I was looking forward to the Activism Super Workshop, but wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, either. My ideas of activism can differ from others and this was a much more formal setting. What does fat activism mean or look like for NAAFA members? Would my punk ethics fit in? Would I be disappointed? The short answer is that this workshop was awesome.
The workshop consisted of four presenters, each with their own message and style. To start things off, Brandon Macsata, NAAFA advisory Board member, went straight to the facts and the figures. I was blown away! Just to give you an idea (I did my best to take notes), 81% of the country believes that “Obesity” is seen as a more serious issue than cigarettes and alcohol consumption. Wow! Last I checked, my fat ass wasn’t causing cancers or killing people on freeways, but I digress. The other thing that shocked me was when he shared some polling figures across political party lines. As a “bleeding liberal tree-hugger” myself, I was quite surprised by the numbers. 73% of liberals support the whole soda tax concept, even though it’s been proven to mostly impact the poorest of the poor. As for the parties who support a government program on “obesity”? Well…only 27% of Republicans support it while 55% of Independents and 82% of Democrats do. Yikes!
Lisa Teeler, NAAFA director of programs and diversity, talked about fat activism in the workplace. Yes! I loved everything she said and suggested. It doesn’t have to be all confrontational. I have personally employed some of her suggested techniques in my old career and I can say that it absolutely opens up a dialogue, which is always a win in my book. All of those “Wellness” programs we’re being bombarded with lately? Talk to your HR department! A lot of these programs are filled with hateful speech and images and you can say or do something about it. Speaking up is so important, often no one else has or does. Is your company doing a charity/health walk/event? Volunteer! Be visible! Be positive and supportive and show that fat people move and care, too! All positive things and ways to be an activist in your work environment while keeping your own sanity, because you have to take care of you, first! Love that!
Ragen Chastain, of Dances With Fat, talked about the Georgia Billboard Campain and how it took the work, love and support of thousands to do what was thought and said to be impossible! She talked about leadership and empowering people in the movement. She shared this quote, “With the best of leaders, when the work is done, the people will say, ‘We have done this ourselves.'” (Lao Tsu) Her passion and her knowledge was such a gift to see and share. This movement doesn’t need egos, it needs individuals working together. “Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something!”
Lastly, but she couldn’t be further from being the “least” of anything, was Kandee Lewis of The Positive Results corporation (a non-profit in Los Angeles). She talked about bullying and how bullies look for who to bully; they love a crowd. “Do not minimize yourself. If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will.” She shared many stories and blew me away! I know I spent a lot of Sunday crying (good tears), but it was Kandee who touched my heart and got the tears a-flowin’! She said something about not knowing anything about a person by how they look, you just never know. And hugging! OMZ! To hug someone for no other reason than that moment of human connection because you never know how long it’s been since that person has been hugged…wow! She has inspired me more than words can say right now. Watching her, listening to her and just being in the room with her, I now know what I want to do with my life. I want to do what she is doing or something very similar. I was in awe! She suggested that fat people volunteer at their local libraries for children’s reading time, simply to be visible. Because kids do not know the “evils of obesity” yet and will simply say and ask exactly what is on their minds without judgment. This is the best thing! When a kid asked her, “What’s that?” she responded, “That is my fat arm.” and they simply accepted this as a fact. Fabulous!
Activism can happen anywhere and doesn’t have to be anything rigid or specific. Just going out in the world with your head held high is activism! We’re told to hide ourselves from the world, but we don’t have to! Starting those dialogues and being open to other perspectives is an opportunity because you just don’t know what you don’t know. Before fat acceptance/liberation became a part of my life I didn’t know, I believed the bullshit and the marketing. When you have the facts behind you, when you have this incredible community and resources available? Well, I think we can move mountains! <3