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. Continue reading

Reading while fat, part 3: why don’t progressives think critically about fat?

Right now, I’m reading Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff, which is a pretty awesome book. Leonard looks at the entire production chain of the stuff we buy, and the many ways that it harms both people and the environment. She ties together seemingly disparate economic and environmental issues, exposes the structuresbehind them, and highlights the work that people are doing around the world to move toward a more sustainable, just, and healthy way of living.

But. There’s always a but, isn’t there?

In describing how things have gotten worse for USians despite continued economic growth, she lists a string of negative things from credit card debt to teen suicide rates. The very first thing she mentioned? Yup, you’ve guessed it. It’s the terrible existence of fat bodies.

“Almost every indicator we can find to measure our progress as a society shows that despite continued economic growth over the past several decades, things have gotten worse for us. In the United States, obesity is at record levels, with fully a third of adults over the age of twenty and nearly 20 percent of children between the ages of six and eleven considered obese.” (Leonard, 150).

It’s one brief mention in a good and important book, and it definitely wouldn’t stop me from recommending it. But I hate, hate, hate how Leonard, like so many other progressives, buys into the conventional wisdom on fatness.

Why do people who think critically about so many things and the connections between them–from climate change to income inequality to environmental racism–fail to think critically about the way society pathologizes fat bodies?

Why do people who question capitalism, consumerism, and the paradigm of endless economic growth fail to realize the connection between the “obesity epidemic” and the $60 billion weight-cycling industry?

On the personal level, it brings out my Rageasaurus (not to mention my giant squid of anger and my feminist Hulk) every time I read that my body is a symptom of everything that’s wrong with society–and it hurts a lot more coming from a fellow progressive than from a right-winger whom I could easily dismiss.

At the same time, it reminds me why fat activism is so important. It reminds me why even just posting pictures of myself online can be a radical act.

It reminds me why I keep doing all of this.