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Friday, April 15, 2016

Body Positivity Activism: Finding the Balance

“I am my own holy revolution, welcome to the church of my thunder thighs, I am awake and alive, I've come to wear all of the crop tops that the glittering world has to offer, I've come to dance the shame out of my childhood, I've come to win back my joy. You may not snatch it from me like a purse. I win whether I have a mouth full of pretzels or a mouth full of kale; you have not been granted the privilege to know how I consume my world and what makes me most delight in my skin. I will glorify the shit out of my body.” – Mary Lambert

I’m fat. Not in a self-deprecating, seeking-reassurance-of-my-beauty, feeling-bloated kind of way. I identify as fat as a reclamation of a slur, as a declaration of inclusive feminism, as a radical approach to bodily autonomy, as an insistence upon body positivity at all times...and because, well, I’m just fat! But mostly I identify as fat because loving myself and my body holistically is a revolutionary act in a world that commodifies self-hatred and insecurity, especially of women-identified folks. The diet industry has grossly profited off of the lies that femininity = thin and healthy = thin, and there is nothing more powerful than shouting back “YEP. I’M FAT. THAT IS MY WORD, NOT YOURS.”

I am also in recovery for an eating disorder. And I have felt the looks of betrayal from fellow fat-identified folks when I discuss what recovery and seeking holistic health looks like for me. Because “health” has been thrown around by fat-shamers and diet advertisements when what they really mean is a traditional western conception of thinness – of which some value above all else. But that’s not what I mean when I say I am seeking health. I seek balance, healing, and even more self-love for this body that has carried the weight of so much pain when my heart wasn’t able to. Body positivity is so good and so important – but not if you claim that term while you continue to police the behavior of others.

If you are a thin person who is curious about finding ways in which you can support fat folks, the beginning is in acknowledgement of an often overlooked fact: thin privilege is real. It is very real and very under-acknowledged. Thin privilege exists when you go to the doctor for a specific medical concern and the topic does not inevitably drift to discussions of your weight and weight-loss strategies (I’m lookin’ at you, OBGYN). It exists when you aren’t concerned about getting a job because your potential employer will automatically assume you are lazy just by your body type. It exists when you don’t have to worry about a stranger offering “helpful” suggestions about what’s in your shopping cart at the grocery store (yeah…it’s happened). And it exists in simply knowing that the clothes that you are interested in wearing will come in your size (whew, what a concept). Thin folks must acknowledge that thin privilege and the ways in which the body they exist in benefits them in more ways than they could ever imagine.

I need a feminism that is body positive, recovery positive, and bodily autonomy positive. This is your body – it is no one’s but yours. This is your heart, your lungs, your thighs, your belly, your hair, your skin – it’s all yours. You get to decorate it however you want. You get to style it however you want. And you get to decide what food nourishes it.

You are the world’s leading expert on your body and you get to decide what health and self-love looks like for you. Because above all, in all circumstances, the body is not an apology…

By: Margaret van der Bie

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spoken Word as a Practice of Self Care

Sometimes writing can be a form of stress relief for people. It can have physical and emotional benefits. I went around and asked a couple of students to share some of the things they have written and why they write. These are their stories.

This first piece is by Egypt Howard a staff member on campus:

I'm black
I come from ancient kings and Queens
But being black ain't always the blessing you think
They laugh and they joke that being black is ugly
But what do they really see when they look at me?
My kinky hair can be short and long,
Curly and straight there's no right or wrong
My brown skin can be light and dark
Kissed by the sun it's my beauty mark
I'm a survivor and I do my best
To be unapologetically black in the middle of all this mess
I'm a strong black woman you see
And I’m Born from ancient kings and Queens
I use my knowledge and wisdom to create understanding,
And there is something I need y'all to understand from me,
Black is beauty
I got a foot and arm and face just like the rest of my human race
If black lives matter why is there so much hate?
It's black and brown lives that have suffered the most
I have a dream too I'd rather not suffer from hope
Hope is to black people as drugs to a fiend
We take a hit and see Oprah Winfrey
Then it all comes down
Take another hit, and Kendrick's back at it
skittles and an Arizona is all it took to kill it
I'd rather live in a world that actually valued me
We say we value diversity
But can that truly be when there's only like 2% of me
If the masters tools can never dismantle the masters house
Why are we choosing all the wrong routes
It's time for a revolution y'all
Let's get in formation
We come from ancient kings and Queens
It's our time and it's up to us to create it

“I write because it is a release, it is an opportunity for me to feel my anger and sadness authentically without the judgment or opinions from others. I write because it my brain is filled up with emotions that are unacceptable to voice without the repercussions of being labeled the ‘angry black woman’ and my voice being shut down. I write because there is so much going on in the world that no one person can possibly hold it all in and stay sane. I write because I hope that I will look back one day and see that things have changed. Writing is a release, and release is something you need when you live in a world that doesn’t value you, so I write.”
–Egypt Howard

This next piece is by a Latina student who prefers to remain anonymous:

The skeletons in my closet are beginning to overflow
I try harder & harder to keep them from falling out the door
The lock is broken and I don’t know how to fix it
I can’t close the door

I thought releasing a few would alleviate the strain, but all it’s done is make them stronger & stronger
Wounds are reopening
I can feel all the pain like it was just yesterday
They keep getting louder and louder. Nothing I do can drown out their screeches
Please close the door

Spoken words became my broken words
Tearing me apart, deep inside down to my core
Making me hide
From you
From them
From me
They’re getting harder to hide from
I keep running and running
They keep chasing and chasing
Please close the door

My thoughts transforming to words
My words transforming to nightmares
My nightmares one again transforming to my reality
making life unbearable
As tears being to flow I can’t help but think
Why me? What did I do?
Someone please shut the fucking door

If one more person tells me “I know how it feels” “it gets better” or some shit like “time heals everything”
I’m going to punch them in the throat.
Just close the door

I don’t want you to feel my pain
I want you to heal my pain
If you can’t do that then there isn’t room for you here
Please shut the door

I’ve been told its okay to be selfish
And I need to be unless I want to drag you down with me
Destroy you like I’m destroying myself
Slowly but surely it will happen
As time goes on the skeletons are getting bigger & stronger, their bones starting to develop muscle that’s turning into flesh
So please, I beg you, please just help me close the fucking door
before it’s too late.

“I write because there are sometimes no words to describe how I feel to tell anyone else. It is my way of being able to release all of the thoughts that tend to consume my mind and my life. I write so that they will not have as much power over me. Writing helps me feel like a huge load has been taken off my shoulders. I write so that I am able to continue searching for hope. This is a way I can feel better about myself in a healthy manner.”

Life is always going to have its ups and downs, and we all need healthy ways to get through it. We all have various different methods we use to de-stress. Whether that is through meditation, working out, napping or dancing. Spoken word is a form of poetry various individuals use as an outlet for their emotions. When people write, it allows them to reflect back on their experiences and sort out their thoughts and emotions. Next time you are feeling overwhelmed try something new - take a pen and some paper and let your thoughts flow out of you. You might find yourself becoming a spoken word artist. 

Consider submitting one or more of your pieces to for our event, "Disrupting the Silence: Using Anger as a Form of Art" which will be in Selvester's Cafe on April 28th from 7:00-8:30pm. 

By: Griselda Avila