I'm a believer in the power of panels. I wanted to put together something that focused on fat and with the help of my friend, Perla, who is an MPH and the health coordinator for the UC Berkeley co-op system, we came up with "Fat Shame: The Politics of Body Image, Gender & Reclamation." I invited Alex Lannon, who's the voice of the most amazing band I've ever seen, GAYMOUS, and who also did work in fat studies at Southwestern, and emerging fat studies scholar Philippe Fradet, who's doing research on narratives of sexuality among fat youth of color at San Francisco State University. We spent the evening at Sherman House at the upper edge of the UC Berkeley campus.
Here are some of my favorite parts of the evening:
1. The pig mug I got to use for water:
2. When Alex talked about their experience growing up on Jenny Craig and how their sponsor became their first fat friend and helped to subvert the Jenny Craig points system by hoarding Jennycakes.
3. When Philippe talked about the relationship between stressors, discrimination and things like high blood pressure, which is often attributed to fat - especially in Black/Latino community - but which is rarely correlated with the stress of fat stigma or racism.
4. When Judy Freespirit's granddaughter, Amy, came up to us after the panel and told us she was Judy Freespirit's granddaughter!
5. The amazing dolma and baba ghannouj and pita and lamb and chicken dinner before the panel (oh, and sparkling pink lemonade!).
6. During the Q & A someone in the audience asked how the house could become more fat positive, and Alex told them about their activity calendar near the bathroom saying that activities should focus on the joy of movement and not on weight loss/maintenance.
7. When asked the question "how does your fat identity interact with your other identities" I said I identified as uppity and talked about the ways that politeness is heternormative (and bo-ring).
8. After I said the thing about being uppity, Perla asked what the opposite of uppity was and then coined the phrase "downity," which elicited many snaps.
p.s. Sorry this event wasn't promoted beforehand. We had to keep it a secret since the panel was housed in a co-op where students live.
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.