Moms!

My Mom sent me this e-mail yesterday:

“I just read the blogs from Jezebel – Imagine all the women out there that you made feel good today ~  I am Sooooooo proud to be your Mom, you’re an amazing woman and I just love your positive attitude to all people, with all the negativity in the world I’m sure glad you’re in it~Love you to the Nth degree times infintity to the power of eternity and LOTS more”

My Mom has always been this awesome.

And trust me when I tell you that it wasn’t easy.  I was a “highly intelligent but difficult” child per my school records.   As she has told me any number of times I was born 4o years old,  a combination of Lisa Simpson, Stewie Griffin, Hermione Granger, and Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.   It seems that the same independence, veracity, and outspokenness that we admire in adults is somewhat less endearing in children.

I can’t even count the number of times my Mom went to bat for me when I was a kid – teacher’s who didn’t know how to handle me, a bitter band director who tried to hold me down, people telling me that something I was doing  was impossible and I should quit.  My mom is a natural peace keeper but you could not mess with her children without having to deal with her. I remember standing in the principal’s office while Mrs. Goggins said “Your daughter insists on correcting me in front of the class.”  Mom looked at her completely deadpan and said “Are you wrong?”.  Mrs. Goggins exasperatedly replied “That’s NOT the point.”  My Mom turned to the principal and said “This is a school, right?  Isn’t learning the correct information exactly the point?”

My Mom is just amazing and I know how lucky I am to have her.  She is the reason that I’m able to do the self-esteem and body image work that I do, she’s the reason why I’ve always been certain that I can succeed at anything I want to do, she is the (not so) secret of my success.

So, if you are a Mom, today might be a good day to really think about the lessons that you are teaching your kids about their self-esteem and their bodies.  Lessons that you teach directly, indirectly (How do you talk about your body?  What magazines do you have laying around the house?) and that you allow others to teach them all count. This is a huge thanks to all of the Mothers out there who are trying hard to raise children with high self-esteem and good body image in a culture that tries hard to make that impossible.

Since I know that she reads this blog I just want to say Happy Mother’s Day to the Best Mom in the Whole World.  I love you to infinity to the power of infinity and LOTS more!

The Road to Self-Esteem is Probably Not Paved with Hypocrisy

Jezebel.com picked up my blog “Things I’ve heard about thin women”  http://jezebel.com/5531846/things-ive-heard-about-thin-women.  There are almost 500 comments.

I felt the need to blog more about this because I was so surprised by some of the comments.  Several  comments assert that, while bashing thin people probably isn’t ok, it’s not something worth talking about because thin people are protected by the tremendous privilege that the receive in our society and it’s distracting from the battle that fat people face.   Some of the commenters complained that talking about this takes attention away from the fat community and the horrible treatment to which we are subjected.  Some even seem to think that it’s ok to bash thin people because of the privilege they have in our society, saying “they’ll get over it, I promise you”.

Here is the thing though.  The fat community is extremely disenfranchised.  Many of the people of size who I talk to have internalized the oppressive messages that they get from society to the point that it has become an identity for them.  That’s not a foundation upon which you can build a civil rights movement.  It’s hard to demand respect when there are a chorus of your community members who are still convinced that they don’t deserve to be treated well.

So where can we start?

How about with our own actions?   This isn’t the Oppression Olympics – there’s no medal for being the group who has it worst.  I think that the most important thing I can do when I am looking for respect and equality is be an example of what that means in my day to day life.

Even if thin women’s privilege protected them from the pain of comments like “eat a sandwich”, “you’re anorexic”, “real women have curves” and other such bs (and I don’t think that it does protect them) I think it would still be an astoundingly bad idea.

Because even if it doesn’t hurt them, if I say it, it hurts me.  When I  do to others what I don’t want done to me, justifying it because it doesn’t happen to them very often, I think I become a bunch of things that aren’t good:

  • hypocritical
  • out of integrity
  • part of a system I claim I want to end
  • just as bad as everyone who has ever said anything to me about my size

To me this is not about someone else’s privilege, this is about my integrity.

Am I or am I not someone who believes that everyone, and their body, deserves to be treated with respect?  Are my actions consistent with who I say I am? If not then what the hell am I doing?

I know that fat people are hurting in our culture, and we absolutely deserve to be treated better.  But I’m here to suggest that the only way out is up – that we can’t get out of a hole by digging, and I don’t believe that we will ever get respect for our bodies by disparaging someone else’s.  Perhaps it’s a cliche but as I’ve said before I truly believe that you have to start by being the change that you want to see in the world.

While that may mean different things to different people I wish we could all be on the same page that it definitely includes not doing to others the exact thing we are asking people to stop doing to me.

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Accepting “Fat Acceptance”?

Let me start out by saying that I’m not trying to harsh anyone else’s fat acceptance vibe, this is just about how I feel.  Plus, I’ll own up to being a bit of a word nerd so I may be splitting hairs, but hear me out on this and then tell me what you think.

Every time I hear (or try to use) the term “fat acceptance”, it gives me a moment of pause.  In my mind, the idea of accepting something comes with at best a little, and at worst a lot, of compromise.  For example:  My favorite thing about owning my own business is not that I sometimes work 20 hour days.  It turns out that I actually like to sleep (at least I have a vague recollection that I do).  But I accept working 20 hour days because I love what I do and  it’s worth it to me.   My mom is really unhappy that I choose to live so far away, but she accepts it because she loves me.

To me Fat Acceptance feels more like resignation…  “Well, I’ll accept it but I don’t have to like it.”

That just doesn’t make me feel all fat pride empowered and ready to face the world with high self-esteem and healthy body image.  But maybe that’s just my own sense of the word…

Next stop the dictionary (because, as previously mentioned, I’m a big nerd), where I found:

ac·cept·ance

1.  the act of taking or receiving something offered
2.  favorable reception; approval; favor

Wow, that didn’t make me feel better about this at all.  The idea that I would sit around and hope someone would choose to offer acceptance of my body is abhorrent to me, and the thought that I should hope to receive  “approval” or “favor” from others to feel good about myself is antithetical to everything I believe about self-esteem.

Being a good former spelling bee nerd, I clicked the button that said  “use ‘acceptance’ in a sentence” and got:  “You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”

Yikes, this is getting murkier all the time.  Does that mean I just “accept” my body in the same way that I “accept” rejection – that doesn’t seem like the best call.  I get the idea of rejecting acceptance I guess, but there again is the idea that acceptance is something that is offered to you by someone else at their discretion.  I’m not putting my body up for evaluation and an acceptance decision – I’m not applying to college and hoping for the thick letter.  My body is. Others can think whatever they want about my body but I’m certainly not going to base my self-esteem or the way I feel about my body on what someone else thinks.

At the end of the day, I feel that asking for fat acceptance is giving other people power that shouldn’t belong to them.

As for me, I choose to do more than just accept my body. I choose to love and celebrate it.

When it comes to others I’m not asking for acceptance.  I’m expecting, and if necessary demanding,  respect.

Glee-full?

Warning!!!!!!  This post contains spoilers about last week’s Glee (the episode named “Home”).  You have been warned.

Glee is a show about stereotypical misfits – the obnoxious over-achiever, the girl with the stutter, the kid in a wheel chair, the gay boy, the pregnant teen, and the fat kid.

In the first season, all of these story lines were explored except one – the fat girl.  The character of Mercedes Jones as played by Amber Riley.

…and I couldn’t figure out how I felt about that.  Was I glad that they didn’t make a thing about her weight?  Happy that it was assumed that she was talented and fashionable?  Or was I irritated that every other kid got to have an episode of empowerment, but not Mercedes?  Frustrated that they would be so unrealistic as to portray  that her weight was never an issue in this culture? I went back and forth about this, talked it over with other friends in the size positive community, and I still couldn’t decide.

That all changed last week.  It became apparent that they were going to do a story line about Mercedes’ weight.  Mercedes joins the Cheerios (the school cheerleading squad) and the cheer coach tells her that she has to lose 10 pounds in a week.  Her best friend tells her that Cheerios finally makes them cool and that she needs to lose the weight and not mess it up.  She goes on a diet.  I get nervous – I love this show and if they handle this in a way that is not size positive I know I will be heartbroken.  I hold my breath.  Mercedes  stops eating and faints.  Quinn (the pregnant former cheerleader) reminds Mercedes that she has always been comfortable in her own skin and that she should never let anyone take that away from her. Fast forward to a beautiful scene where she stands in front of her school and gives an incredible speech:

“So most of you know Cheerios is about perfection and winning, looking hot and being popular.  Well I think that it should be about something different.  How many of you at this school feel fat?  How many of you feel like maybe you’re not worth very much, that you’re ugly, and you have too many pimples and not enough friends.  Well I’ve felt all of those things about myself at one time or another.  Hell I’ve felt most of those things about myself today.  And that just ain’t  right.  And we’ve got something to say about it…”

Check it –  a real, live, healthy, active, talented, confident fat character on a television show, being supported by her friends and teachers.  How do I love Glee?  Let me count the ways!