No More Talking About Us

Mail Chimp HeaderOur society talks about fat people, wages war on fat people, and dictates to fat people what’s “good” for us. Rarely are we talked to; rarer still are we given a place or a voice in discussions about us. Someone else is telling our story, other people are substituting their imagined ideas and stereotypes about what it’s like to be fat for the actual experiences of fat people and I’m really, really not ok with that.

I’ve had the tremendous good fortune to get to meet and talk to and hang out with my heroes in the movement, and those interactions really helped me understand where the movement came from, shape my views, and made me really proud of the rich history of fat activism.

About a year and a half ago I started having this idea about doing a documentary about fat rights – interviewing people from the history of the movement.  In the end I decided that doing it as a documentary was too limiting in terms of accessibility and scope.  So I decided to do in person interviews with activists starting at the beginning of the movement and moving through today, putting those interviews up on YouTube so that as many people as possible can watch it free of charge.

It’s taken a year and a half of work to get to this point, but the time is here, I’m announcing the project:  In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History.  A number of amazing activist have already agreed to be interviewed and I’m getting started next week.   I want to give us a chance to tell our own stories in our own words to as many people as possible and I’m asking for your help.  There are a bunch of ways to support this project from supporting it financially to helping get the word out. (If you’re not into this project then never fear, I’ll be back to my regular blogging tomorrow!)

Donate to the project through GoFundMe, funds will go to cover equipment, technology, travel and editing time.  (GoFundMe has a $5 minimum donation)

If you’re donating less than $5  (every little bit helps!) or you just like paypal better, you can donate using paypal.

Become a DancesWithFat Member.  Members are people who get value from the blog and choose to support my work with $10 a month. As a thank you they get discounts on all of my stuff, special deals that I work out with fat friendly merchants, first notice about things that I do etc.

Help get the word out!  Post or forward this blog post along to your network on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc. (there are buttons at the bottom of the post that let you do that really easily)

Help me connect with fat activists who want to be interviewed – if you know, or are, a fat activist who may want to be interviewed for this project contact me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org.

Watch the videos and pass them along!  If you want to receive notifications as the project progresses and new videos go up, you can join the project mailing list at


I’ve received questions about diversity and inclusion in the project and I want to address that. It is very important to me to make this project inclusive of people of color, people with disabilities, queer people, trans* people, and men all of whom often find themselves under-represented in fat activism.

The first phase is created to primarily include people who were active from the 1960’s through the 1980s, future phases will focus on activists from the 1980s through today.  From the beginning of my research I’ve been looking for activists from the above communities, sometimes with limited success. My process has, to this point, centered around asking people who were active at that time for suggestions and my hope is that by starting the project with the group that I have, others may feel more comfortable to become involved, or those who I haven’t found may find the project.  I intend to continue to diligently and proactively work to find members of these communities and I welcome suggestions for activists to whom I should reach out, or ways to more successfully reach out to activists in these communities.

Questions?  E-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org

9 thoughts on “No More Talking About Us

  1. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    I’d be open to being interviewed, although I’m not much for talking on the phone. However, I’d do it for you!
    I’ve been having a real self-loathing couple of days. Trying to pull myself out of it.

    1. I’ve had a week of those days. I can’t stand it when I feel this way. It’s been a Completely Avoid Any Sort of Reflecting Surface type of week.

  2. With my reblog, I said I’d be amenable to being interviewed. I don’t know how much of an activist I am, though. I’m kind of on the periphery, just sharing posts like this and trying to get the word out there!

  3. Very excited about this project! Happily donated at GoFundMe and shared on Facebook. Good luck Ragen – your energy and activism is inspirational.

  4. I’m not in a financial position to donate at the moment, but hopefully soon. I am SO inspired by this, though, Ragen, and want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the amazing and inspirational woman you are.

  5. Hi Ragen. Here is the section from the Acknowledgments at the beginning of my collection
    “The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe” and Other Stories about Women and Fatness I talk about my earliest public fat activist action:
    On April 13, 1973 at 9 a.m. at the Atkinson Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana, I stood before a room filled with people, announced, “I am fat,” and slowly peeled the wrapping off of a giant Baby Ruth candy bar and took a bite. This act was the taboo-breaking climax of a multi-media presentation called “To Be Fat: The Uses of Obesity in Advertising” co-presented with Beth Mahan on a panel entitled “Images of Women in Advertising” at the third National Meeting of the Popular Culture Association.

    Of the eighty-four panels at the conference, eleven focused on various aspects of women’s studies. Of the remaining seventy-four panels, ten more of the panels had at least one presentation that represented a women’s studies perspective. A quick skimming of the program from that 1973 conference reveals the names of many of the women who became known as the pioneer mothers of feminist thought and pedagogy. Under the auspices of the Popular Culture Association, we held what I believe was the first national gathering of women’s studies pioneer scholars.

    Over the years I have attended almost all of the annual conferences, anticipating them with excitement, participating in them with enthusiasm, and remembering them with pleasure.

    On April 17, 2003 at 10:30 a.m. at the New Orleans Marriott Hotel, I presented a preliminary paper on what has become the Afterword to this book. I recalled the session thirty-three years earlier in Indianapolis and noted that things have gotten much worse for fat people over these three decades but noted also, with great joy, the growth of both the fat liberation movement and the size acceptance movement and the founding in 1977 of the National Women’s Studies Association the second organization to which I gave my whole-hearted loyalty and love.

    I want to thank Ray B. Browne, Ph.D. and Pat Browne, founders (along with several others) of the Popular Culture Association and organizers and shepherds of thirty-three annual conferences. With wisdom and grace, they welcomed us all, making room at these conferences for every kind of intellectual, cultural, theoretical inquiry. Ray was my mentor and my dissertation director. Ray and Pat were my first publishers, enabling me to bring Images of Women in Fiction: Feminist Perspectives into the world in 1972. When I was looking for a doctoral program in which I would be allowed to pursue the course of study I was already engaged in, a study of the history of U.S. women through literature, law, popular culture, psychology, and sociology, Ray welcomed me to Bowling Green State University in 1970 with his characteristic twinkle, saying “Why not here?” When I announced that I wanted to do a dissertation on feminist literary criticism, Ray said, “Why not?” When I asked Ray and Pat if it would be all right to invite all the women’s studies scholars I could locate to the conference in 1972 they answered: “Why not?” When I proposed talking about fat women they said, “Why not?”

    Emily Toth, Robert Penn Warren Professor of English and Women’s Studies, Louisiana State University, channeler of Ms. Mentor, Kate Chopin biographer, women’s studies and popular culture pioneer, was on the panel on images of women in advertising in 1973 speaking about “The Fouler Sex: Women’s Bodies in Advertising.” In 2003, she shared the podium with me to speak about “Women of Substance and Good Eating in New Orleans.” Emily has been my dear friend for thirty-four years and we have egged each other on to increasing splendor, applauding each other, cheering for each other, creating a world in which we might survive with our belief in ourselves intact. She has always been there to read, reread, and make suggestions about my work, and to encourage me and to laugh with me.

    Cheri Erdman, Ed.D., started the journey towards fat acceptance with me in Bowling Green, Ohio in 1973. She was one of the most vital participants in a fat women’s consciousness raising group and she has gone on to write, lecture, and teach about size acceptance in the intervening years with wit, wisdom, and dignity.

    I hope you’ll interview me here in Tucson for your exciting work creating our history and also interview Cheri Erdman who now lives in Florida.

  6. Hi there
    I am a TV producer in the UK who makes programming around weight issues. I make shows that aim to give a voice to larger people who are often hidden from society because of thier weight. Many of the people we feature are extremely grateful for the chance to give their side of the story. I am constantly on the hunt for larger people who are keen to speak out about what their lives are like. We have a lot of contacts through care, medical and other services who believe, in principal, that the programmes we make are helpful, repsectful and treat contributors well. However, they are extremely protective of their patients and clients. In my view this, while understandable, is part of the reason why larger people’s voices can and do go unheard.
    Do you know of any groups like yours in the UK that I could contact to offer people a platform? There would never be any obligation to take part, just an oppportunity to have a discussion about the possibility of participation.
    Many thanks for anything you can suggest.
    All best wishes
    Jo Scott
    I can be contacted direct at:

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