What Fat Olympians Prove (And What They Don’t)

Nothing to proveAs the Olympics happen, we’re seeing athletes of lots of different sizes compete and win, which is super cool! What follows is a lot of people trying to interpret what that “proves” which is often super not-cool. While almost all are well-meaning, some of these interpretations end up being healthist and problematic for lots of reasons. So I wanted to look at some of the claims that I’ve been seeing and break them down.  I’ll also point out that a lot of the mistakes that are being made are mistakes that I’ve made in the past, and my pointing them out are the ways of honoring the people who were kind enough to educate me.

 

This proves there’s no excuse not to be fit at any size

Nope, nope, nope.  Nobody of any size is obligated to “be fit” by any definition.  Nobody needs an excuse to make choices about their free time that don’t include fitness, just like nobody needs an excuse to make choices about their free time that do include fitness.  This whole “no excuses” fitness culture is a steaming heap of bullshit. Everyone should have the opportunity and access to participate in fitness if they want to, nobody has an obligation. People who participate in fitness are no better or more “moral” than people who do other things with their time.

This proves that anyone of any size can be an Olympian

Slow down there sparky.  Becoming an Olympian requires a combination of physiology, opportunity, privilege, and hard work. There are many, many people who have the  work ethic but don’t have the combination of physiology, opportunity and privilege required. When we gloss over this we ignore the fact that these opportunities are not accessible to everyone who is interested in them (and how that is often expressed in ways that are racist, classist, sizeist, ableist and more.)

This proves that everyone of every size can be healthy

This one is a problem for a lot of reasons.  First, don’t confuse athletically successful with healthy.  Many athletes push far beyond what would most support their bodies’ health – risking  and getting expensive sports-related injuries that they wouldn’t otherwise be at risk for – in order to be successful at their sport.  They are absolutely allowed to do that – their bodies, their choice (though that doesn’t meant that we shouldn’t be asking questions about the way that sports are managed/judged and what is really “required.”)  Moreover, health is difficult to define, multi-faceted, not an obligation, not a barometer of worthiness, and not entirely within our control or guaranteed under any circumstances.

This proves that anyone of any size can be an athlete

This should be true, and it would be true in a world where people had the same levels of access to the athletic endeavors that they are interested in, and didn’t deal with sizeism as an excluding factor (along with racism, classism, ableism, ageism and more.) Unfortunately that’s not the world that we live in.  Fat people regularly have terrible experiences within the fitness world, from people abusing them, to coaches refusing to work with them unless and until they become thin, to people insisting that no matter what they achieve they can’t be an athlete until they are thin.

This proves that we shouldn’t make assumptions about athletic ability based on body size

This one I can get behind, though I’d point out that we shouldn’t make assumptions about anything based on size.

In general, I think that if you want to celebrate fat athletes, that’s awesome, but be careful not to celebrate in ways that end up hurting others, and consider not letting your celebration get in the way of asking critical questions about how people are oppressed in the world of athletics, and how athletics are used to oppress people.

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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 August 15, 2016 at 8:08 am  Comments (4)  

How To Be A Thin Ally On A Plane

Share the SpaceI received an e-mail with a great question about how to be an ally to fat people on planes. Before I get too far into it, here’s some background reading:

If you feel like fat people getting a seat that fits us is “unfair special treatment” this post is for you.

If you feel like “it’s not fat shaming, it’s just economics” to not accommodate fat people,  head over here.

If you’re wondering “Why don’t we just charge everyone by weight?” this is why.

If you’re wondering “how can this situation get any worse?”  Zodiac Seats France has you covered

Now for today’s question:

If I was in a flight that was not full, and was seated next to a fat person who did not have enough space, then I would want to find another seat so that we are both comfortable. I don’t want to spend the duration of the flight squishing myself so that my fat seat mate has more space, and I KNOW that fat people ALWAYS try to squish themselves and make themselves smaller in order to take up less space..so why would I stay in my seat and make them suffer? Of course if it was a full flight then I will not ask to change my seat. What is the proper way to fix the seat situation so that both parties are happy and comfortable? Also, what do you advise me to do if it is a full flight and I am seated next to a fat person? I don’t want them to feel obligated to squish themselves and make themselves smaller..but at the same time it’s kind of rude to assume that from a stranger, right? I kind of want to tell them that it’s ok to lift the arm rest between us and to not get scared of me throwing a fit or whatever if our bodies touched. Please help.

First of all, thanks for caring about this I really appreciate that you are asking these questions.  As always I can only speak for myself, and other fat people may disagree with the advice I’m about to give you. This situation sucks, and the emotions and reactions of fat people to situations like this can, and likely will, be affected by living in society that oppresses us and tells us things like we don’t deserve the sames things that thin people get (in this case, a seat that accommodates us) so no matter what you say, a positive outcome is not guaranteed, which is one of the challenges of doing ally work.

I would start out by smiling at your seatmate and then saying something welcoming. Fat people are used to getting the eyeball trifecta – eye rolling, side eye, and evil eye – accompanied by dramatic sighing, so having someone smile and say something nice (“Hi, welcome to row 22, I’m Annie, it’s nice to meet you!”) can help get the interaction off to a good start (and has the added benefit of modeling how to act for passengers of the eye-and-sigh variety.)

Next, consider making it clear that you realize that the airline, not the fat person, is the problem.  Perhaps by saying something like “I don’t understand why they make these seats so small, they know people come in lots of sizes, they should make seats that accommodate everyone!” or “I’m so frustrated with the airlines, if you’re going to sell travel that should include more than a tiny seat that doesn’t work for half your customers!)

Next, make the offer.  “You seem awesome, so I’ll be sad not to hang out with you, but I think I see an empty seat, would it be cool with you if I switched seats so you can be more comfortable?” or “I think I can fix the airline’s mistake here – I see an empty seat, is it cool if I switch so that you don’t have to feel squished?”

If there isn’t an empty seat then I would say something like “looks like the airline decided that we should be close for this flight!  Would you prefer the seat divider up or down?” Depending on how the fat person is shaped, it also may not be possible for us to use our tray so when the drinks come around if you notice that we are not able to use the tray you might say something like “We can both just share my tray if it’s easier.”

That’s my advice, again your mileage may vary and of course if people have other suggestions please leave them in the comments!

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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 August 13, 2016 at 11:56 am  Comments (7)  

Fat Bodies Are Not Public Property

What a Load of CrapI was running and he was riding his bike.  We were coming up on a narrow passage between a light post and a bus stop.  I stopped and motioned for him to come through. Instead he stopped, blocking my path, and started talking. I took off one of my headphones, and this happened:

Him: Do me a favor, don’t lose too much weight.

Me:  Well I’m not interested in losing weight at all, but it’s not really any of your business.

Him (getting frustrated): It was actually a compliment.

Me (not willing to offer bonus points for mansplaining our interaction to me): No, it was an attempt to suggest that I should form my body based on your preferences.

Him:  You know what, fuck you, have a good night.

Me:  Back at you sir.

One of the side effects of this ridiculously horrific “war on obesity” is the totally bullshit message that a fat body is a sign that someone should be told that their body is wrong, and given anyone and everyone’s advice on what we should, or shouldn’t, be doing to “fix” that.

So when fat people go out in public, people often confuse us for public property presented for their judgments and comments.  If we aren’t exercising they tell us what we should be, if we are exercising, they say that we’re doing it wrong (or they just moo from their car, or throw eggs,) if we’re eating a salad they congratulate us, if we are’t eating a salad they chide us as if our food is any of their damn business.

In our culture there is also a deeply mistaken notion that all women should care about whether men find us attractive, as expressed by men telling us that we should lose weight (but not too much,) gain weight (but not too much,) smile, dress sexier, dress less sexy etc. Plenty of the hatemail I get is just some dude saying “I’d never fuck you.”  (To which my response is – You are so very right about that.)

The fact that a body is fat doesn’t make it public property, or open for public comment. If a fat person wants to hear your thoughts about their body, clothes, fitness, or food, just assume that you’ll be among the very first to know. And until you know, it would be just peachy keen if you would keep your judgments, preferences,or advice to yourself.

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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 August 4, 2016 at 10:56 am  Comments (46)  

An Insult Comic and a Fat Activist Walk Into a Bar

Lisa Lampanelli and Ragen Chastain

No makeup selfie!

I am sitting in the bar of a lovely, understated hotel in Los Angeles, two minutes into a meeting with famous comic Lisa Lampanelli.  I’ve decided to break the ice by coughing for five minutes (it could have been less or more, it felt like an hour so I’m rounding down.)  I’ve gotten over a nasty cold, but I can’t stop my lungs from freaking out. I had not planned on broaching  the subject ( because “nice to meet you, I swear I’m not contagious” isn’t the smoothest of greetings) but this is happening in real time, so that cat’s out of the bag. Lisa is being incredibly kind, which will become a theme of our meeting.

When I saw the tweet from Lisa asking me to message her, my first thought was “are my trolls effing with me?” But I checked it out and it turns out it was the real Lisa Lampanelli.  She was going to be in town for a few days so we arranged to meet to discuss “Stuffed,” a play she is debuting around women’s relationships with food and body image. I’ve been hearing about this play for a while and I was super excited to meet with her – obviously this topic is really important to me, she has a big platform to talk about it, and I was glad that she was talking to fat acceptance folks.

I also wasn’t completely sure what to expect.  Lisa is famous for being an insult comic. As a feminist and total stand up comedy nerd I have tremendous admiration for her because I’m aware of how difficult it is for women to get traction in the stand up world.  And I know the history and artistry of insult comedy, how it can actually be considered a form social justice comedy because it shows stereotypes and prejudices for how ridiculous they are.  In my pre-meeting research I found a review of her by BET.com that explained:

Lisa is known for her vicious comedy, but seeing a full show versus a Comedy Central Roast, Lampanelli is not as offensive as she is portrayed by her critics. She is obviously commentating on the absurdities of race, sexuality, gender and class. The comedian creatively unravels stereotypes, pulls back the creepy layers, turns the mirror on the audience and rages, “Now do you how see how stupid these stereotypes are?

I get that, I get that there are people who don’t agree with that, and either way I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it sometimes makes me uncomfortable.  I was hoping that was where she was coming from, because if not I was worried that I was going to be in a situation where I had to say “I admire many things about you, but I can’t support what you’re doing.” I’ve been there before, and it sucks a lot. And I was equally, if not more, worried that after hearing more about my work, she would say the same thing to me.  I’ve been there before too, and it also sucks a lot.

I needn’t have worried.  We’re now over an hour into the meeting and she is warm, and kind, and hilarious, and she is asking me serious questions about Fat Acceptance and Health at Every Size and she is listening, really listening, to my answers (I talk when I’m nervous so it’s a borderline babblefest and she’s just taking it in stride.) She’s also being honest and vulnerable – sharing her personal journey with food and body image, weight loss surgery that didn’t solve those issues, and the ways that she wants to evolve her work and use her fame to change the conversation around food, weight, and health to make a serious difference in the world.  She gets it, and it’s always super cool when someone famous turns out to be awesome in real life.

Three and a half hours after we started I’m leaving the hotel, and I’m smiling. We talked about Fat Acceptance, Health at Every Size, the “reality” in reality TV, racism, ableism, dealing with body hatred, and more.  I’m super excited about the play and even more excited about the possibilities for an insult comic/playwright and a fat activist to do some very cool things together.

THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE:
TOOLS FOR THE REVOLUTION! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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 August 3, 2016 at 10:14 am  Comments (7)  

Pokémon Go and Fat People

Landon

Landon the Landwhale is not an official Pokemon, but I think he should be! Thanks to the always awesome Jeanette DePatie  who had him made for me.

If you are not familiar, the basic concept of Pokémon is that there are monsters everywhere, and they can be caught, trained, and then engage in battle with other Pokémon.  Its incarnations including a television show, card game, and video games.  Now, there is an augmented reality game called Pokémon Go. Basically the app allows players to use their phone’s GPS to find and capture monsters as they travel around. They can also go to designated Pokestops to get items and interact, and take their monsters to locations designated as “gyms” to train and battle other people’s Pokémon. (Correct me if I’m wrong Pokémon playing peeps!)

 

There is much talk about how the game encourages people to get out of the house and walk around (there are also concerns about accessibility and ableism related to this.) Of course we can’t have anything without dragging the whole “war on obesity” thing into it (this is why we can’t have nice things…)  which has led to countless memes about how Pokemon Go will “end obesity” or “prevent obesity.”  This is bad for a bunch of reasons.

First of all, it contributes to the stereotype that you can tell how active someone is by their size. Some fat people aren’t active, some are very active, and some are in between the extremes – just like thin people. Nobody is obligated to be “active” by any definition, and being “active” by any definition is not even close to a guarantee of having a thin body, and making wild guesses about people based on how they look is a shitty thing to do.

Using “preventing obesity” language creates a situation where you are trying to motivate some participants by telling them that they should participate so that they don’t become like other (larger bodied) participants which can be stigmatizing to larger bodied participants and make them them less likely to want to be involved. Not to mention that there’s no reason to believe that people who play the game won’t become fat.

Using “eradicating obesity” language suggests that other people playing the game should see fat players as problems that have not yet been solved, or as people who must not be playing the game “right” or “enough” since they are still fat.  This creates an environment that is less than welcoming.

Even if people do choose to play the game as a way to support their health (knowing that health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances) the research shows that activity can have health benefits for people of all sizes.  If we mislead people to believe that it’s only improving their health if it makes them thinner, and they are only playing the game for health, then people will quit when they don’t lose weight, and they’ll lose the actual health benefits they might have gained.

Finally, if you hope that people will participate in a game, it may be helpful to note that people are less likely to participate in activities if they see them as punishment for their body size, rather than as something fun to do. So why don’t we cut the fatphobic bullshit and just invite people of all sizes to have fun playing the game.

REGISTER FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE! 

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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 August 1, 2016 at 11:35 am  Comments (30)  

Singer JoJo’s Extreme Diet – Why Isn’t Talent Enough?

Actual SizeIn an interview with PopSugar, Singer JoJo has bravely decided to talk about the pressure that she was under to lose weight early in her career.  She explains:

Here’s something that I agreed to do that ended up messing with me psychologically…I was under a lot of pressure with a company I was at previously, and they wanted me to lose weight fast. So they got me with a nutritionist and had me … on all these supplements, and I was injecting myself — this is a common thing ‘the girls’ do, by the way — it makes your body only need certain calories, so I ate 500 calories a day. It was the most unhealthy thing I’ve ever done.

First of all, who the fuck is this nutritionist? It’s bad enough that Dr. Oz endorses crap like this, but at least he got called before Congress and labeled a scam artist.  For all we know this nutritionist continues to starve pop stars for profit.

There is no injection that makes you only need certain calories.  While she doesn’t disclose what kind of injections, this sounds like the HCG diet.  Victims of this scam inject themselves with the hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), which is produced during pregnancy and legitimately prescribed as a fertility medication. In addition to the injections they are restricted to 500 calories a day.

As you might have guessed, there is no research to suggest that this leads to sustained weight loss, but there are side effects which include gallstone formation, irregular heartbeat,  fatigue, irritability, depression, edema, gynecomastia, gallstone formation, irregular heartbeat, electrolyte imbalance,and the risk of blood clots forming and blocking blood vessels. All that risk for an approximately 0% chance of long term weight loss.

Regardless of what type of ridiculous and dangerous diet she was on, nobody was suggesting that it would improve her singing voice or her health, and that’s an issue. In our culture, talent isn’t enough.  For the vast majority of people who want to be singers (or dancers,or actors, or in the public eye in any way,) fitting the stereotype of beauty is the golden ticket that they must have in order to chase their dreams, because in our culture very often we choose our singers, dancers, actresses etc. based on their ability to approximate the stereotype of beauty first, and their talent second.  And that sucks.

How many talented people do we miss out on because they didn’t happen to fit some ridiculous, incredibly narrow standard of beauty?  How many bullshit “Nobody Could Have Believed” e-mails do we have to endure?  How many talented people put their health and even their lives at risk trying to reach that stereotype of beauty?  This needs to stop. Talent should be enough, and the entertainment world should reflect the diversity of the real world.

REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE! 

Earlybird registration ends July 31st so hurry to get the earlybird rate

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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 July 30, 2016 at 10:39 am  Comments (17)  

Kerryn Feehan – Every Fatphobia Fallacy In 3 Minutes

WTF are you doingActress and comic Kerryn Feehan decided to use a publicity opportunity on KISS 95.1 FM to go after KISS intern/My Big Fat Fabulous Life star,Whitney Way Thore.

In a “whoever talks the loudest wins” style that she seems to have copied directly from famous-only-for-being-a-fatphobe MeMe Roth, Kerryn manages to commit every fallacy of fatphobia in less than three minutes.

It would have been impressive if it wasn’t so horrifying.  I wrote about it for Ravishly.com, you can read all about it at:

http://www.ravishly.com/2016/07/27/kerryn-feehan-concern-troll-fatphobe-and-bullshit-artist

REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE! 

Earlybird registration ends July 31st so hurry to get the earlybird rate!

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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 July 28, 2016 at 11:31 am  Comments (15)  

In Praise of Thin Allies – Say Something Sunday

AllyThe idea of a “thin ally” within fat activism is a complicated one- both because classifying body sizes can be difficult, and because (though relative privilege because of size is a real thing) the culture of fat hatred hurts people of all sizes. For the purpose of this piece I’m talking about people who don’t identify as fat who engage in fat activism (everything from retweeting size acceptance stuff or attending rallies.) I also want to point out that, as always, I’m speaking for myself here and other fat people may disagree with what I’m about to say.

First of all, I want to talk about why I think having thin allies is important:

They aren’t subject to the “you are only trying to justify your fat!” argument

In an ideal world people would understand that our bodies need no justification. But this isn’t an ideal world and the truth is that an entire panel of fat people can have their message dismissed in less than a minute by this (totally bullshit) derailment technique and the bigotry upon which it is built.

Their privilege can mean that they are listened to

In an ideal world people would listen to fat people about our experiences and what we think is best for us. But this isn’t an ideal world and sometimes people whose prejudices get in the way of hearing what fat people are telling them are able to process the information when they hear it from a thin person.

Is this incredibly frustrating? Yes. Is it totally bullshit? Yes. Is it theoretically how social justice is supposed to work?  No. Is it how it often works in real life?  Yes. And I’ll point out that good allies also center fat people’s voices and work as part of their ally work and/or to give people information for future study.

It’s just nice to have someone stick up for me

As a fat person I have had tons of bad experiences with fat phobia and fat bashing where other people either joined in or sat by and did nothing while I was forced to fend for myself. So it feels really nice when someone sticks up for me, even if they are doing it “imperfectly.”

This is especially true considering the difficulties and challenges that allies face:

They put themselves in harm’s way

The fat hate trolls who are always yammering on the periphery of fat activists also target our allies with the same range of cyberbullying to threats on health, safety, and family. Many fat people avoid activism to avoid dealing with this (which is a completely legitimate choice!) so when people open themselves up to this horrific treatment to help dismantle a system that actually privileges them, I appreciate that.

Many thin allies suffer professionally in terms of professional respect, accolades, and even promotions and pay.

They will never “do it right”

Fat community is not a monolith, and members of the community have very different ideas about our goals, and how we should accomplish them.  That means that every single thing someone does as an ally (including what they have been specifically asked to do by some fat activists) other people in fat community will disagree with.

Call Out Culture and Kick the Puppy Syndrome

The issue with never pleasing all the activists can become more difficult because of call out culture – where activists are often very quick to criticize someone doing what they see as imperfect ally work, sometimes harshly and very publicly.  And even though allies are theoretically supposed to roll with this form of education, in the real world it can definitely hurt, and it can definitely make someone less likely to do ally work.

This can be further intensified because our allies are around and open to listening to us, while the people who are actively and purposefully engaged in fat oppression are not around and are unwilling to listen to us. When we can’t take out our frustrations on our worst oppressors, we sometimes take them out on our best allies which makes them less likely to be allies and/or puts them in a state of paralysis where they are scared to make a mistake that will not only lead to public humiliation but, they fear, actually make things worse instead of better.

I’ve definitely been guilty of unnecessarily harshly calling people out, and taking out my frustrations on allies, and it has never benefited me or my activism.  The theoretical argument says that allies should just suck it up because they are not in as bad a position as fat people are, but I’m not sure that’s realistic or entirely fair, or helpful.

 

No cookie for you

There is a school of thought that allies shouldn’t be praised or rewarded for being allies because it’s what everyone should do.  This is often expressed as the idea that you don’t get a cookie for doing what’s right.

In terms of the way that I interact with allies, I disagree with this emphatically.  I think that even if it’s true theoretically, the reality is that it definitely isn’t what everyone does, and it’s difficult work with real negative consequences.

I also think it’s important to remember that allies don’t have to do this, they can stop at any time and their lives may well be better and easier for it, and often their ally work is about dismantling systems that are currently benefiting them.

So I don’t want to take allies for granted and I really appreciate people who take on ally work and I’m happy to give allies a cookie (though it will be store-bought because I can’t bake for shit.)

It doesn’t cost me anything to appreciate people, in fact it often makes me feel better to recognize people who are helping. And not for nothing but it’s certainly been my experience that giving positive feedback to my allies increases the likelihood of continued ally work (and shows other people that doing the right thing has benefits) which is something that ultimately benefits me and my work.

If You Are An Ally

Being an ally can be difficult, but that’s also part of the deal.  While I stand by everything I said, I also want to be clear that none of that is a “get out of jail free” card to not be constantly educating ourselves, centering the voices of the oppressed communities we are trying to work in solidarity with, doing our own research, trying to use incidents of being called out as educational opportunities, and trying to have compassion for people who are having a difficult time and taking their frustrations out on us.

So, for Say Something Sunday this week, I recommend you thank an ally! And if you are someone who is/wants to be an ally find a way to be an ally today – post something fat positive, challenge a fat phobic remark, spend some time researching questions you have about how to be an ally to fat activists. Speaking of research, if you want to hear a bunch of amazing speakers talk about fat activism from an intersectional perspective, then the Fat Activism Conference is for you!

REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE!

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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 July 24, 2016 at 9:36 am  Comments (9)  

Health, Confidence, and Worthiness

Nothing to proveThis piece is part of the awesome Body Confidence Blog Carnival that Victoria Welsby has created.  When I first suggested the topic, I was planning to write about it in the abstract but shit has, as they say, gotten real.

Two weeks ago I got sick with some kind of stomach virus.  Just as I started to feel a little better it was time to travel to a friend’s wedding (Mazel Tov y’all!) and I came home with a nasty cold/sinus thing that makes is hard for me to breathe, and makes me weak, tired and dizzy.

Normally this would just suck, but currently I’m in the last four months of a two year journey to complete an IRONMAN Triathlon, and so this has meant a bunch of missed or incomplete workouts, and workouts completed when I’m definitely far from at my best which is the last thing I need right now.  This is a journey that I started specifically because I’m not good at endurance athletics and I wanted to push outside my comfort zone. It’s not been an easy journey for me physically or emotionally and, as with nearly everything I do, it has been accompanied by daily bullying and harassment by internet trolls.

Earlier in my life this situation would have found me with my self-esteem down around my ankles. And in truth, I probably wouldn’t have even tried something like an IRONMAN because I tied my self-esteem and self-confidence to things like athletic success and the fear of failure (and all the subsequent troll rejoicing,) and how devastating that failure would be to my sense of self – might have stopped me before I started.

But on my journey to fat acceptance and body love I learned something that changed everything: I can love my body no matter what.  I can have high self-confidence no matter what. I can have high self-esteem no matter what.

It’s not magic, it’s been a long and difficult journey to get here because, like everyone, I grew up in a society that is steeped in sizeism, healthism and ableism (as well as racism, ageism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and more.)  A society that tries to tell us that we’re not inherently good enough or worthy, that we must always and forever be “proving ourselves,” including and especially if we are fat.  A society that tells us that we should judge ourselves and others based on things like body size and health and physical ability.

In fat activism community this is often called the “Good Fatty Bad Fatty Dichotomy” and it’s absolute crap, but I bought into it hard. I would say things like “I’m fat but I’m healthy, here are my numbers…” or “I’m fat, but I’m active” feeling like I was allowed to like myself “even though” I was fat, because I was “healthy,”  because I was achieving athletically.

This wasn’t about telling the truth about weight and health – which is important so that people can understand their options.  It was not about creating a space for fat people to have the right to choose to be involved in the fitness world without shaming, bullying, stigma, or harassment – which is also important because of the double-edged sword of being a fat athlete where some treat you better because you’re involved in fitness, and other people throw eggs at you.  This wasn’t about any of that, it was only about tying my self-confidence, my self-esteem, and my self-worth to outside achievement, and to things that weren’t entirely within my control. And that was a terrible idea.

The truth is that health is not an obligation, barometer or worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstance. The truth is that we should all have the opportunity, but never an obligation, to participate in fitness/athletics/movement at any level we choose. The truth is that we don’t have to make our self-confidence,  our self-esteem, or our self-worth  contingent on our health, our participation in fitness, or anything else. The truth is that the trolls can (and will) yammer on, but we don’t have to care what they say. The truth I realized for me is that I am the only person who can decide how I feel about myself and my body. The truth is that  we are worthy, no matter what.

REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE!

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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 July 23, 2016 at 11:42 am  Comments (5)  

Dieting Is Not the Same Thing As Brushing Your Teeth

facepalmThere are some things I can’t believe I have to say, and it appears that this is one of them. Yesterday I blogged about how my life changed after I found out that research shows that, while most people can lose weight short term, most people gain it all back (with the majority gaining back more than they lost) in the long term. Nearly every time I bring this up, I get comments like the one I received this morning:

shower, brush teeth, diet

Pictures shows a comment by “Barry” that says:

So why bother with anything? Why shower? Why brush your teeth? Eventually they’ll get dirty again, might as well just give up right?

My first thought is that if someone really can’t tell the difference between showering, brushing their teeth, and trying to manipulate their body size in a way that the research shows is nearly impossible and may harm your long term health, then I recommend they go ahead and stop showering and brushing their teeth and see if that helps them figure it out.

Seriously though, one of the things that holds a toxic, and sometimes deadly diet culture in place is the fact that people think giving your body so little fuel that (you hope) it will eat itself and become smaller, is roughly the same as brushing your teeth. That’s the world that diet culture has built.

Dieting can be a physically brutal, emotionally difficult, and expensive process that is often undertaken by those who have been misinformed – typically by the people selling the diet – about it’s likelihood of success either at making them thinner or healthier (which are two separate things,) and/or those who are trying to find a way out from under the soul-crushing horror of weight-based shaming, stigmatizing, bullying, harassment, and oppression that exists in our culture.

If we are to give fat people their rights to basic human respect, if we are to have any hope of a productive discussion about public health, then we have to stop normalizing dieting to the point that people consider attempts to manipulate our body size to be the same as basic hygiene.

REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE!

This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Check out the Body Confidence Blog Carnival! Eleven days of awesomeness

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 July 22, 2016 at 8:48 am  Comments (18)