Activism opportunity: #ChangeTheWorldNotOurBodies

woman holding sign that says

I often think about how much time, energy, and money are wasted on the weight cycling industry, which is worth $66 billion/year in the US alone. Imagine what we could do with those resources if we directed them toward making the world a better place instead of making our bodies smaller!

In that spirit, I propose this: let’s take the time and money we might have used on dieting, and instead donate it to organizations and causes we care about.  Let’s show what a difference we can make with even a fraction of the resources that people waste every year trying to force their bodies into a socially acceptable shape. And let’s use the hashtag #ChangeTheWorldNotOurBodies to tell each other, and the world, about what we’re doing.

To start, I gave $10 to Scarleteen, and then tweeted: “I just donated $10 to @Scarleteen instead of the weight cycling industry. #ChangeTheWorldNotOurBodies.” Feel free to use the hashtag on any form of social media–Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

I know that not everyone has time or money to donate–hell, I even wrote about it recently. If you can’t contribute, no worries; but if you can give even $5 or an hour of your time, that would be awesome. And of course, signal-boost!

You can donate to/volunteer with whatever organizations you choose–make the world a better place in whatever way feels right to you! That said, I have a few suggestions, both of things to keep in mind and of specific groups I recommend.

Things to keep in mind when choosing an organization

– Consider donating to a small, independent organization that doesn’t have a big fundraising budget, and therefore needs the money a lot more than a big non-profit (which Heather Corinna of Scarleteen talks about here and here).

– Look for organizations run by marginalized groups rather than for them.

– It’s good to analyze the efficacy of organizations, but the percentage they spend on overhead is not necessarily a good metric to use, as non-profits need some overhead to be sustainable.

– Personally, I try to avoid donating to non-profits that depend on unpaid internships, aka free labor.

My recommendations

Alternatives for Community and Empowerment: Building power for environmental justice. (This is a local Boston org.)

The Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund: The EMA helps people living in or traveling to eastern Massachusetts access abortion. (A bunch of my friends volunteer for EMA, and I can tell you that their work is important and so needed.)

Girls Rak Bellydance and Body Image Program: Bellydance. Body Justice. Joy. 

The Indigenous Environmental Network: Strengthening, maintaining, and respecting traditional teachings and natural laws.

Modest Needs: Empowers members of the general public to make small, emergency grants to low-income workers who are at risk of slipping into poverty.

The Network/La Red: A survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, BDSM, polyamorous, and queer communities.

Scarleteen: Inclusive, comprehensive and smart sexuality information and help for teens and 20s.

The Trans Justice Funding Project: A community-led funding initiative supporting grassroots, trans justice groups run by and for trans people.

I also recommend media outlets like Autostraddle and Black Girl Dangerous, which publish writing by members of marginalized groups (and pay their writers).  I’m especially impressed with the depth and breadth of topics that Autostraddle takes on–they constantly tackle important issues, while also remembering to have fun. As a straight person, I know I’m not their target audience, and I respect their community space by not commenting there; but I learn so much from their pieces, and I have major respect for them.

7 thoughts on “Activism opportunity: #ChangeTheWorldNotOurBodies

  1. Pingback: Ideas for #ChangeTheWorldNotOurBodies: fat community projects | Tutus And Tiny Hats

  2. Laura, thanks for this article. i decided to not exercise to try to lose weight. Instead I like to build things so I first carry wood and blocks then build with them. I also contribute to local environmental groups and to art and music groups in Somerville.

  3. I never know how to tell if an organization is ethical or not unless I, or others I personally know, have used their services (or worked there, which can give an insider’s view into how employees are treated, but you do have to take into account the possibility of bias, particularly with people who are high on the career ladder). Lived experiences are often discounted in such discussion, with authoritative proof being demanded instead, which….well, that sucks. How are we supposed to know if an organization benefits its clients/audience or not, or treats its employees well, unless we ask them directly?

    Going off this criteria (I consider an organization ethical if the target population largely say they benefitted from it, unethical if the target population say they were harmed by it, and neither if reviews are mixed), I’m definitely in line with most of your suggestions. Particularly:

    ~donate to an independent organization that needs the money more (personally, I also focus on local for local community-building purposes, although there are also a number of awesome virtual-based organizations such as Scarleteen that need support too). There are also some large, national organizations that are really helpful to a lot of people, and still struggle financially and so could use support, such as Icarus Project. I don’t think small organizations are inherently better or more in need; a good way to find out about an organization’s financial situation is, again, to ask someone who has been involved (taking current employees’ words with a heap of salt)

    ~organizations run by marginalized groups rather than for them


    Which is not to say that allies can’t be involved at all. In fact, one primary purpose I see in non-profits, other than whatever service they provide, is a training ground to recruit new people to the cause, empowering them to take charge not only of their own lives, but also to help others in ways that are actually helpful. Allies are necessary because without them, important information would stay within the marginalized group itself, never improving relationships between different groups

    But it needs to be absolutely clear that allies are there to learn and grow and support. They are not there to lead. They are not there to impart their own cultural norms and values.

    There are a number of organizations I could suggest myself, based on this criteria, but doing so here would necessitate revealing my location. Perhaps on Facebook!

  4. Coming from someone who has worked in the non-profit sector my whole adult life…

    The unpaid internship thing is a huge catch 22.

    Most small non-profits are barely getting by financially. Actually, even a lot of large national non-profits are barely getting by financially in this economy, and are moments away from having to shut down

    In order to afford to pay their interns, non-profits need grants and donations

    In order to have the time of day to apply for grants and fundraise for donations, non-profits need volunteers and unpaid interns

    If your goal is for more organizations to pay their interns, then you should be encouraging MORE people to donate to organizations that hire unpaid interns, not less. They can (and mostly likely will) then use that money to not only pay their interns, but create better working conditions for all employees

    Without financial stability, doing so is not possible, and donations and grants are what create financial stability in non-profits, since very little of their money comes directly from clients

    • I know that a lot of orgs don’t have much money, but I’m not convinced that rewarding the ones that use exploitative labor practices is actually going to get them to pay their workers fairly. Once they realize they can get away with not paying their interns, they’ll probably keep doing it regardless of how much money they raise. There may be some exceptions where the orgs genuinely want to pay their interns and would do so if they could–but there are plenty of orgs who are struggling *and* use fair labor practices, and I’d rather give my money to them.

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