Confession: I hate motivational seminars

I recently had to attend a mandatory staff retreat that was full of the sorts of things that you’d assume a staff retreat would want to address – strengths and challenges, communication, team building exercises, mission and goals.  Some people find them invigorating and helpful, but there’s always those few of us who are sitting in the corner wishing the floor would swallow us.  And I’m in that latter group.

Being that my employer is Catholic, there was also plenty of prayer and reflection at this retreat.  As an atheist, I don’t see much point in reflecting on all the ways God works in my life.  So instead, I decided to think about why I dislike retreats and motivational seminars so much.

1.  There’s something about it that feels phony.  In this retreat, we did talk a lot about cheerleading and how that’s superficial, which I appreciated.  But I’m not sure any real work can be done in a day or two, so by their nature, these things are always a little superficial.

2. The good intentions never seem to manifest themselves into any sort of discernible change or action plan.  I really feel like I’m attending a pep rally for adults – it’s an attempt to get us all jazzed up and enthusiastic, and in some cases it works, but that lack of actual evolution contributes to my “this is such phony nonsense” mindset.

3.  People who get choked up talking about teamwork or giving pseudo-inspirational speeches about how amazing our group is.  I appreciate the sentiment to a point, but when you start crying…you’ve kind of lost me.  In general, I dislike emotional displays at work.  Reserved appreciation is fine – crying because you’re so inspired by our team is just uncomfortable.



This week in fat news…

This article posted at xoJane is a short but important piece written by a woman who dates fat women – and is tired of people commenting on that.

I don’t think Lady Gaga is even remotely fat, but I’m glad she’s telling people who call her fat to fuck off and is taking pride in her appearance.

Recent studies are showing that some fat actually helps combat both diabetes and obesity.  (If you want to know more about this, google “brown fat.”)

Okay, I’m only sharing CNN’s misguided review of a book about how fat people don’t have satisfying sex lives because, at the very end, a body image activist challenges that assumption.  Note: When you meet the majority of your case studies/subjects through weight loss counselors, then you’re going to skew your results.  If you want actual *good* data on fat sexuality, you need to talk to a variety of fat people, including fat people who (gasp!) like themselves the way the are.

Also, as someone who has had plenty of sex with plenty of fat people, and as someone who has also had sex while fat herself…there’s no reason why fat people can’t have satisfying sex lives – except that they’re conditioned to feel so shitty about themselves that that’s what gets in the way.

What if – radical thought here – we taught people to love themselves?  What if we stopped body shaming others, and people focused on how they felt instead of on how much they weighed?

Someone you’ve probably never heard of, Albert Stunkard, died on July 12.  He was the first person to identify and medicalize eating disorders, the first one who discovered that some people are genetically pre-disposed toward being fat, and the first person to talk openly about how fat is often a socioeconomic issue.  Good work, Dr. Stunkard.  RIP.

A big thank you to Facebook for removing a fat shaming page.


CNN’s Size Acceptance Fail

CNN posted a short video about a Facebook page used to mock fat people in a certain area code.  You can watch the video here – there’s a 30 second ad in the beginning.

What I appreciated:

Calling attention to the fact that posting people’s pictures without their permission with the intention of mocking them is wrong, that it’s bullying, and that it needs to stop.

What I thought was highly problematic:

The narrator emphasizing that the girl featured in the video is fat due to medical issues.  This ties into the notion that in general, people are more tolerant of fat people if they know the person is fat due to reasons beyond their control.

Newsflash:  It doesn’t matter why someone is fat – mocking them is never okay.

The narrator emphasizing that the girl featured in the video has been losing weight, because we have to paint her as the “good fattie” (to quote Dances With Fat) who is falling in line with society’s expectations that fat people must be actively working on weight loss.

Newsflash:  It doesn’t matter if she’s been actively trying to lose weight or not – mocking people’s weight is never okay. 

The narrator stating that the girl featured in the video is using this experience to motivate her.  This sends a really contradictory message, and one that’s dangerous to Size Acceptance – it’s basically saying that, while bullying people for their weight is wrong, it’s also motivating.

Newsflash:  Fat shaming is not motivational.  It causes stress, depression, is demotivating, and contributes to social stigma.

* * * * * * *

Thank you, CNN, for attempting to call attention to rampant fat shaming.  But let’s try a little harder to get Size Acceptance right next time.

Octopus tattoo!

I’ve been working on getting a large tattoo since March.  Back in 2011, I got my first tattoo:

Before - Copy

It says:

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.

It’s from a poem called Diving Into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich, who died not too long after I got this tattoo.

This year, I decided I wanted to complement it with an octopus.  Octopi are wicking fucking smart and incredibly beautiful.

Anyway, here’s the outline of the tattoo, done back in March:

Outline2 - Copy Outline1 - Copy

Little by little, I got it filled in.  I have some minor medical issues, so I did this in very short sittings.  This was the first stage…

Stage1 - Copy

And then we did a little more…

Stage2 - Copy

And finally, it’s done!

Octo1 - Copy Octo2 - Copy

I cannot adequately describe how much I love this piece, how incredible my tattoo artist is, and how proud I am to be able to have this piece of art.

It’s also not doing much to cure my love of tattooing.  Next – more work on my right arm!  :->

Airbus demonstrates how humans are no longer treated as human

CNN posted an article about the patent recently filed by Airbus for saddle-style seating which succinctly summarizes how capitalism has gotten out of control.

The image of the seating alone is disturbing – aside from being ragingly sizeist, it basically treats people like cattle, cramming as many as possible into as small a space as possible with no regard for comfort or personal space – in other words, it’s an illustration of what happens when the almighty $ becomes more important than human dignity.

The article rightly points out that most patents never become a reality, so we shouldn’t all panic at the future of the airline industry.  (Okay, maybe we should, but not for that reason.)

What is upsetting to me is the fact that this idea even made it to a patent.  That somewhere, company executives, who likely have the sort of salaries that allow them to fly first class, decided that this was an idea worth fostering.  When I look at this picture, I find it horrifying.  But other people looked at it, and thought it was a good idea – and that’s frightening.

This is why the airline industry bothers me, why I dislike Big Food and Big Pharma and a number of other industries as well – because it puts profit over human health and human dignity.

Consumers are partially to blame for this.  We’re strangely complacent about some hugely problematic, systematic abuses – I think partially because of the rhetoric we’re all fed (and that some still vehemently believe) that we have the greatest political and economic system in the world.  Calling out its failings and abuses undermines this sort of zealotry, and the rest of us?  I think we’re so used to being treated as subhuman that we don’t find it surprising.  We placidly accept what we should be outraged about.

Because when there’s so much to be outraged about, you can’t sustain the outrage.  No one can.  So you just give up, and accept.

There are a lot of things which I will fight to get people to accept, but there are also things that we should not accept.  Maybe instead of worrying so much about what the fat girl next door is wearing, or what the gay couple down the street might be doing, we need to direct our righteous indignation in the right direction, starting with corporations.

Lots of studies have been done about the sociopathic tendencies of people who rise to the top in large businesses.  And I think a lot of corporations have demonstrated that, as entities, they are largely sociopathic ones.  We need to keep in mind that sociopaths don’t care about the dignity, health, comfort, and rights of others – they only care about themselves.

When we allow sociopathic people and sociopathic entities control over major industries, bad things begin to happen.

Let’s give Airbus some feedback on their design, shall we?

You can write them here:

Find them on Twitter at @airbus

Find them on LinkedIn here:

Leave a note on their ‘Careers’ Facebook page here: 

This week in fat shaming news

A piece from xoJane about being wined, dined, and then fat shamed on a first date. People – if you’re not attracted to your date that’s fine, but no need to give them detailed reasons why you don’t like their body.

This isn’t fat shaming, but I wanted to post it – a writer was body shamed for looking too old (she’s 59).  She shares the amazing detail her date when into about what she could do to make her body more attractive to him – some of his suggestions are disgustingly offensive.  She also writes about how shocked he was when she told him never to contact her again – and how he told her she was overreacting.  I’m so proud of her for how she handled it, and that she shared her story with others.

If someone body shames you for any reason…tell them that they can fuck right off, and go find people who will love you, appreciate you, and support you in positive, healthy ways.

In case we haven’t already made it clear, lots and lots of studies show that any shaming behavior is *not* positively motivating – it’s demotivating.  And fat women are shamed, on average, three times a day.

I was proud of E! Online (and MTV as well!) for posting this story about a nineteen year old woman who believed her instagram was deleted due to her size.  She had been posting pictures of herself of bikinis, and bra/panties – no different or any more revealing than a lot of thinner women using the same site.  Luckily, Instagram realized their mistake and restored her account.

But this is something that women have to continue to fight – this notion that it’s okay for *some* women to dress a certain way, but not all women.  This notion that it’s okay to police and report bodies that we don’t like.  Newsflash: All women are allowed to wear bikinis.  All women are allowed to post photos of themselves in said bikinis on Instagram.  It’s your right to dislike it, but it is not your right to try to make them to stop.

This rather short Salon article touches briefly on the sexist undertones in fat shaming.  Fat shaming happens more often to women, because what we look like still matters more than who we are and what we do.

This article out of Ireland accurately reflects the difficulty in talking about, and assigning responsibility to, obesity.  They talk about the culture of silence in Ireland, the AMA’s ruling and how Irish medical experts feel about it, and the fact that Big Food is partially to blame for targeting lower socioeconomic groups.

I don’t agree with everything in this article, but I think it’s important because Irish experts have noted that you can’t just blame an individual – there are a number of factors at play – and you can clearly see the conflict happening over who is accountable for the fact that bodies are getting larger and larger.

Huffington Post UK explains why being slightly overweight is better than yo-yo dieting, and being thin doesn’t mean your body isn’t storing fat in really bad places.

Europe is on a roll!  Cosmo UK calls out the Daily Mail for allowing a hateful article about how fat people should hate themselves just a week after running an article about why fat shaming is harmful.

Fat shaming happens to men, and to athletes – here’s a link to the story about MLB player Prince Fielder being fat shamed.  As the article points out, you can be athletic, healthy, and still have visible fat on your body.