Fat-Positive Summer Festival in Berkeley

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Laurie and Debbie say:

Laurie's photograph of five fat nudes at Baker Beach in San Francisco
photo from Women En Large, copyright (c) Laurie Toby Edison

Virgie Tovar is one of the most vibrant fat activists around, and she’s working with the Berkeley Public Library (only a mile from Debbie’s house) on a Fat Positive Summer Festival, starting tomorrow. The line-up is exciting, including Tovar’s “Lose Hate, Not Weight” lecture (which she is giving twice, due to popular demand!), a selection of short films, and a group reading over the next five days.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, writing at Berkeleyside, puts the festival in a contemporary context.

The festival comes at a time when societal discussion about fat prejudice and its harmful effects is increasing. Last week, the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, banned ads on public transportation that could create body confidence issues.

“As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising, which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies,” said Khan, according to an article in the New York Times. “Nobody should feel pressurized, while they travel on the Tube or bus, into unrealistic expectations surrounding their bodies.”

In 2015, the French Parliament passed a measure making it illegal for modeling agencies to hire dangerously thin models. The backer of the initiative, the Socialist Olivier Véran, said he wanted to both protect super skinny models and fight body stereotypes that contribute to eating disorders.

Fat activism in the United States really began as a movement in the 1970s, with the work collected in the landmark Shadow on a Tightrope, edited by Lisa Schoenfelder and Barb Wieser.shadow-on-a-tightrope

In the intervening 30+ years, we’ve seen many faces of fat activism: it’s made homes in the women’s movement, in academia, in art, in the medical realm, in popular culture. Fat activists take on different aspects of the struggle, use different slogans, work in different arenas. What doesn’t change is what we are pushing back against–the valorization of one type of body over all others; the endless drumbeat of lies about fat; the overwhelming cultural power of the simple anti-fat narrative.

And yet, fat activists have never been silenced. In these three decades, we’ve reached a lot of people, changed some minds, even changed some laws, and some doctors’ office furnishings, and some movie casts. The Berkeley Fat Positive Summer Festival will make more change, and it will continue the tradition of refusing to shut up, refusing to get smaller, refusing to disappear which is the heart of fat activism.

If you’re in the neighborhood, go to the events! They’ll be well worth your time.

Thanks to Alan Bostick for the link.