This essay was adapted from a journal entry I wrote while flying from San Francisco to Denver to give a lecture at the University of Denver’s School of Social Work. I ended up reading it to the audience later that night.
April 3, 2018
Somewhere between San Francisco and Denver
Last night I spent an hour trying on the same dress, trying to will myself to wear it, trying to will myself to be myself, to show up to this talk at a university bra-less, in a vintage Liz Claiborne dress with “Fuck the Patriarchy” hoop earrings, proclaiming that I’m not interested in looking like a coiffed professional, proclaiming that I’m not just here to tell you that fat people deserve to exist, but that fat people are beautiful and I’m proud to be one. Proclaiming that “Yes! I’m here to glorify obesity. Be afraid.” One less thing you’re allowed to hate, one less human you can use to feel better about yourself. Sorry not sorry.
I’ve been asking myself this week: What does it mean to do feminism? What does it mean to embody it?
To me, it means doing what I — thriving — in whatever body I happen to be in as I do that. It means recognizing that it’s not my job to prove that I deserve to exist free from bigotry and surveillance. What does it mean to denounce respectability? What does it mean to choose a body that has been aligned with poverty and people of color and others who have been deemed failures, sinners, marked, or irredeemable? What does it mean to want this body?
What does it mean to fight for this brown, fat feminine body?
In this culture, it means revolution.
There’s been great effort put forth by the respectable minority in order to render, wrench, and twist an ideology of hatred, exclusion, cruelty and inhumanity into a veiled and seemingly innocuous lexicon of “concern” and “health” and “well-being of the nation.” Even though a country founded on unapologetic violence and obsessed with the avoidance of accountability will, honestly, never ever be well.
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I’m here to tell you that as a human my body was celestially designed to exist for my delight, my discovery, and my redemption.
And as a feminist my body is a site of willful dissent, the flouting of generations of feminine degradation, a holder and a witness of that legacy of hatred and ownership.
I fight to dismantle diet culture and fatphobia because they are the culmination of a generations-old war to enslave women’s spirits, to legislate the white male body as superior, to scapegoat and intentionally refuse to protect one group of people in order to maintain a system that creates so much hatred and dissatisfaction that it must be unleashed on society’s most vulnerable, to normalize the unconscionable dominion of one group of people over another, to govern the human right to pleasure and joy.
I will not obey.
I will not behave.
I will not hate myself.
I will not participate in a war against myself.
What does it mean to love this body?
It means unlearning everything I’ve ever been taught about race, gender, size, ability, worthiness, and what life can look like. It means learning how to love other people like me, other non-conforming bodies. And it means freedom.