The idea of loving ourselves and spreading positivity has become the focal point for many activists and individuals embarking on a journey that allows them to grow as an individual. Over the last few months, I’ve slowly been exposed to a corner of activism that focuses on our bodies, particularly fat bodies and the movements they are trying to reclaim in an effort to bring awareness to accessibility and discrimination barriers. It is known as “Fat Activism” and is an enlightening space for anyone looking to learn or better use their voice as an ally.
This presented a unique challenge for me as I’ve written in the past about The Skinny Thing and how incredibly difficult it is being someone who is supposedly “healthy” simply because I am thin. I described the hateful comments both myself and my best friend have received regarding our weight, and how for the most part conversations with strangers and doctors initially revolve around weight. However, the concept of skinny shaming is dramatically different and much smaller than I ever imagined. Skinny shaming does not result in the discrimination and disrespect the way fat shaming does.
In working to understand where my thought patterns were skewed, I encountered Jude Valentin on Twitter and she aided in directing me towards more places where I could learn about the discrimination and accessibility barriers fat people face, and how I could better work to be an ally and retrain my own thought patterns to be inclusive and considerate of people who don’t fit into straight sizes.
After learning more myself, I had the opportunity to interview Jude with the intention of sharing with y’all more information and spreading awareness about how each of us can change how we think, how we treat others, and be aware of how we can help.
Meet Jude Valentin:
Who is Jude Valentin and how did the mermaid kingdom come about?
I am a content creator, photographer, actor and cat mom who spends my time initiating hard conversations on the internet. A lot of those conversations have to do with body positivity, fat activism, mental health, queer issues, media representation and more.
The mermaid kingdom was born through my Youtube channel. I realized that I needed an online community and it would need to be much bigger than just me because my work impacts more than just me. The pillars of the kingdom are empathy, self-love/acceptance, compassion, and radical self-love. It is such a supportive group of humans and I am so blessed to have them in my corner every single day.
What is the Body Positivite Movement, why is it important and where has it been taken over by those who don’t represent the true mission of the movement?
The Body Positive Movement began in the 1960’s as the Fat Acceptance Movement, which was a movement for justice for marginalized bodies. It was important for people to have access to medical care and not face scrutiny because of their bodies.
The Fat Acceptance Movement was then repackaged as the Body Positive Movement, which allowed it to become clouded with messages of self-love instead of the social justice movement it began as. If we are not fighting for marginalized bodies, then what are we fighting for?
What are important areas of accessibility that you fight for as an advocate and member of the body positivity movement?
Access to medical care is a huge one. It is so easy for doctor’s to misdiagnose someone just because they’re fat, or because the doctor believes that the illness is the patient’s fault. It is so much harder for fat people with eating disorders to seek treatment because so often they are encouraged to participate in harmful behaviors. It is hard to be healthy when society is constantly telling you to shrink yourself, make yourself smaller at all costs.
“A majority (54%) of doctors who responded in a survey published in the United Kingdom last year supported measures to deny treatment to the obese (as well as to smokers). Specifically, these doctors said that Britain’s National Health Service should have the right to withhold non-emergency treatment from patients who do not lose weight.” – Denial of Treatment to Obese Patients—the Wrong Policy on Personal Responsibility for Health ~ International Journal of Health Policy and management
You mention diet culture often, what is it and how are you working to reframe the narrative?
Diet culture is a society that places value on being thin rather than actual health. I can be thin but I would not be healthy. I reject diet culture in all of my online spaces. I do not want to hear about your diet. I educate myself on why diet culture is harmful, and I spent a long time breaking down the brainwashing that our society has us under.
The diet industry is an insidious billion dollar industry that does not care about your health. They will sell you laxatives, teas that don’t work, water weight loss pills, and all those things do is harm us. I try my best to not use morality when it comes to food or bodies, I remind people that thinness is not an accomplishment, and that health is not a pre-requisite to respect.
What messages do you want to send to women and young girls across the world?
You are so much more than your weight on a scale. What do you value that has nothing to do with your physical appearance? What have you accomplished?
If you participate in the sacrificial, self-hating society that we live in, they win. The bullies win. They don’t get to win.
Love yourself in a society that is telling you not to. Be loud about it, be proud. You are so special, you are magic.
How can people help the movement, serve as allies, and work to change the narrative surrounding weight?
Challenge your own beliefs. Find out where they’re coming from. If your reaction to reading this article is “well thin people get shamed too”, you have some work to do.
Thin shaming and systematic body oppression are two different things.
Cultivate your feeds and change things up. Be ready to listen and learn.
You’re present on multiple social platforms, where can we follow you and further support the work you are doing?
You can follow me everywhere at MermaidQueenJude, (Instagram, LinkedIn, mermaidqueenjude.com) except for twitter because it’s a hater so on there I am @merqueenjude. You can support me by subscribing to me on Youtube and sharing my content when it speaks to you.
Just keep swimming, sigue nadando,
~ Jude (she/her, they/them)
If you learned something new or are intrigued by this subject, make sure you give Jude a follow and check out her Patreon page to further support her endeavors:
To learn even more on the subject, here is an incredible resource to get you started: Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong published on Headline by HuffPost.