Last week, I shared with you Daily Venus Diva’s discussion about being Plus Size across races. As promised, I bring you the part two discussion of the Cultural differences amongst the plus size community. Enjoy!
Continuing my discussion with Elisa DeCarlo where we talk about the activism movement and ways we can unify all of us toward the fight for size acceptance.
Cassy: What do you think we can do to bridge the gap between the races?
Elisa: Thatâ€™s a hard one. I think there has to be active outreach on both parts, but especially on the part of whites, to get women past their shame and see what a phenomenal experience embracing themselves can be. That is a BIG job! Plus, there needs to be a change in the perception that this is a â€œblack event.â€ For that youâ€™d have to go to your PR people. There might be inclusion of plus-size â€œacceptableâ€ white women, such as plus-size models like Kate Dillon, larger actresses, etc. There is an article in this weekâ€™s Entertainment Weekly (I think) about the rise in plus-size shows. White men have always had the freedom to be fat in our cultureâ€“think of all the sitcoms starring fat men and stunningly beautiful skinny women! WTF?
Cassy: When I started the Fuller Woman Network it was my way of trying to bridge the curvy community together as a whole, all people, all races, people who are thin and support the movement, etc. The Expo in the United States was to celebrate all of those entities at one time. Many felt that it was an â€œurbanâ€ event and shied away.
Elisa: Jesus. Urban is code word for Black?
Cassy: Yes it is, not so coded huh?
Elisa: Should we call whites â€œbooniesâ€?
Cassy: LOL. We can if you like!
Elisa: Iâ€™m shocked to read that. Until we learn to come together, white, black, fat, thin, medium sized, it will be harder to effect change. That really makes me angry!
Cassy: It has to be a universal movement. What is your opinion regarding size activists and their role in the movement?
Elisa: One thought I have is that essentially, white size and fat activists tend to feel alone. Maybe they prefer to feel that way, because it makes them â€œspecial,â€ and â€œdifferent,â€ and they can derive a sort of superiority about it. I could be way off-base. I work hard to reach out to my readers and in person, which is why I jumped at FFF Weekâ„¢.
Cassy: Some activists seem very angry and exclusionary, it is hard to bring people to your point of view when you are so abrasive. I am a different type of activist. I feel that we have to understand the reasoning behind the discrimination and meet the challenge to change the perception.
Elisa: I agree with you totally. In some circles Iâ€™m considered â€œnot fat enoughâ€ to speak to the issues concerned. AS IF!! I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s bringing them to your point of view as much as looking past the differences to the commonalities. Not saying thatâ€™s easy. If youâ€™re stuck in the â€œitâ€™s all the fault of our patriarchal society who want women to be helpless blah blah blahâ€ itâ€™s hard to move forward. Itâ€™s giving your power to the â€œotherâ€. Iâ€™m wondering if that line of thinking is a white way of thinkingâ€“about how much men control society and perceptions of women. What we need to understand is that men AND women collaborate together to create the images that wreck our self-esteem.
Cassy: That is so true! As a black woman, I have always been comfortable in talking about the plus size movement and advocacy for size acceptance in any circle. White people are really enthusiastic in discussion but the follow through is the problem. I get the most follow through from the white corporate realm. This is always encouraging because corporate influence will effect real change.
Elisa: Yes! The more corporate backing you get the more legitimately youâ€™re perceived. An article in the Business Section of the New York Times gives you legitimacy.
Cassy: Similar to race discrimination, if we feed into what some believe black people are: angry, uneducated, shifty, etc. then we are the stereotype. If we feed into the stereotype of people of size: lazy, poor, unlovable, angry-we will become the stereotype.
Elisa: Exactly. Those stereotypes are so embedded, like a cancer in our society. Fat white women are low-class, out of control binge eaters, unhappy, have bad jobs, etc.
Cassy: I am currently in a think tank with people from around the country who are trying to elevate the black community according to their particular expertise. I am working with our issues with defining our beauty. Self esteem is a major component of self- love and size acceptance. My theory is two fold- You have to believe that you are worthy of love and believe that your choices are valid because they are your own. These lessons are things that all women need to learn. Self esteem is a process that creates the path to self-love.
Elisa: Absolutely true. It does not come overnight, and it does not come easily. Both things that all women are told: 1) you are not worthy 2) your choices are wrong if they are not what youâ€™re â€œexpectedâ€ to do. Thatâ€™s why I mentioned the undercurrent of shame at the Curvy Community panel. I mean, thereâ€™s a roomful of big gorgeous womenâ€“and they are STILL apologizing for being heavy, saying they want to lose weight, or that woman who announced during the panel she shed 100 pounds and was now a personal trainer. Way to make everybody pissed at you!
Cassy: You bring up an interesting point! Why is it not ok to rejoice in someone elseâ€™s choice to loose weight?Â She was a still part of the â€œbig girls clubâ€! Perhaps it was how she said it?
Elisa: FFF Weekâ„¢ was a â€œsafe placeâ€, where you didnâ€™t have to feel bad that you DIDNâ€™T lose 100 pounds. She could announce that anywhere and get a lot of praise, etc. I felt like she did it more to announce, â€œIâ€™m a trainer and I can help you with your big fat body.â€ When I was selling plus-size vintage clothing, I had â€œtea party salesâ€ where larger women come could, have tea and cookies and try on clothes in a relaxed atmosphere. Another clothing seller said I should also sell DIET PRODUCTS at these events! She was thin, of course. Didnâ€™t get that it might be considered, uh, offensive, both to me and my customers.I recently got out of the business because of the economy.
Cassy: There are always going to be those who will try to capitalize on the plus trend. I am seeing it more than I would like right now.Â Well love, I really enjoyed talking to you!! This is rarely talked about. Maybe we can champion the cause together!
Elisa: I would be more than delighted! Maybe next year there could be two or three white women in the Curvy Collective! I really admire what youâ€™re doing, and your courage to explore this issue.
Cassy: Thank you for that. I always felt it takes one person, one thought to start a revolution. I donâ€™t have much but what I do have is the desire to make a difference.
Elisa: It has been a real pleasure and very thought-provoking. Iâ€™ve never discussed these issues before. You really made me think! You have more than you know, my dear.
Check out more musings from Elisa DeCarlo on her site,Â â€œDiary of a Mad Fashionistaâ€.
Since posting part 1, I (Cassy, from Daily Venus Divas) have been contacted by many women who feel that there is a need for unity in the plus community. We donâ€™t have to be the same race to support one another. Being against injustice should be the common denominator that binds us. The rally cry against discrimination, whether it is against race or size, is a rally cry for the improvement of the current â€œhumanâ€ condition. We all should be able to join the fight together.
To find out more about this series please visit the original post on Daily Venus Divas about Cultural Differences in the Plus Community. What’s next in this series? Part 3 of Cultural differences in the Plus Community- How does it feel to be plus in Paris? Does having plus events really make a difference?
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