Tag Archives: technology

Up Hill Both Ways: 30th Anniversary of Shadow on a Tightrope

A new generation is introduced to Shadow on a Tightrope.  Photo Credit: Substantia Jones

A new generation is introduced to Shadow on a Tightrope. Photo Credit: Substantia Jones

I have to confess.  I recently re-read Shadow on a Tightrope in honor of this blog carnival.  I tore through the book at warp speed, reveling in the sheer, unadulterated, radical awesomeness of it.  I was moved by the rawness and honesty found in so much of the writing.  And I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the women who came before me in this amazing movement of size acceptance.

I felt all of these things, but more than any of these things, I felt a sense of awe.  These women blazed a trail across this far-flung land.  They build a bridge to one another through their written words.  And they did it with pencils and typewriters.

Now I understand that there’s a real danger here that I will tell the activism equivalent of walking to school and back, in the snow, and that it was uphill both ways.  But isn’t that sort of what we are talking about here?

In reading these stories, I was struck by how hard it was for size activists simply to find one another.  I was fascinated by the level of manual work they did, collecting checks to cover the costs of photocopying medical journal articles and studies, copying them and mailing them out to one another.

I was also struck by how often a writer in the anthology refers to years or even decades in isolation–believing they were the only one to feel the way they did.  And I was moved by the joy expressed in finding even one like-minded soul with whom to have dinner, swap letters or share late-night phone calls.

It’s hard to speak of size acceptance today, even with the myriad of online research resources and the powerful forums and channels that bring like minded activists to the distance of just one click from one another.  While it’s true that modern life brings a different set of headaches (like moderating yet another absolutely vile YouTube comment) it also brings us comfort and tremendous support.  Often, within seconds of writing a blog post or sharing a thought on Facebook, I’ll have a word or two of support or encouragement.  I can debate difficult questions about the nature of size acceptance in real time, with scholars throughout the world.  But even so, it can be hard to stand aside from the mainstream on notions of weight, weight loss, fat acceptance, and Health At Every Size.

But how much more difficult was it back in 1983 or even earlier? Shadow on a Tightrope, was created in a time when writers put their stake in the sand, said their piece and then waited weeks or months or even years to see what the world had to say about it.  Yet it’s astonishing, how many stakes were planted, and just how much ground was covered by this early work.

We owe a debt of gratitude to these early pioneers.   That’s why I am so excited to see projects like this one, celebrating the 30-year anniversary of a seminal work in the Size Acceptance cannon, or the history project initiated by Barbara Altman Bruno on behalf of ASDAH, and the tremendous work being done by Ragen Chastain to document the stories of the founders of this movement in their own wordsl

I am proud and honored to share in some small way, my heartfelt thanks to those who not only added to the scholarship side of the size acceptance movement, but also paved the way for me to step off the diet/body hatred merry-go-round and learn to love my body far, far earlier than I would have done without their guidance.  For helping me reclaim weeks, months, years and even decades for body love, self acceptance and even joy, I’m very, very grateful.

Perhaps 30 years from now, the young upstarts will be rolling their eyes and wondering how we old farts ever built a movement without transporter beams and holographic recording.  If at that point we are able to leave behind even a small fraction of work on par with that found in Shadow on a Tightrope, I will count us successful indeed!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie

AKA The Fat Chick

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Size Acceptance Young and Old

I recently ran across this photo on Facebook and was floored by the brave beautiful young woman staring at me.  And when I read the post from Stella Boonshoft that went with it, I got even more excited.  And the longer story, was also touching and interesting.

I’m so amazed at the brave and amazing things that young size acceptance heroes and heroines are up to these days.  They are putting themselves out there in new and exciting ways.  They are making a significant impact on the movement and on peoples lives at younger and younger ages.  They are getting it done!

To a certain extent, I think young people in the size acceptance movement are very fortunate.  They’ve grown up in the age of computers and the internet where the concept of size acceptance may be available at a much younger age.  Even if they are the only fat kid in the class, they can connect with other fatties all over the world via facebook and tumblr and twitter.  After all, I hadn’t even heard of the notion of size acceptance until I was nearly 30 years old.

We older folks have a lot to learn from the younger set when it comes to body acceptance.  We can see what a life is like when size acceptance begins in high school, junior high or even elementary school.  We can see the energy savings that come from not beating yourself up for 40 years before you start to feel better.  We can marvel at the bravery of a college girl posting a revealing picture of her body with rolls and stretch marks and all.  We can be encouraged by her direct stare and her challenging words:

MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.

I’m so over that.

THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT.

and FUCK YOU ALL who tried to degrade my being and sense of self with your hurtful comments and actions.

GUESS WHAT IT DIDN’T WORK HAHAHAHAH

But if we read between the lines, we see that growing up today as a fat person is no picnic.  The same technology that allows young people of size to connect with one another, subjects them to the potential for 24/7 bullying–often from anonymous sources.  Stella’s story has generated relatively positive results–receiving hundreds of likes per minute when first posted and launching her blog on a national stage.  But she has also had to shovel through some of the nastiest vitriol the Internet can serve up.   And it’s not hard to imagine that Stella’s story might have had a very different ending.  In our visual world, the pressure to be stick thin and look like a television show/rock star/supermodel/celebrity is greater than ever.  And maybe we, who grew up in a different time, have already endured decades of lumps, can offer some perspective to the younger generations as well.

They say hindsight is 20/20.  And I find myself having more and more hind to my sight these days.  So I can offer Stella some thoughts and advice.  I can say things like:

Enjoy your day in the sun.  They are rare but beautiful.  But know that rain will come as well.

You  don’t have to read every comment.  There’s only so much nasty a body can endure in one day.  Let your friends help you filter through and find what you really need to know.

You are not a persona, you are a person.  That means you will not be perfect.  But that’s okay, because what makes us human makes us real and allows others to relate to us.  This allows us to do good in the world.

There’s a place for folks of all ages in the size acceptance movement.  The generations are different and face very different challenges.  But those differences ultimately make us stronger.  We are better when we learn from one another.  Here’s to using our differences to unite, to share and to build a better place for all of us.

Love,

The Fat Chick

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