Body Positivity - a Great New Workshop Comes to the Tickle Trunk
The Tickle Trunk is thrilled to be hosting a brand new workshop on October 27th– Body Respect and Empowerment. This workshop is facilitated by two of our favorite people on the planet, Lauren Groves and Allison Tunis. Lauren is a counsellor whose office is right beside the Tickle Trunk. She’s a a feminist Registered Provisional Psychologist and Certified Body Trust Provider. Allison is a visual artist and fat liberation activist. You can find her amazing colouring book at our store!
Because the concepts of body positivity and fat activism are new to many of us, I asked them to explain what those concepts mean to them and what you can expect when you come to the workshop.
Can you explain a bit more about the history of the body positivity movement, what it’s about, how it started? What myths or biases do you think exist in ourculture around body size – particularly how we view and what we think of larger women?
Allison: The body positivity movement has its roots in the fat liberation movement, which started in the late 1960’s as people challenging and protesting the idea that fat was inherently unhealthy or detrimental to both individuals and society, and promoting the idea that fat people should be treated with equal respect and dignity. Groups of people started having “Fat-Ins” and the National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) was founded in 1969. This work has strongly impacted the newer Body Positivity movement which often is described as being a broader umbrella promoting the idea that “all bodies have value”, however, I don’t think that it’s possible to have Body Positivity without Fat Liberation. In order to free ourselves from diet culture and beauty standards, we have to dismantle the idea that larger bodies are inherently unhealthy or unworthy, and we need to center the voices of those who have been left out of conversations in the past.
How did you start getting involved in working on this issue?
Lauren: A colleague of mine suggested that I started following the Militant Baker (Jes Baker). I did and for the first time I was exposed to new research and ways of thinking that I had never considered before. She shared a link to an online course, Promoting Body Trust ™ in Clinical Practice, by Be Nourished, and I signed up. I continued to absorb all the information that I was sent every day for a month and by the end I decided that I would enroll in their program to become a certified Body Trust ™ provider.
Allison: Similar to Lauren, I actually started getting interested in topics around Health at Every Size and fat liberation after stumbling upon Jes Baker, The Militant Baker’s blog and another blog called This Is Thin Privilege. The more I read, and the more people I followed talking about this issue, the more invested I felt and the more my life changed. I then worked to self-publish my fat activism colouring book, and that led to me meeting more folks involved in the fat liberation movement.
Why is this important to you?
Lauren: I got drawn to this work after spending a lot of my young adult life wrapped tightly up in diet culture and feeling ashamed that my attempts to change my body were not “successful.” I blamed myself a lot and was extremely self-critical of what I perceived to be a lack of willpower and willingness to do what needed to be done to change. As a clinician, everyday I see the impact that diet culture and weight bias have on people and the desperation to change their bodies for the broken promise of happiness. I root my values and work in social justice, and I see body liberation as an integral aspect of this.
Can you say something about the word ‘fat’? Many people have very negative associations with it and yet you use it in a neutral or even positive way.
Lauren: I personally love the word fat. Historically, and not so historically, fat is a negatively loaded term which connotes laziness, worthlessness and ugliness. However, to me it is a neutral descriptor used to describe some bodies. I think the reclamation of the word “fat” is integrally important to fat liberation overall because fat is not a dirty or shameful word.
Allison: I adore the word fat. I feel as if reclaiming it allows me to not only acknowledge my size, but to challenge and somewhat subvert the traditional ideas that fat is something to be ashamed of.
How do you think our society’s view of size, and bias about size, particularly as they relate to women, affects women’s sexuality and their ability to experience and enjoy their sexuality?
Allison: Weight and size bias can affect our sexuality and sexual experiences in so many ways. One of the ways I’ve noticed it most in my own experience as a woman has been the lack of boundaries that I’ve had. For a long period of my life, I believed that as a fat woman I had to “take what I could get” and not complain, or assert my boundaries and preferences. The fat liberation and size acceptance movement has helped me to realize that my value as a person goes beyond my size and adherence to beauty standards, and that I deserve to be treated with respect and have my boundaries respected as well. That’s a huge boost to sexuality, to be comfortable and able to assert your needs and wants.
Lauren: I think society fetishizes fat bodies and that there is a risk for further objectification than women are already subjected to. I also believe it’s incredibly difficult to not internalize the messages we receive from the culture we live in. We are told that fat bodies are not sexy or attractive bodies, and this can be hard to combat internally. I think this can lead to attempting to conceal our bodies during sex which is not a great way of staying in the moment and truly enjoying pleasure. I also think the concept of pleasure shows up when we speak about women, bodies and sex. Women are already told that pleasure is selfish and that can be compounded when you live in a body that you have been told is gluttonous. That may lead people to feel unworthy of pleasure and satisfaction in their lives because they have been told incessantly that they are too indulgent.
What kind of a future do you envision for our society’s understanding of body shapes and sizes? How do you think we might get there?
Lauren: I think there is an amazing amount of work currently being done by many many people to advance the understanding that health cannot be determine by body shape or size AND that no one owes anyone health. I would like to see diet culture destabilized and some value placed on the multitude of research regarding the social determinants of health. I think that this starts first with recognizing the intersections of capitalism and the patriarchy and the ways they are maintaining the status quo. I know this is a tall order, but I am also in awe of the changes I have seen, even in the past 10 years, towards body and fat liberation.
Now that we know more about body positivity, can you explain what the Tickle Trunk workshop is about and who it’s for?
Lauren:This workshop is for anyone searching to deepen their connection with themselves and their body, especially those who might be new to body positivity/love/acceptance/trust. We will start by exploring the roots of body mistrust and diet culture and the second half will contain an opportunity for a hands on, arts based activity to further discover these concepts. We hope that participants leave with alternative perspective to diet culture and strategies to begin to challenge the dieting mindset.
The workshop is on Sunday, October 27th at 6pm. Spots are still open but space is limited. Sign up online here or visit the store.