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Monday, December 15, 2014

PRE-FLIGHT PRAYER OF A FAT GIRL // BY RACHEL WILEY




Pray, let us be thankful for the well trained smile of the flight attendant
it may be the only one pointed at us on this day
Let us not be embarrassed to request the seat belt extender
but rather rejoice in its being.
Let us pray for a seat that sits not on an aisle
but a window so we may cling to the plane wall
in attempt to make ourselves small
enough
Let us also move our bodies as little as possible enduring cramp and ache alike
so as not to be a burden unto our seatmate.
And blessed be that seatmate who does neither sigh nor scorn
when our hip sneaks over the line of the armrest
Yay, let us never book with SouthWest for they will send us into exile
for not being fruitful and purchasing 2 seats to contain our bounty when only 1 can be afforded.
Pray, let us ignore the glances when the pilot announces the craft is overweight
and must sit flightless while luggage is rearranged for balance.
Lo, Let us not look to the magazine models tucked into the seat backs like hymnals
as anything holy
Pray, let us remember we are beautiful in our bounty
Pray most of all that we forgive ourselves
And smooth the creases of apology we have folded our delicate bodies into on this day
Come home and stretch out across our beds like the unpacking of a suitcase full of all the best
souvenirs.
Our bones are racks of the kitschiest key chains.
Our bellies, magnificent snow globes.
Look and rejoice at everything we managed to get home safe.



-----------------------------------------
Posted with permission from Fat Girl Finishing School by Rachel Wiley.
I wrote about it here. You can find it here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

STYLE ICON: ELOISE AT CHRISTMASTIME


Every year around this time, I nostalgically think back to the afternoon years ago when I popped in a VHS and curled up on my grandma's green corduroy chair to watch Eloise at Christmastime for the very first time. And I'll tell you what, it wasn't the last holiday season I watched it. 11 years later... it's still a thing.

This movie, for whatever reason has become my favorite holiday film of all time. More than Home Alone. More than The Grinch. EVEN MORE THAN ELF, Y'ALL. It's shocking, I know, but Eloise has a rawther large spot in my heart that I'll never give away no matter how good Will Ferrell looks in tights.

Eloise is a 6 year old rabble rouser that lives in the Plaza Hotel with Nanny (Julie Andrews), her dog Weenie that looks like a cat, and her turtle Skipperdee. Besides her being as stupendously fun (6 year old me would be her bestie)... she's also a spectacular fashionista.

If you're into jumper skirts. Which I TOTALLY am.

I also love T-strap shoes. Bows. Short skirts...  I simply can't get enough of her style, so I pulled together some "grown up" 6 year old outfits which would work remarkably well during the holidays. Or, any other day you feel like being goddamn adorable.

And, if you haven't watched it (or, just haven't watched it this year) HERE IS THE FULL FILM ON YOUTUBE. Happy Christmastime!




The quintessential Eloise, re-imagined. If you'd like alternate, less frilly "I take elementary school fashion seriously" knee high white socks, they're here. If you're wanting to rock some suspenders with this like a bad ass, ASOS has some here.

And what if you just REALLY wanna wear a jumper skirt made in big kid sizes? Gotcha covered, girl.

BOOM.




1. Silk blouse // 2. Bow skirt // 3. Seamed tights // 4. Hair bow // 5. Heels

Holiday Eloise is Regular Eloise but in red. The above is something I would personally wear to a holiday party. Not everyone would, but then again, I'm not everyone. The skirt is both sexy and fun, and if you really just wanted to pair it with a sharp tailored button down, I've got you covered.

1. Sunglasses // 2. Tights // 3. Headband // 4. Boots // 5. Coat

Behold: Eloise's Errand-Running-and-Holiday-Shopping outfit. I told you she has style. This particular bow headband looks exactly like the one she wears, so if you're all in... you need it.

She's just magnificent, isn't she? Now go forth and dress like you order room service from bed with messy hair while wearing pink pinstriped pajamas!

Wait, what? You want to know where to GET her fabulous pink pinstriped pajamas? In PLUS SIZE no less? We'll, you're lucky that I'm somewhat of a plus clothing superhero... Ask and ye shall receive!

Now get off my cape, I've got a Christmas tree to decorate.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

YOU CAN HELP US CREATE A TEEN INCLUSIVE CONFERENCE!


We had another super amazing think tank meeting, this time with teens! All thanks to the Girl Scouts, who hooked us up with a room, teens, and pizza... and, well it was a success!

The teens ranged from 13-17 and were beyond insightful. I'm not surprised. We talked about what it's like, what the hardest parts of having a body can be, the history of why we've learned to hate our bodies, about bullying and why it happens, where we see inspiration... and all kinds of other incredible topics.  I have pages from that session.

So, again, because it's important to have a "__________ inclusive conference", we're asking YOU!

TEENS! What is important for you to talk about? Who would you like to see at the Body Love Conference? What would make you feel comfortable? What is the biggest issue you see that you would like to address?

And PARENTS! Ask your teens! We'd love their insight... it's critical and wonderful all at the same time!

We're listening!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I'M WRITING A BOOK! (SO TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE)


I've never done an official blog post about this (wtf?) so here it finally is: I'M WRITING A BOOK GUYS. A bona fide, real deal, fancy schmancy book. And I'm stoked.

Seal Press and I are working together to put out a great body lovin' book for the world, and that means it's for YOU! So, since I'm writing this for your eyeballs, it makes sense to ask what your eyeballs would like to read.

TELL ME: What subjects would you like covered in this body positive book? What do you wish people would talk more about? What do you think would be interesting? What do you want to see more of in general? What are the hot button issues that can't be left out? What would help you to read? What do you think others need to hear?

If you'd like to contribute, comment below. I'd love to hear what you have to say!

P.S. I know you're gonna ask, so: you can get the keyboard stickers here! <3

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

YOU CAN HELP US CREATE A CONFERENCE INCLUSIVE OF OUR TRANSGENDER COMMUNITIES!

(Don't judge our waiters photography skills... he was great;))

A few nights ago, the University of Arizona hosted a small get together with an incredible group of people to initiate a conversation about how we can make the Body Love Conference an inclusive, safe, enjoyable, and wonderful space for the Transgender Community! We were joined by scholars, advocates and community members; each bringing knowledge and wisdom to the table... all of it exceptional.

As someone who values inclusivity, but often is unable to identify the needs/wants of many underrepresented demographics (because: white/cis/hetero/all the privilege), it was beneficial to have those pioneering this particular front share with us: what they view as weaknesses and strengths within the conference and what they would do if they we're creating the conference themselves.

The enthusiasm was beautiful. The comments on point. And the suggestions are all written down! I loved and appreciated all the feedback, which included: making a space on the name-tag for attendees to write their preferred gender pronoun, having gender neutral bathroom options, having trans representation (adult and teens!) on multiple panels, explaining/altering the conference tagline so that it reflects body autonomy, having a designated keynote, and a million brilliant related topics and speakers for workshops.

Now we're here to ask YOU: do you have any thoughts on how to make this event inclusive for the transgender community? Any suggestions for speakers? Any recommendations of topics you'd like to hear about? Ways to make this safe, appropriate, and effective for all that attend? 

We will also be having similar think-tank meetings with teens and men (also underrepresented in our volunteer group); can't wait to hear your opinions there as well.

Talk to us! We're here to listen!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I WEAR WHAT I WANT: CATFITS @ EL TEATRO CARMEN


I'd totally apologize for all of the cat outfits, but only if I was sorry.

Which I'm not.
So there's that.

Happy Monday everyone! This is one of my favorite dresses: a fit and flare covered in faux news articles... All of them written by cats. It's just as wonderful as it sounds.



Make it yours!

I pulled the dress out of the closet in honor of my friend Nikki Riot's birthday (you remember her glorious thunder thigh tattoo?) and before heading over I snapped a few pictures in front of a gorgeous historic theater in one of the Tucson barrios.

I love Tucson's barrios.
Almost as much as I love cat dresses.

Is tying your sweatshirt only for 12 years olds, by the way? I feel like it is something I would do back in the day when we all used scrunchies to knot shirts above the belt. Whether it's for adults or not, I rocked it yesterday anyways and no regrets. We had a blast celebrating a bad-ass babe and we looked good while doing so!

What fun trends did you follow your childhood? I'm super curious!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

NEW YORK: I'M YOURS FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

(via)

City folks, good news! I'm going to be in NYC for the holidays! Both Christmas and New Years! 

Every time I'm there, I always get emails saying: JES WHEN CAN WE ______?!?!?! and I always have to say: I'm sorry I was working all day and now I'm leaving in the morning!. But NOW I'm givin' you a heads up because I've got some time for shenanigans while there! 

Wanna do a photo shoot? Set up a time together for me to speak? Chat about all things body love? Collaborate in general? Do you have an event you'd like me to participate in? Yeah? Then shoot me an email TODAY!

themilitantbaker@gmail.com

That email above? That's how you get a hold of me! Lets get together and make awesome shit happen, mmkay?


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I'M ALL OHMYGOD ABOUT "FAT GIRL FINISHING SCHOOL" AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO


I just. Can hardly contain myself.

A hot pink package was sticking out of my mailbox today, and when I opened it I whispered (to absolutely no one) OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod.  I shit you not; apparently this is what I do when I hit my maximum capacity for excitement.

Inside the package was the a manuscript I read months ago (and talked about here), finally published as the first full length poetry collection by the phenomenal Rachel Wiley.

A while back, Rachel asked me to preview the poems and if I felt so inclined, to write a review. After multiple teary lunch breaks dedicated to these papers covered in green Times New Roman (I loved that part) I was hell bent on telling the world how wonderful I thought these pieces were. And much to my OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod excitement, a piece of that "telling" ended up on the back of this piece of fucking awesome art.



The book opens with this quote, which I wish was hung in every persons home:


And is then followed by my favorite poem of all time: "Pre-Flight Prayer of a Fat Girl" which made me cry in public the first time I read it. A few weeks ago while I was talking to a friend about her adventures in FlyingWhileFat, I read it aloud to her... she teared up too.

I'm going to beg Rachel to let me publish it here.
(RACHEL PLEASE CAN I SHARE JUST THAT ONE POEM!?!?)

So yes. This book is magical. I'm so proud of this incredible woman. And I'm so happy to see the body positive literary world expand.

And of course, I'm writing this into my future plans:



If you haven't watched 10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved by a Skinny Boy (how I found Rachel) you should. It's relevant and an incredible piece that has touched millions.

To purchase the book: click this link and you can get it straight from the kick-ass babe herself.

Sigh.

The world is beautiful today.

Monday, December 1, 2014

KICK ASS PLUS-SIZE ACTIVE WEAR: IT TOTALLY EXISTS

(Congolese dance class with Anton. Photo via AZ Daily Star.)

Whenever you discuss the combination of fat people and exercise, you're almost guaranteed to hear an opinion along the lines of: those two words don't belong in the same sentence! I love to bash fatty myths so lets hang this one out to dry: the idea that all large people are sedentary and live life free of exercise is a load of baloney. 

Throughout my body lovin' travels, I've met many many many people that live a physically rigorous lifestyle in addition to many plus-advocates that teach it. Louise Green is a perfect example and one of my favorite humans. She is a proud athlete, runs a training program called Body Exchange and is constantly participating in half marathons, hiking the North Shore mountains in Canada and is now currently producing a plus-size fitness video.  She is self proclaimed: fit and fat, which is more common than you'd believe. She wrote an incredible article for the Huffington Post called This Is What An Athlete Looks Like, and I'd suggest that you read it. Like, now. I, personally, love dance classes. What started as shakin' it to *Nsync at middle school dances became a serious commitment to dance classes in college and now I find solace in African inspired dance classes taught by none other than the magnificent Jade Beall herself. So yeah. Lots of fat bodies move all the time.

BUT HERE'S THE THING: even though we've dispelled the myth that large bodies don't exercise, retailers haven't caught on and our plus-size options of workout wear are... well. Underwhelming.

When we can find viable options, they often roll down our waists, cut into our sides, or display some other malfunction. I know first hand that not having clothing tailored to my large body always left me pulling up my pants in yoga class and losing my focus while doing so.

So thank god for Lola Getts. They found me a couple of years ago and after I tried their clothing once... I was a changed woman. I actually sought them out a few months ago and asked if we could do some sort of partnership; a collaboration where you all get a chance to see that you can have the blessing of having well-fitting workout wear too. Because everyone deserves that shit. I love them for making clothing specifically for curves and are sure to double line the crotch, reinforce the waist, and tame the boobage that likes to flail about while working out. Allowing large gals to have tailored active wear is just another revolutionary step towards dispelling those silly myths that we can't shake things up a bit. Cause we certainly can, and do.

They've become the only company I wear to class now, and it just happened that way. They're what I'm wearing in the top picture by the AZ Daily Star from last April and they're what I wore tonight. I just appreciate having my boobs contained and not having to constantly readjust the goddamn crotch. Y'knowwhatImean?

I know you know what I mean.

Bra-less (UNHEARD OF!) and fancy free at Yarrow's dance class tonight:


And I asked a dance friend to take a picture of my ass in these pants, because lets be honest: it's kind of amazing. 

I'm wearing the Guava top  (which leans towards hot pink IRL, though it's hard to see because: studio lighting) and their basic black yoga pants (in 29 inches instead of 33 because: short.) These fit me like a dream and allow all the movement needed for some ass kicking African dance moves!

Another few favorites that I own: the capris, skorts and black sleeveless top... I love 'em all. 

So, obviously, when I contacted Lola Getts, and asked about hooking you up- they said yes because here we are. So I then asked YOU what you would prefer: a giveaway for a few or a code for all. A CODE FOR ALL you unanimously chanted.

So guess what bitches!?! I HAVE A CODE FOR YOU. Because you're loved. So, so loved. Everything is 35% off on Lola Getts' site with the special code: Jes35 from now until December 25th... so Happy Holidays to you!


Fact: fat bodies deserve endorphins just like every other body. If you wanna read about how I learned this and also how I learned to exercise for the orgasms, I highly recommend you read Exercise Classes and Fat Girl Freak Outs. It's a winner. ALSO, if you're wanting to move your body because you love it, but need permission to do it your way: read this book by Hanne Blank called The Unapologetic Fat Girls Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts. It's incredible. ALSO, if you just wanna order yoga pants and wear them while enjoying your lazy Sunday... dude. I fully support that too.

YOU DO YOU, y'hear?

So tell me: what have your experiences been with workout wear? Do you know a magic trick that I don't? What are your solutions? Any helpful links?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I WEAR WHAT I WANT: SPACE CAT SHIRTS AND BAD-ASS BLACK HAIR


I'm enjoying I Wear What I Want outfit posts, and it has everything to do with the weather. I finally don't hate wearing layers (or clothing in general) and I'm getting excited about putting together looks. This is my I-JUST-DYED-MY-HAIR-BLACK-AGAIN-AND-LOOK-LIKE-A-BAD-ASS look.

Subtle, huh?

Because I like talking about deep and profound shit (like the color of my hair) I'll share with you this short-only-mostly-boring story: from the ages of 20 to 25 I had black hair and loved it more than life itself. I rocked that shit HARD. I ditched it for blonde simply because I became exhausted with trying to cover up light roots (anyone else know this pain?) every damn day. The concept of having hair the color it grew in as was a beautiful thing to me back then. But after a three year reprieve, my energy has been restored and the black is back... and unexpectedly, it feels more natural to me than anything else. I didn't know how much I needed this change, but it sort of makes sense because: my black hair is my bitch face. It's my super firm handshake.  My bangin' red two-piece power suit (shoulder pads included, duh.) It's my My Life, My Rules tattoo ...only it's not a tattoo at all. Because. It's y'know. Hair.

I know I lost ya. 

What I'm saying is: I feel at home, and awesome, and I'm happy about it. SO, in honor of being home again, I compiled a bad-ass outfit for you and gave y'all the links so I'm not the only one who gets to rock it.

Hair dye optional.



1 // 2 // 3 // 4

Notes: the Cosmic Kitty Tee fits like a dream. Order it true to size or size up one or two for a baggier fit. The leggings are gonna fit you better than you think, so I would recommend ordering your size or even one smaller! They are a titch large on me and while it's comfy, I could have sized down. Point of reference: I'm an 18/22 and ordered a 3x. I could have easily rocked a 2x OR given the world a gift by showcasing this ass in a 1x. They're amazing and also come in ULTRA METALLIC RED (on sale, no less) if you're feeling really brave. Last note: straight sizes rejoice! They have all sizes!

The corduroy jacket I'm wearing is a thrift find, made by AMI, and is apparently impossible to find online. BUT FEAR NOT! I have found you a magnificent replacement that has stretch and everything.

I'm on your side, kiddo.


One of my favorite things about these boots (besides the fact that they fit so well) is that they scrunch down or slide all the way up to my knees depending on what I'm wantin' for the outfit. I found them on JustFab right after writing about how to find wide calf boots, and they THE PAIR that convinced me that I needed to wear boots all winter long. I never knew that wearing knee length boots was an option. BOOT LIBERATION FOR ALL!



These feathery earrings are handmade by Gunter and Bean and they're crafted out of up-cycled bicycle tubes! If you email her (at gunterandbean@gmail.com) and ask real nice she'll make some for you too. She's a doll like that.



So tell me babes: do you have a particular outfit that makes you feel like you can kick ass and take names? And what color hair makes you feel most comfortable? Is it your natural color, or something else?

Pictures in the comments of your favorite outfit or hair color gets you all the cool points.
Get all the cool points, plzkthx.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

BEHIND THE "DECENT" MUSIC VIDEO // BY ELLY KELLNER


Elly's kick-ass music video caught my eye last night (thanks Carrie!), and as I was about to share it via social media, an email from the bitchin' babe herself popped into my inbox. She shared the video with me and explained the reason for it's creation... and I just knew that y'all needed the story too. You can't see me, but I'm giving her a standing slow clap right now, not only for making a fabulous body positive video- but also for being able to sift through a strangers bullshit and publicly say- NOT UH. Your rules are not my rules. It's so fucking hard to do, and she's a great example of giving societal expectations the finger... with style. And oh dear god, how I LOVE her style.

This chick is amazing, and she brings the global body love hard. Read and watch it for yourself.
-------------------


I'm Elly Kellner. 
I am a singer-songwriter and creative human being from the Netherlands.

I've been playing music since I was a child and love performing in small, intimate venues where the audience can take a seat and get the chance to really hear my music and words; they get to really see me as I am. I write from my own experience and more recently I've also started writing about things like binge eating and child abuse; trying to get closer to my own core at the same time as approaching other topics in a light and humoristic way. It's wonderful to have people come up to me after a show and hear how they were touched in one way or another.

After a recent concert a man and woman waved at me and told me how beautiful my songs were. Then swiftly their feedback switched to my choice of clothing. I was a bit surprised as the places I perform tend to focus on the music rather than looks. Though I have received smiles and positive comments about my nice dresses in the past, haha! So I was a little bit in shock but still open to hear where this was going. First I listened, in the hopes of learning something, but in the end I just stood there crying...

Two strangers told me they were very distracted by my dress, was the back of the dress longer than the front!? And what sort of a legging was that!? And those shoes!? They assured me they only bothered to tell me all this because they thought my music was really good. But if only I wore a small heel, spike heels weren't necessary, but a small heel and a sleeve then I would have been so much bigger in the music business already. The way I was dressed now distracted them too much from my music. I could take Ella Fitzgerald as an example. She was a big lady too and she wore beautiful garments!

My head was filling up with words and feelings, but mostly shock. Thoughts went from left to right: "I love Ella Fitzgerald! But her style is not mine, Yes the back of the dress is longer than the front - it's fashionable apparently, I chose this dress today without a sleeve yes, I'm trying to come out of my shell more and trying to love my arms more even if they give me so much pain, These shoes are really comfy and hip!, I didn't even show cleavage today! Hang on...I've just played my songs for you passionately, my arms and hands have been hurting from chronic pain whilst I played the guitar for YOU, and now you're telling me to cover up my arms. You love the songs but you want the arms that play them to be covered up!? There's nothing wrong with my legging, it was black and now I bleached it and it's a lovely rusty orange colour; I love that colour!! I used to wear big unshapely clothes, would you rather I go back to that? I've only started wearing dresses since a couple of years, it took me ages to feel comfortable in them and now I just LOVE them! Why are you talking nonsense to me and...who are you to judge like that?"

In my head I was justifying my clothes, my arms...but I seemed to be in shock and couldn't quite respond back in that moment, so I started crying. I am not afraid of being vulnerable; if someone says things that touch me it's ok if they see that, whether it be negative or positive. Looking back on it now I realise I've heard this sort of nonsense talk before. When I was thirteen my father told me I was fat when I wasn't and he told me nonsense like "If you bite your nails you'll never find a job" etc. Once you start believing what people tell you -about YOU- that might just be the end of your self-esteem. That worked when I was a child but not anymore. Do I NEED to cover up my arms? Nonsense! I can wear whatever I want.

Inside I am and I will remain just a girl. I am overweight, I suffer from chronic pains, I exercise, I eat healthy, I eat unhealthy, I go from black-white to grey and all the colours of the rainbow, I love wearing dresses in my own way, I sometimes wear make-up and sometimes I don't. I'm totally allowed to be here. Finding Jes and the Militant Baker website a year ago sparked something inside of me. I decided to just start experimenting with clothes and wear whatever I want and it makes me a very happy girl!

Still...I couldn't quite get rid of that strange experience at the theatre and decided to write a song about it... My retrospective response after all. Then I wanted my friends to join me in dance... Then it was suddenly called 'Ellybellyrep'... Then I wanted to make a video for it, so that's what I did... 



The song 'Deugdelijk' (Decent) is in Dutch but I added English subtitles to it. I approached it with humor but my message is clear:

"This is my body, 
I am thankful that I have one and I am the one that decides what clothes I put on it. Everybody gets to be themselves!"

Monday, November 24, 2014

FAT GIRLS FIND LOVE TOO



Over the last few years, I've received countless letters, read hundreds of comments, and listened to many, many, many women (and men) speak about how they feel like they might never find love... all because of their body.

It's heartbreaking to hear, but god, how I get it.
I've been there too.

I know that hopelessness. The resignation to a life without. I know the things you tell yourself to make it seem not so bad. The blind eye you turn to the happiness around you because it's too painful to watch. I know the promises you make to yourself; promises that you'll change your body so you can become lovable. I know the anger that then rises up because- WAIT A MINUTE! I shouldn't have to change my body to be loved! But this is quickly overshadowed by a lifetime of shame that comes sweeping back and you once again buy the lie that you must change "for the better." You believe, deep down, that you must fix yourself to be desirable. I know this exhausting tug of war between wanting to be loved as you are, but also just wanting to be loved by anyone at all.

While on this body acceptance journey, I've learned many many many wonderful truths, but there is one in particular that has changed every facet of my life.

It's powerful.
It's profound.
And it goes against everything we've been told:
Fat girls find love too.They find the whole-mother-fucking-package kind of love. The no holds barred, every inch of you is perfect, kisses on what you thought was un-kissable, lifetime of yesses, lusting, loving, dedicated for life kind of love.

It happens. Often, and everywhere. 
Now, I've been in terrible, horrible, no good, very bad relationships... just like everyone else.You know the kind. The relationships that end with you on the couch dangerously bargaining with yourself; trying to convince god-knows-who that you'll make it right. It will be fine if I lose weight. He'll stay if I make changes. These changes are worth a relationship right? I'll just get skinnier... he'll stay and everything will be better. You sit on that couch, thinking that you can strike a deal with the Weight Loss Devil and that it will somehow save your relationship, even though there were countless other red flags along the way. These red flags ran much deeper than your looks (and you most likely knew a long time ago that it wouldn't work out) but in this moment, you have decided that the inevitable failure has everything to do with your body. Because, yes, a lot of us find ourselves with toxic individuals, believing that emotional abuse is just part of the package. That we are lucky to have someone at all. That this was as good as it could get. That we should be grateful for the companionship because who else could ever love our imperfect body? Have you been there? Me too.It was only at the end of the last painful breakup that I realized realized that this loveless relationship wasn't something I deserved.It wasn't something I deserved, and it's failure didn't have anything to do with my body. His inability to have a relationship was not judgement on my figure. It wasn't a sign of my worth. And it wasn't something I needed to fix.
In that moment that I made an agreement with myself that I wasn't going to change anything for anyone. I wasn't going to change my morals, ethics, views on happiness...and most of all, I wasn't going to change my body.

After that decision, things shifted. I started dating. A lot. My dating handle was purposefully unapologetic... I dated under the name: SexyAndFat. I posted full body pictures. A lot of them. From all angles. I wore what made me feel like a babe. I accepted attention, respect, and adoration. I had decided that I was okay, and therefore I was. I worked on my emotional well-being. I surrounded myself with incredible people. My body advocacy skyrocketed. I started traveling. Loving. Enagaging. Giving. Receiving. Saying yes to the excellent and no to the sub-par. I started to love myself unconditionally.  
This sexy guy came into the picture later (in all his fucking magical glory), and I have a guess as to why the timing was just so. It has something to do with this marvelous quote:




We accept the love we think we deserve.
And boy, do we ever.
Our relationship isn't perfect, but it's pretty damn close. Close to the point where only those who know us both can believe what a beautiful thing it truly is, and I'm happy about every fucking day.So, real talk: all bodies can find love. And honestly, guys, they already do. While many people share that they feel like they may never find someone, twice as many post comments about how sexy their husbands/wives/lovers think they are and how ecstatic they are to have unconditional love.

Now don't misunderstand... You don't have to have a partner to be happy. You don't have to have a lover to be lovable. You don't have to be paired up with someone else to be complete. Life is joyous and exiting and beautiful on our own as well. HOWEVER, if that is what you want... it can be yours, and there is proof is all around you if you look for it.

You can have it all.
Because you are worthy.
Because you are beautiful.
Because you are lovable.
Just the way you are right now. 
If you feel like there isn't hope, and you may never find the person you dream of... believe me (and statistics) when we say that there is and you can. If you need a little more than a reminder, and you'd like some suggestions, I'd recommend first trying to learn how to love yourself the way you'd like another person to. Acclimate yourself to that level of admiration and respect and know that if you don't feel it 100% of the time, that's okay! Surround yourself with people who remind you. Do activities that make you feel happy. Read articles that uplift you. Look in the mirror and say "GODDAMNIT YOU'RE PERFECT" and say it like you mean it. Work every fucking day to realize your worth.You can have it all.
Because you are worthy.
Because you are beautiful.
Because you are lovable. 
Just the way you are right now. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A MEMO TO MEN: ON DATING AND DISABILITY MISCONCEPTIONS PART 2 (BY MELISSA BLAKE)


Melissa Blake is a writer and blogger from the Midwest. She writes about Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome (Google it – she dares you) on her lifestyle blog, So About What I Said, and even though she's only 4-feet tall, she's never been afraid to squash those gigantic stereotypes that cross her path. She loves to smile and has also been known to overshare. You can read Part 1 of these memos here.
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MEMORANDUM
TO: Men all over the planet
FROM: A very strong-willed woman
RE: Everything you know about women with disabilities is wrong


I sometimes like to think of myself as a Wonder Woman of sorts. I, as I’m sure you can imagine, take great pride in taking my gigantic foot and stomping all the misconceptions away. Misconceptions about women with disabilities, that is (I may be mighty, but I am only one woman, remember). I honestly don't think people mean to form these misconceptions, and maybe it never even occurred to them that they ARE misconceptions in the first place. But never fear. Yours Truly is here yet again to save the day - and save the world, perhaps? 

Let's just clear a few more rumors up, shall we?

*NOTE: My use of "you" shall refer to men in the following scenarios. I’m sure you men know who you are. It’s time we put a solid stop to your sorely ill-informed way of thinking*

When we chat you up, we're not actually trying to court you: Why is it that any time I talk to some guy, he spontaneously gets this glazed look over his face like I'm some sort of alien. Do I look like Gordon Shumway to you, boys? (Google it, for those who didn’t love ‘80s sitcoms) Granted, sometimes I have no other motive when talking to you than, well, just talking. But if I start to get giggly and seem to have something stuck in my throat, I'm brimming with more than just good cheer over our chat about the afternoon meeting. Contrary to that pesky rumor that keeps floating around, we’re not “all business, all the time.” We do have a (very cute) playful side.   
We don't know how to flirt: OK, I may be an awkward, dorky sort of flirt, but trust me: I do know what I’'m doing. The only problem is that I don't think the guy on the receiving end of said flirting has a clue what I'm doing. I'm assuming it probably looks like some weird tango, freak show to him - the laughing a bit too loudly, the grin on my face the size of the Grand Canyon, my downright defiant attitude and overabundant sarcasm (read: my sarcasm level is in direct proportion to my attraction to you. Translation: The more sarcastic barbs I sling your way, the more I want you to capture my heart). I swear, it's like some sort of switch: any time I flirt with Mr. Could-Be-Right, I become the most sarcastic person this side of Melmac (another Gordon Shumway reference for those in the "know"). So you think that's not flirting. Oh well. That's my charm; the beauty that is, well, me.  
Our wheelchair isn't sexy: I'll never understand this one! Is there another riddle in the galaxy that has ever been so perplexing as this? I can't speak for all of us (my people, that is), but I for one think my wheelchair is incredibly sexy. It's shiny. It's red. And it's fast. Hell, I'm Wonder Woman on that thing....I'm just saying. I could probably race it in the Indy 500 if I really worked hard at it. It’s that powerful. Well, almost as powerful as I am.  

We don't want to date an able-bodied person: I've had this conversation with so many people that I've lost count of the number of times people have tried to placate me by saying, "Date someone in a wheelchair." OK, so they may not have been that blunt, but I couldn't help feeling like they were trying to put me in my place, as if I'd never in a million years have a chance with an able-bodied man, so don't humiliate yourself trying. The thought of an able-bodied guy actually WANTING to be with me seems like such an inconceivable thought to a lot of people. I’m sorry, but I’m not that powerful that I can choose who I fall in love with and NOT make myself fall in love with certain people.


Have I missed any misconceptions? What do people assume about you before they've even met you that just ticks you off? It could be during that first meeting, or even on your first date with a guy. My advice: Just get those misconceptions out of the way from the beginning. Trust me: It’ll save you a lot of frustration and hair-pulling. I’ve come to be a big fan of just putting all the cards out on the table – no secrets, no pretending, no awkward silences or forced laughter. Just tell the guy Wonder Woman told you to do it. He’ll probably think that’s incredibly brave (and sexy!) of you.


So go forth…and be bold!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A LOOK AT THE BODY LOVE CONFERENCE 2015: QUESTIONS,CONSIDERATIONS AND COMMENTARY


It is definitely no secret that I'm all kinds of excited about the Body Love Conference.

After all, it's the first size inclusive conference of it's kind, was a wild success last year, has changed many lives (mine included), and is hosting some of the most powerful voices in body advocacy this year.

I believe SO STRONGLY in the Body Love Conference and while there are many many reasons, there are two that trump them all:

1.) By offering a space for advocates to connect, the conference can help breathe life and energy into the body love movement. I can vouch that as a body activist, it can get a little lonely and a tad daunting. While there is a large online community, advocates can sometimes feel isolated because of location, overwhelmed, and occasionally alone. I remember the VIP mixer last year and watching it erupt with happiness, connection and support. Everyone was ECSTATIC to be in the same room with like minded people, and many have never experienced it before. The conference last year created a tighter and more effective community for those at the forefront of the movement, and it's still continuing today. The Body Love Conference can assist in recharging the entire body love movement by bringing these people together. It's powerful, y'all.

2.) The big one: by creating a physical event, the conference will offer attendees of all shapes and sizes a safe space to have a conversation of epic importance! There are lots of articles on body love out there, and while this needed and often leaves us inspired, there is also the chance that the next article we read (or heaven forbid we read the comments!) can deflate us immediately. It's my hope that the conference creates a space for everyone to feel safe, loved, and capable of having an inspirational conversation that ISN'T shut down within the next 30 seconds. The physical event allows for positivity to stay in, while keeping the rampant negativity at bay. It lets attendees to dig deeper. Explore further. Talk about something they've never felt safe to approach before. Hug it out if they wanna. It's a big deal.

Those two items (plus a million more) are the reason we have over 30 women working their asses off to make this happen!

I totally realize that what the world gets to see is simply what's portrayed on our website... which isn't able to tell the whole story! The truth is that behind the name and website is a whirling swirling cyclone of awesomeness that is making this conference happen. I'd love to start showing you what we're up to by introducing you to the main players in the game! Meet the Board Members and Committee Directors!


And of course, this isn't the full extent of our group! There are many many more volunteers that are critical to the success of the Body Love Conference. Our other marvelous volunteers work with our Committee Directors to help their vision come to life! They're our social media warriors. Our fundraising superheros. Our set-up, take-down bad asses. Our designing, representing, message sharing, photo taking, wonder women. We couldn't do this without them either. And I'm hoping we get some other wonder genders to join our group as well. 

As we evolve, shift, and grow as an organization, we have been very aware of the fact that this may need some conversation about what this means for both the event and you. There have been some important discussions around key concepts and I'd love to address them and hopefully answer any questions you might have! 

There have been three main areas of conversation, the biggest of them being:

THE TICKET PRICE!

$275 was a giant jump from the $40-80 cost of last year. At the end of last April's conference, we asked for attendee's feedback and the largest suggestion was that instead of having a one day/isolated event that we put together a two day/full weekend conference. This was exciting for us, because we also felt like there was value in spending an extensive amount of time in a body positive atmosphere. Having the opportunity of reveling in revolutionary community, going to sleep, waking up, and then doing it all over again is powerful! Making this happen of course, required a new set-up and most importantly a new location. But before we cover that....

Allow me to introduce our financial pie chart of happy! I'm happy to go through each section with you so you're fully aware of where every dollar of your ticket will be invested... y'know, if you're into that kind of thing. (And I know many of you are!)


The Venue: in order to host a multiple day conference, we took into consideration the amount of attendees that flew in from out of town last year! Around 40% joined us from across the country (and world) so we knew that we needed a location that offered lodging in addition to a space large enough to hold 500+ people. Let me tell you something: Tucson is NOT a conference mecca. Nope. Not even a little bit. A couple of our dedicated directors (thank you Amanda and Eva!) visited every single centrally located hotel in Tucson only to find out that... pretty much-none of them would work. The selection came down to two larger resorts that could hold 500 people and one informed us that the only conference space they could rent out was a large tent. Outside. In June. In Arizona.

Yep.

Made the decision easy for us. 


We were definitely excited by Starr Pass's offer of BLC rooms for $109 a night and we decided that we could make the location work. We're thrilled to offer such a beautiful location to attendees... it's a place that makes self-care simple. I hope everyone will be as enthralled with the beauty of the desert (and swimming pools) as we are.

The Speakers: The reality is that the very LARGE majority (like 80%) of the beautiful blue slice goes to the venue, but we've also added in speakers to this section because they are a critical part of making a conference happen. Speaker fees go towards their entrance to the conference and the costs that this accrues, as well as some necessary accommodations... NOT towards actual compensation. I have two feelings about our this and one makes me happy and one makes me sad.

The happy? That every single speaker is waving their normal fees and is more or less donating their time to the conference. This makes having an all-star cast possible and gives the attendees the most magical experience imaginable. The generosity of the body love community never ceases to amaze me.


The sad? That we're not able to pay speakers what they are worth. Economic justice is really important to me, and I'd like talent to be paid when possible. My hope is that we will eventually have SO MANY SPONSORS that we can compensate these speakers as they deserve. I also hope to compensate members of our team for their hundreds of hours work. No part of the conference financials is dedicated to team payment because we are literally 100% volunteer run (yes, me included!) I'd like to see this change in the near future.

The solution? Having another amazing conference that allows us to gain more traction, attention, and sponsors.

The Food: The trickiest cost of them all. There simply isn't a way around food costs, though we've tried our best. Nearly every venue insists on using their in-house caterer for liability reasons. It was the same situation last year at the University of Arizona, and so in order to cut costs, we made it optional to have a catered lunch in 2014. Many attendees found lunch in a food court, and while this did keep the cost low, many shared that they felt excluded and would rather nosh all together. We agree that this is important for community. The food costs at Starr Pass are comparable to most other catering companies and we're happy to share that the food is... we'll. Incredible. If you come, you'll enjoy delicious breakfasts and lunches while listening to fabulous key notes. I'm stoked about this combination.

Administration and Committee Fees: As a new organization, we have filed paperwork to become a non-profit so that we can accept donations and offer tax-deductible forms to those who contribute. It's critical to acquiring sponsors to have this option, so administration fees have gone towards a non-profit lawyer and we're well on our way! Committee fees are a small percentage and are funneled into groups that need a small amount to execute their jobs. Whether that be putting on a fundraising event, printing flyers, or purchasing a table at an event to spread the word.

Swag: You need a name tag! And a bag! And a pen! Swag costs go towards making this happen.

The important part to know about ALL of this is that even with the contribution of ticket funds, we are still not covering ALL costs. Beyond what ticket sales will assist with, we are also needing to raise another $26,000! We are currently fundraising, applying for grants and contacting both corporate and individual sponsors to make this happen. It's a ride, but a fun ride!

PHEW. Ohmygod, did you catch all of that? It was a lot of information, but it's important that the details are shared in hopes so that behind the scene financials are clear! Okay! Another topic worth discussing is...

THE INCLUSIVITY! This year, we have made the necessary arrangements to include all genders as well as teens! We're working with multiple people to develop our outreach so that we not only reach all communities,but that we're also communicating and including them clearly and appropriately. I am also consciously choosing speakers so that we have a variety of sizes. It's a process, but we're working on it! If you have any suggestions about how we can offer better representation , please let us email us at info@bodyloveconference.com

and finally!

THE ACCESSIBILITY: Making sure that the conference is available to as many people as possible is something that we're dedicating hours to currently. With the necessary raise of the ticket price, we realized that this would limit those who could come, or felt like they could come! We genuinely want to include all who are interested in participating in body love and have developed some solutions that will help us reach more of you!
  • Live streaming: Perhaps the most important way to reach those who can't attend is to offer an online version of the conference. Live streaming and recording often costs thousands of dollars (and we couldn't foot the bill for it last year) but our Board President came up with a GENIUS solution for 2015: DropCam. We're investigating the best way to install these simple streaming devices so that anyone can log in an join us that weekend. It wont be the same as being in the room physically, but god, it will be wonderful for everyone to be able to hear the messages! As we develop this process, more information will be available!
  • A speaker series: We are going to host a small Body Love Conference Speaker Series with four presenters here in Tucson during the month of February. Everyone will be invited, and the cost will be donation only. Any donation amount is A-OK with us (zero included!) and all of the collected funds (whether it be one dollar or a million dollars) will be put into our scholarship fund! We're investigating taking the Speaker Series to a few other states and are excited about that possibility.
  • Full and partial scholarships: We were able to offer over 100 scholarships last year and we'd like to be able to offer scholarships again. We will be offering both Full and Partial options depending on applicants needs. If you'd like to apply, you can here!
  • Lodging options: Because lodging isn't included in the ticket price, we want to be sure that there are multiple options for those who need them. Beyond the severely discounted room price, Starr Pass is also able to offer room share options! It would be a great way to save on lodging fees and also meet more conference go-ers. We're also looking into creating a forum so that attendees can connect and find local places to stay as well.
  • Transportation options: Because Starr Pass isn't located on the Tucson bus line, we will be offering free transportation on Friday and Saturday morning and evening from a local bus depot to the event.
  • A web series: Body love content is so important! We're currently developing and recording something called Body Lore which will be a web series (inspired by StoryCorps) that shares individuals and their conversation around body stories. We'll be taking submissions eventually, so if you're interested, like our Body Love Conference Facebook page and we'll be announcing more there. Free content for all! I have a feeling it's going to be powerful.


Now, with all of this being said, I know that no matter how the Body Love Conference is handled there will be those who are deeply upset with the execution. And that's totally okay. We're confident in the fact that our intentions, passion and hearts are in line with the message. We are all doing the very best we can and are looking forward to a conference of a lifetime. I'm also happy to meet with those who are interested in doing their own body based conference and would like direction or suggestions.

If you're interested in joining us in June, we'd LOVE to see you. I plan on giving out hugs all weekend long and I'd love for you to also meet some of the most incredible people I know. They'll all be there. You can TOTALLY purchase tickets right now, and they're at a discounted rate of $250 for a limited time.

Conference planning is involved, detailed, and intense! Hopefully the peek into the behind the scenes was interesting and informative for you all! We all have a giant commitment to transparency, so if you have any further questions, concerns, or suggestions, we'd love to hear from you! You can email info@bodyloveconference if you'd like!

I sincerely hope to see you all at the conference in June, The energy, message and experience will be phenomenal.

I'm sending you all the love.
Body and otherwise!
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