The #FightFatPhobia video originated from the depths of my own darkest holdings around the hatred I’ve experienced.
I brought that hatred into the spotlight so it could be released, and so I could connect cathartically to the experiences of other fat-bodied womyn.
Since I began combining my personal experiences of fatphobia from childhood with my current graduate school studies and practices as a somatic psychotherapy trainee, I have gained so much psycho-emotional and physical knowledge about myself. During my own journey of fat acceptance, I realized my unspoken experiences might be common among womyn whose bodies challenge societal norms.
When I served as creative director on both last summer’s #DropTheTowel and this year’s #BeyondBeauty body-positive campaigns, I witnessed first-hand the empowerment and healing that happens when womyn who are usually kept on the margins come together in community. And, although each week I sit in a therapy room in the role of “psychotherapist,” I can honestly say I wasn’t fully prepared for the emotional experience of sitting in each painful moment with these women. For the first time, I was creating an experience that was not about what we have come to know as body positivity. It was distinctly about fat bodied acceptance and liberation.
It is important here to make the distinction between body positivity and fat liberation here.
Body positivity has become a general societal trend that tends to ignore thin privilege. Fat liberation was the radical fuel that lit the fire.
The Fat Liberation Manifesto was written in 1973 by Aldebaran and Judy Freespirit, who were among the very first fat activists. Along with Sara Fishman, Lynn McAfee and others, Freespirit founded the Fat Underground. A more recent Bustle article discusses the difference between body positivity and what they are calling fat acceptance (which may not fully encompass “liberation,” defined as “the act of setting someone free from oppression; freedom from limits on thought or behavior.” “Acceptance” is “the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.”).
It’s important to note that, for years, fat liberation work was spearheaded by women of color, who often become marginalized and invisibilized by their white-appearing counterparts.
Related: 4 Reasons Why We Need Fat Liberation
It wasn’t until I was filming #FightFatPhobia and embodying my own role as creative director, guiding people through their takes, that I realized what I was really asking these brave womyn to do. They were embodying those who’d said fatphobic things to them.
Time and time again, I found myself asking our participants, “Who actually said this to you, and how was it said?” The most painful part of this process for me was hearing the answers: people on social media, loved ones, mothers and fathers, grandparents, family members, partners, friends. Others came from “professionals” — doctors of all kinds, therapists, professors and teachers, bosses. Some were uttered by strangers on the street, or lovers in bed.
I wanted to share this behind-the-scenes observation with our readers, to illustrate just how pervasive fatphobia is. Targets of this fatphobia cannot escape the near-constant experience of being shamed merely for existing in a fat body.
Often, as a result, fatphobia morphs into internal self-doubt. Fat-bodied people are taught, practically from birth, that they aren’t lovable. Internalized fatphobia is an incalculably painful experience — one of the many that inspired this video. I used to try to hide from fatphobia by making it (and myself) smaller, and by never uttering the fatphobia I’d experienced. But once I realized I wasn’t alone, I knew I had to use my ability to wear my voice and combine forces with other womyn who are out there doing the work.
Wear Your Voice is not only an intersectional feminist publication that I am proud to work for — it is a mantra for the way that I choose to conduct my life. In order to release shame, I firmly believe in reclaiming it. Speaking it. Breathing the eff through it and letting other womyn know that they are not alone. They are seen; they are heard; they are appreciated; and they are loved just as they are.
You are not alone. You are seen. You are heard. You are appreciated. You are loved just as you are. No one needs to give you permission to love yourself, but our hope is to give you a gentle and loving reminder.
Special thanks to all of our participants, including Chrystal Bougon, Suma Jane Dark, Misia Denea, Laurel Dickman, Emma Huntoon, Rebecca “Red” Martinez, Jannet Torres Oropeza, Jhanelle Riviera, Valerie Sagun, Bettina Sferrino, Maya Songbird and Saucye West.