Body Positivity in Space

NO Negative Body TalkI talk a lot about the issues with how fat people are treated by society, and ways that we can fight that.  I think that’s important work (though certainly nobody is obligated to do it.)  But there is something else we can do if we choose  – we can create spaces that reflect the world that we want to live in.  We can decide that our home, our game night, our walking group, our crafting group, our whatever group is a body positive space.  While we’re working to change the world outside, we can also work to change our world.

Last year I got to experience that kind of space.  If you’re a longtime reader of this blog with a really good memory, you might remember my very brief foray into hoop dancing a few years ago.  Well, last year Rowan and Blythe, the amazing women behind Punk Rock Hoops, invited me to be the keynote speaker at Hottie Hoop Camp.  Five days at a beautiful beach house on the Texas coast with super cool hoop dancers, giving a keynote about body positivity and teaching a class on cabaret-style dancing sounded like a great time to me.

Nothing could have prepared me for just how incredible an experience it would be.  Blythe and Rowan work hard to create a space that is intentionally body positive and inclusive.  I won’t speak for any identities that I don’t hold, but as a queer, fat women committed to body positivity who is not a hoop dancer, I couldn’t have asked for more from the event and the group of women who were there.

I experienced complete body positivity for five whole days.  It was bliss. Around 50 women were at HHC and I didn’t hear any negative body talk at all, in fact in five days I never heard anyone say anything snarky about anyone else – not even one time. There were people there at all different levels and I can’t even count how many times I saw someone compliment someone else on a move and the person doing the move immediately offering to teach it to them. Again, I can only speak to my experience and my identities but I was absolutely inspired by the way that space was curated.

I met women who I’ve danced with in shows (looking at you Onyx Swirl) who I’ve hung out with, who’ve spoken at conferences I coordinated, who I connect with on social media, who support me and my work (one of the super fantastic women I met even found me a place to stay in Arizona while I prepare for my IRONMAN, Thanks Allison!), and whose work I support as well. I have such deep gratitude to those who coordinated the event (Rowan, Blythe, Alejandra, Allison, Ruby and the kitchen staff, Trey, anyone I’m forgetting at 4:49am) and to all of those who took part!

If we want a world without body snarking, where all bodies are celebrated we can create a little of that for ourselves right now.  Just like we have the opportunity to make the rules for our online spaces, we have the opportunity to create spaces offline that are intentionally and specifically body positive.

In the same way that culture has allowed fat hate and body hate to proliferate, culture can shut it down.  We can create spaces where negative body talk, body snarking, etc. are simply unacceptable, where anytime someone engages in it, someone else simply explains: “Oh, we don’t do that here, in this space we celebrate all bodies.” We can fight negative body talk and fat hate in our society from the inside out in spaces that we create, and we can start right now!

By the way, if you happen to be a curvy hoop dancer, the Punk Rock Hoops Curvy Hooper Video Challenge for 2015 is happening now –  you can check it out here! (Even if you’re not a curvy hooper, the videos on that page are amazing and so very worth watching!)

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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8 thoughts on “Body Positivity in Space

  1. Great blog as always Ragen!

    Yesterday I got hit with some more horrible news. Yesterday NPR (which has always been my very safe, progressive space) is reporting that people so under report what they eat that the data isn’t even useful. Even NPR is jumping on this idiotic bandwagon that human beings are just machines and that all that matters is calories in and calories out, not special, unique indidviduals with a past, present and future that doesn’t add up to some idiotic law of physics that NO-ONE understands anyways. This coupled with keeping a food log for my psychiatrist has my anxiety levels at an all time high. I’m up at 6:10 in the morning just trying not to have a freaking melt down over all this.

    1. Simon, I wish I had words of wisdom for you, but I would love to offer cyber hugs if you’re willing to accept them. ((((((((Simon)))))) I understand about anxiety, and if there is something more I can do, let me know.

    2. Ugh, Simon, I’m so sorry. That’s so hard. You are not alone; keeping a food log that I knew a medical professional of any kind was going to look at would freak me out.

    3. Hi Simon, I’m so sorry to hear you are having a rough time 😦 Obviously I don’t know your psychiatrist’s reasons for asking you to keep a food log, and it is totally up to you regarding whether you do it or not because it’s your body and your life! However, I did just want to remind you that you DO have the right to tell your psychiatrist (or any other medical professional) that you are uncomfortable with what they are asking you to do, talk it over with them and express your concerns, or even flat out decline to do it if that’s what you decide is best. I happen to be a psychologist, and I know that personally if I asked a patient to do something that made them uncomfortable or increased their anxiety I would want to hear about it. And if your psychiatrist dismisses your concerns in this area that could be a big fat red flag. I hope you and your psychiatrist are able to come up with a solution that works for YOU!

  2. The post title made me think this was going to be about Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace, which was obviously a little off, but I think it’s relevant anyway! Creating safer spaces for children can be a challenge when we’re so inured to the negative body messages that we don’t notice them to counter them. It means finding ways to proactively welcome and affirm fat bodies.

    I try to push back on negative body talk when I hear it at work or social events too, to make those spaces a little safer and more positive. And if you know anyone who could use a reminder that women of all size can be fabulous sci-fi heroes, check out the coloring book 😉

  3. I get a little of this at SCA events. I am wearing clothing made specifically to fit me, sitting next to other people wearing clothing made specifically to fit them, and while there are fat shamers and food police in the room, the rules of courtesy forbid them to speak!

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