Amanda Levitt Talks Fat Body Politics

Amanda is a writer an activist and the creative mind behind Fat Body Politics. She recently appeared on CNN to speak about her activism and her blog.  Amanda was awesome enough to answer some fat activism questions for Ottawa Squad leader Kelly Bennett. 

The Ottawa Squad recently attended an event and we were told it was awesome to have ‘fatties supporting fatties’. Why do you think that kind of support is important in activism?

Having a good support system in activism is an integral part of building or having community. For me that means creating an environment where I’m not only supporting the work of other people but I am also emotionally supporting others when I am able to. There are a lot of people who come into movement / communities wanting to become famous or be a spokesperson. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing I find it really harmful to position yourself as that person if you are also ignoring the history that came before you and the people who are doing amazing work right alongside you.

So knowing how that continues to happen within fat community has made me support the work of other fat people, but I also try to support the work of other marginalized communities as well. We’re all in this together and leaving people behind isn’t an acceptable way to build a community or to fight inequality.

Your blog and tumblr have blown up recently; how has this changed your activism and the reaction to it? Are there things you’ve had to change in how you present yourself and how you communicate?

I had some media attention at the beginning of the year but it hasn’t changed the work I’ve been doing for the last 8 years. I’ve been using social media for the last few years primarily, with my blog being a place where people can come and read longer posts I’ve written without all the cat photos. Overall, things really haven’t changed but there are more people listening. I’ve been thinking more about my safety since I started writing for This is Thin Privilege last May, which is something that I think anyone who exists online should have a serious sit down about. Having a more public role means having less safety but it hasn’t stopped me from writing or presenting myself in the way I want to. Most of the ways I could present myself I already started doing far before the media paid attention to me.

What do you think is the most important aspect of fat activism right now? Where are we headed?

Fat activism is really a community of activists not a collective so I can’t really say where we are headed as a movement. It isn’t my movement or anyone’s for that matter. I’m interested in building a bridge between my activism work and academia at the moment, while also generating more discussion around systemic and institutional forms of fat discrimination. That means talking about thin privilege at academic conferences so I’m presenting a paper in August at the Society for the Study of Social Problems. It means talking about body image but branching out of issues of self esteem by discussing how it moves past being about individuals and is really about social stigma creating a dominant body type.

What’s the best response you’ve seen to someone’s fat shaming or anti-fat politics? What’s the best method you’ve found for responding to it?

To be honest, I really love when people are able to turn something fat shaming into a joke or laugh about it. Not dismiss the importance of it but know how illogical and hateful it is that all you can do is respond with laughter. My tactics switch between being a sarcastic asshole and just shutting down whatever they are saying. One thing I won’t do is throwing other fat people under a bus to prove I am a “worthy” fat person. There are a lot of people who are really committed to proving that they are healthy or how well they eat but it really just creates a divisive line that is harmful because people within fat community are labeling other fat people as bad. For me the best way to combat fat shaming is to challenge it at its core.

What’s next for you!

I’m going to continue to invest my time to building a larger community on social media, write, and finish graduate school. That may mean going on to a PhD program but it might mean doing more activist organizing full time. As of right now I’m working on getting more speaking opportunities to create another bridge between fat community and people outside of it.

What’s your favorite food (we’re a foodie blog, we have to ask!)

This is such a hard question. I don’t really have one favorite. I have things I can’t live without like peanut butter, salmon and for dessert tiramisu. They are all my favorite.

You can find Amanda at her website, on tumblr and on twitter

 

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