It’s been a busy few months and I’m excitedly preparing to embark on a major new project that I’ll have more information for you on soon. Until then, please consider registering for this amazing conference. It’s virtual, so you can listen to it from a computer or phone anywhere. I’ll be speaking with many other talented and amazing people.
Reason 1: I can, I am amongst the privileged many who can afford the technology, time, and energy that being a regular taker of selfies requires.
Reason 2: I’m fat. Yep, you read that right, I’m fat and it’s a reason why I take and post regular selfies. I believe that people of all sizes should be seen, not just in places where it’s expected and feels safe, but also in the unexpected, unsafe spaces. And that certainly includes places like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Selfies, and selfies of a fat girl are not safe or exempt from hatred trolls. Nor are we exempt from fetish trolls and trolls who think we should be charmed and excited that a stranger (male or female) finds us attractive enough to message multiple times with unsavory and not anywhere near grammatically correct comments.
Reason 3: Is related to reason 2 but goes deeper. While I can now proclaim loud and even proudly, without a quiver of my confidence that I am fat and completely comfortable in the body I live in now, that hasn’t always been the case. For years, and by years, I mean over a decade, maybe even two decades, I lived without a full length mirror in my home. I had been taught and believed that I should feel shame for the size of my body; that no one wanted to look at it, so, why would I want to look at it? And so, for years I didn’t look in a mirror to check my appearance, the outfits I was wearing, nothing. I applied the minimal makeup I wear with a hand-held compact mirror and later a small round mirror hanging on my bathroom wall.
Until I started to selfie…
Like most of us who selfie, mine began on FB. I came to FB mid 2008 while working at Stanford University. At first FB was a distraction with games and a way to connect to people I hadn’t spoken with or seen in years. I didn’t really interact much and I didn’t post very many pictures of myself. And when I did, they were definitely not full body selfies.
In 2010, I discovered a welcoming size-friendly–positive even–community that I became actively engaged with. I had new friends and a burgeoning new social life. I started taking pics with friends going out and then in 2011, selfies prior to going out. As my confidence grew so too did my desire for more options in my wardrobe and thus more pics of me in new outfits. It was an avalanche of confidence, acceptance, self growth and the beginnings of activism. I know not everyone agrees that selfies are a form of activism, and that’s ok. I wouldn’t say all selfies are, but I take mine with the intention of activism, a fat body being seen; being seen happy, healthy, active, relaxed, having fun, working.
In 2013, my taking and posting of selfies increased quite exponentially (the following is a sampling).
At the beginning of 2014, I started the new year with a goal to take a selfie in a different location every day. This has proven to be harder than I thought it would be and I’ve not really kept up with that, but I have taken and posted selfies nearly every day. Some from interesting places I traveled for work or vacation and others just at home or out and about with friends or at my place of work. Again, I post them primarily, because I and others like me deserve to be seen. We should be seen enjoying life: going out on the town, bathing in bikinis by the pool, chillin’ on the beach, or shopping at the corner market. All bodies are beautiful in their own ways and all bodies deserve to be seen and acknowledged. If you can’t acknowledge my body, then you can’t acknowledge me as a whole person; and my body is more than just a part of my physicality, it’s a part of my psychology, spirit, and emotion. I feel and witness all things through not only my mind, but also my body.
I guess I have a hope that by visibly living in the body I have now; truly living, not just accepting but embracing its differences, its strengths and its weaknesses that others will see that it’s a much better way to live than loathing ones body or pretending that it doesn’t exist at all because it can’t be seen in the mirror I’m looking in. And if perchance my activism by selfie method does nothing at all to change the world or another human being’s perception about bodies, its done an incredible amount of good for my own body image, my own acceptance for my own perceived body flaws. And on the “bad days,” because yes, I still have them occasionally, I can look back at the legacy of self-acceptance and be reminded of another reason I selfie…
Reason 4: I’m stunning…to the person looking in the mirror.
Here it is, the big finish. 1:13:54. A time I’m actually pretty darn proud of considering that even right up until the race I was still dealing with the physical impact of a cold/flu something or other. I kept a pretty steady 23 minute mile and would have actually came in at 22 minute mile if the race organizers had placed bathrooms at the beginning of the race instead of the middle. But overall, I have few complaints about this particular organized race. Beyond the t-shirt issue which I mentioned in my last post, this race proved to be quite size friendly. The route is probably one of the flattest routes. I think they call it the fastest marathon route because it is all flat. As it happened, it was a day where a heatwave was predicted, however, the tall buildings downtown San Jose, mostly blocked the sun from beating down on us. My friend Kim walked the route with me. She’s a great “cheerleader” to have enroute with me because she’s learning when to push me and when just to hang out and be present, which is great because at this point in my 5K walks, I need both.
Following the race, I got a cold beer (at 9am) and then we stood in line to get our medal ribbons signed by 49er Roger Craig. Well worth the wait! He thought I’d been through the line twice for some reason and I told him he just thought that because I was so memorable he was thinking about me before he even met me. He agreed.
Overall, this particular 5K was a much improved experience than prior events. I will definitely do this event again and look for others that are similarly organized. I’ve written to the organization about their need to provide larger shirts, place bathrooms at the beginning of the race (since we have to line up so dang early), and how the health and fitness expo is exclusionary of several groups of individuals and race participants should not be made to walk through it. I’ve also written to the organizers of the race I walked in April about the issues there and I hope to see a change in their practices come this April.
I have a friend who seriously offered to help organize a size friendly 5K in Portland, and I definitely want to do this. But I think its important for me and other people of size to keep showing up and keep expecting that all these other organized races are places where we can all participate and feel comfortable doing so. I’ve yet to pick out the next 5K to participate in, if you have suggestions, let me know.
Here are some additional photos from the Rock n Roll 5K, San Jose October 4, 2014.
Kim likes a good photo bomb (who doesn’t really?):
When asked to read and blog my reflection of Shadow on a Tightrope: Writings by Women on Fat Oppression for its 30th anniversary celebration sponsored by Aunt Lute Press, I jumped at the chance to do so. Many of my friends and cohorts in the Fat Activism/Liberation movement speak of this book as their first experience or exposure to Fat Liberation. I’ve spent years hearing it mentioned during discussions and casual conversations with long-timers and budding new activists…I often felt as if this book was as important to Fat Activism as the Bible is to christian religions. And I knew I needed to read it, and yet years in to my work in Fat Activism and I’d yet to pick it up. Now that I have, I can’t imagine why I didn’t do it sooner. I’ve read the bible, more than a few times, and it never left me weeping as Shadow did. I read the essays and other writings in Shadow over two sittings and both times within minutes of scanning the pages, tears were rolling down my cheeks. I thought about why this is, what about the poems, essays, stories shared in this anthology made it so poignant to me? And beyond the obvious, “I can relate” response came swarms of thoughts and emotions that required sorting through.
I’ve often felt I was born to a wrong generation, jealous in a way of the women who’s hard work, struggle and tears have paved the way for all the liberties I enjoy today. I don’t quite feel I belong in the “second-wave” feminist category and yet I’m much too young to be “first-wave” and much too old to be “third-wave.” And really, these classifications are arbitrary and relevant maybe only to historians. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling like I belonged to a different time when activism was more…well, active. Because I sit in rooms with women who have long been a part of the fat liberation movement and listen to their stories from the past and musings on the present, I’m often hit with phrases like “today’s fat girls have it much easier with the internet, Facebook, and blogs.” And its true, in many ways, the internet generation does have a connection and a resource for activism that didn’t exist previously. And yes, we often sit safely in our comfortable homes behind a screen with a blog written under an alias that protects us from the kind of political struggles that sent the original members of the feminist fat liberation movement literally fleeing from Los Angeles in 1976. But this tool that helps us to move activism forward more quickly and with perhaps fewer repercussions, also isolates us. I long to be in that room in 1972 where the Fat Underground was birthed. Where the radical, untested concept that if a person would just “stop trying to lose weight, their ‘eating problems’ go away and weight eventually stabilizes” originated (Mayer xiii). This is the very tenement of my fat liberation faith and it happened just down the 101 in what I imagine was a small room with a handful of women speaking their truths and needing to see change in our world, bravely spoke those truths out loud to those who would listen and help move change forward. As I write now, tears are welling in the corners of my eyes…these women are the mothers, the sisters, the partners of my fatness; my ability and freedom to live so much more comfortably in my fatness than they were able to 30 years ago.
But the fight isn’t over, and I can not rest comfortably. In the 1970’s the “sexist industry that has made the lives of fat women a living hell” aka the diet industry was an 11-billion dollar a year enterprise (Mayer 3). Today, its 65-billion dollars a year. Is that progress? This industry feeds off what they tell us are our failures as women, as human beings, as members of a society that promulgates the “thin ideal.” 30 years ago, this was a hard-to-publish, radical anthology. Women speaking out about their experiences on being fat? Who would want to read that? And wouldn’t that just encourage women to continue to be fat? But the memories that are contained on these pages are just the beginning of the struggle for fat liberation and as Lynn Levy reminded me “the outrages are not all memories–they continue, even after I refuse to play the game.” Our liberation “does not prevent a man from harassing me on the bus, it does not prevent airline seats from being too narrow, it does not prevent my being unable to find clothes that will fit in the styles and materials I like.” And this is how she felt in 1980. 1980! This is MY story TOO! Today, in 2013. “Passing cars, passing strangers, I harden myself to words I have trained my ears not to hear, hurled at me on the streets. It all continues, and I look forward to the day when I can no longer control my rage” (Levy 81).
As a woman, feminist, fat liberationist of the 21st century, the digital age, I’m frequently told that I’m much too open and honest about my life, my struggles, the things I want, need, expect. I have chosen to expose my life through blogging, Facebook, Instagram. I grew up a fat child in a family of other fat people and the only time we talked about it was when someone lost weight or someone was being shamed in to not eating something because they “needed” to lose weight. As an adult, I will not live that way. I will not be shamed in to stealing green apples from a neighbors tree and sneaking home after school to quickly make a tiny apple tart, eating it so immediately from the oven that it burned my mouth, and cleaning up before my mother got home from work just because I wanted it but knew it would not be ok to ask for. I will not live a life of denial for acceptance. And I will tell my stories as they happen, today and everyday. But only because these women, the women of the Fat Underground with their Fat Liberation Manifesto paved the way from me to do so. And I will continue to weep…but they will be tears of determination, born from the strength and hard work of those who came before me and the hope for those who will come after me. I look forward to a future where the only writing being done about fat oppression is in our history books.
The poem below is by Sharon Lia Robinson and was published in Shadow on a Tightrope. It speaks to the deepest parts of me.
I’ve approached this four-day holiday weekend with a deep desire to get some serious writing done and move forward on the novel-in-progress. In preparation, I’ve been digging through a box of notebooks, journals, napkins and random slips of paper containing thoughts, ideas and partially completed pieces. Amongst them, I found this free writing/poem from the early days of my exploration in Fat/Size Activism. As I was reading it, emotions rose to the surface. I could have written it yesterday. This thing we call self-acceptance (wrapped up in size activism) is not a straight road from here to there and then we’ve won. The road twists and turns back on itself and some days leaves you questioning yourself as much as others. Just as I grow stronger and more confident in myself, a moment of weakness creeps in. These words are proof. They are unfinished…with a hope to complete them at some point. Reading them, reminded me of how hard living this struggle (like anything worth fighting for) can be at times; how easy it is to just give up and return to the status quo. But it also reminded me of how worth it the struggle is, because I never want myself, let alone those I love and care about, to feel this way ever again.
It’s what they don’t tell you
They tell you to love yourself
Live in the body you have now
Be bold and confident
Wear stripes and sequins
And tiaras to the grocery store
Don’t listen to the ne sayers
The weight loss goalies
Surgeons with their scalpels
Stand up against the Hatred
Do something new
Reach out to others
Share your new knowledge and power with others
Because what they don’t tell you
Is that no matter what you do…
You’ll always be lonely
You’ll always wonder if it’s the size of your stomach that turned them off or the size of their ego
You’ll never know if they truly want you or are you a fetish
You’ll eat dinner at home in front of the tv because they’re too ashamed to take you out
They’ll chose someone smaller, even if they love you
What they don’t tell you
Is that the clerk at Macy’s will still treat you as if you don’t belong there even when you’ve only come
in for expensive moisturizer
The children in your building will still point and stare
Your family and friends won’t understand why you aren’t interested in talking about their latest diet or exercise routine at the next holiday gathering
Your neighbor will still say you look like you’ve lost weight even when you haven’t
Why don’t they tell you???
Because what they also don’t tell you is that all of that won’t matter in the long run what they don’t tell you is that when you love your self, others will follow
just not today
and probably not tomorrow
surprised? probably not.
we’re all human.
here’s my second confession…i’m a fat activist/body liberationist with body issues! no, really! much to my own chagrin, i’m frequently unable to leap over societal standards without a single care. there are days i wake up and wish there were things about my body that were different. i’ve learned to live, really live, in this body, not just survive. i do appreciate it and can see the beauty in its curves and dips. but damn…if my boobs were just that much smaller or my arms or my…you know.
i’ve been helping a friend with a project for the last couple months that’s involved the search for pictures of women my size and larger that show the beauty of the human body but aren’t gratuitously pornographic. and sadly, they are few and far between. there are lots and lots of pictures of women in what seems to be the “acceptable” range of plus size or “thick” with alluring poses and perfect lighting. they are “pinned” all over pinterest(c) with barely a nod at their defiance of “normalcy.” don’t get me wrong, this makes me happy. it means that the efforts of so many women and men to live in and love their bodies, not bending to societal standards and being vocal about how those standards are unacceptable is beginning to work. and its taken a really long time to see even just this much progress. but i want more. i need more. and i kinda need it now.
i need to see women my size without their tits hanging out and their legs spread. i need to see them with subtle lighting, in outdoor and indoor spaces, enjoying life. not spread eagle on a couch with a cupcake in their mouth. i need to know that the beauty of my body and other bodies like mine are not just being fetishized.
you might ask, why?
why do I need to see this and know this if i have learned to appreciate and also love (for the most part) the body i live in? because it helps others i love and care about see their bodies as beautiful too. because i’ve recently seen first hand how it empowers others to see their own body type in pictures that feel sexy and sensual, without being pornographic. because it helps keep me centered and focused on my activism. because it helps me believe that the person in my life/bed isn’t there just because of my body. because it sustains my soul and fuels my passion for a better, more accepting life for all of us.
just because, you know. and why the fuck not? we are all beautiful. every single one of us, in our similarities and in our differences. and we all deserve to see positive images of others who look like us, because it makes us feel like we belong. it comforts us. strengthens us. and emboldens us to live a more complete fulfilling life.
so, i’m calling you to action. i and so many others need you to do this. get out there…take pictures of yourself. share them. be bold. be beautiful. be strong.