Fat Acceptance is a Reproductive Justice Issue, Part I: birth, bodies, and healing

We need women to learn how to navigate and negotiate modern and traditional medicine and birthing ways with confidence, sensitivity, and power. We need women to come back to the communities they came from and offer their support to their Sisters. No woman should be without the knowledge of how to take care of her body in her life.

-Raeanne Madison, in a guest post for Radical Doula entitled “Why doulas are important in Native American communities.”  Definitely read the whole thing, it’s pretty great.

I’ve heard a lot from different people in my life about how indigenous women are survivors–we survive violence, trauma (our own and our ancestors’), colonization and the low self-esteem that often comes with surviving all of these things.

Diets are not traditional.  Bariatric surgery is not an aboriginal method of healing.  Food is medicine in a lot of indigenous cultures.  Practicing self-determination and bodily autonomy is absolutely traditional, in my opinion, and I think that fat acceptance, health at every size and reproductive justice can be a part of that.  Some people think that being pro-choice doesn’t line up with traditional beliefs, but our peoples were practicing sex education and family planning LONG before the Vikings and Columbus and the colonists got all up in our shit.

I’m not saying everyone needs to be all traditional all the time–that isn’t realistic for most of us and everyone is entitled to choose what they wanna do with their bodies.  I am saying that body acceptance and bodily autonomy seem more in line with my own belief that self-determination (of nations, communities, and individuals) is more traditional than Western patriarchal societies’ arbitrary standards of health and beauty.

Since contact, colonization has attempted to strip us of our bodily autonomy.  We can reclaim it by resisting diet propaganda pushed on us by Indian Health Services and mainstream media.  We can revitalize traditional birthing practices that heal our bodies and spirits and keep our cultures alive.  I’ve never been pregnant but if that ever happens, I sure as fuck want to be in the loop about the situation, not have my ability to give life pathologized just like my fat body has been pathologized since I was a kid.

We’re supposed to go to the doctor to feel better, not to feel judged.  Feeling judged and oppressed by our doctors–because of our gender presentation, race, sexual orientation, class, size or something else–prevents us from accessing reproductive care and prevents our access to the quality health care that so many of us need desperately.

I am pretty damn sick of privileged white hetero upper/middle-class health professionals recolonizing my body.

September 6, 2011. Uncategorized. 3 comments.

I am filled with nuclear waste!

Or I guess I should say WAIST!  Get it?  (by the way, Toxic Waist would be an awesome name for an all-fat-people rock band.)

In case you didn’t know, I’m a sexual health educator.  I love my job a lot–for over a year, every time someone’s asked me what my dream job is I’ve said I’m already doing it.  I also kinda love that I’m a fat person doing my job because I totally think fat acceptance is a reproductive justice issue*.

Today I went to order some supplies from a website that supplies health educators with all kinds of teaching tools.  DVDs, CPR training dummies, breast/testicular self-exam models (so people can feel for themselves what a lump might feel like in themselves or a partner; also what I happened to be purchasing today), some other stuff, and THIS TOTALLY AWESOME THING:

 


Finally, a literal interpretation of how fat is going to kill us all!

If you can’t view the image, it’s a screencap of the product information about an “educational” display that consists of a barrel of fake fat, meant to look like a barrel of nuclear waste.  “Everyone stand back!  This stuff can kill you!  Slimy yellow fat bubbles up over the top of this ‘hazardous materials’ barrel reminding viewers that excess body fat can be toxic to their health.  Representing approximately 40 pounds of fat by volume, this unforgettable display helps people understand that diet and exercise are the best methods of disposal.  Actually weighs less than 6 pounds.  Comes with presentation guide.”

LOL.  WTF.   etc.

I’ve seen disembodied blobs of fat at countless health fairs, and I always just roll my eyes because I generally don’t have the emotional energy to actually talk to someone about it.  At a local health fair a couple of months ago, there was a blob of disembodied fat AND an Herbalife (some kind of weight loss thing involving shakes or something) display!  Not just a regular-sized table like everyone else had, a huge-ass ordeal (pun totally intended).**

Anyway, while I see the fat blobs at health fairs all the time, I’ve never seen this particular display.  Maybe because it’s $132, or maybe because even the health educators who talk about the fat panic as part of their jobs realize that it’s dehumanizing and preposterous.

For reals, though, this kind of “educational” display is ridiculous.  The disembodied blob of “slimy yellow fat,” the implication that fat people in immediate danger of death by their own bodies, the comparison of fat to toxic waste (oh, and did you notice that play on words?  Hazardous WAIST!  Instead of waste!  Ha ha!  How clever!).

It’s almost like a freakin’ parody of obesity epidemic scare tactics.  In fact, it would be pretty damn hilarious if it didn’t actually exist in the world.

*Post re: FA as a RJ issue forthcoming.

**Do you ever think of the perfect comeback about two minutes too late?  Well, I decided after being offered a sample of an Herbalife shake (smoothie?  drink?  some kind of liquid supplement) that my comeback to “[hey, try this diet thing]” will be, whenever I get an opportunity to use it, “Sorry, diet gimmicks give me the shits.”

August 25, 2011. Uncategorized. 3 comments.

real quick: small victories.

I have a friend who’s looking for a job, and I decided on a whim to check the internal job postings at my organization.  Look what I found at the end of the job description (emphasis mine):

(agency name) is committed to hiring and fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce that leverages the skills and talents of all employees in our organization, regardless of race, gender, national origin, age, religion, sexual orientation, size, physical ability or socioeconomic status. We encourage diverse candidates to apply for this position.

I’ve had my complaints about this particular organization’s HR policies in the past, but I was pleasantly surprised to see size included in the “ohay diversity, plz apply for this job if ur marginalized” section.  Not that my place of employment is particularly diverse – there’s a whole lotta tokenization of people of color happening in my department (I could write another post about that, but perhaps another day) and I’ve only seen a few other fatties in my time there… but still.  Pretty cool, huh?

May 13, 2011. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

musical interlude: Leslie Hall

Okay, so I’ve been neglecting this blog again.  D’oh!  HOWEVER, winter break is upon me, and I’ve been meaning to write a few different posts before the end of the year.  For now, however, I leave you with a music video by Leslie Hall.  Y’all, if I ever get married I want her to officiate my wedding.  Even though I don’t live in Iowa.  But still, midwesterners represent!  It’s the Official Region of Fat, amirite?

Plus, this video involves a fabulous fat lady rocking some spandex pants and sweet dance moves.

Watch out for my body rolls
Watch out for my body rolls
High kicks!  High kicks!
This is how we do it

December 23, 2010. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

it’s not a blah, it’s a blah (or: where the wild fats are)

I have to confess, dear readers, that I don’t always call out diet talk when it happens around me.  This is not the healthiest practice for my own sanity and I plan to change this (see below), but sometimes I just don’t have the time/energy to say “you know, diets don’t work” and prepare myself for the inevitable defensiveness that seems to come with being told this information.

It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.

It’s not a diet, it’s a totally delicious meal replacement shake that curbs my craving for sweets and I definitely do not miss eating actual food for lunch.

It’s not a diet, it’s a permanent change to prevent heart disease/diabeetus/deathfatz/wev.

It’s not a diet, it’s making me feel healthier.

It’s not a diet, it’s a cleanse/fast/energy booster.

It’s not a diet, I have 10 pounds of excess poop stuck in my colon and when it’s out I’ll be 10 pounds lighter!

etc.

I get it.  You understand that diets don’t work, but if you ~*permanently change*~ your philosophy/eating habits/lifestyle, you’ll totes lose weight and be healthier.

This whole diet talk thing is frustrating on multiple levels.  It is, of course, ridiculous and eyeroll-inducing and annoying to hear people talking about dieting and expect praise for weight loss, but when these people (women) are actually fat (and they often aren’t), it kind of makes me sad in an I-wish-we-could-just-hang-out-and-be-fat-together kind of way.

Fat community is something I’ve been pondering lately; internet community is valid and awesome and not to be dismissed, but sometimes it would be cool to hang out at the beach or go thrift shopping or out on the town with some fellow fatties.*  There’s no shortage of fat people in my area, but many of them are committed to the above not-diet philosophies.

This winter, I was in a laundromat folding my clothes.  A woman who seemed eccentric but kind had come in a little while after me, and struck up a conversation with a man from the pizza place next door (it was in a strip mall) who’d come in to use the bathroom.  After he left, she turned to me and started chatting about her new diet plan and I wasn’t very responsive because I didn’t want to be rude but I was pretty clearly uncomfortable.  She then proceeded to tell me that I wouldn’t be able to go canoeing or some shit (something about outdoor activities) unless I lost weight and if I didn’t want to end up wearing size 22 clothes, I should get back on the diet wagon.

When I finished folding my (larger than size 22 in some cases) clothing, I said “have a good night” without much in the way of Minnesota Nice in the inflection, probably because I’m not from MN and haven’t lived here long enough to adopt such levels of “nice.”**

I am seriously considering putting together a body-positive zine/mini-booklet/something (on a smaller scale, so to speak, than FAT!SO?… I realize this is not an original idea) and giving out copies to people who assume I want to hear about their diet, dropping them surreptitiously at coffee shops/restaurants/college campuses, etc. as an act of guerrilla activism.  What do you think?  This has more to do with my desire for guerrilla activism than my fear of confrontation.

I’m thinking I could use this to facilitate local meetups, maybe a clothing swap or perhaps a more radical event.

*I have been to one LJ Fats clothing swap and it was awesome.  However, it was 2.5 hours away from home and I was only able to go because I happened to be around for something else.

**read: passive-aggression.  Not all Minnesotans are passive-aggressive, but Minnesota Nice is an alarmingly common behavioral pattern, possibly stemming from Lutheran guilt (I’m not Lutheran so I’m not quite sure), which often involves passive-aggression disguised as “niceness.”

May 24, 2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

So close!

So I was watching a marathon of America’s Next Top Model on Oxygen (don’t judge me), and I muted the commercials to watch a YouTube video or something.  I looked up at my television screen and saw happy fat people dancing on television omg.

I was simultaneously wary of anything on TV that shows fat people, because they’re rarely if ever shown in a positive light, and thinking “wait… they have heads!??  And they’re dancing!  And no one’s crying and I don’t see a doctor who looks like he might be talking about how Obesity Will Kill All Of Us… OMGWTF!”  I un-muted and, unfortunately, it was a commercial for Oxygen’s new show Dance Your Ass Off, a reality dancing competition show for people who want to lose weight.  However, maybe I’ll watch just to see fat people shakin’ it on television and change the channel when they talk about weight loss to save some Sanity Watchers points.

I want to see a TV show about fat people dancing that ISN’T about losing weight.  Hell, I’d probably want to be on such a show!  I love dancing.  The world needs more dancing fatties in my opinion.

Here’s a link to the video… embedding didn’t work for some reason.

May 24, 2009. Tags: . media, Uncategorized. 3 comments.

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