Body Liberation and Fat Acceptance
Foodshare’s statement on body liberation and fat acceptance
FoodShare is invested in body liberation and fat acceptance. That means we believe that all bodies are worthy and have the right to exist as they are. There is no wrong way to have a body.
Many people, particularly those that are fat, racialized, trans, queer, gender non-conforming or disabled, experience body policing. This means being told: who or what they are because of their bodies, what they can and cannot do with their bodies (including what and how much to eat) and how to feel about their bodies. These messages can come from many sources – media and popular culture, the health and wellness industry, government systems and policies, community food programming, family members, coworkers, teachers, health professionals, or even strangers in the grocery store. These messages lead to real harm – physical, emotional and psychological.
FoodShare is working towards a Toronto where everyone can feed themselves and their loved ones with dignity and joy. We believe that everyone has the right to food.
As a food justice organization that believes in body liberation and fat acceptance, we do not support fatphobia in any of its forms, including where it intersects with systems of oppression such as white supremacy, settler colonialism, colourism, ableism, ageism, misogyny, queerphobia, classism, etc. Because we know that access to food is shaped by these systems, as well as people’s current material conditions and their lived experiences, we respect people’s choices on the foods they eat. We are challenging the idea that foods are “good” or “bad,” or that people are good or bad for eating certain foods.
We are aligning and evaluating our work to ensure that we affirm all bodies. That looks like:
- Challenging attitudes and assumptions, including our own, about people’s bodies, regardless of appearance, size or ability;
- Promoting the understanding that no one can know another person’s health or abilities just by looking at them and that someone’s body size, health status or ability is not a measure of their value;
- Speaking out against body shaming, body policing, ableism and other body-based discrimination;
- Ensuring our programming communicates that everyone has the right to decide for themselves how they want to feel about their body as well as what and how much food they want to eat;
- Supporting partners, funders, and organizations in our sector to address body shaming and body policing in their own work;
- Providing information and education about food that helps to separate feelings of shame and judgement from people’s food choices and reduces harm;
- Advocating for the removal of barriers to greater food options, without telling people what they should or should not eat.
Let’s work together to advance body liberation and fat acceptance, in our organizations, our communities and ourselves. That can look like:
- Establishing guidelines for working with partners and funders, FoodShare’s are here.
- Training staff on body liberation and fat acceptance, for example here is a webinar FoodShare did for others in our sector: How To Plan For and Integrate Body Positivity into Community-Based Organizations, Agencies & Food Hubs.
- Auditing your existing materials including language and visuals like graphics and photos to make sure they align with your stated values around bodies.
- Setting up a committee for integrating this into your work. At FoodShare we have a Body Liberation and Fat Acceptance Taskforce with staff from different departments as well as a terms of reference that guides our work.
- Checking your own social media – consider unfollowing those who body shame and look to hear from those living in and advocating for marginalized bodies instead.
- Speaking out against body shaming and body policing when you see and hear it happening. Consider signing up for a bystander training like those offered by Hollaback.
- Rethinking your comments on others’ bodies. If you want to offer someone a compliment, base it on a non-physical attribute like their sense of humour. Don’t assume that commenting on someone’s size is a compliment, or any of your business.
- Educating yourself on body stigma and the ways fat shaming are rooted in anti-Black racism. Here’s a panel discussion FoodShare hosted titled Dismantling Fat Shaming and Weight Stigma and a reading list of materials we recommend checking out.
Join us for a panel event on September 23rd, 2021: Dismantling Fat Shaming and Weight Stigma in Health and Wellness Spaces, featuring Marquisele (Mikey) Mercedes, May Friedman and Issa Kixen, moderated by Fateha Hossein. Register here!
We recognize that there are many names for this type of work, including: fat activism, body sovereignty, and body neutrality, among others. Previously, we referred to this work as ‘body positivity’ (some of the materials shared here still refer to it as such), but we found this language was too limiting because of the ways body positivity is being co-opted by corporate interests, removed from its origins in radical fat acceptance led by fat, racialized and disabled folks, and fails to acknowledge that fatphobia is rooted in anti-Black racism.