Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Action and Inspiration

Maybe you've decided that this year will be the year that you reach out and take some part in making Size Acceptance accessible to everyone. Maybe you've resolved to stop waiting for others to provide FA/SA resources and be part of the solution. Maybe you want to do something to get involved, but aren't quite ready for your face and/or name to start showing up on the news or at the bottom of editorials. Maybe you're frustrated that winter is thwarting your ass-kicking plans for sign-waving, whipped cream throwing protests at bariatric clinics. Maybe all of these.

This time of year is difficult. Diet ads and talk are closing in on the post-holiday blues to compound the exhaustion that comes from a concept of self and health that runs so contrary to cultural programming. It's not a new concept. Great literature (Orwell, Huxley, Tolstoy) is replete with characters whose story can only be told because they stand out from the societal landscape. Every great change begins with a small group of people willing to act. Every person who is remembered beyond the death of their children is memorable because they were willing to take a step dictated by their consciousness of rightness being stronger than the programming of mother culture.

But for every person who sits down on a bus and every student who stands in front of a tank, there are hundreds more who create the possibility for that action to be meaningful in the context of a greater whole. There are the organizers, the pushers of paperwork, the poll-workers, and the nameless faces in the crowd that provide mass and inertia to the message. You don't have to be the face in front of the camera to be a force for change. You don't have to be the leader of an organization for organizations to happen. Small actions by individuals are what make the bigger stands something more than an aberration. One person with a sign in front of a WLS clinic is a nut. One hundred people is a movement.

I'm getting a bit side-tracked from my original plans for a post today, but it's difficult to stay on-track this time of year. When I lose inspiration, I also lose motivation. To keep myself inspired, I keep a few good books around, like Paul Campos (merci beaucoup Tante'!) and my recently acquired "Body Wars" by Margo Maine (gracias a Gita por el regalo de Navidad!). When I find myself slipping into the masochistic practice of trying to argue with haters on fatphobic comment or chat threads, or the latest fat hate in the media is dragging me back, I return to what inspired me in the first place. This weekend, it worked. An hour with the Fatosphere often does the trick as well if there's a lot of new posts. I'm inspired by the reminder that I'm not in this alone, and that there's so many intelligent, well-researched, strong-minded individuals out there fighting the same issues with their bodies and the society that wants to create the illusion of shame and monstrosity around something as innocuous as a collection of fat cells.

Another way to stay inspired is through action. Some people are timid to get involved at all, or are worried that they don't have the skills. To be honest, there are plenty of opportunities to make small changes regardless of what you can bring to the table. Right now there are exciting new projects playing out on a grass-roots level throughout the Size Acceptance movement. Some need complex skills, such as web-design or grant writing. All need the less-glamorous but still necessary grunt work that can be done by almost anyone.

Some opportunities to get involved:

1. The MAFRAD project (Media Advocacy for Fat Representation and Anti-Defamation) is working on a revolutionary new combined media guide for Fat Acceptance, covering everything from acceptable language to use in discussing fat in the media to research and links to show the dangers of dieting. Their aim is to create a centralized resource with reliable information so that members of the media can easily find what they need to present an unbiased report.

They're finished with the initial research and drafts. They're currently looking for people to volunteer for the Editing committee to put the pieces into a cohesive whole, and the Web committee to make the finished guide accessible online. You can volunteer by joining their Yahoo Group here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mafrad/ or sending an e-mail to mafrad-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.


2. The Fat 50+ Project is in the early stages of created a guide (state-by-state, province-by-province in the U.S., other countries as volunteers happen) to legislation, legal and medical rights, complaint resources and other issues regarding fat/size rights. This will hopefully create a resource for both consolidating activism efforts and helping with cases of individual discrimination. They have a framework in place but they do need help collecting the information on each state/province/country. Information is easy to find in most cases through the state or province's web site, but if you live in the covered area you have an added advantage of consulting local lawyers, paper records, and local news archives. Any help given will add to this valuable resource. Primarily need researchers. Legal or government contacts would be stellar, but anyone who can slog through legislative documents on a website or google newspaper archives is needed.

You can help by visiting http://fatrights.org/members/ and creating a (free) account. Then click on the link to "Fat 50", pick a state, province or country, and add any information you can find with a link to your source so that editors can double-check.

3. The COFRA project (Council of Fat Rights Activists) is the lead organization for the Fat 50 project, founded by the folks at Big Fat Blog. They're seeking to organize efforts towards Size Acceptance, and need volunteers in many areas.

Volunteer opportunities include: Legal/organizational help (to create organization structure and obtain tax-exemption, create a mission statement, etc.); Web Design; Street-Level Activism (rallies, events, advertising, public relations, etc.

You can help by visiting the COFRA member website at http://fatrights.org/members/ You'll need to create a (free) account, then visit the forums to see what's been done and where they need help.

4. NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) is a Size Acceptance organization with long standing and credibility. They are responsible for the successful push to add weight/body size to the non-discrimination policy in San Francisco as well as other legal battles against weight discrimination in employment, adoption, and government practices. They are based on the West coast, but have local chapters elsewhere.

The list of volunteer positions can be found here: http://www.naafa.org/volunteers/
Their Fat Activist Task Force tries to coordinate and announce activism opportunities such as letter writing and response to specific issues: http://www.naafa.org/fatf/
To find or create a local chapter to organize Fat Acceptance activism and social support in your area, see the Chapter Index at: http://www.naafa.org/chapters/chapter-index.html
Special Interest Groups are created to coordinate activism and support for those with specific needs or interests, such as diabetics, WLS survivors, Vegetarian, Teen/Youth, Men, Families, Singles, etc. To see a list of SIG's, or to propose a new SIG, visit here: http://www.naafa.org/sigs/sigs.html


That's just what I'm involved in, of course! There's plenty more out there, and if people want to use the comments to draw attention to other volunteer/activism opportunities, please do so. I would personally like to see what else I can help support.

1 comment:

withoutscene/sevendayswonder said...

JoGeek you are awesome for plugging MAFRAD and in general for this call to action!!! Love it!