About a year ago I was approached for an interview at Prevention.com, a magazine and website with a rich history of fat hatred and unfeminist thought about bodies. The female writer seemed slightly secretive about the story, but I felt strong in my messaging and knew that my words, story and work can make a difference - even if it is portrayed as "wrong" or "weird." I'm almost always willing to take the chance that there might just be one person out there who needed to see a loud revolutionary fatty standing strong in her truth.
She didn't give me much information (and after the story came out I realized why), just that she was working on a story for Prevention.com and would love to include my input. "The gist of the story is 'things people who are overweight want you to know.' Many people have misconceptions about those who are very heavy (50+ pounds), and we'd like to try to set the record straight," she wrote.
She told me I could remain anonymous but I demanded she print my whole name and identify me as a body image activist in Boise, Idaho. Here are her emailed interview questions followed by my answers:
-What do you think is the biggest misconception about people who are overweight? That they're lazy? Binge on junk food all day? That sort of thing... And why, given your experience, is that notion off-base?
I don't use or believe in the false notion of 'being overweight.' There is no right or wrong weight. There is also no magical number, either on a scale, in your BMI, or your pants size. You cannot tell someone's health by just looking at them; healthy people come in all shapes and sizes.
-Is there anything you wish your "skinny" friends/relatives would do differently when it comes to your weight/body/lifestyle? For example, does your mom constantly tell you to lose weight and you wish she would stop? Does your annoying aunt email you low-fat recipes and you find it insulting? Does your friend always suggest meeting for dessert and it's harming your efforts to eat healthfully? Etc.
I wish people would not make negative assumptions or comments on my body at all - not what I put in it, what I put on it, or what it looks like. All bodies are good bodies, and there is no wrong way to have a body.
-Have you ever been in a social situation that you found uncomfortable specifically because you were overweight? (Pool party, bridesmaid dress shopping, etc.) If so, what was going through your mind at the time that you wished the thinner people around you would have understood?
Body shaming language and diet talk are so ingrained in our culture that all people, fat or thin, are constantly put in uncomfortable social situations and made to feel bad about how they look and what they eat. I wish all people would be more aware of the words they use and their own biases.
Turns out the story was eventually unfortunately titled "10 Things Everyone Carrying Extra Weight Wants You To Know" and was filled with other fat folks who wanted desperately to be smaller, less than, different. I was the only radically happy voice, and she only included an edited version of one of my answers at the very end with a final quote wrapping up the piece. It was the most hopeful part of the article, a lone voice shouting that there might, in fact, be a new way, a different way to live our lives in these bodies. One that doesn't involve hate, shame or fear.
I don't think that real revolutionary change will ever come from consumer culture or within mainstream media, especially in body positivity, where the fundamentals are a rejection of those very things. I do love, though, that they are learning from us and am hopeful for deeper change. Positivity trumps negativity. Love moves the world more than hate. Speaking truth is better than staying silent. Baby steps are better than no steps. And for that, I'll gladly be your token fat positive girl any day.