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.
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.
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:
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.”
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?
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
(cross-posted, slightly edited, from my LiveJournal)
So I’ve been dealing with chronic pain issues for, oh, maybe a little over a year now. Before that I had back pain for roughly 8 years, and now it’s pretty much everywhere. I have good days and bad days, and today was not a good day.
I was 30 minutes late to work because getting out of bed took longer than I thought it would, and I figured I would feel better as the day progressed (it’s often bad in the morning and then gets better as I start moving around and doing stuff). I was supposed to teach today–I had to cancel last week to process some family shit that’s going down (everything will be fine in that department, a lot of stuff just happened a couple of weeks ago), and I was in tears when I had to call the treatment center to cancel today’s classes.
Then I felt stupid for crying, which led to a mini-breakdown in the bathroom.
I feel like people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m in too much pain to do something, which sucks. It’s also why I tend to overexert myself and “suck it up” rather than stop when my body tells me I need to stop. When the President was in Minneapolis on Saturday I was too distracted by pain to pay attention to what he was even saying–I caught snippets here and there, and a lot of his speech seemed like stuff I’d heard before, but shit. I was hoping I would be totes inspired once he started speaking and my pain would go away because of his magical Presidenty powers, but that didn’t work.
I went to the tribal clinic at home (~1.5 hours away from where I go to school) about six months ago and the nurse practitioner told me to lose weight. Then I tried to go to Health Services on campus and when I called to make an appointment they said I needed to get records of my visit from the tribal clinic faxed before I could be seen, probably so they could make sure I wasn’t just looking for pain pills or something. That took forever and I never made another appointment.
Now, it’s getting bad enough that I know I need to see a doctor but I fucking hate doctors. I need to find a PCP that will listen to and believe me instead of being a douchebag, but I don’t have time to go looking for one. SOMETHING’s going on here. I just don’t have any fucking clue what. I’m lost.
Maybe, JUST MAYBE (I know I’m not the first person to say this), people perceive fat people as unhealthy because we (and I can only speak for myself here) put off going to the doctor until something’s massively fucked up and preventative care isn’t taken into consideration, and when we DO go to the doctor they don’t listen to us because they see fat and think “oh, this person just needs to lose weight and all of their health problems will go away.” Yeah, not a super effective approach.
When I’m stigmatized by the people who are supposed to help me, I have a rough time trusting that the next person won’t treat me like crap. This leads to a difficult relationship with everyone who might judge me based on how I look, and doesn’t make me want to find another doctor. I’m constantly reminded of the uphill battle we fight in order to show our faces in public. Yes, sometimes I have difficulty walking because I’m in pain. No, it’s not because I’m fat. No, you do not have the right to judge me for taking the elevator because walking down the stairs aggravates my knee.
And when doctors are seen as authority figures in our society, we pick up signals from them about the acceptable treatment of fatties. Oh, just lose some weight and you’ll be healthy. Just go on a diet and all of your problems will go away. Just get some exercise and you won’t have depression or anxiety anymore. Hey, if you took the stairs, maybe your knee wouldn’t crumble under the sheer mass of your fatz!
These judgments seem to give people the right to be openly disgusted by my body. Eww, fatties making out? Gross! Who wants to see that, amirite??
And it’s totes reasonable to be offended by fat bodies on television. No, really, how dare I exist so that people have to (gasp!) look at me when I am in their line of vision! Anything I do in front of other people (walking! standing! sitting! talking!) is definitely offensive to innocent bystanders, and I would be silly to think that someone who looks like me has the right to make out on television. What was I thinking, assuming that people wouldn’t automatically barf at the sight of my flabby arms or my double chin? </sarcasm>
P.S. Neglected blog is neglected; hopefully I’ll have more time to post regularly sometime soon.
Whenever I have conversations about health disparities affecting Native people, the subject of diabetes has a good chance of coming up. Not always, since it’s often about reproductive health (I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here but I’m a sex educator) , but fairly often.
I went to an amazing and inspiring presentation about language revitalization and the keynote speaker talked about what it “really means” to be Native. It’s true that many of us* (not all, of course) grow up hearing “be proud to be Native!” but are never told what that means, but seeing our cousins, friends, etc. engaging in destructive behaviors–alcoholism, gang violence, etc. This can contribute to the belief that being Native really means drinking, living in poverty, and being a stereotypical “lazy Indian.”
It’s also true that we have the highest rate of diabetes among all races, and that 95% (according to the American Diabetes Association) of Native people with diabetes have Type 2. I’m not an expert on diabetes by any means, but I hear about it left and right from elders, medical professionals, etc.
I posted maybe a year ago about historical trauma and its effects on health disparities, and it comes up a lot in my college classes and fairly often in my job. I can’t help but wonder, though, whether someone looks at me and makes judgments based on my body about the food I eat and whether it has given/will give/is giving me diabetes because omg deathfat. Of course, it’s none of their business anyway, but being judged is annoying even when you know it’s unwarranted, shallow and inaccurate judginess.
So how do you overcome the assumptions of predominantly white medical professionals (who may or may not be totally excited about working in Indian Health Services clinics)? How do you get your voice heard when it’s already being muffled by your race, gender, and size? How do you explain that the reason why your blood sugars are normal and good “despite” your fat is that hey, fat cells do not automatically raise one’s blood sugar? Or that you are not actually in immediate danger of dying because you’re fat? Wait, it’s almost like fat in and of itself doesn’t kill people! Wait, thin people get heart disease too? WTF??!?
Clearly my fat is leeching sugar and cholesterol into my blood ALL OF THE TIME and that is totes causing health problems because that’s how the obesity works. How sad.
Whatever it “really means” to be Indian is subjective. I would hope it doesn’t involve the stereotypes, the alcohol/substance abuse, etc. but everyone’s reality is different and while eating fast food every week may not be part of what it means to be Native, people who do so aren’t less Native. People like to think that disease is caused by fat and that fat is a choice people make because they’re afraid that they will someday get fat and if they do, they gonna die. My mom used to (and she hasn’t done this in a long time, knock on wood) “casually mention” how much weight her friends were losing just by cutting out soda, even diet soda! or by eating a handful of whole flaxseeds every day! or by using the Wii Fit! (this one was more recently), or whatever. As I got older, I interpreted this as “you have my genes and you are fat and if these people lost weight then you can lose weight and I will be reassured that my genes won’t make ME fat omg-please-don’t-let-me-get-fat.”
It seems kinda similar to the way some thin Native people see fat Native people (and I am not comparing fat and alcoholism here, but also the way some sober Natives view alcoholic Natives) as “ruining our image for everyone,” like non-Indians are going to look at us and be like “OMG, a fat lazy Injun! THEY ARE ALL FAT AND LAZY AND NOT TO BE TRUSTED, AHHHH!!!!” which is all kinds of fucked-up. We are not obligated to be the sole representative of our race/tribe. It sucks that a lot of people are forced into that role, but that’s another blog post.
Maybe that’s just my experience. It’s more of an unspoken (or less spoken, not completely unspoken) thing, and I have no idea whether other fat Native women have experienced this or if just read too much into things/make shit up. Whatev.
I will write something more coherent about this soon.
*disclaimer: there are over 560 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. alone, and obvs. every tribe, band, family and individual is different so it’s a) difficult and b) inappropriate to make sweeping generalizations about Native experiences.
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!
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.”
Good news, everyone!
My brown bag lecture/presentation/discussion on Body Love, Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size was two weeks ago today (and I didn’t blog about it right away because both of my computers are currently out of commission… one due to a dead hard drive and one due to a cat whose curiosity killed my LCD screen) and it went really well!
There were 40 people there, which I can still barely comprehend; we ran out of chairs in the meeting room, which usually holds 25 people max. The event was sponsored by my amazing friends at the university women’s center, and the written evaluations were overwhelmingly positive! There were a few not-so-great ones from people who refused to believe that I am healthy at 315 lbs., but with over 90% very positive feedback/raving reviews I can say “haters to the left” with confidence. One evaluator said (and I am paraphrasing here) something along the lines of “yeah, it’s great to have self-esteem!… but IF YOU GET TOO FAT YOU’LL DIE AND I AM TELLING YOU THIS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD,” but others suggested it should be done every semester.
Despite the person who allegedly advocates for positive body image but still thinks that fat is unhealthy, it was so amazing to hear from individuals–fat and not-fat–who were deeply touched by what I was sharing, which included statistics as well as personal experiences with fat hatred. I was impressed to see such a successful example of Real-Life Meatspace Fat Activism; I’ve often heard people bash FA for being a predominantly online movement, which really just proves that we’re all a bunch of lazy-asses who have nothing better to do than talk to each other on the internet using accepting ourselves as an excuse to sit on the couch all day eating cheeseburgers, AMIRITE?!? (JK, but seriously, my own roommate said that to me a few months ago.)
Earlier this evening I took a survey, for which I was Randomly Selected about food at the university. The e-mail I got was fairly vague, but mentioned that it would be about the eating, health and environmental habits of the student body.
I was pretty excited; completing the survey could get me a free $5 (I’m broke), I tend to eat on campus way too often, and I would really enjoy some organic/healthier options besides frozen Amy’s meals (which are delicious but overpriced and, well, frozen) and “Healthy Choice” TV dinners–which, for me, are triggering by nature, and that discourages me from purchasing them (and I haven’t actually done the research to find out whether they’re actually “healthy”).
However, I wasn’t sure how to feel when I was prompted to enter my height and weight. I wasn’t surprised, but I assume they will calculate and use my BMI somehow–maybe to figure out the “average” or look at it alongside my food-buying habits or whatever it is surveyors would do with that sort of information.
I was a little annoyed because it isn’t relevant. I get that they want to find out whether there’s interest in convenient and healthy food choices on campus, but I don’t think they need to know my height or weight to effectively analyze my answers.
It was an “answer this question and if you say ‘yes’ we’ll expand on it with more questions” survey, and I didn’t see the questions I would’ve answered if I had clicked “Yes” when it asked me “Are you currently dieting to lose weight?”–but that shouldn’t be relevant to whether they decide to incorporate healthy options either. Just because I’m a big fat fatty and will most likely stay that way doesn’t mean I have any desire to eat a burger and fries for lunch every damn day, and just because I want to eat a healthy meal once in a while when I’m on campus all day with no time to cook lunch/dinner at home doesn’t mean I want to lose weight.
Maybe I’m just worried that my school will end up like Lincoln University and make us fatties take a glorified phys. ed. course before we can graduate, but I’m considering e-mailing the psychology department (a primary sponsor of the survey) to inquire as to why they asked for height and weight and, if they say they did it to measure our health, politely give them a piece of my mind.
Am I over-analyzing this shit? Taking it too personally? I’m not ashamed or afraid of telling them my height and weight, but with a little bit of fat-positive buzz going on around these parts in the past two weeks (at least in my bubble within the campus) I would be real disappointed if this lead to the university being all “uh oh, our students are too fat! let’s save them from themselves!” any more than it already is (I haven’t seen a doctor at the university clinic in a while so I’m not totally sure what that environment is like).
I might just be way eager to keep talking about HAES with people who don’t “get it” yet, but maybe some body-positive good will come of this.
I know it’s been forever since I posted here, but I have some really exciting news!
As a project for a class, I’m facilitating a workshop/presentation/discussion called “Body Love, Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size” at my university on November 18. I’m super excited, and I hope that everyone who comes will benefit from it–so I’m coming to you all for advice!
If you were completely new to FA/SA/HAES, what kind of information would you want? I plan on showing the Fat Rant YouTube video by Joy Nash, talking about the basic principles of Health at Every Size and probably providing a list of resources like blogs and books–so any “absolutely must-read” resources would be great. I might follow the general outline of Lessons from the Fatosphere, but I haven’t put together a format yet.
I’ll focus on fatness in particular because I’m fat, but I know there will be people there who aren’t. I’ll try to talk about thin allies in the fat acceptance movement; anything else I should mention regarding non-fats? I definitely want to include the fact that thin people also face body image issues, but I’m not sure how to approach the subject.
There’s a lot of information I could include, but it will only be an hour long so it’ll be somewhat of a crash course. Hopefully I’ll be able to make the whole thing as effective as possible in the time we have. I’m thinking about having a follow-up meeting/get-together for people who are interested, too, to see if/how they’ve used this information, and maybe more discussion on the topic can come out of that.
Thanks in advance!
Lesley of Fatshionista has the best ideas ever. “Fuck PETA” blog carnival, here I come!
Oh, you. You’re like the douchebag at a party who deliberately says precisely the wrong thing in hopes of offending and “shocking” people. Do you seriously not realize that you’re turning people off from animal rights activism? You’re unfortunately the foremost voice for your cause, a cause I support, but most people who aren’t in your organization want nothing to do with you.
“Shock value” is not an excuse to completely ignore human women’s rights in favor of animals’, and don’t even get me started on this shit. This one of your many objectifying ads even contradicts your new advertising campaign:
And you couldn’t even be original in your offensiveness? Thanks so much, PETA, I appreciate that you are trying to save me, a fat person whale. I’ve got to get back to the ocean, or I might die! Meanwhile, I’ll be offending people by wearing a swimsuit in public–or simply by leaving my house once in a while. Oh noes! Fat people are such a tragic disappointment to society, what with us existing and all. Why haven’t we seen that our mere presence is disgusting and offensive to the general public? Someone should really teach us a lesson–and that someone is you. Great job. I’m sure the fatties will be completely phased out by the time everyone is vegetarian, because no fat vegetarian or vegan has ever existed in the history of food.
Seriously, though, I’ve been a fat vegetarian and a fat vegan (and a fat omnivore, for that matter). You continually demean and animalize women (including us “whales”). When were you going to start using these fabled “ethics” I keep hearing so much about and happen to be one of the letters in your own fucking acronym? The ethical treatment of animals is not equivalent to the exploitation and body-shaming of women.
You falsely encourage women to be “comfortable in their own skin” (in an anti-fur ad) while using the same tactics used by the fashion industry to make women feel like shit about their bodies, and now this. Congratulations, PETA. You’ve alienated a large (no pun intended) group of people YET AGAIN. Racism and misogyny are not appropriate tools with which to fight animal cruelty; I don’t know who you think you’re fooling. Fuck you and the horse you didn’t ride in on and probably treated with a hell of a lot more respect than the women in your advertisements.
Love, Go fuck yourselves,
If you want to send your own “fuck you” to PETA, use this online form and/or comment on this blog post. If you’re on Twitter, be sure to tweet @officialpeta with the lovely and increasingly popular hashtag #fuckyoupeta. Gosh, I love swearing probably a little too much.