Friday, 31 March 2017

Fat Activism – More Crucial Now Than Ever

The world is in a terrifying state, there’s no doubt about that.  With the USA imploding under the rule of The Great Orange Narcissist, fascism having gone mainstream globally, the UK opting for xenophobia and segregation from Europe, the mass Western rejection of our responsibility to assist people fleeing from harm and conservatives adopting The Handmaid’s Tale as some form of user manual, we live in very dark times.  There is no question about that.

However, I have heard some quarters saying that to continue the fight for fat liberation is somehow frivolous or irrelevant in the face of all of the other issues that are happening in the world.  This to me sounds exactly the same as those who decried “identity politics” after the US presidential election, blaming those of us who spoke up for the oppression of marginalised communities for somehow “alienating” voters who got tired of hearing about people who were different to themselves.  Which is utter bullshit.

Those people who were privileged enough not to have to worry about their human rights were never interested in voting for anyone but themselves in the first place.  That is the core of privilege – the ability to ignore issues that do not affect you directly.

Now more than ever, the focus of righting all the wrongs that are in the world has to be on people – human beings.  The right of human beings to live their lives in peace and with respect, without discrimination and vilification for their skin colour, race, religion, gender, sexuality, health and physical abilities, income level and indeed, bodies.  This includes climate change as well – the right of all human beings to have clean water and food now and into the future, not just the elite.

Unfortunately, marginalised people have been banging on about the issues around xenophobia and discrimination, which boils mostly down to white supremacist patriarchy, for all of history.  More recently, women and other marginalised people have been warning about the rise of violence towards them from the same sector of society that are now in power across the globe, only to be told that we’re over-sensitive, or that we’re making a mountain out of a molehill.  Well the mountain is now visible to the rest of you, just like we said it would be.  The mountain has always been there – many have just refused to look up and see it right in front of them.

How does fat liberation fall into this?  Now more than ever, it is important to keep up the fight about body autonomy, the dehumanisation of some people because of their bodies, and the basic human rights of all people regardless of their body size, shape, ability or arbitrary measure of “health”.  When it is already difficult for fat people to get adequate health care, then the fight for health care rights must highlight those who are already excluded, and not just those who are at risk of being excluded later.  When fat people face discrimination and lower wages in the workplace, then rights for those who are already discriminated against need to be at the forefront of  worker’s rights.  When fat people are denied bodily autonomy – the pressure to punish and reduce their bodies, lack of access to effective contraception, the overwhelming push to force fat children into harmful diets and fat people in general into gastric mutilation against their will – then the fight for bodily autonomy must focus on those who are at the highest risk of losing that autonomy.

By this same token, that goes for ALL marginalised people – when we fight for the rights of human beings, then we must put those who are the most oppressed at the top of the list of the people we are fighting for – not shove them down at the end like an addendum, a last thought if there is anything left after the “more important” white, male, able-bodied, thin, heterosexual, Christian, affluent cisgender have got their share.  The privileged are already getting the lion’s share of everything, first dibs at things that we should be able to find resources for all humans, not just the privileged.

Not to mention that across almost many marginalised identities, people of colour, poor people, disabled people, trans people, women and so on are more likely to be fat, AND they’re more likely to be further marginalised within their own communities.  Ask almost any fat woman who belongs to any other minority how her identities intersect and how she is treated within her own communities in her fat body, and see just how important it is to her that her fatness is included in the fight for her freedom.  Marginalisation is intersectional – a person is never just marginalised for one aspect of their lives when they fall into multiple minority categories.

In these times where hatred, greed and xenophobia are getting stronger and stronger, now more than ever we need to stand up for our rights as human beings, and for the rights of those who do not have access to the privileges that we access.


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A Portrait in Political Blindness

How is Middle Eastern terrorism born? The very, very basic formula is this: -Government undermines interests of the people, or another country attacks and invades, subjugating the people. -People slowly have their homes, property, jobs, and rights taken away, if they had any of those things to begin with. -Are poorly educated, if educated at […]

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For Skin Yeast Treatment - Anti-Microbial Silver Cloth

As part of my recent health crisis, I ended up in the hospital and was introduced to a new product that might help many people with the skin yeast issues.

The product is Anti-Microbial Silver Cloth - a moisture-wicking fabric impregnated with anti-microbial silver. The one that was recommended to us by a wound nurse is "InterDry" made by Coloplast. There might be other brands available.

It has been remarkably successful so far. It should not be used by people with a known sensitivity to silver.

I will give further information on it in the future and update the Skin Yeast Manifesto, but wanted to give another option to people now.

Best wishes for good skin health,
Kmom

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Blog Delay Due to Family Illness

Dear Readers,

You may have noticed an increase in the time between posts. We are experiencing a personal and family health crisis, and it will be a while before we have regular posts again.

We welcome prayers and well wishes, and will keep you updated as we can. My Blog is not ceasing to exist, it just needs to take a backseat for a little while.  People have visited this blog over 5 million times, and I am sure that we will have many more to come.

I have many more posts planned, and will get to them as recovery allows.  Comments will remain open by approval, and we will check them periodically.  I appreciate all good wishes.

Peace, blessings and good health to all.

Kmom



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Thursday, 30 March 2017

Anyone have $13,000 I can borrow?

I just can't even.

#studentloans



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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Finally a Fat Positive Salon

Actual SizeAs I wrote about recently, going to a salon – whether it’s for mani/pedi’s, a haircut, or special occasion make-up – can be a terrible experience for fat people. From worrying whether the salon had the sense to purchase chairs that accommodate us, to worrying that the person treating us will be a massive fatphobe who will ruin what should be a lovely moment of self-care (raise your hand if you’ve had a hair stylist or makeup artist suggest something to you because it will be “slimming” or argue about your request because it won’t be “slimming,”) to patrons (or even stylists/technicians) who look at us like they’re going to catch fat from getting a brow wax in the same place as us, there are lots of ways that this can go wrong.

Enter Babydoll Beauty Couture salon.  A salon by plus size people, for plus size people. The stylists themselves can recall “being turned away from a nail salon because of fears she would break their chair, the awkward maneuvering to fit her thighs into a standard salon chair and many furtive glances from others.” They also discuss having been discriminated against by employers who, it seems, were more interested in the stereotype of beauty than skills and experience.

After having been the victim of a weak chair in a salon, Jamie Lopez had sworn off salons altogether. She decided that fat women deserved better from their salon experience. Her salon, Babydoll Beauty Couture, is giving fat women in Vegas the experience we deserve. A waxing bench and salon chairs that support up to 800 pounds, stylists who are excited to be there and excited to serve fat folks.  If you find yourself in the Vegas area, stop by for a well-deserved treat – they are happy to work with people of all sizes!

For now, you can check out their video!

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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!

In training for an IRONMAN triathlon.  If you’re interested, you can find my training blog here

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



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Sunday, 26 March 2017

Jesus Wept

This past week, a US airstrike in Iraq killed over 200 civilians. While the US military says that the rules of engagement have not changed, it seems a rather suspicious coincidence that the civilian death toll skyrockets just after President “You have to go after their families” Trump takes power. Particularly when Iraqi special forces told the New York Times that “there had been a noticeable relaxing of the coalition’s rules of engagement since President Trump took office” and that it’s become much easier to call in airstrikes.

There are no easy answers, and I don’t want to armchair quarterback a war when I myself have no tactical expertise whatsoever. But I know without a doubt that we have to give a damn about civilian casualties. If the simple fact that they’re precious human beings who don’t deserve to die alone in the dark doesn’t do it, the fact that it gives civilians in ISIS controlled areas more reason to hate the US and the new Iraqi government should.




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Christianity, Relevance, and No True Scotsman

Let’s Stop Pretending Christianity Is Actually Relevant, Okay?, despite a pretty clickbaity title, is a very good article. The author laments that so many Christians have become so focused on keeping out refugees, plastering the Ten Commandments on everything, and keeping the legal definition of marriage tied to their particular religious definition. All of this at the expense of loving your neighbor and doing unto others as you’d have them do unto you.  I share his frustration with some Christians’ total inability to grasp the concept of freedom of religion.  The money quote is:

It’s a strange practice to ask people who don’t hold the same beliefs as you to conform to your morals because you quoted a book they don’t read.

He gets into the history of Christianity, talking about how in the early church, Christianity was about radical love and inclusion. Church funds were used to free slaves, women were treated as equals, the poor and the sick and the dying were cared for.  I think every progressive Christian on the planet, myself included, wants to go back to that as the core definition of Christianity, especially if it doesn’t come with a side of being thrown to the lions. (Actual lions that eat you, not fake lions who require public businesses to serve the public or courthouses to refrain from endorsing a specific religion).

He also talks about the amount of freaking out that Christians are doing because of the church’s loss of influence:

much like a parasite trying to reconnect to its host for fear of dying, many Christians are thrashing about trying to create waves and convince people they are relevant within our culture

But there are two major places where I think this article misses the mark.  The first is that he drastically underestimates the amount of power and influence traditional Christianity still has in the United States.  Evangelical Christians elected Donald Trump. They had help from epic levels of misogyny (which that form of Christianity supports and promotes), Russian hackers, and the FBI, but that demographic was crucial in the last election. The majority of public officials at any level are still Christian, and even though the ACLU keeps fighting it, plenty of public schools, courthouses, and government buildings prominently post the Ten Commandments or other Christian messages. In large portions of the country, it’s perfectly legal to be fired from your job for being gay or trans. There are plenty of places where not going to church or not being a Christian puts you in real danger. It may not technically be legal to fire someone over their religion or decide a court case against them because they’re not a Christian, but it happens.  Hell, Alabama took *years* to actually protect kids from violent abuse because the abuse was “Christian” in nature.

I think the author makes too much of a poll stating that only 18% of millennials view Christianity as relevant.  In 20 or 30 years, when most positions of power are held by millennials, that will make more of a difference.  Right now, the average age of members of the House is 57, while the average senator is 61. For incoming S&P 500 CEOs, the average age was 53 in 201. At age 35, I’m either an old Millennial or a young Gen Xer, and I’m just barely old enough to run for President. If you take the later cut-off for the millennial generation and include birthdates in the early 2000s, not all of the millennial generation can even *vote* yet.  So, “relevant to millennials” and “wields significant political and cultural power” are not at all synonymous.

But it’s the second error that I think is worse.  The author longs for Christianity to lose its political power because he hopes that this will get rid of “cultural converts.”

Everyone is a Christian because they grew up in Texas. Or they go to church. Or their mom and dad raised them that way. Hell, according to the U.S. census 70% of Americans identify as “Christian.” But the vast majority of those responses are nothing more than cultural identification, not Christianity. I imagine that’s why so many people despise Christians. Their belief is cultural, and no one intends to follow the man they claim governs their life, so we end up this giant homogenous blob of hypocrites that judge and condemn people, instead of looking like they did in 165 AD. Instead of rushing to the aid of others, or paying for pagan burials like our ancestors did, we have half-hearted followers who run rampant through the streets of social media pointing the finger to everyone except themselves.

The problem with the “homogenous blob of hypocrites” is not that they’re “half-hearted” or “cultural converts.”  Nobody with lukewarm faith opens up a camp to preach and pray gay teenagers straight.  Nobody who’s halfhearted about their beliefs drives a giant bus around the country proclaiming that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina. Nobody who only goes to church out of habit showed up at Franklin Graham’s Donald Trump Is Our New Messiah Tour Decision America Tour and prayed fervently for God to put Donald Trump in the White House.

Here’s another example of judgmental Christianity being anything but half-hearted. Last week, there was a board meeting for my local library to discuss a controversial sex ed program. Controversial in that it teaches safer sex and acknowledges that gay and trans people exist. There were speakers from Together We Will, Planned Parenthood, and the LGBTQ community.  And there was a random guy sprinkling holy water on those speakers without their permission.  Yes, someone actually thought that wanting kids to get accurate sex ed indicated a need for divine guidance, or maybe an exorcism.  Fortunately, the guy was asked to leave. Unfortunately, the religious zealots won, and there will be no sex ed at the library. Holy Water Guy was the most blatant zealot, but nobody who took time out of their busy lives to make sure kids didn’t get sex ed because it’s against *their* religion did so out of lukewarm religion.

If anything, toxic and destructive Christianity suffers from an excess of conviction rather than a lack of it. The focus on faith as the only important virtue pushes people toward dogma and makes it hard for them to question what they’ve been taught.

I sympathize with the desire to paint theological opponents as half-hearted or insincere, because it’s hard to make sense of the alternative.  When you can’t fathom how someone could read the same Bible you have, adhere to the same core beliefs as you do, and have such differing outlooks on absolutely everything, it’s tempting to assume that they didn’t actually do the reading. Or they haven’t really thought about it.  But that’s the same  tired argument that gets lobbed at progressive Christians all the time: “If you read your Bible, you’d be a Republican” or “If you really pray about it, God will show you that being gay is a sin.”  The assumption of thoughtless superficiality isn’t any more correct when we lob it at conservative Christians then when it gets thrown at us.

Labeling the ugly side of Christianity as lukewarm, half-hearted Christians is also a textbook example of the No True Scotsman fallacy.  If we can separate “them” from “us” then we don’t have to wrestle with tough questions about our own beliefs, and we don’t have to take responsibility, as a part of the whole church, for the damage caused by Christianity. It also makes it easy to ignore or dismiss abuses in our own churches. If “we” are sincere and “they” are half-hearted, then “we” couldn’t possibly enable abusive pastors or ignore racism or contribute to injustice.

As difficult as it is, we have to acknowledge that Christianity–specifically Republican evangelical Christianity–still holds a huge amount of power in the United States, and that isn’t changing any time soon. We also have to acknowledge that this kind of Christianity is adhered to by believers no less sincere or committed than we are–probably moreso if you look at church attendance numbers. We can’t hide behind the idea that they’re not real Christians.

 




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Got Fat Arms? Big Hands? Have I Got Something for You!

Heya peeps!  Yeah I’m still here, I’ve got a bunch of posts I’m working on at the moment, now that I’ve finished a big project in my day job and can breathe a bit again.

Today I want to tell you all about an amazing small business right here in Australia that serves we fatties like no other I can find.  When I was in Melbourne last year, I got to meet the gorgeous purveyors of plus-size arm candy (no, sadly they’re not procuring hot chunky dates for us), the babes from Ample Armoury.  I bought a couple of very cute second hand dresses from their stall at the A+ Markets but alas I was on a budget at the time and wasn’t able to buy any of their gorgeous plus-size bangles.  I have however been watching them via their Instagram account and have been plotting and planning for what ones I would buy when I have some dosh again.

                                                                       
The two super cute dresses I bought from them.

Imagine my delight a short while ago when I found out I was the winner of their Instagram competition!  Now while I’ve been away working on a big day job project, I wasn’t able to collect my mail, but I finally got to the post office last week and there was a lovely package waiting from them.  They sent me four bangles – two chunky matte ones, two narrow glossy ones.

The light in Le Bon Choix at Paddington is gorgeous for photographs.

 

Jazzing up my cupcake dress.

I can tell you, not only do these bangles fit my chunky arms beautifully, they’re SO comfortable to wear, light but still have that satisfying clatter when you move them together.  Yes, I firmly believe that the best jewellery and accessories are noisy ones.  I like to jangle, baby.

These bangles are generous on me and go over my hand with ease – though I will point out that I do have rather small hands compared to the rest of my glorious fat body.  You can check out their sizing and buy some pretties for yourself on their Etsy store.  I do believe they do custom orders from time to time, but they’re in hiatus from those at the moment.

As well as these bangles, they also sent me THE MOST ADORABLE fat lady brooch.  I mean seriously, check it out:

SHE LOOKS LIKE ME!!

How cute is that?!  So if you find regular bangles are too small for you, or you want a fabulous fat lady brooch like this one, check out Ample Armoury.  They can be found at the A+ Markets in Melbourne when they are on, or again, check out their Etsy Store and watch their Instagram and Facebook for other sales and events.

Here, have another photo of them on my arm, along with my FABULOUS nails by Cara at Kawaii Klaws.

 

As always, I do not run advertising on Fat Heffalump, but if you would like to support me and enable me to expand on my activism work, you can do so by donating here.

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Thursday, 23 March 2017

the HAES® files: A Fat Runner’s Path to Intuitive Exercise

by Lindsey Schuhmacher, MA

I like to run. I like the sharp, morning air in my lungs. I like when my breath finds its rhythm and all of a sudden it doesn’t feel like work anymore. I like how alive I feel afterwards, with fresh ideas swarming in my head and optimism lightening my step. It hasn’t always been this way. Like many people with disordered eating and exercise backgrounds, my relationship with running wasn’t always so simple.

I am fat. I have always been or identified as some form of fat. Even during the times when my weight dipped low enough to be at the high end of the “normal” range of the BMI, I felt fat. That is because I have grown up in a culture with an “ideal” image of health and beauty that I can never attain. The strange part is that I was at my least healthy, physically and psychologically, when I approached the ideal most closely and would regularly receive compliments about my looks and health. I was also repeatedly asked for advice about how other people could get to where I was. Looking back, I feel sad for myself and for those who wanted to emulate my negative behaviors.

In the beginning, I saw running as a way to lose weight. I thought if I just ran far enough, fast enough, often enough, that I would eventually become thin. It started in the seventh grade, when my family was struggling with poverty and substance abuse issues. I would go for long runs with my Walkman, blasting Janis Joplin’s “Another Piece of My Heart.” I was running away from my circumstances and myself.

As things got worse around me, and my family was living in a shelter, I joined the track team at my Junior High School. Every day I would run and run around the track, and walk several miles back to the shelter. It kept me away from a place I associated with shame and failure, and it began to shrink my body. It gave me a feeling of control when everything else felt like chaos. I didn’t know that I was setting myself up for a future of feeling more out of control than ever. Even worse, our culture values weight loss to such an extent that no one around me questioned my rapid weight loss or thought to check that everything was okay at home.

By the time I started college, I had already been through a few rounds of weight cycling – losing weight only to regain it and then double my efforts to lose it again. As a first generation college student entering a small, private, liberal arts college, my self-esteem was already in peril. Add to that having to eat every meal in a public space, where I felt that my body and food choices were a spectacle, and it didn’t take long before I embarked on another “body project.”

My college was tucked in the mountains, with a dirt track adjacent to the property. Running on that track every day was invigorating. It provided a break from feeling overly visible and different.  Unfortunately, it also enabled me to fall back into tired, old habits that felt new and healthy because once again, my body began to shrink. People began to notice how “good” I looked. I was asked for diet and exercise advice. I felt qualified to dole it out, too. After all, I had “achieved” a physique closer to the “ideal.” I did not consider how unhealthy the habits needed to acquire it were, and I did not imagine that others who embarked on the same regimen might not lose any weight. I certainly never imagined a future where I would enjoy running even if it didn’t lead to a single pound of weight loss.

But here I am. In the years since losing weight in college, I have gained, lost, gained, lost, and gained weight again. Each time I attempted to lose weight, it became harder and harder. Eventually, I stopped losing weight no matter what I did, including running. What had been my go-to method of shrinking had stopped working. At first I thought something was wrong with me, but then I discovered Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight, and began my journey down the long, twisting road to body positivity. It turns out that there was nothing wrong with me. There was something wrong with the idea that my body wasn’t okay to begin with.

These days I run because it feels good. I don’t worry if I have to miss a day because of weather, a sick kid, or if I just don’t feel like going. Occasionally, I wonder what the other runners think of me. Once I was running with my son in a jogging stroller, and a thin woman called out to me, “You’re awesome!”

“Thanks! You’re awesome, too!” I replied.

I don’t know if she thought I was awesome because I was out there trying to lose the baby weight (I sure hope not, because I wasn’t), or if she thought I was awesome because I was out there modeling the joy of moving my body, even if it doesn’t fit the conventional ideal, for my son. I sure hope so, because I was.

My life has changed in many ways since those first experiences running in junior high. Today, I am privileged to live across the street from a track. I am healed enough to continue to run, knowing that it won’t change the way my body looks, but that it increases my health and happiness. My two kids will grow up knowing what it means that mom has gone out to “exercise.” They will see my fat body as capable, strong, and resilient. That, to me, is awesome.

 


Lindsey Schuhmacher is an aspiring writer and an English and Humanities Instructor. She teaches the Portland State University capstone “Every Body Matters: Embracing Size Diversity,” a service learning course that looks closely at size discrimination and public health issues surrounding fat phobia. She is passionate about promoting body positivity and the principles of the Health at Every Size™ (HAES) paradigm. Lindsey also teaches English at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. Her academic interests involve writing, children’s literature, science fiction, rhetoric, philosophy, food studies, and fat studies. Lindsey has a B.S. in Philosophy, an M.A. in English, and is completing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and a Health Studies Focus Award.



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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

100 Fat Activists #24: Fat Lip Reader's Theater

Still from Throwing Our Weight Around
When I started writing this post I was annoyed with myself for not knowing more about Fat Lip than I do. I found out about Fat Lip through Radiance magazine, more about that later. I rationalised that this group was active largely pre-internet, that knowing more about them at the time would have meant sending off for a video from the US and having the equipment to view it in the UK. At the time these resources were beyond me.

Then I found some notes for my PhD, later my book, hidden in a folder on my computer. Apparently I know more than I think I do! This knowledge came from a series of visits to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco in 2010, where I sifted through Judy Freespirit's collection, which is held there. During these visits I also sat and watched the Fat Lip video, Throwing Our Weight Around, a series of skits, monologues and poems.

A Reader's Theatre is a means of making theatre with few resources. Fat Lip Readers Theater was a theatre by and for fat women that used fat feminism to discuss everyday joys and hassles. Fat Lip is important because it shows how culture-building is essential to political activism, it is activism.

As I understand it, Fat Lip Reader's Theater had a relationship to a show or a dance group called Fat Chance, made or performed by Judy Freespirit, perhaps others too. Yes, my details are sketchy. They were active in Oakland around 1981 or 85, had a ten year anniversary show in 1991, and reformed in 2004 for a reunion show "after a seven year hiatus", according to Big Moves, with additional performances by some Big Moves dancers. Freespirit's papers state that Fat Lip was part of the Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective based at The San Francisco Women's Building. As well as Throwing Our Weight Around, they also released Nothing To Lose through Wolfe Video in 1989.
"Our 30 minute video includes the words and experiences of 16 fat, feisty women, speaking, acting and singing about being fat in America in the 80s. Scenes, dialogues, snappy answers to street taunts, poetry, song and more will provoke you to laughter, tears, and anger. Our message is fat positive and challenges the diet-obsessed, fat-hating culture we live in. We present it as an entertaining antidote to everyday life in America."

An early-internet listserv from 1995 describes Fat Lip as a group that toured the US and performed at lesbian and feminist gatherings. By this time they had a mission statement:

Questions from Fat Lip Workshop 1987
"Our mission is to end fat oppression and promote size acceptance through education and theatrical performance. We are a collective of fat women who present exciting, dynamic, theatrical performances about what it's really like to be a fat woman in today's society. We also offer educational workshops and in-service trainings for organization and community groups."

Other flyers and papers stated:

Fat Lip is "a collective of fourteen fat feisty women from the San Francisco Bay Area. We come together from varied backgrounds and are not afraid or ashamed of the way that we look or what we need to say."

"Our task is to say: 'Here we are. Deal with us. We are not going to hate ourselves if we get bigger and we're not going to like ourselves more if we get smaller. We like ourselves now. We are not going to put our lives on hold one minute longer.'"

The most significant documentation of Fat Lip in Freespirit's collection relates to Still Fat After All These Years!, their tenth anniversary show, performed at the Women's Building on 18 May 1991. A flyer gives some idea of what the night was like: there was non-alcoholic bar to benefit Making Waves (the fat swim); a dance after show; you could buy Fat Lip t-shirts; child care was available and the event was sign language interpreted, wheelchair accessible, with no scents or perfumes. There was a sliding scale for entrance and no one was turned away for lack of funds. The programme notes attest to a marathon evening of 54 acts and skits with an intermission and an MC! Nancy Thomas wrote this for the event:

F is For... by Nancy Thomas

F is for the fine, fat friends it gave me
A is for the audience applause
T is for the theatres we've played in
L is for loving women, which we are
I is for the images we're changing
P is for the politics we hold
Put them all together they spell FAT LIP
A group that's worth its weight in gold
And this year we are ten years old

Sadly Freespirit could not attend, she sent love and support in a note and added that because the Women's Building had been recently repainted "Some of us with environmental sensitivities will be here tonight in spirit only."

Photo by Cathy Cade
I don't know what happened to Fat Lip. There were attempts to expand and recruit new members, they were looking for "women who are somewhat familiar with the fat liberation concept, have a bit of ham in you, or want to develop new skills and confidence". They worked with a collective structure and decision-making by consensus. But the last paper in the box is a call for donations: "To put it bluntly, it has been a hand to mouth proposition". I suspect that behind the applause was a lot of hard graft and that as lives carried on something had to give. But the shows and videos were only part of what the group achieved, the women met without fail every week for over a decade, which suggests that Fat Lip was critical in establishing a fat feminist community and developing feminist analyses of fat oppression.

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Fat Bias at the Red Cross

Do Bettter Red CrossI received the following e-mail today:

I am so angry about this and I’m hoping you can get the word out and maybe stop this from happening to someone else.  Donating blood has always been a really big deal to me – I’m a “universal donor” and even though the homophobic rules about blood donation piss me off, this is a chance that I have to possibly save someone’s life (and I’ve researched and it seems like the Red Cross doesn’t make the rules and there isn’t anyone who takes blood that doesn’t have those rules.)

After exchanging several e-mails to make sure that they could accommodate me, I headed to the Red Cross today. I had chosen to donate platelets because they are always in need of them and people are less likely to donate them because it takes two hours, and they aren’t stable like blood so they are only good for five days.

As I went in the guy at the front desk showed me his Bandaids from where he had just donated and he told me how happy and appreciative they were that I was also donating platelets because they were so low that a few days ago they had to suspend surgeries because they literally ran out.

I had filled out their “fast pass” form so that they didn’t have to go through all the personal questions, they just needed to test my blood for iron deficiency  and then they could get to the donation.  I’ve donated platelets a lot of times so I know the drill, I just hadn’t been to this location before since I moved her pretty recently.

They took me back to the “intake rooms.” On the way we passed the place where I would donate and, as they had told me, the chairs had arms but they were able to swivel so the chairs would absolutely accommodate me.

Then I saw the intake rooms.  They were four VERY small rooms (the size of the bathroom in my apartment) and they included a big desk and chair for the Red Cross employee which took up most of the room. While there was an armless chair, it was wedged between the wall and the desk so that there was about the space of a plane seat left, and it was very obvious that there was no way I could fit.

I pointed out to the woman that I couldn’t fit in the room and she just said “we have to close the door for your privacy.”  I said that I was ok leaving the door open.  She said that she had to get her supervisor. As she went I looked around and the place was huge, there were lots of places that we could go that we would have been out of anyone else’s earshot, I figured this would be no problem.

The supervisor then came up and very curtly said “we can’t move the furniture.”  I blinked a couple of times, taken aback by how rude she was, and then said “Okay, can we just leave the door open?”  She said – again very curtly –  “No, you need your privacy.” They were both staring at me like I had two heads, mouths agape, looking very uncomfortable so I said “So do you just want me to leave?” and she said “We can’t move the furniture.”  So I just left and, sadly, took my literally life-saving platelets with me. It was so upsetting – they should have created spaces that accommodated fat people to begin with, but still this was a solve-able problem if they had just gotten over themselves.

There are so many things wrong with this, but I’ll try to narrow it down to the two most egregious.

First, they didn’t anticipate that larger people would want to donate blood?  If it was my job to convince people to let me take their blood to save the lives of others (especially when a quick google search finds all kinds of “emergency” requests for platelets), I would make sure that I was as accommodating as I could possibly be to as many people as possible.

Second, say it with me, fat people are more important than furniture.  Obviously the supervisor should have come out apologizing – maybe something like “I’m so sorry for all of this, we should have been more prepared.  Do you mind if we figure this out together ” rather than “We can’t move the furniture.”  But as long as she opened up with that – why can’t they move the furniture?  Maybe it’s bolted down, but if not then let’s move the damn furniture and accommodate the human being in front of us.

Fat people exist.  If you are involved in an organization like the Red Cross, you are going to interact with fat people and you owe it to them to, at the very least, learn to cover up your fat bias and, even better, address and overcome it. If you are responsible for a room/building that is used by the public consider taking some time today to look around and see if your space accommodates fat people – are there armless chairs and/or loveseats, benches and other accommodating seating? Do you have adequate space in rooms that fat people may be asked to use?  How could you be more welcoming and accommodating to fat people?

In the meantime, the e-mail’s author gave me the information about the Red Cross location she visited, so I’ll be contacting them tomorrow to offer to help them learn how to work appropriately and respectfully with fat people. If there’s something that you’d like them to hear please leave your thoughts in the comments and I’ll pass them along.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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!

In training for an IRONMAN triathlon.  If you’re interested, you can find my training blog here

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Charging Fat Folks Extra for a Pedicure?

A nail salon is accused of trying to charge people more for a pedicure based on their weight:

Pedicure

Sign reads: “Sorry. but if you are overweight, pedicures will be $45 due to service fees for pedicurists Thank you!”

It’s the exclamation point after “Thank you” that really activates my throat punch reflex.

Now, I say that they are “accused” because even though Deshania Ferguson was at Rose Nails in the Frayser Plaza Shopping Center in Memphis, Tennessee and took the picture, and even though background in pictures of the sign perfectly match the floors, walls, and chairs in the salon, the owner swears that the sign wasn’t put up at his shop and he says that “There are the same walls and floors everywhere, it could be anywhere.”  He did say that he had thought about it because fat people are difficult for the nail techs and he had two $2,500 chairs break.  But, he definitely didn’t put up the sign.  Right, sure,  so let’s just deal with this hypothetically.

A salon that did this wouldn’t be the first, in fact I’ve blogged about this before, but let’s go through it again. As the 300-ish pound recipient of many a pedicure, who has gotten pedicures with people heavier than I, neither I nor my friends have ever had a problem with techs or chairs, but I did some research just to be sure that mine was not an outlier experience.

According to several sources the average weight limit is 300lbs but that is a low number in the owner’s manual meant to decrease liability exposure for the chair manufacturer, and the chair will actually hold much more weight.  (There are some who claim that the chairs in the salon in question are more than 10 years old and that’s why they broke but, again, there’s no proof.)  But if, hypothetically, a salon was charging fat people $15 more for a pedicure for chair breakage, and the chairs are $2,500, then they betting the the chair will only break with every 166.6th customer over 300 pounds which doesn’t really make sense – either they think fatties will break the chair or not.  And if they are charging the fee to those under 300 pounds then that’s indefensible since the chairs were designed to accommodate them.

But wait, despite the owner bringing up broken chairs, the sign doesn’t say anything about the chairs – it just says that it’s for “service fees for pedicurists.”  Alright – the idea that fat people feet somehow warrant an extra $15 charge is bullshit, including and especially when the sign makes absolutely no designation of what they are defining as “overweight.” Do you have to go in and get eyeballed by an employee?  When you walk in do they tell you to pick a color and step on the scale? This is seriously screwed up.

Obviously, fat people who want to engage in activism (and avoid over-priced pedicures) will avoid this place a salon that would do this.  But this is where the thin allies can shine. Maybe these places can survive without fat customers – but they can’t survive without any customers.  A big part of ally work is refusing to give our money to companies that don’t give other people the same experience that we get.  So I’d like to see my not-fat pedicure procuring friends head to salons that don’t charge a fat fee.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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!

In training for an IRONMAN triathlon.  If you’re interested, you can find my training blog here

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

 

 



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I have such exciting news to share – I am going to Europe! That’s right, from July 2017- Jan 218, I will be based at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit├Ąt in Munich, Germany.

I am so very excited about this opportunity to work with Fat Studies scholars and fat activists across Europe; it’s like a dream come true.

I’m also hoping I’ll be invited to do seminars, like “Not your good fatty” and “Fat pedagogies in practice”, and workshops, like “Body politics, ethics, and you” and “Using social media to promote your research”, across Europe.

You can find out more about my work and the kinds of seminars and workshops on offer in this document: Paus├ęC Flyer 2017

If you’re located in Europe – and want to get together to collaborate on research, run a day long Fat Studies symposium, host a one-off fat activism event, or just share a good meal, please get in contact with me and let me know! You can find me on Twitter at @FOMNZ, Facebook at Friend of Marilyn, or you can email me at friendofmarilyn@aol.com



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Monday, 20 March 2017

When someone says, “I can’t eat that,” believe them.

This thread on the ridiculous harmfulness of moralizing about food is a good read. It starts with the ludicrousness of mocking Trump for ordering his steak well-done and branches out into how harmful it is to be that rigid about the “right” way to prepare a certain food, other people’s allergies or intolerances be damned.

This needs to be shouted from the rooftops, because way too many people apparently think it’s okay to ignore allergies or intolerances, or give people grief about having them.

Just today, I heard yet another story that proves the same point.  Kid is lactose intolerant, and has gotten soy formula all through infancy.  Grandmother, who occasionally watches Kid, does not believe this, and gives Kid cheese, milk, and pudding.  As a result, Kid has lots of diarrhea.  Because Kid is a toddler who wears diapers, said diarrhea causes two urinary tract infections.

Not only are urinary tract infections miserable in and of themselves, but having two urinary tract infections so close together made doctors suspect kidney issues, so the kid had to have testing done to rule that out.

Hearing this made me pretty angry, because the idea of a little kid suffering because someone could not be bothered to take their food issues seriously just bothers me on a fundamental level.

So, let me amplify this yet again, because it apparently cannot be said enough. If someone tells you they cannot eat a food, do not serve them that food.  If they tell you their kid cannot eat a food, do not serve the kid that food. Period. Whether you believe them or not, whether you like their reasons or not.




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Saturday, 18 March 2017

Not So Much “Bitchy” As Fat Shaming

facepalmReader Natasha let me know about a post from “The Bitchy Pundit” on Facebook that talked about a donald supporter who thinks that the Republican Insurance Plan (RIP) is what lowered her insurance premiums -despite the fact that it hasn’t been passed yet. The woman is massively misinformed. She is also fat and that’s where our problem begins.

“The Bitchy Pundit” published the following commentary:

Let me just share a short list of the stupid that this woman has demonstrated, in expressing her belief that Trumpcare lowered her health care costs.

-There’s the obvious stupidity of not knowing that Trumpcare isn’t a thing yet, and her lack of interest in keeping herself up to speed on these things, while still maintaining her desire to have opinions.

– There’s the fact that she’s a VERY religious woman who voted for a pussy grabbing adulterer who has fathered children by 3 different women (just like Jesus would have done). 

– And then there’s her weight. Lord knows I’m not one to fat shame (I’ve been in and out of “fat” my whole life), but this stupid twit voted for someone on the basis of the fact that he was going to get rid of the eye-legals who were taking stuff from HER, but she’s happy to let other people pay for her lack of desire to get on a treadmill 4- 5 days a week.

Is there anything about this woman that isn’t hypocritical or downright embarrassing?

People were on top of this immediately.  Pointing out that saying you’re not a fat shamer doesn’t mean anything if the next thing you do is fat shame. Pointing out that the idea that “fat” = “doesn’t exercise” = “costs other people money” is a tired mix of stereotypes, bad math, sizeism and healthism. Pointing out that using “stupid” is ableist, and making fun of people’s accents is classist, and that this is a hot mess that completely undermines any legitimate point that her post was making.

So she admitted that she had been wrong, changed the post to remove the ableist, sizeist, and classist elements, and thanked everyone for taking the time to educate her.

JUST KIDDING!  She doubled down:

You missed the point entirely: The point is that these people who spend all of their time thinking about how OTHERS impact THEM, spend NO time thinking about how they impact others.

Yeah, re-engaging in stereotypes doesn’t really strengthen your point.

Then she pivoted to this:

Did I say lazy? The fact of the matter is, that when I spend time exercising, I lose weight and avoid being fat. When I don’t, I get fat. That’s just a fact of life. The point is that these people who spend all of their time thinking about how OTHERS impact THEM, spend NO time thinking about how they impact others

Ugh.  While weight cycling (aka yo-yo dieting) is a fact of dieting, the idea that people can control their size is not a fact of life. It’s a myth, the repeating of which makes her look just as ignorant as the woman she is criticizing.  People are lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons. There are fat people who exercise a lot and thin people who don’t exercise at all, and as long as they are exercising as much as they want to (rather than being forced to exercise, or exercising because they have been lied to and believe it will make them thin ) then that’s just fine.  Nobody owes anybody else “health” or “healthy habits” by any definition.   This is cheap stereotyping combined with sizeism and healthism, and a lack of understanding of the extrapolability of an n-1 experiment, and nothing more.

People hopped on with similar justifications but this one stood out to me as particularly harmful:

She is called the BITCHY pundit. Normally I’d agree, but that’s a part of the persona.

So if I call myself “bitchy” that’s a free pass to engage in stereotyping and oppression? I think not. This is the same bullshit that people try to use when they throw the term “politically correct” around as if couching treating people with basic human respect as being “politically correct” magically makes it ok to treat people like shit.  No.  Just no.

So you know that I wasn’t going to let this go by, I left the following comment:

I’m sure you like to think of yourself as “bitchy” but what you actually are here is just another shitty sizeist – stigmatizing, stereotyping, and engaging in appearance-based bullying. If you aren’t able to make a cogent argument without engaging in oppressive behavior and/or if you’re not able to see your mistakes and learn from them, then I’m sure there’s a place for you in donald’s White House, but I think you can – and should – do much better than this.

So get your shit together and just apologize for fat shaming (Pro-tip – if you have to say you’re not fat shaming right before you do it, you’re probably fat shaming. And if the Lord thinks you’re not one to fat shame, then they haven’t read this yet.) Stop fat-shaming immediately (which will keep you from having to make all those pesky declarations about how you’re not doing it) and while you’re at it stop using ableist terms (like stupid”)

It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s the right thing to do. It differentiates you from the horror of a human being in the presidency who acts exactly like you’re acting right now. So just do it. Messing up sucks, we’ve all done it, saying you were wrong is difficult but I believe that you can rise to the occasion.

Stigmatizing, stereotyping and oppression by any other name would still be bullshit, so call yourself “bitchy” or “politically incorrect,” call yourself whatever you want – it does not and will never justify oppression.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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!

In training for an IRONMAN triathlon.  If you’re interested, you can find my training blog here

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

 

 



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Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Truth About Weight Loss Surgery

TRUTHIn the past couple of weeks, I have heard from the friends or family of three different people — all with very similar stories:

They were a member of Size Acceptance community who had made the decision to have weight loss surgery. They didn’t care about being “skinny,” they just wanted to cure their Type 2 Diabetes, or fit on a roller coaster, or shop for clothes in stores instead of online, or get married. Their doctors told them that surgery would help all of that, so they had surgery.

And now, all three of these people have died from complications from the surgery. Now, instead of riding a roller coaster with their mother, a woman’s kids will grow up without her. Instead of shopping for clothes at the mall with her friends, they had to shop for black dresses for her funeral. And instead of having to manage Type 2 Diabetes (something that thin people also do), a woman left her life unfinished and her husband a widower.

And their family and friends contacted me to ask that I tell the truth about weight-loss surgery, so that their deaths won’t be in vain.

People are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, regardless of the reason or risk.  That doesn’t change the truth about weight loss surgery: some people are happy with the outcome, some people have horrific lifelong side-effects, some people regain their weight but keep their horrific lifelong side effects, and some people die. And there’s no way to know which group you are going to be in until you are in it.

You can read my full piece about this here.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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!

In training for an IRONMAN triathlon.  If you’re interested, you can find my training blog here

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

 

 



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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

100 Fat Activists #23: Rotunda Press

I've written a little about Rotunda elsewhere, but want to reiterate it here because it fits nicely in this recent flurry of posts about fat feminism in the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Of course I can't talk about Rotunda without also mentioning Shadow on a Tightrope.

Shadow on a Tightrope, the book that made me fat

Though it came and went, the idea of a fat feminist publishing house remains tantalising. Could it happen again?

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Children’s Book Teaches Fat Shaming – Sign the Petition

Angry FrustratedAre you looking for a book to introduce kids as young as 4 years old to size-based stereotypes and bigotry? Then you’re in luck (and also a monster – seriously, pull it together this is a terrible idea) “Don’t Call Me Fat!: A First Look at Being Overweight” is there to make sure that kids enter kindergarten fully ready to stereotype and bully fat kids. 

Let’s start with the title, which could be re-written “Don’t use an accurate adjective to describe my body, use a word that pathologizes me based on how I look instead.” This is severely messed up.  We’ve talked before about the danger of trying to make “fat” the Voldemort of adjectives (that which must not be named) since fat people are fat whether we call ourselves that or not, and pathologizing bodies based on their size has all kinds of negative consequences when it comes to getting evidence-based medical care.

We need look no further than the cover for the stereotypefest to begin. A sad fat girl stares longingly at the cupcakes at a birthday party while all the thin kids play behind her, completely oblivious to the table ‘o treats (because thin kids don’t like cupcakes AT ALL – it’s a fact.  Well, it’s an alternative fact.  Ok, it’s just a total lie.)

 

In this book your 4-8 year old will learn to shame, stereotype and stigmatize any and all fat kids they come into contact with. For example, they’ll learn that fat kids can’t take care of themselves or make decisions about food or movement, in fact “Often they need someone like their friends or family or teachers to learn how to take care of themselves by eating less and exercising more.” Seriously – that’s a quote directly out of the book.

They’ll also learn that fat kids can’t be athletic, are constantly sad, and are likely (and possibly deserve?) to be bullied. With the combination of fat-shaming text and fat-shaming illustrations, by the time they’ve finished this book your kid should be fully primed to be a bully with an eating disorder.

If your kid is fat, this book will give them the chance to learn the meaning of “cruel irony” including the idea that this is their first look at what it’s like to be fat in a fatphobic society.

This book is horrible, it should never have been published and it should be taken out of circulation.  Happily, eating disorder therapist Jennifer Rollin has created a petition to help right this wrong.  You can sign it here:  http://ift.tt/2mIIEIO

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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!

In training for an IRONMAN triathlon.  If you’re interested, you can find my training blog here

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

 

 

 

 



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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Only A Healthcare System Rooted in Fatphobia…

Bad DoctorIn the US we have a healthcare system that is rooted in fatphobia.  This is demonstrated to fat people in numerous, sometimes dangerous and even life-threatening, ways:

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia

  • would create hospitals and clinics without rooms, furniture, or medical devices that accommodate fat people – despite the fact that these items exist, and these centers knew that they will be called upon to treat fat patients when they built the buildings and bought the supplies.

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia

  • could create a world where thin people are encouraged to eat whole foods, slow foods, and locally grown foods, but fat people are encouraged to join weight loss schemes that deliver frozen food in a baggies to us to be microwaved and consumed, or include 5 reconstituted soy protein shakes a day that are even less successful than they are rational.

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia

  • would create a situation where fat people’s actual health concerns are shrugged off by doctors who are desperate to focus on their body size instead, such that thin people get evidence-based health interventions and fat people get diets that have basically no chance of making us thin or healthy (which are two separate things.)

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia:

  • would consider it ethical for a doctor to recommend amputating someone’s perfectly healthy stomach  – leading to possible death, horrific lifelong complications, and malnutrition – so that they the patient can shop in “regular” clothing stores, or walk in high heels

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia:

  • would prescribe fat people dangerous drugs that can kill us, have almost no chance of of making us thinner in the long term, or healthier (again – two separate things)

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia

  • would create a world where thin people with type 2 diabetes are given insulin and other evidence-based treatments, but fat people are given a surgery that amputates a perfectly healthy, functioning organ and often results in dying, or a lifetime of horrific side effects far worse than type 2 diabetes.

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia:

  • would create a situation where fat people consistently have a completely rational fear that our doctors will kill us, either through a lack of competent care, or an excess of negligent care

We need a healthcare system that acknowledges the natural diversity of body sizes and the fact that even if doctors believe (sans evidence) that making fat people look like thin people would make us healthier, there isn’t a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people succeed at significant long term weight loss, so they have literally no idea how to get it done.

We need a healthcare system that actively wants to support the health of people of all sizes, rather than trying to make everyone the same size and only caring about people’s actual health if/when they are not fat. We need a healthcare system that is not rooted in fatphobia and the good news is, it’s entirely possible to have one.  If you want to read more, this piece by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor is a great place to start.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism 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!

In training for an IRONMAN triathlon.  If you’re interested, you can find my training blog here

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

 

 

 



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Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Sacrament of Feeding People

I’m currently reading Rachel Held Evans’ Searching for Sunday. In the introduction, she talks about the book’s organization, based on seven sacraments, and she notes that the church has many more sacraments that she could’ve chosen, like the sacrament of bringing someone a casserole. I smiled a little at that, but there’s something deeply holy about feeding someone who’s in a rough spot. It’s practical assistance and pleasure and warmth and love and effort all wrapped up in a package.  Like Captain Awkward says, “The sandwich means ‘I love you.'”.

The Quaker meeting I attend with my husband has been participating in Safe Sundays, where a group of homeless people come hang out at the church on Sunday, to have someplace inside out of the cold. It’s an extension of the Safe Nights program, which gives people a place to stay at night, as well as dinner, breakfast, and a bag lunch. Most of the places homeless people can go inside during the day, like libraries and community centers, are closed on Sundays, so this helps fill the gap.

When we do a shift, we bring food. We don’t have to, because the church that hosted the previous night provided bag lunches, but the goodies are always appreciated. On cold days, like today, we bring hot cider. Usually we bake something.  Today it was brownies and a “tropical pound cake” from a Tastefully Simple mix.

One of the guys was complaining about the lunch he was provided. He really can’t stand apple butter, and that’s what was in his sandwich. A lot of people might say he should be grateful that they gave him food at all (and he probably is), but imagine how discouraging it is when the only thing you have to eat between 7 AM and 7 PM is a sandwich and chips, and the sandwich is something you really don’t want to eat. So, I hope he had a brownie or three, because everybody deserves food they like.

There is this cultural thread, a combination of Puritan self-abnegation and diet culture, that teaches that pleasure from food is suspect, probably sinful. It can be earned, through exercise or through cooking everything yourself with the “right” ingredients, or through having the money to buy what you want, but it isn’t a given. Yeah, screw that.

This is not to rag on the folks who made the sandwich. The sandwich still means “I love you,” even if the message got garbled through food the recipient didn’t like. And for everybody who thinks, “Why, *why* do they keep giving me apple butter?” I’m sure there’s someone else thinking, “Woo-hoo, apple butter! Best day ever.”  Feeding people can be a guessing game, and volunteers do the best they can.

For me, participation in the sacrament of feeding people means trying to make tasty food that they’ll enjoy, being sensitive to allergies and intolerances, and refusing to participate in any shaming or moralizing about the food itself. If you don’t want the brownie, don’t eat the brownie. But don’t guilt anybody else about the brownie, because the brownie means “I love you.”




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Trans Kids Deserve to Play Sports as Their Real Gender

I’m a little bit late on this, but a few weeks back, a trans boy won the Texas state wrestling championship.  In the girls’ division, because that’s where the state required him to compete. They’ll only accept a birth certificate, and that requires a court order. Cue the predictable outcry about unfairness to the poor girls, with one parent going so far as to sue to prevent him from competing.

First off, it may come as a shock to some of these parents, but do you know what girls do when there isn’t a girls’ wrestling team?  They wrestle against boys. Every single meet. A friend of mine has a teenage daughter who wrestles on the boys’ team and does co-ed judo. She’s a petite girl, and she does just fine.

The girls who wrestled Mack at the state meet are high-level athletes in a contact sport.  When I did track in high school, it was a big deal for someone to make it to States, and Texas has more than twice the population of PA.  And he’s in their weight class.  So let’s not act like these are fragile, delicate flowers who he’s going to horribly injure. Yes, it’s a contact sport, and there’s always the risk of injury, and that risk is increased if you’re fighting an opponent who’s faster, stronger, or bigger. But age ranges and weight classes do a pretty good job of evening that out.

Secondly, if you don’t like that he’s wrestling against your daughter, how about petitioning the state to let him wrestle with the boys, where he belongs, because he’s a *boy.* Maybe don’t blame the kid for rules he didn’t create?

But the biggest piece of this that I think people willfully ignore is that participating in athletics is a part of kids’ education. As such, if a public school spends a single penny of taxpayer money on athletics (and I’m pretty sure they aren’t paying the coach with ticket sales or building a gym off bake sale proceeds), it needs to be available to all students, as per Title IX and the 14th Amendment. Odds are that a lot of those girls wouldn’t *have* a wrestling team if not for Title IX, so it seems pretty uncharitable to want to exclude another kid from the sport. If you want to exclude trans kids, your church or social club is welcome to form their own team with their own rules and exclude whoever you want, but you don’t get to do it as part of a public education that Mack is entitled to as much as your daughters are.

Last but not least, the whining about “cheating” by virtue of being on hormone replacement therapy is very thinly veiled transphobia. “My kid can’t take steroids, why can yours?” Um, because the trans kid has a medical reason for them and yours doesn’t. If we’re going to ban any legit medical treatments that also have performance enhancing effects, then I guess we need to ban ibuprofen too. And let’s not let kids with asthma compete, because oral albuterol has been used as a performance enhancer too. For that matter, while I don’t know of Ritalin being used to gain an advantage in sports, some teens in high-pressure academic environments abuse it to study longer and concentrate better on less sleep. Certainly that enhanced focus could be useful in an athletic environment, particularly in positions where focus and concentration are as important or more important than sheer physical prowess.  But just because you would bench a quarterback who faked ADD to get stimulants doesn’t mean you’d throw the kid who actually has ADD off the team.

Nobody would suggest barring a kid with asthma from competition because they had albuterol in their system. Nor would they make them choose between necessary medical treatment and playing a sport, provided that a doctor stated that they were healthy enough to compete. But trans kids taking legitimately prescribed hormones to line their bodies up with their real gender are viewed as “cheating.” Probably because people don’t recognize being trans as a real thing, and have this crazy mental picture of a girl jumping through all the hoops of social and medical transition so she can bulk up and win wrestling meets. Which is pretty ridiculous. I mean, some athletes put themselves through all sorts of ridiculousness to win, so I won’t say it *couldn’t* happen, but I will say it’s pretty damn unlikely.

I do want to point out that, since all my other examples are illnesses, I don’t want to conflate being trans with being sick. But it is a state that has necessary medical treatments associated with it. ADD might be a better parallel than asthma, because a lot of people who have it don’t think of it as an illness, but as neurodiversity. It’s not conducive to sitting in school or in an office all day, but it has its upsides too. There’s definitely a social component, because the cultural expectations for how long you can sit quietly and do boring things define whether someone is diagnosed with ADD. Likewise, gender variance is a normal part of human diversity, but one that often requires medical treatment.

But from a fairness perspective, this is actually really simple. If his testosterone levels are way off the charts, more in line with a boy who’s on steroids, sure, don’t let him compete. (Assuming his doctor hasn’t already said, “No, don’t wrestle until we get your T levels straightened out.”) But if he’s in the male range, he’s not at any advantage over the other boys.  Likewise, a trans girl might have to sit out her sport for a bit while her hormones take effect, but once her testosterone levels are down in the female range (which varies a lot and should be broadly defined), there should be no reason she can’t compete with the other girls.




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