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Two Whole Cakes - How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body

I just received a copy of Lesley Kinzel's new book, Two Whole Cakes - How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body, and I must say, it's a very good reading experience. My uncorrected proof copy was 167 pages and I finished it over the course of 2 days (would have finished it in one sitting but we had one of our granddaughters over for the weekend).
One of the things in the book that really resonated with me was the part about how fat women are expected to look when we go out in public:

On the one hand, sweatpants and shirts with grease stains are a statement no matter who is wearing them. Their message is, "I don't care about how I'm dressed right now." The "right now" is important because one cannot always assume that a person who runs to the corner store in sweatpants and a soiled shirt necessarily dresses that way all the time. If the person wearing the clothing is otherwise slender and attractive, we're usually willing to imagine the reasons why: maybe she's sick, or maybe she's in the middle of writing a term paper, or maybe she's doing laundry. She must have a reason. But when it happens to be a fat person who is sloppily dressed, the stereotype kicks in: the sweatpants and stained shirt represent not only a disregard for fashion at a given moment in time, but a systematic failure to adhere to the most common standards of appearance. A fat person is believed to have little respect for her appearance in the first place, simply by virtue of being fat, so she cares nothing for fashion, and of course she has no regard for the tender eyeballs of those other individuals upon whom she foists her sweatpanted, stained fattery in public. She is a visual - and even moral - disgrace.
Yet, she also may be sick, or writing, or doing laundry. And even if she's not, even if she is simply a person not much interested in fashion, she should have the right to step out into public, fat and sloppily dressed, and not be forced to face candid disgust from strangers. What is she doing wrong? How is she hurting anyone? She may offend our delicate sensibilities but ultimately there is no real damage done, except to our expectation that people who fail to meet cultural standards of attractiveness should not offend our sight in public, that we should be protected from having to look at them.

There are so many more passages that hit home with me, and I think will hit home with any woman who reads this book, and it won't matter what size she is. If you've ever hated your body because it wasn't the right size or shape, Two Whole Cakes - How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body is one of the books that should be on your to-read list.

A Respite of Beauty and a Balm for the Fat Soul

Before I move on to the rest of the series concerning food (as outlined in Beloved Fantasy of a Blissful Past) I want to take a small detour. I was overjoyed and inspired to see everyone’s family pictures in the comments to the post, and fate conspired to bring wonderful images of fat people into my life.

See, I had always wanted to go to the Hermitage Museum, but for a variety of circumstances have not been able to do so. This past week I was overjoyed that I was able to see some of the treasures even if I am not in St. Petersburg (Russia)! I happen to be home (Madrid, Spain) spending some time with family. Madrid is one of the world’s great cities, with lots to see and lots to do. One of my favorite spaces is the Prado museum. If you live anywhere near Madrid or if you can take a plane, train or automobile to get there and can find a place to stay, you need to see the exhibition Hermitage at the Prado Museum. Selected works from the Hermitage are being shown for a short time in Madrid. I can honestly say it was the best 12 Euros I have ever spent. I was so very anxious to see this exhibition when I found out it was here, I could not wait to go! I really did not know what to expect as I did not know what works were selected, but when I went there, I saw images that I really needed to see. My soul needed to see them.

I had been thinking all week about how I had grown up and what messages I had received throughout my childhood. For me, as for many of us, being with family brings up memories – very physical memories – of experiences that we ache to forget: thoughtless comments, snide remarks, bullying, and for some even worse. I remembered in my body all my experiences that led to dieting and its predictable sequelae, which I will not belabor as I do not wish to trigger anything for anyone. So… I was under some mental stress the afternoon I went to see the exhibition. I had to wait until the next showing (they only let in a certain number of people at a time). I waited outside, seated in a nice spot of sun poking through the clouds of the off-and-on rain. A busker was playing classical Spanish guitar compositions nearby and the setting brought peace, and I willed myself to live in the moment. It was a perfect respite, and balm for my stress. Soon, I was able to go into the exhibition.

As I passed the first sections featuring explanatory notes on the Hermitage, and saw the first works, I was overjoyed! One of the first pictures is of Catherine II, Empress of all the Russias, painted by Johann Baptist Lampi in 1793. Here is the link to an image of the picture (note – these links are to arthermitage.org – please see the pictures on their site):

Catherine II of Russia

I saw a beautiful, strong, intelligent woman who was also fat and was one of the most powerful people in the world at that time. She created the nucleus of what was to become one of the top art collections in the world (1).

One of the paintings in the exhibition which affected me most deeply is by Lorenzo Lotto, painted between 1529 and 1530. It is an image of the Holy Family (Mary, Joseph, and Jesus) pictured resting during their flight to Egypt after the birth. St. Justine is featured also in the work. The work itself is just beautiful, with its use of light and shadow and the folds of the clothing, but look at the image of Mary and that of the Child – they are round, plump, and healthy. If your culture tells you that the Holy Family is the image of all that is good, then you paint them with the attributes of what is good. Clearly, to Lotto fat is good and fat speaks of love. Even if you remove any reference to religion (pretty hard to do because St. Justine has the dagger of her martyrdom in her chest, but one can try) it is still a loving image of a beautiful family.

Rest on the Flight to Egypt with St. Justine

Another favorite was this beautiful painting by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, painted in 1747 – Mercury crowns Philosophy, the Mother of the Arts. The theme of the work goes back to the idea current during the Enlightenment that Reason with the foundation of Philosophy, can build an ideal world. Art was a part of such an ideal world. The symbology of the work is dense, and a great subject for another discussion. Suffice to say that Philosophy, the central female figure who is also fat, holds a scepter which is a symbol of her power over Reason. Philosophy is beautiful, solid, powerful, fat… She is the foundation of a more perfect world. Right there, in a nutshell, the antidote to fat hate. It is the cooling unguent to heal the lashes we receive every day.

Mercury Crowning Philosophy – Mother of the Arts

There are so many others…
The Portrait of a Scholar by Rembrandt from 1631
The Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Glove by Frans Hals (1649)
Picasso’s Seated Woman from 1908 (a powerful expression of womanhood).

We need to see these. We need to seek these out. We need to surround children who are fat with these positive images as part of an all-out effort to protect them from the haters. I fear for their very souls since the crusade against fat people now endangers their mental well-being, their soul, as well as their physical lives. The fat hate which is the destroyer of joy and innocence keeps growing and has insinuated itself into daily life in such a way that there is no longer an escape for a young person growing up today. We are fighting for our lives and, more importantly, we need to fight for children’s lives and their very selves

We need to approach the problem from many perspectives, and I believe providing a different image to counter what is offered by the fat haters is crucial. I do not claim that art appreciation is the solution to the entire problem, but I probably would have had a different outlook on life if someone had shown images like these and explained what I was seeing and their meaning.

What art, of any kind, have you seen lately which offers powerful and positive images of fat people? What images need to be created in order to reach today’s young people in a symbology and medium they understand and accept?

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(1) I am sure that those well-versed in Russian politics and social history could take issue with much of what she did or what those who followed her did, but I am staying away from that topic on purpose – this is about her art collection and what it contains that we who are fat need to see.

Call for Body Positive Artists, Speakers and Crafters!‏

Check this out, BFBers!!

What: BODYSLAM! Poetry Jam & Story Telling
Where: The Trumbullplex, 4210 Trumbull St., Detroit, MI, 48208
When: February 19th, 2011 6-11pm
About:
Love Your Body Detroit will be holding its first ever fundraiser and we
need your help to make it a huge success! We are looking for speakers for
our main show a poetry jam and story telling session that will be happening
on the main stage.

Poetry / Stories can be related to but are not limited by,
• Fat phobia / hatred
• Ethnic or racial diversity
• Appearance based oppression
• Eating Disorders
• Body Image
Basically anything that will make us think critically about our bodies or
how it feels to live in yours! Submissions should be at a maximum 10
minutes in length and emailed in a word document to the address below.
Please also include your name, contact information, and a short personal
bio.

Artists or vendors:
We are also looking for body positive artists / craft vendors whose work
shows size, racial or ethnic diversity through any form of media.
Please send the following in a word document,
• Name / Business
• Contact Info
• Kind of Work / Products you sell
• Links to examples of your work
**Crafters who make clothing and wish to participate should make sure their
clothing sizes are just as diverse as the people in attendance. Also vendor
fees will be on a donation basis only, if you wish to give we will love you
for it!

Participant Submission Deadline: 1/20/11
Submit Application to: LYBDetroit@gmail.com

I hope some of you can participate...what a cool idea!

Memories and Thoughts of Judy Freespirit


Max Airborne has been so kind as to set up a Memorial Website for Judy, so please also check it out!!
Such touching words and inspiring memories.



Judy Freespirit, fat warrior, passed away yesterday morning. Thoughts and memories were aflutter on Facebook yesterday, so I thought I would collect some and repost them here in her honor, and in the spirit of preserving our fat history...something I've been thinking a lot about lately.

 Carol Squires just posted that Judy Freespirit passed away. my first introduction to a different way to think about my fat body came when I read "The Fat Liberation Manifesto" in a women's studies class in 1994. Her work definitely changed my life for the better as it did countless others. I feel the loss and celebrate a life well lived. --Pattie Thomas

The Fat Liberation Manifesto, which Judy Freespirit wrote with Aldebaran in 1973, was by far the most posted link among my fat activist friends yesterday. This revolutionary manifesto is at the core of our fat lib history, and if you have not already read it, you really should.

Judy Freespirit was so great to me everytime I was around her. She wrote a beautiful poem about a peach that's stayed with me. She was one of my early models for a fat writer (wish I could still find that great picture of her dancing with her troupe in the seventies -- they had swings!). She made things happened. She gave speeches about fat to gatherings of dieticians. She showed up in FaT GiRL. She showed up. --Susan Stinson

In addition, you can go to Susan Stinson's blog and read her lovely and moving tribute to Judy.

Susan was also gracious to post a link to a photo of the Fat Chance Performance Group that Judy helped to found, which was published in "Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the women's liberation movement" along with the manifesto.

Judy Freespirit, a pioneer of fat activism, has died. I knew Judy in the mid-90s as the person who ran the Fat Feminist Caucus of NAAFA. The fat women's gathering she organized in fall of 1994 was my first experience of fat pride community. I respected and learned from her vision of feminism, disability rights, fat activism, and much more. --Marilyn Wann
 

Today it was my intention to dedicate my keynote [at the Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue Conference in Australia] to Judy Freespirit. I wrote to her a few weeks ago to say as much. I just heard that she died. So so sorry that she's gone, and so so glad that I got a chance to meet her. I'm not a hero worshipper but she was my hero. Tears later, gotta hold it together now. Love to Judy and her people. --Charlotte Cooper

I hear that the Fat Liberation Manifesto was read yesterday at the conference in her memory.

 Also, from Marilyn Wann:

Here's a quote from Judy from a Radiance magazine article written by Sara Golda Bracha Fishman (who went by Aldebaran during Fat Underground days). She asks founding members of the Fat Underground, "What did we accomplish?" Judy said, "In the beginning, people giggled when we talked about Fat Liberation. Now . . . there are hundreds of thousands of fat activists and allies all over the world."
http://www.radiancemagazine.com/issues/1998/winter_98/fat_underground.html



Judy stood in front a room full of women in 1978 and challenged us to see her as powerful and beautiful and broke open those stereotypes we had held moments before and my life was forever changed. --Lynn Ellen Marcus

UCLA Lectures Update

Just in case you hadn't heard, the other two UCLA talks are up on YouTube.




First, we have Katherine Flegal. Haven't watched this one yet.










Then we have the infamous Marilyn Wann. Not any arguments unfamiliar to most of us, but totally fun. And I want her boots.



What is an activist?

I want to talk to you about something for a minute, and that something is activism. No don't close the window. This is going to be good.



Over the years I have talked to many people who were deeply involved in the fat rights movement and enacting all sorts of change and when I mentioned activism to them they drew back in horror and insisted "well I'm no activist!" And I kind of understand that, because for a long time when I heard the word 'activism' I would think of hordes of folks marching on Washington, burning bras, shouting and holding signs, and that is not me. Not that I don't love a good march as much as the next person, because I do, and I certainly have a few bras I wouldn't mind burning, but most days I'm just not a shouting, sign-waving kind of a lady.



The thing is, you can be a fat rights activist without ever picking up a sign or shouting an epithet or taking one step towards the capitol. In a way, fat activism starts much closer to home. Imagine, if you will, a cluster of shouting sign-waving anti-fat activists in your head. They think horrible things about you, they judge every move you make, they insist that you don't deserve the same rights and privileges as thin people. Someone needs to shut them up, you know? And you're the only one around. So you paint your own mental signs that say "correlation is not causation" and "fat is beautiful" and "fat rights now" and every day you stand across from the haters and shout your own messages of fat love. You just became an activist, my friend.



Sure, it's in your own head, so it seems like you're not making that much of a difference, but this is just where it starts. Next thing you know, you find yourself talking to someone at a party who launches into diet talk around the canapé table and suddenly you're no longer just nodding and going along. New things start to come out of your mouth, like "Oh I don't diet anymore. Diets don't work and life is just too short to put yourself through that kind of deprivation and guilt over and over." And maybe you come up against a ton of opposition, but maybe there is also a quiet, self-hating dieter in the corner who heard your words and is now beginning to think "Is that true? Am I putting myself through this hell for nothing?" That's activism.



Maybe now you're thinking, "but Carrie, that's just one person. I want to make more of a difference than that." I hear you. So maybe you come to this site. Maybe you read about a project like Dare to Show Your Face or The BMI Project or The Fat Experience Project and you think "Well, I'm fat, and I guess my experience counts. Maybe I'll participate in this project." Maybe your contribution is viewed by folks of all sizes with various opinions on fat and some of them start to get the message that fat people are people just like everyone else. Activism!



Here are other things you may already be doing that fall under the activist umbrella:


1. Staying informed on fat rights issues via this site and others on the fatosphere

2. Refusing to let society tell you what fat people should or shouldn't be doing, wearing, eating, thinking, etc

3. Speaking up when someone tells fat jokes

4. Emailing government officials to express your interest in fat positive laws

5. Joining an organization like NAAFA, ISAA, or The Fat Rights Coalition

6. Sending a donation or volunteering time for any of these or other fat positive groups

7. Raising your children to love their bodies and the variations in bodies of others

8. Having a frank conversation with your doctor about Health at Every Size

9. Throwing out your scale and refusing to diet ever again

10. 'Coming out' as a fat activist to your friends and family and talking about fat issues with them as frankly and openly as you would anything else.



So you see? You may already be an activist. But what if you're not? What if all of this talk of activism makes you seize up and want to run for the hills? First, take a deep breath. Nobody is going to make you do anything you don't want to do. Then, maybe start really small. In your head, sit down with a piece of posterboard and a marker and make yourself a sign. Maybe you're not ready for something as radical as "fat is beautiful" or "fat doesn't equal unhealthy". Fine. How about a sign that says "I'm a person, just like any other person"? There's no denying that, is there? Now take your sign and stand up in front of the haters. That's all. Just give them a little opposition. They might even quiet down a tiny bit. When you're ready, maybe shout a little something. How about "I deserve rights"? Because you do. I bet at some point, some of your mental haters will give up, put down their signs, and go home because they finally get it. And that, my friend, is activism.



Inspired by this post at The Pursuit of Harpyness

Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere [sic] Available for Pre-Order

The new book from Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby (aka The Rotund), Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body, is now available for pre-order from Amazon.com! Woot!

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