Tag Archives: jolly

Not Jolly and Not Sorry (Letting go my need to make everybody laugh…)


I recently spoke at the Environmental Awards in Irwindale.  My speech was called No BODY Left Behind–Workplace Wellness for All. I talked about workplace wellness in terms of four “i-opening” words–information, incentive, invitation and inspiration.  I must give credit where it is due.  Jon Robison and Rosie Ward and their fabulous new book “How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work” helped to transform my thinking.

I shared a lot about what I thought was working and wasn’t working in workplace wellness.  I talked about how many wellness programs feel unfair because they ARE unfair.  They reward the already privileged in a way that is subsidized by the less privileged.  They only accommodate the needs of the folks that are in least need of the program.  They use shame and peer pressure to try to shove employees into a single vision of “health” which is largely driven by media-fueled unrealistic expectations and the personal bias of the program creators and managers.  They could be inviting.  They could be inclusive.  They could make every BODY feel welcome.  But they usually don’t.  And they often end up causing more problems than they solve.

I think I did a good job at the talk.  But it was weird.  As a speaker, I mostly give upbeat, Rah-Rah, body positive and funny speeches.  And this kind of speech is instantly rewarded.  People watching and hearing the speech cheer and laugh and clap.  People smile and have a good time.  It’s a pretty strong, emotionally positive feedback loop.  And I usually leave the stage feeling awesome.

This talk was different.  People were paying attention.  But people were thoughtful.  Listening carefully.  Letting my words sink in.  This talk was serious.  I had a positive takeaway.  There are ways we can do this better.  But this speech was not fun and it was not funny.

And as I walked off the stage, I wondered.  “Did I do okay?  Did I get through.  Did people hate it.  Did they learn something?”  I felt very insecure.  Sure, there was applause at the end, but no positive, laughing, feel-good feedback loop.

I always feel a little unsure when I release my need to entertain–to be funny–to be jolly.  But I’m always kind of amazed at the response when I do.  As I sat back at my table a woman immediately asked for my card.  Not because she wanted me to do a fun and jolly speech at her workplace (a local college).  But because her school has implemented a wellness program modeled after The Biggest Loser television show.  And my talk made her think that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.  I’m hoping to speak with her soon.  So I could see a very positive result from straying outside of my comfort zone.

And this was a good reminder.  Being upbeat and positive and funny are great tools.  They are some of the colors with which I can paint.  But when communicating with others about size acceptance and body positivity and social justice for people of all sizes, it behooves me to use ALL the tools at my disposal and all the crayons in the box–even those that aren’t my normal favorites or the most comfortable ones to use.

Which leads me to this point.  I’d like to straight up invite you to attend the Fat Activism Conference.  Some of the people there will be taking a “fun and funny” approach to fat activism.  Some will be serious.  Some of the testimony may be full of pain and not so much fun to hear.  Some of it will be LOLROTF funny.  But what the conference allows you to do is hear a variety of voices coming from a wide range of perspectives all speaking on the topic of making the world better, safer and more inclusive for people of all sizes.  And frankly, today is the last day you’ll be able to get the lowest possible price to attend the conference.  Our super earlybird pricing ends tonight.  So if you’re up for hearing all different kinds of voices sharing using all the tools at their disposal and all the crayons in the box, while sharing ways to make the world better for Every BODY why not register now?


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
Register for the Fat Activism Conferenece!

The Tyrrany of Jolly

Canadian doc crew interviews the Size Diversity Task Force

Canadian doc crew interviews the Size Diversity Task Force

Recently, I hosted a Size Diversity Task Force meeting and a Canadian documentary film crew at our house.  They were interviewing us regarding our Paper Mache in a Big, Big Way project and also about size stigma in general.  One of the questions that came up really struck me.  The question was, “Do you also feel pressure to fulfill what some might consider to be a “positive” association with being fat.  For example, do you feel pressure to be jolly?  And if so, is this a bad thing?”

I’ve given a lot of thought to this question over the years.  And at least for me, the answers in order are, “Yes, yes and often times.”  I would say that over the years, I have felt pressure to present myself as a “good fatty”.  This means presenting myself as somebody who exercises and eats well.  This means presenting myself as somebody who is happy and well dressed and tastefully accessorized, and frankly, not too much trouble to anyone.

And yes, I’ve felt pressured to present myself as jolly.  In the past this meant carefully avoiding the expression of anger and the assiduous avoidance of the “angry fat woman” stereotype.  It also meant feeling the need to be entertaining.  If you look at the few fat people on TV and on the stage, if  you look for the role that the world asks us to play, you will see many of us in the role of comic relief.  It seems that we are allowed a small toe-hold, a small part to play as long as we are funny–as long as we are entertaining.

So for many years, I found myself playing the role of the funny fatty.  It was as if I was apologizing for not being pretty to look at and compensating by at least being fun to be around.  I learned to tell a good story.  I learned self-deprecating humor.  I learned to make people laugh.

And in many ways, this is a good thing.  It is a good thing to be entertaining.  It is good to laugh.  It is good to be able to make people laugh.

But it also became a way that I experienced oppression.  While it is wonderful to make people laugh, it is not so wonderful to feel like you must make people laugh.  I often found myself calculating my worth based on whether or not I was entertaining.  I felt like being funny was my job, my justification for being, the shield that would protect me, and the platform from which it was okay for my fat body to be in the world.

It was exhausting.

And this is why the expectation of jolliness is sometimes bad.  Sure it’s great to have the option to be jolly.  But once there is an obligation to be jolly there is a problem.  Because nobody feels jolly all the time.  And everybody should be allowed to express a full range of emotions including happy and sad and angry and tired and everything else.  Every BODY has a right to exist whether they are funny or not.  And I think sometimes, this pressure to be jolly is about not wanting to address the stigma and the pain fat people face in our society.  Because it’s difficult to express just how angry you are about being called names, or not getting good health care or not being able to find nice clothes or not getting a good job when you are under a societal mandate to be jolly.

So, my dear friends, if you feel jolly, by all means, be jolly.  If  you feel sad, feel sad.  If you’re mad as hell and don’t want to take it any more, then stand up sister, rise up brother, and be heard!  Because big, little, fat, skinny, tall or small, your feelings are important.  You are important.  So please feel free, to simply be…you.


The Fat Chick

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