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Activism

Why Strong4Life is bad for fat kids

I'm guessing that most people who read BFB are aware of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's crap anti-childhood obesity ad campaign, ironically called "Strong4Life." There's been a lot of talk and a lot of action going on in the fatophere and in the social media opposing this campaign. Regan of Dances with Fat is creating an ad counter-campaign. Marilyn Wann has made it possible to Stand visibly against the campaign and for more positive values, and Atchka of Fierce, Freethinking Fatties has been opposing the campaign on the ground, with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and its donors. There's also a central site with up to date information called Stand4Everybody.com. It is really been an incredible show of community power and cooperation.

However, the majority of people still don't seem to get it. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, when challenged, keeps citing undisclosed market research which they claim proves that only a small percentage of people find the Strong4Life campaign offensive. In a recent poll, 80% of respondents seemed to think that Disney's "Habit Heroes" exhibit at Epcot, which depicted fat people as embodiments of bad habits, was just hunky-dorey.

So, as a former fat kid, I'm going to talk about the specific reactions I think this type of campaign will trigger in fat kids and the communities surrounding them.

Fat children will respond to these ads in two ways, and it won't be either/or. They will disassociate, but they will not be able to avoid feelings of shame and lowered self worth. Additionally, the campaign will affect their peers and the adults in their lives, encouraging bullying and lowering expectations.

  1. Disassociation

    If they know deep down that they are healthy - they are strong and active and the doctor tells them all their numbers are fine except their BMI - fat children will think that they're exceptions to the rules. They'll think (and this is one place my mind went as a kid), "None of the things they say about fat kids seem to apply to me. I don't get winded easily. I'm not sweaty. I don't eat a lot of junk food. I can keep up with my thin friends. The doctor must be wrong. I must not really be a fat kid, or being fat is not the same for me as it is for other kids."

    The thing is, I wasn't an exception. The vast majority of fat kids are healthy and have normal lives; the vast majority are exceptions to the stereotypes in these ads*. Notably, the child actors in the ads are all healthy, normal kids who happen to be larger than average. I suspect that most fat kids won't be able to relate to the ads and will disassociate themselves as much as possible. However, they won't be able to escape the fact that the ads are about them; that they are being singled out.

  2. Shame and lowered self worth

    If you tell children that they're unhealthy, they won't think of themselves as healthy. They won't play as hard. They won't push their limits. They'll start to avoid physical activity. Believing that you're unhealthy is not neutral. Just as there's a clinically significant placebo effect that kicks in when people are given an ineffective treatment that they believe is real, there is a "nocebo effect." If healthy people are made to believe they're sick, then they tend to get sick.

    This works psychologically as well. If you tell kids that they're pathetic, then they may start to believe it. They may pull away from their friends. They may get depressed. With their self respect and their support systems under attack, they will get bullied.

Teachers and thinner children will be looking at these ads too, and the fat kids will get bullied more than ever and will have to deal with increased prejudice and lowered expectations. As the expectations of their peers and teachers increasingly match the stereotypes in the ads, how many fat kids will be able to maintain the feelings of competence and social normalcy they need to be successful in their lives? Even if they're able to maintain equilibrium in their own minds, they are going to be treated like damaged goods. Prejudice toward fat children has existed for a long time; at least since the fifties. But never has a respected organization so clearly told fat kids, their peers, and their mentors "Fat children are pathetic and diseased. They bring shame on their families. Fat kids: your bodies are unacceptable."

It will become clear to these children what others - even adults - think of their bodies. They will start wondering if it might not be worth it to starve themselves so that their bodies won't cause others to make negative assumptions about them and their parents. Alternatively, they may rebel or stonewall. Healthier habits are frankly the least likely thing to result from this.

*Oh, and fat kids who actually do have health problems associated with their size? They deserve respect and privacy, not public humiliation and condescending pity.

More "Shit you Say to Fat People"

This video was written, directed, starring and conceived by Lillian Behrendt and Matt Cornell. It's the second in a series. BFB linked to the first video here.

Trigger warning: fat shaming, body snark, diet talk

(from the video)
"You look great. Have you lost weight?"

(my recommended answer)
"No, I haven't lost weight. I just look great, thanks."

"Shit you say to fat people"

This video was written, directed, starring and conceived by Lillian Behrendt and Matt Cornell.

...and I think it's fucking brilliant. Cheers, Lillian and Matt.

Trigger warning: fat shaming, body snark, diet talk

What would you add?
I'm thinking

  • You have such a pretty face.
  • Congratulations. Getting active will help you lose weight (when you've been active - and the same size - for years, and are not trying to lose weight).
  • You're not fat.

Protest in London Today at 2:30

Ditching Dieting* is planning a protest today, Monday January 16th, at 2:30pm until 6:30pm. The protesters are meeting under the Lion on the Southside of Westminster Bridge, by the yellow wheelie bin.

They have a Facebook page.

(thanks, Tehomet!)

From the Guardian: Women plan protest against diet industry outside parliament, subtitled 'Protesters say weightloss companies wreak havoc with appetites and rely on dieters' repeated failures to make money.'

Women who say they have been failed by weightloss programmes sold to them by diet companies are planning a demonstration outside parliament on Monday to hit back at the multimillion-pound industry for "wreaking havoc with appetites and lives while it builds huge profits".

The protest, part of a campaign called Ditching Dieting, has been organised to coincide with representatives of the diet industry giving evidence to an all-party parliamentary group inquiry into the causes and consequences of body image anxiety.

Ditching Dieting's homepage is here. It's sponsored by an organization called "Species Endangered" that's planning summits in London, New York, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Melbourne, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I've only taken a quick look at the website, since I wanted to get this posted quickly. Here's the interesting thing about Species Endangered / Ditching Dieting. It's not a size acceptance organization. They're focused on body image and preventing eating disorders, which is all well and good. Except, it looks like regular people can't join the organization, and who's in charge? Well, Suzy Orbach is first in the list.

Suzy Orbach is well known for "Fat is a Feminist Issue," a late 1970s book that got some things right but endorsed the idea that weigh loss will naturally result for all of us once everything is hunky-dory. Yes, when we learn to see past society's bad influence and heal ourselves emotionally and psychologically, we will be rewarded with skinniness- it's a sign of mental health and enlightenment!

I wish I could say that she's learned more over the years and now has a different outlook, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

Googling support for the protest, I found groups such as Beyond Chocolate, Stop Yo-yo Dieting and Lose Weight for Good that seem to form the core. Yes, these are the "it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change" folks. (Sorry, guys. If weight loss is a goal, then it's a diet.)

So... I would urge fat acceptance supporters in London to show up for this with the knowledge that there may be opportunities to educate your fellow protesters as well as the intended audience. It's great that Species Endangered has organized this. If they have an outlook that excludes fat women who think we're fine as we are and do not expect to become thin? Well, you've gotta start somewhere, and we do share a lot of common ground.

* For the folks who are didactic about the word "diet," in this post it's short for "weight loss diet."

Vive la ReVolution! It Starts January 1

New Year’s Eve is here, and for at least 3 weeks now we have been subjected to the annual bombardment of fat hate messages designed to send us keening into the unloving arms of Jenny, and WW, and all of their friends. The Very Serious Media (such as NPR and my hometown paper – New York Times) tart it up in pretty colors and words of concern and false empathy, but it’s the same stuff. Here are some examples. Don’t read the comments if you don’t want to come away with your sanity points in the red.

NPR clearly got itself a shiny new toy of some kind (crystal ball? Roulette wheel? Gatling gun?) and has been at the forefront of the barrage since much earlier this year with seriously biased information woven through the totality of its reporting on obesity. Here’s a link to its articles over the past 30 days for your perusal. Peruse at your own risk. Full disclosure – I support my local NPR station, but have been screaming at the radio for months now in the mornings when I hear some of this stuff.

The NYT – the Gray Lady – has some great writers. Gina Kolata, for one, has written about the topic of food and obesity extensively, sensitively, and accurately. Tara Parker-Pope really did try with one article, but it was a swing and a miss in my opinion (although many seemed to welcome it). The rest of them… Complete insanity. One of them (in the No Shit Sherlock department ) talks about how (horrors!) children are discarding “healthy” lunches and creating a thriving black market of junk food in schools. Wow… Who knew?

In a non-Times article which Mark Bittman to in his collection of Solstice links) the writer takes to her bed with the vapors because Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative is now focused more on exercise than dieting. Never mind what science tells us… Kids must diet. I could go on and on about all these links, including those castigating Black women ( of whom 50% are obese – we are told )... And these are just articles in “serious” media. The year-end weight loss adverts on TV have been going on since before Thanksgiving. There is material out there from the last 30 days to keep a Fatosphere blogger busy for a year and a half!

So what are we to do in the middle of this onslaught of disinformation? Well...

REVOLT!!!

Yes, siree, it is the Health At Every Size® New Year’s ReVolution. We need to get the HAES® message out there to counteract the torrent of disinformation being put out there by a 60 billion dollar per annum industry which is BUILT upon the knowledge that diets don’t work. Here is how to join:

Have a look at the New Year’s ReVolution Resources website . Here you can learn how to participate by:

• Changing your profile picture on your favorite social networking site to promote the ReVolution
• Dedicating your Facebook status on January 1 to the ReVolution
• Posting about the ReVolution on Twitter using the hashtag provided
• Blogging…
• Passing along the Lose the Hate, Not the Weight press release
• Sharing your ReVolution story at PDA Nation
• Following the website and contributing your ideas to get the message out there! For instance – getting a larger number of Google-hits, getting the message to new venues or new audiences…

Everything you need to ReVolt against the diet establishment is there. Check it out! Join in! Let’s make sure the word makes it out far outside the Fatosphere, where someone today might need to hear the HAES® message.

PS -- edited to remove a repeated phrase and a messed up link

How to Argue with a Fat Loather

(or: how to survive the holidays, family, and work as a fat activist)

Size activists are often put upon by trolls, ‘concerned’ friends and family, devout healthist employees and the like, who make it their urgent business to disillusion us happy cows as to our cow-icity. They make vague future death threats, evo-psych abstractions about how fat equals fewer erections and hence is objectively bad for the race, and how they saw a fat person once who wore a crop top that exposed her rolly middle and hence BAM! all fat people are delusional liars.

Their world is rife with wandering monstrosities of muffin-top and jiggly arms, made even more frightening when those same jelly bellies join the mating pool. And of course, we must think of the children, who are being force-fed donuts and video games at alarming and increasing rates until, you know, WALL-E. And the trolls don’t want to lose their bone density, see. It’s all the fault of the fatties and their fatty culture of sin.

Sadly, these angsty fellows and fellas are a higher percentage of the population than can be comfortably laughed at. They also come by their misinformation with usually no particular malicious intent, and their invectives are backed by the power of over 300,000 blinding suns—er, fat-hating messages a year. That level of propaganda is full-out cultural penetration. It’s like being an atheist in medieval Europe. You’ve got three options: shut the hell up, pretend to agree and privately subvert, or prepare for the guillotine.

Shut the Hell Up

This one’s a daily practice for many an enlightened fatty, and comes in several forms. My favorite form is to live life the way you would if you were thin(ner) while directing an extended third finger at the heckling crowd. When you come upon the twisted specter of discrimination, avoid it. Fighting a person bombarded with over 300,000 fat-hating messages a year is often an exercise in futility, leaving each party drained and the fat-loather further convinced of his paranoid vision of impending fat doom. Your links are never read, and the smallest particle of flab on your person disqualifies you from serious opposition, like having a fat body is a conflict of interest in arguing for fat rights.

  • Pros: Peace, time to do things other than be an activist, keeping your ideals intact and unchallenged, setting an example for the open-minded, keeping your friends and family as they are.
  • Cons: Guilt, a sense of disconnect from the community, wondering whether or not you could do more good through direct activism, missing the thrill of vanquishing a troll, allowing fat-hating people in your life unchallenged (unless you decide to avoid them altogether).

Pretend to Agree, but Privately Subvert

This one’s sneakier and comes with ethical difficulties. It’s not for the faint-of-heart. This is when you smile and nod over a coworker’s tireless talk-up of his regimen of Splenda-flavored air after you’ve pinned an HAES flyer to the company bulletin board. Or when you get a medical degree in which you’re forced to agree with the prevailing theory of fat (where ill-health is a function of fat-related hormonal overflow and weight loss is a viable prescription) in order to graduate, though you plan to start a kick-ass HAES practice upon graduation. Or when you massage the language of a grant proposal so it seems like you’re toeing the ‘obesity epidemic’ line though your research may very well show there is no such thing as the obesity epidemic, as such.

  • Pros: You’re a sheep in the wolf’s den, dressed as wolf.
  • Cons: You’re a sheep in the wolf’s den, for chrissake!

Prepare for the Guillotine

And in such a way activists are born, running from an angry mob nipping at their heels, into another angry mob waving firebrands and pitchforks.

There’s no escaping the 100% penetration of fat-loathing propaganda. It’s not just the pitter-patter of hate-droplets on a misty October morning, it’s the thud of golf-ball-sized hate-hailstones into you, your prized possessions, and everything/body you love. Those fat activists who prepare for the guillotine are out in that storm, bearing down under its destruction, that they might see a patch of blue sky in their lifetimes.

  • Pros: The thrill of the maybe-martyr, being able to live by one’s principles (loudly), likely changing a lot of lives with a hit blog, book deal, performance, article, or study.
  • Cons: Maybe martyrdom, hate mail, the very real danger of being stalked or receiving death threats, being seen as a whacko for holding non-mainstream views and hence having a difficult time getting conventional jobs/academic positions.

Your Turn: How do you argue with fat loathers?

Author’s Note: Certainly there are multi-faceted, nuanced and complex approaches to size activism not included in this largely (ha!) humorous post. I hope you enjoyed it anyway.

The Paradigm Shift

We need a paradigm shift in our society – a complete and total change of our perception of fat. I know, I know – the idea is overwhelming. How on earth do we succeed in changing our entire culture’s viewpoint on fat bodies?

It is possible. We can look back at history and see paradigm shifts throughout: in science (from a flat earth to the earth revolves around the sun), in culture (from slavery as a way of life slavery is an abomination), in our society’s way of thinking (women should stay at home to women can have careers). However, to make that shift, it required people who were willing to fight for it. It did require those big movers and shakers. Yet, it also required people who were willing to wrestle for their beliefs in the little daily stuff.

Do not underestimate the power you have to change the world! And you change it one mind at a time. You change it by choosing to love your own body. You change it by speaking up for yourself. You change it by refusing to believe the paradigm – by making the paradigm shift in your own life.

We have some amazing people doing some big work: Marianne Kirby, Lesley Kinzel, Marilynn Wann, to name just a few. Yes, these big voices talking to lots of people are important and vital (and incredibly brave). We need them. And I personally honor them for their wonderful work. But we need you, too.

We need the quiet person who doesn’t want to talk to the world but tells their best friend about FA. We need the fat person who is willing to put on fashion that screams “I am here, and I won’t be ignored!” We need the people who will tell a doctor that fat is not an acceptable diagnosis and a diet isn’t an acceptable solution. We need the fattie who walks down the street with their head held high, knowing that they deserve a place in the world. We need each and every one of you.

It’s easy to think that you are not important if you aren’t a fat activist in front of the camera or a blogger telling the world that being fat is ok. But you are important – so very important. Though a speaker or writer may start the person thinking, what can really change their mind is seeing someone live it. Every one of you is a walking billboard for FA. That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect; quite the opposite in fact. We want to show the world what it means to be real, which means allowing our foibles out. What it does mean is that each time you choose to love a fat body, you change that paradigm just a little bit. Each time you refuse to drink the Kool-Aid, the power of that paradigm is weakened. Each time you speak up, someone is changed somehow. You are important in this fight against an oppressive paradigm.

In my research, I talked to people who wouldn’t claim that they were activists because they were only doing small daily stuff towards FA. I believe that those of you doing the small daily stuff may be the most important of us – because you are making the ripples that become waves that will change this paradigm forever. Every little thing you do is important. Every little thing you do pushes the paradigm just a bit more.

One day, if we keep doing the little things, that boulder will shift. One day, fat will be accepted and even honored – and you will have helped!!

Natalie Perkins featured in xoJane

A new article by Lesley Kinzel of Two Whole Cakes in xoJane: Natalie Perkins' "FAT BABES ILLUSTRATED" project

Natalie Parkins.
Fat necklaces.
Fat art.
Awesome stuff.

Making fat visible is something I am way into, but I don't really have any lofty aspirations that I can topple fat stigma and invisibility just through my pen. That's why I am really passionate about encouraging other people to draw, write and take photos of themselves if they want to, so all our seemingly small acts of representation can join together to do the counteracting.
-Natalie Perkins

It's Love Your Body Day!


This is going to be a multiple-post day.
I'll start by urging you all to participate in the Now Foundation's Love Your Body Day activities.

The Blog Carnival

They will be publishing a list of participants and linking to the posts, starting today.

To participate, e-mail the link to your blog post to lybd2011 -at- yahoo.com by this Friday, Oct. 21.

They ask that you include the following text link in your blog post: "This post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival" and link it to
http://www.now.org/news/blogs/index.php/sayit/2011/10/19/lybd-blog-carnival-posts

Let's Talk About it

Let's Talk About it is a call for videos. They'll post the ones they especially like on their website.

"The airbrushed body type portrayed as ideal is naturally possessed by less than five percent of women, so if anyone should feel bad about the pervasiveness of eating disorders and low self-esteem in women and girls, it's advertisers and the media," says NOW Foundation Education Vice President Erin Matson. "Let's talk about why it's so important to put an end to this madness with the most powerful tool we have: Our own stories."...

"I encourage everyone to make a video and post it online," said Matson. "Your voice might be the one that reaches a girl or woman who is struggling with her self-image. And together, the more videos we create, the more we become part of the solution."

The Let's Talk About it project is in partnership with the National Eating Disorders Association.

The Poster Contest

The Love Your Body Poster Contest winners are used to promote the Love Your Body Campaign.

Posters should be graphically attractive and use a dynamic message. We especially look for images that demonstrate beauty is not limited by body size, body type, ethnicity, age or physical appearance. The winning posters will be displayed in schools and other public settings, so please consider this when designing your poster.

IMPORTANT: Each entry must include the artist's full name, address, phone number, valid e-mail address and category number on the back of each poster. See the prizes section below to determine what category you are in.

Artwork: Poster should be no larger than 9" x 12". The poster must include the words "2012 Love Your Body Campaign" and the NOW Foundation web site address, www.nowfoundation.org.

BFB readers and commentators: if you create entries in any of these categories that touch on fat acceptance issues and don't have a high-traffic space to post them, send them to me at deeleigh -at- deeshead.net and I'll put them up on BFB.

Nancy Upton's American Apparel Saga

So... I hadn't posted anything about this story up until now because Jezebel has been covering it in detail and it's been discussed by other Fatophere bloggers. Also, American Apparel's new women's XL and Nancy Upton are not plus-sized by U.S. clothing standards. But the pictures really are outstanding and funny, and it's turned into quite the saga.

I think it's time someone put together a recap with lots of links. Here it is.

It all began when American Apparel, a failing company run by a rampaging perv, decided to finally cave in and start making clothes in a women's size XL. That's a US 12-14, folks. But they couldn't do it in a respectful way. Oh no! They had to have a modeling contest full of "fun" digs at these truly humongous, no doubt totally corpulant new customers!

This is where Jezebel picked up the story: American Apparel Introduces Size XL, Holds Search For ‘Booty-Ful’ Models.

It's a good thing that we have that Jezebel article, because all evidence of that contest is now gone from the American Apparel website. We don't get to share in all the brilliant and original fat jokes. ~sob~

ANYWAY (with links to Jezebel) ...

  1. Nancy Upton entered the contest with some truly outstanding and hilarious photos of herself eating (wearing, bathing in) "bad" food and looking very glam. These photos were meant to mock American Apparel and the offensively-marketed modeling contest.
  2. Due to the high quality and extreme coolness and hilariousness of her photos, Nancy won the modeling contest by popular vote. However, American Apparel refused to acknowledge her victory, and insulted her in the process.
  3. After being mocked and criticized in the media and online, American Apparel tried to cut its losses and invited Nancy to visit them in LA.
  4. Nancy accepted the invitation.

The invitation appears to have been a bit of a red herring. Nancy is reporting on it on her personal blog.

One of Nancy's favorite performers, Amanda Palmer (herself responsible for some rockin' rebellyion) is following the story and has posted a Today interview with Nancy along with glowing praise on her blog.

Nancy has published an article about her contest entry on the Daily Beast, My Big, Fat Photo Spoof:

So after I first heard about the “contest,” I couldn’t help but get it out of my mind. (I write “contest” in quotes because the legal mumbo jumbo in the waiver states that American Apparel reserves the right to choose any or none of the applicants for any or none of the prizes.)

The puns, the insulting, giggly tones, and the over-used euphemisms for fat that were scattered throughout the campaign’s solicitation began to crystalize an opinion in my mind. How offensive the campaign was. How it spoke to plus-sized women like they were starry-eyed 16 year olds from Kansas whose dream, obviously, was to hop a bus to L.A. to make it big in fashion. How apparently there were no words in existence to accurately describe the way American Apparel felt about a sexy, large woman, and so phrases like “booty-ful” and “XLent” would need to be invented for us—not only to fill this void in American vocabulary, but also make the company seem like a relatable, sassy friend to fat chicks.

A relatable, sassy friend who was looking to broaden its customer base after warning it might need to declare bankruptcy earlier this year. And a relatable, sassy friend who wanted as much free press as possible. That’s when I finally put my finger on why I couldn’t get this “contest” out of my head: American Apparel was going to try to use one fat girl as a symbol of apology and acceptance to a demographic it had long insisted on ignoring, while simultaneously having that girl (and a thousand other girls) shill their products.

Great stuff, and there's a lot more if you follow the link. Don't overlook the second page.

American Apparel is being mocked all over the web and even the conventional media, and Nancy has drawn attention to the condescending and prejudicial way non-skinny women are treated in our society. Now that is some effective activism!

Let's help NPR sort things out

National Public Radio (NPR) is a vast network of local and university radio stations in the US; partly publicly funded, partly supported through on-line fundraising drives. NPR stations often feature programs that focus on classical music or jazz, and almost all carry the nationally distributed NPR news programs. It's the only radio news in the US that could be compared to the BBC in the UK or the CBC in Canada.

Right now, NPR news is running a series called Living Large; Obesity in America. The earlier articles on their website, including one where Leslie Kinzel is quoted, are from May. However, the series appears to be ongoing. Maybe we can still influence the direction it takes.

There's a form for public input, What does it mean to live in a nation where one out of every three people is obese?, at the Public Insight Network. Quotes from the form may be used in NPR website articles or on radio news reports. It asks the following questions:

  • What conversations do you have - or avoid having - about weight?
  • How, if at all, has our country's collective weight gain affected what you buy, how you travel or how you work and play?
  • What, if any, other changes to your daily life have you noticed that you didn't mention above?
  • Anything else you'd like to tell us about this topic?

The questions seem a bit leading to me. As I read them, I felt I was being encouraged to clutch my pearls and speak earnestly about the horrible scourge of size diversity. But, it's easy enough to answer them from a different perspective, and I'd urge BFB members - especially Americans, and especially NPR contributers - to put in their two cents.

Art installation critiques the dehumanization of fat people

Via Jezebel.

A Portland Press Herald review, MECA students deftly open door to new horizons, describes it well:

The most impressive, ambitious and unusual work in the show is Rachel Herrick's "Museum for Obeast Conservation Studies." It's a one-room taxidermy-style installation not unlike the "Back to Nature" vignettes that have charmed generations at the Maine State Museum in Augusta.

Herrick has a professional hand. Everything in her "Obeast" piece is top-notch, from the phenomenal taxidermy-style, life-size Obeast on her grassy pedestal, to the wall images mapping the evolution of the Obeast from a walrus, to the glossy museum brochure and the slick informational kiosk complete with artifacts and videos. (The "museum's" terrific website is part of the work: obeasts.org.)

Because the Obeast is an obese young woman, I was mortified when I first saw the installation, because I could have been looking at one the most offensive works of art I had ever seen. I hadn't seen the name and did not know that the artist was a woman. I can't remember the last time my moral sensibilities had been so thoroughly challenged.

Through the photography and the videos, however, it became clear the Obeast is the artist herself -- an obese woman who looks exactly like her self-portraits in the "museum."

Allergic to self-pity, Herrick subtly relates that obese Americans have to deal with people who routinely confuse physical largess with diminished mental capacities. Part of the joke is that Herrick plays no heavy-handed card, and leaves bigots to twist in the wind of ignorance -- never the wiser despite her razor-sharp educational and informational professionalism.

With this work, artist Rachel Herrick seeks to

satirize the social stigma around fatness through the legitimizing tropes of science.

I've got to say, I found the website provocative even though I looked at it already knowing the intention.

Illinois State Rep Has a Really Bad Idea

After that long, serious post yesterday, I was looking forward to putting something more positive on the front page today. Specifically, I was going to link to Pattie Thomas's No Diet Day post on the Psychology Today blog. It's an uplifting story about how giving up dieting improved her life.

Unfortunately, Illinois State Representative Shane Cultra (R-Onarga) thinks it would be a good idea to take away the standard $2000 state child tax deduction for children who have been classified as "obese," and I feel like I should really let everyone know about that.

There's an article about it on stltoday.com, an on-line St. Louis paper: Illinois Lawmaker Says Raising Obese Kids Should Cost Parents at Tax Time

Let's take a look at this from a public policy perspective.

For those who aren't familiar with the US tax system, child tax deductions are normally offered to all parents as an incentive to raise children. They keep more money in families and help out a little with the extra expenses that are involved in being a parent. The child tax deduction tells parents,

"The work that you're doing raising your children is important to our state and our nation! Yay, you for taking it on. Good job. And here, we acknowledge that raising kids costs a lot and we'll help you out a bit. Your children are important, and we're happy to have these valuable new citizens!"

Representative Cultra doesn't want to send that message to parents with fat kids, though. He'd like to send them this message instead:

"You're either a bad parent or you have genetic traits that we don't want to see passed on. Either way, we wish that you hadn't had those kids. They're not the kind of people we want, and if you insist on having them, we're not going to support that in any way. Please don't reproduce. Oh, but since I'm a Republican I'd also like to make sure that you don't have access to birth control or abortion. So don't have sex. Thanks."

Also, "Is your child a high school dropout who regularly gets in trouble with the police? Here's your $2000 tax deduction! Is your kid an honor student and athlete with a large build? No money 4 U."

How does this measure up when you think about social equity?

Well, considering the fact that poor people and ethnic minorities are most likely to be "obese," it's pretty much a disaster. Differences in build are mostly heriditary, the parents of children who are classified as obese are most likely heavier than average themselves. They'll already be dealing with size discrimination that could result in a lower income, and there's a better than average chance that they're dealing with other types as bias as well.

It's a regressive tax and if a family is having trouble paying for healthy food and active hobbies as it is, then it's going to make that even worse. It's just more of the same: bailing out the bankers and insurance companies on the backs of poor people and minorities. Lovely.

Finally, what sort of impact would this likely have on individual families?

Obviously, Mr. Cultra thinks that it will result in more responsible parenting. However, it's hard to see how that would actually be promoted by this tax disincentive. Aside from the financial hit, which would make it harder to keep the children in healthy food and physical activity, it has the potential to turn parents against their children. Almost inevitably, I'm seeing conflicts over food; efforts to restrict and sneaking and bingeing happening in retaliation. But it could be worse than that. In some cases, unfortunately, physical abuse could result.

Seriously, could it be any stupider an idea?

If you live in Illinois, please let your governor and state representatives know what you think about this. Snail mail and e-mail contact information for the Illinois governor's office is here. Let's write him and ask him not to sign any bill that contains this provision into law.

Details and contact information for members of the Illinois House of Representatives are here and information for Illinois Senate members is here. The information is given by district, and if you live in Illinois, you can find out who your state representatives are by using these maps. Contacting your state representatives is always a good idea, because they're the people most likely to respond to your individual concerns.

Let's nip this one in the bud.

Harriet Brown's 'Project Body Talk'

The amazing Harriet Brown has started Project Body Talk, inspired by the StoryCorps oral history project. 
According to the website:

Project BodyTalk is a safe place where people can share how they feel about their bodies and body image, their relationship with food and eating, and the cultural pressures that are so much a part of American life today.

We invite you to send us your commentaries—and to listen to other people’s. Record your story and submit it here. Learn about efforts around the country to spread body-positive messages and awareness. Start coming to terms with your body, whatever its size and shape, and see how that simple act can change your life.

I love this idea! Awhile back I was going to do a roundup of fat-related StoryCorps submissions, few that there were, but Harriet has literally created a body hub for these stories.

You can submit your story through the Contact Page. Here's how it works:
1) Record your story!
2) Download the release form and sign it (I'm assuming you have to sign and scan it back in)
3) Fill in your information on the Contact Page and upload both the signed form and your story.
4) Ta-da!

There are featured stories on the home page, but you can listen to them all right HERE.

I said it on Facebook, and I'll say it here: I <3 Harriet Brown. Srsly.

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!

BFB's Virtual Kiss-In!!!

Last updated November 3, 2010.


Kiss this, Marie Claire!!! 


Mmmm, Maura Kelly, fat kisses and love and existence!!!!



I present to you BFB's Virtual Kiss-In!!!!!!!!!  Thanks to everyone who has submitted photos!
Keep on sending them to withoutscene at gmail dot com, and I will keep on updating them! XOXO




Stef and Sarah

Awww, fat love!

Stef_Sarah



Nichole and Roy

"Here's a picture of my husband and I kissing. That lady at M.C. would cringe to see us in person! I wish we could be in NYC - we'd be front and center!!"

Nichole_Roy



SurferKM with her wife and son


"(fat! *gasp* lesbian! *faint*). We kissed before and after the shots, so I figure it counts."

SurferKM_wife_son



withoutscene

Virtual kiss-it!

Gif Created on Make A Gif



withoutscene and Chris

Fat lovin!

Mychii_Chris



Shannon Campos and Anthony M.


"I want it to be known that I am fat and I have no regrets and it should be shown that fat people live... and live happily."

ShannonCampos_Anthony H.



Michele


Smooches!

michele



Michele and Chris

XOXOXO

michele_partner



Buffpuff


Kiss-kiss!

BuffPuff



Jenna from AxisofFat with her little brother


"Am I too fat to kiss or be kissed in public? My bro didnt think so!"

Jenna_axisoffat_littlebro



Claudia and Shelley in San Francisco


Livin and public kissin!

claudia_shelley_sf



G and J

"Two fatties, deeply in love, and sharing a chocolate shake! Not
kissing in this scene, but it happened right afterwards ;)"

gretchen_partner



nettaP and seanP

At NYC Big Fat Kiss-In! nettaP has a video on her blog which includes some footage of the kiss-in.




Beth and Luke


"We're newlyweds and we'll kiss and hug wherever we like, thank you very much."

beth_luke


Marilyn and her squeeze


Photo credit: Kathy Barron.

Marilyn_Sqeeze



Regina and her partner

"I wanted to submit my own rolls and rolls of fat kissing picture for your blog!"

regina_partner


Jamie and Josh

"This was taken after we had spent the day snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking around the island. (Yes, Marie Claire- my fat ass did all these things...in a swimsuit no less! You would have been super offended by my rolls that day!)"

Jamie_Josh



Katie with Jordan and River

"This is me and my sister and her two foster daughters."

katie_jordan_river

Tami and River

Look at that smile!

Tami_River



SunflowerP and JFPBookworm


So sweet!

SunflowerP_JFPBookworm



Buttercup and her husband

"Here's my husband and I at our wedding, kissing and being fat, with cake, no less!"
102_0239_1

Brie

"How could I resist a kiss for that cute face?"

Brie



Jeanette and her husband

Awwwww!!

jeanette_partner




Substantia Jones documented the NYC Big Fat Kiss In with her madd photo skills.



Lesley Kinzel is also turning the Museum of Fat Love into a Tumblr, so check it out and submit your love there too!

Everyday Activism

This was originally posted in the BFB forums, but it's a great example of everyday activism and it deserves a wider audience. Rather than just accepting a culture of body negativity, we can and should speak out against it and help to educate the people who are perpetuating it. Thanks, Pocomommy!

What a discouraging way to start my day, with an email in my Inbox cheerily announcing a free weight loss group at a local yarn store. Group support and guest speakers to help you "lose a few" before the holidays because, as they point out in their email, "You cannot have a knitting needle or crochet hook in your hand while eating a potato chip."

I sent this response:

"Wow. How incredibly offensive and disheartening to find an email about weight loss from a trusted lys this morning. How discouraging it will be for myself and other women to know that, when we walk into the lys, our bodies are possibly being judged/scanned/evaluated as "not ok" (i.e., needing to lose weight). If you are promoting looksism (even self-generated by those folks who say "I hate my thighs" etc.), shame on you for making the lys an unsafe place. If you are "concerned" about health issues, as the OoooggaaaBoooooogahObesityCrisis Media Scare tactics continue to overwhelm us with messages that our bodies are all about to spectacularly fail us, then perhaps you could have looked into some of the wonderful literature on Health At Every Size (HAES). HAES is possible, you know, and far less shaming than "lose that ugly fat."

As a former psychologist and eating disorders specialist, and a current yarn fiend and knitting knut, I am angry and disappointed that your attempt at creating "sisterhood through body dissatisfaction" is just another way to tell women that their bodies are unacceptable as they are. No matter how cheerily you say it, no matter how much you protest that this is only for those who want to lose weight and you are not forcing this on anyone, I will never be able to walk into your shop again without feeling like my body is being judged and falling short.

Please think about the message you are sending and whether there is a mentally healthier way to connect women and their bodies."

Pocomommy

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

HUGE Misrepresentation

I'm going to start with a quote from Ginia Bellafante's New York Times review of the new ABC show "Huge," starring Nikki Blonsky. First, she describes a "gainer" who writes a blog, and then she says:

...Gainer blogs are an offshoot of a fat-pride movement that has bubbled up in response to what its proponents consider to be a pointless and hysterical national fuss over obesity. In this view fat is a form of social protest, an outcry against the manipulations of a diet-industrial complex. Fringe movements don’t often find an arm in the form of hourlong dramatic television, but “Huge,” beginning Monday on ABC Family, stands in some sympathy with a rebellion mounted against so many hours of “The Biggest Loser.”

I don't know who she thinks represents the "fat-pride" movement. Since she's talking about blogs, maybe she means the fatosphere. There are many fine, fine blogs on the fatosphere. They represent a range of opinions and experiences. But one opinion I've never seen expressed on the fatosphere - on Shapely Prose, on Big Fat Blog, or on any other blog - is that feederism and deliberate weight gain are a good idea or are acceptable in the context of fat acceptance. NEVER.

Fat acceptance is not about trying to change your body. It's about taking joy in the body you already have. Fat acceptance isn't a rebellion against "The Biggest Loser." The movement has been around for forty years, and it's about social justice and about valuing human diversity. Fat acceptance is not about trying to be fat. It's about not hating our already fat bodies, and about fighting anti-fat stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.

Of course our bodies change when we age, when our lives and our habits change, and for other reasons, and that's fine. It's fine when we get smaller and it's fine when we get bigger. But, we don't try to get smaller or bigger. If there's only one thing that everyone in the fat acceptance movement agrees on, it's social justice. If there are two things, the second is that deliberately trying to lose or gain weight is contrary to size acceptance principles. Gainer blogs are not an offshoot of this movement; in fact, most of us would agree that they're in direct opposition.

I've been involved in the fat acceptance movement since the early nineties. If someone said to me that there is a "pointless and hysterical national fuss over obesity," then I would nod my head in agreement.

However, it's my understanding that most deliberate weight gain takes place within the context of feederism, I am not down with feederism. Feederism is a sexual fetish. Normally, my feeling about sexual fetishes is "live and let live; do it if it works for you." However, feeders apparently get off at least partly on the helplessness of the feedees. Given that many people gain weight easily and find it next to impossible to keep weight off once they've gained it, this can amount to trapping someone in a dependent situation, which is typical of abusive relationships.

But what about the guy that Ms. Bellafante describes in her first paragraph? I looked at his blog, and it appears that the idea of becoming fat turns him on primarily, although his partner is fine with it. He’s gone from 180 to 250 pounds in three years, and it appears that he’s not going to gain much more weight. In addition, he’s staying reasonably fit. He’s hardly helpless, and for him, being strong is an important part of being big. In his case, the weight gain attempt does not appear to be abusive, but it still has nothing to do with fat acceptance, as the blogger himself points out. It's still primarily a sexual kink.

So, Ms. Bellafante, gainer blogs have nothing to do with fat pride. The New York Times has misrepresented our views, and they should print a retraction.

Added...

Brian of Red No. 3 has really nailed this issue here and here.

(please send us other good links on this topic, and we'll add them)

Call for Participants

Please read and participate if you can!

Hi, my name is Michaela A. Null, and I am a doctoral student in Sociology at
Purdue University. I am doing a study about the embodiment of size-accepting fat
women, with attention to the ways in which gender, race, sexual orientation, and
body size intersect.

I am currently looking for individuals who are interested in volunteering to
participate in my study. If you are interested in volunteering to participate in
an interview, I ask that take an electronic informational survey, which will
take approximately 5 minutes. Please go here and complete the
informational survey. After all survey data has been collected, participants
will be selected for interviews, which will be conducted in-person, by phone, or
via internet chat, and will last between an hour and an hour and a half.

Participation is voluntary and participants must be at least 18 years old.

This project has been approved by my university’s Institutional Review Board,
which protects human subjects of research. I will provide confidentiality to all
volunteers and participants will be referred to by a pseudonym in all research
documents.

If you have any questions regarding this study, you can contact me at
mnull@purdue.edu. For more information on me, you can access my university
profile here.
You can also contact Professor Eugene Jackson, Assistant Professor of Sociology
at Purdue University, at jacksone@purdue.edu.

Sincerely,

Michaela A. Null, Doctoral Candidate in Sociology, Purdue University

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