A Holiday Message from Janet Conroy-Quirk

Guess what? I didn’t lose weight in 2019. I might’ve even gained some. Would you call that a “losing year?” My clothes are still extended plus sizes. Would you say that’s a failure? I didn’t discuss exercise or calories or judge foods as good/bad in social or professional settings. Would you advise that I “educate myself about nutrition and fitness”? I can tell you dozens of stories about discrimination, harassment and bigotry that I’ve encountered in 2019. Would you suggest that I “Think about dropping some pounds and then maybe those things wouldn’t happen?”

What makes a twelve month spectrum “a good year?”

Last January, I had my first piece published in Bold magazine, entitled “My Big Fat 39th Birthday.” Throughout the year, I’ve had several pieces published with Bold, as well as with several other sites and blogs.  Additionally, I’ve started taking on clients for private writing/editing work. I have begun a career as a freelance writer. I took a circuitous and often weird route to get here, but I’m here. I’m also still acting- on stage, on screen, on video and sharing my voice on a podcast. Every bit of that happened because I decided a few years ago to be seen and heard, and not to hide, filter or apologize.  

Not everyone “gets” what I do, or they say they do, but still feel threatened by it. And that manifests in very interesting ways. Sometimes, it’s an online message  telling me I’m a “whale who’s gonna die before she hits 40.” Other times, it’s a subtle giggle or “like” about a fatphobic movie or meme. Depending on the source (a faceless internet troll vs. a real life friend/colleague), I’m either amused  …or hurt. 

The best thing I learned all year was from Dana Suchow, a guest speaker at an annual event, Realize Your Beauty Day. I am a cast member of RYB and I credit that organization with educating me about Diet Culture, as well as empowering me to seek out more information on Size Representation, HAES (Health At Every Size), Fat Acceptance, and Body Positivity. When I spoke with Dana after her brilliant presentation about raising body confident kids, I shared some of my experiences as a fat woman. She validated my feelings and then gently reminded me that, “We’re all victims of Diet Culture.” Her point was that it can be hard to empathize with people who are hurting us, but that we’ve all been damaged by a common enemy. We exist within a philosophy that says a lower weight equals a superior person. It also says that a fat person lacks control, class, sophistication, leadership ability, intelligence, attractiveness, and love. 

It’s hard to be accepting of people who support such hateful views. And I have, by no means, mastered that acceptance. I’ll keep trying. But I’ll also keep calling out bigotry, abuse, ignorance, hate. I’ll address systemic prejudice and  microaggressions. I’ll tell you you’re not a feminist if you ignore fat politics. I’ll tell you’re not progressive if you rely on fat jokes to make your political points. And I’ll do it all with the voice and body of a fat woman who’s had a pretty good year. And a better one to come. 

Happy Holidays. Thank you for reading my words, and respecting who I am.

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