I'm in love with Morgan Radford, just so you know. And it's not just because she's kind, educated about discrimination or a fucking joy to be around. It's because she was the reporter to highlight fat positivity on the Today Show in one of the most positive ways I've ever seen.
In case you missed it, NBC sent a crew to San Francisco to interview me about my book "Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls." We sat in The Booksmith under hot lights for over an hour discussing everything from whitewashing in the media, to how to find love, to fat tropes we see in television, to the controversy around health and body shape.
When she greeted me, it was with a hug and a "I started reading the book on the plane and OMG, I have so much to learn from you." A far cry from the skeptical curiosity that I usually encounter from journalists who work for large platforms. I'm always grateful for the chance to share the message of body acceptance, don't get me wrong... but to be greeted with enthusiasm about something so controversial? Mind blown.
I joked at the end of the filming to the crew that I hope they would be kind in their editing of the footage; "I'm hoping you don't cut it to say 'Everyone. Should. Diet!'" They laughed and promised they wouldn't but I assumed it was the same kind of promise Savannah Guthrie made when I asked her if she was going to ask a trick question on the live "Attractive and Fat" interview. She said "Oh honey, I ran out of those a long time ago!"
She did not run out of those a long time ago.
That said, I'm well aware that of course the draw of all shows lies in the tough questions and ultimately I'm happy to answer them. When Morgan asked "You say that you're not a better person if you eat carrots, and you're not a "mess up" if you eat pie. What about those who say it IS better to eat carrots?" I honest to god rubbed my hands together gleefully and I replied "Ooooooh I LOVE these questions!" and proceeded the long drawn out explanation of health, classism, racism, food deserts, etc etc etc.
I'm not telling you this because it's fascinating to know what goes on behind the scenes; it's all pretty basic. I'm telling you this because it's important to know that The Today Show had every single opportunity to make this a "sad fatty" interview. They had every opportunity to make me out to be a victim. They had every opportunity to make the message appear to be hopeful but delusional. BUT THEY DIDN'T. One of the most viewed morning television shows chose to show the message in a positive and incredible way. This only goes to show that while we still have so far to go... YES, body acceptance is here to stay.
A quote about this popped up in my Facebook feed from a much loved fat activist named Stacy Bias that says it much more eloquently than I ever could:
"Jes is totally doing this right. Her answer to the 'health' question is spot-on and manages to get all that complexity in there in a really manageable and relatable way. This isn't the usual 101 level message that has been sanctioned by the mainstream and even so, the piece here is positive and uplifting and the counterpoints take up very little room in this overwhelmingly supportive coverage. I'm so stoked for this work!"
And THIS dear friends is why the Today Show clip is a BIG. FAT. DEAL.
Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is a book that tackles often avoided topics like: ageism, disability, racism, health bias, "unhealthy fatties" and mental illness. It's not supposed to be popular. Yet it's often listed as the #1 New Release in Self-Esteem on Amazon. It also often pops up in the top 10 list of all best selling Self-Esteem releases... always following 6 or 7 of Brené Brown' books. Seal Press has already started the second round of printing because the book nearly sold out before it's release date. The #FatGirlsCan trailer was covered a dozen times, endorsed by Ashton Kutcher and has 48k views. All of this in addition to a spot in national morning television.
I know this sounds like I'm bragging. I won't lie; of course I'm BEYOND thrilled. Not only because my blood sweat and tears lie in between that cover (and because someday in the distant future when royalties show up I can finally buy a cool latex dress. Or a root canal. I can't decide.) but also because this is all I have ever wanted as an outspoken advocate online. Ever since I started blogging, my goal was to make radical body love accessible for everyone. To share the message in words that were be understandable and would meet people where they are at. To take the concept of body positivity outside of the super political feminist circles (which are of course wonderful) and offer it to people like: the teenagers at the mall, the women who haven't had sex with the lights on in years, and my grandma. It's a fine line to walk; between extreme activism and palatable messaging... but it's happening, bitches. It's happening.
Body positivity in the last few years has officially become a "trend." It's been picked up and hugged tightly by women's media. It's all over Buzzfeed, Upworthy and other pop culture-y sites. And while some bemoan this mainstream popularity because it leaves the grassroots culture behind (and, oh, I get it), I personally am thrilled. Because now everyone can hear it. And because it's no longer a secret. And while there is still violent backlash, there is also a shift towards body acceptance in a way we've never seen before.
Make no mistake- I'm not saying that I'm the one who has made any of this happen. There have been pioneers of this message for decades, who have tirelessly climbed uphill without the support of media and 10 TIMES the criticism. THEY have made this happen, and I couldn't be more grateful. I'm just here because of them and I'm here to take that message of self-love to every fucking person who wants it. And I know you are too. Cheers to our army of body lovin' warriors!
And y'know what? Lets also toast to a million more "tough topic tackling", body positive Today Show spotlights in the future.
Like this blog? Then you'll probably love my book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls. TNOWTFG "is a manifesto and call to arms for people of all sizes and ages." Learn more here.
Want to hear me speak? I'd love to visit your campus or come to your event! You can find more info here or you can just email me at themilitantbaker at gmail.com. Cheers!