Success and Progress

Remember our petition asking NEDA to end their partnership with the STOP Obesity Alliance?  I got an e-mail from NEDA saying “The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) does not have any ongoing partnership with George Washington University’s program, Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Now Alliance.”  They have removed the STOP Obesity Alliance partnership from their website.  NEDA did the right thing, and they did it with class. They do important, difficult work and I have tremendous respect for them as I stated in the petition. If this is a victory it is a small one,  I’m just happy that we got it done. Huge thanks to everyone involved!  The experience brought up some interesting things for me:

When I started this petition I got plenty of private e-mails saying one of three things:

  • They agreed with me but were afraid to get involved because they feared that NEDA would become upset with them and that it would hurt their careers.

I can understand this.  Fearing for your livelihood is a big deal.

  • Telling me that it was impossible and a waste of time

This group I don’t get.  And I run into these people all the time – people who thank me for my work around fat rights then tell me that we’ll never make progress.  If you don’t want to try to make changes, that’s fine, I’m not trying to tell anybody how to live.  But if you think what I’m trying to do is impossible you can save yourself an e-mail because I don’t care.  My activism started in kindergarten when I was accused my Mrs. Neff of “leading small revolts” because I organized a group of students to protest the fact that we were spending too much time playing and napping and not enough time learning. That started a life of not being scared of power, and not just trying to do things that were possible, but doing things that I think need doing.

I know that we can make change.  Change that seems impossible.  On June 28, 1969 GLBT patrons at the Stonewall Inn fought back against persecution, oppression, and physical abuse that was not just government sanctioned but government sponsored.  A month ago I watched my best friend legally marry his wonderful husband in New York City.  If you are 41 or older that happened within your lifetime.  On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. gave the “I have a dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  On January 20, 2009 this country inaugurated its first African American President.  If you are 46 years old that happened within your lifetime.

We can make change, substantive change, seemingly impossible change and we’ve done it before in less than 50 years.  Things aren’t perfect for the gay community or the African American Community but they are better now than they were 40 years ago and people gave their lives to get that done.  Nobody is obligated to continue their work, but what good are you doing telling people who are already swimming upstream that the change they are working for is impossible? I’m happy to argue about the agenda and the message, but hope is not up for debate.

  • The third group said that what I was doing was “dangerous” and that I should be “careful” to not upset NEDA

I appreciate their concern but somebody has to be willing to stick their neck out.  A couple of days ago I announced that I was taking this blog to a voluntary subscription format and this is exactly why.  I got a bunch of e-mails asking why I didn’t just do ads.  It’s because I don’t want to be supported by corporations,  if I’m going to be supported I want it to be by the people who get value out of my work and feel that it’s worth their support.   The idea is that if you read the blog, if you think that you get $10 a month of value from it, and if you can afford it, you can choose to subscribe.  The subscriptions support the activism work that I do. I don’t have to worry about corporate affiliations holding me back from doing what’s right, the people who are supporting my work are the people whose opinions I actually care about.  This is what allows me to stick my neck out and do things that others think are dangerous.

Like the NEDA thing.  Again, a huge thank you to everyone who signed the petition, passed it along, or helped in any way on this.  People said that it was impossible and we did it. There’s no such thing as false hope.  It’s done, we won, what’s next…

20 thoughts on “Success and Progress

  1. The naysayers, however well intentioned, are always with us. I was called a rabble rouser in 8th grade when I told the entire assembled body of Junior High School 168 in Flushing/Queens, NY, that our Student Government was a sham and that we needed more of a voice in the running of the school.

    I signed this petition, not knowing what the reaction of NEDA would be, but knowing that it was the right thing to do. Let us never run out of hope and energy to keep swimming upstream.

    Congratulations.

  2. Were they removed because of your letter or was that done on their own for a different reason.

    A main component of success is having the belief in yourself, which obviously you already have. I think you are already a success.

  3. I say this is definitely a win! Yay!

    But….I’m also flummoxed by the person who is afraid of NEDA. What exactly would they do to you if you upset them? I have a hard time believing that they really have that much power.

  4. Excellent news. Well done Ragen. I too am working towards a future where we do not make assumptions about people’s health based on their size – and that goes for skinny people who are perfectly healthy and ever being accused of being anorexic. You cannot tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them.

    I’m with you on this one, great news. Big WOO YAYS! xxxx

  5. Ragen,

    Thanks for all of your hard work on this. Your blog reminded me that when I did the 30 mile “hike for hunger” at age 11, my 6th grade teacher told my mom that I would end up “being shot like those protesters at Kent State!!!”

    I’m still alive and kicking – and speaking out. Thanks for your petition.
    All best, Judith

  6. Thank goodness for people like you! As a kid, I was always like the salmon swimming upstream. The first activist thing I did in public was to convince the boys and the girls in high school that it was OK to sit next to each other at lunchtime. It was gender integration. The next major thing, ten years later, was to start the NAAFA organization two weeks before Stonewall. Fortunately, we didn’t have to throw stones or confront the police, unlike the gays–we just had to confront our friends and relatives who all thought I (we) were crazy. All ideas that are ahead of their time are thought to be crazy!

    I applaud your subscription plan!

  7. Hey Ragen,

    I know you get this a lot but THANKS for you blog. I’ve known you for a few years and I’m always blown away by how much you do. I started reading you blog just about daily some time in September when I was ready to cave on the bariatric surgery thing. My doctor had labled me non-compliant not becasue I didn’t take my medicine or because I failed to follow her instructions. No I was labled because I refused to consider surgery. I am 345 lbs and my medical issues are low thyroid & asthma (neither of which will end if I lose weight). Anyway I was getting hit from all sides. I sat through a sermon and basically was told that being overweight was violating the “thou shalt not murder” commandment because I was basically killing myself. I was being hounded by my family to “do something about my weight,” and I couldn’t find clothes for me without some kind of huge ugly print. I was considering the surgery just to make them all shut up. You blog has become my source of ammunition for combat. So thank you and keep it up please.

    Heather W.

    1. Hi Heather,

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. We really need to turn the medical community around, this has become completely out of control. The sermon is shocking to me. I happen to know that you are an amazing person and I’m really glad that I have the opportunity to support you in your journey. Rock on 🙂

      ~Ragen

  8. I think I find myself most flummoxed by group #3. I can understand not wanting to lose a job, and while the Voices of Dooooooom are kind of ridiculous, they are, as others have said, always with us. But NEDA is going to come get you for daring to speak out against them????? When did NEDA become a goon squad that hauls people out of their beds and lines them up against a wall for execution? Where did they get that much power and how did they decide the best way to exercise it was to rub out bloggers who question one individual tactic?

    The illogic, it BUUUUUURRRRRRNNNNNSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!

    Me? I’ve been rabble rousing since kindergarten, when my actions prompted the school principal to get left-handed scissors for all the classrooms and forbid my teacher to use a stupid ditto sheet she gave us about every other week until I refused to do it.

    In first grade, I was instrumental in saving the job of the first African American teacher in the school district.

    At twelve I was picketing the local movie theater when they decided to end student prices and charge everyone over the age of six full price.

    I’ve marched for peace, blogged for FA and marriage equality, signed petitions like yours for a dozen different causes, given money to the fight for reproductive freedom, and called out friends on racist, sexist, and homophobic statements.

    I don’t think fear of NEDA is in any way going to stop me now. And anyone who thinks you’re going to turn tail and run from a group like NEDA… yeah, I can’t really see that happening, either.

    As soon as funds allow, I hope to subscribe. Your blog is well worth it to me.

  9. THANK YOU for speaking out about being afraid to say anything that disagrees with NEDA. While I do respect much of the work that they do, I also firmly believe that there is a lot more that they’re NOT doing. Much of this is related to where they get the majority of their funding. When up to 94% of bulimics never obtain mental health treatment (statistics NEDA lists on its own site), why then, aren’t they helping to develop new, more cost-effective forms of care? Answer: Because their “Sustaining Sponsors” happen to be highly-profitable treatment centers. It stands to reason that these “Sustaining Sponsors” are NOT donating money in the hopes of helping to develop a lower-cost alternative to the high-cost, high-profit services they provide.

    Regarding being “afraid” to speak out against NEDA….
    Consider this: NEDA is funded by the largest treatment centers in the US. (I sometimes wonder if NEDA is not so much a non-profit advocacy agency and more of a non-profit *advertising* agency…..). The people who head these treatment centers also hold high positions within the Academy for Eating Disorders. Anyone who has posted on the AED forum knows what happens when you post anything that goes against the grain of what is ‘acceptable’ to those at the helm. In fact, I remember one particular thread that was deleted from the forum entirely after a poster questioned whether or not donating to NEDA would give a donor the most ‘bang for their buck’.
    In short, I think people are afraid because there is very much an oligarchy that exists at the top of the ED field. And that’s where the money is. When all is said and done, we can have all the best intentions in the world, but still need to be able to obtain the funding necessary for carrying out advocacy activities…and that sometimes means playing nice with those who may not be entirely altruistic in their approach.

    I do believe, though, that once more people start to speak up, we may see NEDA expand their focus to become something other than an advertising organization for treatment centers. They just need a reason to do that– public outcry can be one of those reasons.

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