girls and their parents, too. We invested so much time and effort into it because we knew how important it is to get it right. Our girls need resources to provide them with the guidance they need to develop a healthy body image and love all that they are.

I stand corrected, at least one person has judgment that poor.

As much we like to think that something like this would never happen to us, it did.

Oh for the love of… THIS DID NOT “HAPPEN TO YOU”!  You DID this. This happened to the 8-12 year olds who trust you to deliver empowering content, and not this Cosmo crap.

We’re not immune to making mistakes, but we are always willing to get better and learn from our mistakes.

Let’s hope you’re better at learning from your mistakes than you are at apologizing for them. In good news it’s difficult to imagine you could be worse.

We’d like to thank the readers who contacted us to let us know they couldn’t believe we could make such a mistake. It means a lot to us, because it means you hold us to a higher standard, which we hope you will continue to demand from us.

You know what would actually be great – if you could hold yourself to a higher standard. And let’s be clear that “It’s a bad idea to tell 8 year olds how to look curvier, draw the eye down, or cover their stomachs because they are rounder” isn’t exactly a high standard – it’s the kind of bar that you should be able to trip and fall over.

And for those of you who don’t know us as well as our regular readers, our reader’s comments are what keeps us improving.

How many comments do you need to understand that body shaming 8 year olds is a bad idea?

This is what makes Discovery Girls the magazine that we’re all so proud to be a part of. I know with certainty, if you hang in there, you’ll find that no magazine works harder to ensure the well-being of your daughters than Discovery Girls.

Catherine Lee

Please stop talking nonsense Catherine. I know with certainty that this is not remotely true, because there are magazines whose editors are not at a “loss for words” and finding it “hard to believe”  that an article that is actually dangerous and damaging to their core audience was published in full shiny color in the pages of their magazines.

The fact that anybody thought an apology like this was a good idea, and that there are actually people online misguided enough to support the original article, is proof that we have a long way to go in our journey to a world where children are nurtured and empowered and all bodies are celebrated.  But the fact that so many people knew immediately that this article was a hot mess tells me that we’re making progress. This is why it’s so important to let kids know that the world is messed up, but they are fine.

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

 

Published in: on May 17, 2016 at 6:27 am  Comments (38)  

I Don’t Want Your Scarf

facepalmFor the past few days I’ve been in a hotel in Boston for the MEDA Conference. Right outside the elevator on my floor the entire time I was there was a “trunk show.”  It was a couple of women selling clothes and accessories.  As I waited for the elevator I would hear them talking to potential customers.  They were working hard, on their feet all day every day.  Finally yesterday I had some time and I decided I wanted to check out their clothes.

I walked in and, unlike the numerous women I had personally witnessed go inside the room and be greeted immediately and warmly and asked what they were looking for, they completely ignored me. They talked to each other, never even acknowledging my presence. So I took a lap around the room and it didn’t look like there were any plus sizes, but I wanted to ask to make sure.  I walked up to the two women who kept talking as if I wasn’t there.  I waited patiently for them to wrap up their conversation, they completely ignored me. I finally said “Excuse me…”

They continued talking for a few more seconds, then one of them turned and asked curtly “Yes?”  I asked “Do you have any plus size items?”  She squinched up her face like she just bit a lemon, shook her head, and said “No. No. We wouldn’t have anything like that.” in a tone that might have made someone think that I asked her if I could get a dress made entirely of cat poo.  I decided that it wasn’t worth my energy to continue so I just said “What a shame.”  At that point I was just going to walk out and get on with my day.

But no. All of a sudden the other salesperson re-animated and said “Wait, we have beautiful scarves.”  Beautiful Sca…I know she didn’t say… Beautiful scarv…fuck that.  I turned around sharply (all that dance training still paying off!) met her gaze and asked, slowly “Why in the world would I buy an accessory from a clothing company that didn’t bother to make clothes that fit me?”

She just stared at me and said “oh.”  So I repeated “No, seriously, I’m asking.  Why would I support a clothing company that doesn’t want to clothe me?”   She paused, looking a bit panicked, and then said “Well, they are really lovely scarves.”  Not even a fauxpologetic “I’m so sorry we don’t have your size.”  Just “Of course we don’t make clothes for you, or treat you like – you know – a person, but please buy a scarf.” Remaining calm, though I was well and truly over this shit, I just said “No Ma’am, I don’t want your scarf.” and walked away.

I’m fully aware that the dollars I spend on clothes are my votes for the kind of clothes I want to have available, and the designers and companies that I want to succeed. So if I’m buying a scarf that’s part of a clothing line, that clothing line is going to, at the very least, include my size.  (And if they don’t include sizes larger than mine then that’s something we’re going to talk about.) But if your company doesn’t sell my size and you treat me like a pariah, then rest assured that you can keep your damn scarf.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on May 16, 2016 at 4:37 am  Comments (28)  

Getting Something Started – Say Something Sunday

Say Something SundayI’m in a hotel room in Boston, still on a high from being part of the fabulous MEDA Conference (thanks Rachel, Beth, Jaime, and all the amazing staff, volunteers, and board members who made this happen I hope you are all having a fabulous restful day!) where I was honored to give a talk (they gave me a standing ovation that made me cry!) hear great presentations (not only did I get to attend a beautiful presentation by Hilary and Dana from Be Nourished, but I got to hang out with them at lunch!), and hang out with and learn from amazing people (shout out to Lisa who was my Secret Service for the trip and Joanne and Jonah who were our dinner buddies!) I just finished one last practice of my talk for the Brunch today and the choreography for the dance and yoga class that I’m doing with the fabulous Rachel Estapa (both events are sell-outs and I’m ridiculously excited to meet so many people I know from online!)  I’ll blog about it more soon.

For today, though I want to share this video with you. Last year I got a chance to be part of the Size Acceptance work that Erec Smith has been doing at York College when I gave a presentation and a guest lecture for the students there. That project now includes a video and an article on page 23 of their Alumni Magazine – I’m sharing it with you for Say Something Sunday because I think that what Erec and his students are accomplishing is super inspiring, and I’m truly grateful to have had the chance to be part of it. As always, it would be awesome if you would share your activism victories in the comments:

 

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

 

Published in: on May 15, 2016 at 1:37 pm  Comments (4)  

Some Problems with Plus Size Fashion

that's not how this worksIn this blog I have often said “plus sizes or, as I like to call them, sizes” and “plus size models or, as I like to call them, models.” What I meant when I said that was that I look forward to a world where we don’t have to have “plus size” because stores will carry a wide range of sizes and people of all sizes will have the same options in terms of style, availability, price, and quality; and, that I look forward to a world where we won’t need “plus size” models because using models with a wide range of body sizes will be the norm.

What I didn’t know when I said those things, was that some people would try to skip the part where we revolutionize the fashion world and, instead, just get rid of the terms “plus size” and “plus size models”  I didn’t know that stores would try to solve the problem of size-based stigma by changing numerical sizes to flower names. I didn’t know that the discussion about plus size fashion would end up being led, not by the people who are currently least served by the industry (those above a 3x with limited income) but by the most privileged people in the space – the people who are paid to model plus size clothes, and then use the fame of being a model to insist that being called plus-size is somehow “ostracizing” to them.  This is not ok.

I was thinking about all of this when I got the amazing opportunity to write for Ravishly.com – Real Feminism for Real Life! So my first piece for them is called WTF Is Going On In Plus Size Fashion?  It includes insights from the fabulous Alysse Dalessandro, the designer behind Ready to Stare  and Yolanda Williams who created  plus-size active line Just Curves (including the ONEder suit which is my new favorite thing.) You can read the article here!

Until those who wear plus-size clothes have the same options as those who wear straight sizes (and, while we’re at it, the same purchasing power because we aren’t hired less and paid less than our thin counterparts,) that’s a conversation we need to be centering, and if someone who models plus size clothes doesn’t want to be called a plus size model, then as far as I’m concerned, they can get another job.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on May 10, 2016 at 10:36 am  Comments (19)  

The Life I Could Have Had – International No Diet Day

Talking NonsenseIn response to my post for International No Diet Day about The Biggest Loser and how dieting doesn’t work, I got the usual rush of responses from internet trolls to concern trolls insisting (with no evidence to back it up, of course) that all fat people can – and should! – become thin if we just [insert thing we’ve all heard a million times but doesn’t actually work] – lose weight slower, use a specific diet, call dieting a “lifestyle change”, etc. along with the usual “just because it hardly ever works doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying” crap.

Here’s the thing.  Been there. Done that.  Got the rebound weight gain and larger size t-shirt.  Before I did the research to understand weight and health, I made the same mistakes that these people are making now – I believed it was a matter of willpower, I believed that it had been proven that long term significant weight loss was possible,  I believed that weight loss had been proven to make fat people healthier. Just like these misguided folks, I bought into this hook, line, and meal replacement shake.  I tried incredibly hard to be thin.  I spent a tremendous amount of my time, energy, and money trying to be thin – I did everything these people are suggesting that I do now and more. And here’s what I learned.

Fuck. That. Shit.  I shudder to think of the life I could have had if I hadn’t discovered Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size. The thought of giving up the amazing life I’ve lived and am living to have instead spent all this time  – and all the time in the future – chasing thinness, weight cycling, hating my body, waiting for that mystical thin body to show up so that my life could “really start,” is horrifying  – what an absolute waste of my life that would have been.

I hear from readers all the time whose moms, grandmothers, aunts, and friends are on their deathbeds realizing that they never fully lived because they put their lives on hold until they were thin, and spent their lives trapped in a cycle of yo yo dieting, body hatred, and self loathing, and they died fat with so many regrets.  Every single time someone tells me a story like this I think how much I hope that person is resting in peace, and I realize that could have so easily been me.

I had the exact same experience that almost everyone who tries to lose weight has – I would lose weight short term, and then no matter what I did I would gain it back long term – often gaining back more than I lost.  Then, in a tribute to doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, I would try again. And I would have the same result.

So these people who tell me that I should keep trying to lose weight can take a flying leap into a vat of fat free pudding. This discussion is hypothetical to them, but it’s everything to me. Health at Every Size and Size Acceptance gave me my life back, and even if I’m wrong about the research (though I don’t think I am) and even if I have a shorter life than I would have if I had continue to pursue dieting (though I don’t think I will) I would still make the same choices. I get to live free from dieting, free from constant body hatred, free from obsessive thoughts and behaviors around food, exercise, and weight, I get to spend my time, energy, and money pursuing things that make me happy,  I can approach my health and healthcare in a way that is rational and evidence-based.

I live every day with the security of knowing that I will not be on my deathbed with the horrible realization that I put my life on hold trying to get thin, and it never happened, and now it’s over. I used to be one of those people who hated my body, and dieted constantly because I didn’t know that I had other options. Now I know – I can have a healthy relationship with food and movement, I can love my body, and I never have to diet again. That’s so much better than the life I could have had.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on May 7, 2016 at 11:36 am  Comments (25)