I attended the Our Bodies Our Selves session at BlogHer07. Based on both the description and the panel it made the session sound like an intelligent and well round discussion about BOTH weight loss and fat acceptance. Wendy McClure was also on the panel and I was excited to meet her and see what she would have to contribute to the discussion. Her book I'm Not The New Me was a funny, insightful and humorous look at her experience trying to do Weight Watchers. This is the session description;
"There are weight-loss blogs, and there are healthy eating blogs, and there are fat acceptance blogs. The one thing they have in common: a lot of them are written by women. While a lot of them get support and positive reinforcement and encouragement from their readers, a lot of them also get some really strong reactions from people who don't want to hear about women dealing with body image “ and don't want to worry about whether or not society is responsible, for everything from obesity to anorexia to the pressure to conform to some unattainable ideal. Can blogging be the perfect vehicle to expose and break unhealthy influences and build a healthy identity that isn't tied to how we look? Jenny Lauck moderates this conversation with Laurie Toby Edison, Wendy McClure and Yvonne Marie, who are tackling the touchy topic head-on." - BlogHer07 ScheduleHad I spent some time reading about the pre-show controversy surrounding this discussion I might have opted to sit and shut it. Some objected to having McClure on the panel because she seemed to advocate weight loss and Weight Watchers. This confused me since (again) the session promised a discourse on BOTH weight loss blogs and fat acceptance ones. To not include panelists from each end of the spectrum would not make for a balanced discussion.
At any rate, I stood up and introduced myself. Told the group how we had our Future MILF group and that yes, I knew the name was controversial but that we took it in a mocking tone. Making fun of the idea that we had to live up to the prescribed stereotype of a MILF. I went on to say that I found it liberating and helpful to be able to finally speak with honest language. To be able to call myself a fatass instead of using polite euphemism like "Womanly Wide". The group laughed and I sat down, nervous for having spoken first. Then the reactions came. I was fully prepared for objections to my comments, but not so much for the ganging up that occurred. The moderator overlooked my raised hand as I wanted to rebuttal the MANY women she called on that said that my perspective was anti-woman and terrible. Or that they felt sorry for me.
Finally, I got the moderator to call on me again. I stood up and said that "I think it's most important that we NOT attempt to tell women what they can and can not say about their own bodies. Personally, I'm fat because for years I shoved down feelings of shame and anxiety. So to be able to diminish those same words that made me once cringe is part of my journey." I think the idea that we shouldn't tell women what they could or could not say was an inarguable feminist statement. So instead the moderator cautioned me to be careful about not attempting to criticize myself before others could and then dismissed the session. Gah!
Coming to BlogHer was a lesson in managing nerves and insecurities. Would women look better than me (yes), be thinner (yes and yes) or be better dressed (of course). When I hurriedly got ready that morning I accidentally grabbed a tee shirt from my bigger days, then walked in the rain stretching out the top to three times the normal size. I later exploded a bottle of Pepsi on my soggy maternity like top. Then plunked my purse down in the AUTOMATIC SINK and looked down to see my Le Sac bag filled to the top with water. Ruined my camera and my business cards. So what did I do? Did I cry, freak out or run home. Hell no. I wanted to. But instead I made fun of myself, joked about how at least the top covered my big ass. Teasing and playing down the incidents so I could get on with the business of enjoying the event. This is exactly how I feel about body image. Respect yourself enough not to take yourself so seriously. Not to put so much weight on those harsh words others might have for you if you aren't body perfect. Not to speak those words to yourself in a shameful way, but in a humorous way. Laugh in the face of fear and shame so you can move on.
Also any extreme and inflexible position pisses me off. Right wing, left wing, Popeyes chicken wing, I don't care. Be open to other perspectives. I don't stand naked in front of the mirror and say three nice things about myself as one of the other bloggers said she did. But good for fucking her! Seriously, bravo. I'll not criticize her approach simply because it isn't mine. There's room enough for all of our viewpoints. Which to me is the epitome of feminism.
Amy Sedaris was a panelist in a different session and clearly had lots of affection for her fellow panel members. So when she made fun of CraftyChica and Natalie Zee Drieu by jokingly calling them Ching Chong and Some Mexicans in an interview I immediately took it for what it as. Sedaris mocking the stereotypes that others might assign to them. Diminishing the power of those words by laughing at them. Sort of a similar "If we take ourselves too seriously the terrorist win" approach.
Artist Laurie Toby Edison was part of the body image panel. She is a wonderful artist and publisher of body image photography books. At one point I wanted to ask her if she saw an art installation of a proud looking woman with words like "cunt", "lardass" and "fat" painted on a her body would she object to the art? In my imagination I think she would see it as a statement about the labels that others put on women and how the artist, by writing it on her body, was using those same words as a type of armor. That she would respect the artists need to process those words in her way. I dun know. We're not likely to meet up for coffee soon and discuss it but that's what I imagine anyways.
As the day wore on a trickle of people came up to me to say how much they appreciated what I said in the meeting. Which was nice. Though I wish they had spoken up in the session. I'll stop the rant here, with one last comment/question. Can you work towards weight loss and still support fat acceptance? Again, I say hell yes. To say that you need to be in one camp or the other is adolescent. When defending our Future MILF group once before I said that "If you feel like a hot sexy tamale at 220 or 120 then that is where you should be". I still believe that. It's a shame that this session wasn't able to occur without without setting up separate camps in the room.