Friday, July 25, 2014

Freaks

I'm so blessed to know the wonderful Sarah Roberson. She's a friend and fellow plus size model who also organizes some awesome photoshoots. This one was called "boudoir freak show". Lingerie and scary makeup anyone? Yes please! Shooting with Sarah and the photographers she corrals always results in interesting photos and definitely something new and different. The following photos are by Brent LaFever. Personally I think my look is a bit joker-esque and I'm completely okay with that! I also want to thank my friend Amy who gave me both the corset and tutu for this set. 




Thursday, July 10, 2014

But what about the children?!

Yesterday afternoon I was fortunate enough to be a guest on HuffPost Live speaking about vegan parenting in a segment called Is Veganism Safe For Babies? There were several things that I wanted to say that I didn't get a chance to. Like how much my son loves being vegan, how he never feels left out because we plan well, how he loves talking about loving animals to others, and more. But mostly I wanted to talk more about weight stigma. Now, I know it had nothing to do with the segment but Chubby Vegan Mom (Amanda) just had to go and bring up "CHILDHOOD OBESITY BOOGA BOOGA". Can we please stop talking about fatness as an epidemic? Epidemics are for infectious disease, not human beings and their body shape or size.

I was disappointed to say the least. Even now, thinking about that conversation lays heavy on my heart. From a self proclaimed chuccy/thick woman as she calls herself came so much hand wringing about the children and their body shape. She called it an epidemic and pretty much ignored my argument that body size is not a proxy for health. That there are skinny unhealthy people and fat healthy people. She just kept saying she agreed BUT THE CHILDREN. I guess we should just ignore the fact that eating disorders and poor body image among youth is far more prevalent than any lifestyle related illness. And, of course, I say lifestyle instead of weight because weight is not a proxy for health.

Of course, the omnivore mom then went on to argue that weight was absolutely a proxy for health (though not the only one) despite being told that we needed to stop talking about it as we had gotten off topic. I wish I'd had the chance to respond, but I respected Nancy Redd's request to stay on topic about vegan parenting. But it's worth discussing the fatphobia that seems to prevalent  in veganism and how it impacts vegan children.

One big risk for eating disorders is internalized fatphobia. Literally a fear of becoming fat. Children and Teens who are "overweight" are at a larger risk for eating disorders to try to lose weight. More than 90% of girls want to change their appearance with weight at the top of that list. Think about that for a second- 90%! If you have a daughter then this is a horrifying statistic. So how many children (boys and girls) fear becoming fat? About 80%. That's the same number of 10 year old girls who have dieted by the way. They're more afraid of becoming fat than they are of losing their parents according to one poll.

The list of statistics on body image, dieting, and eating disorders goes on. So what happens when you're already on a restrictive diet and your vegan parents are obsessed with weight and are instilling fatphobia in their kids? There are no statistics on vegans and body image, let alone vegan children and body image so I can only speculate on the consequences. And with the rise of Orthorexia and Bigorexia (the obsession with eating healthfully and exercising) I can't say that I'm not worried about the future of veganism and it's followers. I think it's immensely important to have body positive vegans.

Let's be honest here, veganism isn't going to cure childhood or adult "obesity". It's not going to make everyone thinner. Though I encourage healthy eating (although health is NOT the focus of veganism which I don't think came across in the interview), it does not equal thinness nor is it an obligation. Most parents do the best they can and we can't ignore the parents who work too many hours for not enough pay and who can barely afford the boxed mac and cheese they serve their kids for lunch. The interview included a lot of what I thought was definite food policing. There was a lot of talk against processed foods for example. Nevermind that they're often much easier to prepare for those without the time or energy to make huge meals from scratch. They also help vegan kids (and adults) feel less left out at events.

I wish we'd had much more time and I do hope that I can go back on HuffPost Live at some point to discuss these issues with veganism, fatphobia, and food policing.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tobacco Campus

Durham, NC's Tobacco Campus is a gorgeous setting with lots of steel, brick, and plenty of businesses. Photos by Calvin Spealman. 











Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throwing Out the Underpants

Ragen Chastain is one of my heros. Let's get that out of the way first and foremost. She's amazing and awesome and I could not be more excited or honored that she even knows I exist. But, since we're all individuals we're going to disagree on some things. And one thing that's always always bothered me is the underpants rule. Well, not all of it. Let me explain. The Underpants Rule basically states that you are The Boss of your Own Underpants. This means that you don't get to tell me what to do and I don't get to tell you what to do. This is particularly used in, you guessed it, fat acceptance circles where Ragen is pretty much a celebrity.

Okay, great, I mostly agree with that rule! Except for when it comes to harmful behavior. And when I mean harmful I mean perpetuating social stigma and bigotry or something serious that may result in very real physical or psychological harm being done. For example, I'm not going to tell you how to dress, but I am certainly going to intervene if you, say, tell me that you're suicidal, or have an eating disorder, or something like that. I'll try my best to talk you out of it. You may be the boss of your own underpants, but that has a huge limit. Most people agree that self harm such as suicidal ideation is a point at which someone should intervene and stop saying "your choice, do what you want".

Well, I've been an activist for a long time, even before I found fat acceptance issues to advocate for, and I've always stood up to someone who is bigoted. In my opinion your underpants stop being your own when you're hurting other people. Which is why I wrote the post that I did about weight loss surgery for example. So while proponents of the underpants rule say "you can choose to lose weight if you want to because they're your underpants", that's past my threshold. I say, you're perpetuating fatphobia and thin privilege and therefore you need to be talked out of it/ stood up to. It's not just fatphobia I apply this rule to. I don't stand for any kind of bigotry, especially from my friends and people that I love.

So I'm sorry, but I"m going to advocate for throwing out the underpants, or burning them, or whatever you choose to do with those underpants that keep you from being the best advocate and activist that you can be. Because while sometimes it's prudent to keep your opinions to yourself, sometimes it's necessary to share them and to get people to change their way of thinking. When I was bragging to a friend about getting my calories under x amount and she introduced me to fat acceptance, it changed my life. If she'd just decided to let me lose weight (which wasn't working anyway) and not say anything, then I'd still be hating myself and perpetuating and defending fatphobia.

Some people empathize with people wanting to lose weight in a way, saying that thinness holds a good deal of privilege and therefore it's understandable that it's desirable and they're right, it does. But I wholeheartedly believe that privilege is a bad thing and wouldn't exist in a truly egalitarian world. We should reject privilege and do our best to educate people against the privileges that we do posses. So yeah, thinness will give you privilege (however temporary), but by specifically trying to attain privilege you're perpetuating bigotry. Privilege only exists because oppression does as well. Ending bigotry should be our number one priority. Sorry underpants.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things

So I decided that there are a few photos that I've taken over the years that are my absolute favorites. And I want to share those with you. Some are nude, some aren't, but they're the ones that make me thankful for being involved in this art.

I'll start with my absolute most favorite from my first nude shoot by Mikel Allen. This shot was done when I had dermographia (something that since has gone away with the use of steroid injections.. what a shame). Dermographia literally translates to skin writing. It's a histamine reaction which causes welting when pressure is applied, hence the ability to write on a person's skin. This one was my idea- I wrote "Basic Kindness" on my arms and, to this day, I believe it's such a beautiful and powerful message that it holds a special place in my heart.



This photo got a lot of attention when I originally posted it and you may be able to see why. The feeling of serenity and weightlessness floating in the middle of a lake is a hard feeling to beat. My belly floats above the surface and looks beautifully round. This photo by Michael Lanning was a fun one to take. It was autumn and Getting in the water made my skin go instantly numb. What's more, when I laid back and my ear drum hit the cold water I became immediately dizzy. Trying to get a look of relaxation in that environment was tough, but the result was beautiful.


This next photo was an exercise in self acceptance. My backside, wonderfully dimpled, was something I didn't spend a lot of time looking at, but Travis McKeithan brought a beauty to it in this black and white photograph that's hard for me to get over. It made me fall in love with every little dip and curve.


Another black and white by Dan Smith displays my body against a backdrop of light. You may have guessed that I'm completely in love with my black tulle skirt as I've used it in several photoshoots. Dan managed to capture a beauty in my curves that I had never seen before. While publishing these photos was indeed difficult, it was also empowering and wonderful.



This next photo by Bryan Regan is yet another nude (I sense a pattern here). The theme was "oil painting" and was done with light painting. The result is a stunning piece of art that is reminiscent of  many classical paintings done with larger women. While the photo is not inherently sexual I feel like there's a deep sensuality to the dips and peaks of my body that make me feel like a masterpiece.



This is another by Travis McKeithan. We played with light and shadows and the result was dramatic and fascinating. This one more made me appreciate the contours of my own face. Fat acceptance has been my main goal but sometimes that includes the face too. Sometimes feeling too round, I've learned to love it as much as my body.



There are many more photos that I love, but these are some that leave me in awe. I hope you enjoyed them as well and my hope, as always, is to inspire others to love and appreciate their own bodies in a world which demonizes them and refuses to acknowledge, let alone represent, larger bodies.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Green with Envy



by Dan Hacker

by Scott Bryant

by Dan Hacker

by Scott Bryant

by Rodrigo Mancilla