While messing around on Le Facebook the other day (most likely when I should have been working), I discovered an old friend from my Uni days had posted the following quote:
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe (tennis legend and activist)
Neat, huh? As a young journalist, whose passion is using her pen (uh, keyboard?) to be a “voice for a voiceless” and stand in the gap for her community, I found that particularly inspiring and awesome. But, as an aspiring Body Activitst, this quote was even more awesome – and very timely.
I’ve wanted to start up my own Fat Acceptance blog since I started reading Ragen Chastain’s brilliant Dances With Fat back in 2011. Especially after seeing this massive difference her work as a Fat Activist has made – not only with her big projects, such as getting the fat-shaming Disney ride Habit Heroes shut down, and standing against those anti-fat billboards in Atlanta, but in the lives of all the women who’d discovered her blog. Women like me, who learnt that they didn’t need to hate themselves and their fat bodies were beautiful as they are. And, I wanted to do the same -especially for New Zealand women.
But, I was scared. I knew I had the heart to be an activist, a revolutionary, a rebel and a flag-bearer for my fellow chubby Kiwis. I knew I had the passion. I knew I had the indignation. I knew I had the words. Problem is, I wasn’t sure if I had the cajones.
I order to be an activist, I knew a thick skin would be required. And not just for dealing with hate mail. Mainly because…well, anti-fat is a tricksy issue, and it’s no different in New Zealand. Obesity “prevention” in this country has been a political football for years, and is constantly bandied about in our media. Politicians, doctors, nutritionists and celebrities have been throwing their hands up in despair for some time. We’ve had Government programmes and “initiatives”. We’ve had the Evil Diet Witch and all her TV programmes; we’ve had Do or Die and Saving Gen Y. We’ve had former League players start up bootcamps for overweight teens, and we’ve had award-winning fashion designers heading campaigns to “fight the fat.”
In the midst of this, neither Size Acceptance nor Health At Every Size has gained much traction here in New Zealand. Well, not that I’ve noticed. At least not to the extent that it has in the US or the UK, or even Australia. I haven’t been able to find any Size Acceptance blogs written by New Zealanders, nor have I seen any fat positive doctors or other health providers stand up against all the ZOMG OBESITY R BAD hysteria. The one time I did see a Fat Activist make a stand in the New Zealand (Cat Pause, a lecturer at Massey University, who organised a Fat Conference last year), it resulted in nothing less than a media shitstorm, with everyone from University professors to our MPs fighting to discredit her. Not to mention (well, at least this has been my experience – particularly in media circles) the fact that while my fellow countrymen seem to be cottoning on that racism is bad, homophobia is bad, misogyny is bad and making fun of special needs kids is REALLY bad, there still seems to be this weird consensus that fat shaming is not a “proper” form of discrimination. Because fat people brought it on themselves, yo.
So, with the LET’S STOP TEH EVOL DEATHFATZ mentality doing the rounds in New Zealand and with very few body activists in our midst, I wasn’t sure how much support I’d get over in my Size Acceptance camp. I wasn’t even sure how my family and friends would react to my blog. I once got into a Facebook screaming match with a friend (also a big woman, and now no longer a friend) on the subject of fat activism, who said that fat people like us will never change the world, because there’s too much evidence stacked against us, so I’d be wasting my time even to even try. Or words to that effect. Shit like that does get under ones skin after a while.
I think, however, my biggest barrier was not other people and their reactions, but myself. Or, more to the point, how I felt about myself. As I said on the About Honeybunny page, I’m not quite *there* when it comes to accepting my own body. For the longest time after discovering Size Acceptance movement, it was very easy to see the beauty in other fat bodies. Other large women were fierce. Gorgeous, luscious, sensuous, Rubenesque, zaftig and generally lovely. Me? I was just dumpy. Flabby, blubbery, lumpy, porcine, hideous, disgusting. No beauty here. And I was *bitterly* of those bloggers and friends who said they loved their bodies, and felt attractive at their size. Body love had eluded me once more.
Things got better, eventually. But still, I didn’t love my body. Tolerate? Sure. Co-exist with? Totally. Begrudgingly accept, cos I’m stuck with it for life? You betcha. But love? Too strong a word. So, how was I going to encourage people like me to love, even like their bodies when I wasn’t at all enamoured of my own? How was I going to raise an army of liberated, enlightened, kick-ass women of all shapes and sizes, when the chinks in my armour were too deep and too many? How was I going to change the world, when I couldn’t change my head or my heart? So, no. I was a Big, Fat Phoney. I put my blog idea well and truly to bed.
Until one day this year, when I thought, “fuck it”. I had too much to say to keep hiding. Far too much. And then, I discovered the Arthur Ashe quote…and realised with a bump that I Didn’t Have To Be Perfect. And I knew then it was time to start my Size Acceptance blog.
So, here I am. Right now, I’m starting where I am. No, I’m not going to turn around say I love my body. Cos that would be untrue. I am still battling against the shitty body image I’ve had since I was a child. There are days when I feel like I’ve well and truly won the battle, and days when I get gunned down and it takes forever to drag my sorry, bleeding carcass back to camp. There are days when I feel like the sexiest thing since Danerys Targaryen in the bath, other days I feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in drag.
I’m conflicted, see. And when I hit a downward spiral, I go down good and proper. But, I’ve made strides. Big strides. So, if I share those strides on this blog, I can inspire others and help them see there’s life after body hatred. And, if I share my pain and am vulnerable in the moments I struggle, then maybe others will see they’re not alone. So, bear with me. And meet me *where I am.*
For this blog, I am using what I have. Which is, right now, a writing talent and a teeny tiny corner of the internet. And a Facebook and Twitter for pimping and sharing said corner of the internet. I am not an MP, or a CEO, or a medical expert, or a motivational speaker, or even a professional dancer and athlete like Ragen Chastain. I’m just a small town journalist, with a blog. Hardly the stuff of legends. But, blogs can gather quite a following after a while, or so I’ve noticed. So, I may not be able to change the world, as my ex-friend so helpfully pointed out. But, right now, I’m just going for a few lives. Seeing as my life was changed in a teeny, tiny corner of the internet and all.
And finally, I am doing what I can. Sure, there are those reckon ranting away on a blog does not activism make. Or, at the very least, it’s lazy activism. But what is activism if not speaking out against injustice? If not giving a voice to the voiceless? If not empowering disenfranchised and oppressed groups in our society? And, I hope to do all that in a public forum, through this blog. Right now, I don’t know if I have the balls to go shutting down Disney rides, or organising Fat Conference or demanding retailers stock more plus size clothes. But, I knew I had to do something, for myself as much as anyone, to speak out against body hatred. Because, well, in the words of the brilliant Dr Seuss, “Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to happen. It’s not.”
So, here I am. Starting where I am, using what I have, doing what I can. Starting small, and reminding myself that I don’t have to be perfect. And I’ll deal with shutting down Disney rides later on.
Big fat hugs,